Friday, August 3, 2018

The Tour de Backpacks

As anyone who has ever planned an extended trip knows, it involves a lot of planning that goes well beyond packing “mix and match” wardrobe pieces. When Allen and Trish plan an extended visit to the U.S., the logistical decisions are enough to make your head spin! On August 30th, Allen and Trish will fly to the U.S. to begin what I like to think of as "The Tour de Backpacks”. This is a behind the scenes look at the sort of planning that is going into that trip.

The Tour de Backpacks will begin on the West Coast and work east. So, naturally, the participants (Allen and Trish) will be flying into Maryland. Huh? Geography is not my strong suit, but that didn’t sound quite right. Trish explained they will be spending a Sunday morning at Lighthouse Church in Glen Burnie, MD. Lighthouse Church is doing a major backpack push, which will span a few weeks, and Allen and Trish will be there for one of those Sundays. After that, they'll fly to Seattle, and begin the big cross-country drive.

Allen is trying to make the best possible use of Sunday mornings. They will have the opportunity to speak at multiple churches. At other churches, they will be available to meet with people and answer questions about why they do what they do. Trish is scheduled to speak at a women's conference, to tell the kidnapping story.

The actual backpack collection will begin in Seattle. The backpacks will be loaded onto a rental truck and they will begin the eastward drive. The fact that Penske’s truck rental policy is that you can only rent a big moving truck for a week adds an extra level of difficulty. So, at the end of each seven day period, Allen and Trish will have to turn in their moving truck, rent a new truck, and transfer the contents! Ah, good times!

They will be mostly making the same stops as last year. Some things are still up the air, but the Tour de Backpacks calendar is filling in nicely! There’s even a fun side trip planned, for Trish to visit with a childhood friend from the seventh grade on - and they haven't seen one another since Trish left for Honduras. Allen and Trish will be going just a few hours out of the way to meet with this friend and her husband at their home in Wyoming. There’s also the possibility of a side visit to Yellowstone National Park, if the weather hasn’t already turned cold there. After so many years in Central America, Trish confesses she is pretty wimpy when it comes to cold weather.



Eventually, the Tour de Backpack participants will arrive back in Maryland with a full truck. They will unload for a shipping container, which will leave by boat from Maryland. After a week in Maryland, they will head south. Multiple groups are doing backpacks in Virginia, Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi.

Trish will return to Honduras in mid November, so that she can be home when Ben’s school lets out for the year. Trish will likely miss out on loading the Florida shipping container, but is already looking forward to having Ben home for a while. Allen will stay and finish up any loose ends. He will return home in early December.

One of Allen’s strengths is figuring out logistics, but even his head is spinning with the planning involved in this trip! This trip has been sneaking up on Trish because she's had her head buried in appointments with sponsors, so that the website can be completed. She will not be internet accessible very often while on the Tour de Backpacks. If you are a sponsor who has not yet scheduled an appointment with Trish, please do so ASAP.

 - posted by Christi

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Backpack Carol

Backpacks being filled in Colorado!
In a sense, it is always backpack season with Sowers4Pastors. You might say, they talk about backpacks the same way Buddy the Elf talks about Christmas--with a whole lot of love and enthusiasm! If there were backpack carols, they would be singing them! If they could string strands of lights shaped like little backpacks… Well, they’d probably forego the little lights because they’re too busy to hang them, but you get the idea. They are bonkers for backpacks. And their sincere hope is that you are bonkers for backpacks, too.

This is a particularly exciting time because Allen spent the last few weeks ordering and sending out massive amounts of empty backpacks just waiting to be filled. It’s also time for the Back-to-School sales to stock up on backpack filling supplies. Well, hot diggity!


Filled backpacks in Mississippi
If you and your church are not involved in filling backpacks, it is not too late. Allen insists there is still time for him to send out a bulk shipment of empty backpacks to any group wishing to fill them.

Why would you do this? Um, so little Honduran children can go to school! If you’ve been paying any attention to this blog, you know that the cost of school supplies is enough to prevent many Honduran children from receiving an education. That’s a huge problem with a simple fix. When you donate a backpack filled with school supplies, parents in Honduras are able to afford to send their children to school.


Supplies purchased in bulk, to fill backpacks in Seattle
So, if you haven’t already done so, head out to the Back-to-School sales. And, just because someone had to write the first backpack carol, here’s a little something to motivate you while you shop. Sing it to the tune of Jingle Bells. Oh, no need to thank me!

Dashing through Walmart
With a slightly wonky cart.
Through the aisles we go
Shopping yo-ho-ho!
Notebooks are a deal.
Pencils are a steal.
Buy in bulk and save a ton.
We have backpacks to fill! 




 - posted by Christi

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Ditch the Glitch

Class, today we’re going to talk about glitches. Pay attention as I write the word and definition on the board.

glitch
  (glÄ­ch)
n.

1. A minor malfunction, mishap, or technical problem; a snag: a computer glitch; a navigational glitch; a glitch in the negotiations.
2. A false or spurious electronic signal caused by a brief, unwanted surge of electric power.
3. Astronomy A sudden change in the period of rotation of a neutron star.

For the purposes of this blogpost, we’re not going to concern ourselves with the second and third definitions. Partly because I don’t know what “spurious” means and I’m a little fuzzy about “neutron star”. So, let’s just focus on definition numero uno. Okay? Okay.


As you probably know, our beloved Trish has been up to her eyeballs in website stuff. She has pretty much been working full-time to get the new website up and running. (She needs to wrap this up ASAP because R.J. and Abby have a new swing set and they need someone to push them.) When everything is finished, this website is going to make her life much easier. It will automatically take care of a lot of the accounting, payments, etc… If a person makes a credit card payment and it doesn’t go through, for whatever reason, they will automatically get an email. In the future, the website will allow you to add new child sponsorships to your account, without talking to Trish or Kim. Glory, glory hallelujah! That day is coming. But it’s not today. Because, today (and until the task is completed), people with existing sponsorships need to go to the website to connect with their account.

You may be thinking, “Sure. No biggie! I’m an intelligent person. I’ll just go on and take the necessary steps to connect to my account.” HERE’S WHERE THE GLITCH COMES IN! Going to the button that says, “Donate,” and setting up a donation there will NOT give you access to your account, payment history, sponsored children, etc...

Regardless of how incredibly tech savvy you may be, this system is not quite that intuitive. People who have tried to do this on their own encountered this problem. In order to connect to your account on the new website, Trish is asking you to schedule an appointment with her. This appointment can take place via messaging on Facebook, or over the phone. In an average time of around 20 minutes, Trish will walk you through the process. If you sponsor many children, it can take a little longer. Out of an approximate 800 sponsors, about 80 are now connected with the new website.

Trish is using an online scheduling program, to get these appointments set up. If you are a current sponsor, through the Manna 4 Lempira program or any of the sister church sponsorship programs, you can use this link to find an available time that works for you, and sign up for a conversation with Trish:


Trish will be happy to give you a call (the faster method) or chat with you via Facebook Messenger. If you wish to handle this by messenger, please send Trish a message before your scheduled appointment, telling her this preference.

Please schedule your appointment soon, because R.J. needs Nana to push him on the swing!

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Words From a Team Player

It’s always fun to chat with a visiting team member. It’s sort of the mission equivalent of looking at your friends’ vacation photos on Facebook. This week’s chat was with Pastor Joplin Emberson from Kansas.



Last July, Pastor Joplin visited the Sowers with a very small team, consisting of his wife and three other people. One year later, he returned with a team of twenty-one people. Why? Well, as he said, “I’ve been actively involved in international missions for almost twelve years, at this point. We have literally travelled the globe. There are no ministries we’ve been connected with that are able to do as much with your dollar as the Sowers family. Period.”

He continued the thought by saying, “Rarely can we find anything we can do with $15 that can literally change the life of a family. Not just a student, but a family. We have witnessed with our own eyes that this program is changing the lives of families. In addition to the child program, the building program is able to put a roof on a church for about $1000. There aren’t a lot of places where you can get that much work done.

“The most significant thing to us, in our ministry, is the sincere mission of the Sowers family to spread the gospel. They are not a humanitarian aid organization first; they are a gospel planting organization first. The Sowerses are sincere, real, solid, faith-driven missionaries. We wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t the spiritual depth and deep commitment to the gospel. They are transforming hearts by focusing on building the Kingdom of God, not just the country of Honduras.”



For visiting teams, Pastor Joplin is impressed by the scope of the ministry. He said, “The ministry encompasses so much that there is something for everyone to do. If you want to serve, you can serve! If you’re good with crafts, there’s a place for you to use your talent. If you’re good with kids, there’s a place for you to use your talent. For those with years of ministry experience, there are young pastors who are eager to learn from you. If you want to get involved, you don’t have to look far to use your talents.”

The team from Kansas has been able to host a VBS at a public school, visit two feeding programs, and spend time with the people of their Sister Churches. The team of twenty-one includes eighteen people who sponsor children. Each sponsor has been able to do a home visit. They also pooled their resources to provide mattresses for their sponsored children who were sleeping on the floor. They attended church in Gracias, where they were “deeply moved by the spiritual depth and moving of the Lord in Gracias, Honduras.”



Pastor Joplin has something he wants to say to people in America. “If you have money to give to invest in the Kingdom of God, this ministry has to be considered because there is so much that can be accomplished with even a little bit.”

 - posted by Christi

Monday, July 2, 2018

Taking a Walk on the Mild Side

Everyone always wants to hear exciting missionary stories that keep you glued to the edge of your seat, inspire you, or make you choke with emotion. But much of the work done by missionaries is the behind the scenes stuff that no one will ever want to turn into a major motion picture. No one will ever hear about the work being done to get a new website up and running and say, “You should really write a book about this! Fascinating!” Trish shared some of what she called, “the boring side of things”. I prefer to think of it as taking a walk on the mild side.



February 2017 was when Sowers4Pastors decided to file the necessary paperwork to become an independent organization with 501c3 status. Soon after that, Trish began working on the website. In front of visiting team members that summer, she mentioned what she wanted to accomplish on the website. A college age man on the team said something like, “Dude, that’s what I do for my job” (Oh, okay, he didn’t say the “dude” part, but I’m trying to liven this up.) He volunteered to work with Trish and, since she didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, Trish accepted the offer. Today, that gentleman, who has probably never once called Trish “dude,” is one of two volunteer IT guys working regularly with Sowers4Pastors. (Here is a quick shout-out to Chris Metzger and Steven Buswell: without your help, the new website would not be happening!)

When Trish mentioned that she was thinking about recruiting an intern to come down and help with office work, the aforementioned IT guy knew someone. He connected them with Kelsea. Trish rejoiced. The angels sang. It was a beautiful thing.

Kelsea does not shy away from doing the more exciting tasks, like building bridges and working with feeding centers, but she’s quite the whiz at office work. Trish is keeping her busy entering the sponsored and unsponsored children onto the new website. They are finally almost ready for the big unveiling. Sowers4Pastors certainly never knew it would take more than a year to have everything in order with the IRS, but, when the time came to get down to the serious business of entering each child on the website, Kelsea was there. God’s timing is perfect.

In order to update each child, the Sowers4Pastors crew must go en masse to each sponsorship center location. They have to take a picture of every child. Usually, when getting those pictures, they also do things like have “well visits,” measure feet, distribute letters (if there are any to distribute), and set up supplies so the children can write to their sponsors. They have forms for collecting updates on each child’s general information. They check for children who have left the program because their families have moved, or they’ve dropped out of school.



All of that adds up to a GIGANTIC stack of papers and a pile of photos. That information, along with how to contact Sowers4Pastors, and how to participate in the sponsorship program is all put into profile booklets for each child. Once these booklets have been created, the children and their updated information can be entered into the website. All of this takes quite a bit of time.

In a beta program, to test the new website, they have been entering the information of sister church groups first. Most of the sister church kids, along with their sponsors, have now been entered. They will soon be getting all of the Manna4Lempira kids entered. Basically, Trish is trying to work out any glitches before opening the site up to everyone. It’s almost to the point where sponsors should be able to go to the site and see a list of the children they sponsor, and pay for them online. A bleary eyed Trish said, “We are very excited about that!”

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Backpacks and Crud

Even the “crud” (the technical name for this strain of flu) that has made its way through the ranks of the Western Honduras Sowers family could not prevent Trish from dragging herself to the phone to tell me about what’s going on with backpacks. A very hoarse and puny Trish, shared pertinent information between coughs, while an even punier Allen shared his thoughts in the background. Neither crud, nor cough, nor sore throat shall stay these Sowerses from their appointed ministry!

Sowers4Pastors is currently at the phase of buying backpacks in bulk and sending them out to people who have organized backpack drives at their locations. They also want to encourage more people to participate. So, if you’re not involved in a backpack drive, consider yourself officially encouraged! If there is an existing drive in your area, Allen and Trish can connect you. If not, they would love for you to set one up.



When the season arrives to collect the backpacks, Allen and Trish will definitely be hitting Washington State, Colorado, and all of the states in between. They are currently in discussions with someone trying to set up a drive in California, which would add California and Oregon to that list. Then they'll hit Kansas, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, and places in between. For the final phase of the trip they will go through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama.


There is no limit to the number of backpacks Sowers4Pastors can pass out. As Trish said, “The need is great!” In order to make this trip as cost effective as possible, the more backpacks they collect, the better. More importantly, more backpacks mean that more kids will get to attend school!


From his location across the room, Allen shared an eye-opening statistic. To the best of their calculations, about 20% of the filled backpacks go to kids who would otherwise not attend school at all. The remaining 80% go to children of very poor families, who are barely managing to get their kids to school.

Hear me loud and clear; this is NOT a political post. But, for every person who has ever wanted to help the people of Central America in their own countries, this is a way you can do that. Like parents everywhere, Honduran parents want a better life for their children. The education level of the average adult in the mountains of western Honduras is somewhere between no education and third or fourth grade. They want their kids to have the chance to do better. You can help by providing children with the necessary tools which will enable them to go to school!



 - posted by Christi

Friday, June 22, 2018

When Disaster Strikes

In our 24-hr news cycle world, it can be difficult to remember something that happened just a few weeks ago. The Fuego volcanic eruption that affected thousands of people in Guatemala probably isn’t at the forefront of your mind. So, let’s refresh our memories.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aU4RQoNzXY


On June 3, an active volcano in southern Guatemala had its worst eruption in decades. People weren’t surprised by an eruption; they were surprised by the enormity of the eruption. Over the years, people become complacent about living near an active volcano and move closer and closer to it. When the mammoth eruption happened, it destroyed villages, rather than just empty countryside. More than one hundred people are known dead, with two hundred plus still missing and assumed dead. It is not yet safe to search the area. Almost 2800 people remain in shelters, after losing their homes. That means there are many more people who lost their homes, but are staying with family members, etc…

Whenever disaster strikes in Central America, people ask Trish how they can help. Trish’s advice is always the same: “Find someone who is already working on the  ground in that area. That’s the person you can trust to get the resources to the people who need them.”

Sowers4Pastors is far enough away that, aside from some air quality advisories, they were unaffected. There were some flights which were cancelled, due to ash in the air, but the Sowers family is not close to the volcano. However, one of their local churches, in Gracias, is taking relief supplies collected by their congregation to the area, working in conjunction with a church in Guatemala. Sowers4Pastors has decided to help these churches in this endeavor.

They are sending boxes of food from their supplies for feeding centers. They are also sending some backpacks, which were not distributed this year. Because Trish remembered people responding to the needs of homeschoolers, following the flooding in Houston, she realized there would be Guatemalan school children who had lost their school supplies. The backpacks are already filled with toiletries, as well as school supplies. In that way, Sowers4Pastors is able to help.

Trish said, “We are always glad when we have more on the ground than we need at the moment. That means we are able to respond quickly to unforeseen needs! We had more than we needed right this minute. We will still have to replenish the supplies, to keep the feeding centers running and to have sufficient backpacks for the upcoming school year, but we can act NOW. By working with these local churches, we can help.”

By working with Sowers4Pastors, you can help, too.

 - posted by Christi

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Why Sponsor a Child Through Manna 4 Lempira?

One of the things I (Trish) like most about our  ministry - and one of the most frustrating things, as well - is that Allen likes to "go deep." When he sees a problem, and he looks for a solution, he generally doesn't jump on the most obvious possibility. Instead, he thinks through the ramifications of implementing a potential solution, and he also considers whether the idea is sustainable in the long term.

An example of this would be feeding malnourished children. We could set up a feeding center in one location, and go there regularly to personally prepare the food and attempt to give Bible lessons (with our imperfect Spanish) . . . but this would limit us to feeding the children in just a couple of locations each week! We wouldn't have time to go to additional locations, and we wouldn't have the time in each location to really get involved in the lives of all the children. This solution would leave too many unmet needs in our part of Honduras!

So, instead, we created a system where local pastors in needy communities run the feeding centers. They involve volunteers from their congregations to help with the cooking and serving, they are able to give the Bible lessons in the exact same local version of Spanish that the children use, and they live where the children are - placing them in an ideal situation to get to know the children and their families, and to lead them to God.

With this set-up, instead of running a small number of feeding centers ourselves, we now oversee 150 feeding centers throughout western Honduras - with the partnership of our generous donors! The pastors are delighted that we give them the food for free, which they can use to reach and serve their communities - none of them expect or receive any compensation for this.

I think this is wonderful - it makes so much sense to analyze what has been done in the past (by our ministry or by others), consider the outcomes, and make adjustments as needed, to do the best possible job we can!

However, it is frustrating for me, because I feel compelled to explain why we do things in the way that we do . . . and, oftentimes people aren't all that interested in reading about each part of the ministry in that much depth!

We're attempting to solve this problem by creating videos. The short video I'm introducing today gives a partial explanation of how the Manna 4 Lempira sponsorship program works to help the children in our part of Honduras. Maybe another time I'll make a video to show all the work that happens behind the scenes to keep the program running - there's a lot of spreadsheet work, regular oversight, measuring feet, and traveling (collecting backpacks from across the U.S. and delivering them to collection locations for shipping)  . . . but we'll save that for another day and another video!

This video specifically focuses on how the program helps the sponsored children - and how we serve the sponsors, as well.



If you're seeing this post by email, here is the link to view the video:  

  - posted by Trish

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Show Me That Smile, Again!

You may have noticed that the Sowers4Pastors blog received a little makeover (those of you reading this post by email might want to click over to www.sowers4pastors.blogspot.com, so you can see what we're talking about). It’s all turquoise-y and pretty. There’s also a picture of Allen, Trish, Russell, Iris, R.J., and Abby in the header that is large enough to make Trish squirm with discomfort and long for the former header of anonymous mountains in Western Honduras. The redesign is because Trish wanted to make the blog more cohesive with the soon-to-be-unveiled new website. The reason Trish was working behind-the-scenes on the blog at all was because she was adding a link to the Amazon Smile program (more on that in a minute) - and, in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie fashion, Trish found herself tying the color scheme of the blog and the website together.

Now, more on that Amazon Smile program…

On the pretty, turquoise-y blog featuring a gaggle of smiling Sowerses, you will also see a box at the top of the right-hand margin, which says, “Support Sowers4Pastors Inc.” There’s some more writing and a link to take you to a place to sign up for the Amazon Smile program. It’s easy to find because it is neither turquoise-y, nor particularly pretty. It’s orange and black, like a construction paper jack-o-lantern. But what that little box can do is BEAUTIFUL!

By signing up to participate in the Amazon Smile program, you can designate Sowers4Pastors to receive 0.5% of the price of your eligible Amazon purchases. That 0.5% does not include things like shipping costs, tax, and subscription programs. The products and prices are identical to those on the main Amazon site, so don’t worry about paying inflated fees.

The link, for those of you seeing this post by email, is
https://smile.amazon.com/ch/82-1025136
In order to benefit Sowers4Pastors, you will need to remember to enter through the designated Amazon Smile site, whenever you go shopping on Amazon. It does not work on the regular website, or on the Amazon app. If you use the regular Amazon website, or are purchasing on your phone using the app, the money won’t get to them.

If 0.5% doesn’t sound worth your time, let me remind you how far Sowers4Pastors can stretch a dollar. They have multiple feeding centers, which are not sponsorship centers. It takes a ridiculously small amount of money to keep those centers in operation. The cost to feed one child is around $2 per year. That means that when you make one $100 purchase on Amazon, you feed a child for three months! That's nothing to sneeze at!

Sign up! It’s an easy way to participate in spreading the Gospel, feeding children, training pastors, and all the other great things Sowers4Pastors does, by ordering things you were already going to purchase from Amazon. So, go ahead! Show me that smile again!

 - posted by Christi

Friday, June 8, 2018

It's All Relative

Since childhood, I’ve been fascinated by larger families. Perhaps it has something to do with my love of shows like “The Waltons,” “The Brady Bunch,” and “Eight Is Enough”. At any rate, getting an update on each member of the Sowers clan sort of reminds me of catching up with John Boy, Mary Ellen, Jim Bob, and the rest. Here’s what’s happening with the Western Honduras version of the Walton family:

Allen

Allen is doing very well since his heart procedure of May 2017. He recently had blood work done, which came back pretty hunky-dory. (That’s my interpretation of Trish’s statement, “The doctor was pleased.”) Aside from trying to eat a healthier diet and taking lots of daily medicines, Allen is pretty much back to his normal routine. The family appreciates all of the prayers for Allen’s health and the people who contributed to paying for medical expenses.

Trish

Trish is enjoying being a grandma. She has also been able to travel to the States with Allen. That wasn’t a possibility when all of the children were home.

Kirstin


Kirstin is working as an R.N. in Florida. She has set up a sort of Sowers family extended home, with two of her younger siblings sharing an apartment with her.









Russell



Of course you hear about Russell on this blog all the time, as he is part of Sowers4Pastors. He’s a busy missionary, husband, and father. In exciting news, his wife, Iris, is getting her driver’s license this week.










Rachel


Rachel is a missionary, living in the capital of Honduras with her husband Brandy, and their baby boy, Nathan. She has started a new ministry with Brandy, which is helping young women from Western Honduras who want to move to the capital city to attend college. They are working to fund scholarships, and to set up a safe home, which will serve as a sort of boarding house for the impoverished young women who want to improve their lives.

Christopher (aka Gus) and Bethany (aka Boo)



It seems wrong not to give Christopher and Bethany their own paragraphs, but their updates are identical! They are both working in the same hospital where Kirstin works. They are both attending the same nursing school, and are even in the same classes. And they are both sharing an apartment with Kirsten, which they fondly refer to as “The Nursing Home”!


Ben working in the media center
 at his school
Ben


Ben has been at boarding school for almost two years! It has been working out beautifully. Even though Trish doesn’t like having him away from home so much, the school has been a real blessing and benefit to him. Ben has been playing on the basketball team, working on multimedia stuff, and has basically carved out a place for himself at school.




R.J., Abby, and Nathan

Trish jokingly said, “They don’t help with the ministry much yet.” Trish considers herself the most fortunate missionary grandma in the world. While so many missionary grandmas have grandchildren living in other countries, Trish is right next door to R.J. and Abby. And, even though she doesn’t get to see Nathan as often as she would like, he is in the same country!

 


Good night, John Boy.

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Teams, Coffee, and a Website - Oh My!

Russell shared information for a basic, “What’s Going On In Ministry” post. As usual, there’s a lot going on!

Allen made a sudden trip to the States, and while the family in Honduras can carry on in his absence, they did have to reorder some of the things on the schedule. Trish and Quito just completed two videos for Allen to use in his visits to the States.

Everyone's excited about
the upcoming teams!
Kim Hall and her family fly in on June 9th. They will hit the ground running and have a week to prepare for their team’s arrival on the following Saturday.

Russell is scurrying around to prepare for a summer of visiting teams (among other things). The first seven teams will all be VBS/kids’ ministry oriented. There’s a lot of preparation that goes into that. Melvin and others in the crew are riding around visiting feeding centers to make sure the program leaders know what they should be doing to prepare.

Carlos and Helder are fertilizing the coffee farm, while it’s the rainy season. Fertilizing now allows for good absorption, and there is less risk of burning the plants. In a moment on philosophical genius, Russell declared, “The weeds are growing like weeds.” Eight extra temporary workers have been hired, so there could be up to twenty men working the farm for the next couple of weeks. The weeds must be chopped with machetes. Then, they turn around and fertilize the coffee plants.

Coffee nursery


Helder has a nursery growing 20,000 coffee plants and 1500 shade trees, which will be added to the farm. The trees are a fast growing, tropical bean tree, which actually release nitrogen into the soil, rather than depleting nitrogen. That will help to fertilize the coffee plants. Since they are fast growing, they will soon offer shade to the coffee plants. This variety of tree is one of the few in the area that does not lose it's leaves in the dry season, and so it will shade the coffee during the hottest months. All of the plants in the nursery were recently fertilized. They will be allowed to grow there until late August or early September, when they will be planted.

Remember those first seven teams, that will be working with kids? Well, the eighth visiting team will be working on a construction project. Russell is having to plan ahead to gather all of the necessary supplies for that.

Speaking of construction… the Sowers are about to construct a new building on their property, which will contain ministry office space, storage for the food received for the feeding centers and for the coffee grown on the farm, and will also have bunkrooms for male interns. No, it will not slow down the construction of the new house. This building will be used as a temporary warehouse, which will be used to sort all of the materials that arrive on the end-of-2018 shipping containers. This will speed up the process of completing the house because they won’t have to store things there! Since the finishing touches on the house involve more detail-oriented work, they won’t be able to make much progress on that while they have visiting teams - but the crew can work on the construction of this new building.

A tantalizing glimpse of the new website!

Trish and Kelsea are working to enter all of the information about the kids in the sponsorship program on a yet-to-be-revealed new website. Kirstin (Allen and Trish's oldest daughter) is even lending a hand in Sarasota! Each child will have a profile of information, and a photo, on the website. Trish has taken on the task of entering the sponsors’ information into the system. Stay tuned for the big website unveiling!

 - posted by Christi

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Missionary Telenovela

This week’s conversation with Trish involved a continuing story. Trish laughed and said it was sort of like the missionary equivalent of a telenovela. This blog post really needs a narrator with a great speaking voice, but you’re just going to have to use your imagination.


Narrator with great speaking voice: Previously on Sowers4Pastors, Allen and Trish were in Seattle.

Allen and Trish had never been to the Seattle area before. But, they have friends there who were interested in becoming more involved in Sowers4Pastors’ ministry.

Narrator with great speaking voice: Providentially, Kelsea, the ministry intern, is also from the Seattle area.

While in Seattle, Allen and Trish discovered there wasn’t any one church that was ready to commit to becoming a Sister Church. However, there was a huge interest in sponsoring children, in general. They decided to set up a sponsorship program with the local community, rather than with a single church. They simply needed to find an ideal community in Honduras for a new sponsorship program, where the children will only be made available to people in the Seattle area.

Kelsea’s sister agreed to head up the program on the Seattle side. Rather than sending letters to individual sponsors, Sowers4Pastors will be able to send packets of information to Kelsea’s sister, and she will disseminate it. She will also help with people who wish to fill backpacks.

Narrator with great speaking voice: But, wait! Someone still need to find the ideal location for a new sponsorship site. (Enter Russell.)


Russell got busy finding a site that met all of the necessary requirements. They needed a place that was not too remote to visit regularly. Normally, they need a local church with a pastor who is up to the job of running a program. Sponsorship programs mean a lot of administrative work on the part of pastors. Sowers4Pastors operates the programs as a way of helping pastors reach their community. Operating a sponsorship center is not a paid position, so it must be something that is very important to the pastor.

In this case, however, the new program is slightly different. The chosen community doesn't have a local evangelical church - instead there is a pastor from another community, and a teacher from the local school, who are hoping to plant a church in this community - and they'll be starting that process by running a sponsorship center. This is an exciting new development in the sponsorship program!

It took a while for all of the pieces of the puzzle to fit together. Russell has been working on it for weeks.

Narrator with great speaking voice: Russell’s diligence has paid off!



Russell, Kelsea, and the crew members who work with the sponsorship programs are currently registering children for this new program, in the neighboring communities of Azacualpita and Cones.

Having all of the children sponsored by people from one geographic area will be incredibly beneficial. If a group of people from Seattle wishes to visit their sponsored children, they can come down as a team. Rather than driving to multiple locations, all team members will have sponsored children at the same center.



Narrator with great speaking voice: Will all of the children find sponsors? Will other areas want to follow Seattle’s lead? Will we ever learn the first name of Kelsea’s sister? Stay tuned!

 - posted by Christi
 - pictures are all from the new sponsorship center, in the communities of Azacualpita and Cones

Friday, June 1, 2018

Guess Where Allen Is!

It’s time to play a little game I like to call, “Guess Where Allen Is!” Go ahead. Guess! Did you guess? (Sorry, but I can’t actually hear you.) If you said, “Allen is back in the U.S., even though he and Trish just left the U.S. a few weeks ago,” then you should really go on a game show! He is in the U.S. Specifically, Allen is in Maryland, though he will soon be making his way to Ohio and Pennsylvania. This trip will last just over two weeks, and will involve making connections in churches in all three states.



The reason for the trip is simple. When Allen has the opportunity to speak to a missions committee at a church that is possibly interested in supporting Sowers4Pastors, he takes it! A couple of weeks ago, Allen, Russell, and Trish were hosting a vision team from Ohio. I spoke to two of the team members and wrote about their first impressions of Sowers4Pastors and their plans for future action.

In that blog post, Pastor Don mentioned he would be meeting with his church’s mission committee a couple of days after returning home. He was true to his word. In that meeting, the board decided to offer monthly support to Sowers4Pastors. They also donated $1000 earmarked for the motorcycle ministry, to help Pastor Omar purchase a motorcycle! In short, that church has some big ideas for ways Sowers4Pastors might partner with them. They invited Allen to go talk their church, personally. Hence, Allen repacked his newly unpacked suitcase and boarded a plane. (Random thought alert: “Hence” is a very underused word!)

As Trish explained, most church mission committees vote a budget in a certain month. They will say something like, “When the next cycle rolls around, we can vote on whether or not we can support you.” You see, partnerships don’t happen overnight. Naturally, churches want to “know” the missions ministries they are supporting.

The relationship with this church in Ohio hasn’t happened overnight, either. Trish talked about a gentleman in that congregation who has a tremendous heart for sponsoring children. He sponsors approximately 20 children through Manna 4 Lempira. This soft-spoken gentleman is very deliberate about letter writing. He sponsors young boys and mentors them through letters--encouraging them to stay in school and be serious about their faith.

Last year, Allen and Trish happened to be in the States, on a trip to collect backpacks, when they got word the Ohio church was going to be honoring this super sponsor in a Sunday service. It was also the day the honoree was having a fundraising dinner to raise money for sponsorships. Allen and Trish made a detour and were able to attend the service.

This is how connections are made. It’s almost like a courtship where the church and the missions ministry get to know each other to see if they are a good fit for each other.



In case you’re wondering, Trish decided to stay home to take care of responsibilities in Honduras. Also, she wanted to be available for Ben. And that’s why we’re not playing the game, “Guess Where Trish Is!” Maybe next time.

 - posted by Christi

Monday, May 28, 2018

You Tell Two Friends, and They Tell Two Friends, and So On . . .

Do you remember the 1970’s and 80’s television commercials for Faberge Organics Shampoo? (Stick with me here!) A smiling woman with crazy good hair held up a bottle and said, “I told two friends about Faberge Organics Shampoo, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on…” Before you knew it, you were looking at a whole bunch of images of the same smiling women holding up a bottle of what seemed to be a phenomenal shampoo!


In the previous post, we talked about Mercedes--the town, the church, and the sponsorship program. We talked about the astounding growth that church has seen, under the leadership of Pastor Israel Portillo, his son, Pastor Melvin Portillo, and his son-in-law, Pastor German Diaz . We talked about some of the wonderful things Pastor Israel has accomplished. Today, we’re going to focus on Pastor Melvin and Pastor German, the two men who are carrying on in the “family business”.

Pastors Melvin and German began attending Pastor’s Training School in 2016. The following year, they returned for their second year. They also served as mentors for the first year students. As long as they were mentoring, they decided to take it a step further. They asked if they could use the Pastor’s Training School materials taught to first year students, and begin their own school in Mercedes!


Pastor German, worshipping at Pastor Training School

This year, Pastor Melvin and Pastor German are in their third year of Pastor Training School, as students. They are now mentoring second year students at that school. They are also taking back material to teach both first and second year students in Mercedes! Currently, twenty-six people are attending the Pastor’s Training School in Mercedes!

Pastor Melvin, at Pastor Training School

Since the students attending this satellite school live in or near Mercedes, Pastors Melvin and German don’t have to worry about finding room and board for those enrolled. This is in contrast to the original Pastor’s Training School, where many students travel great distances to attend. Since there is minimal travel time for students in Mercedes, they are able to meet three Saturdays a month, and they carry a lunch from home.


Pastor Israel told his son and son-in-law about Pastor’s Training School. They mentored students. They started their own Pastor’s Training School. Those pastors will go on and continue to share what they learn with more and more people, and so on, and so on, and so on...

 - posted by Christi

Friday, May 25, 2018

Pop Quiz Time!

We’re going to start this blog post off with a little pop quiz. Don’t worry - it’s multiple choice. You don’t have to answer an essay question. Frankly, I do not have that kind of time to devote to grading these things! Are you ready? Here’s your question:

Whenever Allen Sowers wants to talk about “Mercedes,” he means:

          a) a Mercedes-Benz vehicle, which combines luxury and performance.
          b) a town in Western Honduras.
          c) a church in a town in Western Honduras of the same name
          d) a feeding center in a church and town in Western Honduras of the same name.
          e) any one of three of the above.

Okay. It’s time to grade papers! The correct answer is  “e) any one of three of the above.” You’re so smart, you can probably even guess which three it is!



Today, Allen wanted to chat about the phenomenal growth at the church in Mercedes. When he first met Pastor Israel, in 2005, the pastor was serving at a little church he'd planted about twenty years prior. Pastor Israel is a respected man, who once held a government position, which probably most closely resembles that of County Commissioner in the States. When Allen met him, the Mercedes church was a 25ft x 40ft building, with about 30 adults and 30 children in attendance.

A couple of years later, Pastor Israel approached Allen because he wanted help expanding the building. They tore out the back wall and soon had a 25ft x 60ft building. The church began hosting a feeding program.

Next, Pastor Israel took the roof off the church and made it 2 stories, doubling the amount of available space!

Pastor Israel attended Pastor’s Training School. He became a supervisor for his denomination, having fifteen churches under him. As time passed, more and more kids began attending the feeding center. It grew to over 200 kids! With the help of his son, Pastor Melvin, and his son-in-law, Pastor German, the feeding center became a sponsorship program. The trio also planted 5 more churches outside of Mercedes (the town, not the car). Currently, there are almost 400 children involved in the church and sponsorship center!



At the age of 75, Pastor Israel is not in the best of health. Still, Pastors Melvin and German are able to continue the good work he started. That’s a family legacy that’s more exciting than inheriting a shiny Mercedes-Benz!

 - posted by Christi

Sunday, May 20, 2018

First Impressions and Future Actions

As you may remember, Allen and Trish did not return from their latest trip to the U.S. empty handed. They arrived with a vision team in tow! I had the opportunity to speak with Kenny, and Pastor Don (both members of the church mission board), two of the team members from Countryside Chapel in Baltic, Ohio, about their first impressions of Honduras and Sowers4Pastors. I also got to ask them what they might be able to do to share the ministry when they get back home.



Kenny said, “I love the heart of Allen, Russell, and Mrs. Sowers.” (Personally, I love the respect that Trish receives in that quote!) “It has been great to see what they are doing in Honduras. They have a passion to change one more life, and then one more life after that. It’s tremendous to see it firsthand.”

“I’m really excited to go back home and share what I’ve experienced. I have already made some connections with people who are interested in sponsoring a child. I’m also going to talk with a youth group at a different church, that is interested in sending a team to Honduras,” Kenny continued. “I’ve been on several mission trips, but this is my first time in Central America. I love the heart of the Sowers family for impacting their community and seeing that impact go as far as possible. And it is all rooted in the name of Jesus Christ!”

When asked for his reflections about Sowers4Pastors, Pastor Don said, “I’m impressed by the scope of it. Now that I’m here, I can see the connections between things like Pastors Training School and feeding centers. It all connects! I’m impressed by Allen, Russell, and Kelsea, and the work they’re doing.”

Pastor Don also said, “We came down here on a vision trip to see if our church would want to partner with Sowers4Pastors, and if so, what part of their ministry we would want to partner with. I love the idea of training indigenous pastors. I also love the feeding centers. We can bring mission teams here and they can have an immense variety of ministries to serve with!”

“We return home on Friday and I will be at a mission board meeting on Sunday,” Pastor Don explained. “We’re going to talk about how we can partner. Will we help with roofs? Can we buy a couple of motorcycles? I’ve just become an advocate! Our church is growing and we have a lot of people who can help. We’re already doing some work in Ecuador. The people of Western Honduras seem to be among the most neglected.”

Both Kenny and Pastor Don spoke of the people of Western Honduras with great affection. They both talked about the happiness of people who have so little by the world’s standards.

Kenny said, “The people are bubbly and friendly. I asked Allen why their music is so loud. Allen said it’s because they’re happy and they want to share their happiness!”

Pastor Don, too, spoke of the friendliness of the people. He said, “This is obviously a developing country. But it doesn’t dampen their spirits. I have fallen in love with this country and the spirit of the people.”

 - update from Trish: On Sunday afternoon, we heard from Pastor Don and Kenny that their church has committed to donating a motorcycle for Pastor Omar at the Tablon sponsorship center, plus monthly support of our feeding center program! This is an excellent example of how teams can do even MORE than the project during their visit! 

 - posted by Christi

Thursday, May 17, 2018

May I Have Your Less Divided Attention, Please?

Team visiting from
Life Community Church,
Hilliard Ohio
If you want to know the value of diet and exercise, ask a health nut. If you want to know what to watch on Netflix, ask a couch potato, er, television conoisseur. If you want to know about the value of short term mission trips, ask a missionary! Allen recently shared his views on the value of short term mission trips. His number one reason may surprise you!

“People are always coming down here. And, when they come, they usually want to do a project. Projects are great! They are wonderful! But, what we really need more than anything is for people to partner with us,” said Allen.

Continuing that thought, he said, “We love having people come to build a bridge, do a VBS, or work with feeding centers. But we don’t want people to just build a bridge, do a VBS, or work with feeding centers. We want them to catch the vision! And we want them to take that vision back with them.”

What can catching the vision and taking it back look like? Oh, something like this:

  • Many people can only sponsor one child, but maybe someone who sponsors one child knows
    of five other people who could each sponsor a child, and can encourage them to become sponsors.
  • Sometimes people see what’s happening with Sowers4Pastors and they wish they could donate $1000 to help an indigenous pastor get a motorcycle. $1000 isn’t chump change for most people! However, maybe the person unable to write a personal check for that amount can encourage a Sunday school class or small group to work together to raise the amount. 
  • People go back with the firm understanding that, while they might not be able to afford to personally start a church plant, providing a motorcycle for an indigenous pastor empowers the pastor to plant one or several churches!
  • People can return from their trip with the drive to help raise money to put a new roof on a church, provide funds for Pastors Training School, encourage a congregation to join the Sister Church Program, pack backpacks, etc. The possibilities are endless!

Another reason Allen likes having teams visit is because it is an opportunity to get people away from their North American distractions. While a team is visiting, they get a chance to talk without the cell phones ringing! Allen and Russell get the opportunity to give a thorough overview of their ministry without people being pulled in all directions. Allen first called it, “undivided attention.” Upon reflection, he said, “Well, we at least get people’s less divided attention.” Even short term missions has its limits!

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Waving a Big, Foam Finger

The number of times a Sowers has asked me to write a blog post about money can almost be counted on one finger, rather than one hand. But, today, I’m waving a big, foam finger in the air and encouraging you to read about Sowers4Pastors current needs.

Allen said, “Every week, we post what is going on in Honduras. We don’t always talk about how these things costing money."

I’ll say it. It costs money to maintain the operation of Sowers4Pastors. Here are a few of the more pressing needs:

  • There are currently twenty requests from churches in need of a new roof. Time is of the essence, because it is the dry season in Honduras. At least eight of those requests are very viable--coming from churches who are ready to put new roofs on TODAY! The cost is $1000 per roof.
  • Last fall, Sowers4Pastors believed they had a significant commitment from a group wishing to help fund motorcycles for pastors. With that commitment, Russell took to the road and talked to pastors who wished to apply to the program - but then that financial commitment didn't come through. Still, Sowers4Pastors helped thirteen pastors get motorcycles in the fall, with help from various other donors who stepped up to assist with this need, and with some money from the general fund. There are currently ten more pastors Sowers4Pastors would really like to assist with $1000 toward the cost of a motorcycle. At the time of this writing, two of those motorcycles are funded. The other eight are not. Allen pointed out, “So often, when we help a pastor get a motorcycle, he takes that motorcycle and plants another church.” Basically, for $1000, you can help a pastor plant a church!
  • The group in the U.S. that partners with Sowers4Pastors by providing food for the feeding centers is ready to donate half a shipping container of food! That is not a paltry amount! Sowers4Pastors needs to come up with the shipping and customs costs to make that happen, which will come to around $4000.
  • Pastors Training School is significantly underfunded for the year. As you might recall, Pastors Training School is co-funded by three ministries. At this point, none of them have been able to provide the funding necessary to maintain the operation of the school. March and April classes have already taken place. That means down payments had to be made. The campground had to be rented. Books and other supplies had to be purchased. Those were completed, but more funding is needed, for the school to go forward. As Allen said, “Pastors Training School needs some love! Adequate funding is needed to make this school happen.”

  • We’re already looking ahead to the next backpack drive. A lot of the future backpacks will be going to kids the ministry has yet to meet! Allen and Trish have been working on lining up backpack-packers for the back-to-school sales this year, anticipating there will be more and more kindergarteners joining the program this coming school year. As additional children sign up, Sowers4Pastors needs to be ready with backpacks and school shoes. Because every child needs shoes that fit properly, it is necessary to have a surplus of shoes in a variety of sizes, and this requires the ministry to maintain an inventory of shoes - which ties up funds! Additionally, half of the kindergarteners currently registered do not have sponsors yet - and we need to find sponsors for them, to keep the program funded! (Click this link for more info on the sponsorship program, and how to sponsor a child through Manna 4 Lempira.)
  • Sowers4Pastors must pay for shipping and customs costs each time a shipping container is sent - and approximately eight containers (most of those containing food) are being shipped throughout the year!
  • There’s also the daily running of the ministry, travel to the various feeding centers, etc… it all takes money.
Sometimes when a ministry grows quickly, the funding doesn’t quite catch up to the mission. Allen said, “Sometimes we turn down good, or even great, opportunities, in order to be able to say, ‘yes,’ to the best opportunities.” However, the fact is that the best opportunities often require funding.

Donating is easy - you can find the info you need at the "To Donate" button, just under the title photo at the top of this page. Your help is greatly appreciated!

 - posted by Christi