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

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

My Photo
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)

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


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