Category Archives: SOWER Projects 2021

A Family Weekend

We’ve just wrapped up our last Florida weekend of 2021 (or so it appears now), and it was a very fine weekend indeed! In some very special ways it was filled with family – lots of different kinds of family!
It started out on Friday with a casual gathering of about 25 SOWER couples who have either been working in the central Florida area or live in the area. It was pretty low key – bring your own chair and lunch, social distance as you were able, and enjoy each other’s company before folks begin the great northern migration!
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As you can see, we were blessed with a picture perfect day!
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(and just for fun – here’s a shot a SOWER friend took of somebody being bossy – again!)
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Although we started out in that nice round circle, we soon gathered in clusters of conversations – catching up with old friends, meeting some new friends, and generally enjoying the time of connecting with our SOWER family. Such a lovely day!
Saturday  morning was filled with our more ‘traditional’ family. We started with being able to live-stream a singing and dancing competition of one of our Ohio granddaughters.
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(Full disclosure – this is not a photo from Saturday’s performance, but it is a photo of the dance troupe. Toby circled Maddie for me because between the masks and how fast everyone was moving, I’d had a hard time figuring out last time which sweet thing was our Maddie! I know, bad Gramma – but really! At least this time I was smart enough to watch it on my computer instead of my phone!).
I never thought to take a screen shot because I was just enjoying the performance so much! They were amazing! We both were so glad to be able to be part of the ‘audience’  even from so very far away! Great job, Maddie!
Later that same morning I spent about an hour on Zoom with young builder Alex. Every month she gets a box with some type of building project from Kiwi Crates, and we work together to assemble it. This month it was a treasure chest!
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It can be a little challenging since I don’t have the instruction book and am trying to explain it to her after just watching a video or two of how the project is supposed to go. Thankfully, Mom and Dad are usually close by to help! We somehow muddle through it with lots of giggles and grins – and it’s really something I look forward to doing with her each month!
To make the morning all the more special, I ended it up with some reading time with the Waco Boys.
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I confess that this little reading project is a work-in-progress, as we make our way through “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”. We haven’t settled in to a very regular schedule, and our last reading time was several weeks ago. Life happens. The little one in the middle rarely lasts very long, the 6 year old enjoys our time together but I’m not sure he’s really ‘getting’ the story. He politely raised his hand just after I started.
“Yes, T? Do you have a question?”
“What kind of cheese do you have?”
No cheese in the story, but it seemed to be pressing to him! =) Cheddar, by the way.
W, at 10, follows along – but I not sure he’s really ‘into’ the story. I’m not giving up on this “Reading Time with Grams” concept, and I’m determined to finish the book (at least I want to know what happens to all those penguins!), but maybe we’ll have to a bit more research before we start our next book. Suggestions, anyone?
We finished off the day with our ‘family’ here at AIM! Residents and volunteers alike were invited to a Corn Hole Tournament, and we couldn’t resist the challenge.
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Somehow we made it to the final round of the consolation players.
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And with great concentration on my part…..
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We actually WON! So we were officially the champions of the losers. Or something fitting like that!! All in all, a very fun way to spend a chilly Saturday afternoon.
With all those good family vibes going on, we joined our good SOWER friend Bill for worship and one last meal together on Sunday.
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Ah….
Oh – I forgot! We had a lovely campfire on Friday night with our SOWER family too!
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It was a weekend chock full of all kinds of family deliciousness!
And for that I am so very grateful!
Thanks for stopping by! I hope you weekend was filled with some family time too. Virtual or otherwise!
Steph

When Worlds Collide….

In a good way!

Because we have friends that were missionaries in Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) for many years (decades?), we’ve been checking with folks that we meet (here at the African Inland Mission Center) if perchance they have met these dear friends of ours.  Mind you, they served under a different mission organization and Africa is pretty darn huge, but still – you never know what paths might have crossed.  So far we’ve only met one (who had been a teacher at Rift Valley Academy) that had a good recollection of our friends (or of their kiddos!). So imagine our delight and surprise when we discovered an entirely unexpected connection while enjoying dinner at one of the residents’ home.
“So where are you folks from?” asked our sweet hostess.
“Well, we’ve been on the road for the last 17 years, but we raised our family outside of Philadelphia.”
“Oh, we have family in the Philadelphia area. Where about were you?”
“We were in Bucks County, near Doylestown.”
“My – I think that’s where Les’s sister lives. What town is she in, dear?”
“I think Ginger lives in Jamison now.”
“Wait – Jamison? That’s where we lived! And are you talking about Ginger Smith*?
“Yes, that’s Les’s sister!”
“Her son married my best friend’s daughter!”
“Yes! Leslie and Pete. We were at their wedding!”
“Well, so were we!! Oh my, this is crazy – and so very sweet! I had no idea that Ginger was raised in Africa!”

The conversation flowed easily for the rest of the evening as stories upon stories were shared. Needless to say, the most dramatic story was of Les telling of his encounter with a 16 ft. python in a sugar cane field. It wasn’t a “Oh look, there’s a python up in that tree. Let me kill it” story. It was an “I’m going to die if I can’t kill this beast that is rapidly wrapping himself around me” story.
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Now THAT’S a story!!

We’ve loved meeting so many retired missionaries, and hearing how God is continuing to work in Africa and around the world! And we especially love when our different worlds so happily collide.
What a blessing to be here!

*Names have been changed..just because we thought it was a good idea! You just never know these days, right?
 

Life at the Retirement Center

We’ve worked at a lot of different SOWER projects over the years – camps and conference centers, rescue missions, group homes, children’s homes, schools and colleges, and even some US headquarters of international ministries (like Mercy Ships and MAF). But we’ve never before worked at a retirement center. But this is not just a retirement center. It’s home to missionaries who have served our LORD faithfully on the African Continent in years past (and some even to this day!). This retirement center offers reasonably priced housing for folks coming off the field, and also provides wonderful community for these precious saints. We SOWERS on the project join with other volunteers for inspiring devotions (often from those retired missionaries), and then get to work doing whatever needs to be done. Although there are no current building projects, many of the lovely duplex homes here have been constructed by SOWERS. This time around the guys are working on everything from cutting down trees to moving hot water heaters to general maintenance.

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(Not real sure what Gary is doing here, but it had something to do with moving a hot water heater from the laundry room to the garage. Mission was accomplished by mid-week!)
We ladies started out the week cleaning a house that had recently been vacated so the new folks coming in would find everything spic and span! After that was accomplished, we moved to windows! Lots and lots of windows!
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The SOWER grapevine had prepared me for window washing here at AIM, but as it’s said – “Many hands make light the work”. Nothing like some SOWER team work to get the job done! (Now if I could just sign them up for my place!)
Another service offered to these retirees is some general sewing and mending as needed. Since my hand always goes up when they ask if anyone wants to sew, I joined fellow SOWER Diane in the sewing room for a couple of hours towards the end of the week. A bit of pajama hemming, a little hand sewing, and some easy ‘rag hemming’. Our next sewing project though will be a bit more of a challenge. The facility has many upholstered chairs where the fabric on the chair back is failing. And failing in a big way. They’ve totally reupholstered about a half dozen and have found the results lovely, but too labor intensive to be practical. So we were asked if we could figure out an easier way to make covers for the backs that would end up being both economical and attractive.
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We’re thinking pillowcase-ish and dropcloth fabric. Monday will be our prototype day – so I’ll keep you posted!

We finished off our first week with a yummy hotdog roast and some great fellowship around the campfire.
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Ah….a lovely week all around!

Steph

 

Here’s to a Great March!

Mar 5 – Mar 25
We’ve moved about 100 miles north from our Feb spot (Lake Placid Camp) and are getting settled in our March ministry location – AIM (African Inland Missionary) Retirement community in Minneola, FL.

Although we’ve been in Florida this winter, each location has been home to some very different ministries. December we were in the panhandle, serving at the Teen Challenge school in Bonifay. January we were in Lake Wales at the Care Center – not working directly with their clients, but rather in their thrift store which supports their ministry. February we were at a more traditional conference center, and this month we’re at another new-to-us ministry – a retirement center for AIM missionaries.


I’m not sure what exactly we’ll be doing, but I’ve heard that the interaction with these lovely folks who have dedicated their lives to sharing (and living) the Gospel in Africa is inspiring. We’ll be working with seven SOWER couples (all new to us except one couple), so it will be a grand time of expanding our SOWER family!

Yes – Here’s to a Great March!

 

Final Week Frolics

Oh, my! What a busy last week we’ve had!! We ladies continued  cleaning rooms and buildings for this weekend’s guests, and the men were busy finishing up (and starting it seems) some great projects. No need to post any pictures of us ladies cleaning, but let’s just say that cleaning during a pandemic gives a whole new meaning to phrase ‘getting things ready for the next group’.

The men didn’t quite finish that slip’n’slide, but they got pretty close.
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I think it’s ready for the final vinyl finish!
They not only finished up expanding the dock
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they also designed and built a pretty nifty kayak rack on the new section.
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All done!
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These guys just went from task to task to task- stairs, gutters, decks, docks, signs…. and did a great job of gettin’ ‘er done!  What a crew!
But about those kayaks…
Judy and Mark (our brand new SOWERS) had already taken a kayak out on the lake a couple of times, and had been encouraging us all to take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful lake. It was now or never, so what started out as a ladies’ afternoon activity turned into 5 couples donning life jackets, grabbing some paddles and heading out for a kayaking adventure!
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(Only Mark was brave enough to bring his phone on our adventure, and we’re so glad he did!)

It was a perfect late afternoon unwind.
But then Gail yelled over to Gary – “I’ll make a $10 donation to SOWERS if you climb up on the trampoline and jump!”
In that moment, what started out as a calm time of fellowship on the still waters of Lake Placid, became a challenge to remember!
You can check out the You-Tube videos if you want to see it in action, but here are a couple of stills so you can get the gist of just what this entailed.IMG_0655

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Yes, pretty much my face says it all!




Miraculously, the kayak never went over – and I’m pretty sure those brand new SOWERS will never forget this early introduction to the 2020-2021 SOWER President! (I’m also pretty sure he should’ve held out for a bigger donation!!!)

There’s more to share about that last week, but it’ll have to wait for another day! It’s been a great project – and we were so sad to see the first rig pull out this afternoon.
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Sniff.
You’d think I’d be used to the ‘farewells’ after all this time. But we’re so thankful for the time we got to spend here, for the new friends we’ve made, and for the opportunity to serve at Lake Placid Conference Center.

And for a kayak that did not tip over.

It’s been a good month indeed!

Thanks for coming along on our crazy kayaking adventure!
Steph