* 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)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Journal July 29 - Augest 7

Sunday, July 29, 4:34 PM

Six kids and one adult came along with me to church this morning. Jason one of the newer boys had a few problems but nothing serious. Some of the kids that have been coming along with me for years set him straight so there was little left for me to say when I talked with him after church. I can remember back to the days when all of the kids behaved much like Jason did today and I am truly thankful for how far they have come. I have several new kids coming along lately but for the most part they are well behaved. At first I thought that they were just going through what is referred to as the honeymoon period but I am starting to think that perhaps these kids are more well behaved from the start.

After Church we went out for pizza and then headed home. Elmer turned 22 today and I was invited to his home for a birthday party. His leg seem to have healed up nicely and he has needed no further surgery. He has been able to return to work and wants to thank all of you who helped out with his medical expenses.

Monday, July 30, 2007, 10:47 PM

Can anyone tell me?

Is it true or is it just my imagination? The closer you are to the equator the easier it is to spill a glass that contains a liquid?

Is it true or is it just my imagination? The stickier the substance that is in the glass the more likely it is to spill.

Is it true or is it just my imagination? That liquids that are spilled on a level table automatically gravitate towards the largest object that is near the table. (ME)

Is it true or is it just my imagination? That even though everyone at the table has their hands folded and their eyes closed, while praying and no earthquakes have been reported in several days, that a glass of juice can spill on it’s own.

Is it true or is it just my imagination? That one glass of spilled juice loves company.

Is it true or is it just my imagination? That if the only adult at the table gets the least bit upset when 2 glasses of juice are spilled before or while the food is being blessed, That adult will with out fail be the one to spill the third glass.

Is it true or is it just my imagination? That the person who goes from room to room looking for the mop is always the one that has the most sticky liquid on the bottom of his shoes.

We had pancakes for supper tonight. When we finished eating I told the kids that they could dump any leftover pancakes onto the floor. It is amazing how much spilled juice a pancake will absorb.

This morning they managed to run out of reasons of why not to swim with the kids at the orphanage so we actually swam. Seven adults and fourteen kids is quite an accomplishment considering all of the kids had to be held. A few of the ladies that were holding the kids had full intentions of keeping their make up and there hair dry but the two kids that I was holding made short work of that. I was accused of telling the kids to splash them but no one can prove anything. I am just glad that none of the ladies could understand English.

This afternoons lunch went a lot better than tonight supper. Three ladies who are adopting children here in Guatemala phoned me yesterday and offered to help me take some of the kids to lunch. I had not taken any of the teen age girls out in quite some time so we gathered up five of them and headed to Camperos. Carlos had also offered to join us. It was quite a parade especially considering that the three ladies who were each pushing a wheelchair also had babies strapped to their backs. We had a great time and believe it or not nothing was spilled.

When we got back from lunch some of the orphanage kids helped me repair some wheelchairs. I would like to say nothing was spilled but Ervin managed to spill my fairly large box of sorted nuts and bolts. At least they were not sticky but now I have a fairly large box of unsorted nuts and bolts.

Well it is getting late and I am trying to decide weather or not I want to attempt to cross my kitchen floor to lock the front door of my house. The way I figure it if any one tries to break in he won’t make it more than a few feet before he is stuck in his tracks. Besides that if I leave the door unlocked it will be easier for Kimberly to get into my house when she comes to mop the floor in the morning. You know I wander if she is somehow connected with all of the spilled juice? After all it is providing her with job security.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This morning Chris and I met for breakfast at Camperos. After seeing the schedule of upcoming wheelchair distributions, teams that will be coming in, Camp, and a thousand other things that are taking place I realized that I had better make good use of my free days. After spending a few hours at the shop getting a power wheelchair ready for a distribution that we are having in Cobon this weekend I headed for home. I decided that since August was going to be an extremely busy month I would take the rest of July off.

Now the hard part, what was I going to do during my vacation? I soon came up with the perfect Idea. How about going some where that has a nice place to swim and just relax. It would have to be some where close though as it was now 1:30 PM. My vacation would end by the first of August and that was only 10 ½ hours away. When I got to the hot springs that is only 15 minutes from my house I was delighted to see that there were almost no people there. I had been hoping that it would be a quiet day and that I would have the pool pretty much to myself. The 9 kids that were in the car with me were hoping the same thing. OK, so having 9 kids along is not exactly relaxing but I had only started out with only 3 of them coming along but the numbers just some how managed to grow by the time my car reached the end of the alley that I live on. Besides that “fun” seems to be a lot more enjoyable than “relaxing”, anyway that’s what the 9 kids that came along kept trying to convince me of. We had to hurry our swim up a bit though because when we talked the man that collects the money for swimming he told us that the pool was being drained for cleaning and we only had about an hour to swim. I figured that for 3Q (35 cents) each an hour of fun would be worth it. Actually we managed to stay in for about 2 hours. The kids did anyway. I got out when the level of the pool got to about waist deep. Most of the kids lasted until they looked like they were sitting in a mud puddle. And then the kids went over to a small pool that many of the local churches use for baptisms. Fortunately there were no baptisms going on so the were allowed to swim there. I knew that if I took the kids home with out feeding them I would have a hard time having any of my vacation time to myself so we stopped off at Burger King and got 10 of their 10 Q specials. Calin stayed in the car while the rest of us went in to eat. This was not his decision but mine. All he was wearing was a towel because his clothing had gotten wet. Funny how that happens when you lay your clothing at the edge of a pool that 9 kids are jumping into.

At 5 PM we got home and I told the kids that I was going to have the house to myself for a while. I think that in Guatemala for a while means about an hour or 2. When I finally reopened the gate at 7 PM not only were all of the kids that had gone swimming there but several others had been added to there numbers. The 10 Q special that I had eaten a few hours earlier was beginning to leave a vacancy in my stomach and I know that it had to be doing the same with the kids as well. Besides that not all of them that were at my gate had even had that to eat. I can’t be sure but it seems that many of the families run even lower on money at the end of the month than at the beginning because that seems to be when the kids are the hungriest. Any way there was no way that I was going to send them home hungry. Besides that I had my fill of having nothing to do but relax by now so I made a large pot of spaghetti and we all had some supper. Since Kimberly had spent a good part of the morning sweeping and mopping my house I served only water to drink. Nothing was spilled so this confirmed my suspicion that, “The stickier the substance that is in the glass the more likely it is to spill.”

It is now 11:30 PM. The last kid has just left my house. I know that I still have a half hour of vacation time left but I think that I will head off to bed. A half hour of extra sleep couldn’t hurt because now that my vacation is over, Who knows? Tomorrow could end up being a busy day.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, August 1, 2007, 10:35 PM

It was a good thing that I did all of that resting up yesterday because today was a busy one. Carlos called me last night to let me know that Byron had taken out one of the doors that goes into the rooms of the orphanage with his power wheelchair. The nurses were pretty good about it but this along with the 2 mirrors and one cabinet door that he destroyed during the past few weeks was beginning to be a bit of a problem. Before heading out to the orphanage I received another phone call from a couple that are in Antigua adopting a baby. They had read the last journal of my web page and wanted to know if they could visit the orphanage. After giving them a tour we decided to take some of the kids out to lunch. I had previously told Byron that he would be one of the kids that would get to go on our next outing to lunch so when he saw me filling out the paper work he was all smiles. Unfortunately those smiles soon turned to tears. I motioned for him to follow me and started pointing out some of the damage that he had done with his wheelchair within the past few weeks. I explained to him that even though I knew that none of them were intentionally done they never the less happened and I knew that if they continued to happen the orphanage would soon demand that he no longer use his wheelchair. I told him that his power chair was not a toy and that he had to stop racing around with it in tight places. I especially emphasized how important it was to slow down with it when ever he is near the other kids. Then I really lowered the boom by telling him that he could not come along to lunch with us today. I know that this may sound a bit harsh especially considering that all of the mishaps were accidental but I also know that it would break his hart and mine if he were ever forced to stop using his power chair. Unfortunately if the orphanage made that ruling my hands would be tied even though I would rank that right up there with chopping off the legs of some one who accidentally walked into a mirror and broke it. The kids that got to go to lunch had a wonderful time and so did the adults that came along. I must admit though that I felt like I had come down a bit hard on Byron but kept reminding my self why I had to. Sonia is turning 13 tomorrow so we celebrated her birthday at Camperos. A group of about 20 Americans who are here building a church came in and sat next to us. I suggested that we all sing happy birthday to Sonia. Some of the Guatemalan people that were in the restaurant also joined in. By the smile on Sonia' face I think that she was convinced that everyone in the restaurant had come to help celebrate her birthday.

After lunch I went to work on Byron’s power chair. Byron was right there beside me and even offered to try to help turn a wrench or a screw driver whenever they were within his reach. Our modification project did not get finished but hopefully we will be able to finish up on it tomorrow. His chair is now programmed to go only about half the speed that it originally did and by the time everything is finished it should have enough micro switches on it that it will automatically stop even if Byron runs into a feather. I also moved the switch that turns the chair back on to a position that is difficult but possible for Byron to reach. This may frustrate him a bit but I also think that the harder it is for him to get his chair going after driving or backing into something the more careful he will be. Please pray that this will help. This may seem like a strange thing to request prayer for but those of you that know Byron also know how much this power chair has changed his life. Before heading for home I did a bit of carpentry work. The cabinet doors and the large door that Byron took off from its hinges are now back in place. Tomorrow I will try to find 2 mirrors.

This sounds like a repeat but Calin turns 13 tomorrow. He and Sonia were born on the same day. His step dad is not going to allow him to have a party so we had one at my house tonight. Talk about a nourishing supper.

The cake that I bought looked like it could feed 100 but the 20 people that were at Calin’s party finished off all but a few pieces of it. No vegetables tonight but the cake had some strawberries on top of it so I guess that and the orange pop gave the kids their daily supply of fruit. I had thought about Pizza for everyone but knew that if I did that our guest list would likely double. Tomorrow I have to go to the airport to pick up someone so I already told Calin that I would take him out to dinner. I guess that the other 19 will have to wait until their birthdays to do something like that. Even though the number of kids that spend most of their time at my house has grown the number of birthdays that we celibrate has declined. I can thank my computer for that. Back several years ago when I moved in here an had a more difficult time remembering all of the kids by name a few of them would have up to 3 birthdays a year. In fact Calin is the one that use to pull that one the most. Now I have everyone’s birthday on file and do a quick check on the computer before buying a cake or a present.

Well It is getting late so I guess I will go and see of there is any cake left in the refrigerator and then head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Most of my day was spent at, or going to and from Guatemala airport today. The drive from my house to Guatemala City usually takes about an hour but due to construction it took me over 2 hours just to get to the airport. Add to that thinking that one of the plains was scheduled to come in nearly 2 hours earlier, you have what I did all day plus one hour into Friday.

Friday, August 3, 2007, 5:47 PM

This morning at 8AM we loaded up the 2 Kia Vans and my car and headed off to Cobon. Actually we did not get out of town until 10 AM because we had to eat first and then load up some supplies. The 11 people that came in from the states and 6 of us from Chemaltenango plan to be in Cobon for 4 days and will hopefully give out nearly 100 wheelchairs at the 3 distributions that we have planned during those days. Only a few of the people that came from the USA have done wheelchair distributions before but one of them is a physical therapist and three are studying to be physical therapists. Two of the members of our team are daughters of Merry Tecon a lady that I have worked with in Viet Nam and Columbia. Merry and her husband Mural are connected with Children’s medical ministries a ministry that works closely with Hope haven international.

I forgot to take the power cord for my laptop along with me so I will not write to much for fear that my computer batteries will not last until I return home on Monday or Tuesday.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, August 4, 2007, 3:24 PM

I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is for those of you that like longer Journals and the bad news is for those who like me to keep them brief. I found a power cord that I can borrow while we are in Cobon so I do not have to worry about the batteries of my computer going dead.
This morning we had a distribution in Tactic. Tactic is a town that is located about a half hour from Cobon. The group of people that we have with us are all excitant workers and in less than 4 hours over 45 people were on their way to their homes with their new wheelchairs.

Kari the therapist that I worked with and myself do not hold any bragging rights to the speed at which all of the wheelchairs were skillfully fit and though. We spent the entire time seating a 12 year old girl. She had been added to the list of people that were to receive wheelchairs only a few days ago and we were sent very little detail of her size or what type of chair she needed. So when Chris shipped the wheelchairs to Cobon from our shop he had to make a guess on what type of chair would work for her. The wheelchair that we wanted to give her was the perfect type of chair but was much too big for her, however after 4 hours of cutting drilling and busily remanufacturing several parts we had a happy family and the girl had a taller made wheelchair. We were thankful that this was the only difficult case of the day or we would have been pressed for time.

After a late lunch most of the group decided drive around and see some of the country side for a few hours. One other gentleman and myself decided to head back to the motel. He was sleepy because he still has not gotten accustomed to roosters crowing and fire works going off all night long. I on the other hand had done enough driving for the past few days and wanted to just kick back for a bit. Well that about sums it up for now.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, August 5, 2007, 5:27 PM

This morning we went to a Catholic convent. No I haven’t changed religions but they had 2 nuns there that were in need of wheelchairs.

One of them appeared to be in her seventies and could no longer walk so we gave her manual wheelchair that she was very happy with. The second non that we visited with was a spry 87. Although eremitism had stopped her from walking 2 years ago she had not slowed down in her thinking an had a wonderful sense of humor. After putting her into a power wheelchair we kidded with her about now being able to chase the men.

We had to warn her though about being careful not to get her long nun’s clothing caught under the tires of her wheelchair. She laughed and told us that it was time she got up to date and thought that perhaps she would start wearing shirt and pants like many women do now days. Before we left about 12 of the nuns sang for us. Then before leaving a few of the women in our group sang some songs for them.

Next we went to a small town about a half hour out of Cobon. There is a small rehab center there and while we were there 17 people came in for wheelchairs. The first little girl that I sat was only a year and a half old. She was unable to walk due to a head injury that she received when she was hit by a car nearly a year ago. Her parents say that she is receiving therapy and regaining some movement so we are praying that someday she will be able to walk.

The next patient that Kari and I worked on was a girl of around 12 years old who was in bad condition. She was Hydrocephalic (water on the brain) and had a lot of other complications as well. This was a case much like yesterdays where we had to do a lot of building and improvising but after several hours she was sitting in the first wheelchair that she had ever owned.

After the center fed us lunch we headed back to Cobon. Some of the members of our group are headed to town where there is some type of a celebration going on. The oldest member of the group is going to stay behind to rest because I am tired. Tomorrow we have our last but largest distribution before heading back to Chemaltenango. We have had a great time and is wonderful to be able to help so many people but I am missing the kids at the orphanage and those at home. At least it looks like the group that is with us from the USA will be able to come along and spend some time with the kids from Hermano Pedro on Wednesday.

Monday, August 6, 2007

It was another full day today. Today we gave out 54 wheelchairs at a distribution in Cobon.

About 17 of these chairs were specialty chairs that take a lot of work to seat properly. Fortunately we had a great crew of therapists and seating people so everything went smoothly. When we finished up at around 2 PM we were all tired though. The thought of having to make a 7 hour drive home did not sound too inviting but we had to get back since we had already made plans for tomorrow. On the way home the van that Saul was driving narrowly escaped a head on collision with a truck. As Saul rounded a corner he was met by 2 trucks that were side by side coming towards him. Since there was a rock face on Saul’s right and a cliff on the left side of the road Saul had no where to go but could only hit the breaks and pray that the truck that was in his lane would get around the one that it was passing in time to pull in before hitting Saul’s van head on. According to those that were in the van the truck got back into it’s own lane only inches before hitting them head on. We are now all back in Chemaltenango. We are all tired but extremely grateful for a safe trip.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007, 10:08 PM

After breakfast at Camperos we all headed to the shop to sort out some wheelchairs for next week’s distribution and then drove to Hermano Pedro orphanage. I gave the group from the USA a rather fast tour of the orphanage that ended up at Sam Sam’s bed. It’s funny you would think that after over 6 years of seeing Sam Sam bang his head on the steal rails of his crib I would be able to talk about him with out getting tears in my eyes or out and out starting to cry. Thankfully I can not do that and hope that I will never be able to.

The day I stop shedding a tear for this child and many others like him I will know that I have become calloused to the needless suffering that Sam Sam and many other children and adults have to endure. Today there was one big consolation though. As I finished talking about Sam Sam I looked through terry eyes at the group of people that were with me and saw tears in their eyes as well.

I will never understand how these kids can make you cry one minute and then bring you laughter the next. That is exactly what the 8 of them that we took to lunch did though. They also brought a lot of smiles and laughter to many people that we saw in central park. Talk about a quiet reserved group, but if you do talk about them it certainly wasn’t this group. Fidel, Carlos, and Byron were racing around the park in their power chairs. Moises, who was in his walker, was dragging along behind Fidel’s chair, making sure that he drug his feet through every mud puddle that Fidel traversed. Sonia, Roberto, David, and Gasper were being wildly pushed by American volunteers and Joseph, one of the teen age volunteers, was weaving in and out of the group with his unicycle. I doubt that there was anyone in the park that did not take notice of this joyful procession. Due to the influence of our mature group of adults we settled down to doing some constructive crafts while waiting for our meal at Camperos. All of the kids have now been taught the finer points of building and flying airplanes made from paper place mats and the art of shooting a straw wrapper with such precisions and timing that it actually ends up in someone’s mouth. Fortunately all but a few of the targets were people that were seated at our table.

At 4 PM we said our goodbyes to the orphanage kids and headed out of the building. Most of the group headed back to Chemaltenango so that they could have a brief rest before meeting for supper at 6 PM. Mark Richard, 3 other people from our group. and myself headed for San Lucas. Earlier this week Mark discovered that the first person that he had ever given a wheelchair to no longer had a wheelchair. Back in 1988 Mark had seen this lady crossing the Pan American highway on her stomach. The next time that he returned here from the USA he brought in a wheelchair for this lady. That was 19 years and around 65,000 wheelchairs ago.

Wheelchairs don't last forever so this evening we gave her another wheelchair. It is truly wonderful that God has allowed Hope Haven International to give out that many wheelchairs in less then 20 years. What a neat way to share the love of Christ with people. I feel very privileged to be just a small part of it.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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