* 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 4, 2008

March 29 - April 4

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I decided last night that I was going to spend most of this weekend around home with the kids that hang out here. To my surprise though most of them were only around in the morning. Much like most of Guatemala most people in a given neighborhood are related to each other in some way. My neighborhood is no exception so because a relative that lived in another town was getting married a good part of my neighborhood went there today. Even though Calin is a relative he did not go along with them though. I think that a few of the adults that went still think of him as the old Calin who would likely com back home with more of the wedding gifts than the bride and groom. It is funny how a bed reputation is easy to acquire but difficult to get rid of. Thankfully though more and more people are beginning to realize that Calin is a new person.

Calin and I spent most of the afternoon trying to get a few old computers going and cannibalizing an old wheelchair for an electric tilt system that I want to put on another chair later this week. It was sort of an, I didn’t get much accomplished day, but then those are good every now and then. I am always amazed at how much my kids enjoy being the only kid around even if we don’t do anything exciting.

Even though I thought that most everyone had gone to the wedding my house still seemed to fill up around supper time. It got even fuller when they all returned at around 8 PM but fortunately the second invading troop had eaten at the wedding.

Most of the kids have gone home now but a lot of them promised that they would be back first thing in the morning. The 3 that were a bit of a problem in Sunday School last Sunday have been told that if there are any problems this week that they will once again miss lunch and also not be able to come along to church next week. I can remember back to when I was a kid and felt that missing church was a treat not a punishment, but not these kids.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, March 30, 2008
Out of the 5 kids that went to church with me today 2 of them were ones that got into trouble last week. I am proud to say that they all did well today. I think that a big part of it had to do with the new class that has been started that is for the older kids, and the other thing that helped were the verbal threats that the boys received from me before we got out of my car. Actualy I only told them that I would not take them to lunch if they misbehaved but to a growing boy that can sound like a death threat.

After church we went to lunch and then to the orphanage. Having to behave for another hour was almost more than Jason could stand but he made it. (Barely) He is a neat kid but has a terrible time behaving. Fortunately some of the kids who I have had around here for several years now, help set him straight from time to time. It is sort of fun to see some of the kids who use to give me gray hair, help set the ground rules for some of the newer ones.

After visiting the orphanage we drove up to the hill that overlooks Antigua. I figured that this would be a good place to let the kids run around and get rid of some energy. Once they looked like they had used up all of their energy I announced to them that I was driving the car down the hill by my self while they hiked the trail down. Some of them went for the idea. A few said that they would rather ride down with me than walk. I quickly narrowed it down to 2 chaises. They all ended up walking down. I guess that spending the night on the hill by them selves didn’t sound all that neat to them.

Tonight’s supper was nothing fancy, but then when is it? Nevertheless it did not keep the number of kids down much further than usual. The neighbors from across the alley came over after supper. This is the family who had their first boy a little over a year ago. I wonder what it would be like growing up with 8 sisters. Dad, mom, and all 9 Kids stayed for about an hour. Since they are not over at my house all that often their Spinglish leaves a bit to be desired. Fernando did a great job of interpreting though so we had a rather nice visit. Father told me that even though he works 6 days a week that he simply does not make enough money. I think that he is seriously thinking about trying to sneak into the USA. He knows that he would have to stay there for several years and told me that he would greatly miss his family but sees no other alternative.

Abner, Fernando, and Calin were all going to stay here tonight but Abner had a hissy fit about something and went stomping off for home.

Well my eyes are getting heavy again so I will say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, March 31, 2008

This morning I went to Hermano Pedro, where I met with a group from Youth With a Mission. I showed them around the orphanage and I think that they fell in love with the kids because they asked if they could come back a few more times this week. When we went into the malnutrition ward I almost passed by Julio without recognizing him. The changes in this boy during the 4 weeks that he has been there are nothing short of remarkable. He looks like he has doubled his weight and is much more alert. I pray that when he returns to his home that he will stay healthy.

At shortly after 11 I said good bye to the YWAM group who were all still playing with the kids. Howard and Nan, some friends from church, joined me and we headed off to Esquentla where we met for lunch with Chris and Juan. After lunch all 5 of us drove to the clinic that had introduced me to both Julio and Milton. The workers at the clinic were grateful for some canes and walkers that we brought them. They are doing a marvelous job but it is obvious that they are running on a limited budget. Chris and Juan left their vehicle at the clinic and the 5 of us went in my car to the village where Julio lives. We are hoping to put up a prefabricated house for them before Julio is released from the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro but the last time I visited I could tell that there was some tension between Julio’s father and a younger brother concerning the land where we were planning to build the house. Since Chris is fluent at Spanish I asked him to come along this time to see if he could help get things ironed out. Things were a bit tense when we got there but thanks to Chris and Juan, with in a short time everything had been talked through and all of the family members were in agreement, so it looks like Julio’s family will be receiving a new home in a few weeks.

After dropping Chris and Juan off at the clinic Howard, Nan, and myself went to Milton’s home. Milton still had a light fever and the sores that were on his face and legs were still visible but he had improved a lot over the way he was a week ago when the Doctor told his mother that he would have to no longer have a fever or any sores before he could be admitted into the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro. He was obviously felling better but I was wishing that we had waited a few days longer before picking him up again but since were already here I decided to take him and his mother back to Antigua with us. I am praying that the doctor will allow him to go into malnutrition tomorrow.

I was late enough in getting home that only 4 kids were there when I came down the alley. They stayed long enough to have some food but now I am trying to convince at least some of them to leave so that I can head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, April 1, 2008.

I gave Milton’s mom money for cab fare when I checked her and Milton into Cassa De Faye last night. This meant that I did not have to get up at 5:30 to get her to Hermano Pedro on time. When I got there at around 10 she was still waiting to see the doctor. Milton was running a light fever and the spots on his face were still visible. When he went into the doctor’s office I prayed that the doctor would allow him to stay in malnutrition. It seems so strange that a child can be considered too sick to go into a malnutrition ward but those are the rules. I did not go into the doctors office right away but when I did, the first thing that I was told by the doctor was that his mother had been told not to bring him back until he was better. I was still praying though that the doctor would allow him to stay anyway and that is exactly what happened. He said that since he saw improvement from last week he was going to bend the rules a bit an let him stay. This was only the start of a procedure that took 6 hours to get Milton admitted into malnutrition. I had been hoping that I could bring Milton’s mother back to her home shortly after noon but it was 4 PM before the hospital was finished with all of the interviews and paper work so I filled out my afternoon visiting with the orphanage kids. I was thrilled to see the YWAM teem return this afternoon. They told me that they had indeed fallen in love with the kids and had come by just to hang out with them for a while.

Once again I did not get back home until after 9. A few kids were still hanging around but I told them that tonight I was heading straight for bed.

So goodnight,
Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Good intentions don’t always to a lot of good if you keep on procrastinating. Ever since the orphanage kids returned to Hermano Pedro from Christmas break an ever-growing list of wheelchair repairs has been hanging on the wall behind the nurses desk. I have occasionally been able to scratch a few things off from the list, but the nurses, therapists, and myself have added far more, than those that I scratched off. A few days ago Chris told me than it would be OK if a few of the men from the shop came along to Hermano Pedro and help work on wheelchairs for a day or 2. By the end of the day today it was obvious that we will be hard pressed to have gone through the list in 2 days. Even if we don’t finish up and they cannot come back a third day they well have done enough that I should be able to get caught up in no time. I was perhaps the slowest of the 4 of us today but I had a good excuse. I had lots of little helpers that at times slowed things down to a snails pace but I would not have denied them the experience of helping for the world. I think that the highlight of their day was when we took a coffee break and included our little helpers as we sat around a table sipping cokes.

I managed to get up into malnutrition for a short time today. Julio is looking better every day but Milton was running a fever and he really misses his mom. I held him for a while but when I put him down he started to cry. I have a feeling that his mother seldom lays him down when he is with her. Once he is released from the isolation room I will try to fit him into a wheelchair that will prevent him from twisting over backwards. Several of the other kids in malnutrition have been running fevers as well. I have been told that they already had them before Milton was admitted so that is a bit of a relief, but they need your prayers just the same. Some of these kids are so fragile that it takes very little to put their lives in danger.

Tonight I managed to sneak by the alley that leads in to my house with out being seen by any of the kids. I even managed to find a parking place at the maul that was not discovered by any of the high school kids that walked by on their way home from school. It felt very strange to be eating all alone but I am not complaining mind you. I must admit though after spending almost an hour by myself I started missing the kids so I headed for home. It took only about 5 minutes before I started asking myself why I had missed them though. I am not sure if it was the larger than normal amount of kids or the stray soccer ball that nailed me in the side of the head that brought me to my censes but I actually found myself wondering if it wouldn’t be nice to head back to the mall all by my self. After all I hadn’t ordered any dessert with my meal. The kids were great though, and I hope that you know that I am only kidding about not being happy to see them. They even offered to make supper while I got cleaned up. I no sooner got out of the shower than I got a few phone calls. Since it was far from quiet with a dozen or so kids in the house I quickly went outside so that I could hear what was being said on the phone. When I finally got off from the phone and came back into the house nearly an hour later I looked at the kitchen table and it did not have a dish on it. Nor was there any food on the stove. I asked the kids why they had not yet made them selves something to eat. They told me that they had already made supper and eaten it as well. How they did that and got the place cleaned up that quickly is beyond me but I told them that I was proud of them. If any of you are wondering if I would be willing to take in some of your kids for a few months to see if any of this rubbes of on them the answer is NO! If you think that there is a possibility that it could rub off on your kids I have several that would gladly move in with you though.

Well all have gone ashore that are going ashore so I guess I will try to convince Calin to go take a shower and move his dirty socks a bit further from the house. I still have not figured out if it is the Guatemalan diet or what but the foot odor of some of my kids could be marketed as tear gas.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, April 3, 2008, 5:47 PM

Some of the men from the wheelchair shop were originally going to go with me to Hermano Pedro today to help work on more wheelchairs but Saul had an appointment in Guatemala City so we are going to shoot for tomorrow. I still went in though because I had made arrangements to finish up on fitting a brother and sister who had come in to the hospital for 2 days of testing. Yesterday we gave them new wheelchairs but I still had to do some fine-tuning on them today. The doctors at the hospital are still running tests to figure out why both of them lost strength and quit walking a few years ago. They both had to drop out of school as well because without wheelchairs there was no way that any one could get them there. Their parents brought them into the hospital hoping that there was some medicine that would cure them over night but it does not look like that will be the case. I think that it is just starting to sink in that their children will possibly never again walk. Even though they were hoping for more the entire family was extremely grateful for the wheelchairs and for our willingness to spend the time to make them as comfortable as possible.

The rest of my day was mostly spent repairing wheelchairs and taking kids out to lunch. I was only able to take Roberto (Bobby) out today because the only other person that could come along with me was Carlos and his eremitism was bothering him so much that he could scarcely walk yet alone push a wheelchair. Bobby seemed to really enjoy being the only kid to go and made sure that he was the center of attention. He loves nothing better than dipping the same French fry into as much ketchup, ranch dressing, and barbecue sauce as possible and then after sucking everything off from it loading up the same French fry with more sauces. Today he managed to actually eat some of the fries and even some chicken while licking them off. In fact by the time he had finished there was nothing left on his plate. I wish that I could say that he ate it all but his hands, face, clothing, and the floor proved otherwise.

Moises and Byron (helped??) me work on wheelchairs this afternoon so before heading for home I bought them each a coke.

The kids are out for a bit but I promised that I would let them in at 6:30 so I guess I better see if there is any food in the cupboards and then let them in.

As I was reading my e-mail I read this one. I think that anyone who has a special needs child, or any one who has worked closely with special needs children can relate to what this wonderful mother just wrote.

Hi Dick
My name is Rhonda Howard. I have the great fortune of having John Bosman as a fellow member for the community relations committee of Cascade Christian Services. John shared your ministry with us at one of the committee meetings last year. Just before his departure last month, he shared the web address for your site. I was touched by what I saw and read. My husband and I are the proud parents of a developmentally disabled son who lives in a duplex owned by Cascade Christian Services. I have received numerous calls from parents whose adult children still live at home. Steve (our son) was on his way home from school his senior year when his car hydroplaned off the road and flipped several times, before landing on it's top. As a result he has a traumatic brain injury, is a spastic quad, and has cortical blindness. He can't perform the daily tasks of life necessary to be independent so needs total assistance to eat, bathe, toilet, dress, etc. I used to feel remorseful. With time I've learned that I am blessed. How many moms get to hold on to their sons for so long? Steve was 17 when the accident occurred. He's now 34. He's reached the point where he's been the Steve that "is" for as long as he was the Steve that "was." I look at all the pictures, and videos on your site and notice the same "look" in the eyes of most of the families. The pride and love they seem to share for their blessing; their child. I can't fathom what it must be like to walk in their shoes. We were blessed with the support of family and community, insurance, a house, doctors at our beck and call, hospitals, rehab centers, and Cascade Christian Services. I guess what I am trying to say in too many words is, God bless you for what you are doing for these children and their families. I have met many families throughout my journeys in this life who would have fallen apart had the Lord not put Angels in their lives. I see you and those who work with you as God's angels. May His light continue to shine through you, brightening the lives of those who you encounter through your journeys. May you feel the comforting hugs of an Angel's wings. Together in the Lord, Rhonda

Thanks Rhonda, for giving me permission to post your letter here.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, April 4, 2008, 8:35 PM

Today Rudy, Saul, and Chito once again joined me, from the wheelchair shop, and the 4 of us made a big dent in the amount of wheelchairs that needed to be repaired or replaced at Hermano Pedro orphanage. With so many kids who’s size and medical conditions continually change it is never possible to say that we are completely caught up but at least many of the kids are seated a lot more comfortably than they were a few days ago. We always try to seat the kids in a position that is healthy for them and promotes good growth but occasional we have one that is so deformed that anything that we do to try to get them into a better position is nothing but torture to them and does little in the way of improving their health. Daniel is one of those rare cases where we simply try and lye them in a position that is the most comfortable for them. As of today Daniel is no longer being put into a seated position but is now in a wheelchair that resembles recliner on wheels. It won’t do much in the way of improving his somewhat labored breathing and it won’t keep him from getting even more deformed but at least Daniel is able to lye there with a smile on his face. It was getting to the point where he could not stand to be in his wheelchair for much over a half hour at a time anyway. I try not to look at it as giving up it’s just that the agony that he was going through was not bringing any positive results. Now he is at lest a bit more comfortable.

As Saul was just finishing up on Daniel’s new wheelchair I was asked if I could go upstairs to see a boy who’s parents had brought him in to see the doctor. Before I went into the room I was told that this 13 year old boy had severe Cerebral Palsy. He lives about 2 hours from Antigua but this was the first time that the doctors there had ever seen him. His parent had brought him to see a doctor in his town and even tried to get therapy for him but they had been told that he was too severe and nothing could be done for him. Marvin, the therapist that had come to get me told me that a doctor from the USA was looking at him and was wondering what if anything could be done for him. Before going into the room where the doctor and the boy were I said a prayer asking God not to give me another Daniel. Saying that nothing can be done for 2 kids in one day is just a little to hard to take. I then walked into the room and was introduced to Carrillo and his parents. Carrillo was being held by his mother. His body was bent backward in a half circle and he appeared to be in a lot of pain. I have seen children with severe Cerebral Palsy spasms like this before but Carrillo’s parents told me that he is like this 23 hours a day. They told me that some times he falls asleep and relaxes but never for much more than an hour a day. The doctor told me that he did not think that there was even any medication that would get his muscles to relax enough to give much relief but was wondering if there was any way that Carrillo could at least be positioned so that the curvature of his body did not eventually shut off some of his internal organs. I took Carrillo from his mother’s arms and held him as we spoke. At firs his body was so rigid that I thought he would break in 2 with any movement. I was not surprised when his father told me that Carrillo had never been in a wheelchair, other than an old canvas one that a friend had loned to the family for a short time. He told me that they tried to used it for a short time but it only made their son’s condition worse. As we talked Carrillo slowly became more and more relaxed. I slowly got up and walked over to an examination table and placed him on it. After getting used to it he relaxed even more. After about 15 minutes I was able to get Carrillo into a somewhat seated position. Straightening his head out to a forward position took a bit longer but in less than an hours Carrillo looked a lot straighter and far more comfortable. I told his parents that I believed that a proper fitting wheelchair would do a lot more for their son than provide him with transportation. I told them that it should help to keep him alive. Jessica when on to explain to his parents what the severe twisting of their sons body would eventually do to him if left untreated. It was not meant to frighten them but if they returned home thinking that perhaps it was to much bother to come back and spend an entire day haveing their son fitted for a wheelchair, they had to know the consequences. As I looked over at the 2 of them and then back over at there son I know that they would indeed be back. I told them that we would set up a day some time next week. In the mean time I am going to start working on a wheelchair that will provide a lot more than transportation for this young man. Please remember Carrillo and his family in your prayers. Because of my limited Spanish, I did not get the opportunity to share with them about the love of Jesus, but then again perhaps I did.

Yours in Christ: Dick


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Rhonda,
I am posting here and assuming that you will be reading the comments. I was so excited to read your letter and recognized that I knew you right away although with all the staff I don't know if you know me. I'm Theresa Kooiman, I've worked at the group home off and on over the years.
How do I know Dick? I don't really except for through working at Hope Haven in Iowa and knowing about wheel chair distributions through the community there.
I also was able to visit the children's hospital in Antigua Guatemala in September but missed seeing Dick. Supposedly he was in Antigua at the time but I couldn't find him. Say hi to everyone at Cascade for me!
PS. I'm teaching in Costa Rica right now.

In Christ,

Saturday, April 05, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for remembering me Theresa! I am not sure which Theresa you are, as we have had a few. Regardless, thank you for your caring heart! I would love to go to Guatemala and meet some of the "blessings" in Dick's life. I will pass on your greeting to everyone at Cascade!
Take care.
Your sister in Christ,

Tuesday, April 08, 2008  

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