* 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)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Journal March 8-14

(Click on any photo to enlarge)
Saturday, March 8, 2008

I received a phone call earlier in the week from some people that wanted to go to the orphanage today and then take some of the kids out for lunch so I told them to give me a call Friday night so that we could set up a time to meet. I am not sure what happened but I never herd back from them. I told the kids that I would wait around until 11 this morning just in case they still called but if we did not here from them by then we were heading to the zoo. After saying that I had to periodically check to see if one of the kids disconnected my phone because they were all worried that I would receive a phone call and not take them to the zoo. As it turned out I never got the phone call so 9 of my kids and myself headed for the city. I usually watch my budget when I have this many kids with me but today we simply had fun with out worrying to much about what things cost. As soon as we got to the zoo we got some pizza because the kids were hungry. Then again when are kids not hungry. Then we spent the rest of the day looking some animals, riding the bumper cars, looking at more animals. Riding more bumper cars, and then buying ice cream cones for everyone.

When we got home I told the kids that I needed a bit of time to myself to get a little bit of work done. I also planned to sneak away by myself and get some supper. Silly me, I should have known that if I went to eat anywhere less than a mile from my home I would be discovered. I was. Now all of the kids are telling me that since I took Calin out to eat I should have taken them as well. I was going to explain to them that Calin found me at the restaurant but then I reconsidered telling them that for fear that they would scout out all of the eating places any time that I was gone.

Fernando, Abner, and Calin seem to have pretty much taken up residence here as they are once again beading down for the nigh. I think that I will look into getting a set of bunk beds so that they at least have beds to sleep in when they are over. Speaking of beds, mine looks mighty inviting so I think that I will go try it out.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, March 9, 2008, 10:10 PM

Six of the kids came along with me to church today. It took us nearly an hour to get there because of all of the Easter festivities that are going on in Antigua. I know that Easter is still 2 weeks away but in Antigua it is celebrated for nearly a month. There seem to be continual processions of some type going on and most of the streets that don’t have a parade going down them are usually blocked off because someone is doing some type of floral design on them. Add to that the fact that more tourists are in Antigua during this time of year than at any other time and it makes driving a real nightmare. To make things even worse they stop each car that goes into Antigua during the weekends and charge them Q20 each. Often times the traffic is backed up for nearly a mile as the person giving out the tickets slowly counts out the change.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Today I went in to Hermano Pedro early enough that I could swim with some of the kids. Unfortunately when I got there I discovered that they had once again canceled the Monday morning pool therapy with the kids. Why? Good question. Sam Sam had not yet been taken out of his crib. Nor was he taken out the entire day. Why? Another good question. Ervin had at least been taken out of his crib but was tied in his wheelchair and the sheet that was used to tie him into his chair had been run through the wheels of his chair so that he could not move around in it. Why? Another good question, so I started asking the care givers. The first few that I talked to gave me no reason. Finally I found someone who told me that Ervin and Juan Carlos had both been found in the hallway outside of the gate that goes into the area where they stay. Someone had left the gate open. I have been talking with the powers that be about instaling a spring and a latch that automatically close and latche the gate but have been told that these things take time. That was 4 years ago. I went streight to the head office and put in a requisition for some old IV poles that I could attach to the back of Ervin and Juan Carlos’s wheelchairs so that they could be extended so that the wheelchairs can not make it under the entrance to the gate. I was told that it sounded like a good idea and they would consider it. I think that they put it in a file right next to the request for a new gate latch. With in 15 minutes I had improvised a bamboo poll that I found onto the back of Ervin’s wheelchair. Some times it is easier to say I am sorry than to ask for permission. I have been told that it is far better to focus on the positive than on the negative but I am positive that if we all gave up and quit fighting for these kids little would get done for them.

Today I also met with a group of people who have been doing mission work all over the world for the past year. It did not take much time for them to get to know the kids and soon they were fully involved in playing and visiting with them. We didn’t take any of the kids to lunch but we took 7 of them out to the park this afternoon. Judging by their enthusiasm I think that we will be seeing a lot more of this group at Hermano Pedro.

On the way home I nearly got ran into by a truck that ran a stop sign in front of me. A passenger in the truck motioned out of the window for me to stop as they ran the stop sign and seemed rather upset with me for not stopping when their truck nearly ran over my car. I guess a hand out of the window means more than a stop sign here in Guatemala.

I did not let the kids stay around to long this evening because I found out that the new computer that I ordered this morning was on back order and would not be in Lynden in time for my friend Ralph to pick it up before coming down on Saturday. It took me several hours to get my order canceled and to reorder from another company. It seems that the bank that issues my credit card can not get it into their computers memory that I can be in Guatemala and still spend money in the USA when ordering something. Their wanting to call my home phone number in the USA to confirm that it was really me that was calling them to get my credit card reinstated added to the confusion.

In spite of a few bumps in the road today has been a great day. I saw a lot of smiles on a lot of faces and that made the entire day worth it. It is so amazing how just a little bit of attention can bring such joy to so many of these kids. A special thanks to the group that accompanied me today. You gave your all to the kids and they loved it.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, March 11, 2008, 10:08 PM

Another full day at the orphanage today. When I arrived at the orphanage I was told that one of the care givers that works in the ward where the children are, had just received a phone call from her son. The police had phoned him telling him that his father, who is a buss driver had just been shot to death by some one who was robbing his bus. It seems that violent crime here in Guatemala is on a steady increase.

A group that is staying at the YWAM base in Antigua joined me for a good part of the day. Since there were around 15 of them I introduced the entire group to the younger kids than split the group and showed half of them around the orphanage while the other half played with the kids. After that the second group was shown around while group one played with the kids. Once again there was not time to take anyone to lunch but a lot of friendships were established.

This afternoon I repaired some wheelchairs and set Julio (the 17 ½ pound 9 year old) into his new stroller type wheelchair. The improvement in this child from 4 weeks ago is amazing. After that I Spent about an hour holding some of the kids that are up in malnutrition. Easter is usually a time when there are more volunteers at Hermano Pedro than usual but there are still a lot of children who never get held. I think that a lot of it has to do with a fear that the volunteers have that they may hurt the child. That is why I try to take time each day to hold some of the kids that look as though they could break in 2 of you held them incorrectly.

Before leaving I took Moises across the street for a coke. When ever he helps me work on the wheelchairs I try to do this. I always tell him that this is his payment for helping me but he knows that I would do it anyway, and I know that he would help me anyway.

Tonight’s supper crew consisted of 10 of us. I will not tell you what we had for dinner or you will get the idea that all I feed the kids are hot dogs. A few more kids showed up after we had finished eating so they had to settle for something that was not as nutritious.

Everyone that is going home has now left. Only 2 kids, Abner and Fernando are staying tonight. They are both becoming quite self sufficient so if I don’t want to get up at 6 and feed them they will do just fine at fixing their own breakfast. They are already asleep and even though I am still sitting at the computer I am nearly asleep myself, so I will say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, March 12, 2008, 9:53 PM

Yesterday I was invited to be part of a team of people that were going to get together and speak with the caregivers in several of the sections of the orphanage. Jessica, a physical therapist, a feeding specialist, and myself had talked it over and felt that the care givers would possibly do a better job of caring for the kids if they better understood why some of their ways of feeding, handling, and treating the children should be changed. I think that all of us were wondering how well excepted any of our comments would be but both of the 2 hour sessions went well. We tried to do more listening than talking and let the care givers know that we were there to work with them and not against them. I could tell that most of the care givers really do care about the kids and were egger to learn anything that they could that would make caring for and feeding the children easier and more pleasurable to all. I think that the meeting helped the care givers realize that we all want what is best for the children and that what seemed like more work for them was more like an investment that would reap a lot of benefits for both them and the children in a verry short time. All of us went away with a better understanding of why things are being done the way that they are and also why we need to see some changes. Please pray that we can all work together to make the environment a better one for all.

It was past noon when we finished up but since most of the care givers were at the meeting some of the kids still had to be fed. I had not eaten much all day so I quickly signed out Minor and took him to lunch with me. Since Minor only knows one of the Mayan dialects when he came to the orphanage about a year ago he and I are on about the same level when it comes to knowing Spanish. Fortunately we both have a fairly good understanding of Spanish when it comes to food though so we had no problem communicating with the waitress at Camperos. When we were about half way finished with our meal we were joined by my friend Carlos.

Carlos has been doing a lot of traveling with Faith in Practice lately. They are the volunteer origination that sends a lot of doctors to Hermano Pedro throughout the year. Lately they have been sending teems of doctors into some of the villages as well and Carlos has been joining them as an interpreter. Carlos seems to be enjoying it verry much even though it is hard work.

This after noon I got together with a man that I met at church last Sunday. I think that he and his wife are at a point where they are considering making some changes in their lives, one of those changes could involve moving here to Guatemala. I tried to answer as many of his questions as possible but I am not sure that I told him exactly what he wanted to here.

I just erased close to a page that I wrote because I figured that you are not reading my journals to hear a sermon. Perhaps some day I will use it if I am asked to speak about total surrender, in a church somewhere.

This evening we sort of started eating dinner at around 5 PM and finished up at around 9 PM. It wasn’t that the kids trickled in one at a time. Most of them were here right from the start. It was more like they just could not get enough to eat tonight and even after the 3rd attempt to fill them up some were still asking for more. All I can figure out is that they are trying to fill up because word got out that we have a group coming in this week end and I won’t be home to cook for them for a few days. Actually the head cook (me) didn’t do all that much tonight. Fernando pretty much took over for me while I did some work on my car.

Well it is now down to only Calin and myself hear and he is already fast asleep. I think that the others would have stayed longer but at around 9 I asked them to leave. Then at 9:15 I told them to leave.

As soon as I sweep up the broken glass from tonight’s soccer game I am going to head off to bed. Alex promised to pay for this one by washing my car. The only problem is the list of kids that owe me a car wash because they broke one of my windows is getting so big that I am going to have to have it washed at least twice a day for the next week.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, March 13, 2008, 6:49 PM

I made up my mind that I was going to spend the entire day working on wheelchairs at Hermano Pedro today so that I could get caught up. How was I to know until I got there that so many of the kids would want to help. Between that and showing a few volunteers around the day went by much too fast. Some of the kids will be going to their homes during Easter vacation in fact Moises and a few of the others already left today.

It seems that the meeting that we had with the nurses yesterday has helped a bit because Ervin was up the entire day. Well almost the entire day. I actually put him in bed for an hour as punishment for trying to get my attention while I was trying to carry on a conversation with one of the volunteers. I didn’t really punish him for interrupting me but for the way he interrupted me. When I went to get him out of his crib an hour later he gave me a big hug and then pulled up the sleeve of my shurt to survey the damage that his teeth had done to my arm.

Before Heading for home Byron, Fidel, and I snuck out for a coke. When ever I think that that giving out power wheelchairs is a mistake because of the endless maintenance I take a look at one of the people that have received one over the past few years. It wasn’t that long ago that both Byron, who is now in a head controlled wheelchair, and Fidel, who operates his power wheelchair with his foot, had little more to do than sit in a wheelchair all day and hope that perhaps someone would come along that would at least move them to a different part of the room so that they would have a change of scenery.

I let the kids in for about an hour when I got home but then told them that I needed a couple of hours to do some writing. At around 8 I will let them back in. While they were here the first time Abner called his mother who is in the USA. The conversation was short and when he hung up Abner looked at me rather sheepishly. I asked him what was up. He told me that his mother wanted to know if I could help her out by sending her some money. I thought about going into detail about how she was there making money and I was ….. but instead I kept my conversaton short as well, I smiled at Abner and said. “No”. Some day I will get use to the boldness in which many of the Guatemalan people ask American’s for money. I use to be offended by it but have come to realize every culture has it’s own thing. Most Guatemalans look at Americans as being verry bossy and pushy and compared to most cultures we are.

Well I still have time for a quick nap before the troops storm the place so I will close for now. I won’t say goodnight because once I open the gate the evening will just begin.

9:28 PM

The soccer game is still going strong. I am surprised that the kids have not tired out yet because they are all playing on full stomachs. Once again I parked the car sideways in front of the house to protect the windows but I am not so sure that is a good idea. Granted car window do not break as easily as house windows but they cost a lot more if they need to be replaced. I think that I will tell the teems that they have 60 seconds left in the game though because I am sure that my neighbors are getting tired of my car alarm going off. I remember back to the days when I took pride in my well kept yard. Funny how I thought back then that a neat yard was more important than a happy kid. Well I am going to close for now so that I can watch the final few seconds of the game.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, March 14, 2008

Today I felt drawn to go and visit the people at the clinic that had introduced me to Julio and his family. I was not sure just why, because I had just been there about 2 weeks ago. At that time the doctor there told me that if I could bring them some crutches and canes the next time that I visited he would appreciate it so I stopped off at the wheelchair shop and got some before heading out. Before heading out I also called Carlos to see if he wanted to come along. He had not yet seen Ronny’s new house so I told him that since it was only about 45 minutes from the clinic we could stop in and pay them a visit as well. We arranged to meet at Hermano Pedro and then head out from there. When I got to Hermano Pedro I saw that Juan Carlos the little boy who often tries to sneak out of the gate was once again tied into his wheelchair and his chair was tied up so that he could not go anywhere in it. I quickly connected a telescoping pool to his wheelchair and untied the wheels. Now much like Ervin Juan Carlos can go all over the court yard of the orphanage but the height of the pool prohibits him from getting out into the hall ways.

Another volunteer got talking to Carlos and myself and when we told her where we were going she asked if she could join us. Soon the 3 of us were on our way to the coast. The 6000 foot difference in elevation made a big diffrance in temperature. I would have guessed the temperature back in Chemaltenango to have been in the high 70s but out near the coast it was down right hot.

Our first stop was at the clinic where we were greeted by the Cubin doctor, the man that directs the clinic and later the mayor’s wife. They were happy with the half dozen canes and crutches that we brought them, and were absolutely delighted with the 2 walkers that we gave them. The doctor told us that just yesterday he had a lady come in that needed a walker so he was going to get word out to her that he could now give her one.

As we visited the director of the clinic told us that just a few days ago he had happened to find another little boy who much like Julio was also starving to death. The mayors wife said that she had also heard of another child who much like these 2 was starving to death. They asked if we had time to go and see them. I told them that even though we didn’t know it when we left home I was sure that was a big part of the reason that we had come today.
Soon we were at the first home. The father greeted us at the gate. Through the open gate we could see 2 children sitting in a hammock and a mother that was holding a child that appeared to be strving. At first the father seemed a bit apprehensive about letting us in but after a while he motioned for us to follow him to the house. As we visited we were told that the family had taken 3 year old Milton to doctors shortly after he was born but they had been told that there was nothing much that could be done for him. The father told us that a few other doctors looked at him as well but as soon as any money that the family had was used up the doctors would no longer help them.

Milton’s father told us that he was giving up and later confided in us that he wished that his son was dead so that the family could go on with their lives. He explained that they had no money for a wheelchair and some one had to always be holding Milton. He asked if we knew of any orphanages that would take his child because he was at the end of his rope. As we talked I realized why this father had such bitterness in his hart. He told us that neighbors and friends were continually reminding him and his wife that it was their fault that they had a child like this. They were continually being told that Milton was a curse from God because they had done some great sin. I handed Milton back to his mother and walked over to the father and put my hand on his sholder. I had been studding Milton as I was holding him and was convinced that Milton had cerebral palsy. With the help of Carlos interpreting I explained to the parents that I had been watching Milton’s eyes and he had been taking everything in. Yes it was true that Milton had many physical limitations but he was verry bright. I also told them about Stephen who is backi in the States and about several of the kids at the orphanage who have CP. I told thim about what they were able to do and about what a blessing they were to all of us who knew them. I then told Milton’s parents that some times God puts things into our lives for reasons that we do not fully understand but that the reason that Milton had CP was not a result of something terrible that they had done but caused by a lock of oxygen at birth. When I said that I could feel father let out a sigh of relief and the stern look on his face disappeared as his eyes filled up with tears. Mother who had been staring at the ground looked up and said “That is exactly what happened!” She went on to tell us that Milton had indeed suffered oxygen starvation at birth but she had never been told by any one that the lack of oxygen was the likely cause of Milton’s problems. Both parents looked like the weight of the world had been lifted off from their shoulders.

We visited for quite some time and discussed what options were available. It was decided that since all of the doctors at Hermano Pedro are off until after Easter, that we would wait until then to do anything. The week after Easter I am planning on coming back and picking up Milton and his father or mother and bringing them to Antigua. The following morning we will see the pediatrician that works at Hermano Pedro. I have little doubt that once he sees Milton he will place him in the malnutrition ward where he can receive proper food and medications. I told Milton’s Parents that usually the kids are kept in malnutrition for around 3 to 4 months and that after that time they can make the decision on weather or not they want to pursue keeping him in the orphanage full time or take him back home. I have a good feeling that after his stay in the malnutrition ward, their decision will be to take their son back home to live with them. Please remember to keep Milton and his family in your prayers.

We had been told that much like Milton the second family that we were going to visit lived only a short distance from the clinic as well. I guess here in Guatemala a short distance is anything under an hours drive. When we got to where this family once lived we were told that they had moved. The director of the clinic told us that the directions that he ad been given to where they now lived were sketchy and since it was not a short distance like this 1 hour drive was suppose to have been he felt that it would be better to wait until I returned to pick up Milton before attempting to visit this family.

After bringing the director back to the Clinic we headed to where Angelica lives. Angelica told us that the antibiotics that we had bought for her the last time that we visited had done the job and that there was no longer any infection in her leg. She even showed us that she is now able to put weight on her leg and hopes to be walking soon. While we were there 1 of her grandaughters that we have helped put into school came out and showed us some of her school work. When I asked her if she liked school she beamed from ear to ear.

Next stop, Ronny’s house. The new house is getting that lived in look and even though it is not yet complete the family is loving it. When we got out of the car Ronny’s dad asked Carlos and Jerry if they wanted to see his families new palace. I know that we are not suppose to rely on material tings for happiness but this new home has certainly brought a lot of joy to this family. Ronny has been feeling a bit better but his parents told us that they simply did not have the money to buy the medicine that the doctor at Hermano Pedro had prescribed for Ronny. I told them that if some one would ride out with me to the nearest drug store we would get some when we left.

Before heading out we went over to see grandma. We had hoped to put a cement floor and windows into her house when the teem was here building Ronny’s house but never had the time. I told her that we would do our best to get it done before rainy season but that I could make no promises. We then visited a bit with her daughter in law that lives with her husband and 6 children in the rusted out tin building next door. I told her that we were still praying but so far could make no promises as to when if ever we could help them out with at least getting a roof over there heads that didn’t leek like a sieve. Today all I could offer were a few misquito nets to put over the families 2 beds. I wish so that we could give her and her family more hope but the prefabricated houses that we get in are designated for widows or families with handicapped children.

When we left Ronny’s mom, one brother, and one sister rode along to a small village that has a drug store. While we were there bartering on a price for Ronny’s medicine, the lady that ran the drug store asked if we could possibly take the time to look at her 10 year old niece who had been severely burned in an accident a few years ago. She told us that scar tissue had built up on her hands and feet to the point that the child could scarcely use her hands and could no longer walk. Since it would be dark soon I promised that I would stop by the next time that I came through and that at that time I would see if she needed a wheelchair and I would also take some pictures and show them to the doctors at Hermano Pedro. Not a quarter mile down the road we drove by a boy who had also been the victim of a fire. One of his hands and his entire face were totally black and looked like charcoal. Ronny’s mom seemed to know him so perhaps next time we will see if there is any thing that can be done for him.

I just received an e-mail in which I was reminded that we can not help the entire world but that God will likely put those that we should help in our path. It seems like today that path had an exceptional amount of hurting people on it. Please pray that God will give us wisdom in know who to help and how to help them.

John 4:35 You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.

Yours in Christ: Dick


Blogger Becca said...

I am collecting things to bring down with me in September - is ther anything I can bring for these hungry children??


Peace and Hugs,

Monday, March 24, 2008  

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