Friday, April 27, 2018

Changing a Life!

Kim Hall recently asked Pastor Omar of the El Tablon church to select one family from that sponsorship program, that would represent the needs of all of the families they serve. The idea was to take one child shopping for the same items the sponsorship program provides and compare the costs of shopping in Honduras vs. the cost of sending the items from the U.S. The results were eye-opening!

Anthony was the child Pastor Omar selected. Anthony lives with his grandmother and one sibling. The grandmother earns the money that provides for the family by grinding corn on a home mill. She earns between 500-600 Lempiras a month, which is the equivalent of $20-25.

This “shopping spree” wasn’t about finding the most expensive items available. It wasn’t even about finding the American equivalent. The goal was to buy what they thought were the most reasonable choices for families to make.

They found school supplies, shoes, and a school uniform. Even though the sponsorship program does not provide uniforms, for many families it continues to be a necessary expense. The result was $123 worth of supplies for one child! For Anthony’s grandmother, that’s six months of income! And, don’t forget that Anthony has a sibling. In order for Anthony’s grandmother to send two children to school, she would need to spend 100% of the annual household income! Obviously, that would not be possible, and there was no way that Anthony and his sister were going to be able to go to school, without the shoes and school supplies from the Manna 4 Lempira program!

Even for families earning the average Honduran income, the amount of $123 is usually the equivalent of one month’s wages! Kim was already aware of the approximate costs, and even she was stunned by the amount of sacrifice that would mean for a family. For many families, there’s no amount of budgeting that can make that possible.

Now, here's the video of the shopping trip with Anthony!

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Best Laid Plans

What do you do when you’re feeling a little under the weather? Do you have a special recipe for a garlic-laden soup guaranteed to clear up passageways and ward off vampires? Do you put on some fuzzy socks and curl with a good Netflix binge? Whatever you do, it’s probably not what Trish is doing. Recently, while Trish and Allen have been traveling in the U.S, Trish has been sick more than not. So far, Allen and Trish have already been to Maryland and Seattle, and, at the time of our weekly phone call, they had just flown to Mississippi on the previous day. Because, what better way to boost an immune system than to be stuck in a pressurized cabin waiting to see if your head will explode?

Fortunately, Trish’s head has not actually exploded. She may even be on the mend (though she’s thought that before and was sadly mistaken). Nevertheless, the itinerary has been kept and the “show” continues to go on.

You may recall that there were some open time slots in Allen and Trish’s schedule before they left Honduras. Those slots were not all filled, but the gatherings they have had to date have been well received. Plus, the lighter schedule has allowed Trish time to get some much needed rest.

One goal of this trip was to pursue the idea of starting a new version of the Sister Church Program, that will be open to people in the Seattle area. That has gone so well that they already have Russell working on finding a feeding center of an appropriate size for this project. People are excited about this! Even without a location, some people have already donated money to sponsor children in the new program!

Later this year, Allen and Trish will be starting their fall backpack trip in Seattle. Many people in that area have already made a commitment to filling backpacks. Since they know they will be heading to Colorado Springs after Seattle, Allen and Trish are looking for people between those two locations to fill backpacks, as well. Like the fount of wisdom she is, Trish said, “There’s a whole lot of road between Seattle and Colorado Springs. If people along the way are interested in helping out, we can go by and pick up the backpacks they fill!”

Last week was the first time Trish has been scheduled to speak publicly about the kidnapping since shortly after it happened. While she hasn’t been feeling 100%, she made it through the retelling. After all, feeling under the weather pales in comparison to being kidnapped!

The dynamic missionary duo has more connections scheduled over the next couple of weeks. They will be driving around Mississippi, the panhandle of Florida, and Georgia, before heading back up to Maryland for their return flight home. Trish said, “Progress is being made. It hasn’t been ideal, but we are plodding through.”

Now, won’t someone please get Trish a big bowl of soup?

 - posted by Christi

Friday, April 13, 2018

Meet a Manna4Lempira Pastor!

Allen and Trish are in the States, and Kim Hall was in Honduras. While it wasn't exactly a “Freaky Friday” scenario, it did make for a bit of a “Wacky Wednesday” as I got to schedule my weekly blog-related phone call with Kim instead of a Sowers. This week, Kim got to be the one to come up with the topics for blog posts. She did a bang up job. This particular post begins with Kim’s musing that the Sowerses have a great talent for surrounding themselves with successful people--particularly when it comes to the Honduran pastors involved in the sponsorship programs. Kim talked about the intentionality involved in the selection of pastors and sites for sponsorship programs and feeding centers. One of those intentional selections is Pastor Omar at the church in El Tablon.

Kim said, “The first thing you notice about Pastor Omar is how much the kids love him. With many pastors, kids are afraid to approach them.” She talked about how the kids flock to Pastor Omar and how he plays with the children and takes pictures of the kids and visiting teams.

But Pastor Omar understands that not every child is well-behaved! Gasp! It’s true. Even sponsored children don’t walk around with glowing halos over their heads. The fact a child is sponsored doesn’t automatically turn him or her into a poster child for good manners.

Sometimes children in the sponsorship program fail to attend school. On rare occasions, a child may even be asked to leave school because of poor behavior. Kim and Pastor Omar recently had to decide how to handle those situations, as school attendance is a requirement for sponsored children. That is not where the story ends, however.

Last week, Kim and Pastor Omar were passing out Bibles to the children in El Tablon. They decided to go ahead and give Bibles to two children who were no longer in the program. Kim’s heart was warmed to hear Pastor Omar say, “Yes, because even though they are not in the program, they still need Jesus!”

Kim pointed out that it is reaffirming to see that the sponsorship program is fueling the church, rather than the other way around. Some of the children have also been acting up in Sunday school. A few of the teachers wanted to send the disruptive children out of Sunday school. Pastor Omar couldn’t go along with that. Quoting Mark 2:17, he said, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…”

Pastor Omar has a heart for the children. He knows them. He has known many of them from the day they were born. He is aware of their family situations and unique circumstances.

Reflecting upon that, Kim said, “It’s awesome to know Pastor Omar and the other pastors are doing all they can to support the children. When we choose to start a program, we are intentional about the location. It’s about multiplying the Kingdom. It’s not all about backpacks! Those are a way to show the love of Jesus. We can help reinforce what the pastor is teaching. We get to be the hands and feet. And the pastors can tell the children, "God hears your prayers. He can help you.’”

Kim continued by talking about one of the locations that has not yet received Bibles. The pastor and teachers have already helped the children commit twenty-six verses to memory! Kim was correct when she said, “They are doing their work.”

 - posted by Christi

Monday, April 9, 2018

Why Tears Aren't Enough

Allen shared a story about a gentleman who visited Honduras for a vision trip, several years ago. The man wanted to see if he could get involved with feeding centers. For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll call the man “John”.

As Allen and John were driving along, John regaled Allen with a story about his first visit to Honduras, in 1998. It was shortly after Hurricane Mitch swept through--killing more than 10,000 people in Honduras and destroying vast amounts of property. Individuals and groups were traveling internationally to help, and John's group came to Honduras for a week, to lend a hand. He helped with construction projects during the day and attended prayer meetings at local churches during the evenings.

As the Story Goes…

On Wednesday evening, John was at a prayer meeting when he noticed a six or seven-year-old girl. She was poorly dressed, obviously malnourished, and singing her heart out. This wasn’t just a precocious girl with a flair for music. Little Maria was crying out to God through song. Touched by the scene, John leaned over to the missionary he was working with and asked what her story was. Maria was standing beside her mother and two younger siblings. The missionary told John that Maria’s family owed a small piece of land and had some animals. During the hurricane, Maria’s father went out to get the animals to safety. In the process, he was swept away in a swollen stream and killed. The missionary said the family was truly suffering.

John wanted to know if the missionary was helping the family. The missionary said they were feeding them, but only twice a week. John was distraught - why wasn't the missionary DOING something more to help them? The mother and children couldn’t possibly survive on two meals per week! The missionary said the family was working very hard to get by. He also said there were thousands of other families in similar situations. His organization was overwhelmed by the needs. They had made an across-the-board decision to provide two meals a week to as many people as possible. The intention was to keep them from starving until a better solution could be found. Upon hearing that, John started crying.

John continued crying. He cried and prayed through the night. He was so distraught, he was unable to work with his team the following day. He continued to cry and pray through the following night. All told, John wept and prayed for approximately 36 hours.

The end.

And Then What Happened?

John finished speaking and Allen wanted to know what happened next. Surely, there was some impactful, inspirational end to the story. But there wasn’t. John went back to the U.S. at the end of his week. Allen wanted to know if John kept in touch with the missionary, to learn how the family fared, or provided financial assistance for Maria’s family. No. John said he got back to the States and one thing led to another. His business suffered a financial downturn. He was busy. Etc…

Did John eventually talk to the missionary? Did he ever find out what became of the family? No, John never contacted the missionary. He didn’t know what happened to Maria and her family.

John shared the story with Allen, fifteen years after his emotional 36 hours of prayer and crying, as an example of how much this child's plight had touched his heart - and yet he never actually reached out to help her!

The Moral of This Story

Crying out to the Lord is a beautiful thing, but if God has moved your heart on a matter, please don’t cry and then go on about your life without doing what you can do. We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ--not just his tear ducts!

James 2: 14 - 17 
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Specifically, What Can You Do NOW?

We offer multiple ways that you can reach out and help people in Honduras, through our ministry - and we work hard to use every dollar as efficiently and effectively as we possibly can.

1) Through our Manna 4 Lempira program, you can sponsor a child for $15/month, ensuring that one child will receive the nutrition they need to grow and learn, the supplies they need to attend school, and a relationship with a local pastor and church community - plus you get the opportunity to correspond with that child several times each year! To get started, click this link!

2) Through our Backpack Project, you can purchase school supplies and fill one or many backpacks, for us to ship to Honduras. Each backpack represents an opportunity for a child to attend school - and for MANY of the children in our area, their families simply cannot send them to school at all, without this assistance! This year, we are collecting backpacks in the fall, during a cross country drive which will start in Seattle Washington in September, cross Interstate 70 to Maryland, then follow Interstate 95 south to Florida, and will also incorporate locations in Mississippi. If you - or your church or other group - want to pack backpacks for us, we will work with you to get them collected! It's fun and easy - we send you a list of the items required to fill each backpack. Contact Trish at trish @ sowers4pastors dot com to get started - we NEED your help to get those kids to school!

3) Through a donation to our general fund, you can help us feed the thousands of children who are attending our feeding centers but are not currently part of the sponsorship program. At this time, we feed over 10,000 children in western Honduras, and about 2500 of those are registered for sponsorship. If you want to help, but don't want the commitment of a direct sponsorship, a general donation to our feeding program may be the way to go. Donation instructions can be found at this link!

Thank you SO MUCH for your prayers, your tears, and your ACTIONS, on behalf of the people of Western Honduras!

 - posted by Christi and Trish

Monday, April 2, 2018

Making it Count

Allen, Trish, and Russell often hear the question, “How can we pray for you?” That’s good, because they will happily take all the prayers they can get! So, Trish posts stories to Facebook, on this blog, and in email to let all of you praying people know about their most pressing needs and concerns -- and about things like scorpions and vehicle difficulties and worse! At the same time Trish is posting these tales from the mission field, the Sowerses are praying their own prayers. They’re praying that the hearts of their friends and supporters will be touched and that people will be encouraged to send visiting teams to work with them - in spite of the difficulties they might encounter on their visits.

As Trish said, “Because of the kind of work that we do, and the size of it, we can’t do this ministry without help. Often, the people who get most excited about partnering with our ministry are those who have come down to see for themselves.”

People frequently comment on the sacrifices the family is making. Trish stressed, “We make sacrifices because this is what God told us to do. But, a lot of times, things other people consider sacrifices, we consider inconveniences.” She then explained that everyone makes sacrifices.

“Sometimes people make sacrifices to get a particular job. Maybe someone’s dream job is in a big city, but that person can’t afford to live in the city. The person might take the job anyway and decide to commute and sit in traffic every day, feeling that this sacrifice is worth the goal of having that job,” Trish said, continuing the thought.

There was laughter as Trish discussed that some of the things others see as huge sacrifices on the part of her family, aren’t so big to them. Now, asking them to sit in traffic five days a week would be a sacrifice! But, for Allen and Trish, monitoring water and electrical usage is an inconvenience.

Trish did acknowledge that some sacrifices are bigger. As a prime example, she said, “Our kids. When our kids became adults, those who wanted to attend college had to move back to the U.S. They each spent about a year getting acclimated to a new culture. They had to get driver's licenses and cars. They had to find their own way--get jobs and save money. We certainly didn’t have the funds to help with this, or to send them through college. That was a sacrifice. It's hard for our kids. And it's hard for us because we put them in that position.

“Over the  years, we’ve had people infer that we shouldn’t work so hard at our ministry. Some people think we’re trying to earn salvation, or deserve God’s favor. That isn’t the case. We just don’t want to make the sacrifices our family members are making, for no good reason. We want to make it count!”

As an example of making it count, we discussed the Mercedes sponsorship center, which now consists of five separate feeding locations. About ten years ago, it was one church, with between 30-40 kids in attendance. There were no sponsorships at that point, but Sowers4Pastors helped the local pastor feed the kids and provide them with Bible lessons, through the feeding center program. A couple of years ago, Mercedes became a sponsorship center. That church now has 360 children in their center - and many of their families have joined the church! The church doubled in size, then it doubled again, under the leadership of Pastor Germán.

Christians in Honduras use a term to describe the current situation in their country - "white fields" - which refers to John 4:35, talking about crops that turned white when it was time to harvest them. The churches in Honduras know this is a time when they can and should be reaping a great harvest. Trish concluded, “We’re honored to work where that’s the case. It’s a blessing to us. We’re just trying to do the best we can, with what we have, to help the pastors reap that harvest. The things that hold us back are money and time.”

If you’ve ever considered visiting Honduras with a short-term mission team, or providing more financial assistance, this is a good time to reflect on John 4:35: “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!”

 - posted by Christi