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

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

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Location: Chimaltenango, Guatemala

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

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Journal April 27-May 4

(Click on any photo to enlarge)
Monday, April 28. 2008

Today I met at Hermano Pedro with a group of around 15 people that are here from the USA for a week. We had discussed taking some of the kids to out lunch after I showed them around the orphanage but there were just to many people so we settled for taking several kids to the park. I think that even though there were some tears shed, and a few people had to get a ways out of their comfort zone, that it was a good experience for everyone. The kids really enjoyed the park and my friends from the USA seemed to enjoy the kids as well. Since we had to have the kids back to Hermano Pedro by lunchtime our stay at the park was much shorter than anyone wanted it to be. When we got back to the orphanage I took some of the group up to the malnutrition ward while the others stayed and helped feed some of the kids. The 2 groups later traded off so that everyone had the opportunity to do both. Seeing some of the kids that are still not doing well was not easy for many of the Americans. Reading about starving kids or seeing them on TV is one thing but seeing them face to face or actually holding a starving child suddenly makes it all to real. After visiting the malnutrition ward and helping feed kids the group of us went to Camperos to eat. The staff at Camperos seemed surprised when I told them that we needed a table for 15 and actually wanted 15 chairs. They have gotten use to leaving a lot of empty spaces for wheelchairs by the table whenever they see me come into the restaurant. After lunch I said good-bye to the group, headed back to Hermano Pedro and spent an hour just holding kids.
On my way home this evening I stopped off and had a few exhaust pipe brackets replaced on my car. It seems that some of the roads that I travel have deep enough ruts in them that my car hits bottom even though I have enough clearance that you can nearly drive a Volkswagen under it. I stopped off at home just long enough to ask Abner if he would come along with me to the bank and interpret for me so that I could get my car licensed. Actually I preferred having Fernando come along with me because Abner can get moody and stop interpreting right in the middle of a conversation with some one. So why did I ask Abner? Because it was his turn and I know that he would be mad all evening if I didn’t give him first chance to come along with me. I was also quite sure that I would end up having Fernando come along with me instead of Abner anyway. All I had to do was mention to Abner that I needed some one to do a job for me and he quickly said no and volunteered Fernando. I call it My Reverse Tom Sawyer Psychology.

When we got to the bank there was a long line there so jus to make sure that they licensed cars there we asked one of the guards. He assured us that they did but pointed us to the wrong line. Fifteen minutes later we finally made it up to the teller’s window. After telling the teller what we told her the teller told us that we had been told to talk to the wrong teller. Boy, try saying that one as fast as you can ten times in a row. At least the line that the teller told us to go to was much shorter. In fact there were only 2 people in front of us. Little did we know that they each had a half hours worth of business to do so we stood in line for nearly an hour. When we finally got our turn I crossed my fingers as Fernando asked if this was indeed the line that sold car licenses. The lady that helped us smiled and said that we were indeed at the right place. I then handed her all of my paper work and had Fernando ask how much it would cost me to license my car. After Fernando and the lady exchanged a few sentences he looked up to me and said that I did not have to pay anything. Wow! I had remembered from last year that it was not all that much money to license my car but I had thought that I remembered paying something. I asked Fernando if he was sure and he told me that he was. “Why?” I asked. “Because lady no more have licenses.” He told me. He went on to explain that they had just run out of stickers and would not have any until tomorrow morning. I looked at my watch and realize that it was nearly 6 PM. That is when most of the banks here in Guatemala close. I grabbed Fernando’s hand and ran out of the bank. I took the time to nod and smile at the 2 armed guards that were standing by the door though. Here in Guatemala it is shoot first, ask questions later. We managed to get to a bank that was about a block away just before they hung out the closed sign. There was no one in line so we went right up to the teller’s window and quickly asked if they sold car licenses and if so did they have the stickers. We were told yes to both questions so once again I took out all of the necessary paper work and handed it to the teller. She quickly got on her computer and started typing in the necessary information. All of a sudden she got a look on her face that told me that something was wrong. She looked across the room at the bank manager and motioned for him to come over. He took one look at the computer and shook his head. They tried telling me something in Spanish but neither Fernando nor I fully understood what they were saying. The manager than tried out his English which was about as bad as my Spanish and explained to me that before licensing my car I would have to go into Guatemala City and pay a 500Q ($65) traffic ticket. I tried telling him that I have never received a ticket here in Guatemala but he explained to me that computers don’t lye. He evidently does not go to the presidential candidates web pages but then that’s another story. Any way now I have to figure out how to protest or pay for a ticket that I never received. So far after talking with a few of my Guatemalan friends that have had similar experiences it is a lot faster and cheaper to pay.

I stopped and bought a roasted chicken on the way home and it didn’t take long before it was a skeleton. Now most of the kids are out in the yard playing basketball. I think that I will go out and join them.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday. April 29, 2008

I once again spent a good part of my day at Hermano Pedro today. When I arrived there I found that the head controll of Byron’s power wheelchair was broken so I spent most of the morning fixing it.

A young lady from Norway is volunteering at Hermano Pedro for a few weeks and she has fallen in love with Alex. She spends a good deal of her time trying to get him to eat and is having some good results. This mooring she asked me if we could take him out to for lunch since she felt that perhaps a change of food and environment would help his appetite. I also checked out Hidey, one of the little girls who seldom comes along to lunch. Both her and Alex did very well. Alex ate a lot more than he normally does and by the time we had finished lunch Hidey was feeding herself with a fork.

We got back to Hermano Pedro before 2 PM and all but a few of the kids were in bed for the day. In fact they will be there until 8 AM tomorrow morning. Strange as it sounds it seems impossible convince the caregivers that 18 hours in bed is not good for the kids. I decided though to let this one go for the day but trust me I am not giving up on this one.

I spent the rest of the afternoon placing Alverto, a new little boy into a wheelchair. Alverto loves to be held so he put up a bit of a fuss when after holding him for a while I placed him into his new wheelchair, but he calmed down as soon as I took him for a ride in it.

This evening Fernando and Noah asked if they could make the entire dinner. I offered to help but they insisted that they could do it them selves. I think that Fernando has an addiction to hot dogs but along with refried beans, potato chips, and Coke it wasn’t a bad supper. OK, other than the beans it was not exactly health food but compared to some of the stuff that I feed the kids it wasn’t bad.

Calin still has no electricity in his house so he is once again spending the night. So am I, so I am going to head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, April 30, 2008, 10:56 PM

I got a phone call last night from Chris. He told me that David Garcia who lives near the coast has a new bed sore but refuses to let his mother treat it. I guess that I can’t exactly blame him because he is 16 and even though he is Guatemalan he has a bit of modesty. I didn’t want it to get as bad as the last one that went all the way to the bone and finally healed up just a few months ago after several years of treating it so I said that I would go there and see what could be done. Since I was going that way anyway I called Hermano Pedro to see if Julio’s mother was coming to the hospital to take him home today. Jessica called their neighbors and they confirmed that mother had caught a buss for Antigua at 4 AM so she would likely get to Antigua sometime before noon. Granted it only takes 2 hours to get to their home by car but there is no direct rout if you take a buss. I picked up some antibiotics for David and the medicine that I needed to treat his bedsore. Then I went and got a water filter to give to Julio’s family. By the time I got to Hermano Pedro Julio’s mom was already there. She looked a bit worried and told me that the hospital had told her that they would not release Julio until she had paid them what she owed them. I then went with her to the main office to see what the bill for Julio’s medical exams, medicines, and 2 months stay was. I was surprised to see that their rates have gone up a bit but they were not bad compared to American prices. Fortunately I had just gone to the bank and withdrew some money yesterday so I was able to pay off Julio’s entire bill. I still thing that $40 for everything is a bit steep but have herd roomers that Hospital prices are even higher in the USA.

Three of the people who are here visiting from the States road along with me to bring Julio and his mother home. During the 2 hour car ride I kept looking at Julio’s mom in my rear view mirror. She could not take her eyes off from her son. I think that she found it hard to believe how much better he looked considering that it had been less than 2 months ago since she was in may car heading to Hermano Pedro with her son who was on the verge of starvation. When we reached Julio’s house his brothers and sisters ran to the car to meet him. His father and other relatives were not far behind. Soon many of the neighbors came to see him as well. Just a few weeks ago Julio’s father had shared with us how skeptical many of the neighbors were about the family allowing their son to go with us to Hermano Pedro. Today it was quite evident that whatever skepticism had been there was gone now. Even Julio’s uncle who had been less then friendly on a few previous visits smiled and showed his approval. We visited for a while and the family took us through their new house that Saul, Benjamin, Juan, and Howard had put up for them. We also gave them a water filter and showed them how to use it. As we left we made no promises but I am praying that we can soon return and build a house for Julio’s grandmother. Her living conditions are unbelievable.

Our next stop was at David’s house. We visited for a while and then the others went out side while I worked on David’s bed sore. Fortunately it looks like we got to this one in time and it is not nearly as bad as the one that took several years to heal up. I gave David some cream to put on it and also put him on antibiotics and promised to bring him a special cushion for his wheelchair the next time that I get out his way.

It was late by the time we got home so only Abner and Fernando showed up at my house. They are both feeling bad that I am going to be on the road for about a week but handle it much better than they use to. I think that they are starting to believe me when I tell them that I am coming back. I can’t blame them for doubting me though because they have both herd the same thing from their own mothers for most of their lives.

Well it is once again that time of day so I will say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, May 1, 2008
For the past few years now, once a year we have teamed up with Joni and Friends, and Vine International, to do a week long wheelchair distribution here in Guatemala. Today is day one of seven days that we will be working along side of these 2 Christian organizations in not only giving out Wheelchairs, but also providing doctors, dentists, and Christian consolers that are willing to work one on one with the families that come to the wheelchair distributions that we will be doing in various parts of Guatemala throughout the next seven days. This afternoon Chris, Benjamin, and myself met in Guatemala City with close to 20 people from these 2 organizations, many of whom have become old friends, and had a wheelchair distribution in a park that is located in the hart of the city. Tomorrow we plan on returning to the same park and will be spending the entire day giving out wheelchairs and sharing the love of Jesus with close to 50 more families. After that we will be moving north east to the Rio Dolce area and spending a few days there doing the same. Then we plan on going even further north where we plan on doing more distributions in the Butan region of Guatemala. This is always an exciting but extremely busy time for us. Please pray for safety and wisdom as we travel and work with the people that we come in contact with and that we can not only meet their physical needs but by God’s grace also help in guiding them to the one that can supply their every need.

Today’s distribution was kept small because many of the team members had arrived from the states a few hours earlier but there was no lack in enthusiasm in the members of our team. This was the first time in Guatemala for many but most took to it like a duck to water.

Tonight we are treated to a wonderful dinner and staying in a hotel that is quite unlike the $5 to $8 per night ones that we are accustom to but like I said we are being treated so we are grateful.

I think that I will go and see if an expensive bed sleeps any differently than a cheep one.

Yours in Christ: Dick
Friday, May 2, 2008, 8:04 PM

Today we had another wheelchair distribution at the same park in Guatemala City that we had one in yesterday. Over 60 wheelchairs were given out to day. Some of the people were easy to fit and but others took us several hours to do. We had a 23 year old lady that took one of the people that was here with Joni and Friends and myself over 4 hours to fit. It was well worth it though because we managed to get her positioned well and she and her mother were very happy with her wheelchair. Another highlight of my day was giving a wheelchair to a 10 year old boy who had never owned one before. Once we showed him how to use it there was no stopping him. As well as getting a wheelchair each family also had the opportunity to have some one pray with them and to see a doctor. Most everyone welcomed both opportunities.

We have to get up early to head to Rio Dulce so I well keep this short. Here are some pictures that will help explain our day better than I can when I am sleepy.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, May 3, 2008, 10:34 AM

Normally I do not get much opportunity to write in my journal during the middle of the day but right now we are all on a 5 hour bus ride that is taking us from Guatemala City to Rio Dulci. After arriving in Rio Dulce this afternoon we plan on doing a small wheelchair distribution and then a much larger one there tomorrow. We are hoping that everyone that is on the buss will be able to help out this afternoon but right now a few of them are a little woozy from the buss ride. Actually this driver is relatively tame compared to most Guatemalan drivers but judging by some of the Americans that are on board the driving is not quite what they are accustom to in the states. I will try to write more later today but right now the screaming is making it hare for me to concentrate on what I am writing.

8:35 PM

We arrived in Rio Dulce at around 12:30 PM. We ate lunch with Mike and Karen Rea. God has blessed them whit a beautiful piece of land that now has 3 homes, a multipurpose building and a warehouse on it. All they are waiting for is the kids. Mike and Karen plan on operating a ranch for kids that have no homes due to abandonment or court order but are waiting until the government approves their facility. The place is beautiful and Mike and Karen are wonderful Christian people but trying to get government permission for anything like this has been very difficult to get lately. Please pray that they will be approved soon. They are ready for the kids and neadless to say there are all kinds of kids that need loving places to live.

This afternoon’s wheelchair distribution was a small one but a good one. Most of the people that we gave wheelchairs to were adults but I did seat one little boy who was a riot. He had never owned a wheelchair before but once I showed him how to use the one that we set him in he was non-stop. I think that his poor mother had been carrying him around all of his life so when he took off she was right behind him with a panicked look on her face. Every time that he got near anyone or anything she would grab the chair and poit him in what she considered a safe direction. Poor mom was wearing herself out trying to keep up with him. If this newfound independence was not almost too much for mom to handle you should have seen her when I gave her son a walker. I wandered a bit if mom perhaps was thinking that she had made a mistake by bringing her son to us but I could tell that she was very loving and wanted the best for her son so I have little doubt that with in a few days she will get accustom to her son’s new found freedom.

The motel that we are staying at tonight is located right on the river. The only way that you can get here is by boat. I guess you could swim but even though the river is beautiful we have been told that it is quite polluted. I think that it may be a bit of an exaggeration but some of the locals claim that there is so much mercury in the water that if you swim in it you will glow in the dark. I have my doubts but will stay in the boat just the same.

Tomorrow’s distribution is supposed to be a much larger one so I am going to head off to bed and get some sleep.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, May 4, 2008, 5:51 PM
We started out our day with a church servace at Mike and Karen's place, and then had another great distribution. Only 33 people were given wheelchairs today but we all stayed busy since we had quite a few hard cases and only had 4 seating stations. Benjamin decided to take the day off from seating wheelchairs and helped out as an aid to the dentist who is on our team. I had one of the same people helping me that helped yesterday. A few other people that had not been involved in seating wheelchairs helped us as well. They were quite mechanical and caught on quickly.
Our first patient was an old man who suffered from Parkinson’s disease. He was quite feeble so I sat him first so that his daughter did could take him home. The weather here is usually very hot so we try to get those who are not healthy finished and on their way home as quickly as possible. Fortunately today we had a few clouds that helped keep things a bit cooler but it was still hot by most people’s standards.

One of my favorite people of the day was a 12 year old boy who had cerebral palsy who I had seated in a wheelchair 3 years ago. He and his family immediately recognized me when they came into the door and you would have thought that I was a long lost brother. The entire family is a lot of fun so we all had a good time as we replaced his previous wheelchair that he had outgrown. I had to lift him in and out of his several times and he and his family would laugh whenever I moved him and acted like I was going to place him in his wheelchair upside down. At one point when he was looking over at the dentist Ronnie and I went over to him and acted like we were going to work on his teeth with a cordless drill. He thought that it was great and hammed it up for the camera as much as we did.

At around 1:30 there were no more people waiting for wheelchairs other than those that were being seated at the other 3 seating stations so I started packing up my tools. I even gave a bit of a hard time to those who were still seating people, rightfully so though because I am often the last one to finish and they give me a hard time then. I soon found out that I had put away my tools to soon though because a family that had a little boy with downs syndrome walked in as I was putting the last of my tools away. The little boy was about 2 ½ years old and unable to walk or talk. I asked the family if he could stand up on his own and they told me no. I tried to stand him up while I held him but his he flexed his knees and sat down as soon as his feet touched the ground. I then went over and found him a wheelchair that was almost the perfect size for him. As we worked with him he became more and more relaxed and by the time we had him set properly he was smiling and enjoying everything that was going on. It took him a while to catch on and but soon he was grabbing onto the wheels and trying to propel himself. Since he was so young it was still difficult for him to push the wheels but I am quite confident that he will soon be moving on his own. Since he was now much more at ease I decided to once again try and see if he could support his own weight. At first he retracted his landing gear every time that I touched his feet to the ground but after a while he started trying to stand up as long as I balanced him. I noticed that he kept eyeing a role of duct tape that was ling on the floor so I carried him over to it and once again placed his feet on the floor while I supported most of his weight. It did not take long before he started kicking at it and was attempting to walk towards it when it got out of his reach. As he played I allowed him to support more and more of his own weight until I was soon doing little more than balancing him. His parents looked on in amazement. Next I tried to have him use a small hand held walker that we had but holding on to it and walking on his own proved to be just a bit to difficult for him. He did OK with it as long as I held his hands on the handles though. Before they left I promised his parents that we would get a sling type walker to them as soon as possible and showed them some exercises that they can do with him in the mean time. I have an idea that if this family continues to work with their son that he will possibly be able to walk on his own before long.

This has been a great trip. It has been fun working with other Christians with many different Christian organizations being represented. I think that one of the things that I like best about this group is that no one is worried about weather or not their particular organization gets any credit. We seem to all be in agreement that all of the glory goes to God. We will still be a few more days before we return home. Tomorrow we will leave Rio Dulce and head up for Butan for 2 more days of wheelchair distributions. There is a lot of witchcraft in the area that we are going into but we know that the One that we represent is far more powerful.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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