* 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 14, 2008

Journal, June 7-14, 2008

(Click on any photo to enlarge.)

(You may notice that there are not journal entries for Saturday June 7, or Sunday June 8. All I can say is “Yep”. Some days just don’t have enough hours in them to allow me the luxury of sitting in front of my computer to reflect on my day. This weekend Spending time with the kids, going to church, attending birthday parties, and doing a hundred other things took priority over journal writing.)

Monday, June 9, 2008, 8:55 PM

This morning I went to the shop to meet with a family that was bringing their little girl in for a new wheelchair. I had not seen any pictures of her but was expecting someone that was going to be a difficult fit. As it turned out she had some hip deformity but she was not all that difficult of a person to seat in a wheelchair. Her and her mother were delightful though and since mom spoke English we did a lot of visiting while I worked on her daughter’s wheelchair. More and more I am meeting families here in Guatemala who are not ashamed of their disabled children. This little girl was her mother’s pride and joy. The love that her mother had for her radiated through both mother and daughter. They were both especially happy with the wheelchair that the 10 year old girl got because it had a try on it that would allow her to stay in her wheelchair while at school. Up until now she had to be transferred from the large adult wheelchair that she owned into a school desk and with her hip condition it caused her a lot of pain. All to soon we had finished and I once again had to say goodbye to my newfound friends.

After grabbing a quick breakfast at none other than Camperos, I headed to Antigua. Before going to the orphanage I stopped off at the warehouse where Hope Haven is starting a wheelchair factory. Mark Richard is here for a few days and he had some therapy supplies that had been donated to them that he wanted to show me. He showed me a wide assortment of specialty feeding supplies that I was sure many of the orphanages would love to have. When I left the warehouse I brought along some of items to show to the therapists at Hermano Pedro. Needless to say they were delighted with them and even more delighted when I told them that there were more where they came from. I was delighted to because with the used of these specialty cups, plates, and eating utensils more and more of the teens and children will hopefully be able to feed themselves.

Both Gaspar and Davis have outgrown their present wheelchairs and I have been meaning to put them into larger ones for a long time now. They have both been patient with me because they knew that there were others who needed more specialized wheelchairs and their needs were even greater. Today however when I walked into the orphanage with 2 wheelchairs and gave them both a big grin they knew exactly whom the wheelchairs were for. Gaspar was a bit frightened of his wheelchair when I first put him in it because it sat much higher than his old one but soon he was as happy with it as David was with his.

Since I had eaten a late breakfast I had skipped lunch but at around 3 PM my stomach was growling. Moises had been helping me work on Gaspar and David’s wheelchairs most of the day so I asked him if he wanted to go out to eat with me. As you well know the kids at the orphanage love nothing better than going out but generally I take several of them at one time. Going out with just the 2 of us was an extra special treat for Moises. I was thinking that my Spanish was improving until the waiter brought out a large pizza for Moises instead of the kids Pizza that I had ordered for him but he managed to chow down on nearly half of it and was delighted to have food to take back to the orphanage.

Even though I had already fed 1 kid and eaten myself this was just the start of things because when I got home the kids came out of the woodwork. I even had one of the teens show up way after the others were fed. When I asked him why he and not already eaten at his home he told me that his family had no money for food. Some times I start thinking that the kids just come here because they like my cooking better than moms but then I am reminded if I didn’t feed them they would possibly go to bed on an empty stomach. Besides that if I really thought about it, no matter what kind of a cook there mom was how could they possibly like my cooking better.

Well it is getting late and the house is still wall to wall kids so I guess that I will give the 5 minute warning.

Good night.
Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, June 10, 2008, 10:50

There were several groups of people that I had promised to take through the orphanage this afternoon but none of them were scheduled to be there until after 1 PM. This gave me time to catch up on a few things at home and still make it to the orphanage in time to take 3 of the kids out to lunch. 2 girls that are presently volunteering at the orphanage and myself took Roberto, Elmer, and David out to eat. I could not believe my eyes today. Roberto who usually ends up wearing more food than he eats has suddenly become Mr. Neat and Tidy. Even though he still had his favorite, French fries with a half dozen sauces to dip them in, he was meticulous in the way that he dipped his fries in the sauce and made sure that he did not spill a crumb. If you don’t think that this is unusual for Bobby check out his picture in my May 20 journal. He and everyone else seemed to enjoy themselves though. My only worry was that as clean as Bobby was when we brought him back to the orphanage I have my doubts that the nurses believed that we fed him.

Shortly after we returned to the orphanage group # 1 showed up. This was a group of around 15 people, actually there are 30 in the group but we divided them and the other half are coming tomorrow morning. I showed them through the orphanage starting with the adults and then going to the teen section. When I got to the children’s section I discovered that there another group of around 20 had come in while I was giving the tour. Never in the 8 and a half years that I have been at Hermano Pedro have I felt that there were enough volunteers there. I must admit though today came very close. One thing that added to the confusion was that this was the day that the nurses had picked to clean one of the 2 rooms that the children sleep in. Put 40 kids into a room that is crowded when it has it’s normal 20 kids in it, add 35 to 40 volunteers plus 8 or nine nurses and what do you get? Confusion and Kayos. I led most of my group out into the courtyard and started collecting kids out of their cribs and handing them to the next available set of arms. Before long most of the kids were being held and most of the members of the group were falling in love with some one whom they had just met. I think that they all enjoyed them selves but cannot honestly say because before I could catch my breath I got a phone call from the front desk that the people that I had promise to take through the orphanage at 3 PM were waiting at the door. I hope that group # 3 will forgive me because as I walked them through the orphanage I honestly could not remember weather I was repeating my self to them or if what I was sharing with them was something that I had told a previous group. Some where in the middle of this I was supposed to meet with 2 different staff people from the orphanage. One of them I managed to meet with the other I met in the hallway an hour after we were suppose to have had a meeting. She recognized that I was a bit swamped so we agreed to meet at the end of the day. It is now 11:30 I guess I could still call her but hopefully she will understand if I meet with her tomorrow instead.

When I got home this evening I took Lady out to eat for her birthday. Since Carlin and Darlene are sort of like her brother and sister they came along as well. When I got home the house once again filled up with hungry kids. They took one look at me and announced that they would do the cooking tonight. They are starting to know me well enough to recognize the difference between tired and TIRED. Abner has moved in for the night but to the best of my knowledge all of the others have gone home. Oh guess what? No school for the rest of the week. Why? No one seems to know. Some times I wish that I were a teacher here in Guatemala. They seem to get plenty of rest.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, June 11, 2008, 9:05 PM

This morning I took the other half of the group of 32 people that are here from the USA through the orphanage. Just like yesterdays group they were a bit nervous at first but is did not take long before they quickly warmed up to the kids. A few of them even went up to the malnutrition ward with me. I wanted to spend some time there because I was told yesterday that Byron (not the one in the head controlled power chair) will be going home on Friday. I am not sure that sending him home is a wise decision but I understand that his parents really miss him. It is still hard to believe that this frail little boy is 14 years old but at least he has put on some weight during the past few months. He still has a catheter due to bladder infection and also gets most of his food through a feeding tube so I am not sure how his parents will deal with that but I am glad that they love him enough to want him back. At 11:20 the group left and I had about 30 seconds to catch my breath before group # 2 showed up. This was another group that is here from the USA that I promised to check out some of the kids for, so that they could take them to lunch. Yesterday they told me that all 20 of them would be going. I told them that would not check out more than 9 kids because 30 of us showing up at Camperos could be a bit overwhelming. Not just to the Camperos workers but to the kids. I was a bit surprised today when this group of 20 showed up with another 10 friends but since I had already done the necessary paper work on all of the kids and the nurses had already gotten the kids ready to go to lunch I was committed. Fortunately the leader of this small army had stopped by Camperos before coming to the orphanage and warned them of the invasion. Over all things went well and most of the kids did well and had a good time. All of the commotion was a bit much for Jo Jo though and he did not handle things to well. I seriously considered taking him back to Hermano Pedro because he was down right miserable. The only problem was that I had signed all of the kids out so I did not dare to leave. That is when Carlos rode in to the rescue. Actually he waked in. After helping feed some of the older kids at the orphanage he had decided to come and join us. Since he is on the volunteer list at Hermano Pedro I was able to let him take Jo Jo back while I stayed with the others. Carlos told me that he would be more than happy to oblige and soon both Jo Jo and I were feeling much relieved. On our way home we took the kids through Central park and even let a few of them get a bit wet by splashing in the fountain.

In spite of all of the busyness at Camperos all but one of us got something to eat. That is why I stopped of for a leisurely supper all by myself before heading home. This evening the number of kids that have been in my house at any one time has been a bit lower than normal and now only Fernando is left. I think that he is taking up residence tonight but am not quite sure. I know that I am tired so I am going to quickly go and lay clime to the only bed in the house.

I just received an e-mail

Those of you that have been to one of our camps here in Guatemala undoubtedly know Amy Deyong. Amy moved here from the States several years ago and along with Judy Kerschner operates a Christian school that is located in Santa Maria DeJesus, which is located about 15 minutes from Antigua. About 6 months ago I wrote about her boy friend, Willie's brother Sony, being kidnapped and asked for prayer for this family. You may remember that Sony was miraculously found tied up in a cave by some of his family members but the problems for this family did not end there. On several occasions shortly after his rescue strangers came into this small town looking for members of Willie's family and even threatened employees of Willie's family.

For the past few months things have quieted down and Willie's family thought that perhaps those that had done the kidnapping had given up on trying to retaliate. Unfortunately it does not look like this is the case. Just a few minutes ago I received this e-mail from Amy Deyong.

Dear family and friends, We need you to be praying. Willy's mother was kidnapped early this morning. We don't have much more information other than that we know this kidnapping was specifically planned and targeted for her (when Sony was kidnapped last July 4, it was a random act). She rides the bus that her son, Fredy, drives to Guatemala City every morning. The bus leaves Santa Maria every day at 3:00a.m. and arrives in the bus terminal in Guatemala City where Willy's mom sells vegetables most every day. What I understand is that at some point in Guatemala City, the bus was stopped and the kidnappers got her off the bus and took her. I don't know if they got Fredy off the bus at first or not, but he was not kidnapped. He called home as soon as he could and said that she was taken. The kidnappers were armed, and I imagine the bus was full of people. Kidnappings of adults for extortion purposes are not uncommon here in Guatemala. Please pray for justice to come in this country and for Willy's family. Willie's Mother's name is Felipa, but most people call her Salinda.


Just this morning I was with a friend who just returned from a funeral of a lady that was murdered this week. The lady we murdered because her neighbors felt that she was a witch and that she had put a curse on them that caused one of their cows to die. Last week a man was shot in the back right across from Calin's house. This was the 7th shooting with in a few blocks of my home in the past few months. This was also the 2nd shooting that members of Calin's family have personally witnessed. Crime here is on the increase and it is getting more and more organized. Are we hiding in our homes or trembling in fear? No way we have some one on our side who is much stronger than the enemy. We covet your prayers though. They are so important to us. Please remember to hold us up in prayer as you pray for Willie's mother and family.

James 5:16 b

The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, June 12, 2008, 9:00 PM

Ten hungry kids for supper tonight. Several of them have been doing the cooking lately so I figured that I better take a turn at it tonight. Most of them played a memory game with some picture cards while others did their homework. I am not sure why they had homework because they all told me that they had none the night before last and now there has been no school for the past 2 days. Oh well at least they get a little schoolwork in this way. (Wow we just had an earthquake. A few of my kids have big eyes but it wasn’t a bad one.)

Our day started out by Chris and myself picking up 3 people that are here from Washington State. They are Kevin and Kathy Davenport and their son Christian. Kathy visited Guatemala with a mission group about a year ago and she was so impressed that she talked her husband and son into coming along to Guatemala this year. Today the 5 of us drove to Rio Bravo, a small town that is about a 2 hour drive from here. We had done a wheelchair distribution there about 4 months ago but wanted to return so that we could deliver power wheelchairs to 2 individuals. One of the power chairs was going to Axle. Axle is the man that helped arrange that distribution. Even though a traffic accident left Axle nearly totally paralyzed he is a very active person in his community. Axle has been fortunate enough to own a power wheelchair for several years now but it has seen better days. If it were to give out completely he would be devastated because he spends so much time out in his community serving his neighbors. Today we were able to give him a power chair that Hope Haven international shipped to us a few weeks ago. Not only does it look and run like new but it has a power tilt on it so that Axle can automatically recline it and rest his back whenever he wants to. Just like Axle’s old wheelchair this chair is also set up with an automatic locking system that allows him to drive it into an old converted mini van that he owns and actually drive the van from his wheelchair using hand controls.

We had intended on delivering a second power wheelchair to a young man that Axle took us to see a few months ago but he had gotten sick and was in the hospital. Since he was sick we decided not to go and see him but left his power chair with Axle. We seldom do that because we always want to make sure that any wheelchair that we give out is fitted properly, fortunately when we met him a few months ago I had taken a lot of measurements and a lot of pictures and adjusted the chair accordingly. Axle also knows enough about how a wheelchair should be fitted that he will call us if anything needs adjustment once the young man that is receiving it returns home and tries it out. We asked Axle if he thought that the young man would be happy with it and he laughed. He then shared with us that not one day had gone by since out first visit that this man had not phoned and asked him if he had heard anything abut the wheelchair. I guess If I had been shot and had no way to move around for 4 years I would be a bit anxious myself.

I didn’t get back home until around 7 PM but it did not take long for the house to fill up with kids. Since they have been so good at helping me lately I told them that they could once again play while I made supper. It seems that there is always at least one kid who wants to stick around and help though. Tonight it was Cesar. Cesar is not one of my regulars but he and several cousins have started showing up more and more lately. They are all well mannered kids and I have had no problems with them so far but I do keep an eye on his cousin Esbin whom I have been told has sticky fingers. It was spaghetti night tonight and that went over big. If any of these kids get spaghetti at their homes I doubt that it often has hamburger in it. After supper most of them went out side and played soccer. While others stayed in the house to do some home work. Thats right, no school for the past few days, but home work. ??? Tonight I stayed in the house most of the time because I got a few stragglers that were hungry. I didn’t let them leave hungry but I think that the kids that had spaghetti were happier with their meal than these were with there corn flakes.

I have been receiving e-nails form Amy Deyong all throughout the day. The people that kidnapped her boyfriend’s mother have contacted the family several times today but so far nothing has changed.

Well most of the kids are gone and it is once again getting late. Calin is my only overnight guest tonight and he is already fast asleep. I think that I will go and do the same.

Yours in Christ: Dick

As I was about to turn off my computer this e-mail came in.

Dear Praying Family and Friends, I don't really know details, but Willy told me that one of their friends went to turn over the money and he is back safely now. We praise God for this!! The amount that they paid (...if what I heard was accurate, because I don't know how much they really want me or anyone else to know right now), was only a tiny fraction of the amount they were first told -- it was a do-able amount that was accepted, which we are very thankful for also. At least one of his brothers left to go get their mom. They were told that she was dropped off by the people somewhere in a different town about an hour away. Willy didn't know how or where they would find her there, but he was so relieved that his brother was on his way to get her and bring her home. He is going to call me when she gets there. Whoever reads this before I write again, please be praying that they will get back home safely. There are so many unknowns, and things here are not done the way we imagine they should be for safety and security purposes. (Also it is in our American nature to ask so many questions; here they don't typically). Our hope is in the LORD; we know that HE is sovereign and is in control, that HE is with her, and HE is our rock and our firm salvation.
11:30 PM

I just received another e-mail from Amy.

She just got home! It's 11:00p.m. She is safe and okay!! Oh, how we praise You Lord Jesus, God Almighty, El Elyon! Hallelujah!! Thank You, Father, for protecting your servant Felipa. Thank you all for your prayers. I will write more tomorrow. We love You and rejoice in Your greatness and sovereignty, Lord God! Love, Amy

Now I really am going to head off to bed,

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, June 13, 2008

This morning Chris and I once again picked up Kathy, Kevin, and their son Christian and headed down towards the coast. Since the kids once again had no school (I Know!) Fernando and Alex also joined us. Our first stop was at the clinic that we have been working with. We did not stay there long but wanted to tell them that today we were going bring this months supply of groceries to Julio’s family. From there we went to visit Milton and his family. Milton is looking about the same as he did when I brought him home from the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro last week. It seems that it is a bit easier for him to straighten his back than it had been and when we asked his mother if she has been working on having him lye in less of a curved position she told us that she has. We were hoping to leave a stroller with the family but it was not big enough for Milton to lye in so I promise to bring something different the next time I am in that area.

Next we went to a groceries store and purchased groceries that were mostly geared to young children and then headed to Julio’s house. Julio has been back home for nearly a month now and what we saw encouraged us. Back a few months ago before taking him in to the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro it seemed like the family of this 17 pound 10 year old had given up on him. Today however, we witnessed a lot of love being given to him by both his mother and his brother’s and sisters. He had just been given a bath and the members of his family were taking turns holding him. Julio was smiling and looking very content. This family of 8 seems a lot happier than they did when we first met them. Having a new home to live in, clean water, a healthy child, and some one that is willing to help them get on there feet has made a big difference in their lives. I am not sure where they are at in terms of their walk with God, but they know where we are at in ours and in a lot of these poorer areas it seems that actions speak louder than words. I know for a fact that shortly after taking Julio to Hermano Pedro many of the neighbors came and visited Julio’s parents and told them what a mistake they had made and that they would never see their son again. Now I am confident that these same people would gladly allow their own children to be taken there if the need arises.
Next we headed cross-country to where Anglia lives. I had been this way once when the doctor from Cuba was with me but was not sure that I remembered the way. Even though I had accidentally erased the dirt roads that led to her house off from my GPS it showed where Anglia lived so every time we got to a fork in the road I took the dirt road that headed in that general direction. I am not saying that my choices were always right so we had to turn around a few times but we slowly made progress. We had one tense moment when we rounded a corner and saw a tractor and a fallen tree blocking the one lane road. About 6 or 7 men were standing by the tractor. I kept my hand on the gearshift lever figuring that I could quickly back up and turn around if there was any problem. I had encountered a similar situation a few years ago when about 25 men with machetes had the road blocked with a truck. They told me that they wanted money for using the road. That day a lot of praying got us out of what could have been an unpleasant situation. Today the men never approached the car nor did we get out and talk with them. About a minute after we stopped one of them got on to the tractor and moved it. I think that they had simply fallen the tree across the road to cut it up for firewood but cannot be sure. All I know is that we were all praying that we were not on a dead end road because we did not want to have to return on this road while they were there.

Anglia is still fighting an infection in her leg but it looks like it is slowly getting better. The last time that I had visited, her daughter had wanted to take me to a family that had a child that needed help but it was getting late so I promised them that I would return as soon as I could. After having a prayer with Angle’s family her daughter and her daughter’s baby got into the car with us and we drove to the home of this other family. There a mother and her children, one of whom has Cerebral Palsy, greeted us. The boy with the Cerebral Palsy was a bit frightened by all of the Americans but he calmed down enough that I could measure him for a wheelchair. While I did this Chris visited with the mother and she told him that she wanted to put him in an orphanage. After measuring the boy we talked more with his mother it was obvious that she loved her son so we wanted to know why she did not want to keep him with her at home. We discovered that with out the proper medicine he has one or 2 seizures a day. Mom showed us the old adult wheelchair that her son uses and explained to us that he could not tolerate setting in it because it fit him so poorly and that he had often fallen out of it. We told mom that the wheelchair issue would be an easy one for us to solve and then asked her what the medicine that he needed cost. She showed us an empty box that had the price written on it and it came to around 75 cents a day. We then stuck our neck out a bit and asked mom if she would rather have us see if we could get her son into an orphanage or supply her with the medicine so that she could keep him at home. Her answer was instantaneous. “I want to keep my child with me.” She said. I seldom mention any needs for money in my journals but around $30 per month would allow this mother to keep her son and not only supply the much needed medicine but a little extra food as well.

After dropping Anglia’s daughter and her baby off at home we headed down the road about a mile to where the twin girls that the doctor had taken me to see a few weeks ago lived. Their mother was at home this time so we visited with her and gave her a year’s supply of children’s vitamins to give to her children.

From there we went just a few hundred yards to the home of the old lady who has a 28 year old daughter that is mentally handicapped. I wanted Chris, who knows a lot more about building construction than I do, to look at the house that they were living in. Chris said that he felt we would be better off putting some new tin on their present house than building them a new one so we will try to do that in the not to distant future.
(Ronny's new brother)

Our next stop was at Ronny’s home. It is so neat to see the change in this family since they have moved into their new home. Mother who has never been the worlds best house keeper is now taking pride in their new home and the family has also planted a lot of trees and flowers out in their yard. I think that up until now they had been living in such poor conditions that they simply could see no way out. Ronny’s grandmother has been having some health problems so we left some money so that she can see a doctor.

We had hoped that Ronny’s uncle and aunt, who live near by were at home but only their children were at home. We are going to try to help them out with a pre-fabricated house because their present dwelling is ready to topple over.

It seem that the needs are endless but it also seems that God leads us to certin families. Please pray that God give us the wisdom in knowing who to help and how to help. It is so hard to tell a hurting individual or family that they are going to have to wait or in some cases that we simply cannot help them because the dirt floor home that they live in looks like it will possibly withstand a few more storms before it topples over. It is difficult to tell a mother that we can not help her out by buying her family food simply because she still has a small sack of corn or rice in her home but because the needs are so great we sometimes we have days when we have to do that. Today was once again one of those sometimes days.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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