I Almost Died

I Almost Died

By Caleb Montejo

So, hello to any one who takes the time to read these ramblings I type into my computer. If you read the title and know anything about me, you are probably rolling your eyes because the truth is, I didn’t almost die, dun dun dunnnnn! (plot twist). In my defense who knows what could have happened, only God of course.

If you are new to this blog you probably have a million questions, like, why have I not written for a year? The short answer is, I was too lazy, but the long answer is I didn’t feel like I had anything to say. Another question you may have is what are you talking about, “I almost died?”  I have the tendency to overreact, make a mole hill into Mount Everest. I guess the best thing to do is tell the whole story of how I almost, but didn’t die.

Well, to start from the the beginning, I must go far, far, but not too far back in time. Two years to be exact. See I told you I exaggerate.  Anyway, two years back I was on top  of the world, minding my own business, when one morning I woke up to go to the bathroom to do my normal stuff in the morning, like brush my teeth, wash my face. You know anything a normal person would do in the morning, and then bamm!! Next thing  I knew my mom was shaking me awake.  I was lying on the floor with a bloody nose.  Apparently I’d hit it on the bath tub on the way down. It was my first black out.

Since it was my first,  we didn’t think a bunch about it.  I mean how many of us have thought we were going to pass out before breakfast? We thought it was just that, not having any breakfast.  More and more time went by when I had my second blackout, only this time I was driving. We were headed to Charleston for a day of shopping  or something I can’t remember. Anyway, I was driving. Since I blanked out I don’t remember what happened, but when I snapped out of it, we were swerving off the road. Needless to say, I snapped out of it as I realized we were headed off the road.  Once I realized what was happening, I yelled a couple of  “words” and then stopped the car. Don’t worry we all lived, but that is when we knew something was wrong. Since I’m sure you want to get to the good stuff, I’ll wrap up this section by saying after a year is where this story really picks up.

A year later I had a couple more incidents,  but you don’t need to know how messed up I got.  I’m going to skip the boring stuff and get right to the exciting stuff.

We were sitting in a neurosurgeons office as he showed me the MRI picture of my brain and said they had found a spot.  Now contrary to popular belief and the stuff they show you in movies, I didn’t do some kind of melodramatic act, partly because I was seventeen, and partly because I didn’t understand the importance of a spot.  Later my mom explained all the details that I missed, which was all of them.

The spot or as I lovingly called it Bob, just kidding, was blocking  some fluid that needed to leave my brain. They wanted to do an operation where they send in a robot thingy so they could see to reroute the fluid. They were going to drill a hole in my head, which my brothers and all their friends thought was the coolest thing ever.  That brought about gross questions like would they be able to see inside my brain.

My family believes in the power of prayer and we go to a church that believes in the power of prayer. The week after all this had happened, we had  camp meeting where I had a lot of opportunities to get prayed for. That is when something amazing happened. I firmly believed that I received healing one of those nights, but  we needed another MRI to confirm what  I already knew to be true.

Three weeks later we were waiting at MUSC for the results of the second MRI.  The doctor walked in and told me and my mom the good news. The spot was barely visible. Now you would think I would have been having the amazing, the music is rising, all is well, big movie movement. But nooooo because I had an ADHD moment and just checked out of the medical mumbo jumbo conversation.  I finally understood after we got in the car and my mom gave me a what  is wrong with you, don’t you understand our prayers have been answered talk? So, yeah I can be kinda clueless!

Well, that is the end of that chapter of my life, I can finally drive again. I go back in three months to get a third MRI but I am confident that they will find nothing!



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Fundacion Salvacion – Day 13

Well for about ten minutes I was just staring at a blank computer screen. I was trying to find a way to put this into words. It’s hard, in fact you can’t put it into words. You have to come and live it. Since everyone can’t jump on a plane I will do my best.

First I will tell you a little history about the orphanage. It is called Fundacion Salvacion. When it is translated, it means foundation of salvation. It was started by a lady and her husband. Since I don’t know their respective names and I’m Facebook friends with the guy who runs the orphanage, I don’t want to get any part of this story wrong, not even names.

Yes, the lady and her husband started the orphanage, but tragically she died in a car accident. Brooks, who oversees the orphanage told me that the lady was everything to the kids there, so they were all devastated when she died. That’s where Brooks came in.
He was fresh out of college and just planning to stay a short time. Well, that was his plan, not Gods. God kept him there for more than a year and used him to do some awesome stuff. Their website goes into a lot more history and detail about the orphanage.
Now that you know some of the history behind the orphanage, I am going to tell you about our experience.

We found out about Fundacion Salvacion from our pastor and after researching it a little bit we discovered that it was next to our family in Guatemala. We were already planning a trip to Guatemala, so we decided we wanted to check out the orphanage.
On the Fundacion Salvacion website, they have child sponsorship. So before going we decided we should sponsor a child. Let me tell you that one of the most stressful things you can do with a big family is pick one child to sponsor. Each member of our family wanted to sponsor three at a time and at one point the youngest sibling said let’s just sponsor all of them. Finally, we each picked one child and put his/her name into a hat. Then there was a drum roll! The paper we picked had the name Israel. You could hear the squealing from my younger sister Nelida. He was the one she had put in the hat and had been picked. When it was over and done, we were all happy.

Israel and Nelida

Israel and Nelida

Over the next couple of months we counted down the days until we would actually meet Israel. Finally the day came and we were off to Guatemala and to Fundacion Salvacion. After all of the events that have been chronicled in the last blog posts, we dropped by Fundacion Salvacion to make some plans for another visit and we also got to meet Israel. The first meeting he was very shy, but I did get a goodbye hug.

Israel finishing his schoolwork.

Israel finishing his schoolwork.

Just hanging!!

Just hanging!!

Nelida was a baby magnet.

Nelida was a baby magnet.

The next time we went to Fundacion Salvacion with a plan, a plan to sing a couple of songs and have a pizza party. Before that all happened, Brooks gave us a tour of the new school where all the kids started attending. After the tour we went to the baby room where we met all of the little babies that live at the orphanage. Excuse me while I wipe the tears off my keyboard. It was all just so beautiful. After that we mingled with the kids and met Israel again. This time he grabbed me to go play with him and before I knew it I had five kids pulling at me to push them on the swing or pick them up to the monkey bars. It was awesome, truly awesome.

Andrew and me, playing with younger kids!

Andrew and me, playing with younger kids!

Well, at least some of the kids listened to take a nap.

Well, at least some of the kids listened to take a nap.

I pulled myself away from the kids for a couple of minutes to meet the teachers of the new school; almost none of them could speak Spanish. The new school is bilingual. The kids are immersed in both languages.

Finally it was time for me to sing before dinner. Two of the teachers jumped in on my songs. Having an extra guitar and a banjo behind me was pretty awesome. Then the teachers sang a song with the kids. While they were singing their song I noticed the pizzas coming in.

Now imagine 5 motorcycles stacked with pizzas in the back, driving up to the orphanage, and being stacked on the tables, 45 pizzas, and yes I have pictures. Also imagine the excitement of all the kids. Yes pizza, which by the way, is a huge treat for them.
I pity Brooks, he had the hard job of getting all the kids to quiet down. Well, he did get them to quiet down and after getting one of the kids to pray for the food; it was finally time to eat.

50 boxes of pizza  Please do not correct my counting.

50 boxes of pizza Please do not correct my counting.

I stepped out for a minute to get something and met one of the teachers I hadn’t met yet, we started talking about some stuff then we walked over to get some pizza. At the table where the pizza was, all the teachers were talking and thanking my mom. I guess it was as much of a treat for them as it was the kids.

Some of the teachers enjoying pizza.

Some of the teachers enjoying pizza.

After the pizza they cranked some music up and kids and teachers alike busted out some great dance moves. As I was helping Brooks put away tables, I asked “Is every night like this?” “No this night is special.” he answered. As I stood and watched the kids laugh and play, and as other kids pulled me to push them on the swings, I had to agree. This is special!

So now we are all home. Is Fundacion Salvacion just going to turn into a vacation trip memory? No, it is not thanks to the “Caleb Act” that states: Whoever forgets about Fundacion Salvacion or any of the beautiful kids at the orphanage is to be kicked by every person in our family. No, not really, but I don’t think any of us will ever be able to forget the experience. Because it is still fresh in our minds, I can still hear all of the kids asking me to push them on the swing, or feel them jumping up on me and wrestling me down to play with me.

We also won’t forget because we are keeping busy spreading the word about the kids. I have sworn not to shave my beard until all the kids in the orphanage are sponsored, not that I have a beard. Ok, anyway, I will not be happy until all the kids in the orphanage are sponsored and when I get to be there with them again.
I’m writing this post to spread the word and I am proud to say that my church is jumping on board with this too. The youth in our student ministry are going to start supporting a kid from the orphanage.

So I am going to just keep praying and hoping to make my way back to Fundacion salvacion and until then I am going to have to deal with all of the crazy Americans.

In all matters of seriousness, if my grand finale of the Guatemala adventures has inspired you in any way, please, please, please, and please think about sponsoring a child or a child’s education at Fundacion Salvacion. 30 bucks a month to change the live of one kid, I think we can all think of something to give up. For me it was my comic book subscriptions (sigh), but it is totally worth it every time I look at the picture of Isreal on the wall.

What can you give up? I mean it doesn’t have to be a big thing. Skip lunch or cancel the stupid tabloid subscription. We can all make a difference with something small. Since being back in the States, I have seen how we are way too concerned with our own personal comfort. I have made a sacrifice so if you sponsor a child and have to give up something for it, come to me and I will cheer you up or I will make a huge deal out of it, (pom poms and everything). If you are timid, you can call this toll free number, 1-800- CALEB. For the record do not take that number seriously, but if you are timid we can pray and battle over who’s kid is cuter (It’s Israel. Boom! ).

Well you get the idea and sorry this last blog post has been prolonged in the writing. From the mouth of my awesome niece “ You get what you get and ya don’t pitch a fit.”

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I Almost Didn’t – Day 6

Tuesday started the usual way with coffee, bread and so on. My mom told me to practice a few Spanish songs for a small group that night so I grabbed my uncle’s guitar and went for my backpack where I had put all the Spanish songs I had printed. Well, that was before my mom went through my pack to make sure I didn’t have anything “illegal” packed. She forgot to repack a few things like Spanish music, extra pair of undies, shall I continue?

I had to listen to all the songs and figure out the chords. After all that, I had the Spanish songs to sing, but you know that devil that’s always in the cartoons whispering in someone’s ear? He was whispering in my ear that afternoon.

You see, I am not always that confident in my ‘’ singing ability” so the devil was really using my insecurity. If you consider my insecurities about singing and add a language that I’m not that comfortable with, you have a foothold the devil can use. I’m ashamed to say I did not feel like the big, buff, awesome hero that levels all the bad guys. I felt more like a timid bumbling idiot.

So, as we were walking to the small group, I sent God a prayer to please just help my doubt. After that prayer I felt a little better, but told my parents I didn’t really want to sing. Like loving parents, they gave me the choice of whether to do it or not, but it was in this wording. “ If you don’t want to do it that’s ok, BUT you may be missing a chance to be used by God. It’s your choice”. Well, since they put it like that, I had to put aside my insecurities and not let the devil win.

Timidly I walked to the house where they were having the small group. When they finally called me, I ran to grab my guitar from the bushes where I had stashed it. I was still dealing with some doubts, but ready to move forward.

I sang my first two songs to what felt like a lukewarm response. It was a little difficult getting started because the songs were unfamiliar to them and the language to me, but when I started singing Break Every Chain by United Pursuit in Spanish, God started moving in such a mighty way. People started crying and falling to their knees. That one song must have gone on for 25 minutes of intimate worship and turned into a powerful time of prayer that my dad lead.

As I was walking home I thought of the battle I had gone through that day and how God had moved in such a mighty way. I also thought of all the doubt the devil had thrown my way, because he knew that God wanted to use me. That night I thought about it and how, I almost didn’t.

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Old Shoes – Day 4

Old shoes, “What is that?” you may be asking. The day we arrived in Agua Zarca was Saturday. The next day we dragged ourselves out of bed to go to church. Not just any church, the church we went to help, where my dad’s family goes.

After a 20 minute drive, we pulled up to the church. If any of you know us, you know we are always fashionably late. So we arrived 5 minutes after church started. Also you know we are a really big family so when we arrive late, everyone usually looks at us.

When we arrived, we were met by the sound of worship. Now when you think about worship what do you think of? For me it’s a worship band. Being part of a worship band I know the pro and cons of being in the band like sound issues. Well, this church didn’t have to worry about sound issues seeing as they only had one microphone, but that didn’t stop them from worshiping.

When the pastor started preaching, she started talking about how so many people go back to their sinful ways when God’s ways become dull or boring. She used this metaphor “It’s like a poor man getting a new pair of shoes but deciding to go back to his torn and nasty shoes.” It really made think how many of us do that?

After the pastor was finished talking, she called everyone up to pray and take communion. I think this was one of the most touching parts of the trip for my dad. He didn’t come from a Christian family, so to see all of his family, his mom, dad, brothers and sisters, well, with the exception a couple of dum dums who haven’t made up their minds yet,  just raise their hands in worship and cry out to God was pretty touching.

My dad and his dad worshiping

When church was finished we all grabbed some tables and set them up for lunch. In Guatemala every Sunday is a potluck or potblessing for those of you who don’t believe in luck. After eating some of the best tacos I think I have ever had, we started on the winding road home, which made me want to throw up on my cousin who was sitting beside me. I probably shouldn’t have eaten five tacos.

The after church gathering tree.

Unless you want me to chronicle about how we sat on our bottoms and visited the rest of the day, this blog is finished.

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The Second Day – Solola

I was writing this at the end of the second day, so this post isn’t going to be very long.

When we did get up, we ate breakfast, which consisted of bread and coffee. I know you are probably thinking, “That’s it.” Well, let me tell you bread in Guatemala is not just bread! If you ever ate any of the bread at the fundraiser or the small group, it’s like a thousand times better and goes great with coffee.

After breakfast I took a very cold shower. I should have gotten up earlier to get the hot water. After breakfast the cousins took us to drive motorcycles around.

After we came back my uncle called me into his bedroom. My first thought was oh great, second day here and I am already in trouble with my uncle, who I haven’t seen in eleven years. Let me tell you about a little difference in the culture. Your uncles and aunts are second parents in Guatemala, so they have the authority to discipline you how they see fit. That’s why I was worried I had done something wrong, but when I walked in he handed me a guitar. Let me tell you, I wanted to sing for joy. I think I did, because as a guitar player, I was afraid that I wouldn’t have a guitar for two weeks. It was love at first sight! She was a red, sunburst acoustic and she played great!

Lake Atitlan

A little later we drove over to Panajachel which was a treat in itself. I had forgotten how persistent the vendors were. As soon as we stepped out of the car we had five people trying to sell us things. One guy was trying to wrestle a bracelet on me while, another was trying to shine my shoes, while yet another was trying to sell me fruit in a bag. The thing about the vendors in Guatemala is even after you say no a billion times, they’re still trying to cut you a deal. I have got to say, one of the hardest things is to turn down the kids who are selling. This is how they survive so it makes you want to dump your pockets out and buy everything from them, but it was only my second day, so I had to conserve my funds.

Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins

One of the small shops in Panajachel.

I can’t really think of anything else that happened that day. I know you don’t want me to go into every detail. It would obviously take too long, so that’s pretty much it.
God Bless, Dios los Bendiga

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We Made It

Day 1
So this is the blog where I come out and sing a silly song. Ok, not really. This is part that I tell you about the Majestic, the Magnificent, the CRAZY! trip to Guatemala.

So, it all started a long time ago, a really, really long time ago. It began when my dad, who is 39, was a small boy. He came to America and became a Christian, took a wife, and had 7 unbelievably awesome kids (not to brag or anything).

When my dad became a Christian, he had this dream of going back to Guatemala to build a church in his village. The church already in his village was only for “perfect people,” that we know don’t exist, so it was his dream to build a church that would show Gods love. That’s why we are on this adventure in Guatemala, to help build a church.

So, the long story of how we got there. Well after a looooooooooonnngg!!! drive to Fort Lauderdale. We were finally at the airport where we waited a looooooooooooonnnnnggggg!!!!! time for the plane to leave for Guatemala. Then we were on our way.

On our way!!

When we reached Guatemala, we were met by two of my dad’s brothers. Now let me pause right here to say that one of the reasons I love Guatemala is because even at 5’7’’, I still tower over everyone. Oh and the food too! Along with the two brothers were some cousins I haven’t seen since I was five, so it was fun to catch up. When I say catch up, I mean they talked at full Spanish speed while I caught half of it and the other half, well let’s hope I didn’t misunderstand and answer something stupid.

Driving to my uncle’s house was also an adventure. They don’t believe in the power of brakes and it turned into a rollercoaster ride!

Along with the cousins that met us at the airport was a small 7 year old boy who took all of our hearts. His name is Snyder. The name Snyder made me think of peanut butter, anyone else? This small boy has had a hard life. To start off with he is the youngest of three. When he was five years old he witnessed his mother getting killed by the mafia, after his father had just been killed a few months before by the same group. I think this has to top the list of things that can mess a kid up. He is a rambunctious 7 year old kid that we love. At the moment he has all of his front teeth missing, so it was harder for me to understand him. The first night as we were driving, he talked a lot and then snuggled up beside me and went to sleep.


There’s just one more thing I need to tell you about. At my uncle’s house, he has this bird, this evil parrot bird. I think this bird had it in for me. Whenever I came into contact with  him, he either attacked me or made very rude noises at me. He screamed everyone’s name in the house and barked like the dog.

The crazy, evil parrot that made rude noises at me.

So we made it through loooooonnnnnnnngggg!!! waits and through evil birds.

P.S. Heard Free Fallin on a Spanish radio station, just had to share.

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