* 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 17, 2008

Journal February 10-17

Click on any photo to enlarge.
Monday, February 11, 2008, 10:42 PM

After a quick stop off at the wheelchair shop to pick up some parts I headed to Hermano Pedro. I was met at the door by 2 people from the California Rotary club that we did the 3 day wheelchair distribution with last week. I had originally met them at a distribution that we did in Honduras last year. Both of them fell in love with the kids at the orphanage and I think that they regretted that they had to fly back to the States later this afternoon. It is some times hard to get people to visit the orphanage but it seems that once they do they quickly get over any fears that they may have had before meeting the kids. I did not get to spend as much time with them as I had anticipated because I received a phone call from Ludwig’s parents. I had gone to his home in Saloma and given him a new wheelchair a few weeks ago. While I was there we made a phone call to Marvin, a friend of mine that makes leg braces at Hermano Pedro. I had forgotten that this was the day that Marvin was scheduled to see Ludwig. I think that Marvin had forgotten as well because he had a pretty full schedule. He managed to take the time to see Ludwig and his parents though. After he examined Ludwig, who has muscular dystrophy he asked Ludwig’s parents if he could talk to them alone. I spent the next hour out side of his office with Ludwig. I pretty much knew what was being said and was praying that Ludwig’s parents would be all right. It is hard to tell a family that there is not much that can be done to keep their son from becoming more and more deformed and that he would only get weaker with time but Marvin is a good man and I knew that he was the right person to speek with them. When Ludwig’s parents finally came out of Marvin’s office I could tell that they had been crying. Ludwig had been asking me if I was going to take him to Camperos for lunch so I asked his parents if I could treat them to lunch. They told me that they thought that was a great idea. I had already promised Ervin that I would take him to lunch and knew that if I backed down on that promise that you would be able to hear him scream all the way to the USA. As it turned out Ervin was on his best behavior today. Ervin knows good and well that I will not put up with any guff from him and that I have more than once taken him straight back to the orphanage when he acted up. Fortunately he also knows that I love him and do it for his own good. Amy Deyoung and another therapist joined us for lunch. While we were eating Ludwig’s parent shared with us some of the things that Marvin had told them. They said that they already knew quite a bit about there sons sickness but hearing some one say it directly to them still was not easy. They shared with us how happy they were that Ludwig was now in school. This had been his life long dream and he absolutely loved going to school. They shared one concern though. Ludwig’s arms are beginning to get weaker and they are afraid that it will not be much time before he can no longer get around in his wheelchair. I told them not to tell Ludwig this because I don’t think that it is quite necessary yet but I am planning on giving him a power wheelchair in the not to distant future. Both parents thanked me and gave me a bit hug. They had left their home early this morning by buss and were al tired so I told them that I was sure that they could stay at Casa Defay but they said that they really wanted to get back home so after lunch we all said good bye. After bringing Ervin back to his section of the orphanage Amy, the other therapist that was with her and myself went up to the malnutrition ward. I had asked them if they would look at Byron and Perla with me. Both of these children still spend most of their time in bed with their heads and bodies twisted back. We came up with a few ideas and I may build them something that will put them in more of a seated position even when they are in their beds.

The rest of my afternoon was spent in getting Carlitos and Byron’s power wheelchairs working properly. Once again I had plenty of little helpers so things did not get done all that fast but my helpers were happy and so was I.

While grocery shopping tonight I decided to get lazy so I bought a roasted chicken and took it home. There were only 3 kids there when I got home so as soon as we got the other groceries put away we quickly ate. Before we could polish off the entire Chicken a few more kids showed up. There was still enough chicken left that those 3 got filled up on Chicken sandwiches. The next shift of kids did not do as well and let me know that chicken flavored top robin just wasn’t the same as a roasted chicken.

While at the market I also picked up a basket ball to replace the one that had more then once made contact with the broken glass that lines the top of the wall north of my house and the razor wire that lines the top of the south wall. As soon as the dishes were washed and put away most of went outside and tried the new basket ball out. After the game the kids just hung around and visited. Most of them had brought their school books along so they showed me what they had been doing in school. Even though they have school tomorrow I let them stay until about 10:30 then sent them home. Well most of them that is. Calin is fast asleep on the floor right next to where I am working. He is the only one that ever stays over with out letting anyone know. His mother says that when he is not at home she just figures that he is here, and his step dad could care less.

Well it is nearly midnight so I will say Goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, February 12, 2008, 9:04 PM

A good part of my day was spent getting most of the exhaust system of my car replaced and then having my oil changed. With the dusty conditions and the type of roads that I often travel I try to have my oil changed every 3000 miles. Unfortunately those same roads usually claim my exhaust system more often than that. Today it cost me a whopping $17 for all of the parts and labor.
This afternoon I showed a group of about 10 men that are from my pastor’s home church in Florida around the orphanage. Judging by their reactions they were deeply touched. Every now and then I can take the group through the entire orphanage with out having at least some one break into tears. After I wiped away my tears I went on to tell the group a bit more about Sam Sam.

Hot dogs, refried beans, pop corn, and Coke were on tonight gourmet menu. By the way that the kids wolfed the food down I think that it was a winning combination.

This journal will be a bit shorter than usual because our after dinner basketball game went into overtime. The game was a bit tamer than usual tonight. We ended up with no crying kids, no uprooted flowers, and only one slightly cracked window.


Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Today was mostly spent taking people from Youth With a Mission through the orphanage. Since there were 30 of them I took half of them through in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. One family stuck around for lunch and along with the help of Carlos, and Jim and his wife Jill we were able to take 8 of the kids from Hermano Pedro out to lunch. The family that joined us had some kids that were about the same age as the kids that we took out from the orphanage and several of them became quick friends. I think that giving kids the opportunity to meet kids that are a bit different than their normal companions is verry healthy. It seemed to be good for the kids from the USA as well.

As soon as we returned to the orphanage from lunch the second group arrived so I conducted a repeat tour. No lunch this time but this group had every bit as good of a time with the kids as the first group did. I must admit that I was worn out by the end of the day but it was well worth it seeing the kids having people there who were willing to give unconditional love to them.

Just when some of the practices at the orphanage seem to be improving others seem to get worse. Lately the amount of time that most of the kids are in bed has gotten even worse. Even some of the more able bodied ones like Ervin and Elmer who like nothing better than to be out in the courtyard roaming around in their wheelchairs are locked in their cribs from about noon until 7 or 8 the following morning. I talked to a few people who are in charge of the nurses about it today and they promised that thye would look into it. It seems that even when they tell the nurses that thy have to get them out more no one listens though.

Tonight’s supper was a do it yourself free for all. I must admit though that everyone cleaned up fairly well after themselves. Calin, Abner, and Fernando insisted that a room came along with the meal and was to tired to argue with them so theyare spending the night.

Speaking of night, Goodnight

Yours in Christ: Dick
Thursday, February 14, 2008, 8:58 PM

This morning I stuck around home and got a few things done. At around 11 AM I headed out to the airport to pick up Tony and Marcia Banks. They are friends from Washington State who plan on spending the next 8 days here in Guatemala. They have been here before and hope to see more of our ministry while they are here. After getting settled in to a motel in Antigua they joined Fernando and me at the orphanage. Fernando accompanied me to the airport since he got out of school early today. I think that he got out early because today was nothing more than a valentines day party at his school. I have little doubt that he will have no school tomorrow either. Usually his teacher decides that they need a clean up day the day after they have a party. Thy must be cracking down on the teachers though because she did not give the kids a day off yesterday to prepare for valentines day. Come to think of it since school started up a few weeks ago she has not yet announced which days she is planning to be sick.

When we arrived at the orphanage at 2 PM I once again found only a few kids out of their cribs. Fernando offered to stay and play with Ervin while I spent some time up in malnutrition so I took him out of his crib. I also took Byron who was not in bed but sitting in a corner in a manual chair that he has no way to move around in and put him into his power wheelchair. I also put Elmer into his walker after I located it. Some one had stuck it away in a storage room. I guess that if these kids were mobile it would cut down on the nurses one half day coffee breaks. I perhaps would not be so bold but after this many years I am learning that most of the people that are over the nurses are just as upset about the way that some of the sections of the orphanage are keeping the kids immobile as I am.

Byron (the one in malnutrition not the one with the head controlled power wheelchair) seems to be doing a bit worse lately. The nurses up in malnutrition are some of the better ones at Hermano Pedro but are often at a loss on how to keep the kids comfortable. They do put him in his wheelchair in the mornings but he is so skinny and his muscles are so tight that he can not tolerate it for more than one or 2 ours at a time. Unfortunately the rest of the time he is in bed staring at the ceiling. They try to lye him flat on his back with pillows on each side of him so that he does not curve back words but with in a short time his muscles contract and he is lying on his side bent back in a half circle. This after noon I found an infants car seat that I padded and then mounted into his crib. Even though this 14 year old will have to grow into it, it seems to be doing the trick. Not only does it keep him in a far better position but it can be adjusted any where from a fully reclined position to an upright seated position. Hanging a few toys up over his head also gave him something other than a blank ceiling to look at.

The little girl that Amy Deyong brought in to malnutrition a few days ago is doing fairly well. Her mother is a bit upset because Hermano Pedro has temporarily set up visiting hours due to all of the kids who are in the malnutrition ward awaiting surgery so I hope that she will not take her home until she is a bit healthier. I asked Amy if the little girl’s mother would be able to take good care of her if she took her home. Amy told me that she truly loves her child but there are 4 other children at home and her husband makes only 25 Q ( $3.35 ) per day. It’s pretty hard to feed a family on that even here in Guatemala.

Tony, Marcia, Fernando, and I stayed around to feed the kids and then headed for home. Tony and Marcia were going to join us for supper but with all of the traveling that they had done decided to simply head to their motel. Fernando and I stopped off for a pizza before heading for home. When we got home we were greeted at my gate by several of the kids. As much as I hated to do it I had to tell them that this was one of those rare occasions that I had to have the house to my self in order to get caught up on my journal and some other things. I think that they got the word out to most of the other kids because the amount of traffic at my gate has been only about 2 or 3 kids per hour ever since I got home a few hours ago. I let Leslie in for about an hour but hardly knew that she was here because she quietly did some school work on a the computer that is in the other room.

Tomorrow we plan on visiting some of the people that are going to receive or have received one of the prefabricated homes that Golf Coast Supply has provided us with. We plan on bringing groceries in to some of these families as well.

Well the door bell has not rung once in the past half hour so I think that I will be able to get some sleep if I head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick
Friday, February 15, 2008, 10:14 PM

This morning I went to Antigua and joined Tony and Marcia for breakfast. We then headed back to Chemaltenango and after picking up Mario we got some groceries that we wanted to give to some needy families. We then headed out to do some visiting. I had not been out to where Maria, Fidel and their grandmother live in quite some time so we decided to go and see how they were doing. When we arrived where they live I could hear moaning coming from the small adobe house where Fidel has been bed ridden for quite some time. For over a year now I have always wondered weather or not he would still be alive the next time that I visited but today he looked worse than I have ever seen him and I have little doubt that he will be alive much longer. I promised the family that I would try to bring some pain medication in to him within a few days because they told me that he cries out in pain day and night.

Last time that I was there part of the old house was still standing and I was told that they were going to keep it for storage but now the old house has been torn down, the ground has been cleared, and Monday the village brick layer is scheduled to come in and pour the cement for the floor of the prefabricated house that we plan on building for Maria in the near future.

We had planned on visiting one other family today but stayed and visited the first family for much longer than we had originally expected to so we postponed that visit for another day.

After stopping off for lunch we dropped Mario off at his home and then headed for Antigua where I met up with Chris and around 20 people that he had brought down who wanted to see the orphanage. Since there were so many people I took them all in and introduced them to the younger kids and than divided the group in half and showed 10 of them around the rest of the orphanage while Chris and some of my friends who have been their before stayed with them and the younger kids. After giving group one the royal tour they stayed and played with the kids while group 2 was shown around. I must say that although the groups seemed a bit apprehensive at first it did not take long for them to warm up to the kids. They even stayed a bit longer than they had originally planned and most of them helped give the kids their supper. After they left Chris and I Fitted Jover, Who has just returned to the orphanage after being home for Christmas break, into a new wheelchair .

After leaving the orphanage several of us got together in Antigua for supper. Even though I had eaten supper before I got home I was not let off the hook. I must admit that supper was a simple one, even by my standards, but the kids were satisfied. That reminds me I have to pick up more bread, baloney, and cheese from the store tomorrow.

Well all of the kids that are going home have gone so I better turn of the light so that Calin and Danile get to sleep.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, February 16, 2008, 8:22 PM

Calin, Abner, and I picked up Tony and Marcia at around 8:30 this morning and then headed for the coast. Daniel was also invited but did not want to come along. Daniel is quite shy and usually shies away from groups of people.

Our firs stop was at Julio’s home. Julio is the 9 year old boy who I brought in to the malnutrition ward a few weeks ago. I wanted to tell Julio’s parents that he was doing well and that he already appeared to be gaining strength. To my surprise Julio’s father told me that he had come to Antigua and visited his son just yesterday. This is a big undertaking as it meant that he had to hitch a ride to the nearest town and then take several busses to get to Antigua so I was happy that he was that concerned about his son. He told me that he was happy with the care that his son was getting and was glad that he and his wife had decided to let me take Julio there. As we visited the family became more relaxed and we talked about many things. Julio’s father works in the sugar cane fields and even though he puts in 12 hours a day he scarcely makes enough money to feed his family. I asked him if the family had enough to eat and he told me that they were OK for now but he didn’t know how he was going to feed his family once the 5 month sugar cane harvest was over. We also talked about their living conditions. The land that they live on belongs to his mother who lives in a tin shack next to theirs. Both tin shacks look as though they could fall down ant any moment and we were told that they do little to keep any water out during the rainy season. Julio’s father also told us that he knew that the water that came from the well that was located only a short distance from the out house was making his family sick but that they had no alternative other than to drink it.

I could tell that this father truly wanted a better life for his family but could see no way to attain it. His 13 year old son who had dropped out of school to go to work with his father so that there could be more food on the table didn’t seem to have a much brighter future ahead of him either. I know that it is easy to judge people but I also knew that his was a family that was hurting and that they needed help. First I told them that we were going to see what could be done about getting them a water filter and then some medicine to kill the parasites that they likely had. Julio’s father looked at us and said that this was the first time that any one had ever come in and offered him and his family anything in their entire lives. I am not sure where this family stands as far as their relationship with Jesus Christ but this gave us the opportunity to share whith them that we were not doing this on our own but were doing it in the name of Jesus and that it was because of the love that He had given us by dying for our sins that we were here today. We told them that what ever gratitude or thankfulness they had was to be given to God and not to us. They both nodded in agreement and I think that they understood what we were saying. I guess we could have talked more with them about Jesus but some times showing them seems to be so much more effective. Besides I have always been affirm believer that no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. If you think that telling the family that we would try to get them a water filter got a reaction you should have seen their faces when I told them that we were going to do our best to give them a new house as well. I have been talking to Chris about this family and we both feel that they are perfect candidates for one of the prefabricated houses that Golf Coast Supply has been supplying. I am still a firm believer that it is better to teach a person how to fish than to given him a fish but I also know that it is hard to fish on an empty stomach. I pray that some where along the way we can be instrumental in helping this father figure out a way to put more food on his table on his own but you have to start some where.

Next we drove to Angelica’s home. She is doing fairly well after her surgery but the incision on her leg has opened up a bit and there may still be some infection there. When Gordon took her back into the hospital last week they gave her a prescription for some antibiotics but her husband told us that he has been unable to locate any. The nearest drug store is in a town that is located about an hour away by car. I am going to try to get some to her the first part of the week.

Next we went to Ronny’s house. He and his family are getting excited about the team that is coming in from Washington State next week to help build their new house. Both their family, uncles family and Grandmother were completely out of food but fortunately I had some in my car that we were going to give to other families next week. We can always go shopping again before we visit them. Ronny’s father asked me if I would go and visit his mother. She had received one of the first prefabricated houses that we ever put up. Her health has been failing and her family has been trying to get her to see a doctor for several weeks now. On top of that she just got bit by a tarantula a few days ago. She was in a friendly mood but told me that she was not sure that she wanted to see a doctor. I think that she has a fear of doctors and after seeing what some of them do. I can’t say that I blame her. I told her about the doctors at Hermano Pedro and think that she may be willing to go there for a check up. She told me that she would let me know when we come in to build Ronny’s house next week.

Tomorrow I am planning on going to church and then taking it easy the rest of the day. I have made plans like that on several weekends however to my recollection they have seldom materialized.

Well I am going to go and say good night to my 2 house guests, (Abner and Fernando) and then head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, February 17, 2008, 5:58 PM

As expected today did not go as expected. Six kids came along to church. There would have been 7 but Abner said that if I took Etiline he would not come along. After saying goodbye to Abner the six kids and I headed off to church. After church I had a short discussion with Jason’s Sunday school teacher and then a long discussion with Jason. The kids and I then headed outside where I stopped off to talk with some friends. While talking with them I discovered that Bonny Grim a dear lady that started coming along with us to church a few months ago was in the national hospital and not doing very well. They will know more by tomorrow but it looks like she may have cancer. I met Bonny several years ago when she was here volunteering her time as a physical therapist at Hermano Pedro. Bonny who is in her 70s loved Guatemala but due to some hart problems had to return to the States. A few months ago she returned to Guatemala against her families wishes. She told me that they were trying to put her out to pasture but she was not ready for that. She felt that she would rather be here in Guatemala even though she was well aware that medical treatment was not as readily available if she needed it.

I had promised the kids that we would go to Hermano Pedro and spend time with the kids there and then go out for lunch so they were a bit disappointed that I had to change my plans but they fully understood that it was important for me to go and visit Bonny. Since Visiting hours at the hospital are only from 1:30 -3:00 I did have time to stop off at Martha’s and buy the kids some lunch before taking them home though.

As I visited with Bonny today as she laid there in the national hospital. Bonny told me that she is sad that even though her daughter knows that she is possibly dyeing Her daughter wants nothing to do with her. Bonny still feels that she made the right decision in returning to Guatemala but feels quite alone. I am not judging who is at fault but I am praying and I am asking you to pray for Bonny and her family. Pray not only for physical healing but that things can be ironed out between Bonny, her daughter, and any other relatives that are involved.

Before heading for home I headed to Hermano Pedro to drop off Nancy Darby, a fringed who had come along with me to visit Bonny. I also wanted to stick my head in just to see how some of the kids like Julio and Byron were doing. While I was there Tony and Marcia also dropped by. Funny thing how spending just a minute or 2 seeing a few of the kids suddenly ends up being 2 or 3 hours but that is exactly what happened. Between Tony, Marcia, Nancy, and myself we made quite a dent in the amount of kids that mysteriously made it from their beds to their wheelchairs. I wouldn’t doubt that it took the nurses a good hour to get them all back into their cribs once we left. We also spent some time up in malnutrition but remembered to return those kids back to their cribs after holding them. I think that the highlight of my day was watching Julio as Tony held him. Even though it has only been 2 weeks since I brought him into the orphanage he is looking much healthier and doing far better. Today he was looking all around and even cracked a few smiles. Judging by the way that he eats I would not doubt that he is now at least 20 pounds. Not much for a 9 year old but better than the 17 ½ pounds that he weighed when he first arrived.

When I got home I let the kids in for about an hour but then sent them home so that I could get this journal finished. I may have to hurry though because I promised that I would do my best to let them back into the house before 9 PM.

Before I send off this week’s journal I would like to share one more prayer request. Luis Andrais is a boy that Chris and I brought into the orphanage nearly 2 years ago. At that time he was 6 years old and weighed 15 pounds. It was a miracle that he got into the orphanage in the first place and then a second miracle that he was readmitted after his mother broke the rules by not returning him after he went home for what was suppose to be a one week visit. All of the kids that went home for Christmas were suppose to be returned to the orphanage over a week ago. Hermano Pedro has not heard a thing from Luis’s mother. I am praying that she is no longer drinking and is now able to take care of her son but have fears that she once again simply did not bother to return him to the orphanage. Tomorrow Chris is going to give a phone call to a friend of ours who lives in the same town as Andrais. Please pray that what ever the outcome is that it is in the best interest of this little boy.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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