* 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 22, 2008

Journal March 15-22

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Today journal is going to be one of my shorter ones. I am sick so I am going to rest.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, March 16, 2008, 6:27 PM

I am feeling a bit better and even went out to eat with the group that came in from Canada last night but since I am not 100% I am going to use it as an excuse to take just one more day off from writing. I will try to do better tomorrow.

8:20 PM

Calin just came over and told me that his sister Lady had to run for cover as she was walking by a small store that is about a block from here. A drunk man who had bought some moonshine there got into an argument with a tuke-tuke driver and as she was walking by he took out a gun and started shooting. It sounds like he killed the tuke-tuke driver and injured one or to bystanders fortunately Lady was not hurt. The drunk then got into his car and drove away. Even though there were a number of witnesses I doubt that anyone will come forward and tell the police anything. I guess this is another reminder as to why we covet your prayers.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, March 17, 2007

It was Calin’s turn to join us today. After breakfast we all loaded up the van and the Toyota pick up with parts for a prefabricated house and headed up to where Maria-Isabel, Fidel and their grandmother live. This was the day that Maria-Isabel was finally going to receive her new house. She had been staying in the small adobe structure that her brother Fedel and her grandmother live in ever since her old house, which was no longer safe to live in had been demolished. Some of her relatives pitched in and helped and others watched in amazement as the new house was being built. Most of the Adobe houses that are in their area take several months to build so it was hard for them to believe us when we told them that we would have this house finished the same day.

About half way through building the house I traded vocations from being a carpenter to being a doctor. The last time that I had visited I had promised that I would treat Fidel’s bedsores the next time that I came there. For the sake of those of you who have week stomachs I will not go into a lot of detail other than to say that if you are ever given a choice of working on bedsores to building a house, choose the house. Since they will have to be treated daily I showed Grandmother and an aunt how to do the daily treatment but promised that when ever it was necessary to cut away dead flesh I would come in and do that. (Like I said, choose building houses if given a choice.)

Since this house was an older stile than the last half dozen or so houses that we have put up it took us a bit longer than normal to put up, although building a prefabricated house in roughly 4 hours is still a bit faster than the several months that it takes to construct an adobe home. After we had finished the team asked Maria and relatives to come inside. We than once again reminded them that this house was a gift from God and that we had been privileged enough to be allowed to be the delivery boys. We then had prayer with the family thanking God for what He had provided.

Please pray for this family. Grandmother is getting older and is finding it more and more painfull to walk. Although there are other relatives that live near by and they are good about helping care for Fidel who is completely bed ridden the main responsibility still falls on grandmother’s shoulders. Not only is caring for Fidel physically demanding for grandmother but watching him die after loosing her granddaughter only a few months prior is emotionally hard on her. Although she tries not to, I have seen her break down and cry on several occasions.

When I got home this evening it was not long before it was wall-to-wall kids. They knew that it had been a busy day for me so they all pitched in an helped with supper. Since Abner is planning on going along with us tomorrow, I told him that he can spend the night. Calin is working hard on convincing me that since the electricity has been shut off in his house, he should also be allowed to stay. I am too tired to try to figure out the logic in that one so I guess that I will have 2 guests tonight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Since we have another teem in this week and seem to be on the go from sunrise to sun set I have been falling behind on my journals a bit so in an attempt to catch up I may have to keep some of my daily entries a bit shorter than usual.
Today we spent the day bringing in food and clothing to needy families. Many of them were ones that we have given houses to during the past few months. It was neat to see how happy they all are with their new homes and even though many of these families are still struggling financially having a comfortable place to call home has at least taken care of one of their biggest problems. I wish that I had time to go into a bit more detail about each of the half dozen families that we visited with today but all I can say is we really saw god at work. Many of the families had just run out of food and had no idea where their next meal was coming from.
In one case a single mother of 5 told us that even though she was out of food her oldest son, who is around 13 years old, had left home earlier that day to see if he could find some fire wood for coking. She also told us that he had left home wearing no shoes because he had none. I would have liked to see his face when he came home with the wood and found out that it could be used for some of the food that we had brought the family. It just so HAPPENED that we had a pair of new shoes with us that were just his size. I hope that some of these pictures will help tell what I do not have the time to write.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, March 19, 2008, 9:17 PM

Tonight we are in San Lucas. Fernando is delighted that it was his turn to come along because the motel that we are in has a swimming pool.
This morning after breakfast we went to the wheelchair shop and loaded up George’s truck with wheelchairs and supplies that will be needed for a wheelchair distribution that we plan to have out near Santa Lucia on Thursday. After that we headed to Hermano Pedro where I introduced our friends from Canada to the kids at the orphanage. Leslie told us about an Easter display that was in Antigua and offered to get several of the kids ready while I gave our friends a quick tour of the orphanage. We managed to take about 10 of the kids out to see the display and even though the side walks and roads that we had to go on were anything but smooth everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. After leaving the orphanage we went to lunch and then the group (lacking me) went souvenir shopping. I always admire US and Canadian visitors who help rid Guatemalan of unwanted clothing and junk by buying it and taking it home to loved ones who open these so called gifts and can think of nothing else to say except, you shouldn’t have. From there we headed down towards Santa Lucia but took a bit of a detour to stop off and see Ronny and his family. We were glad to here that Ronny quit running fevers shortly after starting on the antibiotics that we bought for him last week. After showing our friends their new house the ladies handed out clothing to Ronny’s family and several of the neighboring families. We couldn’t stay long because we still wanted to make one more stop so that we could give a wheelchair to a man who was in a borrowed one. He and his wife were very grateful because the owner of the wheelchair that he was using was demanding to have it back.

Thursday, March 20, 2008, 8:52 PM

After breakfast we drove to a small town that lies only a few miles off from the Pan American Highway. There we met Axle, a man that has been in a wheelchair for several years. He and some friends who also lived in his town had found nearly 60 people who were in need of wheelchairs so today we were going to do a distribution of around 40 chairs. We would have liked to been able to seat all 60 of the people who were in need of wheelchairs but we simply did not have enough wheelchairs that were not already earmarked for other distributions.

Since the kids have no school this week Fernando has come along with us on this trip. Several of the other kids would have gladly come along but this time it was his turn. It worked out great because Chris had taken Benjamin along and there were also 3 kids in the group of Canadians that were with us. Fernando pitched right in with working on the wheelchairs and did an excellent job of interpreting for me.

Most of the people that received wheelchairs today were adults but we had a few kids. One of the kids that I had was a little girl who screamed in fear every time that I got near her. Try as I may there was no way that I could get near her without her curling up in a ball and crying. Using Fernando as an interpreter I tried to gain as much information as possible from the little girl’s mother with out having to measure her or even touch her. By what I saw and by the information that we could we could gather from her mother it appeared that there was no way that this little girl could propel here self with her hands. So I figured that she would be better off in a wheelchair that tilted and gave her good support than in a wheelchair that we had hat had big back wheels but gave little support. As I returned with the wheelchair I saw Chris standing near by. Since I was still not sure that I had made the right decision I asked him if he would come over and talk with the mother. After talking with her and finding that he to was unable to get any where near the child with out her totally loosing it he agreed that the little girl would not be able to use her hands well enough to propel her self and that I had indeed picked out the right wheelchair for her. I don’t know why but I still did not feel good about our unanimous decision so decided to try something before seating her into the wheelchair that I had brought over to her. I told her mother that I was going to go over to the other side of the small church that we were all working in and look at another child who needed a wheelchair and that I wanted the mother to place her little girl in a manual wheelchair that had large wheels on it, once the little girl calmed down. As I measured another child for a wheelchair I almost forgot about the little girl who was so frightened and seemed to be unable to sit up straight until Fernando came over and tapped me on the shoulder. When I looked up I could not believe my eyes. Not only was she sitting up straight and tall without any special support but she was wheeling herself all over the church with out any one helping her. I didn’t want to frighten her but I could not help but walk over to her. I could not believe it when she looked up at me with a great big smile. Usually I hate to be wrong. Today I was Glad that I had been. Judging by the look on Chris’s face he was equally as happy.

The last person that I worked with today was a 15 year old boy who had cerebral palsy. Is family told me that he had a wheelchair at home but it was warn out. It was also evident that his back was starting to go very crooked. I asked if the chair that he had at home had any type of special support in it and was told that it did not. The young man also had great difficulty using his right hand and I was told that because of this he could do little more than go in a circle with his old wheelchair. We had brought along a wheelchair that had special knobs that protruded from the push ring that was connected to the rear wheels but when I went to look for it I realized that it had already been given out to someone else. Perhaps it didn’t matter because I had my doubts that he had enough movement in his right hand to propel with it anyway. I looked over at Axle and then back over at the young man that needed the wheelchair. Not an hour earlier Axle commented to me on how much he loved his power wheelchair and how much independence it had given him. Granted if I put this young man into a regular wheelchair he would be a lot better off than he was when he came in, especially if I gave him a wheelchair that had more support than the old one that he had left at home, but I was looking at a 15 year old kid that had a whole life ahead of him. I thought to myself how much richer his life could be if he could get around on hid own. I walked over to where axle was and told him what I had in mind. I also told him that I did not want to dissipoint the boy and his family if they happened to live on a hillside or somewhere that a power chair could be of no use to them. I wasn’t even sure if they had electricity. Axle agreed to go over and talk with the family. He promised that he would not say anything about a power wheelchair but would find out if they lived in an area that would be suitable for one. Since Axle is in a power wheelchair himself he know just the right questions to ask. Yes there was electricity, The entrance to the house was wheelchair accessible, and the house even had a cement floor. Not only that but they lived in an extremely flat part of the country. Axle and I looked over at each other in agreement. Then I told the boy and his family that we were not going to give them a wheelchair today we were only going to lone them one for a few weeks. The boys parents looked at me in astonishment so I quickly went on to tell them that I wanted to put their son in a wheelchair that had a special seating system in it so that he would be a lot more comfortable and so that his back would not become more deformed. I went on to explain that we didn’t have anything with us that was like that so I would have to find or make something up at the shop. I then went on to explain that I wanted their son to have a power wheelchair. I think that they understood that he needed something with better support but when I mentioned the power chair it didn’t seem to sink in. Axle tried ot help me out by explaining that it would be a chair that ran on electricity just like his did. There still seemed to be a sense of wonderment on the faces of the young man and his family. That is when Axle reached out and took the boys hand and placed it on the joystick of axle’s own wheelchair. “Push the stick back” Axle told him. He did and axle’s wheelchair started creeping backwards. “Let go.” Axle said. When he did axle’s wheelchair stopped. “Now pull the joy stick towards you.” He did, and axles chair came towards him. “How would you like to have a wheelchair that does that?” Axle asked. The light came on, and all of their faces lit up. Mother got tears in her eyes and a younger brother let out a yell. We had soon writen down all of the needed measurements and dozens of necessary photos this young man can soon be driving around on his own. I gave the family a manual wheelchair that they can use until the power chair is finished but told them that we would come back and take it away when we delivered a power wheelchair to him in a week or 2. You know what? I really enjoy doing this.

Axle and his family had us allover for lunch after the distribution and then he took us to see a family that lived about an hours drive from there. On our way in to see the family we received a bit of a scare when some men with guns jumped out of the brush in front of our car. For a minute there we thought we were being robbed but right before Easter a lot of people dress up in costumes and try to collect money for what they say is charity although I have been told that the money usually goes for partying. Even though they generally do not rob you they can at time get a bit persuasive in the way the try to collect this money. After a minute or 2 of pounding on the windows of our cars they began to realize that we were not about to role down the windows and give them anything so they backed off and we drove on through. I don’t think that the guns that they had were real but am glad that we did not have to find out.

About another 20 minutes up the road we arrived at the house where the family that we wanted to visit lived. I use the word house in a loose sense because this family dwelling was noting more than a wooden framework with black plastic pulled over it for a roof. In it lived a man his pregnant wife and 2 little girls. The man was using a pare of crutches because he was missing one leg. Axle explained to us that the 160 people that lived in this small village had declared war on a military post that was just across the road. It was then that we noticed soldiers standing in the woods not 100 feet from us on the opposite side of the road that we were on. The guns that they were holding were defiantly not toys. Axle went on to explain that the small war had been settled and the villagers actually once again had possession of the land that they were living on but there was no love loss between them and the soldiers that were located just across the road. We were also told that several villagers died or disappeared during this time and that the man that we were visiting lost his leg when he was intentionally run over by a tractor that belonged to the military. There was very little discussion necessary to decide that this family would be on our list of people that were going to receive a new house. On our way back to Axle’s home we were all relieved to see that the group that we encountered earlier was no longer out trying to scilicet funds.

We reached our motel at around 5 and almost everyone raced for the swimming pool. As we swam and relaxed I could not help but feel a bit selfish being in such a nice motel compared to the families that we had visited just a few hours earlier.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, March 21, 2008

We pulled in to Chemaltenango at around 10 AM but did not stay at home for long. We quickly loaded up the vehicles with tools and the parts for one more prefabricated house. The road to the place where we were building this house were all paved but unfortunately they didn’t exactly go right past where the house that was to be built would be located. All that led there was a steep narrow trail. Fortunately there were several of us and the trail was only a few hundred feet long. After about 5 or 6 trips each we had all of the materials at the job site. This home was going to be given to an elderly couple that lived in a small wooden house. The elderly lady had to do all of her cooking out side over an open fire. This is not so bad this time of year but once the rainy season comes it is a different story. Once the new house is finished the old one will be used as a cookhouse. We didn’t quite finish this house today because the batteries on our cordless drills wend dead. Perhaps some time next week a few of us will go there and finish up.

The team from Canada wanted to meet my kids so I got the word out that we were having pizza. All I can say is that they met most everyone that lives within a quarter mile. We had a fun time though and now a few more people sympathize with me when I say, “God put Etiline on earth to teach me patience, but so far it isn’t working.” She is a nice kid but any time you give her the least bit of attention she demands 10 times more. Never the less very little coke got spilled and no windows were broken so I think that the night was a success.

Calin and Abner are planning on going with me to the airport tomorrow so they decided that it would be best to stay the night. Besides that there is still a bit of pizza left and there is no way to get Calin to go home when there is food left in my house.

Saturday, March 22, 2008, 9:23 PM

This is going to be another short one because I am still going to try to get this journal posted tonight. Calin, Abner and I brought the Canadians to the airport this morning. Since we were that close to the zoo and the bumper cars I decided to stop off and brush up on my Guatemalan driving skills. When we got home some of the kids helped me get my house back into living condition. I think that most of the spilled pizza is swept up because I just saw a mouse head out of the house. I guess he figures that the chances of finding food are better over at a neighbor’s house. The kids have also left. Perhaps for the same reason because the cook is on strike tonight. I had fallen several days behind on my journal and about the only way that I can get caught up is to have the house to my self for a few hours. Writhing short journal entries also helps, so I am going to say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick


Blogger Becca said...

I hope you're feeling better. I am so excited about meeting you in September!! Yeah!

Peace and Hugs,

Monday, March 24, 2008  

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