* 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)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Journal May 5-10

(Click on any picture to enlarge)
Monday, May 5, 2008, 9:46 PM

We left Rio Dulce at around 8:30 this morning and 4 hours later we found ourselves near Tekal. I am used to driving my car wherever we go but since the group of people that we are working with chartered a buss we decided to join them. I am not the world’s best passenger but our driver was very professional and did not drive as wildly as the chicken buss drivers do.

This afternoons distribution was suppose to be for around 15 people but the people that live in this town who set up got a little to enthusiastic and invited way more people than they should have. Not everyone was happy when we told them that over half of them would have to go home and come back tomorrow. Even then we still seated around 30 people today. We had a few difficult cases but everyone pitched in and we finished up at around 5 PM. Once again ever family that received a wheelchair also had an opportunity to see a doctor and to sit and talk with some Christian people that were willing to listen.

The last person that I worked with today was one of the more interesting people that I have worked with in a long time. Actually it was not the person that I put in the wheelchair but her mother that proved to be interesting. The lady that needed a wheelchair was 32 years old and her mother appeared to be in her late 50s. Chris had looked at the daughter who had an extremely deformed back and then came to me to ask if I could seat her since I specialize in some of the more severe cases. I told him that I could but they would have to be made aware that I was presently working on a little boy who had severe scoliosis, so it would be an hour or 2 before I would be able to get to her. He went and told the mother this and she said that it would not be a problem. I managed to get to them within about an hour and a half and at first there seemed to be no problem. In fact we let the mother know that I was going to have to carve a special back rest for her daughter and that it was going to take 3 of us at least 2 hours to complete the wheelchair once we started on it. About a half hour before we had finished the girls mother got very agitated and started demanding that we hurry up and finish. I tried to explain to her that we were going as fast as possible but we wanted to get her daughter set correctly but telling her this did not seem to help[ much. When we were finishing up I went over and got Chris so that he could explain a few details about the chair as we tightened up the last few bolts. When he came over the mother laid in to him and told him that if they could not leave that very second she was going to take her daughter and go home with out the wheelchair. Fortunately the last bolt had just been tightened so out of the door they went with their new wheelchair. We don’t do this for the thanks that we get but thank you is still nice to here. Funny thing is mother and daughter were still standing out side of the door 15 minutes later. It was a good day though and I am glad to see that this ladies daughter and many others received good wheelchairs.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, May 6, 2008, 6:57 PM

Once again I am writing this as I am on the buss. Tonight we are traveling from the Tekal area to Rio Dulce. We woke up wondering what was in store as far as today’s distribution was concerned. We had told 30 people that we turned away yesterday to return today and know that there was a possibility that up to 60 additional people could possibly show up. This would be far more people than we had wheelchairs for and we knew how desperately the people that were showing up would want them. We had some concern that the families that did not receive wheelchairs would get a bit ugly as Guatemalan’s who are in large groups often have a way of doing, but our main concern was that so Many of the poorer people of Guatemala are often made promises by the government and other organizations that are not kept and we did not want the people to think that we were not true to our word. True we were not the ones that Called in over 120 people when only 90 wheelchairs were promised but there was no way to explain this to the people that were coming in for wheelchairs. All we could do was pray that they would understand and that is what we did, Pray.
When we arrived at the place where the wheelchair distribution was to take place there were already a lot of people waiting at the door. Before doing any work we all gathered together and prayed that we could really turn this day over to God. We had enough wheelchairs for about 60 people but the chances that each chair that we had would fit some one were not to good especially considering that a lot of the chairs that we had were specialty chairs.
It took a lot of work and a good deal of modification to some of the wheelchairs but by the end of the day most of the people that had come in for wheelchairs were fitted. There was even one old lady who’s family had carried her in on a lawn chair who did not look like she had long to live, and a little girl among the hand full of people that were told that we had no wheelchairs for, that we were somehow able to come up with wheelchairs for. Some one in our group had already told the lady and the little girl that we had nothing for them but just before they left I motioned for the people that were with them to bring them to where I was working. I will never forget the looks on their faces. Especially the sister of the little girl who had been told she would not receive a wheelchair this distribution. When I motioned for her family to come over this little girl jumped out of her chair and let out a yell. She was very happy that we had found a wheelchair for her sister. Soon both her and the old lady had received wheelchairs.

9:52 PM

After a 2 hour bus ride and about 20 minutes in a boat we have arrived at the Catamaran Motel here in Rio Dulce. After putting our belongings into our room we quickly headed off to dinner. I just got back to my room. Some of our group actually went swimming but I am heading off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, May 7, 2008, 12:41 PM

It seems that most of my Journals are being written while riding the buss lately but we are on our way back from Rio Dulce. The group is staying in Guatemala City tonight but Chris, Benjamin, and myself are planning on driving back to Chimaltenango. It has been a busy 7 days and it will feel good to gat back home but we had a wonderful time working with a great bunch of people. 207 people received wheelchairs and most of them got to see a doctor and a dentist. Almost all of them plus their families talked and prayed with Christian consolers who befriended them. We know of 37 who personally accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior and there were many more that rededicated their lives to the Lord. It wasn’t about numbers though it was about people. I think that any of our teem members would have done this for even just one of these people that we came in contact with. After all didn’t Jesus do a lot more than that for you and I?

9:30 PM

We made it home and are grateful that we did because there is a truckers strike that has been going on for several days now. The highway going in to Guatemala City was lined up for miles with trucks. Fortunately they let our buss go through but these things can get nasty here. Once in the city we discovered that most of the gas stations were out of gas since there had been no fuel deliveries in 3 days. The few stations that we saw that were open had line ups that were several blocks long. After a short meeting at the hotel where I had kept my car we headed for home. I had a quarter of a tank of gas in my car so I figured that I could make it home but not much further than that. Fortunately once we were out of the City we found a gas station that was open and after a half hour wait in line I was able to fill my car up with diesel. One of the attendants at that station told us that we were fortunate though because they would be out of fuel with in a few hours. Already we are seeing cars sitting along the side of the road that are out of gas, and with all of the trucks being on strike many of the stores will soon be hurting. I have no idea how long this strike will last but we are praying that it will soon be over. We are also concerned about a wheelchair distribution that we have planned for next week because right now there is no way that we can get a truck load of wheelchairs through the picket lines.

My house is once again filling up with kids that are hungry for food and attention so I will close for now.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, May 8, 2008, 9:10 PM

I just got back to the house after walking a second group of kids back too their homes. The night before last we had the 3rd murder within the last 3 months that has taken place within a block or 2 of my house. It sounds like they were all drug or gang related but I still worry about the kids because we have put a good number of people into wheelchairs over the past several years that were innocent bystanders who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The young man that was murdered a few nights ago had just gotten married so he was trying to get out of the gang that he was in. Unfortunately very few people ever gat out of gangs alive. Jovoni, who works at our wheelchair shop, is one of those rare exceptions. Actually he was once the leader of the toughest gang in Chimaltenango and it is unheard of for a gang leader to ever get out of a gang alive. Believe it or not it is because of Jovoni’s Christin walk that he is allowed to stay alive. His old gang members talk come around from time and they have told him that they are watching his life and that if they ever feel that he is not true to his Christian beliefs and that there is a possibility that he could join another gang he is a dead man. Perhaps if more of us had incentives like that we would be a bit more careful as to what type of an impression we made to people who are watching our lives.

Calin came along with me to town this morning and it took a few hours to do a bit of shopping and get some bills paid. Before heading back home Calin showed me where the blind girl that use to live next to Maria, the lady whose husband was run over by a truck. She, her mother, and brother and sister have moved back to Chimaltenango. A few days ago the sister who now attends Calin’s school showed him where they lived. They are living in one room of a mostly abandon cement block building that looks like it was never fully completed. The unlit second story room that they live in has nothing in it other that 2 beds and a few bags lying on the bare floor that appeared to have clothing in them. There is one window in the room but it has no glass in it and is boarded up. Two other relatives, a man and a woman live in the room as well. In spite of their extreme poverty the entire family is warm and friendly. Mother remember me from a few previous visits when they lived near Tecpan and even had an itemized list of the school supplies that she had purchased for her daughter so that she could go to a school that was located near to where they used to live. To my surprise she even handed me the money that was left over from what I had given her to buy the supplies. I know that they had great need for it but this family was so honest that she would not spend a bit of it since I had told her to use it for school supplies. This was a first for me because as much as I love the people here, most of them are not at all afraid to ask for more once you help them out, yet alone give you back your change. I had expected that the little boy would be in school as well but mother told us that he would not be old enough for school until next year. I promised that we would be back soon. I figure on bringing them in some groceries with the money that she was holding for me. The entire family followed us to my car which thankfully was still there when we got to it. (This is not the type of a neighborhood where you want to leave a car out of your site for too long.) The only thing that I had to eat that was in my car was some candy and when I handed it out to them they went for it like it was candy.

I had intended on going to Hermano Pedro this afternoon but the people that I was suppose to take through the orphanage could not get gas for their van so they had to stay in Guatemala City. Leave it to Fernando to remind me that I had not spent much time just playing with him and the other kids that hang out at my house lately. A half-hour later 10 of us were on our way to the hot springs that is only about 15 minutes from here. We all had a good time and many of the kids improved a lot on their swimming thanks to a man that was there who used to teach swimming in the city.

The cook got a bit lazy swimming in the warm water so it did not take much coaxing to get me to stop off at Burger King on the way home. Since the kids still had more energy than I was ready for we all went into Burger king’s playroom and had obstacle races after we ate. Some of the kids were actually quite good at running up the slide with out using their hands. Calin was not one of them. I think part of it had to do with timing though. After he apologized to the girl that was on her way down while he was on his way up, we postponed the races until the only other family that was there left.

Well the kids are all home safely. Or I guess I should say all of the kids that are going home are home safely so I guess I will go and tuck Abner and Fernando in and then head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, May 9, 2008, 10:46 PM

The truckers strike has ended for now so we can once again buy fuel, so today Fernando and Calin rode along with me to Anini orphanage. You are perhaps wondering how the kids were able to get out of school for the past 2 days. The answered to that is simple. They had no school. You may be asking yourself, “Why?” The answered to that is simple. Well at least it is simple if you have a Guatemalan Calendar. Perhaps a little Guatemalan logic would help as well. Saturday is Mother’s Day here in Guatemala. Every year the students have no school on Mother’s Day. Since mothers day falls on a Saturday this year they decided that in order to get a day off from school they would have to take Friday off. “But why did the kids have Thursday off?” you are likely asking yourself. Because the schools always have off the day before Mother’s Day so that they can prepare for Mother’s Day. Since Mother’s day falls on a Saturday this year the schools will have no celebration that they have to prepare for but the schools are having off just the same. “Why?” Because of rule # 178.

Rule # 178 (or thereabouts) When in Guatemala never ask "Why?".

Rule # 179 Why not ask, WHY? Because if you do ask why you are libel to get a lengthy answer that makes no sense at all. (Example- the perograph above.)

I am still laying 5 to 1 odds that they have off from school to clean up after the Mother’s Day celebration that they never had on Monday. Anyway know you know why the kids were able to come along with me today, even if you didn’t ask why.

It has been some time since we have been to the Anini orphanage to work on wheelchairs, so all I did today was take photos and write down what was needed in the way for repairing and replacing many of the wheelchairs that are in this orphanage. Fernando and Calin did a great job of interpreting, and of helping me check out the wheelchairs. They also got to know some of the kids there and had a great time playing with them. One little boy named David got really attached to them and cried up a storm when we had to leave. As a reward for helping me out I took the 2 boys to a movie when we got back to Chimaltenango.

Rule # 180 If you think that you miss not having a TV go to a movie. If it is anything like the one that I saw, you will be cured for life.

Not as many kids as usual this evening but that still means 10. I am about ready to call it a day though so I think that I will try to get at least some of them to go to their homes.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, May 10, 2008, 9:00 PM
I have not been to the orphanage in Hermano Pedro for well over a week and a half, so I decided to go there today. I actually intended on mostly playing with the kids but I took my tools along just in case one of the kids absolutely needed something fixed on their wheelchair. When I arrived I quickly discovered that thinking that only one kid had developed problems with their wheelchair in 10 days was nothing more than wishful thinking. I don’t know if the kids had a demolition derby while I was gone or what but other than the hour that I took of to take Sonia and Gaspar to lunch I was buried in wheelchairs most of the day. Fortunately Calin had come along with me so he helped me fix chairs part of the time and played with my would be helpers the rest of the time. I love it when the kids from the orphanage help me but must admit it does not always speed up the progress. Today I felt a sence of urgency in getting the 2 broken power chairs and numerous manual wheelchairs back into operating shape because we plan on doing a distribution and being in other orphanages all of next week.Along with repairing wheelchairs and taking Sonia and Gasbar out to Camperos, I also managed to spend about an hour up in the malnutrition ward today. Several of the kids that were there have now returned to their homes. Some of the more severe ones have not shown as much improvement as I had hoped to see.

14 year old Byron seems to be doing worse and is now on oxygen. He always loves it when I carry him out side but today he was hooked up to so many tubes and things that there was no way to do it.

Melvin, the 3 year old that I brought in from near the coast about a month ago is not gaining much weight but he drank a whole bottle of milk for me. This past week a group of American doctors removed several of his teeth that were infected and we are praying that will help his health to improve.

Most of the other kids are doing well and hopefully several of them will be returning to their homes in the not to distant future. There are a few new kids in the malnutrition ward that are awaiting cleft pallet surgery. They have to gain some weight before they can be operated on but once these kids have the surgery most of them go home and lead normal lives.

Calin and I stopped off for supper this evening. It was one of those restaurants that we do not take tourists to but the prices are right and the food is plentiful and palatable. We came home with enough leftovers that the other kids were not too mad at us for not taking them along. About 8 more kids showed up after the leftovers were gone but since I am going to be gone a good part of next week I told them that they could help them selves to anything that was in the refrigerator as long as they cleaned up after themselves. For a while all 4 burners on my stove were going full bore but the kids did a great job of cleaning up and I don’t have to worry about there being any food left in the house to spoil while I am gone.

All of the kids except Fernando and Abner are now gone. Fernando just walked into the room and asked if he and Abner could spend the night. I said no because I will likely be up a good part of the night trying to get this weeks journal published. And I would like to sleep in until at least 7 tomorrow morning. I have an idea that they will wake me up even if they are not spending the night but just the remote possibility of no one ringing the door bell until after 7 AM will help me sleep better.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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