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

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

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Location: Chimaltenango, Guatemala

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

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


Anonymous Ken said...

Will be there tomorrow, looking forward to this trip. Will be working out of the Boca Costa Medical Mission.

Thursday, October 15, 2009  

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