Couple is working on collecting all of the animals in the Bible

They don't spit and they don't bite - in fact these camels love people, especially children, according to their owners.

'Kids remember camels - they make a lasting impression,' said Kim Dilworth, who lives with her husband Mike on a farm in rural Oregon City that is roughly two miles from Clackamas Community College.

The pair acquired the property, the camels, the goats, sheep and other animals, because they wanted to do something 'extraordinary,' Kim Dilworth said.

They came up with the concept of a 'Bible zoo, made up of animals that we think about when we read the Bible - think about the nativity scene,' she added.

The overall idea is that eventually foster children will be able to come to the farm and interact with the animals.

'We said 'What if we had a place where kids could come and play for free,'' Kim Dilworth said, noting that a friend suggested they do 'respite care' for foster children.

'We always wanted this property to glorify God. We wanted to do something at Christmas, but we wanted to do more - we want to help children. We will bring the animals to them, or have them come here,' Mike Dilworth said.

Interacting with animals can be 'therapeutic - a healing mechanism. Kids can write to the animals, and they'll tell a camel something they won't tell adults,' Kim Dilworth said.

Her husband added, 'There's something about animals that touches their hearts.'

Traveling zoo

At the moment, the Dilworths don't have a parking lot on their property, so it will be a while before their dream can come true.

'So we take our animals to places that want them and we teach [the children] about the gifts that God gave animals,' Kim Dilworth said.

Bethlehem and Moses, the two Bactrian camels, are the 'stars' of the traveling zoo, she said, adding that the two-humped camels can drink 30 gallons of water and can live without food and water for 40 days, based on what they 'store' in their humps.

The Bactrian camel originated in Mongolia, and the camels can 'withstand heat up to 120 degrees or below zero,' she added, noting that sometimes people express surprise that the camels can live in Oregon.

'They are OK in this climate and can live for 40 years,' she said.

The camels get along amicably with the rabbit, dog, goats, sheep, miniature cow, miniature pig, chickens and cats, she noted. In fact, the pig sleeps cuddled up with the camels and is always under their feet - but the enormous creatures never step on him.

Kim Dilworth did point out that the camels are outgrowing the horse trailer, and soon she and her husband will have to come up with another way of transporting them.

Camels from Wyoming

The Dilworths did extensive research on camels before selecting a breeder from Wyoming who Mike Dilworth said was the first to bring camels to the United States.

'Both camel babies came on horse transport. The drivers had the camels' pictures on their Web sites and got a lot of attention bottle-feeding a camel at rest stops. Our miniature cow came that way as well,' his wife noted.

'They were so small - at eight months they were like a big puppy. Bethlehem weighs 1,000 pounds now, and he will get up to 2,000 pounds,' Mike Dilworth said.

Unfortunately, Kim Dilworth added, Bactrian camels are creeping toward extinction, there are fewer than 500 in the wild.

Her husband added that when he goes to the feed store to buy hay, people ask him why he is buying so much.

'I say, we have camels,' Mike Dilworth said, and people's faces just light up with interest and many of them tell him they've seen the camels from the road.

Community involvement

Kim Dilworth said she went to work for CityTeam Ministries, one of Portland's oldest homeless shelters, in 2001. The following year Mike Dilworth joined CityTeam, and they discovered they attended the same church and had a lot in common.

'We both felt we were called to work with the homeless. I volunteered first and then went in head first and so did Mike,' she added.

The pair married and have two pre-school age children.

The headquarters for CityTeam is in San Jose, Calif., and Kim Dilworth works as a contractor for the organization here and nationally, 'by doing radio campaigns and programs to raise money for the poorest people of our communities.'

She added, 'We both have full-time jobs and that makes farm work our extra project and life love. Mike is a broker for house sales and is a real estate agent as well.

'His passion is helping first-time buyers get into their home without pain and agony. So, I help the poor and he helps people get a home.'

Currently they are both getting certified for respite care in their home and on the farm, and hope to be able to start day camps for children in the near future.

'We know that when foster kids go to camp, their lives are changed,' Kim Dilworth said.

But the Dilworths know they can't realize their dream alone.

'We are hoping that people in the community will want to get involved - we know there are other people who want to help kids, so we need volunteers for everything,' she said.

Her husband added that young people are welcome to come and help out at the farm.

'There are not many places where kids can come and donate time, and with this property we'll never run out of projects,' he said.

Kim Dilworth added, 'This is a work in progress. We want to challenge people to come alongside and help us make this a place for kids. Life can be good - we want to be seed planters with children.'

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