* 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, June 7, 2008

Journal June 1-6 2008

(Click on any photo to enlarge)
Sunday, June 1, 2008

This morning I stayed home from church and worked on getting my journal sent out. The hours spent getting these journals written, picking out and preparing the pictures, and then getting everything set up and published are sometimes not available to me during the week. I know that a lot of people like to read them and it is a good way to keep everyone informed on what is happening down here, but sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming. I wish that I could figure out a faster way to do this but until I learn to spell better even spell checking each days work is very time consuming. I guess I should be thankful for spell check but hate it when it keeps asking me to give it a hint.

Actually the main reason that I did not go to church in Antigua was because we still have a team of about 18 people here from Iowa and they all went to church here in Chimaltenango. At noon Fernando and I joined them and we all went to Burger king for lunch. From there we went to Antigua and spent most of the afternoon at the orphanage. About a third of this group from Iowa is children and with the help of Fernando and Benjamin they quickly made friends with the orphanage kids. After taking most of the adults on a tour of the orphanage the adults got right in there with the kids just like the younger ones did. The malnutrition ward has become a bit more fussy on allowing adults in to see the kids but the head nurse allowed me to take 2 of the men it to see these kids. Both of them quickly fell in love with the kids that were there and they found it difficult to say goodbye when it was time to go. At around 3:00 PM Chris took a few of the people to the Jade factory. They wanted to shop for some of the more expensive junk. The rest of us stayed at the orphanage for about another hour and then went to the markets to shop for the cheaper junk. Shortly after we got there we were joined by the others evidently they wanted some cheep junk to go along with their expensive junk. I have been told that I have an attitude about souvenir shopping. I can’t imagine where anyone came up with that. Actually I don’t mind it as long as it isn’t me doing it. My garbage bill is already $3 per month and I simply do not have the storage space for hammocks that I have no trees for or clothing that I would not be caught dead wearing in public. For those of you that have loved ones that were in this group act excited when they give you these trinkets though because it is the thought that counts.

Chris, Donna, Pastor Bill, and a few others had a camp meeting to go to this evening so I kept the van and took the rest of the group to dinner. We had a very nice meal at one of the restaurants in Antigua. This group is a lot of fun and we had a good time.

When I got home I found that all of the kids except Fernando, who had gone along with us to eat, were hungry. Chino, who is one of the teens that often comes over around supper time, was the first to ask me what was for supper. He is a good kid but definitely not one of the more eager ones to help out with any work that is to be done around here. He gave me a bit of a strange look when I told him that tonight it was his turn to cook while the others played, but he told me that he would try it as long as I showed him what to do. After a few misguided attempts at flipping pancakes he got the hang of it and by the time he had finished some of them were recognizable. I don’t know that he will ever admit it but I think that he actually enjoyed cooking and was quite proud of the fact that he made most of the dinner by himself.

Wow, I just looked over at what I have written so far and realize why these journals take so long. Not only do I have to learn how to spell but also I have to learn how to be less long winded. It is fun though, because it is a good way to remind myself just how blessed I am to be down here and what a blessing it is to be able to work along side of such wonderful people. I am not only talking about the people that live here but also the teams that come down. They are all great even if they do like to go shopping.

The following is only for the wives that have husbands that went along on this trip.

If I were you I would ask your husband why some of the husbands brought home expensive jade necklaces for their wives, while you ended up with a soccer shirt or a hand made purse that resembles a gunnysack. Oh well, like I said it’s the thought that counts. Besides that it’s only 2 days until garbage day.

Good night,
Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, June 2, 2008

Since this was the last day that the group from Iowa was here we decided to take the day off and go to the ocean. Little did we know when we decided this over a week ago that there was going to be a tropical storm just off coast and that the ocean was going to try to come to us. When we arrived at the motel this morning to pick up our guests I asked Chris if we should resort to plan B. Chris gave me a funny look and reminded me that there was no plan B. After stopping off in town for some breakfast we headed out for the beech. One of the girls in my car got a bit sick on the way there but after stopping so that she could upchuck her breakfast she felt much better and we were once again on our way. With as much water as there was on the road we are still trying to figure out wither she had gotten carsick or seasick. There were times that we were driving in over a foot of water. Most people would have called it a tropical storm or a flood, but since we were heading to the beach to relax in the sun we simply called it heavy humidity. We had a good time driving to the beach though, especially on a 3-mile section of dirt road detoured around a washed out bridge. Even though it was raining hard the temperature was quite warm so the people who were in Chris’s van that was in front of us kept their windows open. Do you have any Idea how much water and mud a Toyota Land Cruiser can splash into the open windows of a van when it passes it on a muddy road that has close to a foot of water on it. All I know is that none of the passengers on the left side of the van got their windows up in time. Those on the right side that stayed dry thought it was great until I spotted a wide spot in the road that had an even muddier left shoulder that I was able to pass by on. When we got to the beach everyone got out of their wet clothing and into their dry swimsuits. Even though it had been raining hard it had stopped just a few minutes before we got there and we all had a great time swimming and relaxing.

About 1 minute after getting into the cars to head for home the sky once again opened up and it poured all of the way home. I behaved myself on the way home because everyone was now wearing the last of their dry clothing. Besides that splashing the van wouldn’t have been much fun because no one had the nerve to leave there window open.

All of the kids have headed for home except for Abner who has fallen asleep on the sofa. I have toget up at 3 AM so that we can pick up the team at 3:30 and take them back to the airport so I am going to say goodnight as well.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, June 3, 2008, 9:28 PM

Today was a stay in town day. After getting back from my 3:30 AM trip from the airport I did some work on the computer until my eyes would not stay open any longer. After a 2 hour nap I headed to the shop and worked on some power wheelchairs. This evening I let the kids hang around until around 9 and then sent most of them home. Nancy and Kimberly are still here sweeping and mopping the house. By the size of the piles of dirt that they are sweeping up I am surprised that there id any left in the alley. I think that I will have them use the dirt to fill in a few potholes. Well I have to get out of this room so that they can mop.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Today is Nancy’s birthday and since School was canceled on account of rain I took her and a few of the other kids out for breakfast. Funny thing though, how we had no problem getting to breakfast but the teachers figured that the rain was reason enough to cancel School. We had a good time at breakfast and for a change the girls outnumbered the boys. One of the reasons was that Abner told me that he didn’t want Etiline to come along and that if I invited her he would go. I guess that was suppose to be a punishment of some type for me but I think that it backfired, because I had plenty to eat while Abner went hungry. Next time I will have to once again remind everyone that they cannot order more than they can eat. I don’t mind taking the kids out to eat but when they take home enough food to feed the entire family (for a few days) it gets a bit expensive. I guess the good side of it is that Camperos gives you a card that works something like green stamps and at this rate I should be able to trade it in for a free restaurant by the end of the year.

When we had finished our breakfast the waiters and waitresses brought out a cupcake with a candle in it and we all sang happy birthday to Nancy. I think that she could have lived whit out that happening but she was a good sport about it and took it well.

After breakfast Abner, Alex, and Fernando accompanied me to Hermano Pedro. I some times think that it would be much easier on both Abner and myself if I sealed him in a wooden barrel and fed him through a knothole with a straw. Although I must admit that on days like these I would have to pray for patience or I would likely plug the knothole. When we got to Hermano Pedro he was in one of his Abner moods and it was rubbing off on Alex. Fernando was doing great and having a good time with the orphanage kids but Abner and Alex decided that they were not going to do anything. This lasted for about a half hour but even though Alex often mimics Abner I could see that he was getting tiered of being a ???. (Oops! Sorry missionaries are not suppose to use that word) Any way he was beginning to see that Abner was acting like a ???. (Well any way you get the point.) I looked over and asked Alex if he wanted to help me work on one of the wheelchairs. I didn’t exactly get a big enthusiastic yes but he did manage to get up out of the hammock that he was lying in and even took the wrench that I held out to him. About 30 seconds later he was fully into fixing the wheelchair and had a grin on his face that I hope Abner will someday have. From there on out there was no stopping him. We took a break at around noon so I went up to the malnutrition ward to see how Melvin and a few of the other kids were doing. When I returned I found Abner still lying in the hammock that he had spent most of the morning in. Fernando was in a hammock but he was buried under kids that he was playing with. I did not see Alex so I went in to where the children’s beds were. There was Alex feeding one of the more severe kids. He had a look of satisfaction on his face that is hard to describe. I think that he had possibly caught the vision of servant-hood. At any rate he looked like he was at peace with himself and the world. It is a look that I see more and more in many of the kids that I work with. Even though they have so little to offer in the way of material things they seem to be learning more and more how to give of themselves. I am praying that it is contagious and that one of these days Abner catches the bug.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, June 5, 2008, 10:06 PM

Today, after stopping off at the wheelchair shop for some supplies, I once again went to Hermano Pedro. This time Calin came along. He had been told that there would likely be school today because the rain had pretty much quit but I guess last night’s shower was enough to keep most of the teachers home. Before he came along with me he went to school to check but came back with in a half hour and told me that he could come along with me. It was not until we were half way to Antigua that he told me that his teacher was there when he got to school but she told him that most of the teachers and some of the students had not shown up so they were not going to do much of anything today so he just as well come along with me. Had it been any of my other kids that had told me this story I would have gone to school and checked myself but coming from Calin, who loves school, I knew that it was true.

We arrived at Hermano Pedro to late to sign any of the kids out for lunch but after seating a new boy in a wheelchair and repairing a few other chairs we took a couple of the kids across the street for cokes.

This evening Calin and I stopped off for a hamburger. I could tell that he wanted to talk. Step dad has not paid rent on their house for several months so Calin, Lady, Daniel, and his mother have moved backing with his grandmother. Calin tells me that his step dad has left for good but I think that may just be wishful thinking on Clan’s part. I think that he and Calin’s mom have separated at least a half dozen times in the past few years but as cruel as he is to her and the children she always ends up taking him back. I am sure that he will show up as soon as his ex-landlord quits looking for him.

Tonight Abner offered to make supper. Yes you heard me right, ABNER. Well actually it started off with Abner asking me what I was going to make for supper. When I told him that Calin and I had already eaten he asked if he could make himself something to eat. I said “sure.” But then suggested that if he was making something for himself why not make something for everyone. At first he gave me one of those Abner looks but when Fernando quickly offered to help him he went for the Idea. Wow, Just when I was thinking about buying a cork for that knothole! Nancy stepped in and helped cook for the second influx of kid and everyone else chipped in with setting the table and doing the dishes so I got bye with out doing anything more than re-sweeping the floor that Etiline had rearranged the dirt on before leaving for home. I guess that it is the thought that counts but her floor sweeping skills still could use some work. Just before we ate Abner and one of the other kids got into a bit of an argument so for reasons that only Abner can explain he refused to eat supper with us. About an hour after supper he came to me and told me that he was hungry. I put an arm around him, told him that I loved him and that I would be more than happy to give him some food but he was going to have to wait until breakfast time to get it. Some day Abner will realize that he is his own worst enemy. Funny thing though he can be a really neat kid when he wants to be. I just wish that he wanted to be more often.

At 8:00 I told the kids that I was going to send them home at 8:30. At 8:15 I reminded them that they would be going home at 8:30. At 8:30 I asked the kids to leave. At 8:35 I told the kids to leave. At 8:38 everyone that had been in the house or out in the yard had said goodnight and had left. At 8:40 I discovered that 4 of them were still in my bathroom taking a shower. At 9:04 I said goodnight to the last of them. Since it s has been a bit colder than usual lately I gave them enough time to gat dressed before sending them home. (Yes Abner was one of them.)

Well it is getting late and I have checked out all of the favorite hiding places and am fairly confident that I have the house to myself so I am going to say goodnight and head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, June 6, 2008, 7:48 PM

Today was another one of those days where every picture that I took with my Camera seemed like one of those special ones that I could not wait to post in my journal. It was not until late afternoon when I went to look at my pictures that I realized that I had once again forgotten to put the memory chip back into my camera. On days like this I feel like my own memory is about 1000 megabits short of a gigabyte, or at least one french-fry short of a happy meal. Thankfully though the doctor that was with me part of the day had a built in camera on his cell phone, so we at least got a few pictures.

Fernando came along as my interpreter today. Yes there was school, but his aunt has gotten so tired of sending him to school every day this week just to have him return because his teacher was not there that she told all of the kids to stay home today. Of course Abner who would gladly skip school any other day defied her and went anyway. Fernando on the other hand is always so happy go lucky that it is almost contagious. He loves people but even when he is by himself he can entertain himself by singing or by just being Fernando.

After paying Hermano Pedro for Milton’s medicine and 2 month stay, Milton, his mother, Brother, Fernando, and I were on our way to the coast. I guess that I can’t complain about the cost though because I have heard roomer that had I paid for a 2 month stay in an American hospital I would likely not have gotten any change back from the $100 that I gave the Hospital. Milton’s mother seemed to be happy that her son was coming back home. I think that she realizes that he may not be around much longer and wants to spend as much time as possible with him. His brother was also excited to see him. I am not sure how his father feels but at least he was allowing him to come back home. Before dropping them off at there home we stopped by the clinic that is in their town. The have a drugstore there so I figured that I would buy what was needed for Milton there. The Colombian doctor and the mail nurse that operate the clinic had most of the medicines that Milton needed but refused to take a dime for any of it. Before leaving they told me about a family that lives near Ronny. They were told that they had 2 year old twin daughters that were starving. They said that they would be willing to go and see the family with me after I had taken Milton home so after doing that and grabbing a hamburger at a not so great looking hamburger stand Fernando and I went back to the clinic to pick them up and then headed out to see this family. There were a lot of patients at the clinic when we left but the Doctor simply told them that he was going to be gone for a few hours and that they would have to wait until he returned. To my surprise they all nodded in agreement and none of them got up to leave. I guess that they are so thankful that they have a doctor in this town that having to wait a few extra hours isn’t all that bad.

Thanks to the medicine that they were given on our last visit Ronny, his brothers, and sisters no longer have the skin infection that they had they had gotten a few weeks ago and the sores that they had on their arms and faces are nearly gone. Our timing was good because they were once again out of food. Sugar cane harvest has ended so most of the men will be hard pressed to find any work for the next several months. I promised the family that I would return and visit longer as soon as I could, but told them that the doctor and patience waiting for him at the clinic.

As it turned out the twin girls lived down a dirt road that is less than a mile from where we built Ronny’s new house. I had never been on this road before, and by the looks of it not many cars have. Nearly everyone uses it like it was there front yard. We had to stop at times for mothers to move there small children or for the men to move cows or pigs out of the way before we could make it a hundred feet or so to the next obstacle. A few kids that were playing marbles thought it was funny when the tires of my car buried some of their marbles in the soft mud. When we got to the house of the twins I was surprised to see them up and walking. The little girls were extremely afraid of us and there was no way that the doctor could examine them with out scaring them even more, so we kept our distance. There is no doubt that they are malnourished but I know that they are not bad enough that the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro would accept them. Their 12 year old sister told us that her mother and father have found work so now there was food on the table most days. We arranged to bring in some vitamins and the doctor agreed to monitor their progress but I think that as long as the parents have jobs the girls will be all right.

The entire time that we were at this home an elderly lady (about my age) stood on the road watching us. It was not until I had turned my car around that she approached us. She seemed a bit shy at first and apologized for bothering us but told us that she had a 28 year old daughter that was sick and wanted to know if we could see her. I asked the doctor if he had to get back to his patients but he said that they would have to be patient patients. I once again turned my car around and followed the old lady down the road. She actually made better time than we did because I could not fit my car between all of the pigs, cows, and kids with out having some one once again move them. When we reached the house we discovered that it was nothing more than some corn stalks and rusty pieces of tin that were held together by a rotting wooden frame. In front of the house sat the 28 year old daughter of this lady. It was obvious that this rather scary looking individual was mentally handicapped. When she got up she frightened Fernando and he quickly jumped behind me. She quickly walked over to me, grabbed my arm, and tried leading me back to my car. I don’t know if it was because I forgot to put on my deodorant today or what, but this was the third young lady in a row that didn’t seem to want me on her yard. This young lady appeared to be a hand full for her mother, but mother was very patient with her as she helped me pry loose the tight grip that she had on my arm. The older lady told us that this corn stalk and tin shelter often gets a foot or more of water in it during the rainy season. The condition of this home is right up there with the house that Julio’s grandmother is presently living in. We didn’t make any promises but I am going to talk to Chris about the possibility of us building this lady and her daughter a prefabricated house as well. Judging by the looks of other homes in this neighborhood this is just the tip of the iceberg but we have to start out somewhere.

If it were not for the grace of God, seeing so much need day after day could easily cause a person to throw up their hands and give up on trying to do anything to help, but that is not what God wants us to do.

Galatians 6:9

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

I seldom post things that are written by others in my daily journals, but this one seems to hit the nail right on the head.

The starfish

Once upon a time there was a philosopher who would walk along the beach every morning, thinking about how to help the world. One day as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a small figure moving back and forth. He began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a little boy. He was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean. When he got closer he called out, “Good morning! What are you doing?”' The little boy looked up and replied with simple joy, “Throwing starfish into the ocean.” The man looked puzzled and said: “I guess I should have asked, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” “The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don't throw them in they'll die.” “But, don't you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference!” said the man. The young boy listened politely. He then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea past the breaking waves and said with a smile... “... but I made a difference to that one”.

James 1:27

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.


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