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    A Trip to San Miguelito, Panama

    Our mission in San Miguelito, district of Panama was to clothe poor children so they could go to school.  Our church, St Paul's Collegiate Church of Storrs CT also has a feeding program there. About 78-80 children received four school uniforms each while younger children received everyday outfits.  The pastor of this church, Cielos Abiertos, is handing out one of the packages to a young child.

    Through workshops and assisting with a crusade, we were in the midst of where God was at work. Many came to know the Lord and we gave ideas and materials to equip believers to teach children.

    So many stories to tell and God was in them all, even the unexpected and funny situations, like my rehearsing ventriloquism, basically pacing while talking to my hand, and not three feet away slept a homeless man...and when he sat up...I nearly wet my pants.


    Oxford England

    This past September after a trip to


    UNCLE FRED Part Five of Wrapped In Love

    That day, Barbara called him to say she’d lost her job and that she was worried about how she would pay her bills. She worked for a large credit card company known for their numerous layoffs. With her children grown and married, Barbara lived alone. She lost track of her ex-husband years ago. Fred listened to her and fumbled for the right words to say. Suddenly, she asked if she could come over and bring dinner the next evening. He agreed.

    When Fred hung up, he thought about the conversation and wondered if she were hinting to move in with him. “No,” he said out loud. “That’s crazy. If she’s trying to bribe me with a meatball supper, it won’t work.” He walked over and slumped down in his chair. “I’d rather live with a swarm of nasty mosquitoes than that woman. Even if she is my niece,” he said.

    The next night Barbara brought over a delicious rolled roast dinner with scalloped potatoes, green beans and a garden salad. Fred enjoyed every bite and complimented his niece on her cooking.

    Now, Fred and Barbara lived in a region of the country where scorching summer temperatures made it too hot to go for walks during the middle of the day. So early every morning Fred walked Noway a good mile and then in the evening after it cooled down, he walked her again. That evening, after Barbara finished the dishes, they both took Noway for a walk. It was dusk and they barely got started when Fred spotted a white van slowly driving along the street. He had never seen it in the neighborhood before. He glanced at the plates. Then just as it came close, five-year-old Anna Lee, standing across the street, saw Noway and dashed out in front of the van. It barely stopped before hitting the little girl, and Barbara gasped, clutching her chest.

    “Oh, thank God,” she murmured, when she realized Anna Lee was OK.

    Anna Lee stood frozen with eyes as big as saucers. Fred and Barbara hurried over to her. Noway licked her leg and Barbara took Anna Lee by the hand and led her safely back to her own yard.

    “I forgot to look both ways,” Anna Lee said.

    Barbara bent down, “That was a close call. You scared us.”

    “I just wanted to pet Noway,” said Anna Lee.

    “No matter what you want to do, first look both ways, 180-degrees,” said Uncle Fred.

    “I will,” she promised.

    When Fred and Barbara turned around, the van was gone. Later as Barbara and Uncle Fred finished their walk deep in their own thoughts, Barbara said, “You know, you gave good advice back there.”


    “When you said, whatever you want to do, look both ways, 180-degrees. Maybe I need to examine other options for work besides my own industry. In a sense, look both ways, 180-degrees of possibilities.”

    Fred smiled in the dark. Anything that keeps her out of my house and in her own place, he thought.

    A couple of days later, during his evening walk, Fred let Noway sniff around a natural area that sloped down from the street to a small pond. The same white van drove slowly, quietly along the street, circled the block and drove back past them again. Fred carefully watched the van until it drove away.

    Three days later, as Uncle Fred sat in his chair watching Jeopardy, Noway had to go outside. Normally, she ran out the doggie door into the backyard. But this time, she barked at Fred to take her out.

    “All right, all right, calm down,” he said.

    Noway ran to the front door and back, then to the front door again and barked.

    “All right, I’m coming.”

    Fred pointed the remote control and snapped off the TV. He opened the door and Noway tore outside to Anna Lee’s house.

    Fred saw the white van stopped across the street. He crossed the street and hurried around it, moving faster than he’d moved in a long time. Noway howled her long siren wail. The driver held Anna Lee by one arm, trying to pull her into the van.

    Fred pressed the lever on his cane and the long carpenter’s nail jutted out. He lunged towards the driver and stabbed him in the arm. The driver’s arm went limp, and Anna Lee fell backwards out of the van. The driver stomped on the gas and the van squealed off. Fred helped Anna Lee to her feet and picked up his cane just as her mother ran down the driveway towards them.

    “What happened?”

    “Call the police,” said Uncle Fred. By now several neighbors had gathered around. One of the men dialed 9-1-1. “I got the license number. Let me talk to the dispatcher,” said Uncle Fred.

    The man handed his phone to Uncle Fred who reported the foiled abduction with a clear description of the van and driver. Most importantly, he remembered the license plate number perfectly.

    Two hours later, the driver of the white van sat in the back of a squad car heading towards the emergency room. Headlines in the local newspaper the next day read:

    Two Unlikely Heroes Bust Up Sex Trafficking Ring
    Man and Woman Charged in Attempted Child Abduction

    Tuesday between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m., off Allensport Avenue, Fred Martin, an octogenarian, and a small beagle named Noway rescued a five-year-old girl from her abductors, William Adams and Keisha Jones. Adams stopped his white van next to where the young Curtis girl played in her front yard. He called her over to the passenger side and asked her to help him find his lost puppy. At the same time, Mr. Martin opened his front door to take his dog out and the dog ran to the van, howling at the driver. Martin quickly moved to the passenger side of the vehicle just as Adams pulled the girl into the van. Martin used his cane to force Adams to release the Curtis girl before speeding off. Martin gave the license plate number and a clear description of the vehicle. Police arrested the couple off Hwy-41 two hours later.

    “Well, what do you think of that, Noway? Written up in the paper and it’s not an obituary!” Uncle Fred poured another cup of coffee and set it down on the kitchen table. “Guess that makes us worth our keep, all right.” Noway twisted her head one way and then the other way, watching Uncle Fred’s every move. “I better call Barbara and see if she’s read the paper this morning.” He dialed the phone, and the doorbell rang.

    Sure is an odd ring tone, he thought. But Noway ran to the door barking and jumping up against it until Fred opened it. “Come in, Barbara”

    “Good morning, Uncle Fred.”

    “Have you read this?” he said, waving the newspaper at her.

    “Not yet, but I heard it on the news this morning.”

    “Guess that proves I’m not useless.”

    “Useless? What are you talking about?”

    “Did you hear the part about me giving them the license plate number and an accurate description of the van and driver?”

    “No, but what are you getting at?”

    “I’m not washed up and useless.”

    “I didn’t say you were.”

    “Oh, yes, you did. And what you didn’t say, you implied loud and clear.”

    “I’m trying to protect you.”

    “I’m telling you, I don’t need protecting,” Fred said as he opened the donut box Barbara brought with her.

    Barbara poured a cup of coffee and sat down across the table from Fred.

    “Why is it,” Fred continued, “if a middle-aged man falls off a ladder, he had an accident, but if it’s an eighty-three-year-old man, it’s because he’s acting foolish or not thinking clearly.”

    Noway jumped up against Uncle Fred’s chair, begging to sit in his lap. Fred picked her up and Noway sniffed Uncle Fred’s chin.

    Barbara sipped her coffee and glanced at the newspaper headlines. “Why is it,” she said, “when I spend time and money and lots of effort to do something nice for you, which I do all of the time, you never say thank you? You show no appreciation.”

    Fred looked at her over his coffee cup.

    “I’m the one who gave you that dog,” she continued, “and you said you didn’t want her. Look at you now. What about that birthday party I paid for and invited the guests to, and did most of the work for. And your comment was, ‘Lousy no-good relatives.’ I clean your house, cook for you, shop for you, and instead of happy gratitude, you act like a miserable, bitter, old coot.”

    No one paid attention to Noway as she walked across the table happily licking up the breakfast crumbs and helping herself to a glazed donut.

    “Nothing makes a person seem older than a grouchy, belligerent attitude,” she added.

    “Barbara, I’m not moving into any nursing home. Don’t waste your time. I want to live in my own house, alone.”

    Barbara stood up, walked to the desk and took out a pad of paper and a pen. She brought it back to the table and sat down. She folded the paper in half, making two long columns. Then she opened it up and at the top of the first column she wrote Considerations for Fred. Then on the second column she wrote Considerations for Barbara. And for the next ten minutes she wrote down all of their complaints, listing Fred’s complaints about her under her name and her complaints about him under his name. Then she carefully tore the paper in half vertically and handed the second column to Fred.

    By the time Barbara left that morning, powdered sugar coated Noway’s muzzle. She wagged her tail as she patrolled across the top of the kitchen table scarfing up any remains. But Barbara and Uncle Fred made a new beginning in their relationship that morning.

    “Oh, Uncle Fred, remember that prayer blanket?” she asked.

    “I keep it on the foot of my bed.”

    “So you like it?”

    “Thank you, Barbara, I appreciate your thoughtfulness.”

    “You’re welcome,” she said.

    “I think I’d like to meet those folks who prayed for me, maybe even thank them personally.”

    Barbara and Fred began attending Sunday morning worship at that little community church. Later, Fred joined a men’s small group to study the Scriptures, enjoy the fellowship and share his hearty laughter.



    “‘At your age’ and ‘not thinking clearly’?” he repeated to himself. Fred decided to keep his mind as sharp as possible. He feared if Barbara got it in her head to put him in a nursing home, she’d do it. Well, he’d have none of that. He liked living alone. So he made up his mind to memorize numbers and work logic puzzles for mental exercise.

    The news spread through the neighborhood how Noway saved Fred’s life, and neighbors sent cards with their best wishes.

    Barbara loved Uncle Fred like a father. When she was young, her real father abandoned her. Uncle Fred, a bachelor, stepped in as a father figure. He took her on trips, paid for her schooling, listened to her complaints and gave her an allowance. Fred was the one needing encouragement now, but for some reason, he twisted her words into insults when she meant them for good. Their relationship had deteriorated over the years, to a point where she now played the parent role and he acted like a headstrong child.

    Barbara heard about a prayer blanket ministry in one of the local churches and called to see if the ministry reached out to grouchy old men like her Uncle Fred. The chairperson for the ministry invited Barbara to join them that next Thursday when the group planned to knot prayers in a blanket for her uncle. Barbara walked into the church feeling a bit awkward. She only attended services at Christmas. She didn’t object to religion; she just thought it unrealistic and that at some point we all have to step into the real world.

    Eight people sat around two six-foot long tables pushed together with the blanket fleece prepared and spread out before them. Seven-inch-long fringe strips bordered it. The blanket depicting an array of small beagle puppies printed all over the fabric made Barbara relax. She knew Uncle Fred would love it. Everyone sat down, and Marlene began by telling the prayer team some things about Uncle Fred and his physical condition. After showing Barbara the style of knot and how to make it evenly, they began.

    The team kept praying short prayers like, “Lord Jesus, if it brings glory to You, please completely heal Uncle Fred from his injuries. We know that You, Lord, are the great physician.” Another prayer was, “Thank You, Jesus, for Uncle Fred stepping in as Barbara’s dad. Help him through this difficult time to become kinder and more loving as You are.”

    The prayers continued and tears snuck down Barbara’s face because she knew underneath all the grouchiness Uncle Fred demonstrated the love, support and responsibility that her father shrugged off when he left home so long ago without even saying good-bye. Uncle Fred stayed. He was a decent and good person. And she missed the person he used to be.

    Afterward, a Scripture verse written on parchment paper fit perfectly inside the pocket sewn on the fleece. The verse was 1 Peter 4:8: “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love makes up for many of your faults” (TLB).

    When Barbara brought the blanket to Uncle Fred in the hospital, she found him sound asleep. Carefully, she laid it over him and waited patiently for him to wake up. Soon a technician walked in and called his name. She took his blood pressure, temperature and held her fingers to his wrist. Then she strode out of the room.

    “So, you’re awake,” Barbara said.

    “They don’t let you sleep; must be one of their rules. They got enough of ‘em.” he snapped.

    “I brought you a prayer blanket.”

    “A what?”

    “Prayer blanket.”

    “What’s that?”

    “It means people care enough about you to make this blanket, pray for you and knot those prayers into the edge of it. See?” She held up a corner.

    “Why? Why would they do that?”

    “Because, well, I guess, because they believe Jesus told them to pray for others.”


    “These people care about you too, Uncle Fred. I sat there and knotted and prayed along with them.”

    “You! Since when do you give a rip?”

    “How can you say that!” Barbara grabbed her handbag and ran from the room.

    Fred tried to pull the blanket off. He didn’t want it on him, but then his eye caught the beagle puppies. He lay back down, took a deep breath and wiped at the corners of his eyes.

    The afternoon Fred arrived home from the hospital, Noway barked and danced in circles to show her delight. Fred eased down in his big chair, Noway’s clue to jump up and snuggle beside him. She looked up at him with soulful eyes. Fred had missed his dog.

    His neighbors and family brought food over by the carloads. Barbara came by once a week to clean and run errands. Neighborhood children took turns playing with Noway and taking her for walks.

    Fred’s recovery dragged on for months, yet Noway lifted his spirits and made him smile. And his friends and family paid close attention to him. Fred guessed that everyone liked some attention anyway. For a few weeks, he used a walker, which limited how far he could go, but he persevered, and each day he made it farther than the day before.

    Fred also kept his promise to himself to keep his mind alert. He memorized statistics, worked cryptograms and remembered numbers, like license plates, telephone numbers and birthdays. He wasn’t giving up just yet.

    Eventually, Fred walked with a cane. He began going for longer walks up to the corner of his block and back. As he continued his daily walks, he realized that if he put a nail on the end of his cane, he could use it to poke papers and clean up litter along the way. After a little more thought, he came up with a clever way to remake his cane. He would have a lever that could be pushed and locked down, or pulled and locked up. That way he could hide the nail neatly inside the lower part of the cane when not needed, or extend it to pick up litter. Fred worked on his cane all morning in the shed. By lunchtime he finished it and walked out, pleased with his trash pickup cane.

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