* 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)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Journal September 16-22

Sunday, September 16, 2007, 11:38 PM

I woke up feeling fine this morning. I guess that I just had a touch of the one day crud. Only 4 kids joined me for church today. A few of them are still a bit gun shy from the encounter that they had with their Sunday school teacher last week. Pastor Mike told me that last weeks teacher was only felling in for the regular teacher and they are presently looking for one more teacher for some of the older kids. He told me that he did not want me to discourage any of my neighborhood kids from coming to Sunday school in the mean time though.

The service that we had was great. Mike may not look or act like your average preacher but he is certainly a man of God. I think that is one thing that drew me here. Not many of the missionaries that I know down here fall into the category of what I always pictured a missionary to be like; No shining hello, no wings, just ordinary people who are willing to be where God wants them to be and willing to do what ever it is that God wants them to do.

Today we didn't visit the orphanage or go out to eat. No, it wasn’t because of anything that any of the kids did in Sunday school. They gave their teacher no problems today.

I had to take them straight home because Fernando was having a birthday party. Yep, this is the same Fernando who just had a birthday 3 weeks ago. No he wasn’t trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes like Calin use to do. Besides that, Calin always waited at least a few months before having another birthday, he knew that even with my memory I would have caught on if he had them only 3 weeks apart. Today Fernando was simply celebrating the birthday that he had 3 weeks ago.
His mother had sent his relatives some money from the states so that they could have a party for him. We all had a good time and near the end of the party I ran home and got my computer then quickly downloaded and showed the pictures that I took at the party. Wow! It doesn’t seem that long ago that we had to wait several days to get our pictures developed and then hope that the developed pictures that we got back were actually our own. Anyway everyone had a lot of fun looking at the pictures and videos of the party.

Ashley and Judah came over to my house at 6 PM. They are returning to the States tomorrow so we decided that it would be nice to go out for supper together tonight. No I didn’t get out of cooking. The kids were waiting for me when I got home. The cheep microwave that I bought just a few weeks ago is proving to be exactly that, Cheep. Last week the #1 button quit working. Tonight the #2 button quit. At this rate in another month we will only be able to cook things that take 6 minutes or longer. Warranty?? Let me remind you this is Guatemala. Just last week I bought a pair of reading glasses. When I got to my car and opened the case I realized that the glasses were a different strength then what it said on the case. When I walked back into the store to return them I was told that the warranty had expired.

Well it is time for bed. I think that I will go crawl into bed. I hope that the mattress doesn’t suddenly self destruct. After all it is nearly a month old now.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, September 17, 2007

Chickenpox has come to Hermano Pedro. At present it is only in the ward where the younger kids are but it is spreading rapidly among them. They have separated all of the younger kids into 2 rooms. The kids that have never had chicken pox are in one room and those that presently have or have had chickenpox in the past are in another room.
I think that the ones that are suffering the most are the kids that had it in the past. Since they are staying in the same room as those that presently have chickenpox are in, they to are under quarantine. I had planned on taking Moises, Byron , and David out to lunch today but all 3 of them fall under the category of the have had chickenpox kids so even though they are perfectly well they will have to stay in the room with the sick kids until it has been free of anyone with chickenpox for 2 weeks. I can see the orphanage’s concern for having it spread to the other kids but nurses and volunteers are allowed to go from one room to the other, often times having just held or fed one of the sick kids, without as much as washing their hands.

The 3 kids that had planned on going felt bad but cheered up a bit when I told them that I would do something special with them when they were no longer under quarantine. A couple from the USA had planned on joining us for lunch but as soon as they heard the word chickenpox they made a hasty retreat from the orphanage. I can’t blame them though. They have been here for several weeks trying to finish up on the adoption process of a little boy. If he were to get sick it could delay the process even longer.

I managed to take Esbin out to eat though. He is a sad boy who seldom smiles. He has been at the orphanage for around 6 months now. The court system took him away from his mother after she repeatedly beat and nearly killed him. I have heard that before the beatings he was perfectly normal. Unfortunately due to the physical and emotional damage that was inflicted on him it is doubtful that he will ever be normal again.
I have occasionally seen a glimmer of hope when he seems to come out of his own private little world for just a minute or 2 when receiving some much needed attention. Only on these rare occasions will he actually make eye contact with you and then break out into a big smile. Today at lunch I witnessed one of those moments. It made the walk to Camperos well worth it.

While I was at the orphanage Jessica called me on my cell phone and asked if I would be willing to see a little girl who’s parents had brought her in to see one of the doctors. She could not walk and already had a wheelchair but Jessica was wondering if she could perhaps use a walker. She was a delightful little girl who was 8 years old. Her leg strength was marginal but her desire to walk was all there and then some. The hospital had been given some used walkers and although they were in good shape I knew that they would be to heavy for her.
Fortunately just 2 weeks ago I had transferred Ervin over into one of these heavy duty walkers. Ervin has been with me on to many trips to Camperos and is getting to fat for his old walker. I told the parents of the little girl that we could loan Ervin’s walker to them for 2 months and then if it proved to work out for them we would make arrangements to give it or one like it to her. I have to be stingy with this type of walker because we have access to so few of them. After about 15 minutes of adjusting the walker to her needs I put the little girl into it. It was perfect for her. It gave her just enough support that she could hold her balance and walk on her own but still gave her complete freedom to use her hands without having to hole on to anything. Both the little girl and her parents were beside themselves with joy. I received hugs from all 3. Since she lives right in Antigua we are going to monitor her progress on a regular bases and hopefully she will gradually gain enough strength that with in a year or so she will be walking on her own.

Since I am planning on being on the road again starting tomorrow morning I had a lot to do tonight. I decided though that there was no way that I was going to lock the kids out. Some of them helped me by sweeping and taking in the laundry. Some tried to help. and some simply played. In spite of constant interruptions I managed to get enough accomplished that a 8 PM we all jumped into the car and headed off for some Pizza.

When we returned home at around 9 we all said goodbye and I headed into the house alone so that I could get some of the work that requires a bit more concentration done. I may have to burn a little midnight oil tonight but the time spent with the kids was well worth it. I will miss them while I am gone for the next several days.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

This morning Saul, his wife Hanna, (Chris and Donna’s daughter) and myself headed out for the Esquentla Area. Saul and Hanna will be joining me for the next several days as we do more recruiting for camp. Not only did we see campers and their families today but many of the people that we visited had other people that they wanted us to see. It seems that the needs are sometime overwhelming but we seldom turn down a request to at least go and talk with the people. Some need wheelchairs or medical attention. others are hungry. many ask for prayer. All of them need to know that someone cares and often times even though we can do little more than offer a glimmer of hope by giving them misquito netting, a water filter, or even a hug, they at least feel a little less alone by just knowing that they are not forgotten.

Saul and Hanna have done a lot of wheelchair distributions and been involved with the ministry in so many other ways over the years but visiting the homes is a fairly new experience for both of them and they seem to really enjoy it. Along with their role in many other parts of the ministry, they are also planning on becoming involved with the tutoring programs that we are have going on. As we continue to add new kids to the list of those that we are helping to get an education we are also recognizing a need for more help in visiting the students and in finding teachers. I think that with their language skills, knowledge of the culture, and evident Christ like love for the people, that they will be a very welcome addition to this program.

We had a great day of visiting with old friends and meaning several new ones and are looking forward to doing the same tomorrow.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, September 19, 2007, 8:41 PM

Tonight I am back at my home away from home, The Bamboo Motel. This is quite a treat compared to the hotel that we stayed in last night. Actually my room was not all that bad but Saul and Hanna’s room left a little to be desired. We asked the lady at the desk for 2 rooms that were not facing the street. They got that one 50% right. After a few busses and a semi truck went by they quickly got a different room. Believe it or not even though this was a nothing to brag about hotel Saul and Hanna told me that it had a hot tub in it. I though that they were kidding and it was perhaps a sink hole in the floor but sure enough it was a genuine hot tub. Unfortunately there was no way to make the water in it hot and the pump didn’t work but there it was. One luxury that we do try to get when we are staying near the coast is air-conditioning. They are usually much to small to do an adequate job but if you get a room with a good one in it you can often get the temperature down into the low eighties. Last night I experienced one of those rare occasions, Saul and Hanna did not. Even on the back side of this hotel the sound of the trucks and busses that go by bother any one with normal hearing. Fortunately I do not have normal hearing. Some people claim that I have no hearing but I never listen to them. Unfortunately Saul and Hanna hear well.

Sergio’s house was our first stop of the day.
He and his mother been coming to camp for as long as I can remember. Sergio who is 13 and has only had a few years of schooling has expressed a desire to return to school. However the rough roads that lead from his house prevent Sergio who is fairly heavy from being able to leave his house without the help of at least 2 adults. His mother has been trying to find a tooter for him but so far has had no success. This morning while visiting with him we asked him what his biggest wish was. He told us that it was to actually attend a real school, but the difficulty of getting from his house to school was impossible. On the rare occasions that he does leave the house it takes the effort of 2 strong adults to get him anywhere. His mother told us that the town keeps promising to pave some of the streets but it never happens. We asked his mother if there were any schools that were closer to his home than the public school that was a long ways away. She told us that there was a Christian school but it was private so there would be cost involved and there were still hills and rough terrain that led there. I knew that it would have to be a really powerful and tough Wheelchair but I wondered if there was a possibility that a power wheelchair could navigate the rocks and hills that lead to the school. With in minutes Sergio’s mother, Hanna, Saul, and myself were walking towards the school. We decided that the first trail that we went on would be impossible for anything but a mountain bike to navigate. Were there other routs that were a little smoother and not quite as steep? We walked various alleys and paths but each one of them had obstacles that would prevent even the best of power wheelchairs from navigating them. After doing a lot of zigzagging around we figured out a rout that was rough but possibly navigate-able. The biggest hurtle would be the first hill that led from Sergio’s house and then a section of extremely rough dirt road. I told the others that Stephen use to have a Ranger power chair that we took down trails that were worse then these. It was built tough and climbed like a tank. Perhaps if we could set up one of them for Sergio it would do the job. I still questioned the first steep hill though. Saul comented that if only we could get our hands on a Ranger power chair and give it a try we would know. Then we could peruse getting Sergio into school. We didn’t want to get his hopes up and then have them shattered. Waite a Minute! Just last week I had taken Mario’s power wheelchair home from Mazatenango. It had some electrical problems. Mario had told me that he had a struggled getting up the hill that led from his house with it so when I got it back to our shop I found a stronger chassis that had larger motors on it and one of the guys at the shop mounted Mario’s seating system on to it. I wasn’t even sure what kind of chassis it was but knew that it was built tough and had very large motors on it. It just so HAPPENED that Mario’s wheel chair was buried under our luggage in my car. Knowing how lost Mario would be with out his wheelchair we routed this trip so that we would be able to get his chair back to him. We were soon unloading all of our luggage and getting the power chair out of my car. Even though we could not give this chair to Sergio we could at least see if a power chair navigated these rocks and hills. As we were getting it out of the car I said that I still tough a Ranger would be the best chair for these Conditions though. Once we unloaded it I looked it over a bit more closely. I had been in quite a hurry when I picked out the chassis on Monday because I know that we would be leaving on Tuesday and the mechanics would only have the day to do all of the necessary modifications to it. I had not even paid attention to it all I know was that it looked strong and had larger motors on it. To my surprise it HAPPENED to be a Ranger. It was exactly the same kind of chair that Stephen use to own. With all of the different makes of wheelchairs out there I wondered what the CHANCES were of that HAPPENING, and weren’t we LUCKY that we HAPPENED to have a power chair with us? Or was this another Godincidence? Saul weighs just a little more than Sergio so we figured that if the chair would climb the hill with him in it then it would have no problem getting Sergio up the hill. It worked!!
Soon we had Sergio in it. Since he had never driven a power chair before we kept him on flat ground but he did well with it. I made a quick call to Chris to see if perhaps we can get a chair like this one on the next container. Chris told me that it was good that I HAPPENED to call when I did because there was a container scheduled to go out with in the next few weeks and he was just getting ready to call mark and give him a list of a some of the things that we needed. I am not sure that Hope Haven has any Ranger power chair but with the way that things have been working out I think that the CHANCES are pretty good.

Before leaving Sergio’s mother asked if she could take us to one home. There we found 6 children, Their mother has deserted them and their father is trying to raise them on his own. His biggest problem is that he drives truck for a living and has to be gone a lot of the time. This very loving and caring father told us that he wants to do everything possible to keep his family together but his 15 Year old daughter who is mentally handicapped needs some one to work with her and teach her how to care for her self.
Even though she seems capable of learning such things as dressing herself and being toilet trained, like most of the kids at the orphanage she has never been taught these simple skills. Right new it is a 12 year old brothers responsibility help her do all of these things. The father told us that he felt that if someone took her in for even a few months they could teach her these simple skills. He said that he didn’t want her to go to any place permanently but told us that if she could not at lest learn how to dress herself and how to use the bathroom he may have to consider those option. He know that it wasn’t fair to require is 12 year old son to do all of these things. We promised that we would contact all of our recourses but also had to remind him that there are usually large waiting lists at the few places here in Guatemala that could provide any help. We suggested that he also check around his area to see if there was anyone who could come in and work with her. He told us that he has been trying but so far has found no one.

The rest of our day was spent visiting more homes and running into more needs. We know that we can not make things better for everyone that we meet but are grateful that God allows us to help some of them. Yes, we sometimes get tired and a bit overwhelmed but after all that Jesus has done for us, how can we possibly not try to share a bit of that love with those He leads us to?

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, September 20, 2007, 7:38 PM

After breakfast we headed to Mario’s home to give him his power wheelchair. After unloading it from the car I drove it down the paved path that leads to his house. This chair has a lot more power than his other one and I am confident that he will now be able to get up the hill that leads from his house. He and his family are so friendly that I am sure they would have been happy if we stayed and visited all day but we had a lot more people that we wanted to visit today. About an hour later we found our selves near Xela. The 7000 foot diffrance in elevation made for a welcome change in temperature. The past few days near the coast had been down right warm.

Just a few miles from Xela we stopped at the home of Angelica. Angelica was another one of those Godincidence people that we have met. Chris found her when his car overheated last year and he pulled into a welding shop because he saw a water hose hanging by the door. A welding shop may not sound like a likely place for a 24 year old paraplegic to be but sure enough in the back of the welding shop was her families home. Last year was Angelica’s first year at camp but she is hooked. She told us that she would not miss this years camp for the world.

Next we headed off to were Christopher, his mother, and several brothers and sisters live. You have to walk in to where Christopher lives. This was the first time that Saul and Hanna had ever been there. I have been in on several occasions and the people who live along the way are slowly becoming less shy and more friendly. Unfortunately some of the dogs are also getting less shy but no friendlier. Generally a hand full of well aimed rocks discourages them. Christopher and his mother were not at home but some of his brothers and sisters took us to an aunts house where Christopher was. Christopher was sitting in his manual wheelchair. His power chair has to stay at a friends shed near where we left our car.
Even though Christopher is 12 years old his mother still has to hike him from where they keep hid wheelchair to their home on her back. Christopher was sitting up I could see that he was not well. He seemed unusually quiet and the left side of his head appeared be swollen. He showed some excitement though when we handed him his invitation to camp and promised that he would be there. I had wanted to talk with his mother about his health but we were told that she had gone to town. Last time we had visited she told us that he was having bad headaches and a local doctor had recommended that he see a specialist. Noticing that his head appeared to be growing larger and that he was not looking well I wanted to know what his mother had found out.

Christopher told us that he had not been going to school lately, partly because he had not been feeling well but also because his power wheelchair was having some problems. We told him that we wanted to hike over to Erica’s to see her but would be at the car later. Several of the kids that were listening in on the conversation offered to meat us later at my car and then take us to where Christopher’s power wheelchair was.

The dogs along the way to Erica’s house seemed a bit friendlier and we made it the entire way with out having to throw any rocks. I admit I did felt a bit silly when Erica’s father came to the gate and tried to shake my hand. I thought about offering him the rocks as a gift but politely laid them down beside the gate. A few more visits and he can gravel the path that leads to their house. Erica’s face and arms seem to be doing quite well with the medicine. Her legs and feet are improving but still have a long way to go. Her mother told us that she applies the medicine to Erica’s entire body every other day. Unfortunately each treatment takes two and a half $6 tubes of medicine so we are still looking for a cheaper place to buy it from. The improvements are well worth it though.

Looking at her I remembered that frightened looking little girl that Chris and I had met over 2 years ago. She is still quite shy when we bring in strangers but has come so far. Did I dare invite her to camp where there will be so many new faces? I decided that it would not hurt to ask. To our surprise she said that she would love to go and an even bigger surprise was that mom and dad who are extremely busy with running a family business and raising 10 kids also sounded enthused. I think that the biggest problem with going to camp will be to decide which parent gets to come along with her. Due to the number of people that we can house we are trying harder than ever to keep the ratio down to one invited camper and one helper. Even though the sky was beginning to look like it could produce a thunder storm Erica’s family would not let us leave until they gave us some food. I had feared that it was perhaps the family meal but have learned from experience that there was no polite way to say no. After we had eaten our fill Erica’s family agreed that perhaps it might rain so we all said good by.

When we finally returned to my car we found most of Christopher’s brothers, sisters, and cousins waiting for us. His mother was also there.
Christopher’s mother looked extremely worried and could hardly talk about his condition with out breaking into tears. She told us that the Christian doctor that she had taken Christopher to had arranged a free cat scan for Christopher and the results were not good. Christopher has some type of a mass forming on his brain. She had been scheduled to take Christopher in for more tests last Monday but a lack of funds and Christopher not feeling well enough for the hour buss ride had prevented them from going. She is now going to try to take him in this coming Monday. She promised to keep us informed on what is happening because we want to make sure if he needs surgery it is done by the right doctor and even then only after being 100% sure that it is needed. Please pray for Christopher and his family. Pray for us to. When there are so many needs we need wisdom in knowing who and how to help.

We managed to visit 2 more families before dark and then headed back to Xela. Xela is over an hour from where we visited our last family but not to many of the small towns and villages that we were in today have places for overnight visitors to stay. I know if any of the families knewn that we needed lodging they would have offered, but I talk in my sleep and was afraid that I would keep the other 5 or 6 people that I would be sharing a bed with awake. Tonight I have a room and a bed to myself granted it isn’t the worlds biggest bed but unlike last night this one is not made out of cement. I think that I will go and test it out.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tonight we are back at home in Chemaltenango. We stopped off and visited 2 different families on our way home. Both of the girls that we visited are excited about attending camp again this year. I have not tallied up the count but I think that once again we must have visited around 20 families this week. Not only have we invited a lot of people to camp but we also have lists of people that who are in need of some type of help. During the next few days we will be looking over these lists, trying to decide who to help first and who can hang on for a while. The 2 people that come to mind with out refreshing my memory are Christopher, who need brain surgery and the 15 year old girl who needs some one to take care of her for at least a little while.
I decided to stop at Camperos before going home. They have wireless internet and that is the only way that I can get caught up on my e-mail because I knew that once I got home I would be bombarded with kids. Guess what though. I don’t know if Calin has spies out or what but for the second time in a row he found me before I even got into the restaurant. The computer would have to Waite. Calin had not talked to me in 4 days and he had lots to share.

It was great to see the neighborhood kids when I got home. I didn’t even attempt to get any work done tonight. Rudy offered to make supper for the crew so I gave him some money for groceries. Soon he and Abner returned from the store with all of the fixings for a dozen hamburgers. I offered to help cook but he told me that he could handle it. he did a great job and soon all 12 of us were fed. After the kids cleaned up most of them watched a video on one of the computers. Some of the others found other things to do but due to the rain no one played outside. They all seem to be so much at home here. I could not help but wonder how they felt about my house being locked up for the past 4 days.

Saturday, September 22, 2007 4:28 PM

Today has been a rather laid back day. The kids started to show up at around 7 AM. They seemed nearly as content to do little or nothing as I did. Most of them gathered around the computer and watched videos until I finally fed them at around 10:30. Calin did the dishes while Kimberly swept and mopped the house.
I did some paper work and the rest of the kids watched more videos. The only interruption to an otherwise quiet morning was when Abner kicked Fernando for singing. Actually I guess that there were 2 interruptions. The second one came about 3 seconds after the kicking incident. That was when I escorted Abner out of the door for the rest of the day. I must admit though Abner is growing up in some ways. He no longer screams and cries when I punish him. A guess after being ushered out of my house so many times he is finally getting use to it. Abner is a good kid but I worry about him a lot. He is still going through life with a chip on his sholder not realizing that he is causing most of his own problems. Granted he has had a hard life but so have most of the kids that hang out here. Fortunately most of them have made the choice to make the best of it and go on with life. Please pray for Abner. he has so much potential but I worry about what kind of choices he is going to make as he approaches the teen years.

I managed to get out of the house for a bit but only long enough to go and get a few things from the store. Right now I am franticly trying to finish up on my journal because I told the kids that I would let them all back in to the house at 5:30. I still have to decide about Abner though. I lost my rule book and can’t remember if kicking some one is a one day out of the house offence. I believe though that if it is a relative and you are not wearing shoes it is only a half day.

9:19 PM

There were an even dozen kids for supper again and yes Abner was one of them. I can’t believe it though. This has to be an all time record, not one glass of pop was spilled and my floor still looks as clean as it did when Kimberly mopped it this morning. That is a real wonder considering it is raining hard and the alley is nothing but mud. Everyone has headed for home except Calin and Fernando. I promised them that thy could spend the night. I am going to try to proof read this journal and get it sent out before going to bed. I know you are probably saying to your self, PROOF READ! Than why doesn’t he catch those spelling mistakes. Actually I manage to correct about 95% of them. Wouldn’t you love to try and read this before I corrected it.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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