Sunday, September 29, 2013


Celia is thin, very poor, and looks older than she is, she has two boy's; The older one works at a small job and the younger helps her around as she is almost blind. Their little shack in which they live is perched right at the edge of a large deep sink-hole in a canyon barrio called Floho (Lazy)

Next big rain and where will they be?

Hortensia spotted her at the produce market standing in front of the tomatoes ... she was holding a couple of tomatoes close to her face so she could see their condition ... slowly rolling them over and checking them out.. Tomatoes cost pesos.

Her son saw Hortensia and said "Mom, here's Hortensia!"

Celia was so glad to see Hortensia, they hugged each other and did some small talk and Hortensia slipped her a little envelope with a five dollar bill inside. They continued talking and Celia slowly opened the envelope. She held the bill up close to her eyes and saw that it was $5 ... at that point she started to cry! "Five dollars she said ... and hugged Hortensia. "I didn't give you that to make you cry," Hortensia replied "... it's a gift from God!" Celia was so, so grateful!

Can any of us really understand what "poor" is?

Thursday, September 26, 2013


From time to time faces, along with their stories, appear from the past. This face, this smile is etched like braille in my heart. It was a cold winter afternoon in barrio Obrara, as eight-year-old Beto was returning from school, a speeding car traveling way to fast for the narrow street hit Beto, spinning him headlong into the road. In a matter of time they lifted the bloodied unconscious boy into the Red Cross ambulance and sped him to a small local hospital. His school buddies looking on.

The orphanage director called me and told me of the accident.

In the morning I drove across the border to the hospital. Beto, his head bandaged and still unconscious, was laying there in the cold room under a blanket all tubed up.

Every day I visited him. He remained unconscious with his I. V. and other tubes in his body.

Then, it started.

When I visited, I would find him with only his pajama bottoms on and his cover wadded up beside him. His body sort of bluish and shivering. I spoke to the nurses asking them to keep him covered.

In San Diego I called several hospitals asking them if they could find a bed for Beto. When I explained that he had been unconscious for several days, my answer was always no. Finally a more empathetic Doctor cut through my emotions with the bare truth. "Anyone comatose for more than four days has little chance of recovering his mind. If he comes here, he will simply fill a bed for many years ... we're sorry."

Again, I would cross over to visit little Beto, I couldn't believe he was just a vegetable. Again, I would find him without covers, his body cold and shivering. Again, I would beg the nurses to keep him covered.

I came to the conclusion; that's how you dealt with the comatose in Mexico. You let them get pneumonia and die of natural causes.

I didn't want to leave, but I had committed to a long weekend of speaking. I would have to leave him, and his nurses in God's hands.

When I returned to the hospital Tuesday morning I was prepared for the worst. I slowly walked down the hallway. Suddenly! Who should appear, wheeling himself around the corner in a little wheelchair, but Beto! When he saw me, his face lit up with a wide smile that I'll never forget! "Von! Von!! Brother Von!!!" He yelled as he sped toward me! "You're here!!!"

Little Beto defied all odds ... he made it!

Friday, September 20, 2013


Thursday began like any other day. It was to be one of my usual work-days, with 40 to 50 kids, and about 30 adults. It was to be a hot day so showers mixed with ice were on the menu. On the way I stopped into a 7-11 (In Mexico, OXXO) for three bags of ice, and a cup of coffee.

As I came out of the store with my coffee I stepped over the yellow marked curbing but seemed to catch my other foot in a yellow pipe below the curb.

I was now an 84 year old man, in the air falling to the asphalt below. All six feet of me. Nasty fall ... lost my coffee! Hit my head, injured my left-ankle, and really messed up my right knee tendon and quadruplex muscle. Almost like the accident I had in the Venezuelan jungle same week, twelve years before.

As I sat there on the asphalt holding my knee and thinking over the situation I realized this careless one-second incident was going to mean a temporary change in lifestyle starting immediately. Priorities rearranged. People affected.

Ernesto drove me across the border thirty miles north to Scripts Mercy hospital's Emergency unit. A couple of hefty men placed me on a stretcher and on in I went ... The pain was great, the pain shot was greater ... so I don't remember a lot of what went on. The pain killer keeps you happily stoned ... keeps, mind, soul, spirit ripped tendon and paining knee together. Hurting but happy!

The surgery would be the following night about 8pm. Going to be long night

I remember briefly meeting the cheerful O. R. doctors and personal. I remember the warm blanket they put on me. From then on things turned to an unconscious blur, a blur I had experienced many times before,

The extended two hour surgery, went well; they say. After sewing me up they placed a nice new heavy brace on my right leg, from my ankle to my upper thigh. Then they set to work making me a member by inserting more than eight different vinyl tubes in me. Being happily high I really didn't mind. In this carefree frame of mind they hauled me up to my new, technology sophisticated room. Many of you who know me, know how well I get along with technology. Imposing black machines that never sleep towering over me, with their little red, yellow and blue flickering lights uttering groans, buzzes and beeps at inappropriate times.

Because I couldn't walk I had to call a nurse to help me or watch me do anything, even swallow a pill. Day and night they would walk in and out of your life; if sleeping, ,wake you up, and check if you were sleeping and then if your heart was pumping.

Well, thanks to my Niece and her expertise on Hospital procedure, I'm home again ... beginning life as a brand new cripple. Lots of new stuff to re-learn from twelve years before.

I'm home free! ... thanks to the many of you who prayed me through this ... unpleasant venture. Conclusion, no surgery is pleasant at 84.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


While we are juggling so many dramas it was easy to forget that most of you don't know what happened to Francisco, the boy who fractured his skull. He had been promised dates for his delicate procedure but for each appointment the Doctors made, it seemed the Tijuana General Hospital couldn't find a bed for the boy. As you can imagine each cancellation was hard on Francisco.

Hortensia entered the picture, and in short time the hospital found a bed. Admittedly Francisco was scared when they wheeled him into surgery to fit his special plastic cap to his brain and attach it. A tricky, dangerous procedure; no matter how you want to define it. Would it fit right? Would his body reject the foreign object? Infection another very real potential.

He came out of the operation smiling!

His hair cut short and scalp lined with rows of staples. Hortensia made several special trips to Tijuana's General Hospital to comfort he and the family.

Praise the Lord the job is done and thanks to many of you the bill is paid. Now it's Francisco's responsibility to do his therapy so he can have full use of his right arm and leg.

Francisco and his family made a special point of telling us to thank all of you who prayed for them as they went through this tough time. They are a happy family indeed.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013


Hortensia and I have partnered together for more than twenty-years. She knows our world better than I simply because she was born at the Tijuana Dump, and educated in the U.S. But moved back to her roots and preferred to live among the poor. Somehow the needs find her, and we check them out.

Two days ago a brand new little baby girl was born in barrio Pedrigal and yesterday Hortensia was invited to meet the little baby. Father and mother, both just fourteen, proudly stood by as the big ta-do went on.

As the evening continued Hortensia took a walk up the dirt road to see how Maria and her boys were doing. Maria's ten-year-old twins, spotted her. They came running and hugged her happily, then walked her over to their little house. The boys were both holding sweaters which seemed odd at the time, as this is September and incredibly hot at that!

While talking to the mother, Hortensia said "I know it's been rough and I came over to offer you a little help." And she handed the lady twenty dollars.

What happened next was totally unexpected.

The lady broke into tears, and soon the boys were crying. "Hortensia," Maria said, "I just sent Roberto and Rolando out with two sweaters to see if they could sell them to any of the neighbors for two or three hundred pesos ($2.50) so we could buy some drinking water; we have no water! And maybe get some beans and tortillas. We have nothing! And you came and gave us this!"

As she left, one of the boys came up to her! "My daddy sent me, he's ashamed to ask. You know he's a drug addict," he says he needs a couple of dollars, if you can give him any ... Hortensia gave Roberto three dollars to take back to his father.

Hortensia and I were on the road again today ... buying food and yes even water for six different families.