* 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)

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


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