Friday, September 28, 2012


Often death comes suddenly and interrupts your plans according to how close you are to the deceased. Cecilia, fifty years old, died yesterday. Hortensia called me early and said that Oskar, Cecillia's youngest son, hadn't been told and ... would I talk to him? Oskar, a thin, very quiet, ten year old is the black sheep of the family and was neglected in all of this. Cecilia, had been bedfast at her sister's house, laying in bed, depressed to the point she wouldn't talk or look at anyone including Oskar. He loved her and occasionally brought her food by working little jobs ... now she's gone.

Oskar doesn't know who his father was. His relatives aren't on speaking terms with him, they give him food and a bed (in silence.) We help him with food and school.

I met Oskar when he was five. Since then he would come in to take a shower when we were in his area. I noticed him because he always looked stoic; quiet and never smiled. Some years later I was working the showers and shampooing a couple of boys when I felt a hug around my legs from the back. I turned around and here was little Oskar hugging me and looking up at me; still without a smile. Later he learned to smile a little and interact with kids his age. Oskar has lots of scars inside. A hurting boy.

Would I talk with him? I had a lot of other things planned, but when Hortensia called I felt Oskar and his situation were worth rearranging my day. I'm sure you would agree.

So I left for Tijuana.

When I walked into the dirt yard of his Aunt's house Oskar was standing near the clothesline gazing toward the dump and large cemetery for the poor. I called him and he walked over. I noticed his T-shirt; it read in English, "I'm a dirty boy!" Only knowing Spanish, he wasn't aware of the message.

I had him sit in my car and we talked about his mother's death for about a half hour. He said nothing. He just looked at me listening to every word. His eyes started tearing up as he took it all in. I asked; he had never seen a dead person, or a casket, or been to a mortuary so I talked about what it was going to be like seeing his mother's body ... I talked about God and about death and eternity. He just listened occasionally brushing back tears. His eyes never left my face.

Then it was time for a hamburger and some French fries. I took him down to get a bite to eat. The mood was, well, "stoic." We let him off back at his uncle's house.

Oskar's at the mortuary in Tijuana tonight, seeing his mother for the last time ... and Hortensia, she will be there to hug him. (Spectrum bought a large funeral flower wreath; he asked for this message to be placed on the wreath. "To my mother with love, Oskar."

Just one little twisted life in thousands. Tonight he's hurting bad. Indeed, "Life ain't fair."

That was several years ago, Oskar's a good looking teen now. Thanks to Spectrum, he's going to school, and involved in Church and has a nice looking girlfriend.

Scars? He carries many.

Friday, September 21, 2012


I saw on the corner a man married to a prostitute. It was getting dark and he was sitting in the dim light with his new wife, holding her close and caressing her ... for he loved her dearly.

She wasn't much to look at but you could see he loved her. I watched him as he fondled her and kissed her ... drinking in her beauty. She was dressed in a small and simple crumpled brown bag. Sr. Baracho (Mr.Drunk) and senora Cuguama (Miz Alcohol) after a long affair, were married early in life.

La Cuguama is his charming wife; his love, his mistress. She encourages him and makes him feel like a man! She gives him his strength and courage and makes him feel important! She listens to him and makes him happy ... for the short time he is under her spell. Senora Cuguama makes him sleep and then, when he falls asleep, she quietly steals away only to become another man's lover. He is hers but she isn't his, for she is now as she has always been ... a fickle little prostitute wrapped in a paper bag!

A cheap adulteress ... for any man's use.

Poor ... very poor ... Sr. Baracho!

Spanish: Cuguama or Turtle, is a large bottle of beer, and Baracho means drunk.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


They say it was about 5:00 PM. Death isn't new to any of us; in fact, the ultimate statistic is one out of one dies. But Jesus was only ten years old. Last Thursday at our work-day, Clementina his grandmother, approached us and meekly asked if we could help her grandson who was dying of cancer.

The story was as hopeless as any I have heard. The boy's father had died several months ago. Now Jesus was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The hospitals and doctors had been stalling any help for eight months and by now her medical bill was more than two thousand U.S. dollars. Because of this, the hospital and doctors were reluctant to treat him further. He was now in pain and needed help.

Could I possibly visit Jesus? When we finished our work in Pan America, I seated grandma and Hortensia in my van, then loaded it with four American teens and headed down the long road to Jesus' house. Grandma was giving the directions. After driving for about fifteen minutes, we stopped at a dead end. Grandma got out and crossed the trashy gully to the house to see if Jesus and Alejandra, his mother, were home. She quickly returned to the van and announced that they had taken the boy to the hospital; could we go see him there?

We headed up and over the hill through an urban maze of crisscross streets until we finally came to the hospital. Jesus was in a room on the third floor. I quietly entered the room. He was staring at the ceiling. His mother sat looking at him laying there with an IV in his arm receiving morphine.

I went over to his bed, smiled and asked him how he was doing. I can't forget his eyes as he looked at me and studied my face. I'm sure he was surprised to see an old gringo standing next to him. He managed a smile and said he was feeling a little better, his legs weren't hurting him now. His eyes never left me.

His mother said the morphine would last until Monday.

I talked a little more and his mother requested we talk outside in the hallway. That's where she told me that the doctor had just told her that her son had only days to live. Grandma was sitting on the bench on the hallway holding her head in her hands; she didn't move.

The American teens wanted to see him and she graciously gave permission. I pressed some money in Alejandra's hands to help with his food and care. As we left, Grandma was patiently sitting on the sidewalk with Jesus' little five-year-old brother waiting for Jesus and his mother to come out and go home.

It was morning, a few days later, that I got the news. Little Jesus had died. I also heard that mother, grandmother and extended family couldn't raise enough money to bury the child.

In Mexico, if you don't have enough money to pay for the funeral you don't get the deceased. Tomorrow Spectrum will pay the needed $500 to provide for Jesus' burial. Today, Jesus is just another statistic. His body lies beneath a little wooden cross, one of hundreds of little crosses in what's known only as Cemetery Three.

A little sparrow fell Tuesday; isn't it comforting that our Lord saw it fall.

This true story played out several years ago. This is what we do. Thanks for helping us do it.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Several weeks ago someone donated us a small very used bike. No shinny paint job, just the essentials; seat, handle-bars, two wheels and peddles. It had been sitting in our shed for a while. (Thanks to whoever donated it!)

I looked at it lying there and decided to load it with the rest of the stuff in the back of my SUV. It sat proudly on top of all the other stuff.

Yep, this bike needed a home.

As I got near to one of our locations; driving slowly along the dirt road; a load of kids spotted my car and started running toward me surrounding the car. Dirty, dusty, barefoot kids all with wide smiles.

Excitement! Energy! Hey, what's the big deal? ... just an old man and his car.

I always carry a sack of miniature chocolates and they know it ... now when I open the back of my SUV it's like a combined toy-store and supermarket.

They instantly survey everything!

One boy spotted the bike! Literally jumping up and down. "Hey von, can I have the bike? Can I? My brother and I will share it. Can we have the bike?"

Well, I'll make the story short. They got the bike, and were they two happy little dudes.

It didn't matter that bike was old and used; it was theirs now. Now they had a real bike!

I guess, the bike had them.

As I got into the car to leave, the oldest boy, on his new bike

Skidded to a stop by my window and flashed me a big smile ... thank you von.

I took this shot several days later ... the kids were clean and in their school clothes ... I just wanted to show you that smile, it's still there.

Friday, September 07, 2012


I have a small Nissan Xterra SUV. Not the greatest BUT it gets me where I want to go and more than that, it gets me back.

I'm sure this is due to your prayers!

I really don't know what you pack in back of your SUV, but mine is always full of the weirdest things. Jugs of water, spare battery, towels, PVC tubes, games, clothing along with candy and colas.

All of that is on the bottom squashed by a load of kids!

My car was built to seat five people in comfort. But I often drive the bumpy dirt roads with eleven adults and kids packed in the car. Now that's a close fit!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012


In our perverted world of ministry we seldom see long term marriages; marriages where a man loves his wife and she loves him too. Marriages that are actually happy.

Driving slowly down the dirt road in Barrio La Gloria a bunch of kids surrounded us. Dirty but happy. "Hey von do you have any chocolates?" As we were talking to the kids, Martha came over and asked us if we could look at old Efren her father, who was dying. Efren was 82 and had suffered a couple of strokes; relatives were milling around outside his room waiting.

These people in this Barrio are poor ... dirt poor!

I walked into the door of Efren's room. The small room was bare except for two plastic chairs and the simple bed where Efren laid. His wife Edith, about 70, was by his side, tenderly holding his hand.

Even though he wasn't fully conscious ... they were still in love.

Martha asked: "von can you help us buy some pampers and give us a little money to get a doctor over here to check his catheter he keeps scratching."

We met their needs and drove on down the road.

A few days later we stopped with more pampers and cans of food, Old Efren was still alive. We gave them some cans of Glucerna Martha poured a can of Glucerna into the catheter to his stomach.

As I left, Efren was lying there, looking at the ceiling with his mouth wide open and breathing slow ... while Edith, his faithful wife was sitting at his side holding his hand.

Yesterday we got word that old Efren had died.

In a short while after he died, Edith asked for time to be alone with her husband ... In about fifteen minutes Martha went in and found them both dead. Her mother, her father. Edith still holding his hand. Edith in that short time had suffered a heart attack ... and they left together.

They loved until the end!

It's funeral time and you can guess who they come to.