* 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, April 27, 2008

Journal April 19-27

(Click on any picture to enlarge.)
Saturday, April 19, 2008

I had promised Ronny’s family that I would take them to the water slides for several weeks now, and decided that today would be the day. All but one of the kids had good report cards so this was a bit of a calibration. Ronny’s dad was scheduled to work so his mom said that she would come along and help watch the younger kids. I was a bit nervous about that though because I feared that we could possibly leave their house with 6 kids and return with 7. Ronny’s mom is a few days overdue. At 5:30 AM I received a phone call from her saying that she was having labor pains and thought that it would be best if she did not come along. I sincerely agreed with her. She told me that there was no problem though because Ronny’s dad ended up getting the day off so she said that he would be able to go to the water slides with the kids and me while she stayed home and had her baby. I was not 100% comfortable with that but she said that the kids had been looking forward to going for several weeks now and she did not want to disappoint them. As it turned out everything worked out fine because when Calin, Abner, and I arrived at their home we discovered that the stork had beat us there by 2 ½ hours. Mother and son were looking so good that I was surprised they did not come along with us to the water slides. All 6 of the kids from Ronny’s family and dad came along though and 3 cousins who also claimed to have done well in school joined us as well. Having 13 people in my car was a breeze compared to the 21 that we had the day that we went to the beach. At the water park they have some cages that have monkeys and other animals in them so the kids had a great time looking at the animals as well as swimming, and even though Ronny did not get into the water he seemed to enjoy the water park as much as the others. At around 3:30 we all started to get hungry so we packed up and headed for Camperos in Esquentla. It was quite late when I arrived back in Chimaltenango but there was still a group of kids waiting for me when I got home.

Sunday, April 20, 2008, 9:03 PM

Six kids for breakfast and 5 along to church. Calin got a bit upset with me because I schooled him for grabbing the box of corn flakes for himself from half way across the table when Fernando politely asked some one to pass it to him. When he stomped off and left the table I reminded him that everything was going to be put away in 10 minutes so it was stay and eat or don’t eat. He didn’t eat. When it was time for church he told me that since he had not eaten he was not coming along to church with me. As we all got into the car I said goodbye to him and told him that we would see him after we had finished having lunch in Antigua. As I drove away I could see him running behind the car. The kids thought that perhaps he had changed his mind but I reminded them that just a few seconds earlier he had told me that he did not want to join us so I doubted that he would change his mind that quickly.

After church we went and visited the orphanage for a while. I had not seen Julio in nearly a week and was happy to see that he is continuing to do well. I have never seen anyone gain weight as fast as he has. I have to look at pictures of him to remind myself just how skinny he was when he came in to the orphanage. I guess that you can’t get much skinnier than 17 ½ pounds at 10 years old. Benjamin, Saul, Carlos, and Howard finished up on his new house Friday, so it looks like he will be going home this week. I want to make sure that his family is given a water filter before he returns home though.

Milton the 3 year old boy that I brought in from the same area as Julio is no longer running fevers but he is still not looking well. Tomorrow I may try to give him a wheelchair so that he can be positioned better. When he is lying in his crib his head draws back and to the side so far that he can scarcely breath.

After leaving the orphanage I once again took the kids to the bottom of the hill that overlooks Antigua. They love to climb it and I always enjoy a leisurely ride to the top of the hill in my car. Today they must have ran up the mountain because I scarcely got there with my car then they came racing up the hill. After a brief time at the top of the mountain all but one of them announced that they wanted to run back down to the bottom. Now I am a firm believer in allowing teen age boys to use up as much energy as possible on healthy things like running but it sure increases their appetite for unhealthy things like Pizza. After 2 giant pizzas and 2 large pictures of coke they decided that they had eaten their fill. Fernando suggested that we save a few pieces of pizza and take them home to Calin. I told him that I did not think that would be necessary because I was quite certain that if Calin had decided not to have breakfast or lunch with us that he must have had other plans for lunch.

When we got back home we played a little basketball Abner’s aunt even got into taking a few shots. After the game Abner helped me wash my car. While we were washing my car Calin arrived. He must have found food somewhere because he was in a good mood. That is one thing about most of these kids. When they get mad they can really show it but when they get over it they are over it completely. Besides that Calin seldom gets into a bad mood so I guess he is entitled to every now and then. Come to think of it Abner was in a really good mood the entire day. I guess neither of the boys were quite themselves today.

Well it is getting late and I am tiered. No kids are staying over tonight. Not their choice so they are not all that happy about that but like I said they get over things quickly.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, April 21, 2008, 10:19 PM

It has been a while but I actually got to spend an entire day at the orphanage today. I did quite a bit of work on wheelchairs but also did what I do best. I played with the kids. I find that to be one of the easiest ways to keep yourself from getting old. A while back some one came up to me and asked me what I was going to do when I grew up. I don’t know if it was meant to be a compliment or not but I certainly took it as one.

We swam with some of the kids today and by the reaction that I got from a few of the therapists that were in the pool with the kids I think that they were getting ready to tell me to grow up, but with the help of a few of the more mischievous kids we got their hair wet before any of them could say anything. Once we did they loosened up and had as much fun as us kids did. Soon all of the adults and kids were splashing each other and having a great time. Every time one of the therapists splashed me I let out a scream and told them that they were getting my hair wet. They are really a great bunch but they have to be reminded every now and then that it isn’t against the law to have fun when you are working.

After swimming I refit a few of the kids that have outgrown their wheelchairs. Moises and Byron are my usual helpers but since they were in school Ervin took over for them. He can be a real clown when you are paying attention to him but walk away for a minute and even I can here the screaming.

I was hoping that there would be a few volunteers around that would help me take some of the older girls to lunch but there were none that could go. I feel really bad because I have been promising some of these girls for a long time now. Even though there was no one else to go with me I took Byron and Moises to lunch though. Since Byron is in a powered wheelchair I can take 2 kids as long as he is one of them. It still makes crossing some of the streets rather exciting but I am finding far more people that are willing to give me a hand whenever I need one. The amazing thing is they are not just the foreign tourists that are willing to lend a hand but many of the Guatemalan people offer to help as well. This is a big change from what I saw back a few years ago. Back then you would have thought that all of the kids had leprosy. I promised the kids that we would go and play on the playground equipment after we had eaten but I guess we ordered to much to drink because by the time we were done eating Moises was the only on with a dry pants. I guess I better explain. Byron evidently drank too much and even though he was heavily diapered he sprung a leak. I did not have that problem but when Moises accidentally spilled his 7up all over me Byron and I looked like twins. We both got stared at on our way back to the orphanage and Moises thought it was so funny that I am a bit worried that he may try the same stunt next time I take him out to eat.
When we got back to the orphanage I went up into malnutrition and looked at a few kids that are in the need of wheelchairs. I had intended on only staying a short time so I decided before going in that today I was not going to hold any of the kids. Funny thing how a pair of eyes and 2 out stretched arms can alter the strongest of decisions. One little girl that was in a crib next to Julio caught my eye and I melted. About a half hour later when I brought her back to her crib Milton gave me the same look. Then it just seemed to snowball because Byron saw me pick up Julio and later Perla saw me holding Byron.
I may well have spent the rest of the afternoon there had it not been for a phone call from Bruce Ahlburg. Bruce is the head of the YWAM base here in Antigua. He told me that he knew of a man that had just had his leg amputated. The man was using a wheelchair but Bruce said that it had small wheels on it so even though the man had good use of his arms and hands he had no way to move himself around. Bruce met me at the orphanage and we went to see the man. I could make him no promises as to when we could give him a wheelchair but filled out some paper work on him and promised that I would hand it in to our office as soon as possible. I wish that we could give everyone that needed a wheelchair one on the day that we heard about their needs but unfortunately the amount of people that we come in contact with out weighs the number of wheelchairs that we have at a given time.

Before going home I stopped off and had my oil changed then went to the wheelchair shop and loaded up on supplies that I plan to take to Rabinel tomorrow. When Chris and I were up there delivering water filters last week we found people who needed walkers, wheelchairs, and other supplies that we have in the shop here in Chimaltenango. Fortunately the wheelchair that is needed is for a little girl and we have some chairs that are her size. Howard and Nan Atherton are planning on going with me tomorrow. Howie and Nan live in Antigua and they have been helping us put up a few of the prefabricated houses lately. Calin is also begging to come along. His mom has already given him permission but he has to clear it with his teacher first thing in the morning. I have an idea that he will be joining us because his grades have been good.

Well it is starting to rain and I have some paper boxes of supplies tied to the roof of my car so I think that I will go out and throw a tarp over them and then head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, April 23, 2008

Tonight we once again find ourselves in Rabinel. Howard and Nan have joined me. Calin has also received permission from his teacher to come along. Today’s first stop was at an aldea that is located a few hours from Rabinal. Once leaving the mane road you wind up a dirt mountain road that leads you to an aldea that is located on a mountain that has some of the most beautiful farm land that I have seen in Guatemala. The entire mountain is covered in a patchwork of various crops. It is here that Kenneth and his family live in a small dirt floor wooden house. I first met this family a little over 2 years ago when they came to a wheelchair distribution that we had in a village that is located about an hour and a half from their home. Although Kenneth could not walk at that time he was a very determined 7 year old and along with a new wheelchair he received a walker that he quickly caught on to. Due to a dishonest man who they paid to drive them to and from the wheelchair distribution Kenneth and his family found themselves without any transportation home so a few volunteers from the States and myself brought them back home. Last year I once again visited Kenneth’s family and discovered that they had enrolled him in the public school that is located not far from their home. Kenneth had learned to use his walker well enough that he was able to walk to and from school on his own. When I visited last year I noticed that because of it’s constant use on anything but smooth ground the wheels of Kenneth’s walker were starting to wear out. Today we finally managed to get a new walker to him and picked up what was left of the old one to see if it can be repaired. Kenneth and his family were overjoyed with the new walker and presented me with an animal skin as a token of their appreciation. Kenneth demonstrated to us how well he could use his walker and even showed us that he is now able to take a few steps with out it. Mother shared with us that Kenneth had really wanted to come to camp last year but the family simply did not have the money for transportation. I assured them that I would be back in September or October with an invitation to this year’s camp and that we would make sure that they had buss fare. I think that a young man with the determination that Kenneth has will be a real inspiration to a lot of the other kids and their families that attend camp.

Our next stop was about an hour from Rabinel at the home of Ludwin and his family. Ludwin much like Kenneth is another determined little boy who although he is confined to a wheelchair is now also attending school. I first met Ludwin a few years ago when he was in the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro. He soon became one of my regulars that I took to Camperos. When Ludwig who has muscular dystrophy returned to his home after about 6 months we made sure that he got a wheelchair and also convinced his parents to enroll him into school. Much like Kenneth Ludwin’s family is very supportive of him and that seems to be one of the most important thing in helping these kids to excel. Since I am the one that was responsible for getting Ludwin hooked on eating at Camperos I now try to stop in and take him and his family to a Camperos, that is in a town that is about a half hour from where they live, once or twice each year. Even though there were already 4 of us in my car and it was jammed full of wheelchairs and supplies we some how managed to get Ludwin, his sister, mom, dad, and another 2 cousins into the car with us and headed out to Camperos. The bill was high but the smiles were worth it. After driving them back to their home and saying goodbye we headed on to Rabinal where we stopped off at the home of Julia and Luis and dropped off some walkers and other supplies. We then checked in to our motel here in Rabinal. Tomorrow morning Julia is planning on Joining us as we visit more homes.

Well they shut the water off here at 10 and we do have electricity so I am going to see if I can actually get in a warm shower before bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, April 23, 2008, 9:16 PM

After breakfast we went and visited the school that Julia is principal of. It is unique in that some of the children that attend are as young as 2 years old. Most of these children are selected to go to school at an early age because of poor home conditions. Not only does her school provide and education but also food, vitamins, and a safe loving environment for the children. After visiting the classrooms Julia joined us in driving back up the mountain to see one of the families that Chris and I visited along with her last week. This was the family that really loved their son, who was in a wheelchair but had been convinced by someone that he would be better off in an orphanage than with his loving family because they felt that his chances of learning to walk would be better in an orphanage. During last week’s visit we convinced them that their son was much better off with his family that loved him than he would ever be in any orphanage. Today we went to their house to try and give them all the help that we can to make his good home situation even better. Calin, Howard, and I went to work on moving the axles of his wheelchair forward a few inches so that he could propel it easier with his hands, while Julia spent some time showing the boy’s father and mother some therapy exercises that will help strengthen his arms and legs. The parents have also agreed to bring their son in to Julia’s school for therapy once a week. It was hard to say goodbye to this delightful family but after having some home made pop sickles that the family gave us we said goodbye. Actually not everyone ate their Pop sickle. It is not the wisest thing to eat something that has been made from the water that is in some of these villages. However there were some in our group who’s sweet tooth sometimes ruled over common sense. So far Calin and I are feeling OK though.
Our next stop was a few miles up the road where there was a trail that led to the home of a little girl that we briefly visited last week. It was about a 15 minute hike in to where she lived so we were happy that the father of the little boy who we just visited had offered to come along with us and carry the wheelchair in on his back. Marie had a wheelchair but who ever gave it to her did not seem to worry about the fact that it was too big for her and the edge of the seat was cutting off circulation to her legs. There are still people giving out wheelchairs who think that any wheelchair, even a bad fitting one is better than none. I wish that I could take some of these people in to see some of the adults and kids that have received poorly fitted wheelchairs. Perhaps if they could help me cut away rotting flesh from bed sores that go down to the bone or join me at the graveside of one of the people that sat too long in one of their wheelchairs they would take the time to learn how to properly fit the chairs that they give away, or at least allow a therapist or seating technician to accompany them when they hand out these wheelchairs. If you think that I am exaggerating about what a poorly fit chair can do I will gladly send you photos of some of the results. Just make sure that you haven’t had anything to eat for at least 24 hours before looking at the pictures. Anyway it was good to get this little girl into a properly fitted wheelchair before any serious damage was done. Nan and Howard enjoyed everyone that we met in the past 3 days but they especially seemed to fall in love with this little girl who’s name was Maria. I am sure that you have noticed that I often times do not mention the name of someone that we visit. It is not necessarily that I have forgotten their name; although that does happen more times than I will ever admit, but often the name is so complicated that even though they repeat it several times I still do not have a clue how to pronounce it yet alone spell it. You may have also noticed that 2 out of 3 times that I mention the name of the person I call them Carlos, if it is a boy or a man, and Marie if it is a girl or a woman. The reason for this is simple. Over half of the boys and men seem to be named Carlos and over half of the girls and women seem to be named Marie. Anyway after we said goodbye to Marie and her family we headed back down the mountain to Rabinal. After dropping Julia off at her school we headed for home. We decided to take the extremely bumpy shorter rout home instead of the extremely long smoother road because the longer way would have had us in Guatemala City during rush hour. As it turned out I made a wrong turn about an hour from home and still ended up getting into part of the city.

Calin. Howard, Nan, and I stopped off for supper just before getting home but that did not stop me from having to feed more kids when I got home. Fernando actually offered to cook supper for all of them. I love the fact that he is so willing to help but I am still weighing weather it is easier to do the cooking myself or spend the time getting dropped eggs off from my floor.

Abner and Fernando are my self appointed guests tonight and they are already sleeping. I think that I will go and do the same.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I was informed this morning that my pastor, Mike Watkins was in a motorcycle accident yesterday. Evidently 2 other motorcycles ran a stop sign and one, if not both of them broadsided him. His leg was pinned between one of their bikes and his and his leg was broken in several places. Both of the other bikers fled the scene. Mike will be undergoing surgery some time today. Please keep Mike and his family in your prayers.

I did not arrive at Hermano Pedro until shortly before noon because there were thing that I had to get done at home and in town. When I arrived at the orphanage I was told that Byron #1 has been getting a bit aggressive with his power wheelchair and has used it to push some of the other kids that are in manual wheelchairs out of his way, when he got upset with them, so I had a long talk with him and then told him that he could not use his power wheelchair for 24 hours. He was not a happy camper but fully understood why he was being punished.

I was once again hoping that I would be able to take several of the teen age girls out to lunch today but there were no volunteers at the orphanage that could accompany me. It is getting so that I hate to even show my face in the teen girls section of the orphanage because the girls that I have promised to take to lunch look so sad when I tell them that they are going to have to wait another day. Since I would only be able to take one kid today I decided to take Ervin. He has been such a drama queen whenever I have taken anyone else that I decided to reward him for his outstanding performance. When any one who does not know him sees or hears him when he does not get his way they would think that some one was killing him. Hopefully some day he will realize that this is not the way to get positive attention. He did well in Antigua with me today though. The fact is he was a perfect little gentleman. After putting away enough food for a grown man he had the time of his life on the playground equipment. Watching this kid who cannot walk go up and down the ladders of the playground equipment made me wonder how fast he could learn to walk if he had things like this to play on at the orphanage. Getting him back into his wheelchair so that we could go home is getting much better to. He didn’t put up any fuss at all when I told him that it was time to go.

When we got back to the orphanage I quickly went to work on seating Byron #2 into a different wheelchair. I had given him one when he arrived at malnutrition a few months ago but he simply was not comfortable in it. The new chair that he is now in has a rubber molded seating system in it that is exactly like the one that he uses about half the time when he is in bed. After seating him in it I took him for a walk and he loved it.

At 4PM I met with Father Bernardo, the old priest that had taken me to see the man that has the infected leg. Alturo had found me one of the widest wheelchairs that you have ever seen. It was collecting dust up in the loft of our wheelchair warehouse because it was so large that other than this man no one other than a pare of Siamese twins would ever be able to use it. As we headed out of Hermano Pedro to go and see him I was met by one of the ladies that does the hospital laundry. A few days ago she had told me about her 40 year old son who had suffered a stroke a few years ago and I had promised her that I would go and see him when I had the time. Since we were heading that direction anyway Father Bernardo and I decided that this was the perfect time. When we got to the man’s home father Bernardo who knows several languages interpreted for me. Father Bernardo is a great old guy but a head injury that he suffered a few years ago and perhaps his age has affected his short-term memory. It got quite amusing as he interpreted for us because he would often get mixed up and speak Spanish to me and English to the family that we were visiting with. I think that we were still getting most of what he said until he switched to Chinese and Italian. We managed to get things straightened out though by simply saying what language we wanted to hear before he spoke to each of us. Gustavo’s family was delightful and with their help Gustavo who was rendered nearly completely paralyzed and unable to talk had made large strives in his recovery. Now 2 years later he was able to walk short distances with the use of a cane and although his speech is slurred he is able to carry on a conversation. He had been using a wheelchair that the family was borrowing from Hermano Pedro but since he had use of only one hand one of the members of his family had to push him where ever he went. We discussed the possibility of a walker but I was sure that it would have to be modified since he had no strength what so ever in his right arm and hand. We also discussed the possibility of giving him a one-arm drive manual wheelchair but I knew that we had nothing like that in the shop. I gave some thought to a power wheelchair but said nothing because I was weighing weather or not he would continue to exercise if he got one. I promised that I would be back in a week or so with a walker and that once I brought it to him I would modify it so that he could use it with one hand. The family thanked us over and over again for stopping by. We reminded them that we were just the messenger boys, had prayer with them and then left.

As we drove to the next home Father Bernardo and I had a philosophical discussion about our doctrinal differences that lasted a good 10 seconds. I reminded Him that I was not a Catholic and he reminded me that he was not an Evangelical. Then we both commented on how wonderful it was that God was allowing us to share the love of Jesus with these people, and then went on doing what God had led us both to Guatemala to do.

We had a bit of a time finding the house that the man with the infected leg lives in but as we were walking down the wrong alley 2 blocks over from where he lives a little girl came out of nowhere and walked us to his house. I had forgotten how infected this mans leg was until he lifted off the blanket that was covering it. I will not go into detail but it was unbelievable. A short time later we said goodbye to a family that was in tears. I think that just knowing that some one cares and that they are not forgotten often means even more than the wheelchair that we give. This family served as a blessing to us as well because they had a wheelchair that was in reasonably good shape that was much too small for this man and told us that we could have it. When we got to my car Father Bernardo commented on how happy he was that we could help this family out and what a miracle it was that we had such a wide wheelchair. I looked at the wheelchair that we had just been given and asked Father Bernardo if he had time to make one more stop. He told me that in 89 years he had only missed 10 Thursday night masses but since he had gone this morning it would be no problem. Just a few days ago Bruce Ahlburg had taken me to see a man that had a leg amputated a few months ago. I was not able to give him a wheelchair at that time because right now all of our normal size adult wheelchairs are spoken for. What about the one that I had just been given though? Other than the fact that the footrests had been welded so they were no longer adjustable it was a pretty good chair. I was not sure that they were the right length but perhaps it was worth a try. A half hour later we were saying goodbye to another man that was in tears over a wheelchair that fit him perfectly. As I dropped Father Bernardo off at Hermano Pedro he thanked me and confided in me that ever since he suffered a head injury and began his retirement he thought that his usefulness here on earth was pretty much over and he was simply waiting for God to take him home. Then he went on to tell me something else but I have no Idea what he said because he had once again switched over to Italian. Funny thing how God can use us in spite of our weaknesses.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, April 25, 2008

When Calin and I arrived at Hermano Pedro this morning 14 year old Christian and his family were already waiting there for us. Christian’s family had asked earlier this week if they could bring their son in from Santa Lucia so that I could take a look at him and see what kind of a wheelchair he was in need of. Even though they were made aware of the fact that they could send us all of the necessary information they still asked if I would look at their son so that I would know exactly what type of wheelchair he needed even if he would have to wait until he was invited to a wheelchair distribution to receive a wheelchair. When I met with the family today I was told that Christian had never owned a wheelchair. This was quite evident because his back was starting to get really crooked. As I examined Christian I could not help but think to myself how much worse his back would be if he had to wait any longer for a wheelchair. I knew that there were a couple of wheelchairs in storage at Hermano Pedro so I went and looked them over. Sure enough even though there were only a few chairs there, one of them appeared to be just what Christian needed. I then told Christian’s family that I had found a wheelchair for him and said that if they would be willing to stick around for a few hours I would be able to send it along home with them. Saying that they were willing to wait is an understatement. After discovering that their son was going to be given a wheelchair today I don’t think that you could have forced them to go home under gunpoint. It took some time to get the chair set up exactly how I wanted it but when it was finished everyone was happy with it. Calin and Moises who had helped me set it up were especially happy.

At noon we took Minor, David, and Gaspar to lunch. We were able to take 3 kids because a new volunteer offered to come along to Camperos with us. No Kids meals for these 3 as they all have big appetites. Poor Gaspar once again nearly fell asleep in his plate of food. He is a sweet kid but much like his older brother and sister who are also at Hermano Pedro he is beginning to slow down in everything he does. Even his speech is slowing down.

Jessica the head therapist had sprained her ankle a few weeks ago so she had been using a 3-wheel power scooter that I had loaned her. This afternoon Calin and I loaded it into my car because Jessica no longer needed it. On our way home we stopped off at Gustavo’s house. I had brought along a walker that I thought might work for Gustavo but when he tried it out we discovered that it still needed more modifications before it would work for him. Calin and I then went to the car and got the scooter. Gustavo looked at it but to my amazement he didn’t even smile. I was not sure if he realized what it was, so I explained to him that it had an electric motor and that I thought perhaps he could learn to drive it. He looked at me and said that he would love nothing better than to be able to have something like that so that he could get out of his house and go places, but he was sure that there was no way that he could drive it because of his paralyzed right arm. I quickly jumped into the scooter, held my right hand up above my head and drove the scooter around his yard. Gustavo’s face took on a whole new look. “Can I try it?” he asked. “That is exactly why we brought it.” I explained. What I thought would possibly take a lot of practice turned out to be seconds. Soon Gustavo was driving the scooter all over his small yard. When I walked over to him he reached out his good arm, grabbed my hand and started to cry. Before I knew it his entire family was gathered around us. Some were crying and others were laughing. I think that they liked the scooter. I asked Gustavo if he wanted to try to take it out of the yard and onto the narrow brick road that runs in front of his house. Once again the tears flowed. The thought of being able to go some where on his own was almost too much for him. With in seconds some of the children had the gate open and soon Gustavo was driving down the narrow brick road. Many of his neighbors came out of there houses and looked on in amazement. I have seen a lot of thankful people receive wheelchairs over the years but the reaction of Gustavo and his family will be hard to forget. As far as me being concerned that a power scooter will limit Gustavo’s desire to exercise so that he will perhaps some day be able to walk again I think that the opposite is true. I believe that the power scooter has given Gustavo even more reason to try to walk so that he can rediscover a whole new world that is just outside of his gate. In fact once he and his family had stopped thanking us over and over for the scooter, Gustavo asked me when I thought I would have the walker ready for him.

Yours in Christ, Dick

Saturday, April 26, 2007

I am trying more and more to make my Saturdays a day that I simply relax and do my own thing. I will continue to do this and who knows perhaps some day it will work. I must admit though that even though today was far from restful the entire day was a lot of fun. It was Fernando and Abner’s turn to come with me today but Abner announced that he did not want Fernando to come along because they were fighting about something. He even went as far to say that as much as he wanted to join me he would stay home if Fernando were allowed to come along. Once again I think that I saw someone trying to catch up with my car as Fernando and I drove out of my alley. One of these days these kids will realize that I respect them enough that I take them at their word especially when they say that they do not want to come along for the day.

Fernando and I picked up Moises and Byron at around 10:00. I had promised them that I would do my best to let them come to my house today but since I had other commitments at 1:30 we were just to pressed for time. They didn’t seem to mind though when I told them that we were going to take my car to a large park that is located about 15 minutes outside of Antigua. Before leaving Antigua we stopped off at a store and picked up some really neat junk food. When we arrived at the park I took the boys for a long walk. Byron simply went bananas with so much space to drive his power chair. I tried keeping him on the trails but he found the dirt and the large piles of leaves a lot more fun. Moises seemed to enjoy being towed behind him every bit as much and was delighted when we took him out of his wheelchairs so that he could play in the dirt and leaves. Fernando had a great time as well. About the only problems that we had were the bees but none of us got stung. They were especially bad when we stopped and ate our junk food lunch. I think that it was all of the sugar. They really got intense after Fernando accidentally spilled a bottle of 7up all over the picnic table and me, while trying to swat one of them. The time went by all too fast but I had promised some friends that I would meet with them in Antigua at 1:30 so after lunch we hiked back to the car, loaded up, and drove back to Antigua.

My friends met us at the orphanage and after saying goodbye to Byron and Moises we headed to Chimaltenango where we picked up Calin and some groceries and then we headed out to visit a few families that we have built houses for in the past few months. Two of the people that were with us were here about a year ago but their son and another man have never before been to Guatemala so getting out into some of the more remote places was quite a treat to them. One of the 3 families that we had intended on visiting was not at home but we had good visits with the others and they were delighted with the groceries that we gave them. Even though Maria, (the one who’s husband was run over and killed by a truck a few months ago.) and her children were not at home we were happy to see that Juan has completed their pig corral and Maria now owns 2 large pigs and 6 piglets. Thanks to some friends in the USA this family is well on their way to being self supportive.

Isabel Maria is now living in her new house and was delighted to show it to my friends. She is still managing to get around with the use of a walker but I think that it is by shear determination and every step seems to take a great deal of effort and seems to be very painful. Her brother Fidel is still alive but has not been out of his bed in months. Grandmother who was also having difficulty walking seems to be doing a bit better.

We didn’t get home until after 8 so my supper crowd was smaller than usual. About 10 of them have informed me that they will be here for breakfast though.

Well it has been a long day and my bed is looking a lot more inviting than this computer so I will once again say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, April 27, 2008, 5:30 PM

True to their word everyone that said they would be here for breakfast plus a few more were here bright and early for breakfast, and 9 of them came along to church. Ever since they started the new class for teens more and more of them are coming along to church. Even though Calin was here for breakfast he once again decided not to come along to church. I am not sure why but I know that his step dad as been going away some on the week ends and that he will not allow Calin’s mom to stay home by herself. I don’t think that it is a safety issue. I have an idea that he is worried that she will leave him if she has the opportunity. Things are not good at home but I doubt that she will leave because she has nowhere to go.

I talked to Pastor Mike’s wife this morning and she told me that he is being released from the hospital today. It sounds like his ankle was crushed so he will not be up and around for quite some time. Tomorrow morning I will bring him a wheelchair and a pair of crutches.

All of the kids behaved well in Church so I once again took them out for pizza. My friends from the states joined us and after pizza we went to the hill that over looks Antigua. I once again let most of the crew out at the bottom of the mountain and they hiked up the trail while I drove up the road. The scenery was not quite as spectacular as usual because most of the distant volcanoes were covered in haze, but everyone still enjoyed them selves. While we were there an American family that is here adopting a baby struck up a conversation with me. They are among the last foreigners that will be allowed to adopt Guatemalan children because of new laws that have come into affect. The government is saying that they are going to allow a few adoptions after some of these that were already in process when the law came into affect are finished, but most people have their doubts. The family that I talked with was thankful that since they started the process last year they are still being allowed to adopt this child. Before leaving they told me that they were impressed with the kids that were with me, handed me $20, and told me to take them out for ice cream. Had it not been for the fact that a few of the boys witnessed this I may have saved it for another day because they had just filled up on pizza less than an hour earlier. Then again the group with me was mostly teen-age boys so I was sure that there would be room for ice cream.

This evening I have locked my self in the house and told the kids that I am not opening up until I get this journal sent out. I have tried doing it with them in the house but that ends up taking me twice as long and ends up leaving you wondering what some of the words that I wrote really should have been.

We have a lot of things scheduled for may and always seem to find plenty to do on what looks like nonscheduled days so please keep us in your prayers.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Journal April 12-18

Oxen Driven Sugar Cain Press
(Click on any picture to enlarge)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I had made a promise to the kids that I would take the ones that had good report cards somewhere today so 9 of us went swimming at the hot springs that is located only 10 minutes from my house. It was not easy for the ones that could not go along but I am hoping that it causes them to try to do better in School. Knowing that school is harder for some of them than it is for others I try to make things fair by telling all of the kids that if I see an improvement in there grades over the next 6 weeks they will be rewarded as well.

Etiline surprise me by having a really good report card this time. This is truly a first for her. I know that the second time around for her in the same grade had something to do with it but for Etiline it is still an accomplishment. Since her arm is still in a cast she was not able to go swimming with the others but I let her pick a gift out of a suitcase of toys that the last group that was here left for just such a purpose.

The kids that went had a good time and so did I. I worked with a few of them that could not swim and by the end of the afternoon several of them were able to swim all the way across the pool. Many of these kids get no praise at home so if you are willing to give them just a little of your time they will give it their all. Esben was so pleased with himself that you would have thought that instead of swimming across the pool he had walked on water. After I finally managed to get the kids to quit swimming we all went to Burger King for hamburgers.

When we got home I tried to figure out who got the worst end of the deal, the kids that didn’t get to go along or me because they still needed supper. I figured that they had suffered enough from not getting to go along today so I gave in and fed them. I have to give them credit though because not one of them complained that I had not taken them along today. Abner who use to cry for days over something like this even stayed in a fairly pleasant mood. (Pleasant by Abner’s standards anyway)

Well the house is nearly cleared out so as soon as I say goodnight to Abner and Fernando, who have announced that they are my overnight guests, I am going to head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, April 13, 2008

This morning’s breakfast started out with only 4 of us at the table but by the time we were done eating it was up to 9 of us. Fortunately I had plenty of corn flakes on hand and Calin had done well on bartering for bananas. I had sent him to the store with 5Q (65 cents) and he returned home with 20 bananas. He told me that they had actually given him 21 but he got hungry on the journey home so he stopped off at the half way point and ate one of them. I’m glad the store is only a block from hear. Had it been further he may have eaten more food then he returned home with. I am not sure if it stems back to the days when he did not get enough to eat but he has spent the last several years trying his best to catch up.

The older kids now attend a class that is just for the older one instead of being combined with the younger ones in Sunday School and it seems to be working out great. Out of the 8 of them that came along to church with me this morning 7 are in the new teen-age class. After church I took the crew to Martha’s for lunch. For $25 9 of us got so much to eat that even Calin had to take left over food home.

After bringing most of the kids home 3 of us headed back to Antigua to pick up 40 of the 80 water filters that Golf Coast supply gave to us. Tomorrow Chris and I are planning on heading to Robinel with them. On Tuesday we plan on meting up with some of the people that live in the area that Carlos and I hiked into several months ago. This is where Antonio the little boy that we brought into Hermano Pedro a few years ago lived. We are hoping that the water filters and some parasite medicine that we picked up today will help some of the 1200 people that are living there. It is to late for Antonio but hopefully this will help to improve the health situation of many of the people. We are hoping that they can find a burro or 2 otherwise it will take at least a dozen people to carry in the water filters from the closest possible point that we can get to by 4 wheel drive. From there it is still a 3 hour hike up a steep mountain trail to get to where the people live.

Well my house is once again filling up with people so I think that I will close for now.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, April 14, 2008, 8:21 PM

I received a phone call last night from the parents of a 14 year old girl who has severe scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and is unable to walk. They told me that someone had given their daughter her firs wheelchair a few months ago but they quickly recognized that the wheelchair was giving their daughter bed sores and causing problems with her spine. I had planned on spending a few hours at Hermano Pedro before heading to Rabinel at around noon but these parents sounded very concerned about their daughter so I offered to meet them at our wheelchair shop at 8 AM.

They were already there when I arrived at a few minutes before 8 so we went straight to work. Even though their daughter’s condition was quite severe I found her to be quite flexible due to a lot of physical therapy that she is getting. I told her parents that I thought that a properly fitted wheelchair would do a world of good. The only problem was that their daughter was very skinny but had extremely log legs so I knew that finding a wheelchair that was the type that she needed in anything close to the right size would be difficult. Looking through our selection of refurbished wheelchairs confirmed my suspicions but then Alturo told me that on Friday some new wheelchairs had arrived and were out in the where house. When I went over to look at them I spotted one that was exactly what I wanted. It was a good thing that it just HAPPENED to have arrived at our shop when we needed it. Even though it was the perfect size I still had to do a lot of work on it, such as making a carved back rest and adding side and hip support but finding this chair at least meant that I should be able to finish by noon and Chris and I would not have to be traveling the dirt road into Rabenel after dark. That is when family number 2 walked in. They had an 8 year old son who also needed a wheelchair. On Monday mornings most of the men from our shop play basket ball and others were on their way to put up Julio’s house so this meant that either I took the time to give this boy a wheelchair or his family would have to come back another day. I figured that if they did not live to far away I would ask them to do that. When I asked they told me that they were from HueHue Tenango. That is nearly a days buss ride away so I quickly ruled that out. It looked like we were going to have a long day followed by an even longer drive but there was no way that I could send this family all the way back to HueHue with out a wheelchair. I told them that I would have to finish up on the chair that I was working on for the girl and that it would be at least another hour or 2 before I was finished with it but if they did not mind waiting I would get to their son as soon as I had finished. They said that it would be no problem to wait. About now I was wishing that I had eaten breakfast.

Chris had been busy in the office but he told me that while I was finishing up on the wheelchair that I was working on he would see if he could find a wheelchair that would be right for the little boy so that I could start on it when I had finished this one. While we were working on the girl’s wheelchair her mother shared with me that she felt that her daughter was a special gift from God and that she and her husband daily thanked God for her. What she said brought tears to my eyes because so many people here in Guatemala still believe that a child that has special needs is a curse from God. It took a while but when the girl’s wheelchair was done she was sitting up straight and happy. Her parent were even more tickled than she was and her dad who had been helping me all along offered to come back in and help us out any time we were short handed.

After we said goodbye I went to work on setting the little boy into the wheelchair that Chris had picked out. Chris had not taken any measurements but told me that the chair looked like it was just about the right size. Just about was not the right word for it. After placing the boy into the wheelchair and fastening the seat belt I looked things over, scratched my head and said goodbye. Everything fit perfectly and there were absolutely no adjustments necessary. I apologized to the boy’s family for having them wait until I had finished the girl’s wheelchair and told them that I should have taken a minute or 2 when they first arrived to give him his wheelchair but had thought that it would take much longer to seat him. They told me that it was no problem because they had been waiting for a wheelchair for 8 years so an extra hour or 2 didn’t matter at all. 2 satisfied customers in a row really made my day.

Since the second wheelchair seating went so fast Chris and I managed to head out to Rabinel right at noon as planned. It was a good thing that we did because the highway to Guatemala City was blocked do to some type of peaceful demonstration and the detour that we took brought us into a town that was having some not so peaceful rioting. Thanks to my GPS and light traffic on a few one way streets that even though we were only going one way on it did not match up to the direction of the cars that we met, we made it through the town.
Things went fairly well on the dirt road until we ran into the same roadblock that I encountered the last time that I drove this road. Out in the middle of no where stood the same lone flag man but unfortunately this time there were already a couple of vehicles in line so there was no way that we could talk him into letting us through. There we sat for an hour. We decided to get out of the car and make the best of it. I walked over to the side of the road and looked over the edge. There in the river below were several ladies who were washing their clothes in the river while their children played in the river. It looked like a lot more work than an automatic washing machine but there was also something very peaceful about it. All of the ladies seemed to be quite content and the children were all having the time of their lives. Some of the ladies were caring on conversations with other ladies but they didn’t have to yell to be heard over the clatter of the laundry mat washing machines, and most of the children were not getting any clothing dirty because it appeared that everything they owned was in the wash.

Our motel rooms are small and very basic. I am glad that I have a single bed because anything larger would mean that there was no floor space left in my rather small room. My electric Widow Maker shower head is located in the center of the bathroom. It actually workes in the sense that it heats up the water provided you have electricity and water at the same time which means that it is not working a lot of the time. Tonight I was once again reminded that for some unknown reason this motel shuts off it's water from 10 PM until the following morning. Perhaps it is because the shower never shuts off fully and since you have to walk directly under it when ever going to the sink or the toilet you always get a bit wet. Fancy or not both of our rooms have beds and right now that is all that matters.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, April 15, 2008, 9:12 PM

We had breakfast in a small cafe that is located in the market area of town. The youth group that came here a few years ago from Faith Community Church in Lynden may still remember this place. Hen again perhaps not because if I remember correctly after their first visit many of the teem members decided to go with out food until we left town a few days later.

While we were at breakfast we were joined by Julia and her husband Luis. Julia and Luis are Christian people that live here in Rabinal who often work with us on finding people that need wheelchairs or any other type of help. They and their friend Carlos who is from Chili, had offered to help us get the 40 water filters up the mountain to the aldea where Antonio’s family lives. It was a tight squeeze but after tying some of the water filters on top of my car we managed to get everyone in and headed towards our destination. An hour later we reached the spot in the road where even a land Cruiser can not go. Remembering the trail from the time that Carlos and I went in I had my doubts that the 2 horses and 2 mules that were waiting for us could make it either. No we are not getting that old that we had to ride mules in but 40 water filters that consist of 80 5 gallon plastic buckets and a variety of other parts is just a little to much for 5 people to carry up the side of a mountain. After we got every thing that we could tied on to the horses and mules we realized that we should have asked for more transportation. Fortunately about 6 or 7 men had come along with the horses and mules so most of them packed things up on their backs. Chris told me that he had been doing a tread mill and working out for 3 months just for today so he picked up one of the heavier packs and headed up the mountain. I found that being the senior member of the group had its advantages and decided that packing my own weight would be enough for me. I also took a scientific approach to things and calculated that working out for 3 months took a lot more time and energy than arriving at the top of the mountain 15 minutes later than Chris and the horses did. (Don’t take it seriously Chris. I am actually jealous of your dedication to staying in such good shape. Especially when I saw you pushing the pack horse up the mountain because he was slowing you up.)

Actually we all made it to the top of the mountain in less than 2 hours. This was much faster than the other time that I was here. A big part of it had to do with the fact that it was not muddy and raining this time and today’s rout was much shorter because the river was low enough that we could cross it without going way further upstream.
We finally arrived at the small Clinic that the villagers had built a couple of years ago. The clinic is not much larger than my motel room which scarcely accommodates a bed. We were greeted by a large group of people who had been patiently waiting for us for nearly 4 hours. They had been invited by the leaders of the aldea to come and receive the parasite medication that we were bringing in. Since the leader had been told that we were bringing in enough medicine to treat 200 people he had invited only 40 families. We are hoping to be able to return with more medicine and water filters soon. None of the people had been told that we were bringing in the 40 water filters that we brought in because the leader of the aldea had feared that if the word got out we would have been over run with people that were desperate for them.
Those that found out that they were going to receive filters were overjoyed and listened carefully as we demonstrated exactly how to use them. Assembling the filters is a relatively easy process but the leaders of the village asked us if we would do it because most of the people were accustom to assembling anything and many of them could not read so it would be hard for them to follow the simple directions that came with each filter. This ended up being a God send because it did not take long for us to realize that the threads of most of the replaceable carbon cartages that went into the filters were the wrong size and the cartages would not screw into place. We spent a long time trying to figure out a way to get them to fit but finally had to tell the people that we would have to take the cartages back down the mountain with us and see if there was some way to re thread them down in Rabinel. This meant 2 things. #1. The people that would be receiving the water filters would have to go back to there homes that were scattered throughout the mountains and return tomorrow, And #2 We would have to go back into Robinal or possibley even further and find the proper tools to make new threads in the plastic fittings that were on the cartridges and then return with them tomorrow. It would mean a lot of walking but we had no other choice.

Chris and I have just finished re tapping all of the cartridges that we took back to Rabinel with us. It was a big job but we are in a way glad that it happened because while re tapping the threads of the cartridges we discovered another problem which was fairly easy to fix but would have rendered the filters useless had we not discovered it. Tomorrow morning the 2 of us plan on hiking the cartridges back into where these people are and then assembling the filters for them. Luis, Julia, and their friend Carlos will not be able to join us and we will not have any villagers to guide us in but I marked the entire rout on my GPS so we should have no problem finding the place. Even though many of these people have never seen a white person until my visit a few month ago, although they were extremely shy at first unlike other areas that we have been into they are very friendly so it does not seem to be a dangerous place for 2 white people to be in. I would ask you to pray for us though except for the fact that by the time that you receive this journal we will have already gone in. Besides that I know that many of you are continually praying for us and that means more to us than you will ever know.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, April 16, 2008, 8:55 PM

After breakfast we headed out to where we had brought the water filters yesterday. Even though we had told the people that we would be fine walking in by ourselves they had some one waiting at the end of the road to help guide us in. I was surprised that today’s hike up to the aldea was not as tiring for me as it was yesterday. It was still a bit more than an average morning walk though, unless of cores you are accustom to crossing 2 rivers and gaining over 1300 feet of elevation on your average morning walk. When we arrived at the small clinic only a few people were waiting outside. At first I was a bit worried that they thought that perhaps we would not return and gave up on us. By the time 10 AM rolled around all 40 families were there though. A few of the men lent a hand in helping Chris and Me assemble the water filters while most of the women and children patiently watched. It took us nearly 2 hours to finish assembling them but not one filter was taken from the clinic until the last filter was assembled. Chris and I had figured that the mayor and his helper would simply hand them to the people as they came in but they had the people come up one at a time as they crossed their names off from a large chart that they had made. Not only did the mayor give a speech but nearly everyone that received a filter personally thanked us for bringing them. I got to be the one that handed out the first one and it was given to Antonio’s mom. I got a chance to share how sorry we all were about the death of her son but let her and the others that were there know that it was because of Antonio that we had hiked in to this Aldea the first time and that was when the idea of bringing in water filters had begun. Hopefully this gave her comfort in knowing that even though her son had died many other children would now have a better chance of staying alive. We promised the people that we would be back in a few months to see how the filters were working and how much it has helped the health of them and their children and that we would bring in at least 30 more water filters at that time. We are praying that in the near future we will be able to supply each of the 230 families that live in this area with a filter but could not promise any more than 30 more filters now. Between the water filters, and the parasite medicine that we brought in and vitamins that the government nurses that visit the clinic once a month are giving the children we are hoping to see a big improvement in the poor health that many of the people are in. Even though it was a lot more work having to repair the cartages and hiking back in a second time I think that perhaps it was a blessing. Not only have we gained added trust from people, some of whom were so shy that they ran and hid any time we got near to them, but at today’s presentation of the water filters we were given the opportunity to tell the people that we were not just there to share our love with them but that it was all about the love of Jesus Christ. Judging by what the mayor an others said at the presentation they some how already knew that though.

It was nearly well after 3 by the time Chris and I hiked down the mountain and then drove back to Rabinal. We were both tiered but last night Julia asked us if we would go and see a little boy who’s parents wanted us to try to get him into the orphenage at Hermano Pedro. The phone call that Julia had gotten from his parents sounded like they did not want him any more simply because he could not walk. I had immediately called Hermano Pedro to see what would be involved in getting him in there but they needed more information before they could promise anything. That is why at around 4 PM Julia, and a teacher that works with her, Chris, and myself found ourselves heading back out of town to aldea that was abut an hour from here. The drive took us up a curvy dirt road that gave us a 3000 foot gain in elevation within the first half hour. The view was spectacular if you were brave enough to look over the edge of the narrow mountain road. The boy’s father was waiting for us when we got to the trail that led in to where they lived. Chris and I were delighted when we were told that the house was only a few hundred yards from where we parked the car. When we got to the house where they lived we were surprised to see that the little boy was someone that we had given a wheelchair to less than a year ago. He was sitting out in his yard in it and his 2 brothers and 1 sister were playing with him. Mother came out of the house to greet us and we found her to be as worm and friendly as her husband. I think that we were all taken back a bit because we were expecting to see a little boy who was rejected by his family because he could not walk, but instead we saw a family that was full of love for not only each other but especially for the boy that they wanted to put into the orphanage. It was then that the father told us that some one had told him that his son would be far better off in an orphanage because he would receive therapy and soon learn how to walk there. The parents shared that the last thing that they wanted to do was to have him move from their home but they had been convinced that they were being selfish in wanting to keep him at home. Mother told us that last night they had shared their plans on trying to get him into the orphanage with their daughter who appeared to be around 9 or 10 years old, and she cried for hours. As we were talking I was holding the little boy and realized that he had no mussels tone in his legs and could not do much more than wiggle his feet a little bit. I said nothing to his parents about his condition but I have serious doubts that this charming little boy will ever be able to walk.

Julia, Chris, and I looked at each other. We knew that we were all thinking the same thing. We then shared with the parents what life in most orphanages is like. We told them that most of the kids that get therapy are fortunate if they get it more than once a week. We also explained that if he were in an orphanage chances were that he would spend the better part of his day locked in a crib. Both parents looked over at their son who was happily playing with his brothers and sister. I then shared with them that I spend a great amount of time in orphanages and that if I had any say on getting any of the kids into a home situation that was half as loving and caring as theirs I would do it in a hart beat. I think that was exactly what the parents wanted and needed to here because they seemed relieved.

No, this family was far from rich as far as material things were concerned. But just the day before yesterday Chris and I passed through a small remote town where nearly every teen was riding a new motorcycle and many of the younger children were listening to I-Pods. Julia shared with us that there is hardly a man left living in that town. All of the fathers left for the States so that they could make a living there and send money home to their families, and have been there for the past several years sending money back to their families here in Guatemala. I am sure that their intentions were good because there are many families here in Guatemala that are going hungry because no matter how hard working the parents are they simply can not make enough money to feed their families. It seemed like the people that I saw in that town have not gone hungry in many years. Most of the men are still living in the States and sending money home though, no longer because they have to in order to provide food for their families, but so that their families can have more possessions and live the good life. I can just picture these kids discussing who has the best father. “Well I can’t really remember him but I am sure that he loves me more than your father love you because he sends me more stuff." As we left we could scarcely see the little boy that was in the wheelchair. Why? Because his family was surrounding him with love. I have my doubts that his father even owns a bicycle but I could not help but wonder if this family was perhaps not richer in many ways than the ones that we had seen a few days ago.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, April 17, 2008, 3:29 PM

This morning we headed for home. I stopped off at the shop so that I could get today’s journal written but I am going to make it a short one. Calin has been calling me every day to see when I will be back home and he called me again within minutes after we got back into town. How he knew that I was back is beyond me but he know. He always does. Even though we were only gone for 3 days he said that he and the other kids were really missing me so I told him that I would be home in a little while. I guess that I better get used to having wall to wall kids again. It is exhausting at times but I feel richly blessed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, April 18, 2008, 8:09 PM

This morning I spent the first 2 hours in Chimaltenango paying bills, 2 bills 2 hours. I was a bit late for an appointment at Hermano Pedro with a family that wanted their little girl to have a walker, but it did not matter much because they were even later than I was, 3 hours to be exact. I found plenty to do in the mean time though. An old priests, father Bernardo, has been at Hermano Pedro for a couple of years now. He is pretty much retired from any duties so he has a lot of free time and spends a lot of it walking all around Antigua. Although he is 89 years old and a bit forgetful he still has a lot of spunk. Today as I walked into Hermano Pedro he came up to me, grabbed my arm and asked me to come sit down and talk with him. He told me that something was bothering him and he wanted my help. He began by telling me the familiar bible story of the Good Samaritan. He reminded me that the first person that walked by the man that had been robbed and beaten, who was lying along the side of the trail, was a Priest and that the priest walked by the injured man with out even looking at him. Father Bernardo looked at me and said “I sometimes feel like that priest. For the past few days I have not been able to sleep because of someone that I met recently.” Father Bernardo went on to tell me about a man that he had visited whose leg was so infected that part of it appeared to be rotting away. He said that he had been asked into the home to pray for the man but when the man uncovered his infected leg and showed it to him, father Bernard became so upset that he could not even speak. He told me that his first reaction was to be like the priest in the story of the good Samaritan and all that he wanted to do was look the other way and get out of there as fast as he could. He knew in his hart though that he could not do that and asked God to make him more like the Good Samaritan. Father Bernardo got things lined up so that the man could come to Hermano Pedro and see a doctor but someone who did not have the compassion of Father Bernardo asked the man to leave befoere he even saw a doctor because he feared that he might have something contagious. Father Bernardo told me that he had not been able to sleep since then. He said that he wanted to do what ever was possible to help this man. He pleaded with me to go and see him. I told him that I was no doctor but he said that didn’t matter. He said that he had been watching me for the past few years and told me that he knew that I was a Samaritan as well. I asked him when he wanted to go and he said, "Now!"

The home that this man and his family live in is in the back part of a bakery and the door way isn’t much more than a foot wide. How they get this man through it is beyond me because he has to weigh at least 300 pounds. Father Bernardo had warned me about how bad the man’s leg looked and smelled so I prepared myself for the worst. That is exactly what I got. There is little doubt in my mind that the leg has to be amputated and I am even wondering about the man’s other leg. I fear that if he goes into the national hospital he will die before they operate on him because their waiting time for operations once they are scheduled are often a year or longer. Starting Monday Father Bernardo and I are going to see what we can do to at least find a hospital or a doctor that will look at him. The man’s name is Julio Lopez. Please pray for him.

The people who’s daughter needed a walker finally came into Hermano Pedro this afternoon and were waiting for me when we got back from Julio’s home. Maria is 3 years old and an absolute doll. She kept blowing me kisses as I worked with her and whenever I got close enough to her she would give me a kiss on the cheek. Her parents are absolutely fabulous with her and even though her legs are very weak she is able to hold her self up with some support and tries to take a few steps while being held. I had a walker at home that I had been saving for some one special. All of the kids that I work with are special so I guess that I would have given it to any one that really needed it, but Maria was the perfect candidate. Not just because of her determination to walk but also because of how supportive her parents are. Her father and mother closely watched my every move as I set up the walker for her. When it was finally time to see if she was able to walk with the use of the walker we all held our breath. At first she just sort of hung there but when both her father and I got in front of her she straightened herself up and slowly started moving towards us. To our surprise she walked right on past her father and up to me and then leaned forward and gave me another kiss. I think that her parents were both weeping for joy but I am not sure. It is always hard for me to see when my eyes are filled with tears.

This has been another good week. Yes it has had its rough spots. The man that I visited today is going to need a miracle if he is going to keep his legs. As bad as the infection is he may need a miracle just to stay alive. Earlier this week it was not easy going into Antonio’s home knowing that a few months ago had I been able to convince the family to let us get him back into the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro he would likely still be alive. I have to remind myself though had it not been for us meeting Antonio and his family a few years ago his village would not have water filters that are likely going to save the lives of countless children. It’s funny how God can change our perspective of things, even things that we consider bad when they happen. God also has a way of changing the way that we look at people that perhaps have a different outlook on things than we do. A few short years ago I would have told you that you were crazy if you told me that I would some day be able to put my arm around an old catholic priest and call him my brother.

Yours in Christ: Dick