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

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

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Location: Chimaltenango, Guatemala

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

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Journal May 18-24

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

I must have had a bit too much breakfast this morning because right in the middle of the church service the back 2 legs of the plastic chair that I was sitting on did the splits and I suddenly found myself sitting on the floor. I was glad that the kids had already left the service for Sunday school or I know that it would have taken even longer for Pastor Mike to be heard above the laughter. It sure woke everyone up though, even me. Actually I was not asleep although I had to explain this to a few of the people that did not see exactly what happened because some of them accused me of nodding off during the sermon and falling off from my chair. I was glad though that it happened to me and not to Pastor Mike because he was sitting on a tall stool while giving his sermon. Mike is not usually the kind of guy that preaches from a seated position but he is still recovering from a crushed ankle that he received in a motorcycle accident a few weeks ago.

After the service I let the kids once again hike up the hill that overlooks the city. We all then went to Piccadilly and devoured 2 pizzas. Yes, one of them even had vegetables on it. I am sure that we benefited from the vegetables because some of them were cut up so small that we were not able to pick them off from the pizza.

The kids asked me if we could go to Hermano Pedro afterwards. I said yes but was a bit apprehensive because 3 of the kids had never been there before and I was worried that they perhaps would not play with the kids. Boy was I wrong! With in 2 minutes they had a bunch of the kids out of their beds and had a soccer game going. Some of the orphanage kids were in walkers others were in wheelchairs and any that could not move around on their own were being pushed by the boys that had come along with me. I played for a while but could not keep up with this group for long so I visited with some of the other kids.
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When I returned I found most of the kids that had come along with me still playing soccer but 2 of the newer ones had disappeared. I was happy that they interacted with the kids as long as they did and figured that I would find them in the room that has a TV set in it. I was right but to my surprise they were not watching TV they were each standing by cribs giving bottles to some of the kids that cannot eat solid food. A half hour later I was still unable to get them to leave. Much like Fernando and Caline these 2 are naturals with the orphanage kids. When we got home I told the kids that I needed the house to myself for a while. Not all of them liked my decision but they left knowing that if they didn’t I would perhaps not let any of them back into the house for the entire day. They were pretty good about it for the first hour but now the doorbell is ringing at least once every 5 minutes so I guess I better quit writing for now and let them in.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, May 19, 2008, 10:34 PM

I got to Hermano Pedro in time to swim with the kids today. For a change I did not have to get everyone’s hair wet before they started having fun with the kids. I think that it had something to do with 2 new volunteers who had never been told that therapy is not suppose to be fun but today even the therapists had a good time. I had promised Moises and Byron that I would take them to McDonalds today and they were not about to let me change my mind. Fortunately Carlos and another volunteer came along as well because McDonalds is about 10 blocks away and the sidewalks there are not wheelchair friendly. The kids had a great time though and the volunteer that had to go into the playground tunnels to rescue Moises even enjoyed her self. Our walk home was even harder than the walk to McDonald's.

Rule # 181 Always check the condition of the batteries of a power wheelchair before heading all of the way across town.

Rule # 182 Always remember that a power wheelchair that has dead batteries is much harder to push all the way across town than a manual wheelchair.

I spent about an hour with Milton today and there was nothing that I could do to get him to stop crying. I had a meeting with Jessica this afternoon and she told me that she had spent over an hour with him yesterday and had the same results. The poor little boy cries non-stop from pain and something has to be done. Tomorrow we plan on meeting with one of the pediatricians that work at Hermano Pedro and I am thinking about visiting with Julio’s family on Wednesday. I am not sure what the answer is but it is only fair to inform them that he has not improved much since he arrived at the hospital. I can understand even better now why his parents, seemed to be at the end of their rope when I met them. Please pray for Milton and his family.

I was finally able to license my car today because my ticket has been paid. I never found out what the ticket was for or how I got one with out being handed one but then this is Guatemala where not much about the law makes sense.

The rainy season is officially here. Sunny and clear at 2 PM thunder, rain, and hail by 3 PM.

Lots of kids tonight, 10 went home, 3 are staying.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, May 20, 2008, 9:29 PM
I got to spend another day at the orphanage today. A group of around 10 people had arranged to meet me there so that they could meet the kids and also take several of them to lunch. I never turn down a free lunch especially if it includes 8 of the orphanage kids. The kids that we took today were some of the more active ones and they had a ball. I think the one that got the prize for having the most fun was Roberto (Bobby). Much like the other kids he loved the playground equipment but enjoyed himself the most when he was eating. At least he was supposed to be eating but once again it resembled body painting with food. The 2 people that were helping him were a bit startled when I told them that all I was ordering for Bobby was a small order of fries and every type of sauce that the restaurant had. They were even more puzzled when I told them there was no need to put a bib on bobby because it just spoiled his fun. I am not sure why most little boys have to get dirty to have fun but Bobby likes nothing better than wearing most of what he should be eating. Did he learn proper restaurant etiquette? Perhaps not but he certainly had a great time being allowed to be a kid. Besides that he can spend the next several weeks back at the orphanage having some one else feed him and not be allowed to even try to feed himself.After lunch we let most of the kids play on the playground equipment. Kids that are tied in wheelchairs a few hours a day and locked in cribs the rest of the day had the time of their lives climbing up ladders and going down slides. Most of them needed some help but it is amazing how much the majority of them were able to do on there own once given the opportunity.

I think that the group from the States had every bit as much fun as the kids did because when we got back to the orphanage several of them asked their leader if they could skip going to the markets and stay at the orphanage and play with the kids. It gave me a good feeling to know that I was not the only one that liked orphanages better than shopping. I stuck around with them for a while and then went over to the teen age boys section of the orphanage and put new seat belts on several of the wheelchairs. Even the older kids have so little going on in their lives that you would have thought by looking at the crowd of teens that was gathering around me that the circus had come to town instead of some old guy to install seat belts. No circus but I did a lot of clowning around with them while I worked and just like the younger kids they really enjoyed having some one just spend time with them.

As I was driving home I passed by Father Bernardo a few blocks from the orphanage. I had not visited with him lately so I pulled the car over and waited for him to pass by. Every afternoon at around 4:00 Pm he goes for a walk. He told me that since he is so forgetful he does not want to get lost so he always walks up and down the same road. Tonight he was quite alert and even recognized me. He even remembered that I spoke English and not Chinese or Italian and carried on our whole conversation with out switching languages. I told him about giving a man that we had visited a few weeks ago a power scooter and how his mother later told me that it had changed his life. Father Bernardo lit up like a Christmas tree when I told him that he was very much responsible for finding this man. I had shared this with him a while back but one of the neat things about being so forgetful is that it is like hearing some totally new good news every time you hear it. I must be getting a bit forgetful myself because as Father Bernardo’s eyes filled up with tears mine did to.

I fully intended on telling the kids that I needed the night to myself when I got home but when I pulled into my alley I melted. I told them that they could come in for about a half hour and we would have a game of soccer but then they would have to leave. That is when Fernando reminded me that I had promised that I would take him for a haircut this evening. I had promise so I told him to get into the car. I figured that if I went to the expensive barber on this side of town instead of my barber who is on the other side of town I could be back home in a half hour and then have the house to myself. Spending over nearly $1.50 was a bit hard on this Dutchman but I figured that I could splurge and pay an extra $.25 just this one time if it got me home sooner. My plans were once again changed though before we even got into the car to go for Fernando’s haircut. The rest of the boys asked me what had happened to the promise that I had just made to them that I would play soccer with them for a half hour. Nearly an hour later Fernando and I were on our way to the barbershop. After his hair cut Fernando and I stopped off and got some health food at Taco Bell. I had already told the kids that I had played soccer with that once I got home I was going to have the house to myself for a few hours and that tonight they would have to eat elsewhere. I guess that I should have told them to tell the other 8 that were waiting for us when I got home.

It wasn’t anything nearly as fancy as the Taco Bell meal that Fernando and I had just eaten but no one complained. In fact it smelled good enough that it drew the kids that I had played soccer with back to my house as well. Just a little past 9:00 the last kid has left. Not to bad considering I put my foot down after supper and told them that tonight they were all leaving at 8:00. I have now had the house to myself for nearly an hour, but now I’m getting a bit board. Do you know what? I don’t think that all of this peace and quiet stuff is all that it is cracked up to be.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, May 21, 2008, 9:49 PM

This morning I picked up Carlos from his home in Antigua and we headed for the coast. Our first stop was in a town that is located south of Santa Lucia. This is where the clinic is that has the doctor from Cuba who first helped us find Julio. One of the purposes of our visit was to figure out how to get food to Julio on a monthly bases now that he has returned home from the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro. The staff of the clinic told us that they would be more than happy to purchase the food for us and have one of their workers bring it to Julio’s home once a month. They are also going to weigh Julio each time and check his overall condition. This should help insure that most of the food that they are bringing in actually goes to him.

The next topic of discussion was Milton. I shared with the doctor and the rest of the staff of the clinic that Milton is not showing much sign of improvement even though the doctors and staff at Hermano Pedro are doing everything that they can for him. The staff of the clinic promised that they would relay this information on to Milton’s parents and are going to do there best to get them to go and visit their son and meet with the doctors from Hermano Pedro so that they could decide what the next step should be. From the sound of things Julio’s parents may not want him back.

Next we talked about a man and his 2 sons that the clinic introduced me to a few months ago. The mother of the boys died a few years ago and her husband is having a hard time caring for both of his sons because one of the boys is mentally handicapped and has to be supervised 24 hours a day. We had discussed paying some one to come in and help out a few hours a day but it is sounding like even that would not be enough. Just by CHANCE, or could it be Godincidence. Just last night I received a call from a lady who has an orphanage in Panajachel. She told me that she had run across my web page and felt led to contact me to let me know that they have room for more kids in case I knew of anyone that needed a home. She went on to explain that they are willing to take in special needs kids as well as those that are not special needs. They are willing to keep kids permanently, but one of their primary goals is to reunite families once the parents get back on their feet. This place sounds like a God send so I hope to check it out as soon as possible. Perhaps this will be the answer for this family.

Next we discussed Ronny’s family. They have been calling for the past few days telling me that all but the littlest baby now have what they were told was chicken pox. When I told the doctor at the clinic that 2 of the kids had these symptoms for close to 4 weeks he immediately said that he wanted to see them. I offered to go and pick them up but he told me that he was willing to take a longer than normal lunch break and would come along to their house with me. When we got there I was shocked to see just hoe bad one of the girls looked. She did not seem very sick but her face was covered with sores. The doctor said that it was a good thing that we came when we did because if her condition had been allowed to get any worse she would have had to be admitted into the hospital. I do not fully understand what it is that 6 of the 7 children in Ronny’s family now have but it sounds like it is some type of contagious bacterial infection. Not only do all of the children except for the baby have it but it sounds as though most of the children in the school now have it, and up until now everyone has been told that it is chicken pox. All of Ronny’s family is now on antibiotics and it sounds like most of the kids in this area will have to be given antibiotics as well.
When we left Ronny’s house I was going to bring the doctor and the male nurse who had come along with us back to the clinic, but he said that his patients would have to be more patient because he wanted to come along with us to bring the groceries that we had picked up this morning to Julio’s house. Fortunately the doctor showed me some back roads that cut the hour and a half drive in half. Even more fortunate was the fact that it did not start to rain until we had gotten off from them or I have a feeling we would have ended up spending the night.

Julio is still looking good but some of the other kids were he lives were quite sick. One little girl in particular had a high fever and a bad cough. She was walking around but looked like she should have been in bed. Fortunately the doctor had more medicine with him and he gave some to several of the kids. I had hoped to see Julio’s family in their new home but his mother told us that they did not want to move in until the had a window and a latch on the door. I told her that we plan on doing that as soon as we can but wondered why they were staying in there old house that had so many holes in it that any one who wanted to could walk in through one of many openings.

Julio’s uncle has made an attempt at fixing up Julio’s grandmother’s house but the tin that he used to cover some of the walls that were black plastic is in even worse shape than the tin that is on Julio’s old house. I had intended on talking to Julio’s Uncle about us building a new house for the grandmother but he was not at home. Besides that I first want to see what Julio’s family does with their new house.

Carlos and I stopped off for supper on the way home so that gave me enough energy to cook supper for 13 kids when I got home. Marcos pitched in with the cooking so it wasn’t all that much work. Things are now a bit calmer. All but 2 of the kids have gone home for the night. There is no school tomorrow so Fernando and Abner are once again staying the night. Why no School tomorrow? Good question. I don’t have the answer so I guess I will head off to bed and sleep on it.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, May 22, 2008 7:18 PM

I had a great day today and took a lot of pictures that I wanted to share in my journal. I had one regret though and that is that I forget to put the memory card back into my camera after unloading yesterday’s pictures. So sorry I didn't get any of the photos that I thought I was taking. The 4 Garbage dump pictures in todays journal have been downloaded from the web.

Fernando came along with me today since he had no School. Why no school? Today’s reason is almost as good as the, Having Off From School For Mothers Day Even Though Mother’s Day Was On Saturday Excuse, that they used last week. Today the kids had off from school for a, School Outing That Only The Rich Kids Can Afford To Go On Day. Guess how many rich kids live in Chimaltenango. I am not sure if those that went hired a cab or if one of the families lent out their Volkswagen. I must admit though that where we went today did make Chimaltenango look like a wealthy town. After meeting up in Guatemala City with Joel Van Dyke, we went to the Garbage dump. If you are not familiar with the Guatemala City Garbage dump let me tell you it is not your ordinary garbage dump. This garbage dump is home to thousands of people. Most of the families that live there have never been out of its confines. Granted it has improved over the last few years and instead of living in houses that are made from cardboard boxes most of the homes are built frorm tin or cement block but this is still not the place that you would want to live yet alone raise a family. The crime rate there is one of the highest in the world, and the narrow allys between the houses are not a safe place because of all of the drug dealers and gang members. Never the less thousands of people have no other choice but to scrounge through the garbage in hopes of finding some food or something of value that they can sell for a few cents so that they can exist from day to day. So what brought us here today? Joel gave me a phone call a few days ago and told me about a family that lives there who had a little boy who needed a wheelchair. Knowing that it would be next to impossible to get him to one of our wheelchair distributions I told Joel that If he could get me some pictures and information about the little boys condition that I would try and find the right wheelchair for him and then go along with him to where the little boy lived. I was a bit hesitant about leaving my car parked a few hundred feet from where this family lived but that was where the alley to their house narrowed down to a point that a car would not make it any further. Fortunately though there is a small clinic located there and the man with a gun that guarded the place told us that we could park my car there as long as we were back within an hour. I later discovered that they have a feeding program there for the kids and we were parked in the spot where they line up for food at noon. When we got to the house where Hector and his family lived Hector and his mother greeted us. Hector had been told that he was going to receive a wheelchair today and he was all smiles. Since the alley was so narrow and people were starting to gather round to see what was going on we decided that it would be better to go inside of Hector’s house to work on the wheelchair. After going inside of the house I was not so sure that the alley would not have been roomier especially considering that a fair number of the people that had been gathering up outside had followed us inside. The one room house could not have been more than 8 feet wide and was not much more than 15 feet long. It consisted of a small table one wooden chair and 2 homemade bunk beds that were 3 tears high. The floor was dirt and so was the back wall of the house. There was no way that Hector was going to move around much in this house but fortunately the alley in front of their home had recently been paved. It took us nearly an hour to get the chair set up exactly like we wanted it but Hector and his family were overjoyed. Before we left we took Hector and his new wheelchair out side and Fernando gave him a ride up and down the alley. It did not take long for a large crowd of people to gather. They all seamed to be pleased that hector received a wheelchair. Some one even brought us each a bottle of pop and thanked us for what we had done. I really wished that we had more time so that we could have explained about a gift that we had been given that was worth far more than a wheelchair but we had to go. Besides I do plan on going back soon because I still want to do some fine tuning and bring a tray for the wheelchair, but we had had promised the guard at the clinic that we would be no longer than an hour. Next time I will try to bring my camera but meanwhile the picture that I have in my mind, of a smiling family waving goodbye will have to due.

When we got back to Chimaltenango Fernando and I headed to the wheelchairs shop and did some work on a power wheelchair that promised a few weeks ago to a man who was lying in the hospital. He had been paralyzed when he was shot a few years ago. Tomorrow a family is bringing in a 14 year old boy that is so severe that it is going to take nothing less than a miracle to be able to seat him comfortably. Those are the fun cases though because it seems that after a frustrating hour or 2 I usually give in and tell God that I just can’t do it and He takes over. Some day I will learn to give it over to God right away and things will be much easier. I guess I’m just too proud to let go of my pride.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, May 23, 2008As I watched Angel’s mother and the ambulance driver unload him from the ambulance that the city of Esquentla brought him to the wheelchair shop in I had my doubts that I would be able to fit him into a wheelchair at all. His poor little body was so twisted that much of the time he cried out in pain. I knew that if he were to go back to his home in any kind of a wheelchair that would work for him it was going to take a lot of prayer. I spent a lot of time just getting to know the family and trying to get Angel to relax. I told Angels mom it could possibly take most of the day to seat him and even at that I was not sure what the end result would be. I found him to be very bright and was quite surprised that he could speak. It was a slow process but after working with him for about an hour he slowly became relaxed enough that his muscles loosened up enough that I could get him to bend into a semi-seated position. Even then his neck muscles stayed so tight that his head faced backwards over his left shoulder. I wish that I could say that when I went into the warehouse to look for a chair that I miraculously found one that was perfect for him but some miracles happen instantly and others take a lot of work and a long time. The wheelchair that I finally decided on was going to take a lot of modification. Alturo, who works in the warehouse, was a big help. Even though he was involved in another project he quit what he was doing to help me find an ever-growing list of parts that would be needed for Angel’s wheelchair. Every time I brought another part into the room where Angel was laying the expression on his face seamed to go more and more from that of extreme pain to excitement in getting a new wheelchair. As I worked I did more visiting with Angel and his mother. She was a very caring person who wants nothing but the best for her son. I shared with her that have worked with a lot of CP kids and told her that I to was aware of what a gift from God they are. I told her about Stephen and how much he had taught me over the years and told her that even though her son’s hands and feet do not work normally he is special and not only will she be able to teach him a lot of things but he will do a lot of teaching. As I slowly got the pile of parts to more and more resemble a wheelchair Angels enthusiasm grew, and the more interested that he got in watching what I was doing the more his muscles relaxed. I am seeing more and more the importance of spending time and visiting with the people that we work with, especially the CP kids. The more relaxed that they become the easier it is to fit them properly. This family had been waiting for 14 years for a wheelchair. Why couldn’t I spend a little extra time making sure that he was getting something that was going to do as much for his health as possible? 4 hours later Angel was sitting in his new wheelchair. He was not sitting perfectly straight but was positioned far better than any one including his mother or myself had ever hoped for. His mom is going to bring him back to the shop in about a month and we will see if after having some therapy and using the wheelchair he has improved enough that we can get him seated even straighter, but even now his breathing seemed much less labored and his smile told me that he was comfortable.

The rest of my day was spent in the wheelchair shop working with Alturo. We are trying to get a few power chairs set up for some more people that also have special needs.

I didn’t realize how much money I have been spending at Camperos until I added up my Campero's Quetzales. Camperos gives you one of these fake Quetzales every time you spend 10 real Quetzales there. The fact that I accumulated over 300 of them in about a months time is a bit frightening but the 15 kids that came over for the 4 large Pizzas that we bought with the funny money tonight thought that it was great. Actually I did to, not because I am that big of a Pizza fan but it was a good way to get out of cooking for the crew.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, May 24, 2008, 9:10 PM

Since it is Saturday today I decided to spend the day down at the lake. Actually it wasn’t exactly a day off because I wanted to go to Panajachel to check out an orphanage that I heard about. Actually the owner of the orphanage called me a few days ago and told me that they had room for some kids and that they were even willing to take in special needs children. When Abner, Alex, and I stopped off at the home of the family that operates the orphanage, it seemed a lot like my place because there were wall-to-wall kids. As it turned out this was only their home and not the orphanage site. The 9 kids that we met were their adopted and biological kids. The orphanage, which we later visited, was about a mile away. The husband and wife told me that they like living a little ways away from the orphanage because it give them the opportunity to get away from the 32 kids that live there every now and then. This was really starting to sound familiar. Work at the orphanage all day and then go home to 9 kids so that you can relax. I guess some people are born for punishment, and the there are those of us who are blessed with all of these great kids. Mine have all gone home and won’t be back until tomorrow morning and it is already getting too quiet around here.

After our visit I took the Abner and Alex down to the lake. It was raining a bit but that didn’t seem to dampen their desire to swim. There were a few other kids swimming there and soon all of them were having a great time playing together. They tried to coax me into joining them but I told them that it was raining so I was afraid that if I swam I would get wet. Wouldn’t you know it, just when they were getting over my asking them if their dog was barking in Spanish or in English they were now once again giving me strange looks.

We have back-to-back groups coming in from the USA starting tomorrow so I am going to close for now and try to get this journal out yet tonight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Journal May 10-18

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Yesterday, I did not think that I would be able to go to Church this morning because we had a group of 9 therapy students and their teacher arriving at the airport early this afternoon, but Chris felt that he could squeeze them into one van so I did not go along to the airport today to pick them up. Six kids showed up for breakfast and 5 of them came along to church with me. Calin has not wanted to come along to church the last 2 times but will not tell me why. I think that I will give it some time because right now he does not want to discuss it.

Just before leaving for Church I received a phone call from Angelica’s family. Angelica is the elderly lady that broke her leg when she was struck by a motorcycle several months ago. Even though Hermano Pedro has undone most of the damage that the national hospital caused when putting an incorrect plate into her leg, she has not fully gotten rid of an infection that she got as a result of the bad plate. Today’s call was to inform me that her infection has gotten worse and her family was wondering if I could arrange for her to see a doctor at Hermano Pedro. I had gotten a phone call from Ronny’s family the day before telling me that the batteries that were in Ronny’s wheelchair had gone bad. When they called I told them that it would be over a week before I could do anything about it but since Angelica had to get in to the doctor I decided that I would head down to the coast after bringing the kids home from Church. Needless to say before bringing them home we stopped off at Camperos and had lunch. Fernando asked if he could come along to pick up Angelica and I told him that it was OK with me. I must have not made it clear that I was speaking only to Fernando because before I know it Calin and Cesar were also climbing into my car.

Before picking up Angelica we stopped off at Ronny’s house. Two of the kids in Ronny’s family have the chicken pox but they do not seem to be very sick from it. The new baby is doing fine. Fernando and Calin fought over who could hold him. All of Ronny’s entire family is extremely happy with their new home. We would have liked to visit longer but still had to pick up Angelica, her husband, and granddaughter and get them back to Antigua so I pried the baby away from the boys and we were on our way.

Angelica’s family loaded my car up with coconuts when we got to their place. It seems that every time we go there I come home with a carload of fruits and vegetables. Tomorrow Angelica will see a doctor at Hermano Pedro and hopefully he can do something to take care of the infection that is in her leg. After getting her checked in to Casa DeFey the boys and I stopped off for some supper and then headed for home.

There were more kids when I got home but they did not stay long because I have to get packed up and be at the wheelchair shop by 5:30 AM.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, May 12, 2008
Well we are on the road again. After loading up some wheelchairs and supplies at the shop Chris, Hanna, Saul, and I headed to Guatemala City. Once there we picked up the group of ladies that had arrived from the USA yesterday. They are staying at a Christian facility in the City. We then headed to an orphanage that is located in the City. This is one of the orphanages that we supply with wheelchairs and it had been far too long since our last visit. We spent several hours there repairing and replacing wheelchairs. We plan on going back there on Wednesday afternoon as well. About 5 of the teen-age kids from this orphanage have attended our camp in Chimaltenango for the past several years so it was great to see them again. Gustavo, one of the boys has become a favorite of many of us. Even though he cannot walk and has almost no hand use he is always happy. His speech is nearly impossible to understand but Ludwig, one of the other boys can understand him perfectly. For several years I have wanted to put Gustavo in a power wheelchair but the mother superior that runs this orphanage told me that since some of the hall ways are narrow and at time crowded with manual wheelchairs she felt that Ludwig’s power chair was the only one that she wanted there. I know what a difference a power chair would make for Gustavo but have to abide by the mother superior’s decision. That does not mean that I had stopped praying that the mother would perhaps change her mind some day. Gustavo has a home that he goes to about 4 days a month but up until today I have never met the family that he stays with. When we arrived at the orphanage this morning the lady who’s house he goes to was at the orphanage. She is a very caring person and she thinks a lot of Gustavo. Hanna interpreted for us as we visited. I told this lady that I was certain that even though Gustavo can barely talk I know that he was extremely bright. She told me that she did not have to be convinced of that. I then shared with her that I had worked with Gustavo at our last camp and that I was fully convinced that even though he cannot use his hands to operate a power wheelchair I was sure that he would have no problem driving a head controlled power chair. I told her that the mother superior was worried that he might hurt him self or one of the other children while he was learning to drive it so she felt that it was best if he did not have one at the orphanage. Gustavo’s mom did not need even a second to think things over but told me immediately that there would be no problem if we wanted to bring one to her house and that she would be more than happy to work with him on the days that he was there. I am wondering if the mother superior has the orphanage bugged because the next thing I knew see was right there beside us. She quickly reconfirmed her felling about having the wheelchair at the orphanage but said that she had no problem with it if Gustavo had kept one with this family. I thanked her and told her about Byron and his head controlled wheelchair. I explained how much it has improved his life but I also told her that he could be a rascal at time so there were occasionally days that we would have to take him out of it for the day. She then looked me in the eyes and said, “You know I guess that it would improve Gustavo’s life to have a power wheelchair. I guess as long as there is a way to turn it off if he is misbehaving we could go ahead and give it a try here at the orphanage once he learns how to drive it.” I told Gustavo who was listing to every word that it may be a few months before I got the opportunity to build up a head controlled chair but just knowing that he will get one will be enough to keep him smiling for a long long time. We worked on wheelchairs until noon then the orphanage fed us some lunch. After lunch we packed up and headed for Chechecastenango. We plan on returning to the orphanage in Guatemala City on Wednesday afternoon but have a wheelchair distribution in Cheche on Tuesday.
The drive to Cheche was quite an experience for those who were not used to the Guatemalan stile for driving. Fact is it was quite an experience for all of us. They are doing a lot of road construction on a good deal of the highway and in several places traffic would be stopped for up to an hour. Long lines of trucks, busses, and cars would form and once they opened that section of road back up it was a free for all until you got to the next section of road that would be closed a few miles up the road. The busses were the worst often riding your bumper so closely that all you could see in your rear views mirror was their license plate and a section of their grill if they still had one. These were some of the tamer buss drivers the braver ones would stay in the opposite lane passing on blind corners and hills. When they would meet oncoming traffic they would swing back into their own lane paying little attention to the cars that were along side of them. Some of the more insane drivers wouldn’t even pull over but would simply run the oncoming traffic off the road. I kept wondering what would happen if they met another buss driver that was as aggressive as the were but fortunately it did not happen this trip.

Tonight we are staying in a motel in Cheche. It is nothing overly fancy but it is clean and the beds look reasonably comfortable. I guess there is no way to know for sure just how good the beds are without trying them out so I guess that I will do that.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 7:57 PM

Last night we made arrangements with the restaurant across from our motel to open at 7 AM so that we could eat and be at the wheelchair distribution that we were having only a short distance from here. Both George, who I was rooming with and I decided to set our alarms for 6 so that we would be sure to get up on time. This morning when only George’s alarm went off I told him that I was thankful that we had both set alarms because mine remained silent. After having a shower and getting dressed I looked at my watch to see how much time we had before going to breakfast. When George got out of the shower I showed it to him. He looked at his clock gave me a silly grin and climbed back into bed. I didn’t because I was now wide awake. I guess when you are sleepy and setting your alarm 5 AM and 6 AM look quite a bit the same. Any way they evidently did to George.

We had a great distribution today. We only gave out around 35 wheelchairs but many of the people that received them were children who needed specialty wheelchairs so had it not been for the fine group of therapy students that we had with us it would have been an all day job. Not all of these students have had a lot of hands on experience seating wheelchairs but they know what to look for and are eager to learn. Rather than setting up a seating station of my own I helped out the 4 groups of therapy students whenever they ran into a problem. I must admit though that their problems were few and they turned out some well fitting wheelchairs. As much as I enjoy seating wheelchairs it was fun to be able to spend at least some of my time watching some of the others interact with the people that came in for chairs. May of the people that came in today came from villages that were several hours out. Several families knew no Spanish but we had plenty of interpreters that helped us out. Chris had left from home early this morning and Pastor Juan who speaks the native language came along with him and shared a message with the people, in their own language.

This afternoon Chris and some of the others headed back to Chimaltenango. Saul, Hanna, and I are spending the night here in Cheche with the group. Tomorrow we will take them back the Guatemala City where we plan on finishing up on the wheelchairs that need repair or replacement that are in the orphanage that we visited yesterday. So far it has been and looks like it will continue to be a busy week. This is a fun group that we are with though so we are having a good time.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

We left Chichicastenango at around 8:30 AM. Once again there were a lot of construction delays along the road and the buss drivers were as wild as ever but we managed to get into Chimaltenango by lunchtime. Since this group is an especially adventurous one and willing to eat what ever is set in front of them, we took them to Martha’s for lunch. The kids and I eat there a lot but it is not a place that we take all of our visitors to. This group enjoyed both the food and the atmosphere, as this is a restaurant where many of the working people of Chimaltenango eat. Nothing fancy but the food is good and no one that I have ever taken there has ever gotten sick.
After lunch we headed to Guatemala City where we finished up on seating the wheelchairs that we had started working on 2 days ago. Gustavo was one of the first to greet me. He quickly reminded me that he had been given the OK to have a power wheelchair. I assured him that I would not forget. Once again everyone chipped in and even though several of the kids were fairly hard cases we finished up at around 5:30. We could have perhaps finished up a bit sooner had it not been for the fact that I let some of the kids from this orphanage help me work on several of the wheelchairs. They were every bit as enthusiastic about helping me as the kids from Hermano Pedro are. Even Julio who has very limited hand use loved it when I put his hand on the wrench with mine and we tightened some bolts that were on one of the wheelchairs. I wonder what it is that makes most kids that never get much of an opportunity to work love it, and many adult that have the blessing of having a job, wish that they did not have to go to work. I guess that it has something to do with the magic of being a child. Since I love what I am doing so much I wonder if perhaps I am going through my second childhood. Oh well I’m not going to worry about it. That would be something that only a mature adult would do. Before leaving Gustavo once again reminded me about the power wheelchair. I once again promised him that I would not forget but reminded him that it would be some time before I could get a head controlled chair built up for him. I had originally told him that it would likely be several months before I could get to it but knowing what it means to him I am going to see if I can get one set up sooner than that.

I didn’t get back home until around 8 PM but was discovered by a half dozen of the kids right away. The reception that I got made me think that perhaps I had been gone from home for more than 2 days. I love the groups that come in from the States and the distributions that we do but I sure miss these kids when I am gone. Since I had already eaten I let the kids cook for themselves tonight and they were fine with that as long as I stayed in the room and visited with them while they cooked. I’m afraid that having the only hot shower in the neighborhood had cause the kids not to shower while I was gone because most of the kids decided that they needed one. I don’t know who set up the rules but some one evidently decided that if you got out of my outside bathroom as soon as you got out of the shower the next person could get into the shower all the quicker. Perhaps this was not a bad idea but I must admit my yard resembled a nudist camp for a while.

(No Photos!!)

Well all of the kids have gotten dressed and left, or simply left, and it has been a long day and we have a full day scheduled for tomorrow so I am going to head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, May 15, 2008, 9:30 PM
After stopping off at the shop and picking up some supplies and several wheelchairs Chris, Hanna, Saul, and I headed towards Anini. Chris took most of the supplies in his pickup truck. Saul and I both took cars so that we could pick up the 10 therapy students that have been working with us all week. We did not have a lot of wheelchairs that needed replacing at the Anini orphanage but some of the kids that needed new wheelchairs were difficult cases. One girl in particular took one of the seating teams the entire day to get seated. It was well worth the effort though because she looked 100% more comfortable by the end of the day then she did when we arrived.
I was tempted to stop off for a quiet supper once I dropped everyone off but remembered how happy the kids were to see me last night and decided that it would be nice to get home and see them. I didn’t feel much like cooking supper though and knew that it would not be fare to ask the kids to do the cooking since they had been so good about doing it last night, so I stopped off and bought a barbequed chicken. Along with a large loaf of bread and lots of refried beans all 11 of us left the table well satisfied. I planned on getting tonight’s Journal written earlier but all 10 kids have taken turns at asking me to either help them with home work or put on a band aide. First things first so that is why I am going to close for now and spend some time listing about all of their exciting activities of the day.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, May 16, 2008,

This morning Saul, Fernando, and I went to Guatemala City and picked up the 10 therapy students that have been working with us all week. We then went to Hermano Pedro, but unlike all of the other orphanages that we have gone to this week we left our tools in the cars. This was going to be a fun day with the kids. After giving the group a tour of the orphanage we checked out 9 of the teen-age girls and took them to lunch. I had been promising them that I would take them to lunch for months but every time I tried to schedule it something seemed to prevent it from happening. These girls are patient though, and they were still as excited to go out for lunch, as they had been when I first promised them that I would take them as a group. The group from the USA was wonderful with the girls and even though several of the girls from the orphanage could eat nothing more than liquids from baby bottles their enthusiasm was that of having received a steak dinner.

After returning from lunch we spent the rest of the afternoon just hanging out with some of the other kids from the orphanage. I was also able to get most of the gang up into the malnutrition ward to see the kids that are there. Most of the kids have improved, but Milton does not seem to be doing much better. He still runs fevers part of the time and even though he is eating the continual muscle spasms that affect his entire body seam to burn up more calories than he can take in through eating and his feeding tube combined. I pray that if he does not make it that the people from his town do not develop mistrust in what we and the people from the clinic, who brought me to his home are trying to do to help these families. I know that In Julio’s case many neighbors came over to his house after his family allowed us to take him to Hermano Pedro, and told his parents that they would never again see their child alive. Praise God they were wrong and the large number of approving neighbors that showed up at his home when we returned Julio there 2 months later confirmed that they now trusted us. I pray though that we will never stop stepping in to help if we believe that there is a possibility that a life can be saved, no matter what the repercussion could be. I am quite sure that if the Good Samaritan had stopped to ponder what the negative results might have been, he to would have found reason to pass by on the other side of the road.

At around 4:30 we said good-bye and then took the ladies shopping for the next 10 hours. Woops, I guess that it was only for an hour or 2 but to me it seemed like 2 hours. At least this group did not spend their money on a bunch of cheep junk. They seemed to have better taste then most groups that we take shopping so they bought expensive junk.

Well it is getting late and I have to be up at 5:00 AM so I will once again say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, May 17, 2008, 8:13 PM

I just now got back home after being gone since 6 AM. Calin’s turn to come along with me today. Unlike yesterday when Fernando came along with me, today there was a legitimate reason for school to be out. It is Saturday today. As far as yesterday was concerned it was likely preparation for Saturday, yesterday. This was another one of those put on lots of miles days today. After driving to Guatemala City and picking up the 10 ladies that have been with us all week. Saul, Hanna, Calin, and I brought them to Santiago, which is about 3 ½ hours from the city. Due to all of the construction that is taking place on the Pan American Highway we decided to take back roads all the way. The scenery was spectacular but the roads were not. Most of the roads in Guatemala are steep and curvy but this one has to be right up there in the top 10. One minute you are climbing up a hill that requires first gear just to make it to the top, and the next minute you are going down something just as steep, praying that your breaks did not overheat. The main purpose of today’s trip to this town that is on the lake was to look at ladies legs and feet. I guess that I better explain. A friend of ours runs a senior center in Santiago and a lot of elderly people show up there daily for a meal. For many of those that come it is the only food that they will eat the entire day. The therapy students that accompanied us and their instructor decided to hold a foot care clinic there today. I must admit I was a bit skeptical when I heard that they wanted to travel all this way just to wash and massage people feet and to cut their toe nails, but what a neat ministry. The elderly people that came to the center loved it. Getting a little special attention from some one who was willing to spend time with them seemed to do wonders. Most of them talked nonstop while the ladies worked on their feet. It didn’t seem to matter that none of us understood a word that they were saying. Yes, we had several people in our group that could speak Spanish but most of these people only spoke their native language. Most of them were so delighted that not only did they shake hands with and hug those who worked on their feet but even those of us who were simply observing got our fare share of hugs and thank yous. The Ladies finished up at around noon and then we when to a restaurant that overlooks the lake and had some lunch. After lunch the group walked down to the part of the village where 650 people were buried alive by mud slides 2 ½ years ago. I told the group that I wanted to be on the road for home by 3 because this was not a road that you wanted to travel after dark. I guess I should have said 2:45 because when the ladies got back into the 2 cars they discovered that they still had 15 minutes to do some shopping. Fortunately I had allowed a margin of error in the 3 PM departure fearing that this might happen so even though the 15 minutes ran into something more like 45 we still managed to get off the narrow winding roads before dark. I am afraid that I hurried them to much though because instead of taking their time to buy expensive junk they bought the typical cheep junk. Perhaps there friends and family members back at home will be fortunate though because there is always the possibility that these gifts will be lost or stolen before they get to them.

It has been another great week but it has been non-stop. Next week there are no groups but everyday is booked up with something and then starting on Sunday we have 2 groups coming in back-to-back.

Please pray that God will continue to give us His strength.

2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

Philippians 4:13
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Yours in Christ: Dick