In 2013, God set it in our hearts to make a trip to Villa Verde, Honduras, to have a quinceanera party for a child that we sponsor through the ministry of Compassion International.
The problem was that Villa Verde was incredibly remote. How on earth would we get there? My husband and I did not want to travel for a one-day visit. We hoped to find a way to do other ministry work in or near that community.
We began to pray, and God led us to search for missionaries who worked out of the nearest town to the tiny village of Villa Verde--that is, Gracias. After talking with missionaries and exhausting options, we were dismayed to discover that no one seemed to know anything about our little village. Then, one day, I "googled" a search that I had done many times, but somehow, I got different results! Sowers 4 Pastors was a ministry that worked out of Gracias. I sent an email and prayed that God had really provided us with a perfect answer.
Allen Sowers called and spoke with my husband Jonathan, and it became clear after that conversation that God had led us into His perfect plan for our time in Honduras. Not only did Allen know about Villa Verde, but he could see it from his front porch! He had even built a portion of the church we were hoping to visit and provided meals for the children there. We began to plan a trip with the Sowers ministry for July of 2013.
We learned a lot on that trip. The Sowers were so gracious to us! It was clear that we were new to mission work. It became clear that construction was not our talent. We blundered around and helped paint and repair the adobe walls of the little church in Villa Verde. We helped run a poorly organized VBS for about 250 children. Most importantly, we felt God planting a strong love for Honduras and its people in our hearts. We had no idea what we were doing, but we felt God's leading to keep working in Honduras.
In 2014, we hoped to return to Honduras with the Sowers and work in the same community. This time, we hoped to learn more about the Sowers ministry. The little church in Villa Verde was just one of 1,000 churches in rural Honduras that the Sowers work with. They also operate 140 feeding centers through some of those churches, providing two nutritious meals a week for children who come to bi-weekly Bible studies. We had seen little of this ministry in 2013.
On the first full day of our trip in May of 2014, we got in Allen's Land Cruiser and traveled about an hour on the pavement outside of Gracias. From there, we spent about 45 minutes crossing the mountains on rough, steep mountain roads to visit one of the other churches served by Allen and his family in a little village called Mercedes.
The Sowers had helped this church design and construct its building. They had often brought medical and dental teams to serve the people. We were there to see how the feeding program for children worked.
It was a wonderful day as we met many of the children who are served meals at the church 2 times per week. Every child seemed so genuinely thankful for the bowl of vitamin-enriched rice that they received. Even though we only spent a half-day at Mercedes, we did not forget the children once we returned home...
And out of our memories of the beautiful, hungry little children in Mercedes, the idea for Manna 4 Lempira was born. Mercedes was just one of 140 churches feeding hungry little ones in rural Honduras. Those 200 children were just a few of the more than 12,000 children that are fed through the ministry of Sowers 4 Pastors. We wanted to do something to support this ministry, to provide funds to feed these children.
God had been teaching me for some time, through other sponsorships and ministries, about how to develop a sponsorship ministry. I talked with Allen Sowers, and we agreed to try out a small program at the Mercedes feeding center.
We would register 150 children to start with, and as God blessed, add more. The fee for sponsorship would be $15 per month. $10 would help pay for the food for all 140 feeding centers, and $5 per month would go directly for the benefit of the sponsored children. In addition to food, the lucky 150 children would be able to have school shoes, school supplies, and other much needed assistance. At the same time, the food for the other 12,000 children being fed through the Sowers' ministry would be paid for!
The rest is history. In faith, we registered 150 children one morning in July 2015. I came home and started working on typing child profiles, setting up a sponsorship page, and posting photos. God blessed in such an amazing way! We had such a wonderful response that 75 more children were registered in the program, and as of today, 178 children in our program have been sponsored. We are even considering partnering with another small church to begin a second Manna Project!
And why Manna? Our name comes from exodus 16, where God provided His people with food in the wilderness. When they were hungry, God said, "I will rain down heaven for you." (Exodus 16:4).
Filling hungry bellies is only part of our ministry. We also want to provide them with a much greater gift. In John 6, Jesus speaks to the Jews and says, "I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Through meeting the physical needs of the children and by connecting them with sponsors who can provide emotional support, we hope to open a door to meet their spiritual need for Christ. Children who are hungry, needy, and abused have a hard time believing in the love of God. As needs are met and as God's people demonstrate His love in tangible ways, children's eyes begin to be opened to the truth of the Gospel.
As a sponsor with Manna 4 Lempira, you are an ambassador for Christ in the life of a child who is desperate for hope!