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

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

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Location: Chimaltenango, Guatemala

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

Sunday, 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.

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.

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


Blogger The Spicer Family said...

Praying tonight for your precious angel, Jennifer, and for all the other precious angels you've introduced me to: Sam Sam, Alex, Ervin and the many others you are able to serve. Thank you for making Jennifer comfortable and for loving her. In Christ, Jill Spicer

Tuesday, November 06, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so grateful that Jennifer has someone to look after her. Thank you Dick for your willingness to let God use you in such an incredible way. My prayers are with you and all the children . . . they really are. Please give Jennifer a hug for me and let her know she is loved by a lot of people she doesn't even know.

Thursday, November 08, 2007  

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