* 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 21, 2008

Journal June 15-21

(Click on any picture to enlarge.)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Today Saul and I each took a car to Guatemala City and picked up another group of people from the buss station. This group came all the way from Panama. They have been doing mission outreaches in various countries for several months now. For the next week the men will be helping out with putting windows and porches on several of the homes that we have built, while the women will be spending most of their time at the orphanage.

This evening we once again had our own orphanage here. I lost number of the amount of kids that were here for supper but it had to be over a dozen.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, June 15, 2008, 7:34 PM

A great church service today, followed by lunch out with the 7 kids that came along plus 4 adults that flew in from the states last night. At lunch the kids spotted one of the professional soccer players that are on Guatemala’s national soccer teem. Even though they were disturbing his lunch he was very patient with them and autographed one item of clothing that each of the kids was wearing. Some of them had to dig a bit deep to find an item of clothing that was light colored enough to autograph but since this man is himself from Guatemala he did not seem to get too embarrassed. I can’t say that about a group of American tourists that were sitting a few tables away though. After lunch I showed them and a few others around the orphanage while my kids played with the orphanage kids.

This evening I was invited to Calin’s grandmother’s house where we had a birthday party for Walter. Funny thing is Walter has been in the United States for several years now. Oh well I guess that it is the thought that counts. Besides that I never turn down a free meal especially when there is cake for dessert

The kids all came to my house after the party so I am going to keep this short and spend some time with them.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, June 16, 2008

For several years I have been praying that more volunteers would come to the orphanage. Today I was wondering if perhaps I had prayed a bit to hard. In my 8 years of coming to Hermano Pedro I don’t think that I have ever seen this many volunteers. I guess it is good but it gets a bit crazy at times especially considerate that this is the week that they are celebrating Hermano Pedro’s anniversary. Any way the kids are getting a lot of attention and that is good even if it is temporary. One of the groups that is there this week is a group of therapist and therapy students, several of whom I spent time traveling to different orphanages with last year. I am glad that they are here because several of them are experienced in seating children in wheelchairs so it looks like they will be able to whittle down on an ever-growing list of kids that need to have their wheelchairs refitted or replaced. Today I felt like a bit of a cop out because after showing them what the needs were I, for the most part, deserted them. I had promised 2 married couples from the USA that I would spend some time with them so the 5 of us took 4 of the kids to lunch.

During the summer months so many teems come in that a person can some times get so involved in spending time scheduling things for them to do that I have to stand back and focus on wither my mane focus is on the teem that is here or on the Guatemalans that I came here to work with. I think that both can be done and those that come her to serve for a week or 2 get more out of it if we keep our true focus and they are allowed to join in on the things that we normally do. I pray that I do not cross over from being a servant to becoming a tour guide.

After lunch I brought my 4 friends over to the warehouse in Antigua where Hope Haven is starting a wheelchair factory. Tomorrow they plan on spending the day there doing some dry walling and building some work benches. From there I returned to the orphanage to see how things were going there. The group of therapy people that are there were making good progress on the list of kids that needed things done to their wheelchairs.

Tonight several of my neighbors had a birthday party to go to on the other side of town so I brought a car load of them over there but did not stay myself. When I returned home my house quickly filled up with kids that had not been invited to the party. They soon had a soccer game going and more or less had a party of their own. I am so thankful that even though my yard is small I at least have one. So many of the homes in my neighborhood have no yards and front doors that open up directly onto the alley. The kids some time play in the alley but lately with all of the rain that we have been having the alley has been so muddy that you can scarcely even drive a car down it. I guess that is why so many kids end up at my place. It isn’t Disney Land but any other choices are few.

Well all those that are going home are gone for the night so I think that I will head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It was another full day today. After feeding breakfast to the kids that didn’t leave last night I headed over to the wheelchairs shop and picked up a list of supplies that the group that is working on wheelchairs at the orphanage gave me. From there I quickly headed to Antigua where I picked up the 4 Americans that were going to work at the warehouse today. After dropping them off I went to Hermano Pedro were I gave the wheelchair supplies to the therapy people from the USA. I then worked on Byron’s broken power chair for about a half hour but got a phone call before finishing up on it. The phone call was from six of the 12 people that I had picked up at Guatemala City on Saturday. The young men from that group are helping us put up some prefabricated houses this week, while the young ladies were here to get signed up as volunteers in the orphanage. I showed them around and also introduced them to the lady that registers all of the volunteers. When I got to her office I discovered that there were all kinds of Americans there. I don’t know what is going on but it seems like this week half of the USA is in Antigua and ¾ of them are wanting to volunteer at Hermano Pedro. Most of them want to be with the littler kids though and these girls said that they would help out in the section that has the teen girls that are about their age in it. The teens will be delighted because the seldom have any one that spends time with them.

After getting this group settled in I went back over to the kid’s section of the orphanage to see how the therapists were doing. They were doing well but had one extremely difficult case. Hugo, a little boy who has been in Hermano Pedro for a few years now is getting more and more deformed. His poor little back is so crooked that there is almost no way that he can sit up. The therapy students had set up a great little chair for him but it still needed a carved backrest in it. Some times it takes me hours to get one carved out to where it fits the child properly but today things went smoothly and with in an hour Hugo was sitting straight and tall.

Chris and Donna had invited Fidel to their house for his birthday so after quickly finishing up on once again getting Byron’s power chair running I checked Fidel out of the orphanage, loaded him and his power wheelchair into my car, and we were on our way. Every time I drive the extremely bumpy dirt road in to Chris and Donna’s house I wonder why any one would want to live way back there, but every time I get out of my car and see the peaceful country setting that they live in I wish that I lived there. 9 years ago I would have told you that you were crazy if you said that I would be living where I now live but God has a way of changing us and I could not be happier. I must admit though, every now and then, especially on weeks like this when things are going 90 miles an hour it is nice to get out into the country. Thank you Chris and Donna for having us over. Not only was it relaxing for me but seeing how happy Fidel was made it even more special. It is not often that he gets the opportunity to race around on some ones yard with his power wheelchair, or to pet a horse, or to have a family birthday party. Cool thing was he didn’t even mind that the lunch greatly resembled a meal that I would make for my kids. I didn’t mind either, when you are with friends hot dogs taste better than steak.
Speaking of junk food, 4:00 rolled around all to soon. I had promised the orphanage that I would get Fidel back by no later than 4:30. Besides that I was suppose to pick up 12 people from the group of therapists so that they could come to my house and have Pizza with my kids. Most nights I love having people over for dinner, especially when they are the ones providing the dinner but tonight I just could not get into it. Perhaps it was because I had left the house in a mess. The fact that a thunderstorm had moved in didn’t help things out either. I kept wondering how I was going to fit over a dozen adults and up to 30 kids in my house since there was no way that we could be out side. Besides that I had fears that I would not be able to get the Americans back to Antigua after the party because Fidel and I were already driving through over a half foot of water on our way back to Antigua. I kept wondering if I should call the place where these people were staying and see if we could hold off until we had an evening with no rain. About 2 blocks from Hermano Pedro I got my answer. As I was driving through one of the heaviest rains that I have ever seen the windshield wipers of my car broke. Not only was I not going to be able to pick up my friends and take them to my house for pizza but I now had to figure out a way to get myself home. Steve Osborn had been in Antigua today and since he had not yet gone home he took me home. It was perhaps for he best that our pizza night had been put off for a few days because it was raining so hard that only a hand full of kids showed up at my house for supper. They were disappointed that we did not have Pizza but did not complain when we made a large pot of spaghetti. If things work out we will try to move the pizza thing to Friday night.

Tomorrow and Thursday I plan on being on the road doing some visiting and delivering food, medicine and wheelchairs to a number of people. I don’t like pulling the kids out of school but since Calin and Fernando have no school on Thursday, (??) I figured that missing one day would not hurt them. The 2 Married couples that are here from the states are also joining us. It was actually Abner’s turn to come along with me this time but he does not like going anywhere if there is the possibility of there being any work involved and I had told the kids that I was going to use them as interpreters so he decided to let Calin go in his place.

Well we have a lot of things planned for tomorrow so I am going to head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, June, 18, 2008

Chris came by with the Kea Van at around 8:00 and picked us up. He then road along with us to Antigua and took my car back home. We had decided that it would be better to take the Kea because it had more room and that way I did not have to wait around for the windshield wipers on my Toyota to be repaired.

After picking up our 4 friends that were going along with us today we headed off for the Esquentlia area. About a half hour out we stopped off for some breakfast and then went to a store where we bought groceries for 2 of the families that we would be visiting. Our next stop was at the home of a family that Chris and I had just visited last week. This was where Carlos, his 2 sisters, and his mother lived. Carlos is the little boy who’s mother saw no way out other than to put him into an orphanage because she could not afford to buy him the medicine that prevented him from having frequent seizures. She was also having a difficult time carrying her 9 year old son around because she did not dare to use that old adult wheelchair that she owned since Carlos had fallen out of it several times. Wouldn’t you know it? Just by CHANCE, the 4 people that came along with us today had taken 3 wheelchairs along with when they came from the USA a few days ago and it just so HAPPENED that a kids specialty wheelchair that they had brought along HAPPENED to be the perfect chair for Carlos. It’s funny how things just seem to WORK OUT that way. I guess we were really LUCKY to have a COINCIDENCE like this happen. Then again I wonder if it could have been one of those GODINCIDENCE things? I doubt it though because most people that I talk to tell me that if there is a God he certainly no longer does miracles. It’s sure strange how these things keep HAPPENING to us though. Another STROKE OF LUCK was that just the day before yesterday a friend from the States wrote me and said that she wanted to take care of paying for Carlos’s medicines for the next year. Boy, were we LUCKY or what? After seating Carlos in his new wheelchair and sharing the good news that his mother was now going to be able to get her wish keep her family together we had prayer with Carlos’s family. His mother wanted that because she is uneducated and a bit old fashioned and actually thought that all of this GOOD FORTUNE had come from God. I guess that we should have been a bit mad that God got the glory instead of us but looking at this grateful family still made it worthwhile.

Seriously though if any of you that are reading this do not think that God is very much alive and well, I challenge you to come and travel with us for a week. You may just get LUCKY and see some of the GODINCIDENCES that we have been seeing.

Our next stop was at the home of Ronny and his family. Now that sugar cane harvest is over they and many other families in this area are finding it difficult to put enough food on the table so we gave them some beans, rice, and other staples. Most of the family is doing well but Ronny’s 4 year old sister has been running a fever for a few days and Ronny’s mother had nothing to give her for it. I told Ronny’s mom that I would take her to the nearest drug store after we had visited Ronny’s uncle and his family. This is the family of 8 that live in a ramshackle tin structure just a short distance from where Ronny’s family lives. We gave this family some groceries and talked more about the prefabricated house that we hope to put up for them within the next few months.
Next we headed west to Mazatenango. About an hour before arriving at our hotel it started to rain. The boys were a bit disappointed because they were hoping to swim in the hotel pool but there was no way that I would let them swim in a thunder storm. When we arrived at the hotel we were all hungry so we decided to have supper before even getting cleaned up. The rain had let up by the time that we finished supper and there was no longer any thunder and lighting so most of us went swimming. Being the oldest in the group has its advantages because after about an hour of playing catch with the kids I excused myself and went to my room. Playing catch with Fernando is not all that tiring but trying to lift Calin over your head and throwing him to some one is rather exhausting. The kids did not mind too much when I went to my room because Bill, who is one of the men that is with us, was still tossing the kids around when I went to my room. All 4 of the people that are with us are really enjoying the boys.

The kids are now back into the room and are watching TV. My eye lids are getting heavy so I am going to head off to bed. This is one of my favorite hotels to stay at but I still can’t figure out why they decided to make all of the beds out of cement.

Goodnight, I hope.
Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Calin woke me up at 5:30 and asked if he and Fernando could go swimming. I said that it was OK with me but I was not going to join them. It was not until we were at breakfast that Bill and Kathy told me that the boys had come to their door to ask if Bill would come out and swim with them. Bill politely declined.

After breakfast we went to Donya Marie’s house and picked her up. She took us to visit 2 old ladies who were sisters. They were both in need of wheelchairs. We had taken an extra folding wheelchair along with us and since they were both the same size and seldom go any where the son of one of the ladies told us that only one wheelchair would be fine. After dropping Donya Marie off at a place where she could catch a buss back home, we headed to Xela. It was on our way there that Kathy started feeling sick. It started off with a stiff neck but soon her stomach was bothering her as well. When we reached the orphanage in Xela she decided to stay in the van and rest while the rest of us went inside. Even though I had not visited there in over 6 months the kids were excided to see me. They quickly made friends with Cindy, John, Bill, Calin, and Fernando. We did not stay for long but while we were there I got a list of wheelchairs that need repair and promised the mother superior that runs the orphanage that we would return as soon as possible with all of the parts necessary to repair the wheelchairs.
Before leaving Xela we stopped off and got some lunch. Kathy was still feeling sick so she once again stayed in the car. After lunch we drove up to San Francisco (Guatemala) to see Erica. Kathy was not feeling any better but I had to get the medicine in to Erica. Her husband Bill, and Calin decided to stay with her while Cindy, John, Fernando, and I hiked in. It was raining hard but fortunately John and Cindy had brought along rain parkas and Fernando and I each had an umbrella. About half way up the trail we met Erica’s mom and younger brother. They were on their way to San Francisco but told us that they could go later, so they turned around and hiked back to their house with us. Erica was happy to see us and even though her skin still has thick scales in places she and her Family are delighted with the results of the medicine. Her mom reminded us that before using it she could scarcely walk. Every time I see her I find it hard to believe that this outgoing happy young lady is the same girl that only a few years ago hid a corner and cried because she was so ashamed of the way that she looked and so frightened of strangers. Erica’s mom served us some coffee and bread and we visited for a while but then we excused ourselves because we wanted to get back to the car and see how Kathy was doing.
The rain had let up so our walk back to the car was not as bad as the hike in. Kathy was not feeling any better so I asked if she wanted us to go back into Xela and stay for the night but she said that she rather get back to Antigua so we headed for home. The drive back was not to bad because there was no construction going on due to all of the heavy rains. I had to keep a sharp eye out for unmarked detours and numerous small landslides though. We also had to make a number of unscheduled stop so that Kathy could throw up.

As we neared Chimaltenango it became apparent that the had gotten heavy wind and even more rain than we had encountered. Quite a few trees had blown over and I was later told that some houses had been destroyed by land slides. I am not yet sure of the extent of the damage because my Internet is out but we did drive by a few places where it looked like they had rescue crews working.

After getting Kathy, Bill, Cindy, and John back to Antigua and having some supper the boys and I headed for home. There was no wind damage at my house but I wish that I had closed my windows before I left because my floor and some of my furniture were soaked with water. Evidently the winds were high enough to drive the rain into the house even though I have a large overhang on my roof.

All of the kids have left after claiming their rewards for each good grade that they got on their report cards. Each grade over an 80 gives that kid the opportunity to pick a gift out of a suitcase that is filled with things that fiends from the USA have brought in. Tonight the match box cars were a big hit and Calin had top honers walking away with 9 of them.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, June 20, 2008, 5:20 PM

This morning I met with a medical team that is here from the USA. They have been spending most of there time at a clinic that is located a few hours from here but had agreed to meet with me so that I could take a few of them to see the man in Antigua that Father Bernardo introduced me to a few months ago. I wanted a second opinion on weather or not they thought that his leg could be saved. A doctor, nurse, and an interpreter came along with me. First the doctor looked at the brother of the man that has the leg that may have to be amputated. The circulation in both of his legs is poor as well and the doctor told him that with out proper treatment he can easily end up like his brother in a few years. The doctor gave him some pressure socks that should help and also showed him several things that he can do to improve circulation. We then went into the room where the other man was. How he still manages to walk on this leg and why gangrene has not set in is a mystery. Both of his legs are bad so the doctor treated the better of the 2 first. He used a medicated bandage that is called a uniboot. The doctor explained that both men have good circulation going to their legs but the blood pools up there because the return flow is bad. The uniboot is similar to a tight fitting medicated bandage or cast that helps push the blood back up to the hart. Every 7 days it has to be cut off and replaced. The doctor then went to work on the mans other leg. It was a slow process removing dead flesh from a leg that appeared to be more dead than alive. I watched closely because this the doctor was leaving for the states later today and from here on out the responsibility of treating this mans leg would be mine. I have worked on a lot of bed sores but none of those people had any feeling from the waist down so they did not feel what I was doing. This man felt everything that was being done to him. Even though it hurt him a lot he told the doctor to continue, knowing that it was the only way that his leg could possibly be saved. About an hour later the uniboot was applied to the leg that had been cleared of most of the dead tissue. It is still very uncertain weather or not this leg can be saved but the doctor thinks that it is worth a try. I will stay in close contact with him and send him pictures so that he can decide if the leg can be saved. I think that I will refrain from posting the pictures on my web site though, because I don’t want to lose all of my readers. Before we left we had prayer with each of these men. As we started to leave one of the younger children ran over to me and gave me a big hug. Her sisters and brothers quickly followed and did the same. As hard as it was for them to watch what we were doing not even the youngest child had left the room. I think that they were so grateful that someone cared enough to do something that they were not bothered by what we were doing. Fact is they were all so grateful that I am looking forward to next Friday when I go back and work on this man’s leg.
After bringing the doctor, his nurse, and our interpreter back to where the rest of their team was, I went and spent a bit of time at Hermano Pedro. I feel like I really neglected the therapy team that was there this week but they showed me what they had accomplished and they have done a great job. For the first time in a long time I feel like we are getting caught up with most of the kids at Hermano Pedro that needed to have their wheelchairs readjusted or replaced. Thanks team for a job well done.

I left the orphanage at around 2 PM because a man had been waiting for me all day, at the wheelchair shop. He was having some problems with his wheelchair that I knew could be taken care of in less than an hour but I simply could not get to him before 3. He had been very patient though and told me not to worry when I apologized for making him hang around all day. After finishing up on his wheelchair I went around town paying my water, electric, and telephone bills. It is now 6:40 and time to head for home. I am here at the shop using their Internet. Mine should be back on by tomorrow. Next month I will try to pay my bills a few days earlier.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, June 21, 2008, 4:57 PM

It is Saturday today so I went to a park that is located about 10 miles from Antigua and spend a good part of the day relaxing. I think that the only thing I could have done differently to make it more relaxing would have been to not invite 3 of my neighborhood kids, 2 orphanage kids, and 2 volunteers, along with me but then I would likely have gotten board. Actual as it turned out only 7 of us ended up going because Moises had a stomach ache and could not come along with us. The 2 girls who are here from the States went for a walk with Byron and myself while Abner, Alex, and Elder swam in a wading pool that is at the park. After that we hung around the pool for a while and even though we had the kids along it was still a relaxing day. I was hoping to have a quiet evening at home, finishing up on this weeks journal but my internet is still out, so I am either going to have to go over to the shop or go to Camperos and have a 5 hour cup of coffee while I post this along with all of the pictures. I sure wish that I had paid that phone bill on time but I am never sent one and when ever I drop in at the phone company to see what I owe they tell me that I am up to date on my payments only to discover that my phone gets turned off later that day.

I think that I will go and take a hot shower before heading to town. Any way I hope that it is hot but who knows they have perhaps shut off my electricity as well. Then again perhaps instead of the electricity being off I may find that they have once again shut off my water and removed the meter. The last time that happened to me, it was less then a week after I had paid my water bill. I am not bellyaching but I do sometimes get a headache trying to figure out Guatemalan logic.
Have a good weekend.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Just a quick prayer request.

A few days ago this picture of Alex and me was taken. Only a day later he came down with pneumonia. He was put in the hospital for a few days but now is back at Hermano Pedro. He is doing some what better but is still on Oxygen. Please pray for his recovery.

I am not sure weather or not I already mentioned this but Jefferson, who had been back whit his family ever since Christmas. His parents returned him to the the orphanage a few weeks ago. He seemed to be OK, but a few days ago he passed away in his sleep.


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