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

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

My Photo
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, December 30, 2007

Journal December 23-30

Building homes for needy families
Sunday, December 24, 2007

Only 2 of the kids came along with me to church this morning. The number of kids that have been coming along to church with me lately has dropped off a bit but I have an idea that it will pick up again after Christmas. Several of them are still in Guatemala City helping an aunt sell clothing. Others had relatives over so they stuck around to visit with them. Still others had made some money working for the wheelchair shop or for me, so they had gone to town to do some shopping.

After Church the 2 kids and myself met at a restaurant for lunch with 3 friends from church. I forked over a whopping $10 and picked up the tab for 4 of us. Not bad for a roast beef dinner that included refillable drinks and desert. After lunch all 6 of us went over to the orphanage for a while. It was 1 PM when we arrived and not one kid was out of bed. By the appearance of things none of them had been taken out of bed and none of them would be taken out of bed all day. The 6 of us quickly changed that for 6 of the kids though. Since all of Hermano Pedro’s offices are closed on Sunday we could not get permission to take any of the kids out of the building but just getting out of bed was a welcome relief for them. After about an hour I went up to malnutrition to see how the kids up there were doing. Byron is looking a little stronger every day but it is still hard to believe that he is 14 And not 4 years old. Jennifer still looks like she is very uncomfortable and only relaxes when she is being held or is asleep. Unfortunately no one holds her much and sleep comes hard for her. Perla is still hanging in there but looks like a little skeleton. There is one little boy in Malnutrition that looks any thing but malnourished that the kids and I have fallen in love with. He has a cleft pallet and is awaiting surgery but the disfigurement of his face does not hide how cute he is. He is only a year and a half old but is an absolute clown. He tries to mimic everything that I say or do. I am afraid that I have taught him something that I wish that I hadn’t though. God has given me a talent that I don’t often share with the world but the kids love it. How was I to know that this little boy had the same talent just lying there under the surface and that all it would take would be for me to share what I was gifted to do to unleash his talent. I am not sure that every one in the hospital is happy about it though but perhaps in a few days he will start talking in his normal voice again. Although I must admit an 18 month old child that talks like Donald duck is rather amusing.

This evening the kids ate in shifts. Just when one bunch was about to finish another batch of kids would show up. What they ate depended on when they showed up. It was sort of, first come first serve. They all got fed though. In-between being cook and assistant cook I managed to get a few flowers planted. Try doing that the day before Christmas in Washington State. Actually with the weather that we have here in Chemaltenango you can plant flowers about any time you want to. Sometimes I even find my self planting them when I don’t want to. That is mainly because of my multipurpose yard. It is partly lawn and flowers but both the lawn and flowers suffer when ever it is turned into a basketball court or a soccer field. Generally after one or 2 soccer games I have to replace 1 or 2 flowers. This week the mortality count was a bit higher than usual for the flowers but I actually made it through the entire week with out any broken windows. I wish that I could say that for cups and dishes but 2 of the younger kids did them tonight.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Yesterday while we were at Hermano Pedro Fidel once again asked me if he could come to my house. It is not easy to transport Fidel anywhere but knowing how lonely he gets around Christmas time I told him that I would see what I could do about getting permission for him to come over and spend the day today. When I went to Hermano Pedro this morning I was not sure weather or not I could sign him out because I figured that all of their offices would be closed for Christmas eve. It took a bit of scouting around to find the right people but an hour later Fernando and I had Fidel and his power chair loaded into my car. I have always thought of Fidel as being an extremely bright individual but after hearing his response after asking him if he wanted to stop off and have lunch some where I am beginning to wonder. Then again perhaps my neighbor kids have never shared with him what my cooking is like. Never the less he insisted that we eat at my house. I told him that the pickens would be slim especially considering that the kids had nearly cleared me out of groceries last night. Never the less he told me that the number of home cooked meals that he had ever eaten would make anything that I made taste good. Like I said he had never before eaten my cooking. I managed to come up with enough eggs, refried beans, and hot dogs that Fidel was well satisfied though. After lunch we played around on the computers a bit and then we headed over to Chris and Donna’s to wish them a merry Christmas. We didn’t get Fidel out of my car because it is just to much work getting him and his power chair loaded and unloaded but we drove down into there back yard and visited for a while. I think that Fidel had a great time but he was pretty tired out and actually fell asleep on our drive back to the orphanage. I was tired to but still had a big night ahead of me.

After stopping off and buying a cake and some fire works we headed for home. Even though it was only 5 PM and I had told the kids that we would not be opening Christmas presents until 7 many of them were already gathered at my gate. ..............I managed to hold out until 7 but it wasn’t easy. By 7:04 all of the gifts had been opened. They would have been opened faster if it were not for the fact that I had the kids wait until the kid in front of them had their gift open. Next year I plan to reverse things a bit though because going from youngest to oldest means that each kid that is opening their gift has all older kids glaring at them so that they will hurry up. The kids all had a great time though and even though most of them knew exactly what they were getting they were still excited.

After the kids got their gifts I brought boxes of groceries to some of the families that live in my neighborhood. I tried to explain to each family that I was going to be eating dinner with Fernando and Abner’s aunt and uncle at 10 PM but was still given something to eat at nearly every one that I visited. At 10 I waddled over to supper. This is the third Christmas in a row that I have spent Christmas eve with this family. After supper we went out into the alley and built a traditional bonfire and the kids started lighting off fire works. By midnight there was a fire burning in front of every house. At the stroke of midnight any one who had any fire works left shot of everything that they had. I tried to take a few pictures but there was so much smoke that none of them turned out to good. It was quite a sight though. Then everyone went from house to house hugging everyone and wishing each other merry Christmas. Then it was time for more food. I wasn’t all that hungry with all of the suppers that I had eaten just a few hours earlier but have learned by now that there is just no polite way to say no and even if there was they would insist that you ate anyway. When I finally waddled off to bed at around 1:30 most of my neighbors were still shooting off fire works, or sitting around their bon fires. I didn’t want to be a party pooper but it had been a long day. Besides that I have been invited to Chris and Donna’s tomorrow for a traditional Christmas meal.

Good morning,
Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, December 25, 2007, 10:51 PM

Well, Christmas is almost over but it has been a good one. I spent most of the day with Chris, Donna, and their family. They are great people and really make me feel like part of their family. Amazingly enough I was even hungry when, after opening Christmas presents we sat down at the dinner table for a wonderful Christmas dinner. The rest of the day we just visited and relaxed. Other than the 75 degree temperature it felt a lot like Christmas in the States.

When I got back home the house filled up with kids but for only about a hour. The older kids that have been working in Guatemala City are home for a few days and they treated some of the younger ones to a night out on the town. All but a few of the kids walked in totown to play video games that have been set up in the town square during the Christmas season. I am glad that the video booths are only there for a short time though because there is a big problem with drugs when they are in town. Some of the older teens that work at the booths often offer free drugs to kids that come there, then once they get them hooked on the drugs they start charging them for the drugs. Unfortunately the police here in town turn a blind eye to it.

Most of the kids are back now so I think that I will visit with them for a while before sending them home and heading off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, December 26, 2007, 8:53 PM

This morning Fernando and I headed to Guatemala City to do a little bit of shopping and then met with Chris and Donna for lunch. We had each taken a different car to Guatemala City so that we could pick up 19 people who were coming in from Florida. The rest of this week will be a busy one for all of us because this group had come down to help with a wheelchair distribution that we are planning on having here in Chemaltenango tomorrow morning and then from tomorrow afternoon through Saturday we plan on putting up 5 prefabricated homes. Fortunately we shouldn’t have to much of a problem in putting these kits together because several of the people that arrived today are the ones that designed, built, and furnished these homes, The rest of the group are family members who are also very enthusiastic about this project.

Quite a few kids were here until about an hour ago but they all left to go play football. A few of them still have a bit of money left from working in the city so between them they scraped up enough money to rent a soccer field for an hour. This is a real treat for them because most of the time they have to play in the alley. I am going to try to get in a quick shower before they return so for now I well say good night.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, December 27, 2007

This morning we had a wheelchair distribution here in Chemaltenango. About 30 people showed up for new wheelchairs. Many of the people were children that required specialty chairs but we had plenty of help today and the fittings went well. The Group that came in from Florida to put up houses participated with the fittings and even though only one of them had previous experience with working on wheelchairs many of them had a lot of mechanical experience and did great. Those of us from the shop that do the actual fittings usually fit only one person at a time, per fitting station, but today there were times that I had 3 people at a time being fitted into wheelchairs. I simply went back and forth between the people from Florida that were helping me, showing them various things that had to be done while they did a good part of the hands on work. They seem to be a very dedicated group and are all willing to pitch in where ever they can be used.

We got finished with the distribution shortly after 12 PM and after a quick lunch we all headed out to where Maria ( The lady who’s husband had been killed by a hit and run driver) and her 4 children live. The group of people that is here from Florida are all relatives that have a company called Golf Coast Supply. Over the years God has richly blessed what started out as a small roofing and storage shed business into a prosperous business that puts up buildings all over Florida. This Christian family has a hart felt desire to share their blessings with widows, children, and physically handicapped people who are less fortunate then them selves. Not only are they doing this by coming here to Guatemala and sharing their time but they have also built and shipped down several prefabricated houses that are being given out to some of the poorest of the poor Here in Guatemala. This after noon we had the privilege of delivering and building one of these homes for Maria and her family. These homes may appear small and simple by American standards but to the families that are receiving them they are mansions. All 5 of the families that we hope to build homes for in the next few days are either living in dirt or corn stalk dwellings that provide little protection from wind or rain. Or have no home to call their own after being evicted from where they once lived.

I thought that perhaps Maria, who can be quite shy, would be overwhelmed by having so many Americans show up at her one room leaky dirt house, but I think that the excitement of getting a new home overshadowed any fear that she may have had. The Genuine love that the group we brought in showed to her, her family, and other families that quickly gathered around also gave the people a sense of trust. With in minutes the ladies that had come with us were holding several of the children and their children were playing with the children of the famlies that lived there. Calin, who had also come along after helping out at the distribution was kept busy interpreting as the kids introduced new games to each other. Only 3 ½ hours after arriving we all gathered together and offered a prayer of thanks giving, not only for Maria’s finished new home that were standing in front of but also for new friend ships that had been established between fellow Christians. As we stood there we could here
music. It was the voices of other Christians who were singing songs of praise some where in the valley below. Even though most of the people living in Maria’s area appear to have very little as far as material goods are concerned, we were told that nearly every one of them are Christians. Judging by the songs that they were singing and the smiles on their faces I wonder if perhaps these people are possibly a lot richer than we realize.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, December 28, 2007
This morning most of the men went out to put up another house while the ladies, some of the kids, and myself went shopping. Now don’t take me wrong these are wonderful ladies and we get along great but I do want to give a warning to any bachelor who has seldom taken even one lady to a shopping mall. If you are ever faced with the choice of building a house in the hot sun or taking 7 ladies shopping in a nice shaded shopping mall. Don’t think twice about it. Build the house, or hotel, or city, or what ever it is! Perhaps you will be more physically tired but chances are you will still have your sanity when you have finished. 4 hours after walking into the mall we had finished buying groceries for the 6 families that we are building houses for this week. Actually I am exaggerating a bit. The groceries shopping which I could have done alone in about a half hour only took the ladies 3 hours. The extra hour was entirely my mistake. I accidentally mentioned that I was going to run over to the dollar store to pick something up. The ladies followed! An hour later I managed to get them back into the car. We still had one more stop to make but since it was at another store I graciously offered to go there by my self while most of the ladies went to my house and separated the groceries in containers that were to be handed out to the families that we were going to build houses for. By the time I got back from the store the ladies had almost finished sorting out the groceries. I called Chris and he told me that he and the other men were finishing up on the first house and would meat up with us in about an hours so that we could have lunch together and then go as a group to build another house. Another mistake was about to happen. I told him that I would see where the ladies wanted to eat and call him back so that he would know where to meat us. I over heard one of the ladies husbands telling Chris to ask me how the shopping went. I then heard a lot of snickering over the phone. I guess the other husbands were close by. After hanging up the phone I asked the ladies what they wanted to do for an hour and where they wanted to eat. Mistake # 2 I guess that I will never learn. At least both questions were answered in 3 words, “THE SHOPPING MALL”. At least when I called back to tell Chris and the other men where to meet us for lunch they had the courtesy not to snicker. This time it sounded much more like hysterical laughter. All I can say is “THANK YOU HANNA AND LUZETE!” They both came along and shopped with the ladies while I slumped over a table in the food court. I have often been asked if being a missionary in a foreign country requires much sacrifice. Up until this morning my answerer has always been, “NO.” After this morning shopping experience I may want to think that over. Actually ladies it wasn’t all that bad but next time I will let your husbands take you shopping. I don’t want to deny them of that special time together with you.
After lunch we headed off to San Lucas. The first lady that Mark Richard, from Hope Haven International, had ever given a wheelchair to lived in San Lucas. Little did anyone know back in 1988 that this would be the start of a ministry that has now given out over 65,000 wheelchairs throughout the world. Notice that I used the past tense lived and not the present tense lives. Oh no, she is still alive and doing well. That is if you can call having the new mayor of San Lucas kick you out of the small leaky tin shed that you and your 2 children have always called home, doing well. Fortunately her nephew who lives about 20 minutes out of town allowed her and her 2 children temporarily move in whit him and his family. Their house is extremely small though so they were only able to stay their for a limited time and her son had to sleep out side under a tree. Today that all changed though. 2 ½ hours after arriving with the materials we were having the dedication of her newly constructed house. We plan on adding a porch and closing at least part of it in within the next few months but even now this family is overjoyed with their new home.

What more could a person ask for in one day. We were able to give several people a new lease on life by giving them a wheelchair and then give some one a new home all in one day. More than that, with each family that we came in contact with weather they were already Christians or hearing about the love of Jesus for the first time, we were able to share our main purpose for being here. God is truly allowing us to be part of an exciting and wonderful ministry.

Goodnight: Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, December 29. 2007

Today was a much easier day for me than yesterday. In stead of shopping with 7 ladies and then helping to build 1 house, I helped build 2 houses. Not only was building the first house easier than shopping with the women but it also took far less time. Much like the other houses that we built these 2 houses were given to ladies who husbands had either died or had abandon them and their children. Both families lived only about a quarter mile apart and both lived in shelters that were no larger than a walk in closet and were made from nothing more than corn stalks that had been tied together. Even though we were unable to understand most of what they said none of us had any difficulty understanding how they felt. Each of the ladies made us large lunches which we were simultaneously served to us and both looked up toward heaven with outstretched arms when their homes were finished.

I won’t say that after having a wheelchair distribution and then building 5 homes in 3 days that we are not tired but I can tell you it is a wonderful kind of tired. And there is not one of us who would not do it allover again next week if we had the materials here. Our Florida friends will be heading for home tomorrow but the memories of their generosity will not soon be for gotten. Perhaps their names will be forgotten but the name of the One that they represented will not be. To God be the glory.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, December 30, 2007, 5:08 PM

Calin and I have just returned from bringing our friends to the airport. Abner and Fernando had also wanted to come along but there was not enough room in any of the 3 vehicles that we took. So since they had both spent the entire day with us yesterday Calin was the one who got to come along this time. This week has been a good one for the kids from my neighborhood who had the opportunity to accompany us. Not that Abner, Fernando, and Calin are not already compassionate to people who are in need but it seems that they are becoming even more compassionate with each new family that they meet. Even though we had a lot of adult help this week all 3 of them were more than eggar to help out in any way possible and when ever they were not helping with the actual house building or interpreting for us they were playing with the village kids and those that had come along from Florida with their parents. As far as the Florida kids were concerned they also had a wonderful time and even though this was the first time out of the USA for many of them they all did great and hit it off well with both my kids and those that we met in the villages.

Some times good byes are difficult but today when we dropped the group off at the airport it was not all that hard. Not only because I knew that I would not have to go shopping with a bunch of ladies again but because of the look that I saw in most of their eyes. I have a feeling that we will be seeing many of them back in Guatemala again. Perhaps not to live but at least to visit. It is too hard to stay away from a place where you have made so many close friends and left at least part of your hart at. Thank you John, Jeff, and family

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Journal December 16-22

(Click on any photo to enlarge)

Sunday December 16, 2007

There were 6 kids for here for breakfast but only 3 of them came along to Church today. 1 had a doctors appointment, 1 went to a different church and 1 doesn’t care for church. After Church we went to the orphanage. Things are quite different there with most of the kids being gone to homes of parents or relatives over the Christmas holidays. Several of the kids are still there but most of them that have no homes to go to are the more severe ones and it is a bit harder for the kids that come along with me to be able to play with them. My kids stayed down stairs while I went up into the malnutrition ward for a while. There is still not much change in the 3 kids that have not been doing to well. Jennifer’s new bed that we built for her seemed to be the answer at first but it seems that lately she is not comfortable in any position that we put her in. She is such a sweet hart but seems to be in constant pain. Byron the 14 year old boy who looks more like a 4 year old was sleeping. He has been here for several weeks now but I can not see much improvement. Paila the little girl that came into Hermano Pedro at about the same time as Byron appears to be getting weaker every day. I am fearful that she is not going to make it. There are a few newer kids that are extremely malnourished but they seem to be gaining more strength every day.

We didn’t take any of the kids out to lunch today because Hermano Pedro's offices were closed so there was no way to get the necessary paper work done. We ran into Carlos while we were there so he came along with us to lunch. After lunch we went to Chris and Donna's house for a while. I didn’t think that I missed the country all that much until I spent about an hour at their house. I offered to trade them houses for a few weeks but they didn’t take me up on it.

My house quickly filled up with kids when I got home and even though it is not in the country I realized that it is a great place. All of the kids except 3 of them left at around 10:30. The 3 that did not leave just announced that they are spending the night. I guess since no one wants to trade homes with me that I will spend the night here as well.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, December 17, 2007, 11:03 PM.

David Piper, a man that is staying with Chris and Donna for a few months, joined Calin and myself in visiting a few families today. I had never met David until he came to Guatemala a few months ago to volunteer at camp and in the wheelchair shop. When we met we discovered what a small world it really is. Not only has David spent a good part of his life in Washington State but he also lived in the same town that I grew up in. Not only that but he actually lived in the same house that I lived in, at different times of course otherwise I am sure that we would have met each other some where along the way or at least have been brothers or something. Anyway like I was saying David came along with us today.

Our first stop was at the home of Maria, the lady who’s husband had been killed by a hit and run driver a few months ago. She and her 4 children were not at home when we arrived but a girl that lived nearby told us that she was visiting some relatives that lived up the trail. She told us that she would go and tell Maria that we were there. We were not sure how long it would be but decided that we better not leave since the girl was so willing to go and get her for us. within about 20 minutes Maria and her children returned with the girl. Maria was not nearly as shy as the last time that I had visited there, and the children who were extremely shy on our first few visits are now becoming exceptionally friendly. We explained to her that the main reason for our visit was to see if any progress had been maid on getting her 2 oldest children enrolled in school. She informed us that the school had room for them and she would be able to enroll them in school in the middle of January. Up until a few weeks ago when some of the camp volunteers from the USA offered to pay their school expenses of around $10 a month there was no way that there mother could send them to school. I told her that Chris was checking with George’s wife to see if she had found out how much it would cost for her to raise a few pigs. This is something that her and her husband had done in the past so she felt that she and her children could do it again to generate an income for the family. She also told us that she and her children are very excited about the new prefabricated house that is going to be built for her right after Christmas. The group that sent the houses for Mario, and for Ronny’s grandmother are coming in at that time and are planning on putting up houses for about a half dozen needy families while they are here. Chris had no problem locating widows and single parent families that needed them. We were unable to stay as long as we would have liked to but explained that we had to visit another family today. After a few pictures and handing out some candy we said good bye and left.

Our next stop was at the home of the family that we had built the bathroom for. I had feared that perhaps Fedel had passed away by now but when we got there we saw him lying in a hammock right next to their new bathroom. Grandmother told us that she and some of the relatives had just showered him in the new shower that we built. Fidel’s surviving sister, Maria was not at home. Even though she can barely get around in a walker she seems to stay very active and gets out quite a bit. This year following the death of her sister she was the only member of her family that attended camp. Fidel still smiles when we talk about camp to him and every year we give him an invitation but I doubt that he will ever be well enough to attend again. After visiting for a while David and I repaired a water leek while Calin played with some of the kids. When we finished Dave and I walked over to a small store with the kids and bought them some potato chips. Not exactly health food but the store was small and chips, eggs, or pop were about our only choices. We thanked the owner for opening up the store for us as she locked it back up and walked back to her house. I guess business isn’t all that great so the kids told us that she only opens the store when some one shows up. When it was time to go the entire family walked us to my car. I once again had to take lots of pictures before we said goodbye. Even some of the older relatives who have never wanted their pictures taken in the past wanted me to take their picture this time. This is quite a change from a few years ago when a camera made all but a few of the people scatter when they thought that you were going to take their picture. The family stood and waved goodbye until we had driven out of sight. When we got to San Martine I noticed that my car was running a bit rough. We could also smell diesel. I pulled over and opened the hood to discover that one of the lines to an injector was cracked. There was not much I could do to fix it and I wanted to get home before dark so we continued on, praying that it would not completely break before we made it home. When I got home I got my tools out and removed the fuel line. As I was removing the fitting the line broke in half. Thankfully we had made it home and hopefully I will be able to fined the right fittings in the morning. I think that the kids sensed my frustration in having my car break down after only having it out of the shop for a few days because they told me to relax while they made supper. After supper we all went out side and played volley ball using an imaginary net. One side of the volley ball court was a bit narrow because of the stalled car that was parked there but never the less we had a good time.

Just a little past 9 PM I kicked Calin and Abner out for fighting and politely asked the others to leave. Nancy and Fernando put up a bit of a fuss because they and the other kids had not been misbehaving. I explained to them that they were not being punished but it was simply time for them to go. I am not sure that this answer satisfied them but they went. I don’t think that kids fully understand that an hour or so of having your house to your self is something that adults need from time to time.

Well it is getting late and it is really boring around here with out all of the kids, I guess I should have let them stay longer.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I tried to get my fuel line replace today but no parts were available here in Chemaltenango. Fortunately a local mechanic here in my town was going in to the city today and promised to pick up a new fuel line for me there. I had promised Ronny that I would try to make out to his house today since it was his birthday. Even though I had taken some of his family out a few weeks ago to celebrate his birthday he wanted me to come today and have some cake that his mother had saved enough money to buy. When I called him last night to tell him that my car was having problems he started to cry. I decided that since it meant so much to him I would do my best to get there but was not sure how I would do it. After finding out this morning that my car would once again be down for the day Chris offered me the use of the Kia van. After repairing a leaky tire and washing out the radiator 6 of us were on our way. Flat tires are a common occurrence around here and washing the dust out of the radiator of the Kia van is about a weekly ritual now that the rainy season is over.

My 3 regulars (Calin, Abner, and Fernando) were joined by Kimberly and her older sister Lesley. Before heading out we picked up a piñata, a bunch of candy, some balloons, and a gallon of ice-cream. What’s a birthday party with out junk food and games? Ronny’s entire family and some relatives were waiting for us when we arrived. Ronny’s father had even managed to get the day off from work today. Mother apologized for not having any lunch for us but had spent everything they had on a birthday cake. I noticed that she had an iguana boiling in a pot over the fire but thankfully she did not think that it would be enough for all of us. The families eyes really lit up when I took the ice chest out of the van and showed them the ice cream that was in it. None of them had ever seen silly string before so when Calin and Fernando emptied 2 cans of it onto everyone, they thought it was great. After we had cake and ice cream I introduced the kids to the game where you tie a balloon around your ankle and then see who could keep theirs from getting stomped on by some one else. The little kids played first but some how the rules to the game got lost in the interpretation and they all just stood there while Ronny’s little brother walked around and stepped on everyone else’s balloon. I could see by the faces of the older kids that they knew exactly what to do though and just before they started I looked over at the adults who were watching. I did not have to ask twice if they wanted to play as well. The game was put on hold while we quickly blew up more balloons and tied them to the ankles of all of the adults. The first five minutes turned out to be the Guatemalans against the Gringos. Or I guess I should make that Gringo sine I was the only Gringo there. I held my own pretty well until I finally got to tired to hop on one foot and then got my balloon and my feet stamped on. The next 10 minutes resembled a civil war and got down right crazy. Everyone was having a great time though. One of Ronny’s uncles eventually came out the victor and everyone gave him a standing ovation. A birthday is not a birthday with out a piñata and all of the kids had a great time taking turns at trying to destroy Santa. Before leaving my home I let each of my kids pick one item from the box of toys and things that I give as rewards for good report cards and they gave them to Ronny as birthday gifts. Not wanting to travel after dark we headed for home at around 3 PM.

Elie helped me put my car together when we got home so it is once again running well. I hope that the mechanic who rebuilt my engine was a bit more careful on the inside of it than he was on the outside. At last count we have found 9 missing bolts and a number of vacuum lines that had not been connected. I am starting to think that the expensive mechanics here in Guatemala are just as careless as the cheep ones.

My Christmas shopping has been easy this year because I took 5 of the kids to Mazatenango last week, and several of the volunteers that came to camp from the States brought a lot of Children’s shoes and clothing along when they came to Guatemala. Last night several of the kids helped me wrap the shoes that each kid picked out a few weeks ago and then we picked out 2 or 3 nice shirts for each of the kids. I had feared that seeing their gifts before Christmas would dampen their spirits but most of them sat for hours staring at their wrapped present that was under the tree with a sense of wonderment that would lead you to believe that they had no idea what their gifts were. I am not yet sure what I am going to do about the kids that I have no gifts for. Some times it is so hard to know where to stop.

Well it is once again getting late and all of those that are going home have already left. Abner, Fernando, and Calin have decided that sleeping here about a third of the time comes with the territory. At least they are learning that the oldest person in the house gets the bed. Being 60 isn’t always all that bad.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, December 19, 2007, 9:35 PM

This morning I went in to the telephone company to check on my phone bill. It seemed to me that it had to be a month since I paid it so even though I had not received a bill I decided to go in and check things out. The man at the desk told me that I should be receiving the bill any day now but since I was there any way I could pay it today if I wanted to. Here in Guatemala your phone gets shut off if your bills is not paid for 2 months. Mine was only a months worth but I paid it just the same. So why have I just received a recorded message over my phone telling me that my phone and internet are being shut off immediately? I guess If you do not get this journal it means that I am still being punished for paying my phone bill before I even received it. ONLY IN GUATEMALA!

Some times it is extremely difficult to find the time to write these journals but at times like these I am very thankful that I do. Situations that could drive you up the wall seem to be a lot more humorous when you put them down on paper. I am learning more and more that some of the things that could drive a person wild are the things that make life here in Guatemala so interesting. For instance if I were to loose my temper every time I got stuck in traffic due to something as silly as 2 busses sitting nose to nose an a section of narrow road for nearly an hour knowing that they could get by each other if one of the drivers were willing to back up a few feet, I would be mad half the time. I have to understand that giving in and backing your buss or car up a few feet is not the macho thing to do. It is far more manly to sit there yelling and honking your horn at the other driver for an hour.

During the past few days I decided to write down a few more things that I have learned while living in Guatemala. Perhaps they will come in handy if you ever decide to visit.
No matter how late an American thinks he is he will likely be the first one there.

If you hate standing in line. Don't even think about coming to Guatemala.

No matter how fast you could do something in the States it is going to take at least 3 times longer to do it here in Guatemala.

Modesty is a fad that has not caught on here.

Safe driving in Guatemala is a lot like modesty. (It has not caught on here.)

If your breaks quit working or your lights go out keep driving. If your horn quits pull over immediately.

If you walk close to the edge of busy roads at night make sure that you wear dark clothing so that the drivers of cars don’t panic by seeing how close they came to running over you.

In Guatemala, laws, much like painted lines on the highway are for suggestion purposes only.

Only in Guatemala can you cram 125 people into a bus and occasionally arrive at your destination safely.

There is never a traffic situation bad enough in Guatemala, that a police officer can not come along and make it worse.

No self respecting person in Guatemala would ever pay a bribe to a police officer. However giving him a few buck to show your gratitude for not giving you a ticket is perfectly acceptable.

A friendly driver in Guatemala is one that smiles and waives after he runs you off the road.

A friendly robber is one that says thank you when you hand him your money.

No matter how much you got the salesperson to lower the price, you still paid way to much for it.

Only a true Guatemalan salesperson can tell you with a straight face that it looks great on you while all of your friends are snickering behind your back.

Even though it took mama 3 months to make, the person selling it to you can easily find you a dozen more within an hour.

Only in Guatemala can you get a $1.00 haircut, Then have someone from the USA take one look at it and think that you paid to much for it.

Only in Guatemala can you get a motel room for $2 that would cost you at least $2.50 in the USA.

There is no such thing as a finishing carpenter in Guatemala

If the floor of a new house is less than a foot narrower at one end of the room than it is at the other you may have found Guatemala’s first finishing carpenter.

Any one who claims that they have never gotten sick while in Guatemala can not be trusted.

Anyone who is not a liar and claims that they did not get sick while in Guatemala, made it through their entire visit without eating anything.

Only in Guatemala can you get electrocuted from a faulty electric shower head and fall head first into the box of used toilet paper that sits next to the toilet.

The only thing in Guatemala that draws more spectators than a soccer game is an American taking a shower.

I am not saying I never get upset but when I do my kids won’t put up with it for long. Especially Fernando, he won’t let me get by with anything. When ever I start thinking that getting work done on my yard or the computer is more important than spending time with the kids he sets me straight. He simply walks up to me and says “You no mucho fun no more. You no mucho play ninoos.” Most of the time it works and I go out and play with the kids even if it can only be for a short time. The funny thing is once I do the kids are generally great about pitching in and willingly helping me with anything that needs doing around here. Yesterday we were running late for Ronny’s birthday party. I was trying to get the kids to hurry and it seemed the more I tried to get them to hurry the slower they moved. I was trying to keep my cool but when we stopped off at the grocery store to pick up some ice cream I was beginning to feel the pressure of being so late. However knowing how much the kids love to go into the store with me I said that it was OK but I told them that we had to hurry. Big mistake, because when I get rattled and try to hurry them they go from slow to neutral, and that is exactly what happened right in the middle of a crowded narrow part of the grocery store. Fernando saw something of interest and made a non signaled stop right in front of me. I bumped into to him a bit as I walked past him with out saying as much as excuse me. He looked up at me and said, “Why you mucho mad today.” “I’m not mad I’m just in a hurry.” I snapped back at him. “Well when you in hurry you always look mucho mad.” He said. I held my tong and slowed down my pace. Was getting to this birthday party on time worth getting myself and everyone around me so uptight that it was going to ruin what was meant to be a fun day? Besides that hadn’t I been to enough birthday parties here in Guatemala that I didn’t realize that even if we arrived a few hours late we would likely be the first ones to arrive. After getting the ice cream and returning to the car I apologized to the kids for being in a hurry which in there eyes was no different than being mad. It’s funny how much kids can teach us if we are only willing to slow down and allow them to.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Calin has decided that he wants to work at the shop during his school vacation so this morning I brought him down there to help get him started. He took his bike along in the car so that he could ride it home after work. Even though he is only 13 I think that he will do well. He is a good worker and gets along great with the others in the shop, although I must admit he is a bit frightened of Alturo, who’s bark is worse than his bite. I actually think that the 2 of them will get along greatly because under Alturo’s some times grouchy exterior is a hart of gold.

Abner and Fernando accompanied me to Hermano Pedro where we met with John and Jill a married couple who are spending a few months in Antigua with Youth With a Mission. I showed them around Hermano Pedro a few days ago and they have fallen in love with the kids. Today we arrived at the orphanage to late to take the kids out to lunch but along with the help of another volunteer we took 6 of the kids out to the park. Several of the kids that we took out today were ones that I have not taken out in years so it was a big treat to them. Actually it was a big treat for all of the kids especially considering that during these 2 months that many of the kids go home to there families those that have no families to go home to spend the entire time inside of the room that they sleep in. Why they are not at least taken out into the court yard during the day is beyond me.

Hillier (Estardo) a boy who is usually expressionless and usually shows no emotion due to physical abuse that he suffered before being admitted to Hermano Pedro about a year ago had an exceptionally good day today. Jill has fallen in love with him and the feeling is mutual. When ever she hold him he seem to come to life. His otherwise expressionless face lighted up with a smile and he began to look at her and at everything that was going on around him. I am convinced that if there were some one like Jill there for him every day he would soon come out of his own protective little world. While we were at the park another American couple that I know met with us. They had contacted me a few days ago telling me that the lady that is giving them Spanish lessons knew of a 17 year old boy who has cerebral palsy. She told them that he has no wheelchair but was able to walk some with the use of a walker. The problem was that the old walker that he owned had broken in half so now he had no way to get around. After spending a bit more time at the park with the kids we returned them to Hermano Pedro and then contacted the lady who teaches Spanish, by phone. Soon we were on our way to meet the young man that needed the walker. His name slips my mind right now but this young man was an inspiration to all of us. He was standing in his small yard holding on to a tree with one hand and half of his broken walker with the other. His mother told us that he was unable to speak but we noticed right away that he had no problem expressing himself. When he saw the new walker that I had with me he motioned for me to come over to him so that he could give me a hug. He then placed his hand on his hart and pointed up toward heaven indicating that he knew that this walker was not simply given by us but that it was a gift from God. While we were there I took down the information that would be necessary so that he can receive a wheelchair at a future distribution. The walker works great for him but a wheelchair is still necessary if his family is going to be able to take him any distance from their home. His mother told us that he never gets out of his small yard but if he received a wheelchair she knew that he would have a whole new life. I am also praying that next year we can some how manage to find room for him at an already overcrowded teen camp. This young man would be an inspiration to all.

Friday, December 21, 2007, 9:41 PM

I got a rather late start this morning but managed to get in to Hermano Pedro in time to check out 3 of the older boys. John and Jill had told me yesterday that they would be more than happy to join me in taking them out to eat. Instead of the usual Camperos John and Jill took us to a restaurant that is called Gringo’s. We kidded the boys and told them that if they ate the food there they would suddenly forget how to speak Spanish and only be able to speak English. Carlos, Fidel, and David are all usually quite talkative but today they were unusually quiet. I think it was due to what time of year it is. Christmas time is a tough time for the teens and kids, who have no families. Fidel has an exceptionally hard time during Christmas. Just the other day he asked me if I knew of any family that he could stay with for the holidays. Even many of the kids in my Neighborhood have a hard time. Abner has been extra difficult lately and as much as I love him he can be a hand full even when he is just his normal self. Even Fernando who is usually verry up beat and cheery has had a few crying spells and just like every other Christmas he is once again trying to convince everyone including himself that his mother is coming here and taking him back to the USA with her.

Usually I try to have an hour or 2 to myself at night but tonight my doors are still open and the house is full of kids who need to know that they have somewhere to come where they are welcome. In the last 5 minutes I have been interrupted several times by kids who need some thing for sore fingers, ears and throats. Some of the hurts were made a bit better with band aid or medicines most were soothed with a hug.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, December 22, 2007, 8:56 PM

I have gotten use to to a lot of things here in Guatemala but I don’t think that I will ever get use to some of the needless suffering that goes on. Yesterday Gustavo, one of the men who work at our shop, got a phone call telling him that his brother who had been shot in a robbery a few weeks ago had suddenly taken a turn for the worse and died. I have lost count of the people that I know or have met that have been victims of needless crimes. It seems like many of these criminals are mad at the world. They are often times hurting or even killing people after robbing them even when the people cooperate with them. It seems so senseless. But then I guess that is why we are hear because living without the love of Jesus is exactly that, senseless.

Calin has a few days off from his new job at the wheelchair shop so he came along with me to do some last minute Christmas shopping this morning. I know that I said that I was keeping the gift giving down to a minimum this year but I blew it by looking at the faces of the kids as they looked under my christmas tree as they came into my house each evening, hoping that even though I said that I wasn’t going to get them anything for Christmas, that just perhaps I had changed my mind.

In spite of the Gallo bear Christmas tree in the town square I must admit we are still a little further behind on Christmas than they are in the USA. Here we have not yet learned to say HAPPY HOLIDAYS. We still use that dreaded C word. I even saw a nativity display right out in plane view in front of one of our local groceries stores and there were no protesters marching around it with signs. I guess we have a little ways to go before we catch up with the times. I’m probably a bit old fashioned but I actually hope that it is a long ways that we have to go before it is out of date to say Merry CHRISTmas. Some how I like to keep the word Christ in it. It may be OK for the young folks who have good memories to say HAPPY HOLIDAYS but I guess when you get to be my age you start to worry that if they leave the word Christ out of it some of us old timers might forget what CHRISTmas is all about.

After CHRISTmas shopping I went over to Mario’s house. Mario is one of the people who received one of the prefabricated houses that Golf Coast Supply sent down on a container. He does a lot of work for us, making useable maps from the roads and trails that we record on our GPS while driving in Guatemala. Today we worked on seeing if we could relay the internet signal that we receive at the wheelchair shop to Mario’s house which is about a block away. We still have to set up a few more things but it looks like it is going to work. This will be a big blessing to Mario who is in a wheelchair, because once we get things working properly he will be able to do much of his mapping right from his home.

Saturday night is more and more becoming Dick’s night alone in the house. This gives me the opportunity to get my journal out and also give me the time to look back on another week. God is so good. Yes there have been things that have happened this week that have broken our harts but there have also been plenty of victories. Calin who only a few years ago was stealing from everyone is now working at the wheelchair shop and everyone there loves him. As I look at the kids that come to my house I still see some hurt but I also see a world of growth in almost all of them. Not just physical growth but emotional and spiritual as well. Many of them ask to have a turn to pray at meal time or before bed. Just this week for the first time since I moved here Abner asked if he could pray. No it’s not all perfect but the One who is in charge is perfect and that is why I love being where He wants me.

Good Night and a merry CHRISTmas to all,
Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Journal December 9-15

Click on any picture to enlarge.
Sunday, December 9, 2007, 9:38 PM

This morning the 4 of us came straight home from church because it was Kimberly’s 15th birthday calibration today. This is the big one for girls here in Guatemala. Much like Wendy’s birthday a few weeks ago this one also resembled a wedding without the groom. I played it smart today and showed up an hour late. I was still one of the first people to arrive but only had to wait about an hour before things actually got rolling, and since I only live 2 houses away I was able to sneak out for about an hour until the loud band stopped playing. I am still trying to figure out why the bands that play the worst are always the ones that think that they have to play the loudest. I guess they figure that the noise helps drown out the mistakes. It didn’t work! While I was at home I put on my head phones and listened to some music to help drown out the birthday band. An hour later when the windows of my house quit vibrating I took off the head phones and went back to the party. The real noise started after the party though that is when most of the younger people who were at the birthday party discovered that I had a house full of old computers. One of the neighborhood kids also spilled the beens and let several of the adults know that I still had a lot of school shoes left. Suddenly my house looked like a combination arcade and a 2 for none sale in a shopping mall. I must admit that I am beyond tired tonight and since food was served at the birthday party the concession stand at this mall was closed for the night. At 7 PM I ushered everyone out of the house and announced that I was going out to eat all by myself. There was weeping and gnashing of teeth but I refused to give in. I knew that if I gave in and let even one kid come along there would be 20. How Calin found me an hour later is beyond me but I didn’t give in and buy any supper for him. I shared mine with him instead. I know you are probably thinking that I should have made him leave but I just couldn’t do that. He has been sworn to secrecy though and I even made him say good bye when wewalked by his house on our way back home.

The kids were all playing out in the alley when I got home and only Fernando put up a fuss when I told him that they would have to play outside so that I could have a little bit of time to myself. I think that I will close for now and just sit back and listen to the silence until bed time.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, December 10, 2007, 8:30 PM

Today we finally got to celebrate Carletos’s birthday. We had been trying since the middle of lat week but due to various things that came up our plans had to be changed several times. The funny thing is that Hermano Pedro had the wrong date written down for his birthday and just yesterday Carlos found out that Carletos’s birthday was actually today. Who says it doesn’t pay to procrastinate? Fernando, and Calin went along with me to Hermano Pedro where we met with Carlos. We then went in and asked Carletos which of his friends he wanted to invite from the orphanage. We told him that he could invite up to 3 friends along. Soon the car that I am borrowing and Carlos’s pickup truck were loaded and the 8 of us were on our way to a park that is about 20 minutes away. I have driven by the entrance to this park on may occasions but had no idea it was so nice or that it was so large. It has acres and acres of roads and trails winding through it and is a paradise for power wheelchairs. Unfortunately only Carletos and Fidel have power chairs but Carlos, Calin, Fernando, and I took turns being the source of power for David and Tinto. The 4 of them just could not get enough of exploring one road after another. After our hour long hike we had some sandwiches that we had taken along and then the 2 guys with the power chairs went exploring on there own. We made sure that each of them had a cell phone along in case they got lost or stuck. Calin and Fernando were delighted when they discovered that the park had a small swimming pool and were even happier that no one else was around. Next time they said that they would try to remember swim suits though. Carlos and I pushed David and Tinto around a bit but did not venture out as far as the 2 that had power chairs. Our otherwise perfect day was cut a bit short when Carlos tried to help Tinto into the bathroom. The floor to the park bathroom was wet and when Carlos was helping Tinto out of his wheelchair they both slipped and Tinto cut his forehead open. I cleaned and patched the cut but it appeared to be deep enough that it would require stitches. I don’t think that any one was ready to go back to Hermano Pedro yet but we had to. When we got back we discovered that some one else in the men’s section of Hermano Pedro had fallen, so Tinto had to wait his turn to get stitched up. While he was getting his stitches I asked him if he would have still gone to the park if he knew that this was going to happen. He gave me a big grin and a thumbs up. The cut stitched up well and I doubt that it will even leave a scar. Never the less Carlos felt pretty bad about what had happened. I reminded him that in all of the years that we have taken people from Hermano Pedro out nothing serious has ever happened. We are praying that the staff of Hermano Pedro feels the same way about it and does not put any restrictions on taking people on outings.

My house filled up even faster than normal tonight and by the time the pancakes were served there were 16 of us at the table. Actually only 12 of us fit around the table 4 of the kids impatiently waited for some one else to finish up before they were able to sit down and eat. I have a no standing and a no food at the computer rule at my house. That way there is not a quarter inch of spilled stuff over the floor of my entire house. Although it ends up being close to an inch deep under and around the table though.

I have asked the kids to play out side for the next hour so that I can get a bit of writhing done but since 40 minutes of that has already passed I am sure that the door bell will start ringing any minute now. I wish that you could meet all of these kids though because I know that you would fall in love with them all just like I have.

Yours in Christ: Dick
Tuesday, December 11, 2007, 9:27 PM

This morning I woke up with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. It has been 50 days since I brought my car in to the Toyota dealer to have the engine rebuilt. They had told me that it would take a maximum of 21 days so I figured that I had the right to let them know how I felt. I had Lezete make the phone call for me but told her before hand exactly what I wanted her to tell them. She got about a half hour run around but finally they put the service manager on the phone. He told her that he had called a few weeks ago telling me that they had the car running but it was making a ticking sound so they had to check that out. He forgot to mention that he had promised to call back with in 24 hours but then he had made that promise a few weeks before and never did call me back. I told Lezete to tell him that I wanted it don by tomorrow and if it was not finished I wanted them to furnish me with a car to drive until it was done. By the time we got off the phone I was so frustrated that I didn’t even want to go to the orphanage today.

I decided though that it would be better for me to do something than to just sit around and sulk so I headed out. When I got there I looked in on some of the kids and seeing some of their conditions I soon realized that my problems were verry small in comparison to theirs. I had been complaining about the inconvenience of not being able to drive around the country at will and here in front of me were kids and adults who would give their eye tooth to be pushed a few blocks in their wheelchairs. After taking Sam Sam for a walk I had almost entirely forgotten about my car problem that I had thought was so large only a few short hours later. Almost but not quite. perhaps I would have forgotten about it all together had it not been for the fact that the person who promised that my car would be done by November 12 had not even been considerate enough to let me know when it would be done. Perhaps if I did some work on some wheelchairs I would completely get over it. How about Mercedes? Her wheelchair has been in need of a complete renovation for quite some time now. She has out grown it and I knew that it had to be uncomfortable for her. In fact thinking back I had promised her several months ago that I would resize it for her but had been putting it off because I knew how hard she was to fit. HELLO!! Why wasn’t Mercedes feeling the same way about me and my promises as I had been feeling about the service manager at the Toyota garage? She certainly had every right to. She has seen me going in and out of the orphanage almost daily and knew that I could have skipped taking one of the kids for a walk or out to lunch and fixed her wheelchair instead. Not only did she not complain but she greeted me every time I saw her with a smile that simply made my day. Could it be that she had been a lot more loving and tolerant than I have been? Could it also have been that things look entirely different to a person depending which side of the fence you are on. Tomorrow I am going to go into the orphanage and give Mercedes a big hug for teaching me a lesson. I hope that some day I have half as much wisdom as the kids that I work with in the orphanage.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, December 12, 2007, 9:11 PM

Tonight’s journal entry is going to be a short one. After feeding breakfast to 11 kids I went to Antigua and picked up Carlos. He and I spent the entire day in Guatemala City getting my car back. It seems like they did a good job of rebuilding the engine. I am planning on putting some miles on it before I venture into any back country though. And yes, I gave the service manager a big smile and thanked him for fixing my car. Some how my smile did not seem as genuine as the smile that I receive from Mercedes but I will work on that.

Thursday, December 13, 2007, 6:43 PM

I once again realized today that seeing someone get a newly refurbished wheelchair is a lot more satisfying than getting a newly refurbished car. It does not seem like that long ago that I fitted Ascension into a new wheelchair. It was a far cry from the old generic chair that she had been in before that and it has served her well for a number of years now but just like cars wheelchairs do wear out and unlike most cars you can outgrow a wheelchair. Not that Ascension puts that many miles on her wheelchair. Other than the occasional trip to Camperos and her once a year week at camp Ascension never leaves the building at Hermano Pedro that she has called home for nearly all of her life. Never the less Ascension can wear out a wheelchair faster than anyone else that I know. Ascension is a wiggler. With the type of CP that she has her body is in continual motion. Some of her movement is voluntary, like when she turns gives nearly everyone that she sees a big smile and a wave, but some is involuntary like when her arms flail around and she accidentally slugs you when she gets excited. Anyway I think that it is involuntary but by the smile she had after nearly giving me a black eye today while I was adjusting her new wheelchair I sometimes wonder. At any rate she has the knack of completely wearing out a wheelchair from the inside out every few years. That is why I found myself putting her into a new chair again today. I would like to say that seating her in a different wheelchair or readjusting one of her old ones gets easier over the years but it doesn’t. As she is getting older it is also getting harder and harder to get her seated well. The occasional slugs that she gives you when she gets excited are also getting harder. Today she was very excited and from the moment that I walked into the door with her new wheelchair, until Calin and I finally had her fitted several hours later she was one big smile, and nonstop movement. The chair that I had brought in had seat and back cushions that had been custom molded for some one. Their family had donated it to Hope Haven International and they in turn had shipped it to Bethel ministries. Only on the rare occasion have we been able to seat someone into a wheelchair that was custom fit for some one else with out having to put entirely different seats and back rests on them. Those few times that a custom fit chair fit some one it was not designed for I considered a GODINCIDENCE if not an out and out miracle. Today I had to remove some fabric and do some carving on the back rest of the custom fit chair that we brought for Ascension but the rest of the chair fit her perfectly and the end results were definitely a God send. When we finally put Ascension into her new chair she looked happier than I have ever seen her. Those of you who know Ascension personally realize that that is quite a statement considering she is always one of the happiest people around, but it is true. I had not known until now that her smile could get any but it did. She gave out such a shriek of delight that several of the nurses came over to see what was going on. I think that her happiness was contagious because soon everyone was laughing and smiling right along with her. Even some of the nurses whom I thought had forgotten how to smile years ago seemed happy to see her so comfortable. Some of them even took turns having their pictures taken with her.

During the day we also managed to take Guadalupe and 2 of his friends out to Burger King in calibration of his 26th birthday. We also took time out to hold a few of the kids who had been locked in their cribs all day. The only tears that I saw all day were ones that ran down the side of Calin’s face when he was told that the little girl up in malnutrition had left for home with her family an hour before we arrived. Through the tears he looked up at me, smiled, and said that he was happy for her that she was well enough to be able to go back to her family but wished that he had at least been able to say good bye to her.

It’s 7:32 and I promised the kids that I would let them in at 7:30. I am really going to here about being 2 minutes late so I better go.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, December 14, 2007, 8:43 PM

I thought that Carlos and I were going to be in Tikal this evening but for some reason last nigh Carlos let me know that he didn’t want to go. A bit strange considering that we had been talking about doing this for over a month now. I am discovering more and more that it is sometime much easier to understand many of the nonverbal kids that I work with then it is to understand some of the verbal adults. For some strange reason as we get older we seem to think that it is more mature to be evasive then it is to express our true feeling in the way that most children do. Any way I decided that it would still be good to just get away for a few days so instead of heading to Reho Dulci I headed to Mazatenango. Tonight I am in my home away from home the Bamboo Motel. Where else can you get a nice motel room for 6 people with a swimming pool and a good restaurant for $38. Oh yah since I didn’t want to go by my self I invited a few of the kids along. I started out by inviting 2 of them but some how by the time I left Chemaltenango there were 5 kids with me. I told them that this was going to be this years Christmas present. The kids are enjoying it and I am finding that it is a lot more fun than Christmas shopping.

.............................We arrived here at around 3 Pm and other than getting out of the water for a quick bite to eat the kids have been living in the swimming pool. I have been in and out a few times but have also been able to just sit back and relax a bit.

The kids have just come back into the room so I think that I will close for now.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, December 15, 2007, 12:09 PM
The kids all drifted off to sleep by around 10 PM and I didn’t hear another sound until around 7 this morning. You would have thought that they got enough swimming in yesterday but that was the first thing that they wanted to do when thy got up so instead of eating breakfast the 6 of us headed for the pool. I hope that everyone else that was staying at the motel had gotten enough sleep because my crew makes a lot of noise when they are having fun and believe me they were having fun. It is always a bit scary watching Calin try to do some of the stunts that the other kids do such as jumping into the water from some of the rock that are on the far side of the pool. He is at least twice as heavy as any of the others and about as graceful as a pregnant elephant. He is a wonderful kid but seems to be a compulsive eater. Speaking of eating I finally got the kids to take a half hour break from swimming and took the 5 of them Burger King for a quick breakfast.
After breakfast the 7 of us went back to the motel so that the kids could swim until check out time. Yes 7, you didn’t read wrong and there is nothing wrong with my math. Somehow we managed to pick up an extra kid while having breakfast at Burger King. Fernando once again was first to spot a boy about his age that was begging for money. Trust Fernando to offer to give him his entire breakfast before he had taken a bite himself. This time I put my foot down by telling Fernando that he had to eat his own breakfast and not give it away. Well I sort of put my foot down. Fernando ended up keeping his breakfast but only after I had given him some money to buy breakfast for the boy who was begging. Soon there were 7 of us at the table and before you knew it all of the kids had made friends with our new addition and soon they asked me if he could come along swimming with us. I asked if he had any parents that we could get permission from but he told us that he had no father and that his mom lived several miles from here. He said that he usually begs around Mazatenango because there are more people there and he finds that it is easier to get food or money when you beg in the larger towns. I figured that it would not hurt him to at least be a kid for 2 hours so as I am sitting here by the pool typing this the 6 boys are having the time of their lives. I will have to finish this later though because we have to check out of the motel in 25 minutes and I know that it is not going to be easy to get the kids to quit swimming.

I never asked him but wondered if perhaps Jose was praying that this day would never end.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

5:55 PM

We made it out of our motel room on time, but by the skin of our teeth. It was 12:59 when I handed the motel clerk the key to our room. I doubt that they would have charged extra if we were not out of our room by 1 PM but telling the kids that we had a deadline helped get them out of the pool and changed in record time. Jose, the boy who had been begging in front of Burger King was the last one to get dressed and out of the door. The kids introduced him to what a hot shower was and I don’t think that he wanted to get out until 10 years worth of dirt had been washed off from him. That may have taken a day or 2 had it not been for the 2 hour presoak in the pool. Don’t worry the pool at the Bamboo has excellent filters and I am sure that once they clean them they will work fine again. Since we had picked Jose up at Burger King we thought that would be the best place to bring him back to, although I am sure he would gladly have stayed with us a few hours or even years had we given him the opportunity. Even though we had eaten only a few hours earlier the boys acted like typical boys and insisted that they were all famished. At least we were at the right place because Burger King has a 15 Q special meaning that I could feed the entire crew for a little over $10.

While we were eating Jose told us a lot about himself. He is 10 years old and one of 7 children. He did not want to talk about his father but it was evident that he is either dead or has deserted his mother and family. Jose’s mom sends him into Mazatenango nearly every day to beg for money. It sounds like this is about the only income that the family generates. If Jose brings enough money home he is allowed to keep 1Q so that he can ride the buss into Mazatenango the following day. If not he has to get up early in the morning and walk for 4 hours to get to town. He told us that the buss fair is suppose to be 2 Q but the buss driver lets him ride for half price. Before joining us today he had collected 3 Q. This would get him home but doubtfully would mom settle for 1 Q so likely tomorrow morning he would have to walk for 4 hours to get into town. When we had finished eating the boys all said goodbye to their new friend and headed out the door. When I got up to leave, Jose reached out his hand, not for money but to shake my hand and thank me for allowing him to be a little boy for a few hours.

I know that it is easy to judge people and say, “Why so many children, especially when there is no father around, and can’t mom figure out some other way to feed her family than to send her 10 year old son out to beg every day?” I don’t know the answers to many of these questions but I know that Jose was hungry and I know that James 1:27 says, Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress.

This 2 day vacation went all to fast but we all had a great time and with a little prodding the kids even remembered to say thank you. They are great kids and it was good just to get out and have some fun with them. Being able to let Jose join us for even a few short hours was an added blessing for all of us. The kids talked about Jose a lot until one by one they each fell asleep on the 2 ½ hour car ride home.

Yours in Christ: Dick