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

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

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Location: Chimaltenango, Guatemala

I work in Guatemala with Hope Haven international and Bethel Ministries. Along with my friends Chris and Donna Mooney and their family, we share the love of Jesus in various ways. Although giving out and maintaining wheelchairs is our primary ministry, we are involved in many other things as well. Building houses, feeding the hungry, providing education to handicapped children in orphanages and villages, and hosting a camp for the handicapped are just a small part of the things that God has given us the privilege of getting involved in. For several years now I have been keeping daily journals. Once a week I try to post new journals and pictures. My e-mail is dick@dickrutgers.com Guatemala Cell Phone # 502 5379 9451 USA Phone # 360 312 7720(Relays free to Guatemala)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Journal September 9-15

Rudy, Aaron, and 6 kids came along with me to church this morning. As we were on the way to church Marcos, one of my newer kids told me that his mother has been quite sick and he is worried about her. I asked him if he was sure if it was all right that he come along to church. He told me that one of his older brothers was going to watch his mother while he was in church then he would watch her later today. I found out later that Marcos’s father died in a drowning accident just a few years ago.

I got to enjoy the first part of the service but then was called downstairs to where the kids were in Sunday school.It didn’t sound like any of them did anything all that bad but between the 6 of them and about 6 others that were in the class the teacher had hit overload. I stayed in or near the class until it was over.
After church I talked with the pastors and we decided that the age difference of the kids is to wide and they are going to try to split the class as soon as the can convince some one that 11-13 year old boys are fun to teach. I was elected as the number one candidate but politely declined. I said that if I could not have that hour and a half more or less to my self on Sunday mornings I would perhaps loose any sanity that I have left. Seriously though I do value that time of worship with other Christians and feel that it is also good for the kids to get a little discipline from someone other than myself. The boys and I had a good talk after church and they promised to be on their best behavior next Sunday.
I seriously thought about taking them straight home with out going to the orphanage or having any lunch but I was not fully convinced that they did anything wrong. Besides that if they didn’t come along to the orphanage it would be just as much a punishment to the orphanage kids as it would be to them. The kids were well behaved at the orphanage so after we left I took them all out to eat.

It seems that no matter how many kids I feed in the afternoon and no matter how much food they eat they are always hungry a few hours later and those who didn’t come along to lunch are down right famished. Hot dogs were on the menu tonight and either there was a record number of kids or they ate twice as much as usual. Two large frying pans stayed busy for quite some time. Nancy did most of the cooking tonight and everyone else pitched in setting the table and cleaning up afterwards so everything went quite smoothly. I actually had a lot of work to do but since I had been gone all week and would be leaving again on Tuesday I decided that spending time with the kids after supper was more important. Actually we killed 2 birds with one stone. Before our soccer game my lawn looked like it needed mowing. After the soccer game you had to do some hard looking to find my lawn. Guess what though. No broken windows tonight. Wouldn’t you know it just when I stock up on glass the kids bring over a lighter soccer ball.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I locked my self in the house for a few hours this morning. I had to get last weeks journal out and knew that if it didn’t get done today it would be a 2 week journal. At around 10 I took Abner, Rudy, and Marcos along to the orphanage. I had told Ashley and Judah that we would meat them there so that we could take some of the kids to lunch. I had not intended on taking Marcos but Rudy asked if we could take him. I don’t think that this mother is doing to well and Rudy felt that it would be good for him to come get out for a little while.

Today we took some of the kids that seldom get out along to eat. Three of them can only be bottle fed but having milk shakes of lunch was a real treat for them. After lunch we took a few of the more able bodied ones down the slides and then headed back to Hermano Pedro. I headed for home at around 2 because I still had a few things to do before heading out again tomorrow.

This evening there were more kids, more food, and more soccer. I bowed out of the soccer game though. I hate playing in the mud. I promised though that I would play again when my lawn grew back in. I thought that perhaps this would be a bit of an incentive for the kids to stay of from the place where my lawn is suppose to be. The tried but after a few face plants on the cement the game moved back over to the mud.

Tomorrow I plan on heading out on the first week of camp recruiting. Chris is unable to join me this week so I had to do some searching for an interpreter. Mario offered to go but he is in a wheelchair and some of the places that I will be going to require a fair amount of hiking. Both Carlos and Benjamin were unable to come along this week. Both Abner and Calin are fluent enough on their English that they would work out but there was one problem. It is actually Abner’s turn to come along with me but he still has his Abner moments and I do not want to go through what I did with him the last time that he was with me in a rather remote village. Having him throw a fit and start crying while in a village with a Gringo can get that Gringo into a heap of trouble. If any one there ever thought that I was hurting him or forcing him to go with me I could very well be the center piece of one of there bonfires. It worked out for the best though because as soon as Abner discovered that this trip was going to be all work and verry little play he graciously bowed out and suggested that I ask Calin. Calin who is not scared of work and is less likely to tell people that he was being kidnapped by me was more then happy to go. He has no school this week????? and his English is getting good enough that I think that with his help I should be able to carry on a fairly intelligent conversation with the people that we visit.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007, 10:10 PM

Tonight we are at the Bamboo hotel in Mazatenango. We got a bit of a late start but managed to see a few campers on our way here. Calin is working out fantastically as an interpreter. He is doing a great job and has the personality to get along greatly with everyone that we meet. It is looking more and more like he is going to fit right in and become a part of this ministry. I keep letting him know how proud I am of him and even though he does not seem to get big headed about it he loves the praise. He has been wanting to by a bicycle so that he can work at the wheelchair shop during school vacation. Tomorrow I am going to tell him that even though he is expecting no pay for interpreting this week he has at least earned a big part of that bicycle.

During supper tonight Calin asked if he could call his mother. Since step dad has once again left. (Second time in 2 weeks) I told him that it was OK if he used my phone as long as his mother erased the incoming call list when he had finished. Step dad is a jealous man. Calin’s mom had some bad news. Marcos’s mother died today. The news was hard on Calin. He and Marcos are good friends and by the sound of things Marcos’s mother was always kind to Calin. Tomorrow we are going to try and call Rudy. He lives right next to Marcos and is a good friend of the family.

Calin is already fast asleep on his cement bed. I guess that I will go and try mine out.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, September 12, 2007, 9:31 PM

Every year for the past 4 years I look forward to September and October. Recruiting for camp is not easy. Camp recruiting involves days and days away from home. One of the hardest parts is leaving the kids behind, both those at home and the ones at the orphanage. Tonight we are in a good motel and other than the ants and the cement beds this place is a palace compared to some of the places that we end up staying in. Even the restaurant here is good. Unlike some of the others we do not have to worry about the food making us sick. Today I was only run off the road by 3 trucks, I lost count of the oncoming cars that were in my lane. One of the towns that I was in had pot holes in the road that you could burry a Volkswagen in. Fact is I hit one hole with my front tire that caused the frame of my car to bottom out. Some of the people that we saw on those roads looked like they were so hungry that they would rob you at the first opportunity that they had. In fact some of the people that we visited today had been robbed within the last week. By the time we returned to our motel we were tired, sore, and soaking wet from getting caught in a thunder storm. So why then do I look forward to this time of year? Am I some kind of a nut? Perhaps so, but that has nothing to do with why I love it so much. I guess one of the main reasons is that it always seems to be a time when we can really see the hand of God in everything that HAPPENS. Or perhaps I should say in everything that He lays out for us. Camp recruiting always ends up to be a lot more then driving and hiking all over Guatemala to hand out invitations to camp. If it were only that we could simply mail the invitations to the people that we were inviting to camp. Granted due to the reliability of the mail service we would likely have about 90% less campers but we could always send out 2000 invitations instead of hand delivering 200 of them. Even though most of our day is generally planned around seeing as many campers as possible so that we can move on to the next area we have come to learn that nothing in Guatemala ever goes as planned. First of all the more often we return to some ones home the more we are treated like family. I have learned to start my day off with an empty stomach because by the time we have visited just one or 2 homes we have often consumed 1 or 2 meals. There is no way to hurry a visit with someone who has been waiting most of the year for your return. Or how do you tell someone that you simply don’t have the time to repair their wheelchair which they have been unable to use for the past few months? Especially when it is some one like Melvin who spent a good part of last years teen camp witnessing to the other camper. Melton makes a living selling ice-cream to the school kids in his village but had been unable to sell any for the past several weeks. His power wheelchair is also his ice-cream cart. How he manages to tow his ice chest that he mounted wheels onto down those bumpy roads with his wheelchair is beyond me. Never the less he does, or at least did until he developed electrical problems with his wheelchair. An extra hour and a half at Melton’s house was not part of our planned day.

Neither was the half hour stop at the home of a man that I saw when driving by the open door of his home. I had seen him there when I drove through his village on another occasion but had convinced my self that he was simply resting on the floor and would soon get up. That was a year ago. Today I took the time from my planned schedule. Why not? It was already 1 PM and so far nothing had gone as planned anyway. Mike the 24 year old man that was hunched upon the floor had remembered seeing me drive by a year ago. I guess not many cars go by his house. If you saw the road you would know why. At any rate he shared with us that even though not many cars drive by people do go by on foot or on horse back. We had been the first to ever stop by and ask if there were any way that we could help.

His mother informed us that since Mike was so deformed there the only place that he could safely sit was on the floor. This had taken its toll though because he had 5 large untreated bed sores. A half hour of our time, some medicine to treat the bed sore, a promise of a specialty built wheelchair and a promised mattress seemed to brighten the hopes of not just Mike but of his entire family. I was glad that we HAPPENED by. Or was it perhaps another one of those Godincidence?

I know what our plans are for tomorrow but in stead of bearing you with things that probably won’t even HAPPEN, I will wait until tomorrow night and then share what God had laid out for us. Thank for all of your prayers. They are effective.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 29:11

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, September 13, 2007, 8:30 PM

First thing this morning we picked up Dona Maria a lady that we have worked with here in Mazatenango for years. She has helped us locate many of the people around this area who now have wheelchairs. Maria loves to accompany us when we visit people in this area. She was unable to come along with us yesterday but made sure that she could join us today. Thanks to her knowing where any new people lived and the reliability of my GPS guiding us to those that we visited the past, we were able to visit with a dozen families today. All of them were happy to see us and most of them assured us that we would se them at camp in November.

We even had time to stop in and see Mario a friend who was not on our list of potential campers. Mario is a man that Paul and I brought a power wheelchair to about a year ago. We spent a few days there setting up the wheelchair for him and building some cement ramps so that he could get out into his yard. Mario’s house is located down a long dirt path that leads out to the road. Some of his neighbors had promised that if we gave Mario a power wheelchair they would smooth out the path enough that he could get out to the road that is only a short distance from his town. Today when we arrived at his home we were thrilled to see that they had kept their promise. Not only was the path smoothed out but it was now entirely covered in Cement. It is so cool to see more and more communities getting in and helping the handicapped.

Mario has a very supportive family and when we arrived at his house we found that several of them were holding on to Mario helping him try to walk. Mario who barely survived an electrical accident a few years ago is determined to do everything possible to walk again. Even though he does all that he can to get exercise a power wheelchair is necessary because of the limited use of his remaining hand. Mario was in great spirit and his family welcomed us like we were part of it. Mario told us that that he had been wanting to contact us but didin’t want to inconvenience us. His power chair had started acting up a few weeks ago and was now totally dead. Even though we were tired and this was going to be the last family that we visited today I could not find it in my hart to not at least take a look at his wheelchair. If I could repair it at his house and not take it along to the shop it would mean that Mario would not have to wait for several weeks before we could get it back to his house. I had promised Calin that we would try to get back to the motel before 5 so that we could take a swim before it got dark. Calin had been working hard the last few days and deserved a little fun. He must have read my mind though because he quickly offered to get my tools from the car and help me work on the wheelchair. I reminded him that if we stayed and worked on the wheelchair we would not be able to swim when we got back. As he headed for the car he looked back and said that he felt that trying to get Mario’s wheelchair running was far more important than swimming. I quickly joined him and we went together to get the tools. Was this actually the same kid that use to rob me blind? As I gave him a pat on the back I looked down and realized that it was the same kid but God had given him a new hart. Try as we may after an hour and a half we had to admit defeat. I simply did not have the right test equipment or the proper parts with me to fix Mario’s wheelchair without taking it back to the shop. Mario and his family thanked us over and over again for stopping by and for attempting to fix his wheelchair. He also assured us that he would get along fine without it for a few weeks. Before loading the chair into my car I emptied every ting that had been in the back of my car onto the ground to make room for the wheelchair. Calin noticed a duffel bag that we have been carrying with us for the past few days. He asked me if this would be a good time to empty it out a bit. I told him that it indeed would be. At least 2 dozen people had gathered at my car some to help load the wheelchair and others just to watch. It seems that it does not take much more than some one loading a wheelchair into a car to draw a crowd here in Guatemala. Other than a few men that helped me lift the heavy power wheelchair into the car Calin soon drew the crowd to his side of the road. As he opened the duffel bag that was full of toys and teddy bears he gave strict orders to each and every person that was there to take only one item from the bag. To my amazement everyone listened.

I wish that I could say that for every time that I tried handing out toys. For the next 10 minutes Calin could not be seen. I figured that since he is fairly good size he would not be smothered by the crowd. It was not until every kid and several adults each received something that he emerged. The duffel bag appeared to be empty and all but 2 of the kids had gotten something that they treasured. The only ones that had not received anything were a tiny girl that had not dared to approach the duffel bag for fear of getting trampled and an older boy who I had remembered from the last time we were there. He was mentally handicapped and unable to talk. He was also quite shy and had stayed on the other side of the road where I was safely watching from. Calin emerged from the dispersing crowd with a wide smile on his face. He looked even happier than he did the day that I had taken him to the water slides. Could it be that he thought it was more blessed to give than to receive. I hope that this is not something contagious. If this catches on soon there will be no more people around that need our help.

"Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them." 2 Corinthians 5:14,15

Oh, by the way, when Calin handed me what he thought was an empty duffel bag I discovered that one small compartment had not been opened. The little girl who had been left out received the best doll that we had packed, and when I handed the handicapped boy a box of crayons you would have thought that it was the first present that he had ever received. Then again perhaps it was.

Good night,
Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, September 14, 2007

Dona Marie joined us again today.
After picking up some groceries we headed down to the coast where Jose and Enma live.
It always amazes me how happy this family is in spite of all of the hardships that they endure. Enma’s husband died several years ago and she was left to care for her children on her own. Her son Jose has CP and is confined to a wheelchair. And ever since her daughters death a few months ago she now has 3 grandchildren that she is raising. The dirt floor grass roof house that they live in is scarcely more then a shed but still Enma manages to make it a loving home. Enma and her family were thankful for the food that we brought them. They told us that they were nearly out of anything to eat. When I first met this family Jose loved nothing better than to sit on my lap and go for a ride in my car. He would try to steer the car while honking the horn and grabbing on to every knob in the car. This was a few years ago when he was much smaller and even then he managed to destroy a few things in my car. Today he kept looking at me and then out side at my car. I knew exactly what he wanted but Jose has gotten a lot bigger and stronger so I have been hesitant to give him rides in my car. Today I decided to give it another try. When I got him in the car I quickly belted him in the center of the front seat and got behind the wheel. Calin got in the car next to him and helped hold him down. We allowed him to have one arm free so that he could try to steer the car and off we went down the trail that leads away from his house. Jose started off quite calm but the more he enjoyed the ride the wilder he got. Even though he had a seat belt tightly tied around him it was all we could do to hold him down. It looked like a moving all star wrestling match. Jose had the time of his life and Calin and I escaped with only a few injuries. I received an involuntary head butt during one of Jose’s happier moments and Calin got slugged in the lip when Jose broke loose from his grip. For a change though nothing got broken on my car so I Guess the ride was worth it. I know that Jose thought it was.

Many of the people that live near the coast have a big problem with mosquitoes. In Enma’s case it is multiplied by the fact that there is a lot of wet land and there are small ponds where they live. When I asked Enma if they had misquito netting over their beds she took me into the room where all of there beds are. Only Jose and one of Enma’s granddaughters had misquito netting over their beds but it did little to keep the mosquitoes out. There were holes in it that you could stick your head through. Calin and I quickly went to my Land Cruiser and got out new misquito nets for all of the beds. The family was delighted.

There were a lot more people that we wanted to see today so we finally said goodbye. Enma promise that she would do everything possible to get her son to camp. As we drove away they all stood at the door of their house waving goodbye until we disappeared out of site.

Our next stop was a little over an hour from Jose’s home. This to was a small dirt floor home whew Froilan and his family live. A few years ago a gun shot would left Froilan paralyzed from the waist down. Being in this condition at 16 years of age you would expect to see a bitter young man but Froilan is far from that. He decided that since his legs did not work he would do all he could to strengthen his mind by getting a good education. We found Froilan lying on a small rusty bed in a dirt floor room that was scarcely large enough to accommodate it. He was busy studding. We had a great visit and found Froilan the type of person that seem to radiate with happiness. Due to other commitments he doubted that he could come to camp this year but we certainly counted our visit a worth wile one.

Each and every camper that we visited today seemed to be in good spirits and a real pleasure to visit with. Naomi a girl that has been to camp twice before seems to be a walking miracle. Only a few short years ago she had no use of her right hand and was unable to walk. Now she is walking well and there is only a small amount of numbness in her hand.

In the past several days we have had the privilege of visiting with 24 families. We are tired and ready for a day off but it has been a great experience. Calin is proving to be a real asset to our work. His English is improving daily and I have enjoyed using him as an interpreter. All of the people that we have visited have enjoyed him as well. Next week his school will be starting up again so I will lose him as an interpreter. Tomorrow we plan on heading for home but only after enjoying ourselves at the motel pool for a few hours. Calin is already asleep and I am about to do the same.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, September 15, 2007, 8:18 PM

I woke up during the night with a headache, stomachache, and chills. I managed to get back to sleep but didn’t feel much better this morning. I kept my promise to Calin and did not head for home until noon but didn’t do much swimming with him. Fortunatly Calin can make friends at the drop of a hat so he enjoyed swimming while I mostly rested. Traffic on the way home was light and what can often be a 4 hour trip only took around 2 hours. Even though I still felt a bit sick when I got home there was no way that I was going to make the kids stay out of the house. They were all happy to see me and would have felt terrible if I didn’t let them in for at least an hour. I told the kids that I was not going to make any food tonight but they didn’t seem to mind. They told me that they knew I wasn’t feeling well but just wanted to hang out here. The hour turned into 2 hours then 3 and then 4. They all had so much to share. Abner showed me the bruise that he got on the side of his face when Fernando hit him but Fernando claimed it was given in self defense only after Abner gave him a nose bleed. I was glad that I wasn’t here to referee that one. Rudy came told me that Marcos is still having a rough time dealing with the death of his mother. Fortunatly there are Aunts and uncles living in the same house so the kids will all stay together.
Abner and Fernando asked if they could use my computer to call their mothers in the USA. I always say yes when they ask because I want them to stay in some kind of communication with them. After not seeing them since they were a year old I doubt that they will recognize each other if they ever do get back together. At 8 PM I told everyone that it was time to go. With in 5 minutes they had all said goodbye and left on their own. Not like the old days when I it took me an hour to get them all out of the house. I don’t think that it is because they aren’t as fond of being here as they use to be. I actually think that they are listening better and even though I at times have to leave for 5 or 6 days at a time, they are starting to be more confident that I will keep my promise and return.

I told the kids that I was going to wait and see how I felt in the morning before deciding weather or not I was going to church. By the looks of how many want to come along to Church I may have to rent a buss if I do go.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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