* 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, January 12, 2008

Journal January 6-12

(Click on any picture to enlarge)
Sunday, January 6, 2008

Three of the kids came along to church with me this morning. I had taken a new wheelchair along with me so that we could give it to a little girl who lives in Antigua after the service. Terry Cotton, a lady that attends our church had introduced me to Maria Veronica a few months ago and even though she was scheduled to come in to a wheelchair distribution that we are planning for next week I decided to jump the gun a bit. This way Terry, who has become close friends with Maria Veronica and her family could be there when we gave the chair to Maria. We also invited a lady who is from Korea along with us. She was visiting our church and told me that she was looking for some volunteering opportunities for several afternoons a week. I figured that taking her along to give away a wheelchair and then taking her to the orphanage would be a good way for her to see first hand where volunteers are needed. Maria Veronica is 10 years old and has cerebral palsy. Even though she has never walked she has never owned a wheelchair. I let Calin, Fernando, and Jason help with fitting her into the wheelchair that we had brought. Maria is a delightful little girl and the boys and I had a lot of fun adjusting her wheelchair so that it fit her perfectly. Once the chair was finished we put Maria into her new wheelchair. I don’t think that Maria had ever seen a wheelchair before so even though she was verry happy with it she didn’t realize that it was much more than a comfortable place to sit. That problem was soon solved though. I asked Calin and the other boys to show her how to use her hands to move it. She caught on quickly and was soon moving it under her own power.

* * * * *
Movie of Maria Veronica moving on her own for the first time in her life.

After we finished up at Maria’s house we all went to Burger King and got some lunch. Now Burger King was not at the top of the list as far as the 2 ladies and myself were concerned but since the boys had worked so hard on helping fit Maria into her new wheelchair I decided to let them choose where to eat. Well actually to be perfectly honest the boys only got to choose after we discovered that the restaurant that I wanted to go to was closed.

After Lunch we went to Hermano Pedro and visited the kids. We only stayed about an hour but managed to at least get a few of the kids out of bed for a short time. I think that the lady from Korea will very likely do some volunteering there now that she has met some of the kids.

Several of the neighborhood kids are here watching videos on one of the computers. I promised them that I would make them banana pancakes for supper so I better close for now.

Yours in Christ : Dick

Monday, January 7, 2008, 11:43 PM

Today I didn’t even get out of town. It was bill paying day and that means spending a good part of the day standing in line. It would have been all day but after taking a look at the long lineup at the electric company I decided to give it a try some time when the line is only an hour long.

Hold on to your hats because what I am about to say may shock you. Today I went over to Mario’s house and talked to him about teaching me some Spanish. Now don’t get too excited because I haven’t made any commitments or signed any contracts but I am considering taking a few classes and seeing how it goes. Even if I only pick up a few words it will quickly double my present Spanish vocabulary. I was always hoping that I would just sort of pick up on Spanish with out studying but 7 words in 7 years is just a little too slow. Actually I know more words then that It’s just that my pronunciation must be a little off because when I use them no one has the slightest idea what I am talking about.

After leaving Mario’s house I went to the drug store and picked up some medicine for David. His claim to fame of eating nothing but street food for the past week has suddenly caught up with him. Fortunately he is staying on the other side of town where he has running water and a flush toilet. Today my water came on for about a half hour and then went back off again. I managed to get in part of a shower though and hopefully the water will come on again in the morning so that I can rinse this mornings soap off.

Wow it is 12:03. I didn’t realize that I have been writing for this long. When I started tonight’s journal I was 60 years old and now I am 61. I think that I will at least celebrate the first part of my birthday by sleeping so I will once again say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

I am counting my blessings. I turned 61 years old today but I was still able to get out of bed on my own. I knew that I had forgotten something but after studding my face in the mirror for a few minutes it came to me, my name. I was thankful that my grandfather talked my parents into changing it from what it was to DICK a few days after I was born. The name that I had before that was longer so I could have forgotten it much easier. Now what was that longer name? Oh yes I remember it now, it was DAVID. Anyway after gathering my thought together and getting dressed I headed to the wheelchair shop. No I didn’t have a shower this morning. I tried but after turning on the faucet I suddenly remembered that I have had no water for nearly a week now. I may have forgotten but judging by faces that people who were down wind of me made today I doubt that they will forget. After meeting with Chris and picking up the clothing that Donna had graciously washed for me I picked up Fernando and Elmer and headed to Antigua. They didn’t mind riding with me but then again they have been without water as well.

Even though we didn’t get to the orphanage in time to take any of the kids out to lunch we managed to gather up 3 more volunteers and then took several kids out to the park. Since we were not going into Camperos we were able to take Sam Sam along with us today. Sam does well when he is not locked in his crib but comes unglued when ever we go into Camperos with him. He and the other kids all enjoyed the park though and all of the kids seemed to really enjoy 2 musicians who were playing a guitar and a flute. We played there with the kids until nearly 4 PM and then quickly brought them back to the orphanage so that they would not miss their dinner.

On our way home Elmer told me that he had bought me a birthday cake and that I was invited to his house for a birthday party. He told me that we could have pizza as well but I would have to pay for that. We all had a nice time and everyone got a good laugh when the candles that were on my birthday cake filled the room with smoke. No one would let me forget that it is a tradition here that you are suppose to take a small bite out of your birthday cake before it is cut and served. I don’t mind that tradition but am not all that fond of what goes along with it. Once you get your face over the cake there are always a few helping hands that make sure that you get your face shoved into the cake. I didn’t have a head cold so I was not afraid of changing the color of the frosting from white to a lime green like some of the kids often do but the thought of cake and frosting all over my face and beard was not a pleasant one considering my water is still shut off. Fortunately though I moved quickly enough that everyone that tried to push my head into the cake missed my head and ended up getting a hand full of frosting. I think that it was fortunate but will see how my stomach feels in the morning. Like I said before the entire neighborhood has been with out water for nearly a week now so some of the hands that went into the cake were not exactly the cleanest. After the party I opened up my house to all of the kids. Even the 3 new ones that had come in yesterday showed up. I let them in but only after making them return the toys that they had stolen from me yesterday. It seem that just when I get one group of kids trained on what the rules are a few new ones show up.

Well it is once again time for this old boy to get some sleep so as soon as I see if any kids are still here and if everything that I once owned is still here, I will head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, January 9, 2008 8:03 PM

Still no running water but since I now have clean clothing I decided to take another bucket of water over the head shower before going to bed last night. It was a hard decision because it meant that I would not have enough water left to put on my flowers but I felt that I needed a bath much worse than they did, and that if I didn’t take a bath and got anywhere near them they would likely die anyway.

David Piper called this morning and told me that he was feeling better and wanted to come along with me. Calin also joined us as an interpreter. I planned on stopping off at the HIV orphanage and then go to a few homes to do some repairs on a few wheelchairs. David had never been into the HIV orphanage and was a little apprehensive but once he saw the loving environment and the pleasant surroundings all fear was quickly gone. The nuns that run this place are fantastic with the kids and show them lots of love. It is hard not to because all of the kids are very friendly and love it when you give them the least bit of attention. Ingrid, a little girl who used to live at Hermano Pedro was my main reason for visiting today. Along with HIV Ingrid also has Cerebral Palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. I try to stop by from time to time to see if her wheelchair needs any adjustment or repairs. Today it needed both. I hardly recognized Ingrid because of how well she looked and how much she had grown. David, Calin, and I had to lengthen her wheelchair a couple of inches. It may last her for a short time but I am going to try to replace it as soon as possible. We were also shown a new little boy who just like Ingrid has both HIV and Cerebral Palsy. He has no wheelchair so I took measurements and hopefully that will soon be rectified. The kids flocked around us as we attempted to say good by. It was hard to go but we knew that in this place they are all getting the love and attention that they needed. I greatly admire the unconditional Christian love that these dedicated nuns give to these precious children.

Our next stop was in San Lucas, at the home of the man that I had given a head controlled power wheelchair to several months ago. Before setting him up with this chair he had been confined to his bed for several years. I simply wanted to check and see how his power wheelchair was working out for him. I guess I got my answer. A neighbor girl told us that he was not at home but had driven off to town in his wheelchair earlier in the day.

I think that perhaps David should have recuperated at least one more day after his encounter with street food because as we were about to head to our next home he began to turn the same color as some of the food that he had eaten earlier this week.

After dropping both David and Calin off in Chemaltenango I headed to Antigua. Calin had not gotten sick but had decided that he wanted to visit his grandmother for a while. I had intended on going up to Santa Maria Dejesus but decided not to because I no longer had an interpreter so I stopped off at the orphanage in Antigua and spent time with some of the kids. Things are slowly improving but this orphanage could still learn a few lessons from the orphanage that I had visited this morning.

Well by the sound of my doorbell I guess that the hour that the kids allotted me to get my journal done is nearly up so I will say Goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Since the only running water that I have, even when it is working, is located out side of my house, last night I balanced some pots and pans on top of each other and set them in the sink that is located just out side of the back door of my house. I left the faucet turned on so that if my water came back on during the night the clatter of the falling pots and pans would wake me up. Sure enough at 6:30 this morning my make shift alarm woke me up. The water was coming out of the faucet at only a little more than a trickle but I knew that if I worked fast I would likely be able to fill up the sink and several containers, flush the toilet, Brush my teeth, get the plants watered , and take a shower. Since I knew that the water would likely stop flowing at any minute I wanted to work fast though so I attempted to double up on a few things. Filling up the sink and brushing my teat at the same time proved out be no problem. Filling the other containers while brushing my teeth was also a since. I even had the plant watering and the shower thing going quite well. Since my bathroom is located out side of the house getting water on the floor was no problem as I ran back and forth between placing the garden hose by one plant and then running back to the shower to wash a hand or foot and then running back out to the front of my house to place the garden hose by still another plant. Fortunately I did not have to get dressed each time I made the transition because of the 14 foot cement wall that goes all around my house. I only had one more plant and my right foot to go when my 2 item juggling act turned into 3. The door bell rang. I have told the kids over and over again not to ring the bell before 7:30 in the morning but either Calin or Fernando have to be reminded of this at least once a week. Fortunately there was a towel hanging out on my close line so I wrapped it around me before opening the gate. Now I have always maintained that there is no such thing as modesty here in Guatemala but I think that my neighbor lady’s face got just about as red as mine did. She had come over to tell me that the water had been turned back on. I thanked her but did not wave good by. I was to busy holding the towel tightly around me.

Today Mark Richard, who is the head of Hope Haven International and Lonny Davis, who is very involved with the wheelchair ministry were here. Chris, Donna, and I had a lengthy but informative and productive meeting. After that we all went out to lunch and now I am in the shop getting a bit of work done on my computer. I find it is easier to get some of this done here as there are less disturbances from all of the kids and the occasional adult that come to my gate.

Friday, January 11, 2008, 9:18 PM

This morning’s breakfast seem to go on forever. I started out cooking for 2 of us and by the time we sat down to eat there were only 3, but just as we would start cleaning off the table on or 2 more people would show up and as they finished another small group would arrive. That is why a breakfast that started at 7:30 did not end until close to 10. Anyway by the time that I was about to start my day I felt like I had already reached over time. My land lord who was here to see about painting the front gate was given breakfast along with group 5 or 6. She must have felt a bit sorry for me because she offered to do the dishes. I didn’t turn her down especially considering that I still don’t have running water.

David, Calin, and I finally got out of the house and headed out to deliver 2 wheelchairs at one of our favorite places to visit, the HIV orphanage. Now you may think that we must be a bit morbid if we like visiting an HIV orphanage but this place is wonderful. All of the rooms are bright and cheery and genuine Christian love seems to radiate from everyone that lives there. Not just the nuns but the other workers and the children them selves are some of the most loving and happiest people that I have ever met. Only a few of the kids show any symptoms of being at all sick, and they are given so much love and are so well taken care of that you seldom see anything but a smile on their faces.

The first child that we gave a wheelchair to today was 6 year old Jose. He had never been in a wheelchair before and we had do a lot of modifying to the one that we had brought but several hours later Jose was happily sitting in his new wheelchair.

I have known Ingrid for many years now. She use to live at Hermano Pedro but was moved to the HIV orphanage a few years ago. If it were not for that move I may have never discovered the place. I had planned on doing some repairs on her wheelchair while she was in Hermano Pedro, but she was moved to the HIV orphanage before I got to it. I must admit I stalled for a few months before finally going there. I was not sure that I could handle seeing all of the suffering that I assumed was going on there. What a shocker when I walked into the place! I think that this place has to be the next best thing to living with your real family. Then again after spending most of the day there today I recognized that all of the people there are real family.
We didn't head for home until nearly 5 PM. Oh I guess we could have had Ingrid fitted into her wheelchair if we had not accepted their offer of cookies and juice or the lunch that was made for us, or if we had not stopped working to hold or play with the kids from time to time we may have gotten out of there much earlier, but if you don’t take time to enjoy life you may find that if you hurried through it you may have missed out on some of the best things that it has to offer.

Tonight I came home to more kids. I was tired but I know that they were hungry not just for food but much like so many kids that live in the numerous orphanages here in Guatemala, they were hungry for someone who cared. It is my prayer that I remember to show them half as much love as I saw displayed to day.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, January 12, 2008, 7:06 AM

I seldom do any of my writing in the morning but my Pots and Pans, You Have Water Alarm once again woke me up at 5:55 AM. My water has been coming on around this time of day every other day for the past several days now. It only stays on for about an hour though so I still have to work fast to collect enough water to last me for the next 47 hour dry spell. This morning my well thought out routine was a little more carefully thought out though. My shower time was not combined with running back and fort into my front yard to water the flowers. I still did 2 activities at once but this time instead of watering the flowers in front of my house, I filled up sinks and containers that were much closer to where my outside bathroom is located. I also made sure, just in case some one did come to my gate, that the towel that I hung out on the line was a large bath towel and not a dish towel like the last time. Come to think of it I have not seen that neighbor lady since her last unannounced visit. My sister Karen called me yesterday. She had forgotten my birthday but told me that she had gotten me a bathrobe for Christmas but since sending things to me by mail is next to impossible she had decided to wait until someone came down this way so that they could personally give it to me. I told her that I certainly could have used one a few days ago but she just as well not send me one anymore because I think that my neighbors are chipping in to buy me one as a late birthday present.

Today Chris and I will be going down to the airport to pick up a group of ladies that plan on being here in Guatemala for about a week. Talk about a Godincidence. Mary Hines who is heading up the group is a lady that I met in Afghanistan over 5 years ago. We lost contact but close to a year after we had returned from a wheelchair distribution in Afghanistan she contacted me asking if there were any short term mission projects that groups from her church could do here in Guatemala. Up until today Marry has not had the opportunity to come to Guatemala herself, but because of that Chance meeting in Guatemala Mary’s church has sent down a number of groups of people that have taken part in everything from going in to the orphanages to building houses and churches. Mentioning Afghanistan reminds me of another story but I don’t want to embarrass anyone. Bring your bath robe Mary.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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