* 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, November 27, 2007

Sam Sam at orphanage & at camp

video

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Journal November 20-25

. . . . Kid's Camp 2007 . . . .

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Last night I stayed at camp with Calin and 3 of the kids from Hermano Pedro. I was ready for a sleepless night but the kids were all tired enough that they fell asleep within an hour after being put to bed. One of the care givers from Hermano Pedro is once again coming in each night to help with the kids so that really helps. This morning she got Mercedes and Sonia showered and dressed while I did Moises, Byron, and David. Actually I had the boys finished before any one else got up. It seems that they were all slept out by 5 am so I took advantage of the empty showers and had them ready before the rest room filled up with other campers.
After a delicious breakfast I worked on a few powered chairs while the kids separated into groups and started some of today’s activities. Mathew, one of the volunteers who has come from New York for several years now approached me and said how happy he was that 5 of the kids from Hermano Pedro could come to camp this year. He said that he could not help but think about some of those that do not get to come to camp though. Especially those that have no families to go home to at Christmas time. Ones like Christina, who sit in their wheelchairs tied to the wall with their hands bound the entire day. Or ones like Sam Sam who are seldom allowed from their cribs. If only they could experience camp. if not for the entire week, even a few hours would be great. Mat and I looked at each other. The campers were all being well taken care of by the other volunteers. What if he and I went and picked up Christina and Sam Sam and brought them to camp for the afternoon. I was not sure that the hospital would allow it but it was well worth a try. Christina has not been out of Hermano Pedro in all of the years that I have known her and Sam is fortunate if he gets out more than a few times a year. Soon the 2 of us were on our way to Hermano Pedro.
Mat later told me that he had prayed the entire way to Antigua that Christina would be allowed to come to camp. Over the years he has established a real friendship with her. Christina who often times bites and scratches at herself and anyone that gets to close to her calms down any time Mat is with her. When we got to Hermano Pedro I went in and talked with Jessica, as expected she was for the idea but we still had to get permission from Social Work and from Father Jose. Less then an hour later Christina, Sam Sam, Mat, and myself were driving out of Antigua on our way to camp. I had called ahead and asked if they could save some lunch for us. The others had already eaten but that was perhaps for the best because both Sam Sam and Christina do better when there is less commotion. The ride to Antigua went great. Sam Sam sat next to me and was so calm that I immediately removed the helmet that he wears day and night. Christina sat in the back seat with Mat. She simply loved the car ride and looked in wonderment at every thing along the way. After lunch we took the 2 of them into the soccer field near the chapel. Most of the other campers had just gone into the chapel to hear Candy give her testimony. We felt that so many people in one building would be to much for Sam
Sam and Christina so we stayed out side in the soccer field. A few of the families who had younger children did the same. The next 2 hours had to be the best hours of Sam Sam and Christina’s lives. Christina was content to sit with Mat and enjoy what was going on around herand she was happy and smiling the entire time. She looked so happy that it was hard to believe that this was the same girl who is often screaming and biting at herself and others. Sam Sam had the time of his life. He played with several of the others adults and kids who had remained out side and was smiling and laughing out loud most of the time. Every now ant then he would come running to me for a reassuring hug but would then go back and play or simply wonder around exploring this new world. The afternoon went all to fast but it was one that none of us will soon forget. When we got the 2 of them back to Hermana Pedro I almost forgot to put on Sam Sam’s helmet which had been lying on the floor of the car the entire day. Unfortunately it was needed the second that the nurse put Sam back into his crib. We said our good byes and headed down the long hall way. Christina had been put to bed with her hands tied, and the bang, bang, bang of Sam Sam’s head against the steal bars of his crib echoed down the hallway attempting to drowned out the memories of an unforgettable afternoon.

Yours in Christ: Dick


Wednesday, November 21, 2007, 10:00 PM

Another outing on the lake today.
Everyone had a great time. I’m tired.

Goodnight,

Yours in Christ: Dick


Thursday, November 22, 2007

I pretty much stuck around camp today. Tomorrow kids camp is over so I wanted to be with the kids as much as possible. I managed to work on a few wheelchairs but with all of the willing helpers that I had it took a bit longer then I had expected to get anything done. Jason, a boy that use to live at Hermano Pedro, and Moises were both determined to be my chief helpers so the competition gat a bit out of hand at times. In their enthusiasm to hand me tools they managed to dump the entire contents of my tool box onto the ground several times. Have you ever seen one of those tool boxes that has a tray built into the lid that has dozens of individual compartments that hold hundreds of various size nuts and bolts? Chris and Donna bought me one like that for Christmas last year. I loved it at the time but after having nearly every kid in the orphanage and several of the kids at camp open the lid to my tool box with out first closing the lid to the nut and bolt tray I am considering writing a letter to the company that made it telling them what a stupid idea it was. It was a great day though and in spite of having nuts bolts and tools scattered from one end of the cam to the other we managed to get a lot of wheelchairs fixed. Myrna a little girl from Santa Maria Dejesus was especially happy that we made the seating system of her power chair larger so that she could once again drive it.

This was our final night of camp so after a big dinner we had a closing ceremony. Each camper and their parent or care giver is given a gift bag and the opportunity to say something, if they want to. Several of the kids simply said thank you but the smile on there faces said it all. Others express their feelings in words that brought tears to many of our eyes. One that really stands out in my mind was Erica, the little girl with the skin condition. She not only thanked everyone in Spanish but also in English then she gave a big hug to many of us. She has been an absolute delight all week. Everything that she does is done with so much enthusiasm that it is contagious and so is the smile that is continually on her face. It is hard to believe that this is the same little girl that Chris and I found cowering in a corner of her home when we met her a few short years ago. Was this camp a success? YES!! Even if Erica had been the only one that attended it would have been well worth it, but she was not the only one that attended, nor was she the only one who was beaming from ear to ear. Over 50 other kids with disabilities and many family members had experienced 5 days of camp that they will not soon forget.

Yours in Christ: Dick


Friday, November 25, 2007

Right after breakfast we gathered up the Hermano Pedro kids to take them home. Mercedes, who can not speak with words was fully communicating to us how she and so many of the other campers felt about going home. Mercedes is usually nothing but smiles was in tears, and for nearly an hour there was not much that we could say or do to keep her from crying. Even though there were tears in many eyes I guess that I felt the most for Mercedes because she does not have a family to go home to. The other 4 kids that had come to camp from the orphanage at least had families that were going to let them come home during the Christmas holidays but the closest thing to family that Mercedes has ever known are the people that at camp that have come to know and love her. She cheered up a bit when I told her that I was not going back to the States for Christmas and that even though it likely would not be right on Christmas day I was going to take her out for lunch. Sonia also got a little terry eyed on the drive home but managed to keep from crying. When we reached Hermano Pedro and I opened the door to the van she let out a squeal of delight. Her father and a brother and sister were there to take her home for the holidays. Moises was equally as happy when he discovered that his family was also there to take him home. David and Byron’s parents were not there for them but should be with in a day or 2. Hermano Pedro will empty out a bit for the next 2 months but the kids that stay will be the ones that have no relatives so I am going to try to see to it that at least some of them get attention.

As soon as I got back from the Orphanage we loaded up Ronny, his sister, and his grandmother. Lillian, (another camper) Lillian’s mother, her sister, and 5 of our volunteers from the States also joined us. This was the first time that these 5 volunteers had ever been to Guatemala so being able to see where some of our campers actually lived was quite an eye opener to them. Lillian’s home is a simple 2 room block house but her mother has a way of making their simple dwelling look so inviting that I think many of us could have moved right in. Everything in the house is kept spotless and the entire yard is full of flowers. The family served us rice milk and then gave us 2 live chickens to bring back to Chris and Donna as gifts. Both gifts were appreciated but a few of our volunteers were apprehensive about drinking the rice milk because it was likely made from water that was not filtered. I graciously drank mine but have for the most part developed an iron stomach after living here all of these years. I must admit though that the thought of having 2 live chickens with us in a warm van for the next several hours was not up there on my list of favorate things to do. Never the less there was no way to refuse such a generous gift.
Our next stop was at Ronnie’s house. This was the real eye opener to the group that had accompanied me. Unlike Lillian’s house there were no flowers, only damp mud. Not just in the yard but also in the tin shed that this family calls their home. Ronny’s entire family was overjoyed to see him, his sister, and his grandmother. They were also glad to see us. Here we were offered no food because they had none to give us. Ronny’s other grandmother who had walked over from her house to say hello told us that she was completely out of food so I gave her some money to buy some. I seriously thought about giving them the chickens who’s ever present aroma was becoming more apparent the longer they stayed in the van, but I knew that Lillian’s family wanted them to go to Chris and Donna. Soon we were saying good bye and with in an hours we were sitting in a restaurant having a good meal. One of our team members actually ordered chicken. I made sure that I sat on the far end of the table from her.

We got into Antigua at around 5 pm. This gave the volunteers about an hour to shop. Pastor Bill and some of the others who had not come with us to bring the 2 families home met us there. When thye commented about their ride from Chemaltenango to Antigua on the Chicken buss I told them that they would feel right at home on their van ride to Chemaltenango. As much as I dread shopping I had chosen it over sitting in the warm van that was beginning to get down right ripe.

I have now had a shower and given the van and the chickens to Chris and Donna so I think that I will be able to get some sleep.

Goodnight,
Yours in Christ: Dick


Saturday, November 26, 2007

Chris took six of the volunteers to the airport early this morning and then picked me up with the van at around 7:30. The chickens were no longer in the van. Evidence that they had been their was still lingering. After meeting with the rest of the teem for breakfast at Camperos (the chicken place) I drove the van straight to the car wash.


The rest of my day was spent bringing people to and from the airport. Several of my neighbor kids traded off in coming along. On our firs trip we had about 2 hours between drooping a group of and picking one up so Abner, Calin, and I spent some time at the Zoo. We spent most of that time driving the bumper cars. It is always a good way to stay in practice for normal Guatemalan Driving. I always make sure that I am at the airport before a team arrives because coming into a foreign country not knowing the language and seeing only strange faces when you walk out of the airport can be a frightening experience to even the seasoned traveler.

10:00 pm

I just dropt of the last of our volunteers that flew in from the USA. Monday will be the beginning of our third and final camp of the year. We are expecting over 80 campers. Each of them will likely bring one or 2 family members along with them so I think that this will be a record breaker. We are looking forward to it though and are praying that this camp goes as smoothly as our last 2. They were fantastic. All of our campers had a wonderful time and many of them gave their harts to the Lord.

Yours in Christ: Dick


Sunday, November 25, 2007, 8:54 PM

This morning most of the USA volunteers accompanied me to the church that I attend in Antigua. Fernando and Jason also came along. Most of the other kids went to the water slides with a church group from the church that Calin’s grandmother attends. After church we went to Hermano Pedro. Most of the kids who have family members have now gone home for the Christmas holidays but those that were at Hermano Pedro were glad to see us. They are the kids that have no family and are hurting the worst because of lack of someone who can spend time with them. We stayed for a long time but finally had to say goodbye. For some reason I had an especially hard time leaving the orphanage today. Partly because some of the kids seemed so sad. I think it was because they knew that the others had familys to go home to and they did not. Another reason that it was hard to say good bye was because of 2 kids that are in malnutrition who are not doing well. They are the 2 kids that I mentioned in my November 7 journal. When I looked in on the little 5 year old girl I was shocked to see that she looked much worse than she did when she was admitted in to the hospital 2 weeks ago. I fear that nothing short of a miracle will keep her alive much longer. 14 year old Byron (not the Byron that I usually write about) looked a little better but is still not out of the woods. His arms and legs are not much bigger around than my thumb. I wanted so much to hold these 2 children but was afraid that if I did not pick them up correctly they would possible die in my arms. The nurses in the malnutrition ward are trying to give them the best care possible but some times even that is not enough. Please pray for these 2 children and many others who have no hospitals to go to. Pray for us to. It is hard to see these children suffer but it would be harder yet not to be here for them.

Yours in Christ; Dick

Monday, November 19, 2007

Journal November 12-19


Monday, November 12, 2007

Today was our first day of camp. I took 2 of the volunteers and Calin along with me to pick up the 7 teens who were coming from Hermano Pedro. By lunch time there were only 35 campers. That is only half as many as we had last year. One bus load of campers soon changed the numbers to 65. Donya Marie the lady that we work with in Mazatenango had contacted everyone who was come from that area and others along the way and they had rented a buss to bring the entire group down. Since they all chipped in it didn’t cost anyone much money to get here. I think that a few more campers showed up after that so we have to be approaching the 70 mark.

I did not get to spend much time at camp because a family brought a little girl in who needed a wheelchair. Calin and I took them to the wheelchair shop and did the fitting there. Did manage to make it back to camp for supper and helped feed some of the Hermano Pedro Campers. This year we hired one of the workers form Hermano Pedro to come in each night and help our volunteers with getting the teens ready for bed and up again in the morning.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007, 10:21 PM

Another busy day. After getting last weeks journal ready and sent out Abner, Calin, and I headed down to camp. I had planed on heading to the coast this afternoon to pick up the lady that has a broken Femur and taking her to Hermano Pedro. While at camp I saw that David’s mother who lives only a half hour out of the way from where I was heading. She had come to pick up some medicine and other supplies for David. Since getting to camp requires a truck ride followed by 3 buss rides, David had decided not to come to camp this year. Since David’s other’s ride home required the same I asked her if we could bring her home. Not only was she delighted but so were the 2 volunteers who had asked to come along. They had never been in any of the Aldes and were eager to see more country. When we got to David’s house I looked at his bed sore and after 4 years it appears to be nearly healed. I still worry about it though because he stil runs an occasional fever and has some soreness. He is once again taking some antibiotics to help ward off any infection but unfortunately he had been on so many antibiotics during the past few years that he as built up an imunity to them.

After visiting there we stopped off at the home of Jovone’s parents. His mother was looking very sad and told us that the entire family is still having a hard time dealing with Jovone’s death. We visited a while and I promised that I would be back when I had more time.

Our next stop was at Ronny’s house. Ronny’s father was out working in the sugar cane fields but the rest of his family was at home. The have a new well dug on the property where their house is going to be built at and seem extremely happy that they will soon be getting a new home.

Next we went to the home of the lady that broke her femur a few months ago. At firs her husband and daughter wanted to accompany her to the hospital but we convinced her husband to stay home and her granddaughter came along in his place. I am sure that he is a nice man when he is sober but today he was not sober. It was nearly 7 pm bythe time we got into Antigua but the paper work went smoothly and it was not long before we had her and her grandaughters registered into a Casa Defay. That is where they wil be spending the night.

Am planning on bringing them to se a doctor at Hermano Pedro at 6:30 am. Since there are no appointments and it is first come first serve I want to be standing in line a half hour before they open up.

I guess I beer call it a day.

Goodnight,
Yours in Christ: Dick


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

This morning I left home at 6 am so that I could pick up Anglia the lady that has the broken femur from where she was staying in Antigua and get Her into Hermano Pedro before the lines got to long. Even though we got there at around 6:30 there were still plenty of people ahead of us in line. By the time the doors opened at 7 am there must have been 100 people waiting to see one of the doctors.

I stayed around until we got her registered but since her daughter had come along to help I left once we were sure that she would be seen by a doctor today.

My next stop was at the wheelchair shop where picked up a power wheelchair for Sergio. He is the boy that lives in Sequential who is going to be going to a school that is about a mile from his home. I am hoping that the power chair that I set up for him will be able to climb the steep holes that he has to go up to get from his house to school. Both he and his mother who has accompanied him to camp were thrilled with the power wheelchair. A lot of our other campers looked a bit envious but we explained to them that the power wheelchairs chairs can only be given out to someone who has little or no hand use.

Shortly before noon I received a phone call saying that Angla was ready to go home. Hank, (one of the volunteers who came from Canada to help out at camp) and Fernando rode along with me to bring this lady and her daughter back to their home. When we got to Hermano Pedro to pick them up Angela looked tired but had a big smile on her face. She was excited because it looks like she will soon be able to walk again. Our suspensions had been confirmed. The plate that the doctors at the national hospital had put into her leg 6 months ago had had broken in 2. Actually the x-rays reveled that on the day of her surgery the hospital must have been short on steal plate. In stead of using one 12 inch solid plate the had taken 2 shorter ones, over lapped them by about an inch and tried to screw them together with 2 small screws. Then they screwed the 2 plates to her femur with about 8 larger bolts. Needless to say the 2 smaller bolts that sandwiched the 2 plates together snapped. On December 7, 3 days before the hospital virtually shuts down until mid January a team of American specialists will remove the old plates and put in a new one. Anglia is delighted and so are we. When we brought her and her daughter home the rest of her family was so grateful that they tried to repay us the only that they could and that was by giving us coconuts. It was hard to convince them not to fill the entire back of the van up with coconuts but we finally convinced them that 20 coconuts were more then enough.

Before heading home we stopped off at Ronny’s house we had been told that he was not going to be able to come to camp because his family did not have the money for buss fair for him and his grandmother to come to camp. We also brought in some groceries because they were out of everything and it would still be a week before Ronny’s father would receive any pay for working in the sugar cane fields.

We made it back to Chemaltenango just before supper time so I at least got to eat with the campers. I have not had a chance to spend much time at camp this week but plan on going on an all day outing with them tomorrow.

Once again the close muscles on my eye lids are overpowering the open muscles so I will say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, November 15, 2007

After loading up 3 busses and one van with campers we headed of to Lake Autilan. Even though this is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world most of our camper had never had the chance to see it yet alone to take a boat ride on it. The price of renting the boat for the 4 hour trip came to just a little over $1 per person. How they can make any money on running a boat that is large enough to hold over 150 people for just over $200 is beyond me but we didn’t complain. It was a pleasant day.

I know that these journals are short but my with camp going on my free time is even shorter.

Goodnight,


Friday, November 16, 2007
Camp ended all to soon for most of us. Even though we had fewer volunteers than usual this year things went extremely smooth. We even managed to get the orphanage kids home today with no tears. Well at least there were none from the campers. Some of the volunteers did not practice what they preached. Linda will try to do better next year. So will I. Maria, her grandmother, and 2 cousins were the last ones to leave camp. Since three of the volunteers who been coming to camp for several years now have never been out to a village I had tried to work things out so that we could take Maria and her family home. I am not sure how much opportunity New Yorkers get to ride down dirt roads in the back of a pick up truck but today a few of them did. So did Maria and her family, but to them this was far from a new experience. We had a great time at Maria’s house and Maria’s family mad sure that nearly every picture that we took was taken in front of their new bathroom. Even though those who rode back home in the back of the truck nearly froze to death all three said that visiting this aldea was the highlight of their trip.

Saturday, November 17, 2007, 10:37 PM

This one is also going to be quite short because I have to get up at 4 am to take someone to the airport. I picked up a new group this morning and Bill Vandyken and I were on our way to pick up another group this evening when the Kea van overheated. I quickly phoned Chris who was on his way to bed because he had to get up at 4 am to bring Bill’s daughter to the plane. Chris quickly went and picked up tonight’s group. About an hour ago I gave Chris a call telling him that I had taken care of the overheating problem so I will do the early morning run tomorrow. If you think that this is confusing to you then you ought to imagine how we feel. I have little doubt that before camp is over we will one day find that we have both driven to the airport to pick up the same person. Or worse yet both stay home think that the other one had gone to pick someone up. I mentioned a few days ago that during the 3 weeks of camp we will have to do 13 round trips to and from Guatemala City to either pick up people from the airport or bring them back to the airport. What I failed to mentioned is that 6 round trips will be taken to get Guatemalan volunteers who live in the city and 2 trip for campers from the orphanage in Guatemala city. That is 21 round trips to and from the city in a 2 week span. It has been a long and rather confusing day. I am hoping a few hours of sleep will help relieve some of that confusion.

Oh ya some where it the middle of all of this we managed to get to Antigua and take 7 of the kids from the orphanage out to lunch. I would normally go back and insert this in the right spot but at this point I have no Idea just where in the last paragraph it belongs. Besides that trying to figure it out would rob me of minutes of precious sleep.

Goodnight:

Yours in Christ: Dick


Sunday, November 18, 2007, 8:56 AM

You may think that this is a strange time for me to be writing but as busy as it has been lately I find that I have to use any spare minute that I have to write in my journal or it won’t get done. Bill and Chris made to the airport in time to pick up last nights arriving group. Chris was able to sleep in this morning while I took Bill’s daughter to the airport. Bill is the one that didn’t get much sleep though. He not only rode along with Chris to pick up the 3 volunteers that he had personally promised to meet at the airport but came along to see his daughter off at 4:30 am. Guess who is preaching at Chris’s church this morning. Bill is afraid that he may be the first preacher to ever fall asleep during his own sermon.

Well I better close for now. I have to get ready to take a group of people to the airport.

7:47 PM

After making a second trip to the airport this morning I think that I can get there and back with my eyes closed. Thankfully we don’t have any trips scheduled for a few days so I may get a chance to rest.

After the entire group met for lunch at 56 I took a van load of people to Antigua. We spent a good part of the afternoon at the orphanage. This was the first time in Hermano Pedro for some of our group and I could that they were quite nervous at first but it did not take long before they warmed up to the kids. For others of our group it had been a year but it did not take long before old friendships were reestablished. Most of the members of our group had intended on only staying at the orphanage for a short time and then going shopping in Antigua however they found the kids to be more appealing than buying gifts and souvenirs, so by when we finally left the orphanage they only a short time to shop.

Tomorrow will be the first day of kids camp so even though it is early I am going to head of to bed and catch ahead of time on the sleep that I am going to loose this coming week. We have gotten the OK for all of the kids to go except for Moises. We had to tell him yesterday that we have done everything possible to contact and receive permission from his family for him to go to camp but so far we have heard nothing. This week Nearly all of the kids in the orphanage that have families are going home for Christmas break. That is why we need to notify the parents of those coming to camp to pick their children up a week later than usual. If we do not here from Moises’ parents by tomorrow morning it is doubtful that he will be allowed to attend camp. We are all praying for a miricle because we know how devistaded he will be if he can not come to camp.

Goodnight,
Yours in Christ; Dick


Monday, November 19, 2007, 3:36 PM

Camp is under way and everyone is settling in. I plan on spending most of my time there this week but managed to sleek away for a few hours to see if I could possibly get this journal out.

This morning Calin, 3 of the USA volunteers, and myself went to Hermano Pedro orphanage. Shortly after I arrived I talked to Jessica. Her and I decided to go in and talk to Social work about the possibility fo taking Moises to cam with out hearing form his parents. We were first going to ask if he could go if we promised that I would be able to gat him back to Hermano Pedro within an hour of a phone call from them if Moises’ parents did show up for him. If they did not go for that Jessica was going to ask them if I could check him out from Hermano Pedro every morning and return him every night is a similar fashion to the way we do it when he comes to my house for the day. “Oh ye of little faith.” After Jessica got into about the first minute of her well rehired speech one of the ladies from social work held up her hand and stopped her. She told us that she had just gotten a phone call from Moises’ father and he had said that it was all right for Moises to come to camp. Soon we had 5 happy kids from Hermano Pedro, 2 families who had arranged to meat us at Hermano Pedro, and the 5 of us who had come to get them stuffed into the Kea van and Carlos’ pickup truck and we were on our way to a fun filled week of camp.

When I left camp at around 1 PM there were over 40 campers there. Many of them were accompanied by more than the suggested one family member or companion. So there are already more than 100 people there. I am sure that more will still be arriving this afternoon.

I am going to close for now so that I can get back to camp.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Movie TEEN CAMP 2007 (CLICK HERE)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Journal November 5-11

Monday, November 5, 2007

Today was graduation day for the 7 kids that we school at Hermano Pedro. Nanette, their teacher has a graduation ceremony at the end of each school year giving recognition to the kids for having been promoted another grade in School. The Audience was small but supportive. It consisted of Chris, Donna, Sonia’s mother and brother, one volunteer from Hermano Pedro, Calin, and myself. Booth teacher, students, audience, were beaming with delight at how much had been accomplished by the students this year. Along with advancing a grade level many of them accomplished other things as well. Byron who was basically nonverbal at the beginning of the school year is starting to express himself more and more. He is also learning to read. Moises loves school and is also serving as Interpreter for Minor who started school only knowing his Mayan Language. Minor is picking up Spanish so fast that he won’t need and interpreter much longer. Roberto is perhaps the slowest to learn but loves his teacher and enjoys going to school. Sonia is doing awesome and we are still praying that we can get her into one of the private schools in Antigua. There are still a few people who do not think that she should attend a so called normal school. “After all she is in a wheelchair.” It is my opinion that there must be some kind of mental problem. Not a mental problem with Sonia, but with anyone who feels that she should not attend a regular school. Carlos continues to do well in school but the muscular dystrophy is weakening his body. Fidel did so well in school this year that Nanette is considering putting him through 2 grades of school next year. Since both he and Carlos will be staying at Hermano Pedro during Christmas break Nanette will continue to come in and teach the 2 of them.

After The graduation program Calin and I went and got some lunch. We had intended on taking Thomasina and her brother Manwell out for lunch today but it was a bit colder than usual today so we could not take them out of the malnutrition ward. After lunch I looked in on Jennifer. She is doing a lot better since we built her the bed that keeps her on her side.

Gregory is a boy that was admitted to the teen section a few months ago. He has been sitting in a canvas back wheelchair but they had to tie him in with bed sheets to keep him from falling out. Each of the Therapists that were here Friday and Saturday had brought a specialty wheelchair with them on the plane. This afternoon was spent in getting one of them adjusted for Gregory. He carefully watched my every move as I adjusted things on the wheelchair. I enjoyed visiting with him and didn’t mind that he watched me but I must admit it did bother me a bit when he kept removing one of his eyes from its socket. I have seen people do that with glass eyes but never with real ones. Anyway after finishing up on Gregory‘s wheelchair and convincing him to put his eye back into the socket we headed for home.

Spaghetti night seems to be a favorate around my house. Tonight I simply added ground hamburger. For some reason meat balls or anything else that resembled an eye ball did not sound appetizing. No complaints from the kids though. I only counted 10 of them at the table but was sure that I had made enough food to feed 20. All of the plates were licked so clean that I thought about putting them into the cupboard without washing them.

Well I think that I will head off to bed.

Goodnight, Yours in Christ: Dick



Tuesday, November 6, 2007, 11:25 PM

What can be more relaxing than going down to the coast and relaxing by the water. Probably a lot of things considering that the water was not the ocean but a water slide park. Also the 19 kids that came along with me kept it from being a completely relaxing day but I must admit that they were all well behaved. Originally I was only going to take the kids that had gotten good grades in School but since that ruled out nearly half of them I made a compromise. I would pay for the ones that received good grades, the others were on their own. How and where about 10 of them got the money is beyond me but by 10 AM 20 of us were heading down the road in the Kia van. We all had a great time but I admit the kids outlasted me. I didn’t sleep but I did get a chance to sit in a lawn chairs and simply observe the action for better than an hour. 4 PM rolled around far to soon and it was like pulling teeth to gat the kids to stop swimming and get dressed.

Well due to the fact that I can not type with my eyes closed I am going to call it a day and head for bed.

Goodnight,
Yours in Christ: Dick



Wednesday, November 7, 2007


This morning Fernando and I headed to the wheelchair shop and repaired a power wheelchair that some one had brought in. After doing that and paying a few bills we headed to Hermano Pedro and quickly signed out Manwell and Thomisina from the malnutrition ward. The way that those 2 eat I have little doubt that they will be fattened up and healthy soon. Manwell is very outgoing and even though he has likely never been in a restaurant before he seemed to make himself feel right at home. Having Fernando there really helped as well. Fernando can make friends with other kids faster than anyone that I know. Thomisina who is 2 years older than Manwell was much quieter and did a lot of looking around as though she was scoping out the situation. She did not smile until we had finished eating and I had put her one of the slides. Soon much like her brother she was attempting to climb the ladder on her own. When we got back to Hermano Pedro I did some checking on weather or not these 2 kids have ever been in School. No one is quite sure they promised that they would find out. Some times all it takes is having a teacher work privately with a child for a short time and once a school realizes that the child can learn the school accepts them.

After lunch I met with Jessica. She wanted to show me 2 new kids that were just admitted to the malnutrition ward. The first child was a little boy who appeared to be about 4 years old. Knowing what starvation does I figured that he was older than he looked and guessed his age to be around 6. I could hardly believe it when one of the nurses told me that he was 14 years old. He had arrived in very poor health so we decided to wait until he gains more strength before putting him in a wheelchair. The second child that we looked at was a little girl of 5 years old. She was so fragile looking that I was afraid to pick her up. I didn’t even measure her for a wheelchair because right now her main concern is not getting a wheelchair but staying alive.

More power chair repairs this afternoon and then we headed for home. On our way home we stopped off at the home of Hullio a teen age boy who was paralyzed in a diving accident. I had been told that he was having some problems with his power wheelchair. Evidently they were not big problems because his mother told us that he had gone some where with his friends. Up until a year ago he was basically confined to his home. Hullio’s power chair has changed his life.

The cook took a night off tonight. I simply set some cereal boxes out on the table and told the kids to have at it. The funny thing is some of the kids like cereal better than anything that I make for them. I guess that does not say much for my cooking.

Well it is getting late and all of the kids except Calin are gone. Calin managed to fall to sleep before I told the kids that it was time to go so I guess he is staying.

Goodnight,
Yours in Christ: Dick


Thursday, November 8, 2007, 11:20 PM

Calin and I met Chris, Gordon, and Juan at Camperos at 8 AM. After breakfast we drove to Ronny’s home. Juan is a pastor in Tecpan but he also works as a block layer so that he can feed his family. He will soon be laying the foundation for the new home that will be built for Ronny’s family in February. At that time a church group of around 20 people from Washington state will be coming to help with building of the house so we want to have the foundation ready for them so that they can start laying cement block when they get here. Not only have they offered to build the house but they are also paying for all of the material. Needless to say Ronny’s entire family is extremely excited about finally having something more than a one room tin shed to live in. Normally we try to use as many local people as possible to help with the building but Sugar cane harvesting has just started up and the next few months will be the only time that most of the men from this area will have steady employment.

Ronny’s father and mother walked with us to the cleared off piece of land where they want the house built. Even though it is higher in elevation than the tin shack that they now call home is we are still planning on having the floor of the house a few feet above the present ground level. I have seen their present house standing in a foot or 2 of water after a heavy rain. We were happy to here that Ronny is planning on coming to camp this year. Since his father will be working and his mother will have to stay with her other 5 children, Ronny’s grandmother has offered to come along to camp with him.

Before heading for home we went to a house that Ronny’s mother had taken me to on my last visit. An elderly lady e who was hit by a motor cycle while getting off from the buss a few months agolives ther. She had broken her femur and when I saw her she was in a lot of pain and had no way to get out of bed. Today we brought her a wheelchair. She is still in a lot of pain and it does not look like her leg is healing properly so we are making arrangements to get her into Hermano Pedro next week.

I had noticed Ronny’s mother was crying while she was talking to Juan when we were visiting and on our ride home he shared with us why she was crying. Even though Ronny is very intelligent and doing well in school most of Ronny’s aunts, uncles, and cousins feel that he is worthless just because he is in a wheelchair. Not only do they feel that way about Ronny but they let him and his family know that they feel that way. I have seen a lot of improvement during the past few years in the way that Guatemalan people treat people with disabilities, but today I was once again reminded that there is still a long way to go.

Tonight was French toast night. French toast ranks right up there with spaghetti so we had a standing room only crowd around my kitchen table. I did not get an accurate head count but all 10 chairs had people in them and several of the kids were standing. Tonight I introduced a new concept that went over with mixed reviews. Actually it has been introduced before but tonight it was reintroduced with a little more forcefulness. It is called passing instead of reaching. Not only that but things were passed in an orderly fashion. Since Calin was yelling the loudest to be first to have any food I made sure that everything started at the person sitting to the left of him and then in a clock wise rotation to the person on there left. Poor Calin was sure that he was going to starve by the time the food got to him but seeing what he had put away for lunch I was confident that he would not starve to death before the food got to him. Actually the system worked out rather well. By the time the food got all the way around the table the person that had been served first had their plate clean and was ready for seconds.

It is hard to believe that it has already been another year but Monday Camp starts. Harder yet to believe is that it is Camp # 7. I can remember our first year of camp like it was yesterday. Then again they say that older people can often remember things from the past it is just the present that is a bluer. Anyway tomorrow some of the volunteers from the States will be arriving. I have other commitments tomorrow so Chris is going after the 2 groups that arrive tomorrow. We will all get our turns though because it looks like during the next 3 weeks we will be making 13 scheduled trips to and from the airport. Those are just the scheduled trips. Add to that the unscheduled trips to retrieve lost or delayed luggage and it gets to be a lot of driving.

Well it is past midnight so I will once again say goodnight. Or should that be good morning?

Yours in Christ: Dick


Friday, November 9, 2007, 9:26 PM

Fernando’s turn to come along with me today. We first went in to Hermano Pedro but only for a short time. I had to meat with social work to make sure that the teens could still come to camp this coming Monday. It was a good thing that I checked because there had been some mix up but we managed to get things worked out and providing we can get in contact with Carlos’s mom all 7 of the teens from Hermano Pedro will be able to come to camp.

While I was there I made an appointment for the lady with the broken femur to see a doctor on Wednesday. Actually an appointment simply means, be there at 6:30 am so that you are one of the first in line when the doors open at 7:00. I plan on picking her up Tuesday afternoon and she will stay In Antigua over night so that see can be at Hermano Pedro first thing in the morning on Wednesday. She will likely be there most of the day getting exams and x-rays. Then hopefully she will be told when to come back and see a specialist that comes with one of the teems from the USA. It is a bit of a process but well worth it compared to what she would get at one of the national hospitals. Even if they did see her it would likely be a year or 2 before they would be able to do something for her if they did anything at all.

Before leaving Hermano Pedro I received some good news. They are going to let Sonia attend school next year. This is a big mile stone considering that up until now only 2 older teen age boys have ever been allowed to go out to school from Hermano Pedro. We still have to work out a few details like finding some one who can take her to and from school each day but since it is only 5 blocks away I don’t think that we will have much of a problem finding someone who will push her there, especially if we are willing to pay them some thing.

This afternoon Chris went to pick up a group of camp volunteers from the airport while Gordon and I went to see how the bathroom for Maria turned out. Other than a few leeks that will soon be taken care of everything looks good. We had intended on talking with the family about putting cement in 2 of their 3 small homes but after talking with grandmother we could tell that her bigger concern was the 3rd home which was falling down around Maria who still slept there. It is made of mud brick and has the type of tile roof that killed so many Guatemalan people in the earthquake of 1976. Considering the shape that the house is in I am surprised that even some of the earthquakes that we have experienced in the last few years have not collapsed the house. I phoned Chris and he confirmed what I had thought. All 6 houses that had come in with our last container of wheelchairs were already spoken for. They had been given out to people that had even bigger needs than Maria and her family. Some of these families lived in homes that were nothing more than a few polls with some plastic stretched around them. Chris told me though that hopefully we would be betting more homes in 6 to 12 months and that he would be willing to put her on a list for one of these homes. Even knowing that it would not be a sure thing Grandmother told me that she would wait. I wish so that we could instantly meet the needs of everyone that we come into contact with but praise God that we can reach out to as many people as we do.

This evening I went out to eat with the 3 volunteers that Chris picked up this afternoon. Right now Chris is on his way back to the airport to pick up 3 more people that are coming in tonight. At 5 AM I head to the airport to get someone else. That reminds me. It is time for bed.

Goodnight,
Yours in Christ: Dick



Saturday, November 10, 2007

At 5 am Abner, Calin, and I headed to the airport to pick up Hank Hampstra. Hank has come from Canada to volunteer at camp for 2 weeks. Had I only known that his plane was going to be 2 hours late I could have slept in. At least he got here safely. This after noon I took Hank and some of the volunteers that arrived yesterday in to Hermano Pedro to meet some of the kids that will be coming to camp. They had a great time visiting with them and others who will not get to come this year.

Jennifer is doing quite well and the nurses are doing a good job of not letting her lye in one position for more than a few hours.

I took a better look at the new 5 year old girl that came in a few days ago. She seems to be doing a bit better but still has a long way to go before I even dare to work with her. Much like Jennifer her head is also bent backwards and nearly touches her back at times. If she lives I will try to build her something that will hold her in a more relaxed position as well.

The 14 year old boy who was admitted to malnutrition a few days ago is not looking well at all. He is in isolation so I only spent a short time with him. Please remember these children in your prayers.

The group of volunteers went out to eat this evening but I went home and took an hour and a half nap. I had to be back at the airport to pick up 3 more people at 9 pm. My nap was interrupted by 3 phone calls but I was to sleepy to even remember who I talked to or what I said. All I know is when I went to open the gate so that I could head off to the airport 3 kids were standing there waiting for me. All 3 claimed that they had talked to me on the phone and I had individually promised each one of them that they could ride along with me to the airport. I wasn’t to sure weather or not this was some type of conspiracy but having remembered answering the phone 3 times I felt that their stories had enough merit that I had to believe them, so I let them come along. As we approached a McDonalds while coming into Guatemala City the 3 of them tried to convince me that I had also promised that we would stop off there for some food. I had some serious doubts about this especially since I heard a lot of whispering going on just before they told me this, but since I was getting hungry and McDonalds is cheep we stopped off for a bite to eat.

All 3 ladies arrived on time so we were out of the airport by 10. Had it not been for the fact that the gate to the bible school where the ladies are staying was locked and I had not taken the right key along I may have gotten back home and to bed before midnight. Fortunately Pastor Bill, who was staying at the bible school with the other volunteers, has a cell phone. Unfortunately Pastor Bill, who was staying at the bible school with the other volunteers, is almost as hard of hearing as I am. Fortunately as hard of hearing as I am I can still hear my cell phone ring, even when I am asleep. As I previously mentioned I don’t remember what anyone who wakes me up tells me but at least I can hear it ring. Unfortunately pastor Bill wears ear plugs when he sleeps and they make him even deafer than I am. After 3 attempts of phoning Pastor bill it was time for plan B. Fortunately I had given Hank a spare cell phone to use while he is hear, and fortunately he is not deaf. Unfortunately as keen as Hank’s hearing is he is still not able to hear a cell phone that is shut off. The 3 ladies that were with us were good sports but when I told them that they could sleep on my floor with the 3 boys I could see that they preferred something a bit softer. Calin offered to clime over the 10 foot wall that surrounded the bible school. Now back 4 years ago when Calin made a living by climbing other people’s walls he could have scaled this one in 5 seconds. Unfortunately Calin has gained about 100 pounds since then and even claming up on a chair to eat dinner is beginning to be a challenge for him. Abner and Fernando have never been thieves but they have been known to scale a few walls when a misguided soccer ball has gone astray so with very little effort they got inside. They later told me that they pounded on the door of pastor bills room for quite some time. They never did wake him up but managed to wake up enough other people that they finally found someone who had a key to the gate.

It was nearly 1 am when I crawled into bed. That is why today’s journal is actually being written tomorrow. ??????

Yours in Christ: Dick


Sunday, November 11, 2007, 8:50 PM

I took 4 kids along to church with me this morning and then rushed back to Chemaltenango to pick up a van load of volunteers and head straight back to Antigua. Chris, Danna, and their family also came along. We went to an Italian restaurant that serves really good food. I don’t know what it is about this restaurant and me though. It seems that every time we go there something happens to me. Once I got really sick after eating the food. The next time we went there I accidentaly drug my napkin through the spaghettis sauce and changed the color of my shirt from white to blood red. Today though I do have to admit the food was good and I didn’t wipe out a shirt. I got a bit of indigestion though. I think it was from gobbling down my food. I would not have eaten so fast had it not been for the fact that everyone had finished eating before I was served. I guess that I shouldn’t have made that comment about eating at McDonalds next time if anything went wrong. How was I to Know that the waiter understood English?

Some of the group went shopping after lunch. 4 of us went to the orphanage. After an hour those that had come along with me to the orphanage also went shopping. I stayed at the orphanage until it was time to pick up the group.

Tomorrow camp starts so the journals may get a bit shorter for a while.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Journal October 30 - November 4

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

At 4:50 AM Chris and I were on our way to El Salvador. Traffic was light and we found our selves at the border by 9:00 AM. We were met there by Lezete, the lady from El Salvador who would be taking us to where the people that needed wheelchairs lived. We had anticipated a bit of a hassle in getting 5 wheelchairs across the border and were not disappointed. At first we were told that there was no way that we could bring the wheelchairs into the country without a letter from the president’s wife. I have been told that the First Lady is a good person but I doubt that writing a letter saying that she was allowing us to bring 5 wheelchairs into El Salvador was at the top of her list. For the next 2 hours we were shuffled from one office to another. Each office that we were directed to was on the other side of the highway from the previous. Chris later counted it up and we crossed the highway 9 times. Considering that there were both Guatemalan and El Salvadorian drivers on the highway we are happy that we are each still in one peace. Finally everyone at the border seemed satisfied and we were on our way.

About an hour and a half later we arrived at our destination. We had made it there with the van but not with out wishing that we had 4 wheel drive. At least if there had been any rust on the bottom side of the van it had been scraped off by now. Several people were waiting for us at a small Catholic church that was located in the poor looking aldea that we had come to. Only 3 of the 5 people that were to receive wheelchairs had been able to get to the church. One was a very old looking gentleman who could no longer walk. To my surprise he was only a few years older then me. Much like myself he was very alert though :>) and we had a great time visiting as we fitted him into his wheelchair. Next A teen age girl who had some mental problems managed to get a good grip on Chris’s hair while he was adjusting her foot rests. Fortunately her mother talked her into releasing her grip before the hairs on Chris’s head lost their grip. The third person that we gave a chair to was a man who had been in an electrical accident. The electrical shock had burned off both of his arms and a resulting fall had broken his back leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. In spite of all that had happened to him he seemed to be a warm and friendly person. We were told that one of the other men that we had brought a wheelchair for had been suffering from bed sores and was in San Salvador for the time being. Since he only needed a regular wheelchair we gave it to Lizete to take to him at a later date.

The fifth person concerned us more though. This was a boy named Hector whom we had only seen pictures of. In the pictures you could see that Hector was tied in a small wooden chair with a rope that went under the back of one knee causing his leg to pull up against his chest. We were unsure if his body was fixed in that position or if that was the only way that his family could keep him in the wooden chair. At any rate we had brought along a wheelchair that had all of the bells and whistles that we could possibly think of so that we could get Hector seated as comfortably as possible. Hector’s Grandmother had showed up to get the chair but told us that there was no way that she could have taken Hector with her. Unfortunately there was no way that we could get this chair set up with out seeing Hector. Soon the problem was solved. One of the villagers who owned a pickup truck that served as the village taxi loaded us and our equipment into the back of his truck and we were on our way up a bumpy dirt road that lead to the trail that went to hectors house. When we reached the trail that led to Hectors house we had little problem carrying the wheelchair, the tools, and the parts that we thought we might need because a number of people had joined us on our ride in the back of the pickup truck. We thought that we were a bit crowded until we were told that they often carry up to 30 people at a time in this truck. When we got to Hectors home his grandmother and a few of the older children carried Hector out of the house to greet us. He was sitting in the same little wooden chair that we had seen in the photos that we had of him. He was also tied exactly the same way that he had been when the photos were taken. Hector had some deformities but most of them had become worse because of the way that he was tied into his chair. His grandmother seemed very loving and I know that she wanted the best for him. She simply did not realize that this was harming her grandson. Hectors lack in being able to communicate verbally did not keep him from conveying his thoughts to us. The smile on his face when we showed him the wheelchair that we had for him said it all. I wanted to lay him down to examine how flexible he was but there was no where to lay him other than in the mud. Since it was to dark to see anything inside the small windowless house that Hectors family lived in some one brought out a plastic chair. I took Hector from his wheelchair and sat down holding him on my lap. At first he stayed all curled up but as he began to relax it appeared that we would be able to get him into a seated position with his feet pretty much below him. We ended up doing a lot of modifications to the wheelchair but by the time we had finished Hector and his entire family were thrilled. In appreciation grandmother sent one of the children to another home that sold soft drinks and brought us each a coke and a piece of sweet bread. I am sure that it cost her more than the family made in a day but there was no way that we could say no to such a generous offer of gratitude. Before saying good bye grandmother showed us the only other wheelchair that Hector had ever owned. It was nothing more than a rusted steal frame with no fabric left on it but some how they had managed to use it from time to time to transport Hector. I jokingly indicated to Hector that I would gladly take him out of his new wheelchair and put him into the old one if he wanted. Even though Hector could not talk he certainly knew how to laugh. I got an even larger smile from him when I posed for a picture with him sitting in his new wheelchair and me in his old one.


Before heading for home we were told that one of the families in the aldea had prepared food for us so we graciously accepted this invitation for lunch. The meal was actually very tasty and as hungry as I was I ate it with out asking what kind of meat it was. Sometimes it is better not to know what you are eating and to say a little prayer that if it is not chicken you will never find out.

As we headed for home we realized that it had been a long trip considering we had only given out a few wheelchairs. We also committed that we would gladly do it again for any one of the 4 people that received wheelchairs today. I have little doubt that we will be back. Especially if we are able to get the wheelchairs for the 200 people that Lezete knows who need them.

I originally thought we were going to be gone for up to 3 days but since we have a lot to do before camp starts we decided to return home tonight. Exactly 15 hours after leaving my house I found myself back at home feeling about as tired as I did after waking up at 4:30 this morning with only 4 and a half hours of sleep.

I think that I will head off to bed now.

Goodnight,
Yours in Christ: Dick


Wednesday, October 31, 2007, 10:29 PM

The doorbell rang at 7:00 this morning. At 7:30 I got up to answer it. Calin asked me why it took so long to get to the gate. I reminded him that he had been told not to ring the bell every 2 minutes because if I do not come to the gate right away I am likely sleeping. He apologized and asked me what time I wanted him back. I told him that an hour later would be great. At 7:35 I am falling back to sleep. At 7:40 my phone rings. Calin wants to know if I want his aunt to come and do my laundry today. I said yes but told him not to have her come for an hour yet. Calin asks if that was to be an hour from now or from when he was coming back. I told him that it was an hour from now and that was how long I wanted him to wait since the last 10 minutes had not been all that restful. 7:44 back to sleep. 7:47 phone rings again. Hello Calin, what do you want now? silence “Calin?” “No Dick this is Paul. It sounds like you got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.” “No Paul I am in bed.” More silence “Can I call you back in about an hour?” “No problem Dick. Why don’t you go back to sleep?” 7:48 I try to go back to sleep. 7:55 still trying. 8:00 still ……. You get the point. I finally get up and wait to see what happens next. Who or what will be next? Will it be Calin at the gate? Will it be the phone? Or perhaps it will be Calin’s aunt who is coming to do the laundry. RING! RING! the phone wins. It is Chris, he tells me that he had intended on bringing me the van earlier this morning so that I could use it if I wanted to go anywhere but had slept in and would not be here until later. “No problem Chris.” I hadn’t planned on hurrying off anywhere this morning unless he knew of a quiet motel where I could get another hour of sleep. Soon the house was feeing up with kids and seeing how happy they were that I had not stayed away for 3 days like I had thought brightened up my day and soon I was wide awake and making breakfast for the entire crew. We even fed the laundry lady and her helper.

The rest of my day consisted of getting some things done around here and then heading up to where we are having the bathroom built for Maria and her family. Paul had brought Eric up there to work but could not stay the entire day himself so I offered to go up an get him this after noon. The floor got put in today and the crew should be finishing up tomorrow. We have not told grandmother yet but it looks like we are going to have enough money left over to put cement floors in 2 of the dirt floor houses that the she and her grandchildren live in.

Who threw the firs water balloon I am not sure but with in a few minutes no one outside. Inside, or anywhere near my house was safe. I tried to get the entire gang outside but before I did my floors were soaked and so was I. Everyone had so much fun that even Abner failed to cry when some one poured a pan of water over his head. At about 8:30 everyone pitched in and soon the things were mopped up and back to normal. Upon leaving some of the kids asked if we could have another water fight tomorrow night. I said no problem as long as we could find someone else’s house to have it at. No takers so if I have any thing to say about it tomorrow my place is staying dry, but then again it was a lot of fun and my floors are no longer dusty.

Well I am going to call it a day and head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, November 1, 2007, 9:45 PM

November first is considered Kite day here in Guatemala, so none of my neighbor kids came along with me today because they were busy making Kites. I got a bit of a late start but made it into Hermano Pedro in time for Carlos and myself to take to of the older teens out to lunch. It is not all that often that we take the older ones out to eat but they love it just as much as the kids do. I guess that my only excuse for not taking them out more often is that there are just to many residence in the orphanage and so few volunteers and it is impossible to give each of the residence the amount of attention that they need.

It seems that when ever it is a holiday like today was, the nurses that do come in to work figure that it is a holiday for them as well. Just a half hour before lunch I had gone up stares to the malnutrition ward and found Jennifer, a little girl that I have fallen in love with bent over so far back in her crib that she was gasping for air. All 5 nurses were sitting at a table in the corner having coffee and none of then were paying any attention what so ever to the kids. Jennifer has a form of CP that causes the mussels in her back and neck to contract so tightly that her feet are nearly touching the back of her head. Jessica and I have shown the nurses how to hold her straight by placing her on her back and placing her between 2 sand bags so that she does not role over on her side. In the past week and a half I have asked the nurses where the sand bags have gone 3 different times and have received 3 different answers. Meanwhile Jennifer suffers and fights for every breath. If Jennifer is still alive tomorrow I am going to try to fit something into her bed that can not be removed that will help hold her straight.

When Carlos and I returned from lunch we found that not only the kids that can do very little when they are in their wheelchairs but even the more able bodied ones had been put to bed until tomorrow morning. Only 3 kids were in their wheelchairs. As I walked past their cribs many of them pleaded with me to take them out. Unfortunately Carlos was going back over to the teen section and there were no volunteers here today. There were plenty of nurses but they were all gathered around a table in another room having lunch. It was difficult to decide who to take out of bed and who to leave in bed until tomorrow morning. Elmer was crying like mad and pleaded with me to take him out of his crib. Sam Sam, who had not been out of bed all day was banging his head on the sides of his crib. Bobby gave me his sad look that can bring tears to the eyes of grown men. Ervin was not screaming as usual but gave me a look that could break your hart. Out of the 40 + kids that were in the 2 rooms that I went into only a few were sleeping. Others were crying and some were just staring up at the sealing, lying in cribs so small for them that their feet touched one end while their head touched the other. It was a situation that you wish that you could walk away from but if I did none of the kids would be any better off. This afternoon Elmer was the one that I chose to take out of his crib and play with. Granted I could have taken more of the kids out but I only had an hour before I had to be back in Chemaltenango besides I knew that since there were no volunteers around that the second one of the nurses looked up for the table and saw that the kids were out they would likely put them back to bed anyway. Tomorrow I plan to once again talk with some of the staff who are not happy with the attitude of the nurses and see if anything can be done. I know that it will not make the nurses happy but have come to realize that t many of those that are in authority over them want to see some positive change. Like I have said before I have come to realize that I have to pick my battles. I feel this one is worth the fight.

The kids were waiting for me when I got home. I had promised that I would bring them to the cemetery so they could have some fun. Let me explain. The cemetery is one of the only places around here that has open fields around it where you can fly a kite without getting it tangled in power lines or trees. The kids don’t actually fly the kites in the cemetery but in a field that is right next to it. In spite of the fact that the field has very few trees in it and there is only one set of power lines on the south end the kids managed to lose all but one kite in the trees and power lines by the time we had finished flying the kites.

When we got home I made some hot dogs and beans. The kids know that I do not like it if they take any of the food that I am preparing with out asking. After returning from getting something from my car I discovered that one of the hot dogs that I was preparing was missing. I asked the kids where it had gone but they all denied taking it. They told that perhaps the dog had grabbed it of the table so I left it at that. A few minutes later a few of the kids got into a small argument over who’s turn it was to use the computer and I was immediately told that Fernando and Alex had taken the hot dog. I know that taking one hot dog with out being asked is no big deal but because of all of the stealing that use to go on in my house I have to make sure that there is a consequence for taking even the littlest thing. I also explained to Fernando and Alex that they had both lied to me when I asked them if they had taken it. Tonight these 2 boys went home without supper. Later this evening Fernando returned and apologized. I told him that he was still not allowed any hot dogs but let him make himself some scrambled eggs.

Good night:
Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, November 2, 2007

This morning Fernando and I headed to Hermano Pedro to meat with a group of therapists that are here from the States for a few days. This was not meant as a reward to Fernando for apologizing but it was simply his turn to come along with me. After giving the 4 therapists a quick tour of the orphanage we were joined by some of the members of the Scott family and we took 7 of the kids out to lunch. One of the therapists who is a feeding specialist worked with Alex and got him to eat more than I have ever seen him eat before. We are hoping that she can share some of the techniques that she used with the nurses at Hermano Pedro. After lunch we brought the kids over to the playground equipment where they had the time of their lives. As I looked around at the kids I could not help but remember that yesterday at this time of day most of them were already in bed.

After returning to Hermano Pedro I took the group up to the malnutrition ward. I wanted to have the therapists see Jennifer. My hart sunk when I saw that Jennifer’s bed was empty. I was thankful when I was told that one of the nurses had taken her into another room. The therapists worked wither for a while and agreed that we had to try to build something for her that prevented her from bending backwards into a half circle. I held her as we discussed what we wanted to make for her. Suddenly she started vomiting. I was glad that I was holding her. Not for the shower of half digested milk that I got but for the fact that I could quickly get her on to her side so that she could breath. We quickly realized that that there was no way that we could make something that kept her on her back or she would choke to death if she vomited again. We also knew that if we allowed her to stay curled up on her side she would choke from having her head bent back against he back. I had found her in that position yesterday and she was barely breathing. Tomorrow we are planning on designing something that will hold her straighter while still allowing her to lye on her side. I am grateful that the therapists will be there as well. I think that the timing of there 2 day visit in Antigua is another GODINCIDENT.

It has been a long day so I am going to say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick


Saturday, November 3, 2007, 8:22 PM

We didn’t change the world today but we had the God given opportunity to help improve the lives of a few children and at least better their lives a bit.

Today Manwell experienced a taste of what it will be like to walk on his own once he gains just a bit more strength. He and his sister Tomasina came in to the hospital less than a month ago in a half starved condition but both are now doing well enough that Manwell was able to be fit into his own walker this morning and Tomasina should receive one with in the next few days. Once I got Manwell fitted properly in his new walker there was no stopping him. I am quite certain that it will be no time at all until he and his sister will no longer need their walkers.

At around 10:30 am the 4 therapists that were with me yesterday and 2 members of the Scott family came to the orphanage so with their help and the help of Abner and Calin we were able to take 8 more kids to lunch. Both the Scot’s and the therapists have had a lot of experience with kids with disabilities so we were able to take some of the kids that need extra care in feeding. The lady that is the feeding specialist came along and she was great at getting kids who normally eat very little to eat far more than I have ever seen them eat. She showed me a lot of things that can hopefully be learned by the nurses at the hospital. I wish that she could stick around longer and share some of her techniques with them herself. I feel though that the fact that she held the kids and really showed them that she loved them had a big part in how well they ate.

Our high light of the day was when we all put our heads together and built something for Jennifer, the little girl who’s head and back bend backwards in a half circle. We came up with a bed of sorts that has a carved lower mattress and a carved mattress on the back side that resembles a padded back wall. We then laid Jessica on her side on the lower mattress and then strapped her wither back against the back mattress. Even though it sounds something like a torture chamber, to Jennifer it was heaven. With in a few minutes she was completely relaxed and had fallen asleep. When we had finally gotten everything just the way we wonted it we mounted it into her crib and called the nurses over. To our delight they showed great interest and each one commented that they had never seen her looking so relaxed. They all watched and listened carefully as we demonstrated exactly how to position her and fasten the straps so that she would be as comfortable as possible. I think that part of their lack of paying much attention to her when she was having such difficulty breathing a few days ago was because they felt helpless in knowing what to do for her. They even promised that they would reposition her and look for any redness of tissue every few hours. Each one of them thanked us over and over again for doing something for Jennifer. I plan on checking in to see how she is doing after church tomorrow and some of the therapists said that they can stop in later in the afternoon.

I was extremely tired when I finally got home at around 8 PM. It has been a long exhausting day but a great one. Knowing that Jennifer will finally be able to sleep tonight will also help me sleep well.

Goodnight,
Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, November 4, 2007, 4:07 PM

Another wonderful church service followed by a visit to the orphanage. I guess that I don’t have to tell you who I went to see first. When I walked into the malnutrition ward I was greeted by a half dozen smiling nurses. They told me that Jennifer had slept the entire night with out waking up. When I went to her crib I found her lying there with a smile on her face. She didn’t even seem like the same twisted suffering little girl that I had seen only yesterday. She looked so comfortable that I hated to take her out of her crib but knew that it would be good for her to be held on a different position for a while. I took her out side into the warm sunlight and sat with her for about a half hour. She looked so week and so tiny, but still managed to keep a smile on her face. As far as I know I have only seen pictures of what artists think angels might look like. I think that real angels possibly look a little more like Jennifer. I know that she is not a very healthy child and only God knows just how long it will be before He calls her home but those of us that have worked with her feel privileged that he has allowed us to be a small part in making her say here on earth just a little bit better.

Yours in Christ: Dick