* 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, March 8, 2008

Journal February 29 - March 7

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Friday, February 29, 2008

We all welcomed the cooler weather when we woke up. The dogs woke most of us up before we wanted! The Hotel Rancho Grande Inn was very nice with a garden setting. We all had breakfast at the Rancho Restaurant, with the best pancakes that tasted like sweet biscuits! We went sidewalk shopping where the vendors attacked us and would not let us go, until we purchased their goods. I still don't know who had the best time, the vendors or those of us who were shopping? On our way back to Chimaltenango we stopped at Juan's home and met his wife and 4 children. Juan was lead man on our house building project. He is a local pastor and his church is in front of his house. The church seemed to be quite new. Very nice inside, much better than some of the houses around by far! We are on the move again to see the Mayan ruins. This area has Mayan Indians dating back to the early 1500. This is an area where Mayan people worship their gods, which are many. There are many large mounds of rock and mortar. At the end, there was a ceremony going on with candles, smoke and fire and also the smell of meat being sacrificed. We returned to Chimaltenango, where we had stayed the first night and had lunch/dinner at Comperos. Comperos is known for their good chicken. We brought our luggage to our rooms and then went to the wheelchair shop and warehouse where the wheelchairs are brought and fixed. Many of the chairs come from Hope Haven out of Rock Valley, Iowa. About 1000 chairs are given out yearly in this area. Chris and Dick shared from their hearts. We were moved by the Holy Spirit to pray for their ministry and our involvement in it. We then went to Dick's home to meet some of the kids in his neighborhood that hang out at his place. After a few minutes all the kids and adults felt at home and had a ripping good time! As you can tell we had a busy day traveling! We saw lots of vegetable gardens, many were terraced type.
To God Be the Glory!

(Ralph Lautenbach)

(Saturday) March 1st, 2008

Today is day 10 of our 11 day journey in Guatemala. We started our day with devotions in the parking lot of our hotel. Len quoted the familiar verse of Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you....". Well, today we all knew the plan was to visit the orphanage, but I'm not sure any of us knew what to expect. We had breakfast at Campero's, here in Chimal and then drove to the orphanage in Antigua. I have lost my sense of direction, but it seemed to be right in the middle of town, a very busy town!! It is part of a hospital and very large. We were greeted at the entrance by 2 boys/men in wheelchairs, who were so excited to see Dick! Dick continued to show us thru the whole orphanage. The different divisions we visited were children, teenage girls, teenage boys, babies and the malnutrition children. All with physical or mental handicaps. Dick was so at ease with all of them, he brought so many smiles to children that you may think don't understand, but they obviously did. Some kids you could just mention their name and you could see the joy on their faces. Some we held, some we walked, some we played ball with, or played in the playground with. We helped feed lunch to many of them. I could go on and tell you several names or stories, all of which are very heartfelt, but it would take too many pages! These are all God's children and they will stay in our hearts for a long time. I am so grateful for people like Dick, who volunteer several days each week to show these children that they are cared about and loved and treats them as God's children. We then went to lunch at a Burger King, it was just like any B,K. you would see in the States. After lunch, a few people went and spent more time with the kids at the orphanage. I think Steve V.V. had to take the extra time to hold each baby there! The rest of us went with Chris and walked thru the town. He pointed out places to stay away from and the places that were safe. We saw many things, people sleeping on the streets, people with no legs, horse and buggy drivers talking on their cell phones, some very old churches, and we also walked through one. At about 4pm we headed back to our hotel here in Chimal. Some of us went for a drive to visit Chris and Donna's home. What a wonderful family they are! We then went for dinner to a restaurant called "56" and sat outside and had a great meal for our last dinner here. I think those that were feeling ill the last few days are now feeling better. Tomorrow will be a big day of travel, We need to be up by 3am. I think we are all ready to see our family and friends again. Deut. 33.:27 The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

(Kim Gatterman)

(Sunday) March 2nd, 2008

We set the alarm for 3am - John went around to everyone's room with a wake up knock on the door. Chris and Dick came around 3:30 am to take us to the airport. Today is the day we will be going home again. We had mixed feelings......feelings of sadness to be leaving Dick, Chris & his family, and all the other friends we had bonded with over the past few days. But also looking forward to going home to be with our loved ones. We had feelings of praise and thanksgiving to God our Father who made it possible for us to come and share His love with all the people we met here in Guatemala, and also for all the blessings we received from it. And we had feelings of hope and peace, knowing God is in control of all things. We pray He will continue to bless Dick and Chris & his family and their ministry here. That He will give them strength and clear guidance in the work He has planned for them here in Guatemala. And we pray for the people here -that they may find their hope and joy in the Lord Jesus Christ, even though they live in desperate situations.

We were all ready to go by 3:30am. We gathered together for devotions and a group prayer and then headed for the airport. Our flight left at 7:15am to Houston and from there we arrived in Seattle at around 3:30pm. Lisa, Heather and Sandi and families were there to greet us. The rest of us rode home in "the bus" driven by Dan Kuiper - we kept reminding him he wasn't in Guatemala anymore! We arrived safely at the church parking lot at 6pm.

Thank you Lord for watching over us and protecting us! For giving us the opportunity to be a "small light" in a dark world. For making us aware of how blessed we are and how important it is to share what you have so graciously given to us. May our hearts be forever changed! Open and willing to do whatever you have planned for us.(Jeremiah 29:11)
We ask this in Jesus name, Amen.

(John & Arlis)

Sunday, March 2, 2008, 4:31 PM (Written by Dick)

My alarm went off at 3:20 AM. I can’t say that I was fully rested but I had to get to the motel where the group that has been with us for the past 10 days was staying at. They were flying back home at 7:00 AM so we had to have them at the airport by 5:00. They were all up when I arrived at the motel but I can’t say that they looked much more awake than I did. It has been a marvelous 10 days of house building, wheelchair distributing, visiting, and faith sharing but we are all tired. Would any of us do it again if we were given the opportunity? I think that I am speaking for all when I say, IN A HEART BEAT! I have little doubt that most if not all of our friends from Washington State will be back with in a year if not sooner. Thanks gang for giving it your all and then some! I hope that all of your cuts, bruises, rashes, and stomach problems will soon be forgotten and you will come back soon. We will miss each and everyone of you. I will especially miss those who made my week much easier by writing the journals that I published while you were here. I think that I will ask other groups to do the same when they come down.

We had a great time on the road but it is good to be back at home. I missed the kids and I think that they missed me. It seems that a few of them are displaying their disapproval of my being gone for so many days in a row by acting out a bit. The kids here at home seem to be a lot louder and livelier than usual and even several of the orphanage kids showed that they were not happy that I had not seen them in nearly a week and a half. One neat thing about the orphanage kids is that they are quick to forgive, and given the choice of calming down or going home most of the neighbor kids quickly settled down to a quiet roar. 4 of them came along with me to church this morning, and then to lunch. By the way that they put down the food I have little doubt that what ever I feed them the next few days I will here no complaints,

Well I am going to try and catch a bit of a nap before I once again let the kids back into the house so I will close for now.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, March 3, 2008

You would think that I had enough of the hot weather by now but today I once again found myself at Ronny’s house. Rusty, a friend from church will be going to Belize for a few weeks on Tuesday so this was the only day that he had open to put a cook stove into Ronny’s house. Actually there was a lot more involved than just bringing in a stove and installing it. Rusty actually builds the stoves right at the homes from cement block and brick. Usually he has whoever he is building the stove for gather up all of the supplies before he comes in and constructs it but since I was on the road all of last week that did not happen. The first thing we did this morning was run all over Eltejar and Santa Lucia gatherings all of the material that was needed. Fortunately a truck was already bringing in some cement blocks so we did not have to try to fit 30 of them into my Toyota along with the 40 bricks, 5 sacks of white sand, 2 sacks of cement, stove top, stove door, chimney, tools, and other assorted parts. By the time we got to Ronny’s house and actually got started on the project it was past noon. Ronny’s dad helped us out for a while but then had to go to work. That left us with Rusty to build the stove while I hand mixed cement and carried bricks and blocks into the house. Had I known that it was going to be another 100 degree day I may have hidden the return tickets of the group that was here last week so that they would have had no choice but to stick around for another week. I must admit though that much of the work was done by Ronny’s younger brothers and sisters. I can’t believe the amount of work that they did. I am sure that if they were in the USA child labor would have been after us but none of them broke their backs and all of them seamed extremely pleased that they could help. When 5 PM rolled around we still had a small amount of work left to do on the stove but figured that the men who are finishing up on the house could finish it another day. I think that Ronny’s mom is going to be happy with it. She will still be cooking with wood but Rusty says that it should only use about a third as much wood as the open fire that she has cooked on in the past. All of the smoke will also go up the chimney in stead of going into the house. This had been and still is a big health problem for many Guatemalans who still cook over open fires.

The shower is still not hooked up in Ronny’s house so the kids got cleaned up by either pouring water over them selves or climbing into what ever buckets or wash tubs they could find. I think that Ronny’s mom had heard some where that Americans have this thing about modesty though, because she made some of the kids put some of their clothing back on until we left.

Even though the house is still in need of windows and doors Ronny’s family is moved into their new house. I don’t think that they will ever get the good housekeeping award but the are all verry happy. Now that Ronny has a cement ramp going into the house and a cement floor to drive on he is getting a lot more use out of his power wheelchair. The batteries are also holding up a lot better now that his wheelchair has a smoother surface to run on. I guess progress has a few negative drawbacks, because now that they have electricity they have been given a TV set from some relatives.

Ronny seems to do fairly well during the day but continues to get high fevers at night so we decided that it would be best for him to come back with us to see the doctors at Hermano Pedro. Since his dad is working and his mother is pregnant it was decided that Ronny’s grandmother would accompany us. Tonight she and Ronny are staying at Casa DeFaye in Antigua. I gave them cab fare so that I don’t have to pick them up and bring them in to Hermano Pedro at 6:30 in the morning.

I got home late so I let the kids stay a bit longer than usual. They played soccer and only broke one window. I didn’t figure that was much of a problem until I discovered that some one had dropped something on the 6 spare windows that I have. Oh well it is a warm night and I seldom have a problem with bugs around here.

I Guess that I will head off to bed now.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, March 4, 2008, 10:01 PM

I actually got a few thing done around home before heading to Hermano Pedro this morning. When I got there Ronny was just finishing up on a few blood tests. At first the doctor wanted his grandmother and him to stick around another day but decided that they could give me the results tomorrow and I could relay them to Ronny’s family.

One of the people that was here last week left some money with me for Ronny’s family so before bringing Ronny and his grandmother home I stopped off and bought some groceries for the family. I had seen what they had to eat yesterday and knew that groceries were needed. When I got to Ronny’s house I also gave them a large picture that I had taken of their family a few days ago.

On my way home I stopped off at a new barber shop that is in town. Had I known that their prices are a lot higher than the one that I usually go to I my have gone there instead. Can you imagine the nerve of some businesses to ask such outlandish prices? I must admit they did a good job considering what they had to work with, (some how that didn’t come out the way I wanted it to.) but $2 for a hair cut and another $1.25 for a shave is outlandish.

I didn’t get home until close to 7 PM but the crew was waiting for me. I think that I am going to have to figure out a better place for the kids to play soccer though because even though no windows were broken tonight my flower bed took a real beating. I also discovered that those expensive 10,000 hour light bulbs are no match for a soccer ball.

The kids got tired of waiting for me to cook them supper so they are whipping something up on the stove. I sure hope that they aren’t making what I think they are making because we are out of Ketchup. Although I must admit nearly half the kids are getting use to having syrup on their French toast.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, March 5, 2008, 8:24 PM

I had to catch up on a lot of work so I told the kids that they could not come in this evening. I think that the only ones that liked that decision were my flowers and my lawn. Funny thing how I always wish for more quiet time when the house is full of kids but once it empties out the silence becomes deafening. I think that I will suffer through it though because having 10 or 15 kids in a 3 room house can get a bit overwhelming at times.

This morning I went to the shop and helped Alturo figure out what was wrong with a power wheelchair that he was having problems with. Once we got it running all of the other workers thanked me. Not necessarily for fixing the chair but for helping get Alturo out of the bad mood he was in from trying to figure out what the problem was. Don’t get me wrong Alturo is a great old guy but every now and then it is best to stay out of his way.

I got into Hermano Pedro in time to take Moises and Byron out for lunch. Byron is getting to be a real show off with his head controlled wheelchair and really hams it up when we go through the park. As hard as they try most people that see him can not figure out how he is driving his wheelchair. Often times they look at Moises, who is always being towed behind Byron’s power chair, expecting him to be holding a remote control transmitter of some type.

Today when we returned from lunch all but a small hand full of kids were once again locked in their cribs until tomorrow morning. Jessica has told the care givers several times with in the last few weeks that they can not have the kids in bed 20 hours a day but it seems to go in one ear and out the other. I took Ervin out of his crib, left him in his pajamas, put him in his wheelchair and took him to the far end of Hermano Pedro where the nuns and the father superior have their offices. It did not take long for us to be noticed because they do not like the kids to be out of their rooms unless they are dressed and have shoes and socks on. When I was asked why Ervin was not dressed at this time of day I explained that I had taken him out of his crib because he didn’t like being in bed from noon until the following morning. I was thanked for bringing this to their attention and promised that they were going to have another talk with the careless givers.

The rest of my afternoon was spent repairing several wheelchairs. I really have not had much time to refit or repairs many of the wheelchairs since the kids got back after they went to their homes for Christmas.

Before heading for home this evening I took a few new volunteers up to the malnutrition ward. 9 year old Julio is putting on weight and must be nearly 20 pounds now. They gave him a hair cut so he no longer looks like Mogly from The Jungle Book. Byron and Perla are both putting on weight and Perla is no longer being fed through a feeding tube. I still wonder how they will survive if and when their parents decide to take them home. There are a few new kids that look quite frail but over all most of the kids that are in malnutrition are doing quite well.

Well I think that I will close for now and just sit and listen to the silence. Although to make it completely silent I would have to poison all of the dogs and roosters in the neighborhood and also disconnect my doorbell.

Yours in Christ: Dick
Thursday, March 6, 2008

This morning I met with some people from Prairie Bible Institute for a few hours. They are pioneering some programs where some of their students could be plugged in to various ministries for a few months of the year. I shared with them some opportunities such as some of the orphanages that we are involved with, house building, schooling, and the wheelchair ministry. I then took them to our wheelchair shop and introduced them to everyone that works there. They are still in the planning stages but I think that they saw that the needs are endless and it gave them a lot to think about.

I had wanted to visit with a few families for several days now but Mario and his daughter have been sick so he was not able to accompany me today. He thought that perhaps he would be able to come along with me in a day or 2 but wasn’t sure so I decided to wait until the kids got out of school at around noon, and take a few of the boys along with me instead. It took a while deciding who would come along with me but it was finally decided that Calin, Fernando, and Alex would go. I was glad that Fernando and Calin were with me because I had a lot of important things to discuss with some of the families and these 2 boys are becoming excellent at interpreting. Alex’s English is not all that great but I figured that the opportunity to come along and visit some of these families would be a good experience for him.

Our first stop was at the home of Maria and her 4 children. She is the lady who’s husband was killed when he was run over by a truck a few months ago. Maria told us that she is overjoyed with the new prefabricated house that we put up for her. She said that the insulation helps keep it cool during the day and even though they live at an elevation of over 7000 feet the family stays comfortable at night. Since we now have the finances we are also moving forward on getting a pin built and then giving her some pigs to raise. Maria’s older children are delighted that they can now attend school and both of them proudly brought out their school work for us to look at. Maria’s sister who lives next door to them has not been feeling well ever since she had a baby a few weeks ago so we gave her some money so that she can go to Tecpan and see a doctor.

Next we walked over to a home that is located only a little ways up the hill from Maria’s house. This is the home of a mother who has 3 children, 1 of whom is blind. Her husband deserted her and the children just over a year ago leaving them with nothing but a shack to live in. Last time we visited I told her that we would do our best to get 2 of her children into school. The 11 year old girl had gone in the past but had to drop out shortly after her father left because mom did not have enough money for needed pencils and note books. Mom told us that her kids were so excited when we told them that we could possibly enroll her 6 year old son into school and get her daughter back into school. that she went from neighbor to neighbor promising them that she would pay back the $9 that was needed to enroll them if they would lone it to her until we returned, so to our surprise both children have been going to school for the past week. It was good that we showed up when we did though because the neighbors who have next to nothing themselves were asking when she would be able to pay back her debt. The kids were still in need of school supplies, books, and PE uniforms so we are helping them out with that. They were also delighted when we handed them back packs that some friends of mine had brought in from the States. I wish so that the pubic schools here could be truly public. So many kids are going unschooled simply because their families can not come up with money for school supplies or uniforms. It is even harder to see most of the children who are in wheelchairs denied an education simply because they are in a wheelchair.

After having a good visit with these families we drove to where Isabel Maria, Fidel, and their grandmother live. Fidel is still alive but I do not know for how long. The medicine that we brought in on our last visit is helping some for the pain but his grandmother told us that he has stopped eating. He still recognized me and gave me a smile when I sat down by his bed. Isabel Maria is still getting around with the use of her walker but I can’t help but wonder how long it will be until she is bed ridden. The cement has been poured for her new house so now all we have to do is find the time to come in and put up the house.

The main reason for today’s visit was so that I could look over the cement work and then pay the contractor. Even though we had agreed on a price Isabel’s cousin Geronimo told me that the contractor had tried to convince Geronimo into lying by telling me that the job had taken him 3 days instead of 2. Since the contractor was not at home I gave Geronimo the agreed on amount plus the bonus that I had promised the contractor if he completed the job by a certain date. I then told Geronimo to remind him that if the job took 3 days instead of 2 he had to have gone past the due date so if that was the case I would be back for the Q20 bonus. For some reason I don’t think that we will be hearing from this man again. Nor will he be hearing from us because we will not deal with him if he is dishonest.

We took a different rout on the way back home because Fernando’s aunt had been visiting relatives in San Marteen so we picked her up there and brought her back home. Even though the 5 of us stopped off for supper before going home there were still plenty of hungry kids waiting out in the alley by my house. Once again 3 of them insisted that lodging came with the free meal and being to tired to argue I now have overnight guests. Well I am tired even if the kids aren’t so I am heading off to bed before it gets taken.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, March 7, 2008, 10:15 PM

Today I was only able to take one of the kids from the orphanage to lunch because there were no other volunteers that wanted to come along. Carlos is always willing to help out when he is around but this week he has been doing some interpreting for some doctors that are here from the USA. Taking only one kid out was perhaps for the best though because I had promised Ervin out to eat. When I arrived at the orphanage this morning Ervin had not yet been put back in his crib for the day. Instead he was tied in his wheelchair and the bed sheet that he was tied with had been run through the spokes of his wheels so that he could not go anywhere in it. If you get this journal by e-mail please go to my web page and look at the movie that I made of Ervin today. The diffrance you will see in Ervin when playing at Camperos and then locked back in his crib at the orphanage is heart breaking.
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. . . . . . . .^ (View Movie of Ervin)

Lest you forget
, you may want to take another look at


^ (To view click titles above ) ^

I left the orphanage a bit early so that I could stop by Judy Kerschner house and help her out with her web page. As soon as she has it set up to her liking I will include a link to it on my site so that you can see some of the marvelous things that are going on at her school in Santa Maria Dejesus.

When I got home I repaired the broken lock on the drivers side door of my car. Yep someone tried to break into my car again today. When I am in Antigua I always try to park it as close to the orphanage as possible hoping that someone who works there will here the alarm go off and possibly frighten off any burglars but today there was some road work going on so I had to park about a block down the street. I was fortunate that nothing was stolen because I had taken my computer along with me and left it under the seat of my car. Nothing was taken so all I can figure is that the alarm scared them off once they got the door open.

The dinner crew numbered some where around 15 tonight but we still had leftover spaghetti. It was not that the kids didn’t like it but Marcos who was my Chef’s assistant misunderstood me when I told him how many packages to open. I never did see exactly how many packages were made but this was one of those rare occasions when I allowed the kids to take food home to family members who were not here. Marcos is more and more becoming one of my regulars. His father died in a drowning accident a few years ago and just a few months ago his mom died from a leg infection.

Tonight’s after dinner soccer game clammed no windows, flowers, or light bulbs but it did have a few protesters. I moved my car up against the house where the games normally take place and had the boys play out near the front gate. The reason that they don’t like playing there is they get less of an audience to show off to. Back when they were smaller I was the audience but now that many of them are approaching their teens they are trying to impress the girls that are often in my house doing home work. Granted the new play area has its drawbacks but the girls are having far less of a struggle concentrating on their school work. And the boys are not needing to be patched up nearly as often now that impressive dives and back flips are no longer done in an attempt to impress someone.

Well it is that time again so I will say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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