* 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 1, 2007

Journal November 26 - December 1

Monday, November 26, 2007

Even though 3 of our campers showed up on Saturday night adult camp officially started this morning. Calin, Lydia, and I went to Hermano Pedro at around 9 am to pick up the 3 adults and the 1 care giver that are coming to camp for the week. I didn’t personally know the care giver but had been assured that he would be waiting for us at Hermano Pedro when we got there. After waiting for about an hour an a half we decided to load the campers into the van and if the care giver had not shown up by then we would take them to camp and wing it on our own if he never did show up. Fortunately just before leaving I ran into Lesley, a friend who has been at Hermano Pedro for a number of years and she pointed across the street to a man that had been sitting on the curb ever since we had arrived and told us that this was our care giver. I am not sure if he is just shy or wanted us to get everyone lifted into the car before he introduced himself. I had been told by several people that he is a good worker but only time will tell.

A good part of my day was spent repairing a few power chairs but I managed to have lunch at the camp grounds. We seem to have a very enthusiastic group of adults this year and at last count there were 76 wheelchair campers. Many of them brought more than one companion so we are bursting at the seams.

As long as things go smoothly at camp I am going to try to spend more time at home this week, because other than the 1 or 2 kids that accompany me each day my kids from the neighborhood have not seen a lot of me this week. Tonight they were delighted that I was home early and did not make them go home until around 10 pm.

Some of the volunteers from heritage Christian Services had a shoe drive and brought along a bunch of school shoes for the kids. Even though I am not giving any out until school starts in mid January, tonight I let each of the kids pick out the pair that they want me to save for them. Some of the parents even came over to help their children pick out their shoes.

Calin and Abner declared themselves to be house guests and are already fast asleep. I am half way there myself so I will once again say, “Goodnight”.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, November 27, 2007, 6:48 PM

I started off my morning by making breakfast for a few of the neighbor kids and myself. Next I headed to the shop to fix a few things and get some supplies. Abner and Alex were at first going to come along with me but the are a bit frightned of Alturio, an older gentleman that works in our wheelchair shop. Alturio is a good man but can some times seem a bit cross. I actually think that he gets a kick out of acting that way but some of my kids take him seriously. Alturio even growled a bit at me this morning when I told him I had lost the key to one of our power scooters. I got him to laugh a bit though when I handed him a knife and asked him if he wanted to use it or if he preferred that I find him a gun so that he could shoot me. As he handed me a new key he grinned at me and said, “I will let you know if I want the knife or the gun if you loose this one.”

I then went to camp and saw that they had plenty of help. When I mentioned that I was heading over to Hermano Pedro Lida asked me if she could come along. On our way there we picked up Abner and Alex. I had promised them that if I went to the orphanage they could come along. We did not arrive until a few minutes after 12 but since the kids had not eaten yet we quickly signed 4 of them out for lunch. We took Minor and his brother Elmer out to eat. It looks like these 2 may not be going home for Christmas. I am not sure just why because I know that they have a mother. We also took Roberto (Bobby). He will likely be going home for Christmas but his mother always picks him up about a week after the other parents do. Estardo also accompanied us to lunch. He has a mother but she has a restraining order against even visiting him. From what I have been told the reason that Estardo can not walk or talk is because of abuse that he has received from her. Even though he had very little response or emotion when he firs arrived at Hermano Pedro a little over a year ago he is now showing more response and even smiles from time to time. I am praying that he will some day dare to come out of his own little world. Today both Lida and I saw a few glimmers of hope.

As we were pushing the 4 kids through the park on their wheelchairs today we were approached by a lady who knew no English. I could tell that she was trying to enquire about the wheelchairs so I called to Abner who was about 50 feet ahead of us. Good old Abner, he always knows the best time to get into one of his moods. He flat out refused to interpret anything that the lady was saying to us or anything that we were trying to say to her. I could tell that she was desperately trying to ask us something about wheelchairs but could not understand what she wanted. Just by CHANCE a Guatemalan gentleman was standing near by who know fluent English. We soon discovered that the lady worked with 35 disabled kids in a town that is several hours from here. She told us that she desperately needed specialty wheelchairs and since the kids that we were with were in wheelchairs she was hoping that there was a CHANCE that we know where she could find any. She was a bit taken back when I told her that I was a seating specialist and Chris handed her one of my cards and also a card from Bethel Ministries and told her to contact them about her needs or even the possibility of a wheelchair distribution in her town. I was glad that we had HAPPENED to decide to come in to Antigua right during the middle of camp. Then again perhaps this had been another GODINCIDENCE.

Lunch went fairly well but 2 of the kids did a lot of crying. I have little doubt that it is hard for them to see most of the other kids go home for Christmas while they have to stay at the orphanage. I had originally planned on going back to the States for a few weeks in December but have now changed my mind. So I do not have much scheduled but I think that I will try to get into Hermano Pedro as much as possible. Even an hour or 2 of getting out means so much to these kids.

Speaking of kids, I have a bunch of them gathered at the gate. I promised that I would finish up on tonight’s Journal in time to fix them some supper and then spend some time with them.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Today was the day that the adult camp had their outing. I had given some thought to staying at home and getting caught up on things but got a call from Chris at around 6 AM telling me that they were going to need the van. I got up and was out of the door before 7. It was not Calin’s turn to come along with me but none of the other kids were over yet so he got to come along again today. Since we have run into so much construction lately we decided to take some curvy back roads to the lake this time. Some of the hair pin curves proved to be quite a challenge for the busses but about 2 hours after leaving Chemaltenango we all arrived safely at the lake. I am not sure what the exact count was but there must have been close to 200 of us on the boat. We thought about having a drawing to see who got to use the one and only life jacket if the boat went down but it looked like it was water logged and likely didn’t float anyway. When we reached the far side of the lake we unloaded everyone so that they could do want ever the wanted to do for about an hour. Some of the gang wnet into the nearby village while others just relaxed by the beach. Calin and a few kids that had come to camp with their parents decided to go for a swim. David one of the boys who’s father is attending camp had a bit of a scare when he jumped off a dock into water that he had thought was not over his head. Fortunately an older boy saw him and quickly jumped into the water and gave him a big shove towards shore. David swallowed a bit of water and was quite frightened but with in a half hour he was once again back in the water. This time he made sure that he didn’t go in much deeper than his knees though. Our hour stay on the far side of the lake turned into a 2 hour stay due to a few campers who returned an hour late. No one said much to them about being late but after looking at the faces of everyone who had been waiting for them I doubt that they will pull that stunt again.

One of the reasons that we had wanted to leave earlier was because at this time of year fog often sets in after dark. That is exactly what it did tonight. Fortunately it was not foggy all of the way home but unfortunately it was foggy on the section of road that is under construction. It consists of about 15 miles of curvy dirt road that has no lines painted on it. In many places there is no sholder to the road but only a 3 to 4 foot drop off where they will eventually add another lane. Since traffic in both directions has a tough time figuring out exactly where their side of the road is when it is rainy or foggy I have made it a practice to find a large truck that has working tail and brake lights and follow it through this part of the highway. Some times I have to let a dozen trucks go by before I find one with working tail lights but tonight I hit it right and got behind one right away. I guess that I should have checked to see if he had working head lights though because it soon became evident that the driver was having a difficult time seeing where he was going. He kept getting closer and closer to the drop off at the edge of the road. When he suddenly drove off the edge I decided to quit following him. How he managed to go over about a 4 foot drop with out rolling the truck is beyond me. How he is ever going to get his truck out of there is an even bigger mystery. Soon we found another truck to follow. He had working headlights and tail lights. A few miles down the road, when he had to quickly apply his breaks for a car that was coming at him in the wrong lane, we were happy to see that he had break lights too. It was a fun day but everyone was happy to be safely back at camp. After getting everyone and everything off from the busses and out of the van I headed for home.

Tomorrow will be our last day of camp so I plan on helping fix some of the wheelchairs that the campers have brought to camp.

Good night,
Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, November 29, 2007, 5:18 PM

Fernando has been helping me fix wheelchairs today. Our shop is also full of workers who are getting everyone’s wheelchair back in shape so that they will hopefully last them until next years camp. This is always a big undertaking that mostly goes on behind the scenes during the entire 3 weeks of camp. Some of the older kids at camp even pitched in today helping to change tires or lending a hand in any way that they could. I think that they realize how important a wheelchair is to their parent or family member who is in one.

9:55 PM

--------- I went back to camp for a while but didn’t stay long tonight. The sound system in the gym is not the best so I was unable to understand much of what was being said by the campers. I know though that they are all grateful for the camp and it means more to them than we will ever know. Even a trip to the lake like the one that we took yesterday is often a once in a life time experience for many of these campers. It makes all of the loading and unloading of campers to and from busses and boats well worth it. I must admit though that I was a bit of a slacker this week as far as work goes. A few too many lifts during the first 2 camps has left my back in a bit of a tender condition. Thankfully though we had a wonderful group of Guatemalan and USA volunteers and everything went smoothly.

Going home early tonight did not prove to be all that restful though. Granted camp has 76 campers plus who knows how many family members but at least it has lots of volunteers to pitch in. The day campers at my house tonight reached some where near 20 people, and for a change the girls outnumbered the boys. They all pitched in and cleaned up after supper though and even left with in 15 minutes after being asked to. They all asked if I was going to be home tomorrow night and promised to be here if I was. If being a bachelor is as lonely as they say it is. I am glad that I am not married. If married life is evne less lonely then this I am not sure that I could stand it.

I’m tired so I will be heading off to bed soon but not before thanking the Lord for allowing me to be here to serve these wonderful people.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, December 30, 2007

This morning all of our campers headed back to their homes. Some went by buss, some by car, and many of them in the back of pick up trucks that were hired to take them home. All of them were sad that camp had once again ended for another year. It was a great year of camp and even though the amount of volunteers that helped out this year were fewer their team spirit and willingness to help out where ever needed was fantastic. A big thank you to all of you who were involved! With out you 200 wheelchair campers and their families could not have had the experience of their life time.

Liz and I took the 3 men from Hermano Pedro and the helper that we had hired back to Antigua first thing this morning. There were no tears but there were a lot of hugs and thank yous. It is likely that none of them will get to leave the confines of Hermano Pedro until next years camp.

After returning to Chemaltenango I picked up Chris and Donna’s daughter, Lezete, Georges wife, Fernando, and 5 of the volunteers that had come from the States and we headed out to see Maria, the lady who’s husband had been killed by a hit and run driver a few months ago. Maria’s husband had been working for George, who owns a banana truck. Early one morning as he was walking across the road here in Chemaltenango he was run over by a speeding semi. Maria who is in her mid 20s lives in a one room dirt brick house with her 4 children. We are in the process of building her a prefab house but she will need an income in order to survive. She has never been more than a few miles from her home and has no education. Right now she is making an embroidered sweater that she hopes to sell but it will take her 2 months to complete it and at best will bring her $80. That is just a little over $1 per day for her labor. Maria was quite nervous having so many Americans at her home at one time but did well at explaining her situation to us. We told her that we were willing to help her find a way to make an income but wanted her input on what she thought would work for her. Someone had mentioned trying to have her get a education but she needed an income now besides that she had 4 children to care for, and here in Guatemala an education is no guarantee that a person will ever find a job. Several ideas were discussed from raising chickens to opening a small store in her home. When we suggested helping her buy a pregnant sow and helping her build a fenced off area in her small yard her eyes lit up. She told us that at one time her and her husband had raised a few pigs and that she knew how to take care of them. Gorges wife agreed to look into just how much it would cost to buy one or 2 sows, build a good fence, and supply her with enough feed for the pigs until she had sold the first litter of piglets.

It was amazing to see the transformation that had taken place even during our short visit. Children who were crying because of fear of the Americans were now smiling while we were holding them. Some of the other kids were having a time of their lives on a make shift teeter totter that Fernando had constructed for them, and Maria had a glimmer of hope in her eyes. Lida one of the volunteers that came along has offered to sponsor 2 of Maria’s older children so that they will be able to go to school now. It is amazing what love and a few dollars can do for a family that seems to have no hope. Before leaving we gathered in a circle with Maria and some of the people that live near her and had prayer. We also left her and her family with some groceries. It is always best to teach some one how to fish rather then simply giving them a life time supply of fish to eat but we have also found that it is hard to do any fishing when your stomach is empty. Hopefully this will be a start in helping Maria and her family provide for them selves. Either way we are committed to be there for them.

Bedtime once again.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, December 1, 2007, 7:00 PM

Chris took the early run to the airport and just before lunch Calin, Lady, and I brought the last of our volunteers to the airport. I had intended on heading straight home and getting some much neglected house and yard work done but when I discovered that Lady had never been to the zoo in her entire life, I decided that I had better get my priorities in order. For Calin and myself it was almost a repeat performance of last Saturday but neither of us minded at all. After a big unhealthy lunch at one of the booths at the zoo we headed out to see the animals. Of coarse since the amusement rides are right along the path to the grizzly bears we could not help but stop off for a few bumper car rides. I held my own until our final ride when a bunch of people that I had been running into the walls decided to gang up on me and make me feel like a ping pong ball. It was all done in good spirits though and when we left the zoo my back was actually feeling better than it had in days. The bumper cars seemed to do as much good for me as any chiropractor could have ever done and they were a lot cheaper

When we got back home all of the kids helped me finish up on the yard and house work that we had started on this morning and by dark a lot more of it was finished than I had anticipated.

I was going to put up my Christmas tree tonight but many of the kids are gone so I may wait a few days. Abner is spending a few days with some cousins in Guatemala City. Alex, is also with some cousins for the week end. Elmer, Edward, and Chino are working in the city for a few weeks. They have an aunt who owns a clothing store and she needs extra help this time of year. The pay is not all that great but it good for them to be able to help their aunt out.

It has now been 6 weeks since my car was brought into the shop. The Toyota garage told us earlier this week that they were quite sure that I would have it by today but I have heard nothing from them. I imagine that since camp has finally ended and the trips into the city, and the need for a car is not as great it will likely be ready soon. We actually did quite well considering all of the driving that had to take place during camp but between Chris, Donna, Gordon, and myself the entire 3 weeks felt like we were playing musical cars.

I am going to close for now because I want to try to get this journal sent out yet tonight. I always try to run my spell check program in the evening when it is cooler that way it does not over heat my computer when it is trying to correct all of the mistakes.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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