* 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)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Journal October 16-23

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Since I had been on the road for the past several days I had a lot of catching up to do when I got back home. Most of my day was spent at home getting caught up on my journal and a bit of house work. I managed to take a few hours off this afternoon to go out and fly some kites with the kids and also opened up the house to them for a good part of the day. We had a hamburger fry this evening and at last count there were 16 of us. I am sure that there were more but some of them didn’t sit still long enough for me to count them.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I went in to Hermano Pedro this morning. It was great to see the kids again. Since there were no volunteers to come along with me to lunch I was only able to take Byron and Moises along to lunch. David, Bobby, and several of the others gave me sad looks as we left to lunch but there was no way that I could take more than 2 kids single handedly. When we got back to the orphanage I got right to work on a few chairs that had been broken while I was gone. I would have much preferred just hanging out and playing with the kids but Some of the kids had not been out of bed for a week because they had broken wheelchairs.
As you may have noticed my journal entries have been shorter the past few days. That is because school is out for the year and I have decided to give more of my time with the kids for a few evenings. Don’t worry I plan on doing some of those lengthy ones again soon but for right now I feel that the kids need a bit more of my time since I have been on the road so much lately. Fernando just came in to remind me that I would play some basketball with them so I better run.

Yours in Christ; Dick

Thursday October 18, 2007

Fernando, Calin, and I headed to the Escuintla area today. On our way through Antigua we picked up Paul. This is not Paul Tjaden who has been helping us out with building the grandmother’s bathroom but another Paul. He and his wife came into Guatemala around 2 weeks ago to sort of scout things out. When I asked him yesterday if he would like to come along today to see some of the people who live in the more remote areas he jumped at the opportunity.

Our first stop was at Sergio’s home. Sergio is the boy who lives in Santa Lucia that wants badly to go to school. I still have not had the opportunity to set up a power chair for him that will be capable of navigating the hills and bumpy dirt roads that lead from his home but plan on doing that soon. Meanwhile Sergio’s mother has been searching for a school that will accept him. Since he is in a wheelchair the public school that is near his home will not take him. We thought that we might be able to get him into a small Christian school that is in his town but unfortunately they are filled to capacity and have a long waiting list of children that want to enroll. Sergio’s mother finally located a school that will accept him. Today Sergio’s mom, Paul, the 2 boys, and myself walked the rout that Sergio would have to go with his power chair. The school is located nearly a mile from his home but once he gets about a quarter mile from his home the streets are paved and fairly level. When we arrived at the school we met with the administrator and his wife. They seem like they are very dedicated people who are not operating the school simply to make money but have a genuine concern for each and every student. They told us that several of their students are not able to pay anything for attending this private school and that if we were willing to pay for Sergio’s books, Uniforms, and needed medical supplies they would not charge him any tuition. This would be a real blessing because he will have some needs that will already cost us as much as our other students average per month. I took some measurements and photos of a set of 3 steps that Sergio will have to go down in order to get into the school and promised that we would build them a portable ramp that he can use once he gets his power wheelchair. Classes don’t start back up until the middle of January so we have 3 months to get things all set up for him.

Our next stop was about an hour towards the coast. Ronny has been calling me every few days for the past week and a half. His power chair had stopped running and the tires on his manual wheelchair had gone flat. Almost every small village has at least one shop that fixes bicycle tiers but as hard as it is to believe I have yet to meat one that will fix a flat tire on a wheelchair. Unlike the USA it is not because they are afraid of a law suit or anything like that it is simply the way that things work here, Even though a wheelchair tire is no different to work on than a bicycle tire a bicycle tire repair man won’t touch it simply because of the fact that it is not a bicycle. The same thing goes for an auto mechanic here in Guatemala. They would never consider replacing even something as simple as a missing or broken bolt on a bicycle, tricycle, wheelchair or any thing other than a car. Unfortunately this often leaves some of our people who are in wheelchairs with out transportation for the simplest of reason until they can either get their wheelchair to us or we can get to them. Today Ronny’s manual chair was a classic case. I was a bit suspicious when I was told that both tires mysteriously went flat while he was at school. Sure enough there was nothing wrong with either tire other than the fact that some one had simply let the air out of them. I asked Ronny’s father if he had tried to pump them up before calling us. He told us that he had not because he only had a bicycle pump. Had I taken a felt pin along I would have written bicycle and wheelchair pump on it for him because I am not sure that he is still convinced that it will work on both. Our drive out was not in vane though because he was having problems with his power wheelchair and after seeing how some of the auto electricians in Guatemala fix things I just as soon that they keep believing that since it is not a car they can’t fix it. I did manage to get it going and Ronny was once again off exploring with his power chair. While we were there we talked more about the new house that is going to be built for the family in February. I don’t think that it will be any to soon either. Ronny’ parents told me that just a few days earlier they had to put Ronny’s wheelchair up on a table because the water in their house was knee deep.

Paul enjoyed himself but commented that he had never realized how poor some of these people were. It is one ting to hear about people who are going hungry every day but quite another thing to sit and visit with them. Before leaving Ronny’s mom took us to a family that lives in another dirt floor house. The lady there had been hit by a buss a few weeks ago and has no wheelchair. She seem to be in a lot of pain. She told me that she saw a doctor. It looked to me like she had a broken femur but the doctor that she saw had not even put it in a cast.

Before leaving we gave Ronny’s family some groceries that we had bought. I had not intended on bringing them any on this trip but Fernando had convinced me to do otherwise. Before we left this morning he asked me if he could take all of his hard earned money out of my book and by some food for Ronny and his family. Granted his earnings were less than a dollar but it got me thinking about a widow who did the same thing nearly 2000 years ago. I told Fernando that we would stop and buy groceries and that he didn’t have to use his money. As we sat eating supper in a restaurant a few hours later I could not help but wonder if we should have been willing to give even a little more to this family.

On our way back my car started running really rough but we managed to make it home. I plan on taking it to a mechanic on Monday and from the way the engine sounds I am thankful that camp recruiting is finished for the year. Tomorrow morning I am suppose to take 12 people to a birthday party that is about an hour and a half from here. Fortunately Chris can spare the Kia van for the day.

Wow it looks like those sort journals didn’t last all that long after all!

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, October 19, 2007, 9:53 PM

I was not especially looking forward to today. Earlier in the week I had promised Calin that I would take him and his relatives to an aunts birthday. That was before I realized that 12 people wanted to go. It was also before I realized that my car would not be running, and not until I was an hour into the trip did I realize that Calin’s ant lived not a half hour from Chemaltenango but an hour and a half away. There seemed to be so many things that needed catching up on at home and I really needed to get my car into the shop. Never the less a promise was a promise and unfortunately Chris did not need the van today so I had no good excuse not to go.
At 8:00 AM I picked up Calin, his grandmother, his mother, and 9 others and headed out to a birthday party of some one whom I had never met. I must admit I cheered up a bit when I discovered that Calin’s uncle and aunt did not live in the town of San Martin as I had been lead to believe but way out in the middle of no where. Granted it was a long bumpy drive but the hillside that they lived on was beautiful. Uncle and aunt owned a lot of land that had everything from corn to coffee planted on it. They also had some fruit trees an pasture land with cows grazing on it. The home that they lived in was simple but spacious and the had flowers growing everywhere. They welcomed me like I was a long lost cousin and I soon felt right at home. Even though Calin had to translate for me we had a great time visiting.
While some of the ladies prepared lunch over a wood stove that filled the kitchen with smoke some of us took a walk to a nearby stream. Some of the kids went swimming in their Fruit Of The Loom swim wear. Still having a bit of USA modesty I chose to stay out of the water. When we returned to the house a large lunch was served. I sat across from the village pastor and his wife and we had a wonderful visit. When it was time to go home I hated to leave. I had almost forgotten what country life was like. Any way what I thought was going to be a wasted day turned out to be a fun and relaxing day and I was sorry that I had tried to get out of it.

Three of the kids have once again built a tent city in my living room and are now working hard on convincing that it would be a shame to have gone through all that work with out being able to sleep in it at least one night. I was looking forward to a quiet night at home but I am sure that I will give in just like I did with taking Calin and his relatives to the birthday party. As I look at these 3 I realize how much it means to them to be able to have some where that they can feel safe. One of them has come from and abusive home, another has not seen his mother since he was a year old, and the other one is still wondering if they will find the murder of his brother who was shot in cold blood here in Chemaltenango a few months ago.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, October 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving! No the Guatemalans do not celebrate Thanksgiving in October. As far as I know they have no Thanksgiving but that does not stop the Moony family from celebrating one of the most traditional American thanksgivings that you could possibly imagine, complete with Turkey, Stuffing, Cranberries, every kind of pie that you can imagine and dozens of other great things to eat. Since things get a little busy around camp time Chris and Donna celebrate Thanksgiving about a month early and they do it up good. After dinner we all sat around the table and shared what we were thankful for. It was a fun way to reflect on how good God had been to each of us this past year. I took my camera along but with all of the good food and great fellowship I forgot to take any pictures. It’s probably for the best any way because the pictures would just make everyone hungry.

Thank you Chris, Donna, and family for making me a part of your family!

Sunday, October 21, 2007, 10:49 PM

Since my car is not running well at all a few of the kids and my self had intended on walking about a mile to where we could catch a buss to Antigua so that we could go to church, however a heavy rain made us change our plans. Gordon graciously let us borrow his car though, so 4 of us still went. I had planed on going to the orphanage after church but since we had Gordon’s car we decided that we had better get back to Chemaltenango. The rest of my afternoon was spent at home. I even managed to have the house to myself for about 2 hours but after that it was wall to wall kids.

Abner and Alex offered to make supper tonight so I let them have at it. I think that we had pancakes but I am not quite sure. Alex’s mom came over shortly after the boys started cooking and told me that he and Elder, who was also here, were suppose to be in church but had snuck over to my house instead. I knew that he usually went to church with his mom on Sunday night and had asked him when he showed up here why he wasn’t in church. He told me that it had gotten out early. I have rules here about lying and Alex’s mom has rules about skipping church. It will be 6 days before Elder returns to my house and 8 days before Alex is allowed to come back. It will be a bit hard on both boys but I am thankful that they have a mother who cares. I wish that all of my kids had parents that cared.

Anyway Abner who seldom likes to help out with any of the work was now on his own. At first he got quite frustrated and wanted to quit cooking but after showing him that it was best to wait to flip the pancakes until they were no longer a liquid he began to get the hang of it. After a while you could even recognize a few of them as being pancakes. The kids were all hungry enough though that none of them complained. Or perhaps they didn’t dare complain because they knew who would be doing a week worth of cooking if they did. Everyone helped clean up and I took a turn at doing the dishes.

No one is spending the night because I am going to get up at 5 AM and take my car into a shop in Guatemala City. Because of the way that my car is running I want to get into the city before the traffic gets heavy.

Well I better head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, October 22, 2007

This morning Chris and I brought my car in to Guatemala City to get the engine rebuilt. I was glad that we left early because the engine was not doing well at all. I decided to pay the big bucks and get everything done right because I hope that I can use this car for many years. Tomorrow they will let me know exactly what the cost will be.

After Chris And I got back to Chemaltenango I took the Kea van to Antigua. Several of the kids wanted to accompany me but I had to get a lot of work done there and felt that I had better go by my self. Even though I still had a lot of little helpers once I got to the orphanage I actually managed to get a lot of wheelchairs fixed. I didn’t take any of the kids out to lunch today but did take a few the ones that helped me out for a coke before returning home.

Not as many kids as usual showed up for supper tonight but those that did ate enough that you would have thought that there had been 15 of them.

I am heading off to bed early because we have a large wheelchair distribution planned for tomorrow.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, October 23, 2007, 4:53 PM

Calin and Abner begged me to let them come along to the wheelchair distribution today. This morning I agreed to take both boys but let them know that this we were going to be busy seating people in wheelchairs and if they did not intend to work they would be far better of staying at home. My little lecture was mostly for Abner’s benefit. Calin has come along before and has done a great job of helping out. Abner can be a different story though. Some times he can get so stubborn and moody that I hardly know what to do with him. When we got started Calin teamed up with me and Abner with Benjamin and both boys did great. Before doing any seating of wheelchairs we had a short program for the people that had come from as far as 5 hours away. The Guatemalan teens that will be helping out at camp gave a Christian drama then Chris followed up by sharing about the love of Christ. Following that all of us worked at demonstrating Christ’s love by personally fitting 49 people into their own personally fitted wheelchairs. Some of the people were out of the door with in minutes and others took several hours to fit. We tried to make the time that we spent with each of them a special time. Letting them know not only that we cared but that God cares.
Calin lit up when he recognized a man that works at a gas station that is a few miles from my house. One day while stopping for fuel at the station where he works Calin struck up a conversation with him. Some how Calin HAPPENED to mention to him that we give away wheelchairs. I could tell that the man wanted to know more but I did not know why. Never the less I did not hurry their discussion and after a while Calin asked me if I had a wheelchair forum with me. Just by CHANCE this man had a son of 12 years old who could not walk but had never owned a wheelchair. LUCKY thing that we had HAPPENED to pick this particular gas station to stop at, especially considering that there are many gas stations nearer to my home. LUCKIER yet was the fact that this man HAPPENED to come to my car considering there were around a half dozen attendants standing there. Today when Calin and I walked over to this man, he quickly introduced us to his wife and son. According to what Calin was interpreting this family didn’t think that they had been at all Lucky. They were giving all of the credit to God. It almost made us think that we had experienced another one of those GODINCIDENCE things.

The first little boy that we fit today had been brought in by his mother for a wheelchair. I knew that she was extremely appreciative and being able to see her son in a wheelchair brought tears of joy to her eyes. I took my time getting him set just right but knew that out of the 49 chairs that we were giving out today over half were specialty fits. I had been watching this mother though and see was so great with this little boy that I could not help but wonder if we could do more. A good part of the time that she was holding her child she would gently lower him to the floor. Even though his legs were to week to hold his full weight he seemed to enjoy moving his feet in an attempt to walk. If only we had a walker that would give him enough support and if only I had the time. I looked around and realized that we had 5 teams that were doing specialty fitting. Back a few years ago we were fortunate when we had more than 2. I then looked back over at this loving mother and her child. Even if we were swamped didn’t they deserve the best that we could give them. WWJD. I soon found my self at our shop next door to the church that we had been working in. The walker that I needed for this little boy would have to have more support than any walker that I had ever seen but perhaps there was something that would work. We had one that would perhaps work wit a lot of modifying but Chris told me that it had already been promised to a child that we will be seeing at another distribution. Suddenly I saw something that I thought might work. It was a walker that had recently come in on a container. Although it had not yet been refurbished it appeared to be in good shape. One part was missing but I figured that we could come up with something to replace that part. About 2 hours later the little boy was standing straight and tall and making the first small steps that he had ever made with out being held up by some one else. I was glad that we had gone that extra mile.

I can only share what I personally witnessed today but I know that everyone that helped out today could share similar stories. Just seeing the look on Abner’s face after he had worked with out complaining until the last chair went out of the door, told me that he had truly experienced what it was like to be able to kneel at someone else’s feet and share the love of Jesus.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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