* 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)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Journal February 17-23

Monday, February 18, 2008, 8:37 PM

Some days are not as easy as others and today started out that way. I woke up at around 5 AM and could not get back to sleep. I kept thinking about my friend Bonny lying there in the national hospital. I could not help but think how alone she must feel. I felt bad that I had not visited her before yesterday but had not realized that she had been hospitalized until then. At 8:05 I called over to our wheelchair shop to see if we had a few items that I knew Bonny needed. I knew that she didn’t have much money but that she was a proud lady and trying to give her anything would be hard but I had to try. Less than an hour after later I received a phone call from Jessica. She told me that Bonny had died early this morning. She also told me that since Bonny had none of Bonny’s relatives had any intentions of coming in from the States the funeral was going to be this afternoon. I thought about staying at home until it was time for the funeral but decided to do something that Bonny would have wanted me to do. So I went and spent some time with the kids at Hermano Pedro. Calin and Fernando came along with me since they had no school today. Why no school? Good question.

I enjoy going there on Monday mornings because that is the day that some of the kids get to go into the pool for therapy. Today however we got there only a short time before they were finished so I didn’t even get a chance to get into the water. Actually they were suppose to have kids in and out of the pool all morning long but for some reason they decided not to. A few days ago I took Byron’s manual wheelchair to our shop for some repairs that could be completed in an hour or so but told the mechanics to stall on it for as long as they could, hoping that since his power wheelchair was the only one left at the orphanage the nurses would put him in it. That one backfired though because when I arrived at around 10 the nurses had him in bed.

I have come to realize that I have been using the word nurses all to loosely. A nurse is a highly trained professional that is taught to make her patients as comfortable as possible. I am trying to think of a better term to use for a few of these ladies but nothing comes to mind. Caregiver would not work for several of them because it has the word care in it. Even the word worker would not be correct in the case of some of these ladies. Don’t get me wrong there are some good ones that I take my hat off to but there are also some that are more concerned about convince than they are about the children.

Tony and Marcia Banks were at the orphanage so I figured that between them, the 2 boys that came along with me, and myself we could each take a kid to lunch and at least make the day a bit brighter for 6 of them. Now I have always prided myself in being able to do algebra in my head but today my head was spinning. It was not until I had the kids nearly signed out that I realized that there were only 5 of us taking 6 kids that were in wheelchairs out to lunch. There were some other adults around so I asked Tony and Marcia if they would find someone who would like to come along with us to lunch while I finished up on the paper work. When I got back they told me that everyone else had other plans or simply did not feel comfortable taking any of the kids to lunch. I looked over at the ladies that are suppose to care for the kids who were sitting at a table having coffee and jokingly asked if one of them wanted to come along with us. To my surprise one of the younger ones said that she would come along if she could get permission from the head lady of her department. Do you know what? I think that we are on the start of something here. Not only did she enjoy herself but she seemed to enjoy the kids. I must admit that see seemed a bit taken back when I ordered Chicken for a few of the kids that she had never seen eat anything other than the mashed up food that they are given at the orphanage but she soon realized that they were loving it and not choking to death on it so she joined right in on feeding it to the kids. After lunch she even smiled a bit when she saw that the kids who were generally in bed all afternoon had a better time and were more well behaved when they were on the playground equipment having the time of their lives. I am hoping that she conveys some of what she saw to the other caregivers. (Notice that I am gradually working my way back to calling them nurses. It may take a few days though because I am still upset with them.) I do think that taking different ones of them along from time to time will be a positive thing. At least they will see that I don’t hate them It is just that I dislike some of their work ethics. I think that taking a few of the therapists along to lunch would not hurt anything either. Once they see Ervin, who usually refuses to take as much as one step for them, climbing the ladder to the slide on his own, they may come to see that therapy could be a lot easier if a bit of fun were included.

Shortly after we got back to the orphanage Jessica, one of the nurses, and myself got in my car and drove across town to a small funeral chapel to attend Bonne’s funeral service. Counting the priest who conducted the 5 minute service there were 10 of us. I am sure if the patients of Hermano Pedro had been allowed to attend the building would have been filled. I don’t think that it mattered much though. Bonny, Nancy, an I did a lot of talking yesterday. Bonny knew that she had lots of family here in Guatemala and a Heavenly Father that cared.

The kids are fed and to my knowledge all of them have gone home for the night. I am tired. It has not been one of my easier days. Do I ever get discouraged? Occasionally but not often. Am I ever sorry that I came here to Guatemala to live? Never! I know that this is where God wants me and that makes it the perfect place to be.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Click on pictures to enlarge
his morning 5 adults and myself went up to the school at Santa Maria Dejesus. Judy and Amy showed us around and then we had 12 large pizzas delivered to the school from Antigua. I am not sure how the motor bike that delivered them made it up the hill to this town that is located at the foot of Aqua volcano but the driver arrived on time and was tipped well. All 7 students and their teachers were grateful because pizza is a rare treat for most of them. The group of people that visited the school with me were verry impressed with the school and the dedication of the Christian teachers, several of whom have to ride a number of busses up to 2 hours each way just to get to the school.

After our visit we went back to Hermano Pedro and visited with the kids there. After discovering that nearly every kid was in bed and although Byron was in his power wheelchair they had him sitting in a room with the switch turned off, I had another talk with one of the people that is in charge of the care givers. She went in and had a talk with them but I don’t know if they will listen to her. Unfortunately they have the attitude that even the people that are in authority over them can not tell them what to do. Some times I think that they are right.

I headed back to Chemaltenango a bit early because Carlos had called me from the shop telling me that someone had brought a power wheelchair in that needed to be reprogrammed. If anyone knows of some one who would like to move down to Guatemala and work on power wheelchairs please let us know. I don’t mind doing it but as our ministry expands I simply do not have the time. As we give more and more of them away the need becomes greater. We need not just someone who can repair them in the shop but some one that is willing to go to the homes of the people that own them to work on them there.

When I got home Fernando came running to my car. He told me that Etiline had just fallen of from a ladder and landed on the cement. Her aunt was not at home when it happened but had arrived back there just a few minutes before I had returned home. I quickly walked over and discovered that Etiline had a large lump on her forehead and had hurt her arm. At first it appeared to be a sprain but after examining it I thought that it was very likely broken. I made her a make shift splint and loaded her and her aunt into my car and headed off to the hospital. Hospital visits here in Guatemala are usually a long drawn out ordeal and even some one who needs emergency care can often wait for hours before being tended to. Tonight we were fortunate though because the emergency room was nearly empty. In less then 2 hours Etiline was on her way home with a plaster cast on her broken arm. The x-rays had confirmed my suspicions but showed that even though the bone was broken it was in place and did not have to be set. Etilein was in some pain but not a great deal so I gave her aunt some aspirin and told her to call me if the pain got worse. Most of the hospitals here don’t think about things like that.

Even though it was nearly 8 PM by the time we got back home I still had a house full of hungry kids with in 15 minutes. I told the kids that I would make spaghetti but that everyone had to pitch in and help. 9 out of 11 of the kids got right in there and helped. Abner and Chino were busy on the computer and acted like they did not hear me. 9 of the kids had a good meal but Abner and Chino were told that they were not eating at my place tonight. I have an idea that they will be offering to do the breakfast dishes in the morning.

All but one of the kids have now headed for home and that one is fast asleep on the floor. No one will miss him at his home so I will let him stay until morning.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Today Tony and Marcia Banks, Nancy Darby, Mario, and myself, after loading up on groceries, did some visiting in the back country. Our first stop was once again at the home of Fidel, Isabel-Maria, and their grandmother. Even though we had visited them a few days ago we wanted to stop by again because we had some medicine for the 3 of them. We also brought it a foam mattress for Fidel’s bed. Every time I go to their home I wonder if Fidel is still alive. Today he was actually looking a bit better than he did a few days ago when he was moaning with pain. We are hoping that the pills that I brought him will help ease some of his pain and am quite certain that lying on a mattress instead of a wood plank bed will be more comfortable for him. I am also planning on going back in with some bandages and medication for his bed sores and will show his grandmother how to treat them. His grandmother told us that he turned 28 a few days ago. She said that they usually try to celebrate by butchering a chicken for dinner but this year they could not afford one. She said that they managed to buy one piece of chicken from some one and give it to Fidel. One lone balloon also hung over his bed. They are getting good use out of the bathroom that we built for them and the storage tank that is on the roof provides them with water for showers and laundry 24 hours a day. This is a pleasant relief from having water for only a few hours a day once or twice a week.

We were hoping that the cement for their new home had been poured but the man that was going to do the work was not quite sure of the exact measurements so we drove down to see him after visiting a bit longer with Fidel and his family. We could not get the car all the way in to where this man was working on another house but thanks to the good old cell phone which seems to work in even the most remote areas of Guatemala, we were able to give him a call and he came out to meet us. I was glad that Mario had come along with us, not just for his Spanish but we had built Mario and his daughter a house that was identical to the one that we were going to put up for Maria Isabel. With in a few minutes Mario had explained to this man exactly what we wanted. Originally we had thought that some of Maria’s relatives would be able to help this man with the cement work but we were told that during this time of year after school they have to pick corn. This meant that we would have to pay for a helper as well as the cement worker so we settled for 100 Q per day for the 2 of them. That is roughly $12.50 per day for both men. The man that we were dealing with apologized for the high price but explained that since Maria’s family would be unable to provide him and his helper with lunch he had added 10 Q ($1.25) each to the amount that they were being paid. I know that $6.25 per day is not much to pay one man but As Americans we have to be careful not to pay more than the average Guatemalan pays or it can create problems, but you should have seen his eyes light up when I told him that if he were able to complete the job by this coming Saturday we would give him and his helper and added 20 Q ($2.50).

About an hour on down the road (Not what my passengers called it) we got to the home of another Maria. This is the one who’s husband was killed by a hit and run driver a few months ago. She and her 4 children are now fully moved into the house that we put up for them. The 2 older ones are also happy that they are now able to go to school. While we were there we also gave some groceries to 2 other families that live nearby. One family is a mother and her 3 children who live in a dirt floor house right ext to where Maria and her children live. I had always thought that this lady had a husband that was perhaps out working when ever we were there but was told today that he deserted her and her 3 children a year ago leaving them with nothing but the shack that they lived in. This lady as 2 daughters, one that is 14 years old and another that is 11. She also has a son who is 6 years old. The older daughter is totally blind and has to be led around by the mother or the other children. The mother told us that her 11 year old daughter use to go to school but has not gone for the past year because they could not afford school supplies or the fee that is charged to enroll her into the public school. Her little boy should have started school this year as well but she had no money to send him either. We are praying for a sponsor and told his mother to check with the school to see if the children can still be enrolled even though the school year started about 5 weeks ago.

It was hard to say goodbye to these warm and friendly people but it was getting late and we had promised the kids in my neighborhood that we were going to have pizza tonight. Even though she protested I set down the little girl that I was holding and said good bye. I thought back to a few short months ago when this child and several of the others would run away crying when ever any of us would arrive. Now they were all laughing and begging to be held. As we drove away we looked back up the hill at all of our friends who were standing there waiving goodbye.

Our time of solitude with out having kids hanging on to us was short lived though because about an hour and a half later we were pulling into my alley with 8 large pizzas in the back of my car. To my surprise there were only 2 kids standing out side so I thought that perhaps I was going to be eating left over Pizza for the next week or 2. With in about a half hour I was proved wrong as we opened up the box containing the last pizza. Some one told me that they got a head count of around 40 people but the kids never stood still long enough for us to get an accurate count. I guess the word had gotten out because some of the parents even showed up. It was a fun time though and the kids had a great time with some jump ropes that Marcia banks had brought for them.

For some strange reason I am once again tired tonight so I am going to head off to bed. I will do my best not to step on any of the 3 kids that are fast asleep on the floor.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, February 22, 2008

A good part of my morning was spent doing what has lately been a once a week ritual of taking my car in to my mechanic. This week’s episode was new wheel bearings. Actually only one of them wet out yesterday but I figured that I would play it safe and have both sides replaced. This brought my bill up to nearly $50 for parts and labor but I was thrilled that the mechanic was able to find new bearings right hear in Chemaltenango. This evening I had dinner with Marcia and Tony Banks. They took me to one of the fancier restaurants in Antigua where some of the meals ran up as high as $12. We had a wonderful visit and a wonderful week together. They will be heading back to the states tomorrow. I will miss them. After dinner I drove in to Guatemala City where I met up with Chris, Saul, and Benjamin at the airport. It took the 2 vans and one pickup truck that we brought with us to bring the 19 people that came in from Washington State and all of their luggage back to Chemaltenango. Today’s journal is actually being written tomorrow because that is when we arrived back home. That is why I am saying Good morning,
Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, February 22, 2008, 10:07 PM
After the picking up our 19 visitors from their motel and then having breakfast we all headed to near the coast where Ronny lives. We plan on spending the next 5 days working on the new house that we are building for his family. When we got there today I discovered that Ronny has been running a fever for the past several days but it did not keep him from going along with me to get one of the tires of his wheelchair fixed. After getting his wheelchair fixed I decided that I better help with the house building but didn’t even pick up my first brick when Luke, one of the teens that had come from the States with his father, had cut his hand on a piece of rebar. I cleaned the wound and tried to butterfly it shut but the hot humid air made his hand so damp that there was no way that I could get the tape to stick to it. I finally gave up and simply put a bandage over it and then drove him to the clinic that had told me about Julio a few weeks ago. The doctor at the clinic told us that he did not have what was needed to stitch the wound but that there was a national hospital in town that could do it. I was a bit apprehensive about taking him to a national hospital but when we got there I discovered that even though their emergency room looked like something out of the 1950s it was clean and the staff there seemed quite professional. We were also happy when we found out that they used a new needle to stitch up his hand. Other than some Antibiotics that we had to get at a nearby drug store the entire procedure cost absolutely nothing. The cut stitched up nicely and Luke is doing fine. We arrived back at the work site just in time to help pack up and head home. The entire crew had a good time but they are tired and a few are not feeling the best because of the heat but I think that they are all planning on going out again tomorrow. If any of them do not feel up to it they can always stay behind here at the motel. It is a nice place and even has a swimming pool. Barring any sick kids, broken wheelchairs, or cut hands, perhaps tomorrow I will actually help do some work on the house.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, February 23, 2008, 9:12 PM

Today the crew spent the entire day working on Ronny’s new house. A good part of my morning was spent trying to get the air-conditioner of the Kea van going so that the group would have a more comfortable ride home but it looks like the pump is freezing up so I guess that we will have to put up with the dust that comes in through the open windows while driving some of the dirt roads. It was extremely hot this morning which made it difficult for the crew that is working on the house, but in answer to prayer some clouds and a light breeze moved in this after noon so it made the working conditions a bit more pleasant.

Ronny was feeling a bit better today but his mother, who is pregnant with her 7th child, got quite sick before lunch and it looked for a while like I have to make a repeat trip to the national hospital. Fortunately one of her kids went and got a lady, who appeared to be in her 80s, who is a mid wife. She seemed to have a lot of respect from everyone and was even chauffeured to Ronny’s house by her granddaughter, not by car however but by bicycle. Before leaving the old lady assured me that Ronny’s mom would be all right and that no doctor would be necessary, then her and her granddaughter disappeared down the trail on the bicycle. She seemed to know what she was talking about because by this evening Ronny’s mom was feeling a lot better.

After a picnic stile lunch most of us walked down past the tin shack where Ronny lives to another tin shack that his uncle and aunt live in along with their 6 children. They are every bit as much in need of a new home as Ronny and his family are but right now we can make them no promises. I am praying that will change though because the home that they presently live in has rusted holes in it that you could nearly crawl through. We then walked a bit further to where Ronny’s grandmother lives and visited with her for a while. We had been hoping that we could put a cement floor into the prefabricated house that we put up for her a few months ago but there is still a lot to do before we are done with Ronny’s house so that will have to be put on hold for a while.

Seeing the conditions that these families live in was not easy for the group, in fact some of them told me that they had already had a tough time sleeping last night after seeing the poverty that Ronny and his family live in. I think that it was good for the group to see this though because so often we take the blessings that God has given us for granted.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Not only did I see building going on as far as houses were concerned today but the building of new and better friendships was also very evident.

I watched as some of the ladies in our group took some time out to comb and braid the hair of several of the girls. I also saw one of our men who did not know a word of English take the time to show one of the older boys what he was doing and get him involved in some of the work that was being done. There were also men and women who were working along side of each other who in less than a day had become friends despite the fact that they could not understand one another. I am not sure weather or not the house will be completed by the time we leave on Tuesday afternoon, nore am I concerned about it. Friendships are being built and even though there is a language barrier these people are witnessing the love of Jesus in action. I said it before but I think that it bears repeating. No one cares how much you know until the know how much you care.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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