Monday, April 5, 2021

S4P: the Retrospective and the Road Ahead

If someone were to make a documentary about Sowers4Pastors, it would probably begin something like this:

In 2001, the Sowers family moved to the island of Guanaja in Honduras for “a couple of years” in response to Hurricane Mitch. Sometimes time just gets away from you because here it is 20 years later and Honduras is still home for quite a few Sowers. 

The Sowers family right before heading to Honduras

Allen, Trish, and their passel of young ‘uns ended up on the islands for five years. The plan had been to help build local infrastructure (hence the plethora of tools in the photoshoot above), but while they were there, they also ended up doing much more traditional evangelism at a local youth center. They lived in the community they served. They ran a weekly Sunday school program and held Sunday services for adults. Their evenings were filled with different events for children and youth, which included Bible lessons and a time of worship. They were pretty much what you think of when you think of foreign missionaries. But, after five years, they knew it was time to move to the next thing. 

They could have gone anywhere! Anywhere in Honduras, that is. Why did they need to stay in Honduras instead of heading for a different country? Three letters. B-E-N. Even though he was (and is) very much a part of the Sowers family, Allen and Trish were unable to legally adopt him. They could take him to another area of Honduras, but they could not take him out of the country. Rather than resort to throwing darts at a map in search of a new home, they piled in a vehicle and headed off on a family vacation to see where they felt God wanted them to work. 

The trip took them to 15 of Honduras’s 18 departments (which are like states in the U.S.). They visited with other missionaries along the way and felt that they were being called to empower pastors. 

Allen thought, “What if we could empower 25-50 pastors?”

The family first felt called to check out La Esperanza. With its high altitude, the city is famous for having the coolest climate in Honduras. This was particularly appealing to Allen, who doesn’t care for the heat and they were looking for a place where they could survive long-term. But when the family visited the city, they learned that Trish’s asthma doesn’t care for the high altitude. Also, they discovered that La Esperanza was already home to eight other missionaries.

When they finally visited Gracias, they met two indigenous missionaries who were talking about ways to help empower pastors. The road seemed clear. It took about nine more months to complete the move.

Shortly after the move, Allen began thinking about the 800 or so filled shoeboxes that were heading his way. On the island, distribution had been easy. In Gracias, he had no idea how to choose which children would receive a shoebox. Allen feels that God led him to the conclusion that he should reach out to the pastors and say, “We don’t have enough for everyone in the congregation, but we have enough for your kids.” 

With a supply of shoeboxes labeled for older boys, younger boys, older girls, and younger girls, Allen headed down the road with one of the indigenous missionaries. Whenever someone approached, they asked if that person knew of a pastor.

Within two months, Allen had met 185 pastors--dwarfing his original projection of working with 25-50 pastors. Since that time, the ministry has grown to the point where it works with close to 1000 pastors. There has been a lot of attention on the sponsorship program, but Sowers4Pastors wants you to know that they have never lost sight of their primary focus of empowering pastors. 

Some of you might recognize this photo - it gets a lot of mileage. It's a photo of the family a little while after they moved to Gracias

In the coming weeks, we’ll be talking about this topic in greater detail, but here are the top 5 ways Sowers4Pastors is empowering pastors:

  1. Pastor training school

  2. Operating a wholesale Bible book store to sell discounted Bibles and other materials.

  3. Helping pastors get transportation

  4. Putting roofs on churches

  5. Helping the pastors set up feeding centers and sponsorship programs as a vehicle to reach out to their communities

The crew is recognizing more and more as they pass the 20 year mark on their ministry that they are working with people who don't know the background of the ministry. Sometimes they interact with people who only know the sponsorship program, but to the Sowers the sponsorship program is another tool to help them empower local pastors. They view it as a way to help empower the next generation of pastors and church leaders, by helping them get a better education as kids than they would have otherwise. More importantly, the sponsorship program is helping the local pastors lead people to Jesus. Only God will know how many individuals - including future pastors - come to that commitment through this program. The Sowers family feels so blessed to be a part of this! And they feel blessed to have you as their partner!

- posted by Christi.

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