* 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)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Journal April 5-11

Saturday, April 5, 2008, 9:33 PM

I gave some thought about just taking things easy today but it was only a brief thought. Ronny’s mom called a few days ago and said that the plug for the wiring that goes from the controller of his power wheelchair to the computer that operates it had broken leaving Ronny without the use of his wheelchair. Since that was 3 days ago and I have a rather full schedule next week I figured that I better do something about it today. We had a new the wiring harness in the shop and replacing it was only a 5 minute job. The problem was that Ronny lives 2 hours from here so I was looking at a 4 hour round trip to do a 5 minute job.

Calin and I left at around 10 because Elmer, my next-door neighbor was getting married today at 4 PM. And I had been invited to attend the wedding. I figured that as long as I was back home by 5 I would still have time to get cleaned up and very likely still be one of the first ones to arrive at the wedding. No my math is fine, this is Guatemala and nothing ever starts on time here. It was good to see Ronny and his family again. Ronny’s mother is due to have her 7th child any day now. Ronny’s antibiotics seem to have done the job because he is no longer running any fevers. All of the kids received their report cards and all but one of the girls did well in school. I was surprised to see that Ronny’s oldest sister got bad grades in almost all of her subjects. She seems like a very intelligent person so I am not sure just what the problem is. I am going to see if I can find out though because it could be something as simple as a sight or hearing problem.

I have promised Ronny and his brothers and sisters that if they got no falling marks that I would once again take them to the ocean but I may wait until the end of Sugar cane harvest so that Ronny’s father can come along. Mother said that she would come along but I am not all that fond of delivering a baby in a crowded car.

We got the wheelchair going and then had a good time visiting but had to go after about an hour so that I could make it to Elmer’s wedding.

I was only a half hour late for the wedding when I got home so that gave me an hour to get ready. Some day I will learn because I still got there in time to help set up the chairs. The wedding was over by 7:30 and then many of the people that were there invited themselves over to my house to play on the computers and have more food. It is now 10 PM so I am going to uninvite them and then head off to bed.

Before I say good night I want to fill you in on the condition of a few of the kids from malnutrition that I failed to write about in my last journal.

Milton, is still running fevers. they are talking about taking him in to Guatemala City to run some tests.

Jennifer, the little girl whose head drew back so far that she could scarcely breathe unless she was strapped on her side to a form fitted backboard that we made for her, was taken home by her father several weeks ago. He did not take the backboard with him when he left but promised ot return for it within a few days. He never did, and we have heard nothing from the family and have no idea weather or not Jennifer is even alive.

Byron, (not the one with the power wheelchair) is still in malnutrition and is not improving much. I am afraid that his kidneys may be falling. He loves being taken out side and rocked in a rocking chair. Unfortunately he is still connected to feeding tubes, has a catheter, and also looks very frail, so most people are frightened to handle him. I try to get him out of his crib and out side a few times a week but he should be taken out several times a day.

Perla, the little girl that came in about the same time that Byron is still hanging in there as well. She is still very fragile though, so much like Byron most volunteers don’t dare to hold her.

Well everyone but the 3 kids that are calling this place home tonight are gone so I guess that I will say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, April 6, 2008, 7:04 PM

Nine kids came along to church today. Had it not been for the fact that 3 of my regulars did not make it today I may have had a pretty good car load of kids. Jason who is often a bit of a hand full did not go today but promised that he will be joining us next Sunday. Esben who can also be a hand full came along but he and all of the others did well.

After Church I took them all out for pizza and then we once again went up the mountain that overlooks Antigua. All of the kids except for a new boy decided that they wanted to hike up from the bottom of the hill while I drove the car up. One of the mane reasons that I took them there was so that they could burn off some energy so I applauded the idea. Fernando has been running a low fever and has been very tired the past few days but there was no talking him out of hiking up with the other kids. We played around on the hill for a while and when I announced that it was time to go everyone decided to hike back down the mountain. I slowly strolled back to where I had parked the car knowing that I could easily beat them back down the mountain. Well it would have been easy to beat them had I not discovered that my keys were missing when I got to my car. After retracing my steps and still not finding my keys I called Abner who had a cell phone with him and told him to tell the other boys that I would be a while so they would have to stay at the bottom of the hill and if I did not find my keys with in the next half hour I would crawl under my car and retrieve my spare key. Why had I picked today to wear a white shirt? 15 minutes later all of the boys were back at the car. Most of them had hiked back up but Calin and Bryan managed to hitch a ride up the road with a policeman. We all searched for about another 15 minutes and then I went ahead and got my white shirt dirty. I would have had one of the boys do it for me but they all looked too tired. Oh by the way I found my keys after I got home. How they got into the bottom of the small camera case that I wear on my belt is beyond me. One thing that all of this did accomplish is that when I told the kids that I needed a few hours to myself most of them did not complain. I think that they went home to rest as well.

Monday, April 7, 2008, 6:17 PM

Abner did not go to school today so he came along with me to Antigua. Had I know early enough that he was not permitted to go to school because he did not have a Physical Education uniform I would have gladly rectified the problem by buying him a pare of shorts and a tee shirt. Fernando, Alex, and Elder also stayed home from school today. Alex and Fernando were not feeling well enough to go to school but called and asked me if they could come along to Hermano Pedro with me. Suddenly my mother’s words flowed from my mouth. "If you are to sick to go to school you are . . . . . . . . ." I always hated it when I was told that. So did Alex and Fernando. The therapists had about 6 of the kids in the pool when we got there. It looked like they were all more concerned with keeping their hair dry than swimming with the kids. Abner and I entered the pool by doing canon balls. I think that I heard a few Spanish words that I had never heard before but since there hair was no longer dry most of them quickly joined in on having fun with the kids. Mission accomplished! After swimming I actually worked on wheelchairs for a while. Fidel’s power wheelchair was having some problems. I talked Abner into helping me and after he got over the shock of having to do some work he actually started enjoying himself. Abner can be such a nice kid when he is not grumpy. Unfortunately much of the 80% of the time in tears that he used to be in has been replaced by grumpy.

At noon Carlos joined us and we took Moises, Byron, and Elmer out for lunch. Than I returned to Hermano Pedro for a 2 PM appointment to fit a little girl who has spinal bifida into a wheelchair. Her parents had taken her in to Hermano Pedro to see a doctor a last week and they asked me to look at her. Her back was starting to go crooked on her and I could see that unless she was put into a proper wheelchair soon she was going to get worse fast. Usually we try not to jump ahead on the list of people that are waiting for wheelchairs but there are times that it is necessary. Today I was able to put her into an Iowa Chair. Various people call it by many different names but I call it an Iowa Chair because this is one of the wheelchairs that Hope Haven International builds in Iowa.

Lots of kids for supper tonight. Nothing gourmet but no complaints. Our Monday night basket ball game is about to begin so I guess I better get out there before I get kicked off from the teem. Come to think of it perhaps I will stay in the house just a bit longer. It is far less tiring being a spectator then a player, but then again I hate it when they call me a wimp.

Good Night,
Yours in Christ; Dick

Tuesday, April 9, 2008

Today I never got out of town. I had been promising Altero for a long time that I would spend a day or 2 in the shop with him checking out the power wheelchairs that we have there. It is always hard to part something out knowing how badly people need wheelchairs but some of them have been around for a while and are totally warn out. Fortunately though they will now serve as organ donors and help keep all of the power chairs that we have given and will give away running for a long time. We were also thrilled that we were able to resuscitate about a dozen power chairs that had been pronounced dead. A few of them are now a mixture of 2 or 3 different brands but I am certain that anyone that receives one will not complain. Several years ago I had no other choice but to put a 12 year old boy into a pink wheelchair that said Barbie on the side of it. He was so thrilled to have a wheelchair that I think he would have even taken the chair if I told him that he had to wear a dress whenever he rode in it.

Tonight Fernando helped me cook supper. He is always willing to help as long as we make his favorite meal, scrambled eggs with sliced hot dogs. I relize that the picture shows the kids eating corn flakes but that was just used as a filler to keep them satisfied until the eggs and hot dogs were ready. I must admit that the kids did not get their normal ration of fruit tonight though because the store was out of Cherry Coke.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008
I spent the morning at the shop setting up a few power wheelchairs that Chris, and I plan on delivering to people in the Santa Lucia area tomorrow and Friday. One of the people is Sergio a boy who we gave a power wheelchair to at camp. Thanks to the power wheelchair Sergio is now able to go to a school. The only problem is the road that he takes to school is anything but flat and smooth. He makes it to school and back home with his present wheelchair but not with out great difficulty. Today I set up a power chair that has a stronger frame, wider tires, and bigger motors. I am hoping that this chair navigates the steep hills and rough terrain a bit easier.

The other 2 power chairs will be going to 2 people that we met at our last wheelchair distribution that was in Rio Bravo which is located near Mazatenango. Both people came in to the distribution expecting to receive manual wheelchairs but we found them both to be perfect candidates for power chairs.

At about 11 AM I headed to Peromis a town that is located between here and Antigua. I had made arrangements to pick up some one that called me last night asking if he could join me for the day. Little did I know that the leader of the teem that he was here with had not given her consent so when I got there it was decided that it would be for the best if he did not join me. Since I was half way to Antigua I decided to see if I could make it there in time to take someone to lunch. When I arrived I found Carlos and the 2 of us quickly signed out 2 of the residence. One was Juan Carlos a teen age boy who has been begging me to take him to lunch for quite some time now. Juan Carlos can not talk but believe me he can get his point across. The other person that joined us was Tito, a resident who is in his 20s. Tito is one of the few residences that is not in a wheelchair. He has been at Hermano Pedro for as long as I can remember and seems more like one of the caregivers than a resident. Tito can not speak but understands everything and is always helping the other residence out in any way that he can. I think that because he is mobile and always active he gets overlooked when it comes to being asked to go out to the park or go out to eat. Today when I invited him he was thrilled. As far as I know this was the first time that he had ever been to Camperos. I wish that I could say that about myself some times I think that if I eat any more chicken I will possibly grow feathers. What can I say though? I take the kids there because the food is safe and the workers there are friendly to us.

Caline, Abner and Fernando all announced they are staying here tonight. They say it is only fair because I am going to be gone for 2 days. I haven’t quite figured out what that has to do with fair but nevertheless they are staying. All 3have also offered to come along and help interpret but I reminded them that they all have school.

Well I think that I will head off to bed before one of the kids takes it.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, April 10, 2008, 8:19 PM

This morning Chris and I loaded the van with 3 power wheelchairs and 2 manual wheelchairs and headed for Rio Bravo. Rio Bravo is located about 2 an a half hours from Chemaltenango. When we got there we went to the home of Axel. He is the man that found the people that came to a distribution that we had in Rio Bravo about a month ago. Axel, who is in a wheelchair himself, is very active in trying to help out the people in his community. Even though Rio Bravo is located only a few miles off from the Pan American highway it seems that it has not received much help from the government or any humanitarian organizations.

We had told Axle that we were coming so he tried to contact both people that we had promise power wheelchairs to when we did a wheelchair distribution in Rio Bravo a few weeks ago. Axle had been unable to contact one of the people bur since we had met him and done all the necessary measurements a few weeks ago we were OK with leaving the wheelchair with Axle so that he could give it to him at a later date. Gustovo he young man who I had promised a power wheelchair to was at axle’s house with his entire family. They had been counting the days until their son got a power wheelchair. It was only a few weeks ago that I had promised him one but I think that the wait must have seemed like an eternity. Even though Gustovo, who had CP had never been able to walk he had never owned a wheelchair either. His family told me that he had a borrowed one for a while but it was in very poor shape so they never used it much. Axle and his wife had been clueing him in on how to operate a power chair so once Chris and I got a few things adjusted he was off and driving. We took a lot of pictures but they did little justice to capturing the joy that he and his family had in receiving a power wheelchair. Today was the first time in his 18 years that Gustovo was able to move around on his own.

Gostovo and his family lived about 15 miles from Axle’s home so we offered to take them and the new wheelchair to their home. They live in an area of a nearby town that did not look all that safe. We are praying that no one in his neighborhood tries to steel Gustovo’s wheelchair from him.

Our next visit was at a hospital that was located in the same town that Gustovo lives in. The father of the person that was in the hospital had met us at Axle’s house and had told us that his son was also in need of a power wheelchair. His son had been shot during a robbery and as a result had lost full use of his legs and partial use of his hands. I am amazed at the number of gun shot victims that we work on each year. Some are gang members but many are innocent people that have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. That is what had happened to this young man. It was not easy to see him helplessly lying in this dingy hospital room wearing only a diaper. It seemed so senseless that for a few dollars someone had sentenced this 28 year old man to a life time of hopelessness. I am thankful to God though that today we could be used to give this young man at least a glimmer of hope by telling him that we will soon be bringing him power wheelchair. As we said goodbye we could see a glimmer of hope in his eyes. Next time we visit I pray that we can stay longer so that we can share with him about Some One who gives an even longer lasting hope to a sick and dying world. It is not always easy to witness all of the suffering that we seem to see on an almost daily bases but what a privilege it is to be able to at least make some of these people’s lives a little easier and to hopefully lead them in the direction of Some One who can change their lives forever.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, April 11, 2008, 1:18 PM

Chris dropped me off at home about an hour ago and so far none of the kids know that I am here. Usually they know when I am at home because when they look through the cracks in my gate they can see weather or not my car is at home. This time we did not take my car so it has been sitting in my yard for the past 2 days. I guess that I should feel a bit mean by not telling them that I am here but this is honestly the only way that I can get any work done on my computer. Besides that when I this explanation helped to convince you because it has not fully convinced me. I still fell a bit mean because I know how much the kids like being here.
We woke up to clear skies this morning. This was quite a change from the thunder and lightning that we tried to go to sleep to. I think that our rainy season is upon us. It usually arrives in May but it has clouded up and rained the past 2 evenings now. One nice thing about the Guatemala rainy season is that the clouds do not generally move in until about 4 or 5 in the evening and then it is sunny again by the next morning.

After breakfast we headed to Sergio’s house. Sergio and his family live in Santa Lucia and are only a few miles from the hotel where we spent the night. Even when it has not rained the dirt alley that Sergio has to drive on to go to school with his power wheelchair is almost more than he or the wheelchair can handle. Today we had a more powerful wheelchair that had larger wheels on it than his but after unloading it from the van and trying it out we decided that the steep dirt trails and alleys would still be too much for it. I am now considering building up something that is even more rugged but anything short of a Sherman tank my not work. We are also considering paving some of the rougher sections of road and trail that he has to travel but would first have to get permission from the mayor. Why so much effort for one boy? Ever since we found a school that would accept Sergio he has been a new person. Much like the teen that we gave the power wheelchair to yesterday or the gun shot victim who we promised a wheelchair to. Sergio now has a new lease on life. True he is only one person out of thousands who is suffering here in Guatemala but how many times didn’t Jesus take the time to minister to someone just one person at a time? Unfortunately the more powerful wheelchair was not the answerer but we are going to continue to work on finding a way that Sergio can continue to go to school.

It seems like we were gone much longer than 2 days. It also seems that we found 2 or 3 people that are in need to every 1 person that we were able to help. I guess I should perhaps look at it as job security but I see it as a suffering world that needs more people that are willing to reach out and share the love of Jesus with their brothers and sisters who are dying without hope.

It is my daily prayer that my hart will continue to be broken with the very things that break the hart of Jesus. That is my prayer for you as well.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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