* 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 30, 2007

Journal June 24-30

Sunday, June 24, 2007, 10:34: PM

We ate breakfast at home this morning because Juan, my neighbor talked me into helping him buy a different pickup truck and the man that owned it was bringing it to his house this morning. I don’t like making a habit of giving or loaning money to my neighbors but without a truck Juan cannot feed his family. Unfortunately here in Guatemala used trucks sell for a lot of money no matter what kind of shape they are in. Once Juan bought the truck 6 kids and myself headed off to church. They had a Pizza and Chicken feed after church for all those that were in anyway involved in Sunday school. I was not going to stay for it but was told that I had to stay for an award. It was a certificate for being the family with the most kids. I was glad that they didn’t ask for any birth certificates or adoption papers. I think that next time they invite my crew to stay they will likely bring more Chicken and pizza though. Of course I doubt that they figured on my kids taking enough food home with them to feed their families for a week.

I guess 6 kids is not enough because mine insisted on going to the orphanage after church? Even though it was early afternoon all but a handful of the kids were in bed for the day. Alex was the first one that I took out of his crib. He was already soaking wet. I can’t imagine what he will be like when they take him out of his crib after being in there another 17 hours. If he was not sleeping there is a chance that he got changed at around 5 PM but no guarantees. Byron was still up but his power wheelchair was nowhere to be found. I finally found it in a storage area. When I asked why he was not in it I was told that it quit running a day or 2 ago. Strange thing though it sprang to life for me when I turned on the switch. Tomorrow I am going to once again take his manual chair to our shop. One of the rubber grips on the handle that you push it with appears to be a bit loose. I am going to ask our mechanics to try and fix it as slowly as possible and then put it into storage until I remember to bring it back to the orphanage. With my memory, that could take forever. Poor Byron, it looks like he will be stuck with nothing but a power wheelchair for quite some time. We can only hope so.

I discovered that one of the girls that does the house keeping at the orphanage speaks Ketichecal (Spelling). With her help and Calin’s I had a good talk with Minor, the older of the 2 brothers that just came to the orphanage.

He has been trying to tell the nurses when he needs to use the bathroom but the housekeeper told me that either they do not understand or don’t want to bother with taking him to the restroom when he asks and keep him in diapers instead. While we were talking he told me that he needed the bathroom and I understood exactly what he was talking about. Perhaps it is English that he is speaking. Any way I took him and if no one listens to him the next time he asks they may be in for a surprise. I some how forgot to diaper him when I dressed him.

Jason and Michelle asked me if they could go up to the malnutrition ward and see the babies. When we got there I discovered that Antonio’s father had come for him and taken him home. I know that it was going to be any day now but was hoping that he could stay a bit longer. This11 year old boy has nearly doubled his weight since he came into the orphanage less than a year ago but you have to remember that he weighed only 21 pounds when we brought him in. I am going to see if Julia and her husband will hike me into where he lives this coming weekend. Julia is the teacher from Rabinal that first discovered Antonio after taking a dirt bike in for over 2 and a half hours and then hiking for another 2 hours. Since it is now the rainy season our walk could be much longer than that. I want to get back in there though because we have been told that there are around 1000 people there and many of the kids are starving. On this first trip in I want to take a water filter, vitamins, worm medication, and some asthma medicine for Antonio. Hopefully once we see what the needs are we can get other organizations involved. I have already been in touch with a clinic that can provide more medicine and a friend of mine who can likely supply more water filters. The first time it is best though not to go in with more than one or 2 Americans. It seems that just lately the belief that Americans are coming in to kidnap Guatemalan children has once again sprung up. This has even happened in places where Chris and I have been in with in the past few months. Please pray not only for our safety but that the people there will trust us enough that they will be willing to receive any help that we can offer. One big plus is that Andréa’s family lives there and they know that Andrais would not be alive today if he had not come with us to Hermano Pedro.

Tonight the kids that had come along to church were still munching on the pizza and chicken that they took home with them from Church. Those that had not come along to church settled for cold cereal and sandwiches. I managed to buy some groceries this evening so the meals should once again be improving. At least tomorrow night they will have a choice of what kind of cereal they want for dinner.

Well it is once again almost midnight so I think that I well head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, June 25, 2007, 5:54 PM

I finally discovered a way to get my work done with out any kids ringing the doorbell. I am hiding out at the wheelchair shop. I feel a bit guilty not being at home to make supper for the kids but I am sure that they will still be waiting at the gate when I get there. Especially considering that they saw me come home with a carload of groceries last night.

This morning Calin and Alex came with me to Hermano Pedro. Would you believe no school again? This happened both Monday and Friday of last week as well. That makes it 3 days off and 3 on in the past 6 school days, and it is only Monday. I got a bit of wheelchair work done at the orphanage while Calin and Alex played with the kids. Our stay was a short one though. I stopped off at the wheelchair shop on my way out of town and was met by a family who had been unable to show up at our last wheelchair distribution. Their little boy needed a specialty wheelchair so I fit him before going to Antigua.

I always know that they are fit well when they come to us crying and go home fast asleep in their new wheelchairs. We stayed a few hours at the orphanage but then I had to get back to Chemaltenango. Chris and I had been invited to have lunch at Candy’s home. She wanted to thank us for her new power wheelchair. She has been through some rough times lately but continues to try to improve her life. She is now working on being a travel agent of sorts right from her home. We are going to try to help her find the necessary things that are needed to make this work for her.

We have received some great news about Erica. Her parents called and told Chris that the lactate Cream that we brought her a few weeks ago is doing wonders for her skin condition. Thanks to a good friend at present we have about a half-year supply on hand for her but are looking for some place where we can get it for a better price. It is presently costing $6 per 140 g tube. She uses 1 tube every 2 days. I will be checking with the drugstores here in Guatemala but if anyone knows of any other recourses please let me know.

Well I guess that I have hid out long enough so I well head for home.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, June 28, 2007

Chris and some of the crew from the shop headed out to Rabinal today. Due to heavy rains about 25 people were unable to make it out to the last wheelchair distribution that we had there. Hopefully they will be able to make it in tomorrow. I seldom miss distributions but had made a previous commitment of taking about 15 people through Hermano Pedro orphanage today and tomorrow. When it is a group that is as enthusiastic as this one I do not consider it a commitment though, it is a privilege. Andrew Scott and the group that the brought with him, showed nothing but love for the kids at the orphanage. After showing everyone around and getting them acquainted with the kids half of us took 8 of the kids out to Camperos while the other half stayed at the orphanage and helped feed the kids that were there. Tomorrow we plan on doing a reversal with the other half of their team and totally different kids. Not that I need to get fattened up but I will be the only one doing a repeat performance to Camperos. I am considering ordering a salad tomorrow but will likely change my mind once I open up the menu and see the pictures of the fried chicken and French fries. Fattening or not we all had a great time and none of the kids threw up today.

This afternoon I met with Jessica to see what could be done about the nurses refusing to take Minor to the rest room. The nurses told her that they did not understand Ketichell (spelling) so they had no choice but to diaper Minor instead of taking him to the bathroom. I stepped in and said that even though they had been unable to learn any Ketichell, Minor had learned Spanish and twice today had asked me to take him to the rest room. From the reaction that Jessica gave when she heard this I have a feeling the nurses will suddenly start understanding Minor a bit better. It is nice to win a battle every once in a while.

Orphanage # 2 was waiting for me when I got home tonight. I first told the kids at the gate that I had to do a few hours work and would let them in after that was done but six or seven kids giving you that puppy dog look is more than I can take. I have already warned them though that tomorrow night is a work night for me so they better fill up on fun and food tonight. Now if only I can figure out a way of getting into my house tomorrow night with out looking any of them in the eyes I can perhaps stick to my word. They were all great about helping with chores though and we actually got a lot of yard work done before supper.

Calin has been a bit down lately and I sense that he wants to talk about a few things so he is staying the night.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007, 10:24 PM

It was as I thought. Some of the kids have been teasing Calin about how heavy he is. He is such a neat kid but like so many that only hear negative from their families his self-esteem is easily crushed. I did not try to convince him that he is not overwheght but dwelt on all of the things that he has accomplished over the years that I have known him. We did not get into any discussion about him once being the neighborhood thief but I commended him on his honesty and how proud I was of the way that he took care of my place for me the last time that I went back to the states. I told him that there were very few people that I would ever give the key to my house to. We also talked about how he had gone from never being in school to being one of the top students in his class. He asked me if I still thought that we could give him some work at the wheelchair shop during school vacation. I told him that we were counting on him. Calin told me that after buying school clothing he was going to give what ever he earned to his mother. I am sure that he meant it. When he walked out of the door this morning he walked with his head held high. Today he is going to ask his teacher if he can take tomorrow off from school to come along with me into a few villages to be my interpreter. I figure it won’t hurt for him to miss just one day. Besides that there is always about a 50 50 chance that there will be no school anyway.

We had another good day at the orphanage and group # 2 did just as well as group #1 did at Camperos. Thanks to the group that came in during the last 2 days 16 kids had the time of their lives and 15 adults had an experience of a lifetime.

Chris called me this evening. He had talked to the teacher in Rabinal and her and her husband cannot get free to go in to where Antonio lives. It is perhaps for the best because this Friday Chris and Donna are heading for the States for a few weeks. I will really miss them but the have to do some business there and also plan on seeing their new granddaughter.

When I got home tonight only a small hand full of kids were at the gate but only to ask if I still intended to work tonight. They were pretty good about it when I said yes and even the puppy dog looks were not as sad as last nights. I guess that not everyone got the message though because in the past few hours the doorbell has rung no less than 8 times. Fortunately though it is dark outside so I do not have to look the kids in the eyes when I go out and tell them that I have not gotten caught up on answering e-mails and writing in my journal yet.

Well once again bedtime has snuck up on me.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Calin got permission from both his teacher and his mom to come along with me today. We went into Antigua and picked up 4 of the people that I had been showing around the orphanage for the past few days and headed off towards Ronny’s place. He had called me a few days ago and told me that his teacher wanted to see me. Since I had to return Erma’s sowing machine to her I decided to make a day of it. This would also give my 4 friends who had not seen much of Guatemala other than Guatemala City and Antigua a real opportunity to see what most of Guatemala is really like. About an hour out of Antigua my car started heating up so we pulled and discovered that my alternator had loosened up and when the one of the belts came off it ate up the other 2 as well. Fortunately I have learned over the years that spare belts are something that you carry and about an hour late we were once again on our way. I was none to clean but stopped at a restaurant about 15 minutes down the road and bathed in their sink. We still managed to make it to Ronny’s home shortly after 11:00, which was a good thing because his school gets out at 12:00. His father took us down the trail that led to his school that was only about a half mile away. Ronny’s father told us that Ronny usually takes his power wheelchair to school but a section of the trail had been washed away and there was a narrow spot where Ronny was afraid that he might go over the edge. Ronny’s father was going to do some work on it though and told us that by tomorrow his son would once again be able to take his power chair to school. As we were going down the trail we were met by Ronny’s mother, who gave each of us a warm greeting. She turned around and joined us. When we reached the school we were surprised by its size. It was nothing fancy but there were several classrooms and each small room had 40 or more students in it.

Ronny’s mom walked straight into Ronny’s classroom and motioned for all of us to follow. We were greeted by a friendly hello from all of the 43 students that were crowded into the tiny classroom. Ronny’s teacher quickly motioned for us to come to the front of the classroom. With the help of Calin and one of the ladies in our group that know some Spanish we had a good visit with the teacher, Ronny, and the other students. I later found out that this important meeting with the teacher was nothing more than Ronny wanting me to meat his teacher and to see his school but I was glad that we had come. In a culture where handicapped are still looked down on and are often not even allowed into schools this wonderful teacher has not only excepted Ronny but her positive attitude has radiated to the kids in her class room and the entire school in such a way that Ronny is not only excepted but genuinely loved by his class mates and the other teachers in his school. We had a great time getting to know several of the kids and the magic rings that I had taken with me were a big success. By the time I was asked to do a repeat performance there were as many students and teachers leaning in the windows as there were in the classroom.

When school was over we walked back to Ronny’s home with him and his family, but not until I was asked to do a few more magic trick for all of the students that had gathered in front of the school. I must admit though that I feel sorry for one little boy. His classmates are likely still looking for more coins in his ears. The kids and adults always love seeing the magic tricks but in places like this where there is still a lot of witchcraft I am always careful to tell my audience that there is no magic involved but they are only tricks that I am doing. Generally I reveal the secret to at least one or 2 of them so that they understand the difference.

On our walk back from the school we stopped off to see Ronny’s Grandmother. I wanted my American friends to see what a true Guatemalan welcome was like. Tomorrow a few of us may have to find a chiropractor. That lady gives some mean hugs. When we got back to Ronny’s house his father proudly showed everyone his battery powered lights and how he charges them and Ronny’s wheelchair batteries using the solar cell that we gave them. Ronny’s family seem much happier where they are now living and I am sure that when the team comes in February to build them a new house they will be even happier. Father told me that he hated to bother me since he felt we were doing so much for them already but his stepbrother who owns the shed that they are presently living in told him that next month he is taking the tin. This will leave the family with nothing but a wooden frame. I told him that I would contact Chris and we would figure out something. Grandmothers house has almost no tin on it. It is mostly covered with only black plastic but this is no way for a family of 8 to have to live. (It is no way for an old grandmother to live either but hopefully we can soon tackle that project as well.) Before we left Calin went to my car brought out a duffel bag of Beanie babies that my friend Mike had brought down last week. We told the kids that they could each have one. Ronny asked if he could also take one for his grandmother and one for his teacher as well. When it was time to say good by most of our crew had to put down one of the children that they were holding. I guess brothers are the same all over the world because when one of the ladies that was with us said in Spanish that the little girl that she was holding was so cute that she would love to take her home her brother quickly replied, “Go ahead and take her.”

Upon reaching the first sizeable town we stopped of for some lunch. Calin and I had tried to convince our crew to stop of and get some deep fried chicken at a roadside stand that I have often eaten at but they were afraid that the oil that the chicken was being fried in had not been changed in the past 3000 miles. I don’t think that I would have recommended that they eat there anyway because it takes a few years to build up immunity to some of the food here. Of coarse eating my own cooking helps to further build up any immunity.

I should possibly entitle the rest of today’s journal, NINEVEH or possibly JONAH’S CLONE. Even though I had Erma’s repaired sowing machine in my car I was not all that eager to go and see her. Our visit with Ronny and his family had been such a positive one that I feared that visiting Erma may be a real let down. When we visited with her only a few weeks ago she was so depressed that it seemed to rub off on us for a few hours. Lately she has been calling Carlos and he even told me that her calls get to him in such a way that some times he refuses to answer his telephone fearing that it might be her. Both Carlos and I have feared that perhaps she was getting addicted to prescription drugs and spending what little money she had on them instead of on food for her family. I knew that she had to be confronted about this but I did not want to be the one that confronted her. During lunch I told the group about the backcountry road that led past Ronny’s old house. If we were to go that way it would be much more scenic. I was sure that they would love going that way instead of the way that we had come. Unfortunately that would mean that Erma would have to wait for her sowing machine until another day but then those thing can’t always be helped. I am not sure whom I was trying to convince, the five people that were with me, or myself but it worked. I must admit that I took a look back over my shoulder when we left the restaurant and felt a little twinge of guilt for not bringing the sowing machine to her, but then perhaps I could get Carlos to bring it to her this weekend. About 45 minutes up the dirt road that led away from Erma’s house and towards home we came up on 2 cars and 3 busses that were blocking the narrow road. This was unusual because that is about all of the traffic that uses this road in a single day. We soon found out that a buss had broken its driveline earlier in the day and the road was to narrow for traffic to get by. He had broken down in a portion of the road that was so rugged that there was no way that anyone could toe him out. People from some of the busses were digging at the side of the bank trying to widen the road enough for traffic to get by so I decided to wait for a while. If I turned around it would mean that I would have to stop off at Erma’s house. Finally the road was widened and buss # 2 tried to squeeze by buss # 1. I guess no one had a measuring tape when they widened the road. We now had 2 busses stuck side by side. It still took me another half hour to admit defeat but when a thunderstorm moved in I decided that it was turn back towards Erma’s house or spend the night. As it was it was hard enough to get turned around and then get past the trucks and the busses that had come in behind us but we made it. About an hour and a half later we were pulling into Erma’s road. Erma seemed to be in a better mood than last time but as we were visiting she asked if I could drive her into the nearest town that was about 20 minutes from where she lived. She also asked if I would help her pay for some medicine that a drug store was holding for her. Carlos had already told me that she had been getting some type of injection that was suppose to be helping her with a her stiff neck. Once we started talking though she confided that her neck was not all that bad but if she did not get these shots she would get the shakes. With the help of a sympathetic interpreter we shared with her that we truly loved her and that was why we were not willing to help her get these drugs. We talked for quite some time and I told her that I wanted to see her well but felt that many of the pills and shots that she was taking were not helping her at all. To my surprise she agreed with us and also agreed to my setting up an appointment for her with a real doctor at Hermano Pedro. Please pray that this will be a step in the right direction for her. We asked her if we could pray for her and she said that she would like that but wanted to share something else with us before we prayed. She has received word that some men that live in that area may be thinking about kidnapping her daughter Rosario and forcing her into prostitution. Please pray for Rosario’s safety as well. We left saddened by the situation but were all happy that we had stopped and at least given a ray of hope.

Friday, June 29, 2007, 10:04 PM
I got a call at around 9 AM asking if I was willing to take another group of people through the orphanage. I am beginning to feel like a tour guide at time but if it makes even a hand full of people aware of the needs that are there it is well worth it. No matter what parts of the orphanage I take people through I always try to end up at Sam Sam’s crib. As we walk up to his crib he is always rocking back and forth or slamming his head on the steal bars of his crib. I am always asked if he that is all he ever does. I tell those that I am showing around that Sam is labeled as autistic and autistic kids are in their own little world and do not want to relate to people or be held. I then lower the sides of his crib and hold out my hands. The results are always the same. Sam Sam reaches out to me and I hold him for a while explaining that the reason that he is kept in his crib is that he hates being tied into his wheelchair and that he can open the latch of the gate that leads into the area where he stays. I then lower him to the ground and show people that Sam is perfectly able to walk. The next question that I am asked is always the same. “But if he can walk why is he locked in his crib all day?” Some day I hope to have an answer for that question. As we walk away there is always at least one person in tears, me.

It seems that the needs are sometimes endless. Within a span of less than an hour 2 beggars approached me, one of the nuns at the orphanage told me about someone that desperately needs schooling, and a lady told me about 2 kids who can not walk but have never owned wheelchair. I feel bad that we cannot help everyone but am happy that God gives us the opportunity to at least help some. Every night there are a lot of people going to bed hungry all over the world. Tonight I made sure that the 8 kids that left my house did not.

Hebrews 13

1 Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. 2 Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, June 30, 2007, 2:24:41 PM


Six kids showed up for breakfast. Nothing was spilled on the table or the floor. COME TO THINK OF IT THAT IS UNUSUAL.

I went to town to pick up some new fan belts for the car. They had the belts that I needed in Stock. NOW I HAVE TO ADMIT THAT WAS A BIT UNUSUAL.

I also tried to pay my electric, telephone, and water bills. All 3 of the places were closed. NOTHING UNUSUAL ABOUT THAT.

It was nice and sunny so I decided to get my car washed. We are now having a heavy thunderstorm. NOTHING UNUSUAL THERE. (I think that I could make it rain in the Sahara Dessert if I brought my car there and washed it.)

Kimberly swept and mopped all of my floors in the house. 5 kids came in with muddy feet 10 minutes later. THAT WAS UNUSUAL. (Normally it is 10 kids in 5 minutes.)

It is only 2:40 PM and all of the kids say that they are hungry. TOTALLY USUAL. (By the way the other 5 showed up 10 minutes later. That was about the time that I was done re mopping behind the first 5. I think that I will wait until the third mopping until tonight when they all go home.

Well I think that I will kick back and watch Shrek 1, 2, and 3, with the kids. I bought all 3 for only 20Q (about $2.60). Normal you would have to pay up to $3 for 3 videos. NOTHING UNUSUAL HERE. The man that sold me the videos knows that I am Dutch.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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