* GUATEMALA * * * * * * * * Dick Rutgers *

An ongoing journal of life as a Missionary in Guatemala. It will make you laugh and cry at the same time.

My Photo
Location: Chimaltenango, Guatemala

I work in Guatemala with Hope Haven international and Bethel Ministries. Along with my friends Chris and Donna Mooney and their family, we share the love of Jesus in various ways. Although giving out and maintaining wheelchairs is our primary ministry, we are involved in many other things as well. Building houses, feeding the hungry, providing education to handicapped children in orphanages and villages, and hosting a camp for the handicapped are just a small part of the things that God has given us the privilege of getting involved in. For several years now I have been keeping daily journals. Once a week I try to post new journals and pictures. My e-mail is dick@dickrutgers.com Guatemala Cell Phone # 502 5379 9451 USA Phone # 360 312 7720(Relays free to Guatemala)

Saturday, 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


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home