* 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)

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


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home