* 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, July 28, 2007

Journal July 21-28

Saturday, July 21, 2007

This morning I met with Chris, KC, and Michele at the wheelchair shop. Chris had to go back home to do some work there but KC and I stuck around until about 1 PM and worked on some wheelchairs. Fernando had also come along and after a short nap he was egger to work. Michele is feeling a lot better but is still not 100% so she mostly visited with Mario and his daughter Maria. Maria had found the perfect use for an old portable commode that we had considerd throwing away by discovering that it worked well as a desk.

After Lunch we headed over to the HIV orphanage that is located only about 10 minutes from where I live. It has been some time since I had been there and I had promised that I would stop by and see how Ingrid’s wheelchair was doing. Ingrid was move to this orphanage from Hermano Pedro about a year ago and is doing well. Even though all of the kids at the HIV orphanage are HIV positive this place is far from a dreary one. The entire place is bright and cherry. The rooms are all brightly decorated and the kids are well cared for. All of the workers there are extremely upbeat and loving. This place is a far cry from the institution like setting of Hermano Pedro. There was a large activity going on with a lot of visitor there today so even though the nuns that ran the place were more than happy to show us around, after seeing Erica, I told them that I would come back and work on Erica’s wheelchair in a few days. The nuns there are so proud of the kids that they wouldn’t let us leave until we went with them to see and hold 3 new babies. They were so adorable that it was hard to believe that there mothers’ drug habits has likely given them all Aids.

As we were getting into the car to leave I received a phone call from Ronny. I could not understand him especially since it sounded like he had been crying, so I handed the phone over to Fernando. I could tell from listening that something was wrong. Fernando told us that Ronny’s mother and little sister had gone into town to collect some money that her husband had earned this past month. While in town she took some of the money and bought groceries for the family. While on the buss ride home 4 men with guns robbed the buss. One of them held a gun to the buss driver’s head while the others one by one took everything from all of the passengers. Ronny’s mother was hit in the side with the but of the gun of one of the robbers and then nearly shot when they suspected her of not giving up all of the money that she had. Fortunately no one was shot but she and everyone else on the buss were robbed of all of the food and money that they had. Ronny said that they had not eaten all day and were completely out of food. It took the 4 of us all of 3 seconds to arrive at a unanimous decision. 2 hours Later we were turning in to the trail that leads to their home with groceries and some money to help get them through the month. It was raining hard and even with 4 wheel drive we did a bit of spinning but we got in. It was nearly dark but you could see that the tin shed that they live in was standing in about 5 inches of water. As soon as they saw my car they came out of the dark little house that they were huddled in and came to the car to greet us. Father quickly apologized for the fact that Ronny had called us but we assured him that we were happy that he did and told him that was what friends are for. We also reminded them that we were just serving as delivery people and the thanks was to go to God, and it did as we all huddled together in the rain and offered up a prayer of thanks giving that no one had been hurt seriously. The visit was a precious one that none of us will soon forget. Even though KC and Michele had only met this family 5 days ago one of the little girls was snuggled up so close to Michele that I know it would be difficult for her to say good-bye. It was difficult for all of us but it was now dark and we still had a 2-hour ride ahead of us. About half way hone we stopped off for something to eat. As we sat eating our food in the dry well lit restaurant I think that most of our thoughts were still back at the little tin shack that was sitting in 5 inches of water. Were we as grateful for what we were eating as this family was for the meager meal that they managed to receive?

Well it is getting late so I guess I will turn off the light and crawl into my comfortable bed but not without first saying a little prayer for Ronny and his family.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, July 22, 2007, 11:16 PM

I think that I have 3 more regulars at my house. The 3 boys that showed up about a week ago were once again at my door this morning. By breakfast time 4 others had also arrived. Lady was a bit outnumbered by all of the boys but she also came along to church. After stopping off at the orphanage and picking up Moises and Byron we were a family of 10. It was while I was at the orphanage that a friend told me that John Nickels an American that has been here for the past 3 years suddenly died of a hart attack this past Friday. John had been a teacher at an orphanage school here in Antigua. He was also the Sunday school teacher of several of the kids that come to church with me, so they took it hard. Needless to say Sunday school had to be canceled this morning so all 9 kids stayed in Church with me. I must admit that they did quite well especially considering that this was the first time that 3 of them had ever been inside of a church. I think that they were all given a little incentive knowing that they were serving lunch after church. I had told them earlier that if they could not behave that we may have to leave early. In Fact they did so well that I even took them out to ice cream on our way home.

When we got home I told them that I needed a few hours to my self but would let them back in at 7 PM. From the sound of things out side of my gate I don’t think that too many of them wondered off too far though. Fortunately when I reopened I discovered that one of the ladies was selling roasted corn out on the street at the end of my alley. It is amazing how much roasted corn can be bought for 20Q ($2.50). I managed to supplement their diet a bit by cooking up some pancakes as well. I think that having a few new kids around is good when it comes to doing chores. I don’t know what it is but every one wants to help lately. Weather it be a job that I offer to give a few Q for or one that only gets a hand shake and a thank you for all of the kids are more than willing to pitch in. Well almost all, Abner can still be Abner at times. I must admit though that tonight he helped Calin and me wash my car, but then again that was one of those jobs that involved money and not just a thank you.

Tomorrow morning I will be taking KC and Michele to the airport. It is hard to believe that they have been here for 2 full weeks. I have really enjoyed having them here. I know that they are seriously seeking God’s will in their lives. Weather or not that will be working with us here in Guatemala I do not know but I know that they will be a blessing to someone somewhere.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, July 23, 2007, 10:23 PM

This morning I took KC and Michele to the airport and then headed to Hermano Pedro for what I thought was going to be a half hour repair job on Byron’s power wheelchair. It ended up taking over 5 hours to get the head controller fixed but that was partially my fault. I let 3 of the kids help me. Judging by the proud look on their faces when we finished it was 5 hours well spent. I had to do the lunch thing with only one kid again today. I would have liked to taken more of the kids but there were no volunteers around to help out.

When I got home I took Calin shoe shopping. He is great at bargaining and we ended up getting him a good pair of leather shoes for around $18. His birthday is only a week and a half away but his school shoes were worn out. We are calling the shoes an early birthday present but I will likely still get him something for his birthday. I know that his stepfather won’t and his mother can’t. Tonight at supper he asked if he could take some leftovers home to his mother. He told me that she had not eaten all day. Yes we had leftovers tonight. This seldom happens but I actually made more than the kids could eat. There were 7 kids in the house when we started supper so I did what I normally do and made enough food for twice that many. To my surprise by the time that supper was ready there were still only 7 kids. It may have had something to do with the down pour that we were having at the time. Supper was once again a breeze. The kids are getting so good about helping out that it is getting unbelievable. Calin actually came up to me and told me that I could go and sit down because they had everything under control. The table even got cleared, the floor got swept, and all of the dishes got washed and put away befoer they settled down to playing a car racing game on the computer.
About the only thing that I had to do was band-aide duty. Getting a band-aid put on a cut or scrape seems to be an all time favorite with the kids. I am sure that it has little to do with the actual cut or scrape but a lot more to do with getting a minute or 2 of one on one attention from an adult.

I am planning on heading out early in the morning so I am going to close for now.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I have gotten a few days behind on my journals so I will do my best to get the sequence of events written down in close to the proper order.

This morning Steve Osborn and about 15 physical therapists from the USA came by and picked me up in Steve’s buss. They are part of a group called Mom’s on a mission, who are here for a week. We went to Chichicastenango, which is about 2 hours drive from here. There is a Christian couple that has started a clinic and rehabilitation center there. The have a staff of local Guatemalan workers that do the physical therapy on patients that come in to the clinic who are very caring people but they lack a lot of training and experience. They were very eager to work with the physical therapists that came with us today and seemed to learn a lot in one day. While the others worked a the clinic 3 of us went to a home where a child who had received one of our wheelchairs several years ago lived. We spent a good part of the afternoon fixing and resizing his wheelchair. He had grown so much that his mother had been unable to put him into it anymore. The experience of going into his home and working was a real treat for the 2 ladies that accompanied me because they had never before been in Guatemala. In fact the whole day was an experience for a 15 of our friends from the USA. I think that the bus ride down the curvy mountain roads was perhaps a bit more of an experience than some of them had been wishing for. They all did quite well though except for the time that our bus driver got a bit disoriented in the fog and we found our self in the oncoming lane of traffic. Steve assured our guests that it was no big deal though because our buss was much larger than the car that we narrowly missed hitting head on.

On our way home we stopped at one of my favorate Guatemalan restaurants and ordered some platters of food that the waiter assured us would fill us all up. Let me tell you he was not lying. I went home with enough leftovers to feed my kids for a week. Well it looked like a weeks worth but once I set it out it all disappeared in about 30 seconds. Good thing that most of the kids managed to get some before Calin filled up his plate.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

This morning I drove to where the team was staying at San Lucas and we headed about 2 hours in the opposite direction to the orphanage in Anini. This is an orphanage that Chris, Donna, and I have worked at for years. They have about 40 extremely handicapped children there and up until this year had been with out a physical therapist so they welcome any help that they can get. Before getting started everyone met together to hear what some of their needs were. The list of needs was endless but we promised that we would do what we could to help. Some of our group worked with some of their workers on how to solve issues ranging from aggressive behaviors to a little girl that keeps popping her eyeballs out of their sockets. Others set up constructive toys and therapy devices for the children. About 4 of us went to work on re fitting children and fixing their broken wheelchairs. Even though we try to get in to most of the orphanages every few months it seems that the kids have a knack of breaking or outgrowing their chairs as fast as we repair them. We are planning on coming back on Saturday and hopefully by the end of the day we will once again be caught up with the list that we made out.

Tonight I ate at the mission house where the therapists are stay in San Lucas and there were no leftovers.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Today the group of therapists were splitting up and going in various directions. I picked up 4 of them in my car and took the to Santa Maria Dejesus. Even though Judy and Amy were not there they told me that it would be all right to take the group through their school. All 4 of the people that accompanied me to the school were totally impressed. What God has allowed these 2 ladies and their staff to accomplish with these children is amazing. Here in a village where most of the physically handicapped children had been virtually hidden away not that long ago were 48 kids that were extremely friendly and well mannered. This school has done so much for not only the children but also for their parents and the whole town.

After leaving Santa Maria we headed for Hermano Pedro. Seeing the difference between the 2 places was hard on all of us. Other than a few kids who were privileged enough to have a volunteers playing with them the rest were either sitting in their wheelchairs staring into space or were in their cribs. We stopped in and visited the class room where Nanette, our teacher works and visited with her and the kids that are in her class room. She and this class are one small bright ray of hope to five of the kids that call Hermano Pedro their home but I could not help but think of the other 215 residence that live there.

After leaving the class room we visited some of the rooms that the kids are kept in. Even though the group of 4 people that were with me are trained professionals who work with kids that have a verity of sicknesses and deformities I don’ think that there was a dry eye in the group. Visiting with Byron who was zooming around in his head controlled wheelchair brought a brief smile to all of our faces but 5 minutes later when I took them in to where Sam Sam was locked in his crib the smiles were once again quickly replaced by tears.

I had arranged for 2 other ladies to join us for lunch so we were able to take 7 kids to lunch. Even going out to lunch had a bitter sweat taste to it when I told the group that we had to decide which 7 of the kids they wanted me to sign out. With so many kids wishfully looking at us no one wanted to make that decision. I finally had to be the bad guy and select the 7 who would get to come along. As we headed out of the orphanage I could not help but look back at a few of the kids who were loudly crying. Even David who had been out with me on Monday was in tears. I Imagine that even 3 short day can seem like an eternity when you have little more to do all day than just sit in your wheelchair and hope that some one comes along that at least has time to pat you on the head or say a quick hello.

After leaving the orphanage we went a checked out a few hotels. Some of the members of our group are considering bringing another team in next year and possibly spending more time at Hermano Pedro. I hope that they come back but I also hope others will come in the mean time. A year is a long time to wait for a hug or a pat on the head. It was 5 PM and we were suppose the meet for supper with all of the others at 6:30. Since we still had an hour and a half one of the ladies came up with a terrific idea, souvenir shopping. Now most of you that know me also know how much I enjoy souvenir shopping. I came up with the perfect solution though. I walked the group to where all of the shops that sell all of the junk, that no self respecting Guatemalan would ever be caught using or wearing, are located. I then handed them my extra cell phone that has my phone number programmed into it. I told them to call me when they were finished buying all of their friends and relatives those wonderful presents that they in turn can hopefully get rid of at their next white elephant party. While they were getting ripped off I went back to the orphanage and took Davis and 2 of the other kids out for a coke.

At around 6 received a phone call and returned to pick them up. We then headed out to eat. The restaurant that we went to was at one time it was an old monastery but is now the most favorite restaurants in all of Antigua. I think that the price of a meal is about the same as McDonalds. I am not talking about a Big Mac. I am referring to the price of one of their restaurants, if not their entire franchise. I was extremely thankful that I had been invited along as a non paying guest. I must admit that the restaurant was beautiful, the service was good, and the food was great but I could not help but think of the great contrasts here in Guatemala. I knew that what I had to eat tonight could have paid for the education of one of our kids for a month and have little doubt that tonight’s bill for our group had to exceed what most of my neighbors earn in a year. I am not sure if it is proper etiquette to ask for a doggy bag in a restaurant like this but we all did and my kids should have good eating for a few days. I hope that the kids can tolerate steak, and lobster in stead of hot dogs for a while.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, July 27, 2007, 3:16 PM

This has been a day off for me. I had to get caught up on 4 days worth of journals and also have time to digest a few things that I took in during the past several days. Fernando once again had no school today so this morning I allowed him to stay in the house and play for a while until I realized that there would be no way to get this journal done with him interrupting me every few minutes. He tried hard not to but much like the orphanage kids it is hard not to want that hug or that pat on the head especially if there is an adult right over in the next room. Don’t worry though Fernando will be back as soon as I open up the gate. He knows that there are leftovers. Knowing Fernando as I do, by now all of the kids in the neighborhood know it as well.

I am going to try to break away and go to the shop for just a little while though. There are a few parts that I have to get for some of the wheelchairs that we plan to work on in Anini tomorrow.

8:53 PM

It only feels like midnight. I think that taking a day off has only made me realize how tired I was. I am not sure if Fernando got the word out or if they simply came on their own but I had no problem getting rid of last nights leftovers. Those that showed up late once again were the ones that suffered. I have a few kids that are in high school and they do not get out of school until 6 PM so I think that one of these days I will serve the cereal and bananas to the early arrivals and save the better food to those that come late.

Since I was tired I sent the kids home early. Calin is staying over because he is planning on going to Anini with the therapists and myself in the morning.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, July 28, 2007, 6:50 PM

Today was my last day with Moms on a mission. They are a great group but after 5 days with 15 ladies I am starting to know what it is liked to be married. I am sure that after putting up with me that all of the single ones are glad that they are single and the others will appreciate their husbands a lot more when they get home. Actually though they were a fantastic bunch and we had a great time working together. Besides that I was not the only man in the group. One of the members of Moms on a mission members was a dan so was the buss driver and Stephen Osborn was also with us all but one day. I guess that they are going to have to consider changing their name to Moms and others or something like that.

Today we went to back to Anini orphanage and did some more work. Calin also came along to help even the odds just a little bit. Some of us fit wheelchairs while others met with the workers at the orphanage and showed them some exercises and other things that would be beneficial to the kids. I am amazed at how eager the workers at Anini and some of the other places that we have visited this week have been to learn what ever they can that will help the kids that they are working with. I think a lot of it has to do with the way this group presents them selves. I have seen other groups come in like knights in shinnying armor who are going to save the world in one week. This group is very professional but takes the time to listen to the Guatemalan workers who may not have had a lot of training but certainly know and in most cases love these kids. The workers respect that and in turn listen to what these professionals have to say. Any way if any one from Mom’s on a mission reads this I enjoyed working with you. I am not good at names but I hope that the lady who’s face I pushed in to her birthday cake has a short memory. If not she is welcome to come back any month except January. That is when my birthday is. I suppose that she would not believe me if I told her that pushing someone’s face into their birthday cake is a Guatemalans custom that only pertains to women and children.

Even though we spent 2 days at Anini there is still more to do there. I am not sure when we can get back there because we have a lot of groups coming in during August. Hopefully a few of us from the shop can get down there for at leas a day. Please pray for us during the next month because it looks like it is going to be an extra busy one. We may have to figure out how to stretch each day out to about 28 hours but I am sure that it will all work out. I think that I will close for now and take a break. I hope that I don’t get board in the 41 minutes I have until I open the gate to let the kids back in.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, July 20, 2007

Journal July 16-20

Monday, July 16, 2007, 9:14 PM

Abner asked his uncle and his teacher if it would be OK for him to miss 3 days of school and come along with KC, Michele, Benjamin, and me on a road trip. There were a few people that I wanted to see and I also wanted KC and Michele to see some of the country and meat some of my friends here in Guatemala. To my surprise both Abner’s uncle and his teacher said that it was all right. At 7 AM we all headed out. Our first stop was breakfast and then on to Ronny’s house. Even though I had been there a week and a half ago I wanted to return. I had vitamins and water filters for 2 families that are related to Ronny’s family. Both of these families live much like Ronny’s family. They are also in small tin roof shacks that have only sheets of black plastic tarp for walls. I was told that when it rains there is often 3 or 4 inches of water on the dirt, or should I say mud floors. Many of the children appear to be in poor health. I hope that we can find a way to get them into better homes but for the time being I hope that vitamins, worm pills, and clean water will be a start to better health. The water filter and Vitamins have already shown signs of better health in most of Ronny’s family. I still worry about his 3 and a half year old sister though. At first the vitamins seemed to be helping but lately she has once again lost her appetite and appears to be loosing weight. I held her today and doubt that she is much over 20 pounds. If worm pills do not help I am going to see if we can get her in to Hermano Pedro for a good examination.

We brought Ronny a larger manual wheelchair today because he is growing rapidly and has already outgrown his old one. I am glad that his power chair was larger so it looks like it will be a while before we need to make any changes there. I fully intended on simply trading his small manual chair for the larger one but suddenly remembered the little boy with spinal bifida that Ronny’s mother had shown us about a month ago. I wondered if perhaps Ronny’s old chair would fit him.

Before heading to the clinic we drove to where the little boy and his parents lived. His Father who is the pastor of a small run down looking church came to the road and greeted us. We were soon introduced to his wife and the rest of the family. We were told that up until now the little boy spends his entire day in a hammock. Like I said, up until now.
As we drove away we waved good bye to a happy 4 year old who was propelling himself across his yard in his new wheelchair.

Ronny’s Dad had offered to go with us to the clinic that we had visited the last time we were there. Since there were already 5 of us in the car and we had a lot of luggage and supplies with us only 3 members of their family, Ronny, his mother, and father, were able to join us. About a half hour later we arrived at the town that had the clinic. There were quite few people waiting inside. We were told that the Mayors wife and the gentleman that had joined us for lunch lat week were in Esquentla for the day but the doctor was in and we could talk with him. The doctor told us that he could not take us to see the people who’s pictures we had been shown last week but would gladly give us directions to there homes. I thanked him but told him that we would wait until another time when someone could accompany us. I asked him if there were any medical supplies that he needed. To my surprise the clinic did not have even the simplest of things. He told me that a stethoscope and a blood pressure gauge would be nice. He also expressed a need for a lamp and some simple suture kits. Basically they had nothing. When we handed him a case containing 6000 children’s vitamins you would have thought that we had handed him a check for $1,000,000. I promised him that I would contact a few people that I know and see what we could do about getting him some of the things that he so desperately needed. After exchanging phone numbers we were on our way.

It was lunchtime and I knew from when Ronny stayed at Hermano Pedro how much he loved going to Camperos. I asked where the nearest one was and was told that it was in Santa Lucia, which was a good half hour away. Oh well, since we were not going to be able to see the people that needed wheelchairs or medical attention today why not make Ronny and his mother and father happy? It was nearly 5:30 before we had gotten our friends back home and then made our way to Mazatenango where we are spending the night. We were all tired but a swim in the motel pool somewhat revived us. It is hard to believe we get all of this plus a buffet breakfast for around $12 each.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007, 9:09 PM

After breakfast we headed to where Jose and Enma live. We had earlier decided to skip this part of our trip and spend the morning swimming at the hotel because it was a hot day and we knew that the drive to the coast would be uncomfortable. After heading out to the pool we discovered that it was closed for cleaning. Only a few short hours later we were all glad that we had missed our swim and gone to see our friends. Enma started to cry and said a prayer of thinks giving when she saw that we had brought some groceries.

I think that they had completely run out of any thing to eat. Both her and Jose seem to be in better health than the last time that I visited but have endured still more hardships. Enma’s 37 year old daughter who had lived only a short distanced from her house had taken her life on Valentines Day. It was her sons 13th birthday and now he and his 2 sisters are without mother or father. Enma no has the full responsibility of raising her 2 grandaughters. Her 13 year old grandson has gone to the city to try and find work. As hard as life is for this lady she still has an inner piece about her that many of us would envy. After doing some minor repairs on Jose’s wheelchair and than having prayer with the family it was time to say goodbye. On our drive down the dirt trail that leads form Enma’s house both KC and Michel commented on how we had almost given up on visiting this dear lady and her family just so that we could swim. I wondered how many others often go hungry simply because we choose to be comfortable.

A little over 2 hours later we were in a much cooler climate. Xela is over 7500 feet above sea level and must have been 25 degrees cooler. It looked like a thunderstorm could be moving in so we chose to wait until tomorrow to hike in to see Erica and her family. After checking in to a motel and having an early dinner we decided to have that swim. Not only was the temperature of the air 25 degrees cooler but so was the water temperature. We all had a good time swimming. Benjamin quickly discovered though that even 2 plastic bags and a half role of duct tape did not keep the cast on his foot dry. I hope that it dries out by the time the doctor removes it in 2 weeks. Tonight we are all just resting. The kids are watching videos and I am getting caught up on some writing. We are all eager to see what tomorrow has in store.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

We had intended on heading to the orphanage in Xela at around 8AM but my car had other plans. It did not want to get going until around 11 AM. We found plenty to do while waiting for it to go though. First we played with my jumper cables and met new friends while unsuccessfully hooking the cables up between my car and theirs. Next most of our crew went jogging. We found that you get much more exercise if you push a land cruiser while jogging. I must fess up though I did not jog. I simply steered the car and dropped the clutch whenever the crew that was pushing it got going too fast. Michele cheered us on from the sidelines her upset stomach kept her from being a participant. We never succeeded in getting the car but it proved to be great exercise especially since Xela is over 7500 feet above oxygen sea level. While the joggers rested Benjamin and I decided to take a tour of Xela by taxi. Actually it was only intended to be a trip to the nearest store that sold car batteries but I think the cab driver wanted us to get our money’s worth. We finally got back to the Motel and installed the new battery. By the time we got my car started the rest of the crew was rested enough to climb into the car. We still managed to spend enough time at the orphanage to fix a few wheelchairs and make out a list of those that still needed fixing.

We had all intended on hiking in to Erica’s house this afternoon but Michele stomach was bothering her too much. We all decided that Michel, KC, and Ben (who is still on crutches from a broken toe) would stay by the car while Abner and I hiked in. I guess I should rephrase that and say that most of us decided that Michel, KC, and Ben would stay by the car while Abner and I hiked in. Abner suddenly got one of his stubborn attacks and refused to hike in with me. I tried my best to convince him that I needed some one to interpret for me and had to go in because I had more medicine that Erica would likely need before we would have the opportunity to see her again. I now know that the only thing worse than a stubborn Dutchman is a stubborn Guatemalan. I never resort to violence but at any other time I would have demanded that he come along with me. Why didn’t I make him go this time? Well lets just say that Abner’s being the only Guatemalan kid with a car load of Americans in a Guatemalan village that seldom sees Americans gave Abner a distinct advantage in winning the argument. Especially since he had already managed to whip up some tears and we were starting to get an audience. I decided that Abner’s stubbornness was not big enough of an issue to get hung over. I fully intend to deal with it later though.

Michele, KC, and Abner stayed at the car while Benjamin and I headed up the trail to Christopher’s house. We figured that since it was much closer we could either perhaps leave the medicine with Christoper’s mom and she could some how get it to Erica’s family. It was a fair hile for Benjaman since he was using crutches but he did well. Christopher and his family were all at home and were happy to see us. I told Christopher’s mom that we were trying to get to Erica’s home and explained our dilemma. Benjamin stayed at her house and visited with Christopher and his brother’s and sisters while Christopher’s mom and I went back to my car. Soon KC and I were on our way to Erica’s house with the medicine. Christopher’s mom stayed at the car with Michele. Abner? Oh! He decided to come along to Erica’s house with us. I know, but I was to tired to think straight. Besides that we still needed some one to interpret for us.

When I saw Erica I was amazed. Her medicine is doing wonders for her.

It's hard to believe that she has only been using it for about a month.

Now all of the black scales are off from her arms and face and only a few remain on her legs. Her skin is still a bit rough but now takes on the appearance of skin that is peeling due to sunburn rather than black rotting leather. Even her toes, which you could not distinguish as being toes a few weeks ago, were looking almost normal. And her smile that I had thought was always one of the prettiest in the world was even brighter. Erica and her family are simply delighted. Once again threatening rain cut or visit short. On our way back we picked up Ben and after a quick wheelchair repair job and saying goodbye to Christopher’s family we headed for home.

When we finally headed for home It was late enough that most of the highway construction was finished for the day but the going was still slow due to fog, rain, traffic, and torn up roads. We stopped for supper about an hour before home but Michele stayed in the car and slept. It was nearly 9 PM when I walked into my house. I was happy to see that while I was gone my electricity had been turned back on and my Internet had also been repaired. We didn’t even make it into the house though before receiving some shocking news. Minor is a cousin of Abner, Fernando, and many of the kids that hang out at my house. He lives in Guatemala City but comes here to visit quite often. He was not one of my regulars but has had supper here on several occasions. Monday while he was walking down the street here in Chemaltenango some one came up behind him and shot him in the head 3 times. Minor was 17 years old. No one seems to know why he was shot because nothing was taken from him except for his life. I visited for quite some time with Abner’s family who are all asking why. I wish that I could have given them an answer but it is hard when your mind is filled with the same questions. All I know is that as much as I love Guatemala it can be an extremely cruel place. I also know that without the love of Christ it will only get worse.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, July 19, 2007, 2:31 PM

Chris and Donna got home from the states last night. I haven’t had much time to talk with them yet but it sounds like they had a great time. Chris told me that Michele is still sick. I think that KC is doing some wiring at Chris and Donna’s house since that is where they are staying. I had intended on getting in to Hermano Pedro today but this is turning out to be a catch up day at home. I may get into town a bit later but am not even sure of that. Just hanging out for the day seems pretty good.

11:34 PM

By 3 PM I decided that I had done enough resting and hanging around so I headed off for town. Calin showed up just as I was leaving so he came along with me. My first stop was at the glass store where I ordered 9 pains of glass. I only had 3 broken ones that needed to be replaced but I figured that keeping a weeks supply on hand wouldn’t hurt anything.

Abner’s uncle had gone in and paid my electric bill while I was gone but I hadn’t left him with quite enough money so I went in and paid the rest. Knowing that I had not fed any kids other than Abner for the past several days I figured that I better stop off and pick up some groceries before going back home. That ended up being a good idea but I should have bought even more groceries than I did.

As it turned out guests umber 14 and 15 showed up after all of the food was gone. Dinner wasn’t much work though because everyone pitched in and helped. Earlier this morning Kimberly had swept and mopped my entire house but in spite of telling everyone to be extra careful not to spill, a glass of coke was spilled before we even took our first bite. I didn’t scold the person that knocked it over because the kids look at me funny when I talked to myself. Since I didn’t get mad at myself it was impossible for me to say anything to Daniel who did an instant replay not 2 minutes later.

At around 9 I told the kids that it was time to go home. Three new kids actually listened to me and left. The rest followed their lead but some of them managed to take 30 minutes to do so.

Calin never did make it home. He was already sleeping before all of the others were out of the door so it has been almost like having the house to myself for the past few hours.

Well once again bed looks very inviting so I will say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, July 20, 2007, 8:54 PM

It had been well over a week since I had been to Hermano Pedro but I finally got back there today. It was good to see the kids again. It seemed that any of them that could talk or communicate in any way whatsoever indicated that they wanted to come along to Camperos for lunch. Unfortunately there were no volunteers available other than Carlos and myself. Carlos had just had surgery on his arm so I was the only one that could push a wheelchair. We once again decided that one is better than none so we took Minor out to lunch. Even though over 220 kids had to stay behind, today was a bright spot in Minors life. Even though he still knows only his Mayan dialect it certainly didn’t stop him from talking. I guess I should have listened a bit closer or at least caught on to his body language but we assured the waiter that the wet cushion on the chair that Minor had been sitting on would dry but he should perhaps not let any one else sit on it until it did.
When the waiter started insisting that we pay for a new cushion even Carlos lost all knowledge of Spanish. I guess that is one restaurant that we will have to scratch from our list. Thanks goodness it wasn’t Camperos. I still don’t know why the waiter made such a big deal of it. If, after holding most of the orphanage kids, urine didn’t wash out of fabric I would be buying new clothing on a daily biases.

Mario a little boy that use to be in malnutrition was coming in for a check up today. Jessica had called yesterday and asked if I could refit his wheelchair when his mother brought him in. She was scheduled to show up at 10:30 but was still not there when we returned from lunch. Finally at around 3:30 they showed up. He had grown a lot but the chair that he had could be adjusted a lot and soon he was once again sitting pretty. I managed to get some work done on a few more wheelchairs before heading home. I had full intentions of telling the kids that tonight had to be a work night for me, but how do you tell 10 kids that have been waiting at your door for hours that they can not come in? I told them that they could come in for a half hour but that tonight I was not going to make supper. I kept my word about not making supper but they talked me into letting them clean up on several boxes of cereal and well over a gallon of milk. Oh! About that half hour thing. They came with in 2 hours of that. I have the house to myself now though. Or at least I think that I do. They were all playing hide and seek when I finally told them that it was time to go and I am not entirely sure that all of the kids came out of their hiding places.

I was just reminded of how great some of the modern conveniences are. I am sitting here several thousand miles from most of you that will be able to read this the minute that I send it. (Although I doubt that you will since I will likely be working until midnight to get this journal out.) Not only will I be able to send this letter but I can send pictures as well. While sitting at my computer I just got a phone call from the USA over it. The call cost neither of us anything. We were able to make arrangements for a team that will be coming down to do a wheelchair distribution and will help build a house. I think back to books that I have read of missionaries not that many years ago who had no form of communication with the outside world other than a letter that may or may not get to some one and even if it did a moth or 2 may have gone by. Even most places that we go that are considered remote now have cell phone coverage. This has been a real blessing to especially me. With my limited (or should I say nearly no excitant language skills?) my cell phone has got me out of a few uncomfortable situations. You can ask most of the members of the Mooney family about that. I have their phone number listed under, HELP ME! Any way we may some time complain about how hard it is to keep up with modern technology but if we use it right some of it can be a real Godsend. I guess if we think about it that is true about life as well.

Please remember us in prayer. Philippians 4:13. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Journal July 8-15

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Today I got up on time and didn’t try to hurry the kids when we were getting ready for Church. None of the 5 kids that came along to church ended up crying and no one got their finger stuck in the car door this time. All I can say is overall it was much more resting than that extra half hour of sleep I got last week. We didn’t go to the orphanage after church because I had to get caught up on my journal and had to answer some e-mail. Before going home we went to the maul and I let the kids buy food from whatever place in the food court that they wanted. Well that was short and sweet but then so was my day.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, July 9, 2007 9:02:11 PM

When I got to Hermano Pedro they were getting some of the kids ready to put into the pool. I had intended on fitting a few kids into new wheelchairs but due to cold weather, (Here in Guatemala they think any will get pneumonia if they go out side with out a jacket if gets below 85.) they had not used the pool in nearly a month. There were about 8 adults in the pool today so by doing 3 sessions with the kids around 24 of them were able to get into the pool for about a half hour each. Carlos was down with the flew today and any other volunteers that were there left before lunch so I once again had the choice of taking one kid to lunch or none. I nearly chose to take none but I was glad that I changed my mind and took Elmer.

This is the brother of Minor the boy that I took to lunch last week. Both of these kids are extremely bright and I have little doubt that 4 year old Elmer will be walking in the very near future. Just like his brother he talked a mile a minute but it was all in his Mayan dialect. I keep praying that their mom can find work and take them back home. An institution environment is so unhealthy for them. We are at least looking into the possibility of hiring a second teacher for a few more of the kids that are in Hermano Pedro but Elmer will not be one of them since he is only 4 years old. This afternoon I managed to get a few chairs repaired but ran out of time and didn’t give any new ones out.

The kids have been trickling in and out ever since I got home but there has never been more than 8 or 9 at a time. All those that showed up after 8 PM were shown where the food was kept and told to clean up afterwards. The nice thing is there are always enough regulars that the job gets done. I think that the regulars pass the word on that Dick means it when he says something and if they don’t do it there will likely be no food tomorrow night. Funny thing is as mean as I am they keep coming back. Earlier this evening 2 little girls and one little boy showed up. I thought that they were cousins of Etiline, one of my regulars. When Etiline left I asked her if her cousins were leaving with her. To my surprise she told me that they were not her relatives but just 3 kids that had wondered in with her. The little boy who appeared to be the oldest pointed out where they lived and before she left I had had Etiline go with him to make sure his mother knew where he was. He and Etiline came back and told me that his mother said that it was OK so all 3 made themselves feel right at home and stayed until dark. I hope that the word does not get out that I am running a free day care.

Once again I will keep this a bit shorter than usual. I have a feeling that some one is possibly cracking down on the quality of education that many of the kids are receiving at school. It seems that a few of the teachers are suddenly loading the homework onto the kids and a few of them are still at my table and are asking me for some help. I do OK with things like math as long as they are not Spanish story problems.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, July 10, 2007, 7:00 PM

I HAPPENED to run into Nary and his sister today. Another one of those Godincidence things. I had originally been told that they were heading back home on Monday but their plans changed. When I talked to Nary and told him that it looked like we had a sponsor for him he lit up like a Christmas tree. I then asked his sister if she would be interested in having some schooling as well. She lit up like a hundred Christmas trees. I received a hug that nearly sent me to the chiropractor and my shirt is still wet from her tears. I took all of this to mean that she thought it was a good idea. I wanted to talk to Kate, the nurse that lives there to see how long it would take her to find a teacher but she was in Guatemala City and did not have her cell phone with her. 5 minutes later I HAPPENED to get a call from her though, Godincidence #2. She promised that she will go to work on finding a teacher but first it has to be decided on where Nary and his sister will be staying.

I had picked up one wheelchair at the wheelchair shop today. It was intended for a girl that was placed in the orphanage about a week and a half ago. Only a day after arriving at Hermano Pedro this poor little girl had several severe seizures that almost took her life. She is now back out of the hospital but after looking at her I decided that it would be better if I waited until she is in better shape so that I can decide just how much strength she has and can at that time better decide what type of wheelchair to seat her in.

Ready for Godincidence # 3? Not 30 seconds after I made the decision not to give her the wheelchair that I had brought along I HAPPENED to get a call from Jessica. A family that had never before been in to Hermano Pedro or any other hospital for that matter had brought their 11 year old son in to see the doctor. She told me that he had CP and had never owned a wheelchair. She wanted to know if I could come upstairs and look at him.

When I got there I was told that the family lived quite a distance away and were not sure when and if they would be able to return but wanted to at least fill out the paper work on their son so that hopefully he could get a wheelchair some day. I seldom break the rules but Chris is out of town besides I know he is as big of a sucker for kids as I am, and giving out one chair before a distribution shouldn’t hurt too much. Besides that I was only going to check and see if by any CHANCE the chair that I had brought today would possibly work for this boy. Guess what!

OK, OK, you already know what I am going to write don’t you? Not only did this boy go home in a chair that looked like it had been tailor made for him but the hospital gave me a bunch of wheelchairs and other equipment that far out valued the chair that I had just given away.

I am finding out more and more that it is pretty hard to out give God.

I don’t know just how we squeezed it in but 3 volunteers and myself managed to find the time to take 4 of the kids out to lunch. Actually I had talked to 2 of the girls yesterday and they jumped at the Idea. 2 other people had planned on coming but had to cancel out. This left us in a bit of a bind because I had intended on taking at least 4 kids out and this meant one of them could not go. Since David was the one that had gone recently I had to tell him that he would have to wait a few days before I could take him. This went over like a led balloon. One of the volunteers that were coming along pointed over at someone that I had never seen before and asked, “What about her?” We walked up to her and asked her if she wanted to help us take a few kids to lunch. She looked a bit startled and told us that she was a new volunteer that had only come in to more or less get acquainted. What better way to get acquainted than to take 4 kids to lunch? We all had a great time especially David and the new volunteer.

Well it is 7:36 and I told the kids that I would open the gate at 7:30. Amazingly it is still standing but by the sound of things it may not be for long, and perhaps I won’t be once they get in. Now for the decision of the day. What kind of junk food do you feed to an angry mob?

11:15 PM

Yep, it was a mob but it was a friendly one. I think that pancakes and French fries must be a favorite because there were 13 of us crowded around the dinner table. The 3 new kids that were here yesterday never showed up but there was another new boy. It has been great to have nothing stolen from my house in over a year and a half now but it looks like we are going to have to sit down and go over the rules with some of the new kids. Only 2 Q (25 cents) were taken but the money belonged to Abner. The Kleenex from mopping up Abner’s tears cost more than the amount that was taken.

At 10:30 I had all but 2 of the kids cleared out of the house. That is when Fernando who had been playing games on one of the computers for the past hour and a half announced that he had lots of homework to do. Melt down # 2. I am heading off to bed. Fernando is sitting at the table half asleep attempting to at least get part of his homework done. He wants me to set the alarm for 5:30 AM so that he can try to finish up in the morning. I think that he is going to be one sleepy boy.

I guess that Calin had enough because he has fallen asleep. At least this way Fernando will have someone to lead him to school in the morning.

Good night,

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, July 11, 2007, 10:11 PM

Michele and KC Houston arrived at my house this morning. They will be staying for about 2 weeks. Today I took them to Hermano Pedro and introduced them to the kids. We took our teacher and the 5 kids that are in her class out to lunch. This was a fairly easy task since 3 of the 5 have power chairs and Moises got towed behind Byron. Even though KC and Michele plan on spending a good deal of their time here at our wheelchair shop working on power wheelchairs I had to promise them that I would get them back to Hermano Pedro as soon as possible. It looks like they have fallen in love with the kids. This evening they also got to meat a few of the kids from my neighborhood and I think that they feel the same about them as they do about the orphanage kids. Calin joined us for supper at restaurant 56. And then we brought KC and Michele to the Mooney’s where they will be staying while they are here.

Michele asked me to tell her mom not to worry about her, besides if she gets kidnapped the ransoms here are only around $20,000. So now you can sleep well mom. I think that instead of talking about sleep I will try doing it.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, July 12, 2007, 6:38 PM

We had a small wheelchairs distribution in Chemaltenango today. All but 3 of the chairs were easy fits so we were done before noon. For us it seemed to be a rather uneventful distribution but for the 15 people that received wheelchairs it was anything but a routine day. Sometimes it is hard to imagine what a life changing experience receiving a wheelchair can be. Take for example the 25 year old lady who was the first person that I fit. For all of her life she had to be carried by her brother or her parents if she moved from her bed. The wheel chair that she received today meant new freedom not only to her but also to her family. Since Chris is in the States and Kalb had other commitments we did not have a service before the distribution but those that received wheelchairs were told that we were giving them these chairs because we wanted to share with them in this small way the love that Jesus had for them. Even though not a lot of God’s love was shared in words today a lot was shared in actions and I think that the actions rang out loud and clear.

Our afternoon was spent at the wheelchair shop. We are spending the next few days trying to see how many power chairs we can get going.

Tonight when I got home things were pretty much normal as well. The kids kept flowing in until there were a dozen. The last 3 came in to late for supper but I am sure that they will be on time for the pizza feed that we are planning on having tomorrow night. KC and Michele want to meat as many of the neighbor kids as possible and a pizza feed is a sure fire way to get that opportunity. I have an idea that it will be a standing room only crowd tomorrow night. This is the first time that I will have ever ordered pizza and given the kids a 24 hour warning. What is scarier is that I had 3 new kids tonight and they are from a totally different neighborhood. They seemed like nice kids but were really hungry so I have little doubt that they know a few hungry friends who will likely tag along tomorrow as well. After supper I got out my camera and took some video of the kids destroying my lawn. I still can’t understand why the goal has always got to be the bare spot on my lawn. Oh well after tonight’s game the goal now takes up the better part of the soccer field. After downloading the video I let the kids watch their game on the video. They thought that was great. Actually that is one of the really fun things about these kids. They think that anything you do for or with them is great. Only a hand full of kids are left in the house. They are finishing up on their homework and then they will head for home. Now that I have finished up on today’s journal I am heading off to bed.


Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Once again we spent most of the day working on power wheelchairs in the wheelchair shop today. KC, Michele, and I are trying to get as many of the power chairs as we can up and running. This is not a speedy task since there are so many makes and models. Hopefully by tomorrow we will have a head controlled power wheel chair ready to deliver to a man in San Lucas who has been bed ridden for 15 years. We were also trying to get one more head controlled chair set up for a little boy who lives in Guatemala City but have a way to go before we finish that one.

Mario who is a friend from Chemaltenango has a little 4 year old girl named Maria. Even though Mario is in a wheelchair he has taken it upon himself to raise this little girl who’s mother abandoned her close to 3 years ago. It is a big responsibility and a lot of work for Mario but praise God for some one like him, or who knows where Maria would be today. Just last month Mario got word that Maria’s mother had just been killed in a high speed car chase. Mario has been coming to the shop nearly every day to work on some Guatemalan GPS maps that he is making and takes Maria along with him. I think that Michele has fallen in love with Maria. I know that Maria has fallen in love with Michele. The bond of friendship that they have established is fun to watch. It is so healthy for Maria to have the influence of a strong Christian lady like Michele.

This evening KC and Michele got to meat around 14 of my kids. Like I had thought telling the kids that we were having pizza for supper 24 hours in advance gave them a lot of opportunity to gather everyone up that has ever been to my place plus 3 or 4 new faces. Things almost had to be postponed when I discovered that my electricity had once again been shut off for not paying the electric bill that I never received. An extension cord that I through over the wall to my neighbors house quickly took care of that problem. I will sure be glad though when Monday rolls around and I can go in and pay my bill. The cold shower that I had tonight reminded me why the neighbors are always lined up to use mine. I am sure that word will get out that I have no electricity though and they will all wait until Monday to shower. Six large Pizzas proved to be just enough to take care of most appetites but perhaps would not have been enough had I not limited the intake to 2 1/2 peaces each.

After supper we all went out side and played with the kid. With in an hour we had the kids all so wound up that I decided that it was time to escape by bringing KC and Michele home. Other than a dirty floor and one more broken window nothing got destroyed though so I considered it a good night.

Talking about good nights just gave me a great idea. Good Night.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, July 14, 2007, 10:15 PM

It seems that everything in my house is quitting all at once. Yesterday the electricity was shut off. Now my Internet quit working. I think that I still have water but have not checked that yet. For some reason a relaxing shower does not sound all that relaxing to me tonight. It may have something to do with having no hot water until the Electricity bill is paid on Monday. At least I don’t have to worry about having an audience when I finally decide to shower. No electricity also means no lights in the bathroom. I am not the only one that is having problems with things not working though. Juan the neighbor that borrowed money from me to buy a different truck called me while KC, Michele, and I were at 56 having dinner tonight. He told me that his truck had run out of oil and he was stranded in Comalapa, a small town that is about 45 minutes from here. We were tired but I could not leave him sit there all night so we headed there as soon as we finished dinner. When we got to where he was I was happy to see that it was his old black truck that was broken down and not his newer white one. He indicated that he wanted me to tow him home. The roads from Comalapa are steep and curvy and it was raining. I told him that I would give him a ride home but there was no way that I would tow him home on those kind of roads at night. I asked him if the truck would run if we put oil into it but he said no. The conversation got a bit interesting due to the fact that we had no one to interpret for us. He said that he could not leave it sit out on the street but had a friend who lived not too far from there and thought that his friend would perhaps allow him to leave it at his house overnight. The conversation during the next 15 minutes got utterly insane. He wanted me to tow him to his friends house but I could not get across to him that he would first have to ride in my car with me to his friends house so that I would know where it was that I had to tow him to. Once he was in his truck behind me I would have no way to know where to go. Wow this even sounds confusing in English! Any way he finally caught on that I was not going to tow his truck until I knew where to tow it. After finally being shown where we were to tow it to we returned to his truck. We asked him if he wanted us to help push the truck and get it turned around before hooking a rope to it. This only seemed logical since our trucks were facing in opposite directions and his was the one facing away from his friends house. Who was I to know that this had absolutely nothing to do with logic? Any way he said that would not be necessary. He then climbed into his truck started up the motor turned the truck around and motioned for me to follow him. I did as he asked. Who was I to try and figure all of this out? The truck seemed to run fine but like I said, “Who ………..” After parking his truck at his friends house he got into my car and we headed for home. On our way home he asked me if I could possibly bring him back to where his truck was in the morning and help him tow it home. I knew it was a stupid question but even though I had asked it before I felt it bore repeating. Rather sheepishly I asked “Why can’t we take some oil along with us in the morning pour it into the engine and then you can drive your truck home?” He looked at me for a moment with a rather puzzled look on his face and then said perhaps that would be the thing to do. The rest of our trip home was a rather silent one. There were lots of questions going through my mind. There still are for that matter. Questions like since there was a gas station only a few blocks away from where he ran out of oil why had he not bought more oil and simply driven home? Oh well, who was I to try and figure all of this out?

I was only glad that my entire day was not as crazy as this. Finally being able to bring the man in San Lucas a head controlled wheelchair made all of the crazy thing that happened seemed well worth being able to watch this 40 year old man who has been confined to a bed for 15 years drive his own head controlled power wheelchair. Once again we were also able to share that all of the thanks was to go to God and we were simply serving as His delivery boys. Wow what a totally awesome day we had today


Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, July 15, 2007, 11:31 AM

I hope that after being here another 5 or six years I will have a few more things figured out but I am not holding my breath. Juan showed up at my door at 8 AM. I knew that getting his truck back home had to be a real priority because he actually showed up at the time we had agreed to last night. He had a gallon of oil with him. It was the same brand of oil that they had for sale at the service station that was only a few blocks from where he had left his truck last night. I am still scratching my head on why he had not bought some there last night and driven his truck home at that time but asked no questions. At least to day Calin, Abner, and Fernando were joining us so I figured that with 3 interpreters along things would make a little more sense to me. When we arrived where Juan had left his truck last night we discovered that someone had left the air out of one of the tires. This proved to be no big problem because I had a tire pump with me. The pump was not the fastest in the world but after about 10 minutes the tire was inflated far enough that the truck could easily be driven to the service station where they had an air compressor. Juan decided though that he wanted to inflate the tire all of the way. When we finally got that done he poured a small amount of oil into the engine that appeared to be bone dry. I suspected that the engine needed at the very least the entire gallon but said nothing. My suspicions were well confirmed when Juan started it up and the clattering noise brought several people out of their homes to investigate the noise. However Juan seemed satisfied with the amount of oil that he had poured in and closed the hood. I told him that I would follow him back to Chemaltenango. About a half mile down the road he pulled the truck over and stopped. He then got out of the truck opened the hood and poured in the entire gallon of oil. All I can figure is that he wanted to first give the engine a little taste to see if it liked this kind of oil and add the rest after he was sure that it did not get nauseated. Everything went well for the next few miles but when we reached the start of an up hill grade that lasted for several miles Juan pulled over and stopped. I asked him if he was afraid that his truck could not clime the hill he told me that he didn’t think that it would have any problem making the hill but he wanted to check and see how much gas the truck had in it. After inserting a stick into the gas tank he said something to Fernando. Fernando then told me in English that Juan was low on gas so he wanted me to toe him at least to the top of the hill so that he would be assured of having enough gas to make it to the next town that had a gas station. I once again scratched my head and wondered why he had not bought any gas at the station a few miles back where he had stopped to add air, even though we had put in the proper amount but didn’t even want to ask. Any way we are all home and all I can figure is that gas and oil must be a few cents cheaper here at home than they are in Comalapa I doubt though that Juan figured in the time and gas involved in my 2 trips up and back. Oh well I guess that is just one of the things that helps make Guatemala such an adventure.

I am still getting electricity from my neighbors but the extension cord does not reach to my bathroom so the showers are cold. At least this way the line up for my shower is shorter which makes it more convenient when I need one. My Internet is also down but I got a promise that they will be out Monday or Tuesday to fix it. As far as I know my water is still turned on but tomorrow I am sending Calin in to pay the bill if there is one.

Tomorrow KC, Michele, Benjamin, Abner, and myself leave for a 3 day road trip. We plan on visiting the Clinic near Ronny’s home. The people that run it want to take us around to see some of the local people that need wheelchairs or operations. After that we plan on working our way west to Mazatenango and then over to Xela. We will try to drop in on several people that we have given wheelchairs to in the past. Hopefully we will also hike in to Erica’s home to see how she is doing with her new medicine. Please pray for our safety as we travel.

I am going to try to get to the wheelchair Shop and send this out later today. I may ask my neighbor to tow me there because diesel is nearing the $3 mark.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Journal July 1-7

Sunday, July 1, 2007

If Sunday is suppose to be a day of rest, I THINK I GOOFED UP SOMEWHERE. Actually the problem all started because I rested a bit to long. It is amazing how much sleeping in just an extra half hour can affect one’s day. Normally the 5 of us could have eaten and made it to church with time to spare but I had promised Moises and Byron that we would stop off at the orphanage and take them along to church and then to my house for the day. As I now look back on the first part of my day I realize that how up tight and children are, is in direct proportion to the adults (or in this case adult) that they are with. By noon I had managed to get them so up tight that that nearly all of them had ended up crying at least once. The last episode was when Calin started crying because I told him to slide over and let the other kids into the car. With in seconds Abner’s crying out did Calin’s crying. Calin had slid over as told but when he slid over he shut the car door behind him. Fortunately Abner’s finger was not broken but it does appear to be a bit flatter than the others, and being Abner he made the most out of it. It was then and there that I decided it was time to take a deep breath and relax. Yes we had gotten ready for church in record time. We had even gulped down breakfast in 10 minutes. I had made it to Antigua in one of my fastest times ever, and even managed to convince the nurses to help us get Moises and Byron dressed. We even got to Church on time. Now that I look back on it though, was it worth getting all up tight over? I love our church services but had we walked in 10 minutes late would the world come to an end? Perhaps the kids and myself would have been relaxed enough to really pay attention to the service. At the very least some of the kids would not have had hurt fingers or feelings.

After a relaxing lunch the kids played around the house for the rest of the day. I didn’t get as much done as I had planned this afternoon but the kids sure enjoyed the games that we played and Byron had the time of his life exploring new territory with his power chair when I took him for a walk. When I finally looked at my watch it was past 4 PM. I had told the nurses at the orphanage that I would have the kids back by no later than 4. I got everyone into the car and we took a leisurely drive back to Antigua. I was an hour late getting them back but no one seamed to mind, especially not Moises or Byron.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, July 2, 2007

I once again spent a few hours this morning, trying to pay my water bill, electric bill, telephone bill, and my rent. I guess 2 out of 3 isn’t bad. The line up at the electric company went all the way out of the door and half way around the building. I didn’t want to stand in line for hours so I decided to take my chances for a day or 2. With that many people owing them money I can only hope that they are a few days behind in shutting off peoples electricity. As far as the water bill is concerned, since I received it more than 5 days ago (7 to be exact) the security guards out side of the gate would not let me go into the bank where it is paid but told me to come back in a month. Oh well, at least I have a roof over my head, a telephone, and something to write about in my journal. I am not 100% sure about the telephone though because when I went in to pay this one they told me that I owed them only a fraction of the amount that was on the bill.

After the fun stuff was over I went to the wheelchair shop and gathered up a few wheelchairs and some other equipment and then headed to Hermano Pedro. I got there to late to take any of the kids out to lunch so I went right to work. I had intended on fitting a few kids into new wheelchairs until I noticed that once again Byron was not in his power wheelchair. The nurses told me that it had stopped running earlier in the day. I shouldn’t say that I doubted them but after hearing the same story once or twice a week I had my suspicions. I had to bite my tong not to say anything to the nurses but walked over to the chair and flipped the switch. To my surprise the chair did nothing. This time the chair had actually been taken from Byron because it didn’t work. For the next few hours I worked on Byron’s chair. I could see the nurses gloating but I took it like a man and didn’t shed any tears in front of any of them. Unfortunately I was unable to repair Byron’s chair and it may be down for a few days until I can locate the parts that I need.

Normally whenever any of the kids are taken out of the orphanage they have to be back at Hermano Pedro before 4 PM. Today I received special permission to take Moises out for a birthday dinner. He and I went to Piccadilly’s and had pizza. Even though he and Byron had just been to my house yesterday he considered this a real treat. Most of the kids in the orphanage have nothing done for them in the way of a birthday celebration.

When I got home I quickly took 3 of the boys into town for haircuts. I told them that next time they would have to pay for their own so they made sure to get their hair cut extra short this time. I think that they figure the longer it is before they once again need a hair cut the better their chances are that I well forget that I said that they will have to pay for them. I am one step ahead of them though because I wrote a note as a reminder to myself. Now if only I could find where I put that stupid note.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007, 5:25 PM

I am home but the kids can’t find me. Actually my car stayed at home today because Gordon and I used his pickup to bring some corrugated tin to Ronny’s house. Last week Ronny’s uncle had told Ronny’s father that he was taking the tin off from the house that he was allowing them to live in. This is not a cool thing to do to a family of 8, especially during our rainy season.

We had some used tin in storage from when the new roof had been put on our shop, and had decided to bring it down to where they lived.

They were extremely thankful and asked if I could return next Saturday for a big dinner that they and Ronny’s teacher have been planning. I promised that I would do my best to be there. Once again our visit there was great but we finally had to say goodbye.

Our next stop was in the village where Juvenie’s family lives. They are still having a rough time dealing with Juvenile’s death but wanted us to take his power wheelchair and give it to someone who could use it. I promised that we would take a picture of whoever ended up getting his chair. After we had loaded the wheelchair into Gordon’s pickup I went back to the house to say good-bye to Juvenie’s mother. As I walked up to her she handed me the game boy that a friend from the states had me deliver to Jovoni nearly a year ago. As she handed it to me she started to cry. I knew how much this game boy had men tot Jovoni. I gently handed it back to his mother and told her that I wanted it to stay with their family. She gave me a big hug and thanked me. Even though it still looks like new, I don’t know if anyone will ever again play any games on it, but I know that just looking at it and thinking about the joy that it and the power wheelchair had brought to Jovoni will help to bring a smile to the face of his parents.

11:00 PM

Since my car has been at home all day the kids had no idea as to when I got home so I actually got caught up on a bit of computer work before revealing my presents. Ever since I opened the gate at 7:30 it has been wall to wall people. It is now 11:00 and only Calin is left. He is bedded down on the floor and is already fast asleep. I think that I will hit the hay and have little doubt that within a few minutes I will be snoring louder then he is.

Good night,
Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, July 4, 2007, 10:39 PM

A few days ago I talked with Pedro, a friend of Chris who is not a lawyer but has a business of taking care of legal paper work for people. The paper work to the Nissans that I sold over a year and a half ago has never been changed from my name and I have been worried that if the present owner ever has an accident with it I could be held responsible. Pedro informed me yesterday that he made contact with the present owner and was told that he would only transfer the title into his name if I were willing to pay his sales tax, licensing of his car, and all other fees that were involved. I some times think that some Guatemalans see nothing but dollar signs when they look at Americans. For far less than this man wanted me to spend Pedro is getting all of the paper work signed by a judge who will see to it that the car is no longer under my name. I am afraid that the next time the new owner is stopped at a traffic check he will find that perhaps he would have been better off being legal and putting the car into his name. Then again if everyone here did that the licensing department would have to get about 10 times the staff to take care of things. Guatemala actually has some pretty good laws. It’s just that almost none of them are obeyed or enforced.

Before heading to Hermano Pedro I stopped off at Candy’s house. She had called saying that she was having problems with the power chair that we gave her last week. I discovered that the battery charger that we had given her was not working so everything should be going well as soon as the batteries are charged.

When I finally got to Hermano Pedro Carlos met me at the door. He told me that yesterday evening the police had brought in a boy who had been abandon in front of a nearby church. They had seen his wheelchair sitting in front of the church in the morning but figured that his mother was perhaps inside of the church so they did nothing about it. Later in the afternoon they noticed that the little boy was still sitting outside of the church in his wheelchair and it was now raining. They looked around but found no one that seemed to know who he was or who had left him there so they took him to Hermano Pedro.

Fortunately the orphanage had one bed free and took him in. Carlos told me that the boy, who appeared to be about 7 years old, was in a specialty wheelchair when they had found him and wondered if perhaps it was one that we had at one time given out. I quickly went with him to see the boy and the wheelchair. I right away recognized the boy as a child that we had given a wheelchair to. I could not remember where or when but I knew that I had seen this boy before. He seemed to recognize me to because he gave me a big smile. Something that according to the nuns that were there he had not done since showing up yesterday. Even looking over the wheelchair did not help in remembering where I had seen this child before but I knew that I had. I took some pictures of him and his wheelchair and told the staff at Hermano Pedro that I would show it to the others at the shop and also look through our files. We take pictures and keep records of each and every person that we give wheelchairs to so given enough time we could probably find out who he was. If only the chair still had the number that we give each wheelchair painted on the back of it. Unfortunately it had evidently been a year or 2 since he had been given the chair and the number seemed to have faded away. I decided to move the chair out into the sun and once again see of there were any sign of the number on it. Sure enough there on the fabric of the backrest was a faded number, but in the bright sunlight we could just make it out. I quickly called the Carlos (very common name in Guatemala) who is the bookkeeper at the wheelchair shop. About an hour later he called me back saying that he had not been able to locate any file with that number on it. Had we possibly copied the number wrong? I told him that I would look once again and see if that was indeed the correct umber I would come into the shop and we would start the tedious job of trying to find a wheelchair form that had a picture that we could match up to this boy. As I was rechecking the number on the wheelchair I received another call from Carlos. The first thing that he said was, “Walter.” “Walter?” I asked. “Yes his name is Walter Andres Perez!” Carlos exclaimed. He had found the paper work with the correct serial number on it. Carlos quickly faxed all of the information that he had to the office at Hermano Pedro. They are going to wait until tomorrow to contact the authorities because I am going to go to the shop in the morning and copy the pictures of him that are on the paper work that we have. The hospital wants to be 100% sure before they notify the authorities. They also assured me that if the parent or parents did indeed abandon him they would be willing to keep him at Hermano Pedro.

I know that things need to improve at many of the orphanages not only here in Guatemala but in a lot of other countries as well but for unwanted kids like Walter they are often the difference between life and death. Please pray for the safety of the kids and for ours as well. Just yesterday I received this report.

-Embassy of the United States of America
Guatemala City, Guatemala

July 3, 2007

Dear American Citizen:

The following is a warden message concerning rumors of child stealing.

Particularly virulent rumors of child stealing and of murder for organ harvesting have recently surfaced in two separate areas of Guatemala frequented by American tourists. On June 15, 2007, a Guatemalan child from Camotan, Chiquimula (near the border with Honduras, on the main road leading from Guatemala to the Copan Mayan ruins) was found dead and mutilated. Three local women who allegedly acted as go-betweens for foreign adoptions were accused by a mob of kidnapping and killing the girl. One of these women was killed by the mob and the other two were severely injured. Locals burned a police car in nearby Jocotan, and forced the police out of Jocotan and Camotan.

Since late May 2007, rumors have been circulating in the El Golfete area of the Rio Dulce near Livingston, Izabal of babies being stolen from neighboring villages by armed men. Local authorities did respond to villagers' reports, but were not able to confirm any such cases. Despite that response, residents of small villages in the area remain mobilized and suspicious of all outsiders, including foreigners.

Another incident in Cunen, Quiche resulted in a local riot with travel on the road from Cunen to Santa Maria Nebaj temporarily interrupted while the PNC re-establishes control. Americans are advised to exercise caution in these areas.

Rumors of child stealing have resulted in the lynching deaths of several Guatemalan citizens this year. Although no foreigners have been reported to be the victim of such attacks recently, Americans are reminded to avoid gatherings of agitated people. Avoid close contact with children, including taking photographs, especially in rural areas. Such contact can be viewed with deep alarm and may provoke panic and violence. -

A good part of our ministry is in rural areas and with children. We know that we are where God wants us to be, so we could not be in a better place. We also know how much power prayer has and covet yours.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, July 5, 2007, 9:15 PM

The pictures that I picked up at our wheelchair shop this morning confirmed that the abandon boy is indeed Walter Andres Perez. I gave the information to social work at Hermano Pedro and now it is in their hands. I hurt for his mother knowing that she had to be desperate in order to make a decision to desert her 8 year old son but abandoning him in front of a church is not the answer.

Today I brought in a new wheelchair for Melvin. Although he appears to be a child and even stays in the children’s ward Joviar is 28 years old. Melvin has spent all of his life lying flat on his back. His legs are permanently crossed and stick out from his body in opposite directions. Since he was 22 when we started working with him little could be done to straighten him out. In spite of his condition Melvin is always smiling and has a great sense of humor.

The char that he laid in for as long as I have known him looks more like a stretcher on wheels than a wheelchair so today when he received one that resembled a recliner with wheels he was extremely excited. I had to do a lot of modifying to accommodate his legs but he is now lying there like a king. The chair can also be tilted to more of an upright position so that he does not have to spend all of his time gazing at the ceiling. This makes him very happy because we often have visiters tour the orphanage and Melvin is a real girl watcher. I guess that is how he got the nickname Romeo.

No other volunteers were around at lunchtime but I decided that making one kid happy was better than none so I took Minor out to lunch. He totally enjoyed himself and scarcely stopped talking the entire time that we were out. Unfortunately every thing that he said was in his Mayan dialect and I understood none of it.

Before going home I stopped off at the grocery store and restocked on groceries. I even bought 2 baked chickens figuring that once the word got out that I was not serving junk food for a change my usual number of dinner guests would double. It did, in fact 2 of the kids that came late did not get any chicken. Fact is 2 of the kids that arrived early Abner and Lady didn’t get any either. Not that there wasn’t any food while they were here but I had to enforce the no fighting rule. Any hitting and you are out for the day. Lady went home but Abner stayed just out side of my gate for a few hours. He is doing better though. After about 2 hours I went out to talk to him and it appeared that he had not even been crying. I told him that I was not picking on him and the rules were the same for everyone. That is why lady who only got one good swing in had been sent home to. Abner said that he understood and asked if he could come in just long enough to phone his mother who is in the United States. I gave him a hug and told him that I loved him and then said, “No.” He looked at me and grinned. “How about tomorrow night?” he asked. “No problem,” I said. As he headed for home I called out “I love you.” “Me to,” he replied. I think that in another 30 to 40 years I may have this parenting thing down. Perhaps then I will start looking for a wife. Remember though that I only said perhaps.

Good night,
Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, July 6, 2007 6:34 PM

Close your eyes for a minute and think what it was like when you were 17. (Now that I think about it perhaps you should keep your eyes open or you will not be able to read what I am about to say.) (If you are not yet 17 think about what you would like things to be like when you turn 17. If you are 17 you are probably out doing some school activity or just hanging out with your friends and not reading this any way. Any way now imagine what it would be like if you had a 13 year old brother who was paralyzed from the waist down do to some mysterious infection and it was your responsibility to care for him 24 hours a day. This is what the young lady that I met today has done for over a year and a half now. She has done this not only in her home but for the past 6 months has stayed with him day and night in the hospital ever since he was removed from his home by court order. May I add that the hospitals here are not at all like those in the USA. There are no clean rooms but instead large dormitory stile rooms that smell from urine and unattended bedpans and unbathed patients. You see, here in Guatemala unless a friend or a family member stays with some one who is in the hospital they get no care. It is the family members full responsibility to feed and care for the patient. If like in the case of Nary, the 13 year old boy that I met today, you are physically unable to use the rest room facilities it is the responsibility of the relative that stays with you to diaper you and clean you up when you have an accident. How many 17 year olds would stick it out a week or even a day? Nary’s 17-year-old sister not only sticks it out but also counts it a privilege to be able to care for her brother. The evident bond of love that this brother and sister have for each other blew me away. Strange to is the fact that this young lady radiates with a beauty that comes from within. How many of us strive most of our lives to be well liked or popular? I doubt that this girl has ever had the time to think about that but she is the model of what so many people would love to be. Could it be that her Christ like servant attitude has given her this inward beauty?

Matthew 20

26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.

Kate, a nurse that I know who lives up north in the Butan region of Guatemala had brought Nary to my attention back in February when we were doing a wheelchair distribution with Joni and Friends and Vine international. At that time Nary was to sever to leave the hospital and be fitted for a wheelchair. By court order he had recently been taken from his home and put into the very hospital where he had gotten the 4 bone deep bedsores in the first place. Just a year earlier he had been admitted to the hospital with a urinary infection and while there the infection managed to move to his spine leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. The pictures that Kate showed me in February had me wondering if Nary would even live long enough that we would ever put him in a wheelchair. Yesterday Kate, her 5-year-old daughter, Nary’s Sister, and Nary took a 13 hour buss ride and arrived in Antigua. This morning I drove down to Antigua and picked them up. I examined the bedsores and found that they had been treating them with honey. Honey actually helps but is extremely messy and we have access to things that are much more effective. Also even though Nary’s sister had done an excellent job of keeping the bedsores clean there was some dead flesh that needed to be cut away. At least there was no smell of infection that can make cutting away dead flesh from some ones back side a down right unpleasant job. (I hope that you are not reading this at the dinner table.) Since there was only a public bathroom and dormitory stile room at the place where they were staying in Antigua we decided to take him to my place to clean him up and work on the bedsores. We were afraid that perhaps there would be the odd person that would get squeamish if they saw what was being done. Once Nary was bathed I showed Kate and Nary’s sister how to properly care for the bedsores. His sister watched intently with tears in her eyes but willingly helped with scrubbing at the dead flesh. About an hour later we had the wounds packed and bandaged. Nary’s sister sat there for quite some time with her arm around her brother. She was even a bit hesitant when I offered to carry Nary back to my car but finally told me that it was all right. When we got to the shop I went and got a wheelchair that I had set aside for Nary the day that I heard that they were bringing him down for one.

It took nearly 5 hours to get him set in a position that I was satisfied with. He should not sit or lye for more than an hour with out being moved to a new position so I had to make the chair so that it could be adjusted into several positions none of which put much pressure on the 4 bed sores. Any of the time that I did not have Nary in the wheelchair his sister either sat next to him holding his hand or held him on her lap. When we were finished everyone was pleased. It had taken 3 Roho cushions. (You can ask any physical therapist or seating technician what they cost.) And a lot of improvising but Nary now had not only a wheelchair that will help improve his health but also one that he can manually operate either lying down or in a seated position.

We stopped off at Burger king on our way back to Antigua and once again Nary’s sister allowed me to lift him out of the car, but only under her watch full eye. When we got to where they were staying she made sure that she was at his door to take him out of the car before I even had the key shut off. Even though she is not that much bigger than he is she still felt that he was safer in her care. I managed to convince her to put him into his new wheelchair once I unloaded it from the car though. We had to first wake up Kate’s daughter who had climbed into it and fallen fast asleep on our ride to Antigua though.

When we got inside of the place where we were staying I said good by to everyone. Both Kate and Nary thanked me over and over again. When Nary’s sister came up to me she threw her arms around my neck and started to cry. I always try to tell the people that receive wheelchairs from us that they are a gift from God and we are only the delivery boys. Today I could not do that. Even though I opened my mouth the words would not come out. Did you ever have one of those times when you are just to choked up to talk. I seldom have that. Well at least not more than once or twice a week. Kate is going to let me know as soon as she finds a teacher for Nary. I haven’t talked it over with Chris yet but I am sure that we can find sponsorship for one more student.

Well I told the kids that I would let them in at 8 PM and it is now 7:57 if I do not get to the gate within the next 3 minutes there probably will no longer be one. Round 2 coming up in 3 minutes.

9:50 PM

Round 2 lasted only 2 hours and 45 minutes. It only felt like 8 hours. During that time 20 hot dogs, several bags of chips. And 6 liters of juice were consumed by 15 kids. I have had fewer kids eat nearly twice as many hot dogs on other occasions but tonight I simply ran out of them. I know that this was another one of those junk food meals but you have to remember last night we had chicken. Besides that bad food beats no food. I am happy to say that there were no fist fights tonight so no one was sent home early. I managed to get one more broken window but Fernando told me that it didn’t count because it was already cracked. When I asked him how come I never before noticed that it was cracked he told be it was because it only got that way last night. Oh well if it takes 2 hits with a soccer ball to completely break my windows instead of one I will possibley start buying only a half dozen new ones at a time. The nice thing about having soccer games in my yard is that when I go to the glass store, I am always greated by name, never have to give them the measurements, and get a frequent customer discount.

Well it is time for round 3, BED. Unfortunately even on the rare chance that this one goes the full 8 hours it will likely only feel more like 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, July 7, 2007

It was Fernando’s turn to be my interpreter today. I didn’t have to do any arm twisting to get him to come along with me. Tuesday, when Gordon and I brought the sheets of tin to Ronny’s home Ronny’s teacher invited me to join her and Ronny’s family and go out to the Ocean for the day. She said that lunch would be provided. All I had to do was provide the transportation. Fernando and I left home at 8 AM and arrived at Ronny’s house at 10. Ronny’s family had invited a few of their realitives along so soon 13 of us were on our way to the beach. Ronny’s entire family was extremely excited. Even though the Ocean is less that an hours drive from where they live none of them had ever been there. About a half hour’s drive down a dirt road we arrived at the town where the teacher lived. When she came to the car I was a bit surprised that she had not taken any food along with her. It had been my understanding that we were going to have lunch at the beach. I knew that neither her nor Ronny’s family could afford to eat in a restaurant. After Ronny’s teacher got into the car she asked if I could make one more stop before leaving town. When we stopped the car she invited me inside. I was told that this was the town clinic. It was a good thing that I was told though because there was not much inside of the building that would have given me that impression. I have more medicine in my house than they had in the entire clinic. I was introduced to the 2 people that were running the place. One of them was a gentleman that later joined us for lunch. The other was the mayor’s wife. They told me that there were a lot of medical needs in their town and they wondered if I would be willing to take the time to look at some pictures of people that were in need of wheelchairs. I then realized that my lunch invitation had ulterior motives but I didn’t mind. This is why we are here and having the Guatemalan people show us who needs wheelchairs and medical help only makes our job easier. I have seen some severe cases both here in Guatemala and in other countries but a few of these pictures broke my hart. One was of a little boy with CP who I was told was 9 years old. He could not have weighed even 20 pounds. Another was of a lady that had a tumor on her leg that was unbelievable. Still another was of a child who had a tumor on his lip. There were more, most of them needed wheelchairs others needed far more than that. I figured that they had searched the countryside to find this many people that had such great needs. To my surprise I was told all of them lived within an hours drive of the clinic. I gave them some wheelchair forms and told them that I would soon be back to personally look at some of the worst cases. I also promised that I was going to talk with Hermano Pedro about getting the lady and the child that have the tumors in for surgery. I also plan on checking with a few organizations that I know concerning medical supplies, vitamins, and other medicines for their clinic.

The mayors wife told us that the lunch that we were having today was on them, and soon the carload of 15 of us were on our way to the beach. It was still nearly a half hour’s drive but I considered myself fortunate in that I had one of the smaller children on my lap. I guess they figured that one of the larger children or adults on my lap would make it hard for me to drive. As it was the driving was a bit of a challenge, especially since the little guy that was on my lap was having the time of his life trying to help me drive. I had earlier feared that since it was Saturday that the beaches would be crowded but it was obvious from looking at the dirt roads that we were driving that this place was not on the tourist maps. I chuckled to myself as I remembered just receiving the report that had been sent out by our state department.

-Residents of small villages in the area remain mobilized and suspicious of all outsiders, including foreigners. Rumors of child stealing have resulted in the lynching deaths of several Guatemalan citizens this year. Although no foreigners have been reported to be the victim of such attacks recently, Americans are reminded to avoid gatherings of agitated people. Avoid close contact with children, including taking photographs, especially in rural areas. Such contact can be viewed with deep alarm and may provoke panic and violence.-

I was trying to be as inconspicuous as possible but it is hard to drive through a number of small villagese without drawing attention to yourself when you are the only Gringo within 100 miles and have 14 Guatemalans that are hanging out of all of the windows of your car who are screaming and laughing at the top of their lungs. To add to the hysteria my co driver had discovered the horn button of my car and was so proud of the fact that he was helping steer my car that he blew the horn at anyone that was not already looking at us. My only hope was that one of the 5 adults in the car with me could quiet the kids down long enough to explain to any angry villagers who wanted to string me up that these were screams of joy.

We finally reached a river but there was no sign of the ocean. I was told to park my car at a house that was at the edge of the river. It seemed that we were in the middle of nowhere. Other than the people that were at the house where we parked the car and a few people that would occasionally come by in canoes the place was deserted. It was beautiful but my stomach and my backbone were begining to have close fellowship and I was beginning to wish that I had eaten more for breakfast. I was then told that the people here traveled by river and a launch should be by at any time. Sure enough about 15 minutes later the local taxi showed up. It was an open boat that had a small outboard motor on it. We all piled in and headed down river. I thought to myself, “If I am being kidnapped they are certainly going through a great deal of effort.” It was a beautiful ride though and everyone was having a great time. After about 20 minutes we rounded a bend in the river and were able to see the ocean. There on a peninsula that appeared to be little more than a large sand bar stood a bamboo building. I was told that this was our restaurant. There were a few other small structures there but most of them were toppling over. It looked like nothing had been maintained in years. The place was quite interesting though. You had the river on one side of you and the ocean on the other. Ronny’s manual wheelchair was useless on the sand so we had to carry him. Even the floor of the restaurant was sand. I got a big laugh from everyone when I sat down and the legs of my chair sunk nearly a foot into the ground. I guess that is why they make most Guatemalans short and light. After ordering our meals the kids went and played by the river that was only a few feet away. We had one exciting moment when one of Ronny’s sisters fell off a rock into the river but Fernando came to the rescue and pulled her out. She was frightened but unhurt. I had not intended on swimming but after holding this wet muddy little girl on my lap for the next half hour I thought that perhaps diving into the ocean after lunch would no be a bad idea. It took long enough for lunch to be served that the little girls tears and my clothing dried out completely though. The fact is that it took over an hour to get served but no one seemed to care. As we visited Fernando kept busy translating whatever they or I did not understand. When the food was finally brought out everyone was served except for me. Everyone laughed and said that possibly the owner of the restaurant had seen how far I had sunk the plastic chair into the ground when I sat down that he had thought it would be best if I didn’t eat anything. I had ordered shrimp and the waiter explained that they had run out and one of the other workers had gone out to get some. When we asked how long before he would be back the waiter told me that it depended on how good the fishing was. Oh well, at least I knew that my shrimp was going to be fresh. Fishing must have been fairly good though because only about an hour passed until I was finally served. As soon as our 2 and a half hour lunch was over we headed across the narrow peninsula to the ocean side of the beach. Nearly everyone wanted to swim. I am not sure if it was out of courtesy for this some what modest gringo or what (Although several years in Guatemala has changed that to a degree that would shock most Americans), but everyone found at least one article of clothing to swim in.

Granted it still somewhat resembled a nudist camp by American standards but at least they tried. The waves were high and the undertow was strong so none of us ventured to far out into the water but for the next few hours we all had a blast. At first Ronny who had never before seen the ocean sat in his wheelchair about 50 feet from the water and simply watched. I tried a few times to coax him to at least come and get his feet wet but he didn’t quite dare. About an hour before leaving he finally gave in. I helped take off his sox and shoes and rolled his pants up to his knees. I then carefully carried him to the waters edge and placed his feet on to the wet sand. He looked a bit startled when the first wave came in and he suddenly found himself standing in knee-deep water. Soon he was enjoying it though and didn’t even seem to mind when an occasional wave would get his clothing wet. His brother, sisters, and parents all gathered around him and seemed to get as much pleasure in seeing him have a good time as they did in having one them selves. A few of the kids sat down next to him and would let some of the waves go over their heads. I asked Ronny if he wanted me to carry him to a spot where the waves were not as high and set him down in the water. To my surprise he said yes. The first few waves left him sitting in only a few inches of water and he seemed to enjoy it. Suddenly a much bigger wave came in. I quickly covered his nose and mouth with my hand but he still managed to get a little water in his mouth. I quickly lifted him up and told him that I would take him to where the water was shallower but he gave me a grin and asked me to set him back down where he had been. For the next hour he had a great time and didn’t mind the water hitting his face as long as I covered his mouth and nose with my hand. When it was finally time to go everyone had as much sand in his or her clothing as on the out side of it. This proved to be no problem for anyone but me though, because eveeryone else simply jumped into the near by river took off what ever it was that they were wearing and washed it out. This modest gringo went behind one of the partly tumbled down buildings to change into some dry clothing. I even made sure that I took long enough getting dressed that everyone that had jumped into the river was once again dressed by the time I returned. I guess that I need a few more years hear in Guatemala. Actually their way proved to be the better way because on the way home I was the only one squirming around due to sand in his shorts.

The boat ride back up river ended all to soon but to my surprise no one had broken into my car while we were gone. I had to set off the burglar alarm when I opened up the doors to my car though. It seems that those small electronic remote control key rings are not waterproof. At least I had remembered to take my cell phone and camera out of my pockets before swimming. I guess that is another advantage in what most of the Guatemalans who live in villages wear, or should I say don’t wear when they swim. No pockets, no forgotten car keys. Then again how many villagers have car keys to worry about?

As we headed for home a few of those that had been near the bottom on the way down moved up a lap or 2 but for the most part all 15 of us sat where we had sat on the way down. On our way back home the screaming had died down to a miled roar. Even the honking of the horn on my car quit once my co driver fell asleep. I still worried a bit though when a villager would look up and see a car load of what appeared to be passed out Guatemalans driven by a Gringo go by. What really worried me was that the little boy who was on my lap had fallen asleep with his head hanging half way out of the drivers window, and appeared to be unconsious. An hour later Fernando and I had the car to ourselves. Our friends stood at the door of their one room dirt floor tin shack waving good by. We didn’t change the world today but we had at least helped to improve one day in the life of a beautiful family.

Yours in Christ: Dick