Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The View from Kelsea

Friday morning, I piled into a van with eleven other people, a mixture of both Hondurans and North Americans, to revisit the Mercedes child sponsorship center. We had been there a few days prior to distribute backpacks and shoes to the children in the program, but we needed to return in order to collect letters from the children for their sponsors back in the States, as well as make sure the children who were absent at our last visit, received their backpacks and shoes.

When we arrived at the center, the children began to arrive as well. While a few began a game of soccer in the middle of the church floor, the others lined the walls of the building, standing quietly. A couple members of our group jumped right into the scene while the rest (myself included) stood off to the side to take it all in. As I stood there, I felt the weight of the language barrier. I so badly wanted to jump into their games, to talk to the children, to get to know them, to laugh with them, and to show them how loved they are. However, with my limited ability to speak and understand Spanish, I felt incapable.

As I watched, I saw an 8 year-old girl, sitting on the steps by herself. I walked over and sat next to her. I began to ask her how she was, her name, whether she had siblings there, whether she was excited to start school, etc.  She answered each question with a smile on her face and it wasn’t long before a boy of about the same age joined us. I began talking to him as well. One thing led to another and before long I was sitting in a circle of fifteen children playing catch, laughing with them learning their names.  As I looked around me, similar interactions were happening all throughout the church. I was struck by the way laughter, smiles, and a couple of Spanish words combined with the desire to connect, could build such a strong bridge between the lingual and cultural divide we were experiencing.

During our remaining time at the center, we played other games with the children, served them ice cream, took pictures with them, and exchanged lots of hugs! When it was time to leave, we said our goodbyes and piled back into the van.  I left Mercedes with a full heart, having made some new little friends, and reflecting on the importance of stepping outside of our perceived capabilities to simply show love to those we encounter.

 - posted by Kelsea

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Intern Has Landed

She’s there! She’s there! Kelsea, the young woman who will intern with Sowers4Pastors for a full year is there. (And, not to brag, but I got to talk to her.) When we spoke by phone, Kelsea had arrived in Honduras a whopping four days before. Naturally, she has spent that time sitting back and observing. Hahahaha. I’m kidding. This is Sowers4Pastors we’re talking about. Naturally, Kelsea hit the ground running and helping to distribute backpacks and shoes.

Kelsea, who hails from Washington State, was on two earlier short-term mission trips to Honduras, through Living Water. You might recall Dillon, the extended stay intern, also worked with Living Water. That is not a coincidence. Kelsea and Dillon met on her first trip to Honduras. It was Dillon and a friend of his who shared this exciting mission opportunity with Kelsea.

With four days in, Kelsea gave me her impressions thus far. So far, so great! She is enjoying learning about the different aspects of the Sowers4Pastors ministries. She has spent a lot of time with Allen and Russell, learning how the ministry impacts the communities of Western Honduras. She is excited to learn the various aspects of how to operate a ministry. She also said she loves how flexible it is. If by “flexible” she means how willing they are to do whatever is needed at any particular time, then she is in for a real treat!

When asked how she is able to spend a year in Honduras, Kelsea told me a bit about her background and dreams for the future. She graduated with an associates degree a few years back. She has been alternating between earning money in the U.S. doing childcare and office work and doing missions work abroad. This time, she only had two and a half months to fundraise for her year in Central America.

When her year in Honduras comes to a close, she would love to go home to work and raise money to do more work in Central or South America. She’s not exactly sure where that will be, but is open to any doors God may open. This is something she would love to do for the rest of her life. This has been the desire of her heart for the past four years or so. She has a desire to be self-sustaining, while churches and individuals support her ministry. That sounds more than a little familiar!

Kelsea studied Spanish for years. She said she knows enough to communicate with people, but she realizes how rusty she is. Fortunately, she is thrilled by how quickly her ability to understand native Spanish speakers is improving. Her brain is absorbing new vocabulary words and she’s dusting off some long forgotten verb tenses. Psst… Kelsea, if you ever need to know how to say, “The boy is under the airplane,” just let me know. I’m available for private Spanish lessons via Skype.

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Another Day, Another . . .

You know the old saying, “Another day, another gajillion backpacks to distribute and kids to fit with shoes!” What? You don’t know that old saying? Well, stick around, because it’s the sort of thing that comes up periodically on this blog. When I spoke to Russell this week, he was traveling to a Manna 4 Lempira center with Allen, the Hall family, Dillon, and Sowers4Pastors' newest intern, Kelsea.

Russell gave me a quick rundown of what his “social calendar” looks like this week. Really, the fun began last Friday when Russell and Dillon drove to San Pedro to pick up Kim Hall and family, who
arrived on Saturday. It was a gloriously uneventful trip because they encountered no road-blocking protests. (Russell would like to remind you that the international news has the job of showing the worst side of things. The dramatic protests you are seeing are not reflective of what is actually going on throughout most of the country at this time.)

Sunday: They visited the Tablon center, where they distributed 130 backpacks and pairs of shoes.

Monday: They headed to the Mercedes center, where they distributed a whopping 335 backpacks and pairs of shoes.

Tuesday: Tuesday found them at the Betania center, where they distributed 190 backpacks and pairs of shoes.

Wednesday: Wednesday brings us up to the day of our phone call. The group plans to visit the two daughter churches of the Tablon main church. That will mean visiting two completely separate locations. Russell anticipates distributing another 160 backpacks and pairs of shoes.

Thursday: On Thursday they will visit the new center opened in the fall, Quelacasque. This center has the distinction of being part sister church sponsored and part Manna 4 Lempira sponsored. One of the Manna 4 Lempira sponsors got her church in Kansas in on the fun and they are now a sister church. They will distribute backpacks and shoes to approximately 160 kids.

Friday and Saturday: As the week draws to a close, the group will revisit Mercedes and Betania, in order to see any children who were not there for the previous visits.

Saturday: On Saturday afternoon, Russell, Dillon, and Kelsea will drive the Hall family back to San Pedro to make their return flight on Sunday.

Children heading home with backpacks

Sunday is inauguration day in Honduras! Please be in prayer for Russell, Kelsea, Dillon’s safe travels on their drive home. Russell is feeling confident, as there are currently very few roadblocks happening.

 - posted by Christi

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Crate Beyond

I always know it’s going to be a fun blog post when Trish warns me, “I hope it’s not too confusing!” It really piques a person’s interest! This time, the interest-piquing, possibly confusing topic had to do with packing boxes full of shoes.

“There’s a box packing frenzy going on,” Russell said during our latest phone call. And by “boxes” he means crates made out of ¾ inch plywood. So far, so good. That’s not too confusing. But, wait! Why are they building crates?

Allen, Russell, Dillon, and a few men from the crew are building crates because cardboard boxes simply don’t have what it takes to hold themselves together while carrying a bunch of shoes. They are constructing 52 crates in all. There will be 26 for boys and 26 for girls. Each crate will hold one size of shoes. The next crate’s contents will go up by a half size. Sizes will range from a children’s size 6 to an adult size 9.

Shoes being sorted, by size and gender, into the appropriate crates

When they take the shoes out for distribution, each child will be fitted for a new pair of shoes on the spot. Having the supplies well organized makes it possible to fit as many as 300 kids at one center in one day.

Is that clear? If not, please refer to the many pictures Trish instructed the menfolk to take in order to clarify any questions you may have.

As long as I had Russell on the phone, we chatted about the benefits of having an energetic, young, North American staying with them for three months. Dillon has been helping for a couple of weeks, and is being joined by Kelsea this weekend! They will be able to do things for which even the most willing Honduran would not be well-suited. Things like posting to Facebook and dealing with some of the paperwork and computer tasks. They will both be able to help out with some of the daily tasks facing Sowers4Pastors. And, as Russell pointed out, “There are a lot of tasks!”

Russell, Allen, and Trish are all excited there are four young adults currently confirmed to stay and work with them anywhere from a month to a year. They are also talking to other potential candidates.

Here are a few of the characteristics the ideal candidate should possess:

  • Must have a desire to serve God and others.
  • Young adult without the responsibilities that come along with having a family.
  • Enough energy to keep up with a family of Energizer Bunnies.
  • College age or older
  • The ability to stay for at least three months

If you fit those requirements, contact the Sowers to complete the application process.

 - posted by Christi

Friday, January 19, 2018

Extended Stay Missions

The Sowers are no strangers to one-week mission teams. They often host these teams throughout the year. In August 2016, one of those visiting team members was Dillon Cohee, a young man from Maryland, who participated in a bridge-in-a-week project. Now, Dillon has returned for what might be classified as an “extended stay” mission trip, as an intern with Sowers4Pastors.

Dillon (back left) during his bridge-in-a-week visit in 2016

Dillon also visited Honduras on a short mission trip to dig a well with Living Water, in 2015. That sparked interest for his trip with Sowers4Pastors. He said he's noticed a big difference between the two trips. He continued, “The Sowers’ trip was more real. They are so genuine. The Living Water trip was good, but there wasn’t that personal relationship where you were in direct contact with people involved in the ministry.”

When we spoke, Dillon was in his second week of what will be a three month stay with the Sowers family. Allen, Trish, and Russell thought it would be fun to have Dillon compare this trip with his previous trip. After all, this time he’s seeing what their ministry looks like from day-to-day, rather than when everything is laid out for a team.

Dillon described his duties as doing whatever is needed--from helping with teams, to working on the coffee farm, to sorting the contents of the infamous shipping containers. He said, “There’s a lot going on behind the scenes. I didn’t really understand about the shipments in the containers--how much stuff there is to sort through. I didn’t realize how many backpacks there are to organize. It’s something you don’t think about when you’re filling backpacks in the U.S. Here, you get boxes containing more than 5000 backpacks to organize before they can be distributed.”

Dillon (far right) works on a construction project  with Allen and Helder

How did Dillon manage to take an extended internship? The first thing in his favor is his age. Dillon is 23 years old. Since he doesn’t yet have a family to support, his schedule is more flexible. Also in his favor, is the fact he works for his cousin’s plumbing business. His cousin is very agreeable to Dillon taking time off for extended trips.

Why did Dillon decide to do this? He wanted something more than “working 40 hours per week, making money, and settling down.” He said, “The happiest I’ve been is when I’m far away from home and serving someone other than myself. I want to be serving a greater purpose rather than living the American dream.”

What does Dillon want others to know? “If anyone else is thinking about taking a mission trip. Pray about it, and if you get the go ahead, do it!”

What differences has Dillon noticed during this trip? Not as many as you might expect! He said, “When I was here building a bridge, it was go, go, go. They (the Sowers family) are workers! I knew that’s how it would be. I like that. You’re here. You might as well work hard.” The Sowers family agrees, wholeheartedly!

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Third World To-do List

As far as To-Do lists go, Trish’s is just like most people’s, with the notable addition of some 3rd world issues. It is rare, after all, for us First Worlders to have something as exotic as evacuating a possum from our house. But other stuff is pretty mundane. Just like any mom, Trish needs to schedule occasional medical appointments for a family member. Of course, even her mundane tasks tend to have a 3rd world spin.
For the past year, Ben has been experiencing problems with his right knee. He thought it was due to a bad fall on concrete. While he was having some pain, it did not interfere with his regular activities, so he dealt with it. For a year. When a funny lump formed on the side of the knee, Trish and Allen said, “Enough is enough,” and made the decision to seek medical advice. Since that’s not as simple as finding a specialist on Yelp, Trish headed to a Facebook group for Americans living in Honduras and said she was looking for a good orthopedist. She received a response that a medical team from North America is currently in her neck of the woods for a month. The doctors are there on a rotating basis, but an orthopedic surgeon is there now!
Trish was able to schedule an appointment to have Ben seen. The orthopedist did the stuff orthopedists do (which I imagine involved some poking and prodding, in addition to X-rays). He diagnosed the lump as a benign tumor, having nothing to do with last year’s fall. It seems this type of benign tumor is something that can grow while a child is growing. If you’ve been paying attention to pictures, Ben has definitely been growing!
While it isn’t a major medical concern, it is best to have it removed. In Ben’s case, it has been catching a tendon or ligament (or whatever else makes a knee do the stuff knees are supposed to do) and causing the aforementioned pain. So, it’s time to wave bye-bye to Ben’s benign tumor! Surgery is expected to be today, but that is subject to change. Remember, there’s still third world stuff at play.
The prognosis is good. Ben should be on crutches for a couple of days and take it easy for a couple of weeks. He should be able to resume full activity in a month or two. The timing is also good because Ben is out of school right now.
Naturally, everyone is grateful this was not something more serious. This is something that can affect other body parts. As far as anyone knows, however, Ben doesn’t have any other weird lumps. Everyone is also grateful for a skilled surgeon who speaks English!
In other news…
It is Trish’s understanding that this morning’s earthquake did not cause any major damage. The earthquake was far offshore and that side of Honduras is sparsely inhabited swampland. The primary concern was of tsunamis, particularly since it is low lying land. Now, Trish is no seismologist (nor does she play one on TV), but to the best of her knowledge, the tsunami danger appears to have passed.
And, if you’ve been following the political climate in Honduras, the demonstrations seem to have petered out. The protesters appear to have lost their desire to cause a stir. What few protests there been recently have been small and peaceful. The Presidential inauguration is scheduled for January 27.

- posted by Christi

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Crazy, Crazy, Crazy, Busy, Busy, Busy

Occasionally, Allen offers a suggestion for a title of a blog post. Today, he suggested, “Crazy, Crazy, Crazy” or “Busy, Busy, Busy”. After thinking about it and rereading the notes from our conversation, it seemed prudent to smoosh the two suggestions together. Welcome to the Crazy, Crazy, Crazy, Busy, Busy, Busy blog post!

Members of the S4P crew, unloading
a spool of cable from the MD container
It’s a universal truth that sometimes things don’t go exactly according to plan. That universal truth is never more true than in the daily lives of the Sowers! The Sowers were anticipating hosting back-to-back teams, but the second team postponed its trip for personal reasons. The group plans on rescheduling for sometime later this year. While Allen, Russell, and Trish were disappointed by the postponement, it is not without its blessings.

You see, the Sowers are essentially booked with visiting teams through March. This unexpected postponement by one team has given the Sowers almost a full week of work days, and they intend to take full advantage of the gift of time. Here are a few of the things on their agenda:
  • This is the first time they have ever received two shipping containers at basically the same time and that amounts to a heap of work. Russell will be taking all of the contents of the shipping containers and organizing it.
  • They are entering what Russell calls the “super busy backpack distribution season”. This is the first time they have had eight sponsorship programs operating at the same time. This extra time will be used to organize a slew of backpacks filled with school supplies for the children in those programs. Russell says this gift of time means they “will not be running around like chickens with their heads cut off,” which is undoubtedly a good thing.
Using the Land Cruiser to ferry the contents
of the container from Gracias, up to our property.
The big container truck only goes as far as Gracias.
  • The new water tank will get some attention and Russell and the crew will be able to put the tubing together. (There was probably some more construction talk, but “tubing” was the word I understood. We’ll just go with that.)
  • The Sowers are also catching up on IRS paperwork--both their personal and ministry filings. The ministry filings alone take days of work to complete.
  • Russell and Allen will have more time to prepare for future team visits. Kim Hall’s team arrives in two weeks and two construction teams are scheduled to arrive soon. That means extra preparation to make sure all of the supplies are lined up, etc...
  • Part of Russell’s attention will go to preparing for work during the dry season on the coffee farm.
  • Trish is hoping that, with this extra bit of time, the eviction of the opossum from their home/warehouse can be moved up on the schedule a bit, too.

So, while the postponement of a team visit was not welcome news, Sowers4Pastors is making a big ol’ pitcher of lemonade from lemons. Even Allen admitted they were almost overloaded with commitments.

Unloading the big orange container from Maryland!
In other news… The political protests have calmed down, which is what allowed for the delivery of the second shipping container. The ministry did take a financial hit by having to pay a fee for having the containers stored for extra time. In the grand scheme of things, that is peanuts! The valuable supplies on the containers were worth far more than the unanticipated fees.

Allen would like to remind people that the news can be very sensationalized. The job of news sources is to hone in on the worst things that have happened. Overall, Allen feels the political climate is much more calm than it was immediately following the election. That is great news during this crazy, crazy, crazy, busy, busy, busy season!

 - posted by Christi