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To the one who follows Jesus Christ, life is full of trials and adventures. He calls us to “take up our crosses and follow Him.” The apostle Paul didn’t seek fame or fortune, but only to take the Gospel to as many places as he could. Listing his experiences in his second letter to the Corinthians quickly relates to even a casual reader the cost of serving the Lord in the Great Commission.
Recognizing that their citizenship is to an eternal Kingdom, not a worldly man-made border, missionaries step out into a great adventure of faith as they leave the familiar behind.
When Allen and Trish Sowers moved to Honduras as missionaries in 2001 with their five children, they were aware of the situation they were stepping into. Hurricane Mitch had absolutely devastated the country in 1998, leaving approximately 20% of the population homeless. The President of Honduras estimated the damage from the storm set the country back 50 years; 70% of the infrastructure was damaged. The havoc caused by the storm was so intense that the name “Mitch” was retired from the naming list for Atlantic hurricanes.
David Livingstone said, “Sympathy is no substitute for action.”
That short sentence describes the lives of missionaries Allen and Trish Sowers.
In the eighteen years the Sowers have served in Honduras, their main goal has been to support local pastors. In that capacity, they’ve helped build churches and schools, bridges and roads. They began a Pastor’s Training School and help local pastors feed needy children in their areas through a child sponsorship program, along with other innovative programs.
Early in their mission to Honduras, a local woman asked Trish and Allen to watch her 14-month old toddler, Ben, for a week. They agreed to help the mother and child, not realizing they were stepping into another adventure. Young Ben was small for his age, malnourished, hair falling out and full of worms; the little boy quickly won the hearts of the whole family as they worked to meet his needs. Weeks passed, then months, with no sign of his mother.
Unbelievably, five months passed before the Sowers were able to locate Ben’s birth mother.
By that time, he was a part of their family. Though a complicated situation, the Sowers unofficially adopted Ben.
The years flew by as Allen and Trish worked in their local community and homeschooled six children. The Sowers became well known in the surrounding areas for their humanitarian work, giving them contacts with leaders in those communities. Trish found encouragement and community through a homeschooling forum online-those contacts would prove valuable in 2013, when the family faced their most trying adventure.
Undeniably, by 2013, the high murder rate in Honduras fell, but was still one of the highest in the world. Mexican cartels moved into the country and “atrocious crimes” in the country expanded as the cartels gruesomely sought dominance over each other. One of the women in the homeschool forum read an article about the violence in Honduras and asked the other women in the forum to join her in praying for the Sowers family.
A week later, Trish and Ben were kidnapped!
Driving home from a visit in town on a Monday morning, Trish turned her Land Cruiser off of the dirt road to the long dirt driveway that winds uphill to the family’s home. A man stood in the driveway, a bandana tied around his lower face. As Trish moved the vehicle passed him, she stopped to switch gears. Her young son, Ben, alerted her that the man was pointing a gun at them.
After motioning for them to get out, the man gestured for them to get into the back of the Land Cruiser. Then he got in the driver’s seat and turned the vehicle around. As Trish and Ben bounced around in the back of the old, ambulance-styled vehicle, she was surprised. She wasn’t afraid, or anxious at all. Calmly, she realized the kidnapper couldn’t possibly hear them. Ben was terrified. Trish spoke to him, reassuring her 11-year-old son that Jesus was with him.
Picking up the necklace he wore, Ben read aloud the Scripture written on it. As he read, Trish noticed on the back of his t-shirt a victorious proclamation made by Jesus: “For I have overcome the world.” Ironically, on the front of the t-shirt was this slogan:
Take the adventure that comes to you
As soon as they drove off the main road into the bush, which Trish describes as the “wild, lawless parts of rural Honduras,” she and Ben discussed ways they could escape. Abruptly, the Land Cruiser stopped. The kidnapper opened one of the doors, reached in and tied Trish’s hands together, then Ben’s, before blind-folding both of them.
Closing the door, the kidnapper got back in the vehicle and started driving again. Trish couldn’t see anything, but Ben’s blindfold was just a thin piece of cotton. He whispered to her that he could see everything, and was able to describe landmarks familiar to them both. They felt the Land Cruiser jerk off the dirt road, branches scrapping the sides of the vehicle, and stop. They sat waiting for the kidnapper.
Next, opening the door, the man removed Trish’s blindfold and untied her hands. He removed Ben’s blindfold and told them both to get out of the vehicle. Since Ben had been able to see and tell her what he saw, Trish had a good idea about where they were. What troubled her was the fact that the kidnapper had untied her, but not Ben.
The kidnapper asked Trish if she had any rice for “the boy.” There was nothing in the truck but a bottle of coke and an ice tea Trish had started to drink on their drive home. The kidnapper took both, shoving one into Ben’s hands before ordering him to walk into the bush, the rifle trained on her young son.
“Dos dias (two days)!”
Unequivocally, the kidnapper repeated the warning twice in a menacing tone, glaring over his shoulder at Trish. She watched helplessly as the kidnapper and Ben vanished in the bushes.
Realizing she needed help quickly, Trish ran to the abandoned vehicle. The kidnapper had taken her phone, so there was no way to call for help. Quickly, she started the car and drove the Land Cruiser back onto the road, stopping in the middle to wave down a pick-up truck.
Despite being in a country plagued by violence, she managed to get the people in the truck to stop and allow her to use their phone to call for help.
Trish dialed her oldest son, Russell, for help. She was surprised when her husband showed up just a few minutes later. Russell also joined them, and the family began to call authorities for help. Because the Sowers had been involved in many humanitarian projects in other municipalities, they had many contacts with various authorities. Allen was able to contact the mayors in surrounding areas, so they could help set out roadblocks like the local authorities had.
When Trish got to the local police station to make a statement, the thought occurred to her that they needed prayer–lots of prayer. Since she didn’t have her cell phone and contact list, she called her newly married daughter and asked her to contact a missionary to post her request for her. Not wanting to make Ben’s situation more complicated, Trish asked that the request be made to a private group with no identifying information used.
Within minutes, hundreds of people were praying for Ben!
Many men that knew the Sowers family went out in search groups looking for Ben. The local police and detectives searched; the military set up additional roadblocks throughout the country. Allen and Russell spent over 30 hours on their phones asking for help from everyone they thought would be able to help.
Of course, the family prayed, too. They were grim, knowing that God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we’d like. They knew other missionaries who hadn’t been spared violence, and tried to be prepared. But they weren’t without hope.
After several phone calls with the kidnapper, the family realized there was no way they could afford the $150,000 ransom. The mission organization they were serving under made a 24-hour prayer vigil on Facebook. Over 300, 000 people visited the page with prayer requests for Ben.
A multitude of prayers went up for Ben!
Incredibly, despite horrific threats to harm Ben, when it became apparent the family had no means to pay even a reduced ransom, God moved the kidnapper to compassion. He let Ben go after hugging him goodbye, even showing him the direction he needed to take to find his way home. As the boy walked away, the kidnapper called Ben’s brother, Russell, telling him where he could find the boy.
Ben came home, dirty, bruised, his clothing shredded and his shoes ragged. He was a beautiful sight to his family! The necklace he’d been wearing was still hanging around his neck, two silver pendants inscribed with these Scriptures:
“He will cover you with his feathers, under his wings you will find refuge. His faithfulness shall be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:4
“Love one another.” John 15:17
Somehow, in his interactions with young Ben, the kidnapper’s heart had been touched by the boy’s responses to his kidnapping. Even at 11, Ben’s faith in Jesus was effectively demonstrated to the man. The prayers of thousands of Christians were effective in bringing the power of God to turn the kidnapper’s heart to compassion for young Ben.
Missionaries, like the Sowers family, leave behind the comfort of the known for the unknown. They leave their culture to take the good news of the Gospel to another culture. They daily choose to do what every believer in Jesus ought to do:
Take the Adventure that Comes to You
They know the vastly powerful truth of Jesus’ proclamation:
“For I have overcome the world.”
If you’re interested in finding out more about the Sower’s ministry, check out their website!