* 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)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Journal November 5-11

Monday, November 5, 2007

Today was graduation day for the 7 kids that we school at Hermano Pedro. Nanette, their teacher has a graduation ceremony at the end of each school year giving recognition to the kids for having been promoted another grade in School. The Audience was small but supportive. It consisted of Chris, Donna, Sonia’s mother and brother, one volunteer from Hermano Pedro, Calin, and myself. Booth teacher, students, audience, were beaming with delight at how much had been accomplished by the students this year. Along with advancing a grade level many of them accomplished other things as well. Byron who was basically nonverbal at the beginning of the school year is starting to express himself more and more. He is also learning to read. Moises loves school and is also serving as Interpreter for Minor who started school only knowing his Mayan Language. Minor is picking up Spanish so fast that he won’t need and interpreter much longer. Roberto is perhaps the slowest to learn but loves his teacher and enjoys going to school. Sonia is doing awesome and we are still praying that we can get her into one of the private schools in Antigua. There are still a few people who do not think that she should attend a so called normal school. “After all she is in a wheelchair.” It is my opinion that there must be some kind of mental problem. Not a mental problem with Sonia, but with anyone who feels that she should not attend a regular school. Carlos continues to do well in school but the muscular dystrophy is weakening his body. Fidel did so well in school this year that Nanette is considering putting him through 2 grades of school next year. Since both he and Carlos will be staying at Hermano Pedro during Christmas break Nanette will continue to come in and teach the 2 of them.

After The graduation program Calin and I went and got some lunch. We had intended on taking Thomasina and her brother Manwell out for lunch today but it was a bit colder than usual today so we could not take them out of the malnutrition ward. After lunch I looked in on Jennifer. She is doing a lot better since we built her the bed that keeps her on her side.

Gregory is a boy that was admitted to the teen section a few months ago. He has been sitting in a canvas back wheelchair but they had to tie him in with bed sheets to keep him from falling out. Each of the Therapists that were here Friday and Saturday had brought a specialty wheelchair with them on the plane. This afternoon was spent in getting one of them adjusted for Gregory. He carefully watched my every move as I adjusted things on the wheelchair. I enjoyed visiting with him and didn’t mind that he watched me but I must admit it did bother me a bit when he kept removing one of his eyes from its socket. I have seen people do that with glass eyes but never with real ones. Anyway after finishing up on Gregory‘s wheelchair and convincing him to put his eye back into the socket we headed for home.

Spaghetti night seems to be a favorate around my house. Tonight I simply added ground hamburger. For some reason meat balls or anything else that resembled an eye ball did not sound appetizing. No complaints from the kids though. I only counted 10 of them at the table but was sure that I had made enough food to feed 20. All of the plates were licked so clean that I thought about putting them into the cupboard without washing them.

Well I think that I will head off to bed.

Goodnight, Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, November 6, 2007, 11:25 PM

What can be more relaxing than going down to the coast and relaxing by the water. Probably a lot of things considering that the water was not the ocean but a water slide park. Also the 19 kids that came along with me kept it from being a completely relaxing day but I must admit that they were all well behaved. Originally I was only going to take the kids that had gotten good grades in School but since that ruled out nearly half of them I made a compromise. I would pay for the ones that received good grades, the others were on their own. How and where about 10 of them got the money is beyond me but by 10 AM 20 of us were heading down the road in the Kia van. We all had a great time but I admit the kids outlasted me. I didn’t sleep but I did get a chance to sit in a lawn chairs and simply observe the action for better than an hour. 4 PM rolled around far to soon and it was like pulling teeth to gat the kids to stop swimming and get dressed.

Well due to the fact that I can not type with my eyes closed I am going to call it a day and head for bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

This morning Fernando and I headed to the wheelchair shop and repaired a power wheelchair that some one had brought in. After doing that and paying a few bills we headed to Hermano Pedro and quickly signed out Manwell and Thomisina from the malnutrition ward. The way that those 2 eat I have little doubt that they will be fattened up and healthy soon. Manwell is very outgoing and even though he has likely never been in a restaurant before he seemed to make himself feel right at home. Having Fernando there really helped as well. Fernando can make friends with other kids faster than anyone that I know. Thomisina who is 2 years older than Manwell was much quieter and did a lot of looking around as though she was scoping out the situation. She did not smile until we had finished eating and I had put her one of the slides. Soon much like her brother she was attempting to climb the ladder on her own. When we got back to Hermano Pedro I did some checking on weather or not these 2 kids have ever been in School. No one is quite sure they promised that they would find out. Some times all it takes is having a teacher work privately with a child for a short time and once a school realizes that the child can learn the school accepts them.

After lunch I met with Jessica. She wanted to show me 2 new kids that were just admitted to the malnutrition ward. The first child was a little boy who appeared to be about 4 years old. Knowing what starvation does I figured that he was older than he looked and guessed his age to be around 6. I could hardly believe it when one of the nurses told me that he was 14 years old. He had arrived in very poor health so we decided to wait until he gains more strength before putting him in a wheelchair. The second child that we looked at was a little girl of 5 years old. She was so fragile looking that I was afraid to pick her up. I didn’t even measure her for a wheelchair because right now her main concern is not getting a wheelchair but staying alive.

More power chair repairs this afternoon and then we headed for home. On our way home we stopped off at the home of Hullio a teen age boy who was paralyzed in a diving accident. I had been told that he was having some problems with his power wheelchair. Evidently they were not big problems because his mother told us that he had gone some where with his friends. Up until a year ago he was basically confined to his home. Hullio’s power chair has changed his life.

The cook took a night off tonight. I simply set some cereal boxes out on the table and told the kids to have at it. The funny thing is some of the kids like cereal better than anything that I make for them. I guess that does not say much for my cooking.

Well it is getting late and all of the kids except Calin are gone. Calin managed to fall to sleep before I told the kids that it was time to go so I guess he is staying.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, November 8, 2007, 11:20 PM

Calin and I met Chris, Gordon, and Juan at Camperos at 8 AM. After breakfast we drove to Ronny’s home. Juan is a pastor in Tecpan but he also works as a block layer so that he can feed his family. He will soon be laying the foundation for the new home that will be built for Ronny’s family in February. At that time a church group of around 20 people from Washington state will be coming to help with building of the house so we want to have the foundation ready for them so that they can start laying cement block when they get here. Not only have they offered to build the house but they are also paying for all of the material. Needless to say Ronny’s entire family is extremely excited about finally having something more than a one room tin shed to live in. Normally we try to use as many local people as possible to help with the building but Sugar cane harvesting has just started up and the next few months will be the only time that most of the men from this area will have steady employment.

Ronny’s father and mother walked with us to the cleared off piece of land where they want the house built. Even though it is higher in elevation than the tin shack that they now call home is we are still planning on having the floor of the house a few feet above the present ground level. I have seen their present house standing in a foot or 2 of water after a heavy rain. We were happy to here that Ronny is planning on coming to camp this year. Since his father will be working and his mother will have to stay with her other 5 children, Ronny’s grandmother has offered to come along to camp with him.

Before heading for home we went to a house that Ronny’s mother had taken me to on my last visit. An elderly lady e who was hit by a motor cycle while getting off from the buss a few months agolives ther. She had broken her femur and when I saw her she was in a lot of pain and had no way to get out of bed. Today we brought her a wheelchair. She is still in a lot of pain and it does not look like her leg is healing properly so we are making arrangements to get her into Hermano Pedro next week.

I had noticed Ronny’s mother was crying while she was talking to Juan when we were visiting and on our ride home he shared with us why she was crying. Even though Ronny is very intelligent and doing well in school most of Ronny’s aunts, uncles, and cousins feel that he is worthless just because he is in a wheelchair. Not only do they feel that way about Ronny but they let him and his family know that they feel that way. I have seen a lot of improvement during the past few years in the way that Guatemalan people treat people with disabilities, but today I was once again reminded that there is still a long way to go.

Tonight was French toast night. French toast ranks right up there with spaghetti so we had a standing room only crowd around my kitchen table. I did not get an accurate head count but all 10 chairs had people in them and several of the kids were standing. Tonight I introduced a new concept that went over with mixed reviews. Actually it has been introduced before but tonight it was reintroduced with a little more forcefulness. It is called passing instead of reaching. Not only that but things were passed in an orderly fashion. Since Calin was yelling the loudest to be first to have any food I made sure that everything started at the person sitting to the left of him and then in a clock wise rotation to the person on there left. Poor Calin was sure that he was going to starve by the time the food got to him but seeing what he had put away for lunch I was confident that he would not starve to death before the food got to him. Actually the system worked out rather well. By the time the food got all the way around the table the person that had been served first had their plate clean and was ready for seconds.

It is hard to believe that it has already been another year but Monday Camp starts. Harder yet to believe is that it is Camp # 7. I can remember our first year of camp like it was yesterday. Then again they say that older people can often remember things from the past it is just the present that is a bluer. Anyway tomorrow some of the volunteers from the States will be arriving. I have other commitments tomorrow so Chris is going after the 2 groups that arrive tomorrow. We will all get our turns though because it looks like during the next 3 weeks we will be making 13 scheduled trips to and from the airport. Those are just the scheduled trips. Add to that the unscheduled trips to retrieve lost or delayed luggage and it gets to be a lot of driving.

Well it is past midnight so I will once again say goodnight. Or should that be good morning?

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, November 9, 2007, 9:26 PM

Fernando’s turn to come along with me today. We first went in to Hermano Pedro but only for a short time. I had to meat with social work to make sure that the teens could still come to camp this coming Monday. It was a good thing that I checked because there had been some mix up but we managed to get things worked out and providing we can get in contact with Carlos’s mom all 7 of the teens from Hermano Pedro will be able to come to camp.

While I was there I made an appointment for the lady with the broken femur to see a doctor on Wednesday. Actually an appointment simply means, be there at 6:30 am so that you are one of the first in line when the doors open at 7:00. I plan on picking her up Tuesday afternoon and she will stay In Antigua over night so that see can be at Hermano Pedro first thing in the morning on Wednesday. She will likely be there most of the day getting exams and x-rays. Then hopefully she will be told when to come back and see a specialist that comes with one of the teems from the USA. It is a bit of a process but well worth it compared to what she would get at one of the national hospitals. Even if they did see her it would likely be a year or 2 before they would be able to do something for her if they did anything at all.

Before leaving Hermano Pedro I received some good news. They are going to let Sonia attend school next year. This is a big mile stone considering that up until now only 2 older teen age boys have ever been allowed to go out to school from Hermano Pedro. We still have to work out a few details like finding some one who can take her to and from school each day but since it is only 5 blocks away I don’t think that we will have much of a problem finding someone who will push her there, especially if we are willing to pay them some thing.

This afternoon Chris went to pick up a group of camp volunteers from the airport while Gordon and I went to see how the bathroom for Maria turned out. Other than a few leeks that will soon be taken care of everything looks good. We had intended on talking with the family about putting cement in 2 of their 3 small homes but after talking with grandmother we could tell that her bigger concern was the 3rd home which was falling down around Maria who still slept there. It is made of mud brick and has the type of tile roof that killed so many Guatemalan people in the earthquake of 1976. Considering the shape that the house is in I am surprised that even some of the earthquakes that we have experienced in the last few years have not collapsed the house. I phoned Chris and he confirmed what I had thought. All 6 houses that had come in with our last container of wheelchairs were already spoken for. They had been given out to people that had even bigger needs than Maria and her family. Some of these families lived in homes that were nothing more than a few polls with some plastic stretched around them. Chris told me though that hopefully we would be betting more homes in 6 to 12 months and that he would be willing to put her on a list for one of these homes. Even knowing that it would not be a sure thing Grandmother told me that she would wait. I wish so that we could instantly meet the needs of everyone that we come into contact with but praise God that we can reach out to as many people as we do.

This evening I went out to eat with the 3 volunteers that Chris picked up this afternoon. Right now Chris is on his way back to the airport to pick up 3 more people that are coming in tonight. At 5 AM I head to the airport to get someone else. That reminds me. It is time for bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, November 10, 2007

At 5 am Abner, Calin, and I headed to the airport to pick up Hank Hampstra. Hank has come from Canada to volunteer at camp for 2 weeks. Had I only known that his plane was going to be 2 hours late I could have slept in. At least he got here safely. This after noon I took Hank and some of the volunteers that arrived yesterday in to Hermano Pedro to meet some of the kids that will be coming to camp. They had a great time visiting with them and others who will not get to come this year.

Jennifer is doing quite well and the nurses are doing a good job of not letting her lye in one position for more than a few hours.

I took a better look at the new 5 year old girl that came in a few days ago. She seems to be doing a bit better but still has a long way to go before I even dare to work with her. Much like Jennifer her head is also bent backwards and nearly touches her back at times. If she lives I will try to build her something that will hold her in a more relaxed position as well.

The 14 year old boy who was admitted to malnutrition a few days ago is not looking well at all. He is in isolation so I only spent a short time with him. Please remember these children in your prayers.

The group of volunteers went out to eat this evening but I went home and took an hour and a half nap. I had to be back at the airport to pick up 3 more people at 9 pm. My nap was interrupted by 3 phone calls but I was to sleepy to even remember who I talked to or what I said. All I know is when I went to open the gate so that I could head off to the airport 3 kids were standing there waiting for me. All 3 claimed that they had talked to me on the phone and I had individually promised each one of them that they could ride along with me to the airport. I wasn’t to sure weather or not this was some type of conspiracy but having remembered answering the phone 3 times I felt that their stories had enough merit that I had to believe them, so I let them come along. As we approached a McDonalds while coming into Guatemala City the 3 of them tried to convince me that I had also promised that we would stop off there for some food. I had some serious doubts about this especially since I heard a lot of whispering going on just before they told me this, but since I was getting hungry and McDonalds is cheep we stopped off for a bite to eat.

All 3 ladies arrived on time so we were out of the airport by 10. Had it not been for the fact that the gate to the bible school where the ladies are staying was locked and I had not taken the right key along I may have gotten back home and to bed before midnight. Fortunately Pastor Bill, who was staying at the bible school with the other volunteers, has a cell phone. Unfortunately Pastor Bill, who was staying at the bible school with the other volunteers, is almost as hard of hearing as I am. Fortunately as hard of hearing as I am I can still hear my cell phone ring, even when I am asleep. As I previously mentioned I don’t remember what anyone who wakes me up tells me but at least I can hear it ring. Unfortunately pastor Bill wears ear plugs when he sleeps and they make him even deafer than I am. After 3 attempts of phoning Pastor bill it was time for plan B. Fortunately I had given Hank a spare cell phone to use while he is hear, and fortunately he is not deaf. Unfortunately as keen as Hank’s hearing is he is still not able to hear a cell phone that is shut off. The 3 ladies that were with us were good sports but when I told them that they could sleep on my floor with the 3 boys I could see that they preferred something a bit softer. Calin offered to clime over the 10 foot wall that surrounded the bible school. Now back 4 years ago when Calin made a living by climbing other people’s walls he could have scaled this one in 5 seconds. Unfortunately Calin has gained about 100 pounds since then and even claming up on a chair to eat dinner is beginning to be a challenge for him. Abner and Fernando have never been thieves but they have been known to scale a few walls when a misguided soccer ball has gone astray so with very little effort they got inside. They later told me that they pounded on the door of pastor bills room for quite some time. They never did wake him up but managed to wake up enough other people that they finally found someone who had a key to the gate.

It was nearly 1 am when I crawled into bed. That is why today’s journal is actually being written tomorrow. ??????

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, November 11, 2007, 8:50 PM

I took 4 kids along to church with me this morning and then rushed back to Chemaltenango to pick up a van load of volunteers and head straight back to Antigua. Chris, Danna, and their family also came along. We went to an Italian restaurant that serves really good food. I don’t know what it is about this restaurant and me though. It seems that every time we go there something happens to me. Once I got really sick after eating the food. The next time we went there I accidentaly drug my napkin through the spaghettis sauce and changed the color of my shirt from white to blood red. Today though I do have to admit the food was good and I didn’t wipe out a shirt. I got a bit of indigestion though. I think it was from gobbling down my food. I would not have eaten so fast had it not been for the fact that everyone had finished eating before I was served. I guess that I shouldn’t have made that comment about eating at McDonalds next time if anything went wrong. How was I to Know that the waiter understood English?

Some of the group went shopping after lunch. 4 of us went to the orphanage. After an hour those that had come along with me to the orphanage also went shopping. I stayed at the orphanage until it was time to pick up the group.

Tomorrow camp starts so the journals may get a bit shorter for a while.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Journal October 30 - November 4

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

At 4:50 AM Chris and I were on our way to El Salvador. Traffic was light and we found our selves at the border by 9:00 AM. We were met there by Lezete, the lady from El Salvador who would be taking us to where the people that needed wheelchairs lived. We had anticipated a bit of a hassle in getting 5 wheelchairs across the border and were not disappointed. At first we were told that there was no way that we could bring the wheelchairs into the country without a letter from the president’s wife. I have been told that the First Lady is a good person but I doubt that writing a letter saying that she was allowing us to bring 5 wheelchairs into El Salvador was at the top of her list. For the next 2 hours we were shuffled from one office to another. Each office that we were directed to was on the other side of the highway from the previous. Chris later counted it up and we crossed the highway 9 times. Considering that there were both Guatemalan and El Salvadorian drivers on the highway we are happy that we are each still in one peace. Finally everyone at the border seemed satisfied and we were on our way.

About an hour and a half later we arrived at our destination. We had made it there with the van but not with out wishing that we had 4 wheel drive. At least if there had been any rust on the bottom side of the van it had been scraped off by now. Several people were waiting for us at a small Catholic church that was located in the poor looking aldea that we had come to. Only 3 of the 5 people that were to receive wheelchairs had been able to get to the church. One was a very old looking gentleman who could no longer walk. To my surprise he was only a few years older then me. Much like myself he was very alert though :>) and we had a great time visiting as we fitted him into his wheelchair. Next A teen age girl who had some mental problems managed to get a good grip on Chris’s hair while he was adjusting her foot rests. Fortunately her mother talked her into releasing her grip before the hairs on Chris’s head lost their grip. The third person that we gave a chair to was a man who had been in an electrical accident. The electrical shock had burned off both of his arms and a resulting fall had broken his back leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. In spite of all that had happened to him he seemed to be a warm and friendly person. We were told that one of the other men that we had brought a wheelchair for had been suffering from bed sores and was in San Salvador for the time being. Since he only needed a regular wheelchair we gave it to Lizete to take to him at a later date.

The fifth person concerned us more though. This was a boy named Hector whom we had only seen pictures of. In the pictures you could see that Hector was tied in a small wooden chair with a rope that went under the back of one knee causing his leg to pull up against his chest. We were unsure if his body was fixed in that position or if that was the only way that his family could keep him in the wooden chair. At any rate we had brought along a wheelchair that had all of the bells and whistles that we could possibly think of so that we could get Hector seated as comfortably as possible. Hector’s Grandmother had showed up to get the chair but told us that there was no way that she could have taken Hector with her. Unfortunately there was no way that we could get this chair set up with out seeing Hector. Soon the problem was solved. One of the villagers who owned a pickup truck that served as the village taxi loaded us and our equipment into the back of his truck and we were on our way up a bumpy dirt road that lead to the trail that went to hectors house. When we reached the trail that led to Hectors house we had little problem carrying the wheelchair, the tools, and the parts that we thought we might need because a number of people had joined us on our ride in the back of the pickup truck. We thought that we were a bit crowded until we were told that they often carry up to 30 people at a time in this truck. When we got to Hectors home his grandmother and a few of the older children carried Hector out of the house to greet us. He was sitting in the same little wooden chair that we had seen in the photos that we had of him. He was also tied exactly the same way that he had been when the photos were taken. Hector had some deformities but most of them had become worse because of the way that he was tied into his chair. His grandmother seemed very loving and I know that she wanted the best for him. She simply did not realize that this was harming her grandson. Hectors lack in being able to communicate verbally did not keep him from conveying his thoughts to us. The smile on his face when we showed him the wheelchair that we had for him said it all. I wanted to lay him down to examine how flexible he was but there was no where to lay him other than in the mud. Since it was to dark to see anything inside the small windowless house that Hectors family lived in some one brought out a plastic chair. I took Hector from his wheelchair and sat down holding him on my lap. At first he stayed all curled up but as he began to relax it appeared that we would be able to get him into a seated position with his feet pretty much below him. We ended up doing a lot of modifications to the wheelchair but by the time we had finished Hector and his entire family were thrilled. In appreciation grandmother sent one of the children to another home that sold soft drinks and brought us each a coke and a piece of sweet bread. I am sure that it cost her more than the family made in a day but there was no way that we could say no to such a generous offer of gratitude. Before saying good bye grandmother showed us the only other wheelchair that Hector had ever owned. It was nothing more than a rusted steal frame with no fabric left on it but some how they had managed to use it from time to time to transport Hector. I jokingly indicated to Hector that I would gladly take him out of his new wheelchair and put him into the old one if he wanted. Even though Hector could not talk he certainly knew how to laugh. I got an even larger smile from him when I posed for a picture with him sitting in his new wheelchair and me in his old one.

Before heading for home we were told that one of the families in the aldea had prepared food for us so we graciously accepted this invitation for lunch. The meal was actually very tasty and as hungry as I was I ate it with out asking what kind of meat it was. Sometimes it is better not to know what you are eating and to say a little prayer that if it is not chicken you will never find out.

As we headed for home we realized that it had been a long trip considering we had only given out a few wheelchairs. We also committed that we would gladly do it again for any one of the 4 people that received wheelchairs today. I have little doubt that we will be back. Especially if we are able to get the wheelchairs for the 200 people that Lezete knows who need them.

I originally thought we were going to be gone for up to 3 days but since we have a lot to do before camp starts we decided to return home tonight. Exactly 15 hours after leaving my house I found myself back at home feeling about as tired as I did after waking up at 4:30 this morning with only 4 and a half hours of sleep.

I think that I will head off to bed now.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, October 31, 2007, 10:29 PM

The doorbell rang at 7:00 this morning. At 7:30 I got up to answer it. Calin asked me why it took so long to get to the gate. I reminded him that he had been told not to ring the bell every 2 minutes because if I do not come to the gate right away I am likely sleeping. He apologized and asked me what time I wanted him back. I told him that an hour later would be great. At 7:35 I am falling back to sleep. At 7:40 my phone rings. Calin wants to know if I want his aunt to come and do my laundry today. I said yes but told him not to have her come for an hour yet. Calin asks if that was to be an hour from now or from when he was coming back. I told him that it was an hour from now and that was how long I wanted him to wait since the last 10 minutes had not been all that restful. 7:44 back to sleep. 7:47 phone rings again. Hello Calin, what do you want now? silence “Calin?” “No Dick this is Paul. It sounds like you got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.” “No Paul I am in bed.” More silence “Can I call you back in about an hour?” “No problem Dick. Why don’t you go back to sleep?” 7:48 I try to go back to sleep. 7:55 still trying. 8:00 still ……. You get the point. I finally get up and wait to see what happens next. Who or what will be next? Will it be Calin at the gate? Will it be the phone? Or perhaps it will be Calin’s aunt who is coming to do the laundry. RING! RING! the phone wins. It is Chris, he tells me that he had intended on bringing me the van earlier this morning so that I could use it if I wanted to go anywhere but had slept in and would not be here until later. “No problem Chris.” I hadn’t planned on hurrying off anywhere this morning unless he knew of a quiet motel where I could get another hour of sleep. Soon the house was feeing up with kids and seeing how happy they were that I had not stayed away for 3 days like I had thought brightened up my day and soon I was wide awake and making breakfast for the entire crew. We even fed the laundry lady and her helper.

The rest of my day consisted of getting some things done around here and then heading up to where we are having the bathroom built for Maria and her family. Paul had brought Eric up there to work but could not stay the entire day himself so I offered to go up an get him this after noon. The floor got put in today and the crew should be finishing up tomorrow. We have not told grandmother yet but it looks like we are going to have enough money left over to put cement floors in 2 of the dirt floor houses that the she and her grandchildren live in.

Who threw the firs water balloon I am not sure but with in a few minutes no one outside. Inside, or anywhere near my house was safe. I tried to get the entire gang outside but before I did my floors were soaked and so was I. Everyone had so much fun that even Abner failed to cry when some one poured a pan of water over his head. At about 8:30 everyone pitched in and soon the things were mopped up and back to normal. Upon leaving some of the kids asked if we could have another water fight tomorrow night. I said no problem as long as we could find someone else’s house to have it at. No takers so if I have any thing to say about it tomorrow my place is staying dry, but then again it was a lot of fun and my floors are no longer dusty.

Well I am going to call it a day and head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, November 1, 2007, 9:45 PM

November first is considered Kite day here in Guatemala, so none of my neighbor kids came along with me today because they were busy making Kites. I got a bit of a late start but made it into Hermano Pedro in time for Carlos and myself to take to of the older teens out to lunch. It is not all that often that we take the older ones out to eat but they love it just as much as the kids do. I guess that my only excuse for not taking them out more often is that there are just to many residence in the orphanage and so few volunteers and it is impossible to give each of the residence the amount of attention that they need.

It seems that when ever it is a holiday like today was, the nurses that do come in to work figure that it is a holiday for them as well. Just a half hour before lunch I had gone up stares to the malnutrition ward and found Jennifer, a little girl that I have fallen in love with bent over so far back in her crib that she was gasping for air. All 5 nurses were sitting at a table in the corner having coffee and none of then were paying any attention what so ever to the kids. Jennifer has a form of CP that causes the mussels in her back and neck to contract so tightly that her feet are nearly touching the back of her head. Jessica and I have shown the nurses how to hold her straight by placing her on her back and placing her between 2 sand bags so that she does not role over on her side. In the past week and a half I have asked the nurses where the sand bags have gone 3 different times and have received 3 different answers. Meanwhile Jennifer suffers and fights for every breath. If Jennifer is still alive tomorrow I am going to try to fit something into her bed that can not be removed that will help hold her straight.

When Carlos and I returned from lunch we found that not only the kids that can do very little when they are in their wheelchairs but even the more able bodied ones had been put to bed until tomorrow morning. Only 3 kids were in their wheelchairs. As I walked past their cribs many of them pleaded with me to take them out. Unfortunately Carlos was going back over to the teen section and there were no volunteers here today. There were plenty of nurses but they were all gathered around a table in another room having lunch. It was difficult to decide who to take out of bed and who to leave in bed until tomorrow morning. Elmer was crying like mad and pleaded with me to take him out of his crib. Sam Sam, who had not been out of bed all day was banging his head on the sides of his crib. Bobby gave me his sad look that can bring tears to the eyes of grown men. Ervin was not screaming as usual but gave me a look that could break your hart. Out of the 40 + kids that were in the 2 rooms that I went into only a few were sleeping. Others were crying and some were just staring up at the sealing, lying in cribs so small for them that their feet touched one end while their head touched the other. It was a situation that you wish that you could walk away from but if I did none of the kids would be any better off. This afternoon Elmer was the one that I chose to take out of his crib and play with. Granted I could have taken more of the kids out but I only had an hour before I had to be back in Chemaltenango besides I knew that since there were no volunteers around that the second one of the nurses looked up for the table and saw that the kids were out they would likely put them back to bed anyway. Tomorrow I plan to once again talk with some of the staff who are not happy with the attitude of the nurses and see if anything can be done. I know that it will not make the nurses happy but have come to realize that t many of those that are in authority over them want to see some positive change. Like I have said before I have come to realize that I have to pick my battles. I feel this one is worth the fight.

The kids were waiting for me when I got home. I had promised that I would bring them to the cemetery so they could have some fun. Let me explain. The cemetery is one of the only places around here that has open fields around it where you can fly a kite without getting it tangled in power lines or trees. The kids don’t actually fly the kites in the cemetery but in a field that is right next to it. In spite of the fact that the field has very few trees in it and there is only one set of power lines on the south end the kids managed to lose all but one kite in the trees and power lines by the time we had finished flying the kites.

When we got home I made some hot dogs and beans. The kids know that I do not like it if they take any of the food that I am preparing with out asking. After returning from getting something from my car I discovered that one of the hot dogs that I was preparing was missing. I asked the kids where it had gone but they all denied taking it. They told that perhaps the dog had grabbed it of the table so I left it at that. A few minutes later a few of the kids got into a small argument over who’s turn it was to use the computer and I was immediately told that Fernando and Alex had taken the hot dog. I know that taking one hot dog with out being asked is no big deal but because of all of the stealing that use to go on in my house I have to make sure that there is a consequence for taking even the littlest thing. I also explained to Fernando and Alex that they had both lied to me when I asked them if they had taken it. Tonight these 2 boys went home without supper. Later this evening Fernando returned and apologized. I told him that he was still not allowed any hot dogs but let him make himself some scrambled eggs.

Good night:
Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, November 2, 2007

This morning Fernando and I headed to Hermano Pedro to meat with a group of therapists that are here from the States for a few days. This was not meant as a reward to Fernando for apologizing but it was simply his turn to come along with me. After giving the 4 therapists a quick tour of the orphanage we were joined by some of the members of the Scott family and we took 7 of the kids out to lunch. One of the therapists who is a feeding specialist worked with Alex and got him to eat more than I have ever seen him eat before. We are hoping that she can share some of the techniques that she used with the nurses at Hermano Pedro. After lunch we brought the kids over to the playground equipment where they had the time of their lives. As I looked around at the kids I could not help but remember that yesterday at this time of day most of them were already in bed.

After returning to Hermano Pedro I took the group up to the malnutrition ward. I wanted to have the therapists see Jennifer. My hart sunk when I saw that Jennifer’s bed was empty. I was thankful when I was told that one of the nurses had taken her into another room. The therapists worked wither for a while and agreed that we had to try to build something for her that prevented her from bending backwards into a half circle. I held her as we discussed what we wanted to make for her. Suddenly she started vomiting. I was glad that I was holding her. Not for the shower of half digested milk that I got but for the fact that I could quickly get her on to her side so that she could breath. We quickly realized that that there was no way that we could make something that kept her on her back or she would choke to death if she vomited again. We also knew that if we allowed her to stay curled up on her side she would choke from having her head bent back against he back. I had found her in that position yesterday and she was barely breathing. Tomorrow we are planning on designing something that will hold her straighter while still allowing her to lye on her side. I am grateful that the therapists will be there as well. I think that the timing of there 2 day visit in Antigua is another GODINCIDENT.

It has been a long day so I am going to say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, November 3, 2007, 8:22 PM

We didn’t change the world today but we had the God given opportunity to help improve the lives of a few children and at least better their lives a bit.

Today Manwell experienced a taste of what it will be like to walk on his own once he gains just a bit more strength. He and his sister Tomasina came in to the hospital less than a month ago in a half starved condition but both are now doing well enough that Manwell was able to be fit into his own walker this morning and Tomasina should receive one with in the next few days. Once I got Manwell fitted properly in his new walker there was no stopping him. I am quite certain that it will be no time at all until he and his sister will no longer need their walkers.

At around 10:30 am the 4 therapists that were with me yesterday and 2 members of the Scott family came to the orphanage so with their help and the help of Abner and Calin we were able to take 8 more kids to lunch. Both the Scot’s and the therapists have had a lot of experience with kids with disabilities so we were able to take some of the kids that need extra care in feeding. The lady that is the feeding specialist came along and she was great at getting kids who normally eat very little to eat far more than I have ever seen them eat. She showed me a lot of things that can hopefully be learned by the nurses at the hospital. I wish that she could stick around longer and share some of her techniques with them herself. I feel though that the fact that she held the kids and really showed them that she loved them had a big part in how well they ate.

Our high light of the day was when we all put our heads together and built something for Jennifer, the little girl who’s head and back bend backwards in a half circle. We came up with a bed of sorts that has a carved lower mattress and a carved mattress on the back side that resembles a padded back wall. We then laid Jessica on her side on the lower mattress and then strapped her wither back against the back mattress. Even though it sounds something like a torture chamber, to Jennifer it was heaven. With in a few minutes she was completely relaxed and had fallen asleep. When we had finally gotten everything just the way we wonted it we mounted it into her crib and called the nurses over. To our delight they showed great interest and each one commented that they had never seen her looking so relaxed. They all watched and listened carefully as we demonstrated exactly how to position her and fasten the straps so that she would be as comfortable as possible. I think that part of their lack of paying much attention to her when she was having such difficulty breathing a few days ago was because they felt helpless in knowing what to do for her. They even promised that they would reposition her and look for any redness of tissue every few hours. Each one of them thanked us over and over again for doing something for Jennifer. I plan on checking in to see how she is doing after church tomorrow and some of the therapists said that they can stop in later in the afternoon.

I was extremely tired when I finally got home at around 8 PM. It has been a long exhausting day but a great one. Knowing that Jennifer will finally be able to sleep tonight will also help me sleep well.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, November 4, 2007, 4:07 PM

Another wonderful church service followed by a visit to the orphanage. I guess that I don’t have to tell you who I went to see first. When I walked into the malnutrition ward I was greeted by a half dozen smiling nurses. They told me that Jennifer had slept the entire night with out waking up. When I went to her crib I found her lying there with a smile on her face. She didn’t even seem like the same twisted suffering little girl that I had seen only yesterday. She looked so comfortable that I hated to take her out of her crib but knew that it would be good for her to be held on a different position for a while. I took her out side into the warm sunlight and sat with her for about a half hour. She looked so week and so tiny, but still managed to keep a smile on her face. As far as I know I have only seen pictures of what artists think angels might look like. I think that real angels possibly look a little more like Jennifer. I know that she is not a very healthy child and only God knows just how long it will be before He calls her home but those of us that have worked with her feel privileged that he has allowed us to be a small part in making her say here on earth just a little bit better.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, October 29, 2007

Journal October 24-29

Wednesday, October 24, 2007, 8:53 PM

After stopping off at the home of a lady that lives close to my house to see what was wrong with her power wheelchair. Fernando, Calin, and I headed for Hermano Pedro. Three of the volunteers had asked if I would meat with them today so that we could take a few kids out to lunch. As I was pulling up to the orphanage I got a phone call from Paul Smit asking if he and his wife could join us. The nine of us were soon on our way to Camperos with 8 of the kids from Hermano Pedro. Today all but one of the kids that we took were easy to feed. Dennis who can only drink from a bottle was the only one that can not eat regular food. I had not intended on taking him but he is a favorite of both Calin and Fernando. They sat on both sides of Denis and spoiled him rotten. Denis absolutely loved it. I wish that every one that works with kids could take lessons from Fernando and Calin. They have a love for these kids that radiates and it seems to work miracles. I have seen them feed kids that normally eat very little 2 helpings of food. After lunch we took the kids onto the playground equipment and they had a ball. Moat of them have to be carried up the ladders and laid on the slides but all of them love it. We always try to put the more timid ones on the slide right after one of the kids that has a wet pants has gone down. They slide down much slower if the surface of the slide is wet. After returning to the orphanage I managed to fix a few wheelchairs then we headed for home.

Tonight we had toasted cheese sandwiches and reefried beans. The ten of us polished off everything in record time. Poor Alex and Elder had to stand out by the gate and watch. I almost broke down and brought them out some food but since there mother was punishing them for skipping church and lying to her I wanted her to know that I stood behind her on her decision.

As I write this my house and yard are filling up with more kids so I guess I better go out and spend some time with them.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, October 26, 2007, 9:45 PM

This morning I borrowed the Toyota pickup from Gordon. Then Calin and I met Eric and Hector at Burger King. They have been helping Paul with the bathroom that we are building for Maria’s Grandmother. Up until today I had not been able to help them due to other commitments. The 4 of us were joined by a block layer that lives in the Aldea where we are building the bathroom. Some of the relatives of Maria also helped us today. You wouldn’t think that a 10 X 10 cement building would take all that long to build but everything from digging the septic hole to mixing the cement has to be done by hand.

This family is very poor and survives mostly on what they can grow on their small plot of land.

Never the less the are always willing to share what little food that they have with us. Some of the fruits and vegetables that they give us are a bit unique but because of the grateful manner that they are given to us we seldom turn them down.
Today I went into the dark little dirt house where Fidel is confined to a bed. As I sat and visited with him Grandmother came in to see how he was doing. After wiping his face with a damp cloth she sat down on the edge of his bed and started to cry.
Just a few months ago Fidel's sister died and grandmother knows that Fidel is also dying. Grandmother herself is having a lot of trouble with her legs and is finding it more and more difficult to walk. Considering how much this family has been through it is hard to believe how they can stay so positive about life. Maria who can scarcely walk with the aide of a walker is always smiling. Grandmother who’s husband and most of her children disappear during the civil war still remains a warm and friendly woman. Even the kids who were extremely shy at first are now very outgoing and a lot of fun. We worked until 4 PM and then headed for home. Even though most of the people that we have met have seemed quite friendly we have been told that it is wise to be off from these roads before dark. A while back Hanna’s (Chris and Donna’s daughter) brother in law was shot at while riding his motor cycle in this area. He laid his motor cycle down on the dirt road and ran into the woods. No one came after him but he never saw his motor cycle again.

When we arrived back at Chemaltenango the 4 of us met Gordon at Camperos and after having something to eat Calin and I brought Eric to where he stays in Guatemala City. You would think that most of the kids would have gone home by 9 PM but there were still several that I ended up feeding when I got back home. Even though Calin had eaten supper with me before bringing Eric home he too was once again hungry. I worry about how much he eats and how heavy he is getting and try to get him to eat more salads and things like that. He is good about eating the right food when it is offered to him but within a few minutes of finishing up something healthy he is once again eating junk food. I think that he is trying to make up for a few years ago when he often went hungry.

Well the house has emptied out so I will once again say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, October 26, 2007

Candy, the lady that was shot and paralyzed by her boyfriend called me a few days ago her power wheelchair is still giving her some problems. Abner, Fernando, and I stopped off at her home and repaired it on the way to Hermano Pedro this morning. Candy is not in good enough physical shape to attend a 5 day camp but has agreed to come there and talk to our campers. I think that she will be a real inspiration to them. She has been through a lot but her strong faith has kept her going. Her warm personality and positive attitude make each visit to her home an enjoyable experience. How some one can have so many negative things happen to them and still smile is truly a gift from God. After we had repaired the wheelchair it was hard to say good bye but I had promised a few volunteers at Hermano Pedro that we would take some more kids out for lunch today.

It was nearly noon when we reached Hermano Pedro so I quickly got the needed paper work done and soon 3 volunteers, Abner, Fernando, and myself were on our way to Camperos. Several of the kids that we took for lunch today were ones that do not get out often so they really enjoyed it. All 6 of us that took them had a great time to. After eating we went into the room that has the playground equipment. As we were getting the kids out of their wheelchairs and putting some of them on the slides I noticed that Diego did not look well. At first I thought that he was choking on something but he had gotten so excited that he was hyperventilating. I quickly took him outside while the others started to get the kids back into there wheelchairs. Once I got him to a quiet place I took him out of his wheelchair and held him. It took some time before he calmed down but a short time later he was once again laughing and having a great time. I usually take one less kid than the number of helpers that I have just in case we have an emergency but today I had not. I think that I will from now on when ever the group is larger than 2 or 3 kids.

One of the head people from the orphanage approached me today and apologized for the hassle that we have been getting in trying to get Sonia into a school in Antigua. She told me that most of the staff at Hermano Pedro are 100% behind us but there are still a few people there that think the kids should stay locked up. She assured me though that most of them are trying their best to see that the kids have more freedom. I had been praying for a long time for the opportunity to share a few Ideas that I had but knew that since I am not an employee of Hermano Pedro I had to be careful what I said and how I said it. This seemed to be the right time. To my surprise she seemed to like some of the suggestions that I had. She asked if it would OK if she presented them to the father superior. I know that she is highly respected by him and perhaps since they will be coming from her the kids will eventually not be locked in their cribs so much of the time.

More kids than ever tonight and more food. Calin and Abner are still here and by the looks of it I better lay quick claim to the bed, so I will once again say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, October 27, 2007, 7:29 PM

I managed to have the house to myself for over an hour this morning. I think that is a new record for the month. I am trying for an hour an a half tonight but so far in the first sentence and a half I have had to see who was at the gate twice already. At around 10:30 I got a call from Candy. She told me that she was still having some problems with her power chair. Calin and I stopped in to check out what was wrong on our way to Hermano Pedro. Fortunately it was only a bad electrical connection, so we soon had the problem fixed.

I had promised Moises and Byron that I would let them come to my house to fly kites and play with the kids after Church this Sunday but that was before I realized that Windy was celebrating her 15th birthday on Sunday. Here in Guatemala a girls 15th birthday is a big occasion. Often the birthday party resembles a wedding only there is no groom. Hopefully not any way although some of the girls do get married at a verry young age here. Anyway there was no way that I could miss her party so I decided to let Moises and Byron come over today instead. Before going home we stopped off at the new maul for some food. Even though Byron and Moises resemble a small train when Byron tows Moises’ wheelchair behind his power wheelchair, the 2 boys were intrigued by a small train that you can ride on at the maul. After lunch Calin got on board and helped balance both Byron and Moises as they went for a train ride.

It is pretty hard to get a kite flying in my yard because 15 foot cement walls do strange things to the wind. Several of the kids offered to launch them from my roof and then hand the strings down to Moises and Byron so that they could have the experience of flying one. I warned them to stay away from the razor wire that the neighbor to the south of me put on the top of the wall. She claims it has no electricity running through it but we have found dead cats on my roof for 2 days in a row. I have also seen a few of them touch the wire and even though it did not kill them it knocked them unconscious and took at least half of their nine lives. Shortly after finding today’s last fatality the lady that put the wire up showed up. I tried to be nice but explained to her that I was afraid of what might happen if one of the kids ever touched the wire. At first she insisted that there was no electricity running through the wire. I then told her that at least once a week I am woken up by a shrill scream followed by the thud of an unconscious or a dead cat landing on my roof. She once again told me that she was sure that there was no electricity running through the razor wire. I then offered to take her to the top of my house where she could look over the back wall and see the bodies of this weeks collection of dead cats. I think that she was afraid that once she got up there I would have her touch the wire to prove to me that there was no electricity running through it. I must admit the thought had crossed my mind. Any way she refused my offer to com up on my roof telling me that perhaps some one that worked for her had run power to the wire with out telling her. “Good, problem solved.” I said. “What do you mean she asked. “Well since you didn’t think that there was electricity in the wire but now realize that there is all you have to do is disconnect it.” I said. “I can’t do that,” she said, “some one might break into my place and steel my computer.” “I hope that your computer is worth some ones life.” I said as I walked away. For the time being no more kids are allowed up on my roof.

4 PM rolled around all to soon for Byron and Moises. For some strange reason these 2 boys seem to like flying kites better than spending the afternoon in bed. Abner, Calin, and Lady came along to bring the kids back to the orphanage. They have become best friends with the orphanage kids and seldom miss an opportunity to be with them.

Well it has now been nearly a half hour with out having the doorbell ring. If it gets any quieter around here I may have to go open up the gate and let a few kids in.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, October 28, 2007, 8:40 PM

It was a bit of a weird morning this morning. The breakfast crew was about the normal size but the church crew dwindled down to 2 of us. Windy was having her 15th birthday party today so her family stayed behind to use my shower. Abner and Fernando kept stalling on getting permission from their aun, to go to church t so they got left behind. Calin was going to come along but Jason beat him to the front seat of the car so he told me that he would not go unless I made Jason move. Calin was a bit shocked when I smiled and said good bye. When I was gone he told the other kids that he is never coming back to my house. Never, ended up being a few hours. To the Sunday school teacher’s dismay Jason ended up being the only one to come along to church. He can often be more of a distraction than all of the others put together.

After Church I went to Wendy’s birthday party. I had mentioned that a girl’s 15th birthday party is often times as big of an affair as a wedding but today I was proven wrong. It was a bigger affair than most weddings that I have been to. I stayed for 4 hours but understand that the festivities are still going on. It was a neat birthday party though and other than the preacher taking full advantage of a captive audience by delivering a 2 hour sermon that consisted of a lot of hollering and screaming they had a good presentation. There was a neat Spanish stile Christian band and several different singers. Most were good, one sang in much the same manner as the preacher preached, mostly screaming.

11:24 PM

Just as I was finishing the last paragraph about 25 people came to my gate. The birthday party has just ended at Wendy’s house so some of the kids that hang around my house brought about 20 cousins and friends who had come to the party from Guatemala City over to my house to play basketball and use my computers. They had thought about walking in to Chemaltenango but were afraid to since one of them was the brother of the boy that got murdered here in town a few months ago. Most of them were teens and even though they were in a large group they were quite shy at first but quickly made themselves feel right at home. I decided that with that many people in the house and yard I just as well do my writing later. Before leaving they all thanked me for having them over and asked again if they could stop by more often. I told them no problem but I do hope that it will be after we have eaten supper.

Calin who only this morning vowed to never return to my house is fast asleep on the floor. Abner has fallen asleep on my bed. Fortunately he is lighter than Calin and I can usually move him without waking him up. I have considered buying another bed but really don’t have all that much room in my house.

Goodnight: Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, October 29, 2007, 6:35 PM

I had been told over the phone that some of the kids at Hermano Pedro were going to use the pool today so I had no difficulty getting Calin and Abner to come along. Thankfully they only put some of the more active kids into the pool because the water was really cold. Calin and Abner toughed it out, I did not. After they had finished playing polar bear both boys helped me repair some wheelchairs. We didn’t take any kids to lunch because I had been scheduled to meat with a group of people at 11 AM and shortly before 11 they called me to say that it would be more like 1 PM before they could get there. I was glad that I waited for them though because they were very interested in the various facets of the ministry and we had a good visit. After they left the boys and I headed for lunch and then for home.

I plan on leaving for El Salvador at 5 AM so the kids have already been ushered out of the house for the night. A few of them acted like it will be 3 years instead of 3 days until I return. Calin has already been back to show me the kite that his step dad made for him and to say good bye again. Calin’s family has just moved back in with Calin’s step dad for the third time in the past 2 months. So far he is being nice to Calin and Calin’s mother but I am holding my breath. Please pray for Calin’s family. If Calin, his mom, his brother, and his sister do not live with Calin’s step dad they have to stay in 2 small rooms of grandmothers house which is already bursting at the seems with another aunt and her kids.

We are still waiting on an OK from Hermano Pedro to enroll Sonia into a private school so please keep praying.

Please also pray for our safety as we will be doing a lot of driving during the next few days.

Pray also for camp which is just around the corner. Our teen camp will start on November 12, then children’s camp on November 19, and adult camp on November 26.

Yours in Christ: Dick