* GUATEMALA * * * * * * * * Dick Rutgers *

An ongoing journal of life as a Missionary in Guatemala. It will make you laugh and cry at the same time.

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Location: Chimaltenango, Guatemala

I work in Guatemala with Hope Haven international and Bethel Ministries. Along with my friends Chris and Donna Mooney and their family, we share the love of Jesus in various ways. Although giving out and maintaining wheelchairs is our primary ministry, we are involved in many other things as well. Building houses, feeding the hungry, providing education to handicapped children in orphanages and villages, and hosting a camp for the handicapped are just a small part of the things that God has given us the privilege of getting involved in. For several years now I have been keeping daily journals. Once a week I try to post new journals and pictures. My e-mail is dick@dickrutgers.com Guatemala Cell Phone # 502 5379 9451 USA Phone # 360 312 7720(Relays free to Guatemala)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Journal June 11-16

Before reaching Hermano Pedro I had already decided that I was going to take Minor and Elmer, the 2 new boys out for lunch. Almost the minute that I arrived at the orphanage one of the newer nurses who seems to really care about the kids came up to me and said that Ervin was having a bad day. I figured that I could at least take a few minutes and check on him before signing the two new brothers out so I went in to see him. He seemed exceptionally cranky and I knew that if I took him out of his crib he would be all the worse when I put him back in bed so after talking to him for a bit I told him that I had to go. As I walked away his screaming got intense. Not liking it when he tries to manipulate people by screaming I walked all the faster. “There is no way that he is going to give me a guilt trip.” I thought. I have seen him do that before with many of the volunteers and unfortunately it often works. I think that is one of the reasons that he keeps doing it.

When I went to the room where Minor and Elmer were I found that there were some new volunteers visiting with them. They had right away noticed how cute they were and were giving them lots of attention. I could still here Ervin’s screaming coming from the other room. “If only Ervin could be more like these 2,” I thought to myself. “Perhaps then he would not be locked up in his crib.” All at once it hit me like a ton of bricks. “I wonder if God ever feels that way about me?” “What if he only showed his love to the lovely?” Minor and Elmer were having a great time with the other volunteers. Why should I disrupt that? Ervin was not a perfect angel when I took him out to lunch today but I still think that it was good for him to know that he was loved anyway. Perhaps tomorrow we will work on behavior management but I think that today he just had to be reassured that someone cares.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007, 8:20, PM

John’s plain was right on schedule last night and we were in Chemaltenango by 9:30.

I picked John up at about 8 AM this morning and we headed for Antigua. He seemed to really enjoy the kids at the orphanage and especially took to Sam Sam. As soon as I opened the bars on Sam’s crib and reached out to him he stopped banging his head on the rails of his crib and crawled to me. I picked him up and stood him on the floor by his crib. John looked at him n Amazement. “He can walk!” John exclaimed. “Yes,” I replied. “Then why is he locked up in his crib?” I get asked that question every few days. “I have been trying to figure that out for 6 years I said. We played with Sam for a while but had other things that we had to do today so it was not long before Sam was once again back in his crib banging his head against the steal bars.

It was fairly warm out so several of the kids had actually been placed on large mats out in the courtyard. My eyes quickly fell on Alex. They have finally put a feeding tube back into him. I am very worried about him though. His color is not looking good and he would not even smile when I said his name. This is extremely unusual for Alex. No matter how bad he is feeling he generally lights up like a Christmas tree. I have stated before that I have to be careful on which battles to pick a the orphanage but I think that I will once again see if they will consider putting Alex up in the malnutrition ward.

After Lunch Chris, John, and I, headed towards Xela. Tomorrow we plan on returning a repaired power wheelchair to a little boy at the orphanage here in Xela. We then plan on delivering a large supply of skin medicine to Erica. The treatment involves bathing her every 2 days and then applying the medicine to her entire body. We are praying that her mother is willing to take the time to do this. This is the same family that we have tried to get to bring Erica to a hospital in Guatemala City for well over a year now. I don’t think that it is a matter of not caring about their daughter. They are just so busy trying to provide for the rest of their family that they cannot take the time that is needed for Erica.

Well it was a long drive with plenty of construction delays so I am going to close for now.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, June 13, 2007, 10:27 PM

After breakfast we headed over to the orphanage in Xela. This is where Chris and the crew had spent a good part of last week repairing wheelchairs. He had taken a power chair that belonged to one of the kids back to Chemaltenango for a new controller and knew that this boy was anxious to have his chair again. The second that we got things going he was off and running. We stuck around for a while so that John could meat the other children. It was also a treat for me because I had not seen any of them for several months.

Next we headed for San Francisco. No not San Francisco California, San Francisco Guatemala. San Francisco is the town that both Christopher and Erica live near to. We had to walk about a mile into Erica’s place. Not much has changed since the large landslide that took place in that area nearly 2 years ago. There are still destroyed homes at the bottom of a cliff and other occupied ones that are hanging precariously at the edge of the cliff above. Even though the government has declared the area as unsafe most of the homes are still occupied. Most of the people have nowhere else to go. We stopped off first at Christopher’s home but discovered that he was in school. It was looking like rain was about to move in so we told his grandparents to tell him hello from us and moved on. We knew how slippery the dirt trail to Erica’s house would be once it got wet. It was already a challenge to keep from slipping and the packs of medicine that we had on our backs did not help for keeping our balance.

I think that the dogs at Eric’s house are finally getting use of us. The last time that I was there I thought that we might end up as their dinner but this time we had to step over them as we entered the house. Erica, her mother and father, and about 4 of her 9 brothers and sisters were at home. We had a great visit with them and even stayed for lunch. Erica and her family listened intently as we explained the procedure for applying the medicine that John had brought from the USA. We had been a bit worried that the family would simply be to busy to want to take the time to do the fairly lengthy procedure once every other day. On the contrary though they were all excited about doing what they could to help Erica in any way possible. While we were visiting a thunderstorm moved in. We managed to make a hasty retreat back to my car before the rain turned into a downpour and were grateful that we had not stayed any longer. We were especially grateful for that while we were walking the narrow path that ran along the bottom of the cliff that somehow held the houses that were hanging over our heads. I have little doubt that a few good rains or an ever possible earthquake will send more home to the bottom of the cliff.

Traffic delays on the way home were not as bad as they were on our trip down yesterday. I think that a few of the highway construction projects had possibley shut down for the day due to the heavy rains. We got stopped at a few places but were usually rolling again within 20 minutes. At one of these stops we commented on how they ever thought that the hillsides were going to hold since they had carved them out of what appeared to be little more than dirt to widen the road. Just as we once again started moving down a section of road that was rather bumpy, John who was sitting in the front passenger seat of my car noticed several small boulders break loose from the side of the hill. Fortunately the side of the hill was almost straight up and down so they landed flat and did not role into the car. We wondered why several of them broke loose at the same time but thought little more of it until Chris’s cell phone rang a few minutes later. It was Donna. She told him that Guatemala had just experienced a 6.8 earthquake. From what we later found out we were about the only ones in Guatemala that had not felt it. I guess riding down a bumpy road in a Toyota that has the suspension of an army tank is similar to a never-ending earthquake. Any earthquake that is over 6 is considered sever but fortunately this one was centered a little ways off shore and was about 70 miles deep. Phones are still out in some areas but as far as I have heard so far there has been very little serious damage and no lives have been lost. It made us wonder though if some of those homes that we had walked under less than an hour before were still standing.

Well it is getting late and we have a big wheelchair distribution planned for tomorrow so I think that I will try to get some sleep.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, June 14, 2007

One thing that the earthquake had an effect on was the number of people that failed to show up for our wheelchair distribution this morning. I guess that I can’t much blame them though because there have been earthquakes here in the past that have devastated cities and towns. In 1976, right here in Chemaltenango, the town was nearly totally destroyed by an earthquake that killed about 60% of the people. The people here seem to get extra nervous when we have a few of them right in a row. Yesterdays quake had come only a few days after we experienced a smaller earthquake that was centralized in almost the same location. Over half of the people still managed to show up for the distribution though so we were kept busy until about noon. This was the first distribution that John had ever been to and he seemed to really enjoy it. He and I worked together and had a great time fitting a few kids into chairs that were perfect for them. I think that our favorite was the last little boy that we fitted. His father told us that he had no hand use and was quite insistent on us giving him a wheelchair that the child would never be able to reach the wheels of. I generally try to go with the wishes of the parents as much as possible but after running a few tests felt that this boy had some chance of learning to use his hands with a bit of practice. Both Chris and Donna felt the same about it and tried to convince the father that the chair that I wanted to put the boy in was the perfect chair even though it did not look quite as new or pretty as the one that the father had picked. John and I kept working on the chair that I had picked but I knew that unless the little boys father went along with it he would likely go home with out a chair then take this one. I finally told the father that I was going over to our shop next door to get some parts. I figured that this would perhaps give him a chance to think things over. It also gave me the time to say a prayer. We all wanted so badly for this family to be happy whith the chair that we gave them but we also wanted this boy to be able to have the opportunity to use his hands if at all possible. About 10 minutes later when I returned I saw the little boy’s father standing there with a big smile on his face looking at his son. His son was sitting in the wheelchair we had picked out for him. His hands were on the wheels and he was trying to push himself around. John told me that while I had been gone the little boys father had taken it upon himself to put his son in the chair and the second that he did his son reached down with his left hand and moved the chair forward. After making some more adjustments the family said good by. I am not sure who was happier, them or us.

After lunch I went to Hermano Pedro. I wanted to have one more try at getting Alex moved into the malnutrition ward. I did not have do any arm twisting to get John to come along either. I think that he is also getting attached to these kids. He and Ervin really hit it off. I did what I could as far as Alex is concerned but kept getting the same answers. “We will move him if and when he gets worse.” I am not sure that he will make it if they allow him to get much worse. At least they have the feeding tube back in so his intake is at least getting monitored. Before heading home I took a few of the kids across the street for a coke. John and Ervin stayed behind. They were having too much fun playing with an old laundry cart.

When we got to my place we did a bit of e-mailing and downloaded some pictures and then headed out to Comperos with the kids that were at my house.

Friday, June 15, 2007

This morning John, Chris, Gordon, Fernando, (who once again had no school) and myself headed towards Ronny’s house. I had mentioned to John that there were to ways to Ronny’s house. One of the ways is paved and takes a little less than 2 hours. The other is dirt and takes about 3 hours in the best of conditions. Rainy season is not exactly the recipe for the best of conditions. However we voted on it and the vote was unanimous that we go the longer, bumpier, curvier, way. Oh did I mention that we had not picked up Chris and Gordon before taking the vote. They would be riding in the harder, bumpier, less comfortable, back seats. All I can say is the scenery was spectacular and no one did any complaining when they crawled from my car over 4 hours later. I may hear about it when they gain back their strength to talk though.

Ronny and his family were glad to see us. After everyone visited for a bit Chris, Gordon, John, and Ronny’s father walked over to figure out where the house that a group from John’s church plans on building for the family will go. While they looked over the land I did some work on Ronny’s wheelchair. He now has 2 sets of batteries so that one set can be getting charged up from the solar cell while he is using the other set. Since there is more shade where they are now living the charge time has increased, but he should now be able to drive his chair continually. While working on Ronny’s chair his mother told me about a child whom she saw that lives across from the school that Ronny is now attending. She asked if she could bring him over to see if we could possibley give him a wheelchair. Naturally I said no and told her that we hated helping people that needed wheelchairs, especially kids. (Not really, I was just checking to see if you were awake.) 15 minutes later she was back with a boy of about 3 years old and his father. The little boy has spinal bifida and is unable to walk. He will need a carved backrest to accommodate a 4-inch protrusion that is located on the lower part of his back but we will soon bring a wheelchair to him. I am also going to show some pictures that I took of him to some of the doctors that come into Hermano Pedro. Generally an operation is preformed that can remove a great deal of the protrusion.

Erma lives only a few miles from Ronny, as the crow flies. Unfortunately we could not find any crows that were willing to fly us there so we had to backtrack about 45 minutes to the north then drive a few miles east, and then once again return to the south for about 45 minutes. Oh for my airplane on days like this. Of course the lack of all but a few runways in the entire country would cause a bit of a problem.

I wish that I could say that everyone at Erma’s house was as upbeat as most of the other families that we had visited this week. Erma and her 2 kids are having a rough time. Not just financially but emotionally. It seems at times like they have lost the desire to try. The water filter that we had brought them a few months ago was lying there dirty and unassembled. The new water pump that we had brought in had not been installed even though we had given Erma the money to have it installed. Erma told us that she had been making some money with the sowing machine that we had given her but it had quit working a few months ago. She had not even called us to see if we could get it repaired. It looks like she is going through some deep depression. To make things worse the attitudes of Rosario and Anderson did not seem much better then that of their mother. We are not about to let this family starve but unless they regain the willingness to learn how to make it on their own nothing will ever change. Please pray for them and for us so that we have the wisdom to know how to help them have the dignity to be willing to at least try to make it on their own. The Ericas and Ronnys of this world are so much easier to help than the Ermas of this world are.

It was fairly late when we got back home. We were exhausted but over all it has been a great day.

Saturday, June 16, 2007, 9:36 PM

Today is Fidel’s birthday. His biggest wish was that he could once again have a birthday party at Chris and Donna’s house. We had one there for him 4 years ago and he had never forgotten it. He had a great time playing video games with Benjamin while the rest of us visited. Donna prepared a dinner for us that was followed by a cake and presents for Fidel. His 3-hour stay went all to fast for him. As we drove back towards the orphanage Fidel strained to get just one more look at the Mooney’s home. When we reached the orphanage Fidel had tears in his eyes. Calin took his own shirt and wiped Fidel’s eyes for him. Even though he is 22 years old the thing that he wants most in life is to feel like part of a family, but then so do the other 220 much forgotten people that live at Hermano Pedro.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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