Monday, November 25, 2019


Does everybody know what time it is? It’s loading time! The Florida container arrived in New Smyrna Beach on Wednesday, and Allen and (oldest Sowers daughter) Kirstin were on hand to greet it. The driver who delivered the container spoke no English, and was delighted to have a recipient who spoke Spanish with him!

Getting the containers loaded and shipped is a daunting process, but Sowers4Pastors is not daunted. Once the collected donations arrive in Maryland and Florida, getting the items into the hands of pastors and children in Honduras requires--wait for it--paperwork and government red tape. Russell has taken full charge of filing the necessary forms in Honduras, which is giving him something to do when he’s not busy harvesting tens of thousands of pounds of coffee and getting a home ready Allen and Trish (the next post will fill in some details on those subjects).

Loading the container in Florida, with help from volunteers from Edgewater Alliance Church,
involves balmier temperatures, and sun protection

Part of Russell's work was applying for a dispensa, which is the paperwork that gives Sowers4Pastors duty-free shipping since they’re a charity. With the related lawyer costs and fees, they've found that the cost of bringing in a container is pretty much the same, with the duty-free shipping paperwork or without it. The reason Russell files the paperwork is because it will hopefully prevent the containers from being held for additional fees when they arrive in Honduras.

Filing the dispensa is a drawn-out process. There are a lot of callbacks asking for clarification, and Russell has been experiencing the joy of dealing with that. There are also new policies in place regarding the shipping of food, soap, medicines, and vitamins. As you know, those items are a big part of the Sowers4Pastors shipments and that requires extra paperwork.

Once you receive your dispensa, it has a shelf life. It can’t be filed too early or it will expire. Part of applying for a dispensa includes supplying the government with a comprehensive list of everything on the container. This isn’t an easy task when you are collecting items through donations. Sometimes items are donated after the dispensa application has been filed and those items must be stored until the following year. When shipping food, soap, medicines, and vitamins, you are also required to submit paperwork with the name of the ship it and the number of the container in which the items are traveling. That is information Sowers4Pastors doesn’t receive until the very last minute.

Meanwhile, in the US, Allen and Trish handle the paperwork required for transporting the containers by sea - a process which cannot be started until they have the dispensa in hand. Trish likened this entire process to a complicated dance. More specifically, she said it is “like a not very fun dance!” That sounds accurate. A 40-foot shipping container holds a lot and everything must be declared.

The loading crew at Fredericktowne Baptist, in Walkersville MD . . . working in freezing temps!
For loading the container in Florida, an additional fee has been paid, to allow for a special kind of loading. This gives the loaders the opportunity to fill the container over the course of several days. This is needed in Florida because of the storage situation, which has involved storing donations in multiple locations. The container arrived in Edgewater on Wednesday the 20th. It will be picked up on Monday the 25th. In between, volunteers got everything loaded up!

The Maryland container arrived at Fredericktowne Baptist on Saturday the 23rd. The flat fee allows for a two-hour window to load. It is always assumed that there will be overage costs, because two hours is not enough time for even the expert container packers at Fredericktowne to complete the loading! Since Sowers4Pastors began designating a box size for donations a few years ago, the loading is less like a game of Tetris than it used to be. Unfortunately, the original medium-size packing boxes from Home Depot are being replaced by another product with the same name. The dimensions are a little different, and donors weren't sure which box to purchase - with the result that there are multiple different-sized boxes again this year.

Thank you to all of the volunteers at Edgewater Alliance and Fredericktowne Baptist who make this happen year after year!

Please pray for the paperwork and government stuff to go through without a hitch. Every year, there are new hoops through which to jump and new things to learn. Sowers4Pastors simply doesn’t do this often enough for it to be second nature.

An exciting development about this year’s shipment is that Trish made a fun discovery. There are some nifty websites that allow you to see a picture of the ships carrying the containers. We’ll all be able to track the containers in real time and see their progress while we pray for their safe arrival. That’s right! You can watch ships from Liberia carrying backpacks filled in the U.S., which will soon be delivered to children in Honduras. Ain’t technology great?

The Maryland container is scheduled to ship out on the Okee Ann Marie. At this website, you can follow the progress of the ship to Honduras.

The Florida container is scheduled to ship out on the Seaboard Atlantic. At this website, you can follow the progress of the ship to Honduras.

 - posted by Christi

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