AMERICAN FORK — Give 'em points for courage.
The four returned LDS missionaries who are headed to South America for a multi-country orphanage visit are planning to rely on their wits, good intentions and a used van for the next six weeks.
It's goes without saying they're also planning on God's help. They, their friends and parents will be praying for their safety as they journey hundreds of miles in foreign lands to help orphans.
Plus, they have a couple of international cellphones, 700 dental hygiene kits, nearly 100 colorful, simple dresses and a guy at home who'll be tracking their journey on a computer.
They leave May 1 from Salt Lake City and fly to Buenos Aires, Argentina. From there they'll pick up a used van that a friend of one of the missionaries, Colton Bramwell, is hunting up for them.
The plan then is to drive the van from Argentina to Guatemala, visiting more than a dozen countries and orphanages along the way. They'll perform small tasks for the orphanage managers, pass out the dental hygiene kits (gathered by local Scouts working on their Eagle rank and packed by BYU wards and groups with a toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss), 100 dresses sewn by members of the Hillcrest 3rd Ward Relief Society and share information with the children and their caregivers about good dental health.
"There definitely is a big need in South America," Bramwell said, who served his mission in Argentina while the others served stateside missions. "They don't really take care of their teeth very well. They eat a lot of sugar and they drink a tea that has sugar."
Chris Miller said the small Spanish girls will welcome the soft, pretty dresses. "The ninas will love them," he predicted.
The four young men are paying their own way, taking time off from school and jobs and donating their time and energy to the trip which they hope will be something they can do every year forever.
They figure it'll cost about $10,000 for this first venture.
"This is more of a trial run," said Jourdan Smith, 22. "This isn't like one-time thing. We plan on making Care-O-Van a big part of our lives. After this, we're going to Africa and other places. We do want to make a difference and it's good for us to realize how fortunate we really are (here in America)."
Originally the four young men were going to drive from Provo to Argentina in a 1974 Dodge van, but unrest in Mexico has convinced them to bypass that country.
Two speak Spanish, Bramwell and Warren Hallmark.
All are handy with a wrench and figure they can fix whatever might go wrong with the van. They plan on sleeping and basically living in the van when they aren't on the road.
"My parents hate the idea," Smith said. "But they're rallying."
To help defray the costs and track their progress, visit the website: http://care-o-van.org/.
Sharon Haddock is a professional freelance writer with 30 years experience, 17 of those at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.