* 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)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Journal July 20-26

(Click on any picture to enlarge)
Sunday, July 20, 2008

The 6 kids that decided to call my place home last night all went sleep at around 11 PM. The rodeo that took place a few hundred yards from my house once again ended at around 3:30 AM. I was tired enough that I managed to sleep through most of it though.
By the time we left for church there were 10 of us. Jason did not show up to come along to church. The other kids had talked to him about the money that disappeared from church last week so I think that he is avoiding me. I guess that I will have to go over to his house and have a talk with him. It would be much easier for me to just forget about it but that would not help Jason out in the long run.
The nine kids that did come along to church did great though so I rewarded them by taking them to none other than Camperos for lunch. This was not my choice but theirs. After lunch we headed up to the cross that is on the hill that overlooks Antigua. The kids had lots of energy today so I let them run around for about an hour. On our way home I told them that they could stay at my house for about a half hour but then I needed some time to myself. That was at 3:30 PM. How was I to know that a cloud burst would move in at 3:55? It started to rain so hard that only some one who was extremely mean would send anyone out in it. Don’t think that the thought of becoming extremely mean did not cross my mind but I know that Guatemalan parents are libel to lynch someone who is responsible for drowning their children, so I told the kids that they could stay until the rain let up. How was I to know that this was not just a passing shower? Three hours later it let up enough that I managed to get the kids out of the door before it started up again. At least now I would at be able to tell their parents that it was not raining hard when they left my place. Now for some peace and quiet.
I guess if I wanted peace and quiet I should have turned off my phone because not 10 minutes later Calin, (who had not come along with me to church today) was on the phone. He told me that his Grandmothers house was bursting at the seams because his Aunt and her 3 kids had just showed up from Guatemala City and they were spending the night there. I had a tendency to believe him, partially because he stopped lying back when he stopped steeling, and I also know that besides this aunt that had come in from the city with her children, grandmother also houses Calin’s entire family plus another aunt and her entire family. It was not until he and a cousin had come over that I was told that his aunt and her kids had come to stay with grandmother because her husband had beat up on her ad broken her nose. Her little boy said that it wasn’t all that bad of a fight this time because about a year ago in another fight his father had broken her leg. No battered women’s shelters here in Guatemala. This lady is fortunate that she has a relative that will take her and her children in. In the majority of cases mom and the kids either put up with it or they end up on the streets.

Well that’s about it for my relaxing weekend so I guess I will head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, July 21, 2008, 9:41 PM
This morning I headed off to Antigua. A group of about 20 people met me at the orphanage. After showing them around half of the group and myself took 9 kids out to Camperos. This was another great group that had no problem bonding with the kids so everyone had a great time. Not only did we play on the restaurant playground equipment after we ate but we also spent some time playing with the kids at the park.

Tomorrow we plan on having the group that went out today stay at the orphanage while those that stayed and helped out there today come along with about 10 of the girls from the teen section of the orphanage and myself. Even though taking all of these kids out is great and I know it is good for everyone involved, getting all of these kids signed out and then having the responsibility for that many kids can be a bit exhausting so when the group left at 3 PM I decided not to work on any wheelchairs as planned but simply hung out and visited with several of the kids. One of the newest ones is Veronica, a girl that we took along for lunch today. She just got admitted into Hermano Pedro a few days ago. Veronica is an extremely bright 8 year old but since she is unable to walk she has never been in school. Tomorrow I plan on seeing what we can do to get her into school. I know that much like it did with Sonia it will likely take a year or 2 before the staff at Hermano Pedro will ever allow her to go out to school so much like the 7 kids that Nanette teaches we are going to see what we can do about having someone teach her right at Hermano Pedro. As much as Nanette would like to take her she simply cannot add any more students to her list so we are considering hiring the lady that taught in her place after she had her baby. There are other kids that we would like to put into school as well but for now we will try to keep it down to Veronica and one or two others. We are praying that once we present this to those in charge at Hermano Pedro that they will give it their blessing.

Tonight only about 8 kids were over. After supper we all watched a video. The kids wanted to take a vote on how many people wanted to watch it in Spanish and how many wanted to see it in English. I was out voted 8 to 1. We watched the movie inn English. No, all 8 kids wanted to watch it in Spanish but I politely told the kids that it was my movie and my computer and if we were going to watch it at my house it was going to be in English. I figured that his was a good object lesson for any of my kids that happen to be studying about Guatemalan democracy.

Well the kids have all left so I am going to call it a night and head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, July 22, 2008, 9:50 PM

Today was once again spent at Hermano Pedro. The first thing that I did was get all of the needed paper work made out and signed so that we could take 10 of the older girls to lunch. I can remember the days when some one could walk into the orphanage straight off from the streets and take a child out of the orphanage for the day with out as much as giving anyone their name but now the pendulum has swung the other way. Not only do you have to be signed up as a volunteer but every child needs a signature from the head nurse of their section, the Father superior, and from some one that is in the social work office. I am glad that they are more careful about who takes the kids out but some times getting the paper work done takes up more time than the actual outing that you are going on. I must admit though that after all of these years, even though I still have to go through the paper signing ritual, seldom does anyone whose signature I am getting even look at what they are signing. Once or twice I have gotten a raised eyebrow when I lightheartedly said, “Thank you I will make sure that I have them back in a week.” I figure that the Father superior can take a joke.

Before meeting with the other half of the teem of people that helped take kids out to lunch yesterday I met with one of the staff members of Hermano Pedro. She and I talked about the possibility of hiring another teacher. She told me that the father superior of is pleased with our class and thinks that Nanette is doing an excellent job with the kids, and is quite sure that he would allow it if we presented it to him. We went over and talked with Nanette to work out the details and she is in favor of it as well. I asked her if her sister in-law, who took her place for a month when she had her baby, would perhaps be interested in working a few hours a day. Nanette said that she would ask her and then gat back to us. If it works out we will have her teach the 2 new kids from 12:30 – 2:00 PM. Nanette is off during that time of day and her classroom is empty. We are also playing with the idea of having the 2 teachers work together with some of the students for about an hour each day but still have to work out the details. We also have to come up with the money to pay a new teacher but we are not going to sweat the small stuff. I am slowly learning over the years that if you act on faith God will be faithful.

Taking ten teen-age girls to lunch was an absolute blast. I think that they get even more excited than the little littler kids do about going out. The teem of people that came along and helped did great as well. I saw a lot of tears on both sides when we brought the girls back to the orphanage and it was time to say good-bye. Strange thing how that can happen when you had only met for the first time a few short hours earlier.

When we got back to the orphanage I took 4 of the members of this group up to the malnutrition ward. This time there were lots of tears when we had to say goodbye 30 minutes later. Several of the kids cried to.

I had supper in Antigua with Carlos before heading home. As much as I love kids I felt that I needed an hour or 2 visiting with an adult. Funny thing though since Carlos also spends a lot of time volunteering at the orphanage most of our conversation was about the kids.

While I was still in Antigua Marcos phoned me and asked what time I was going to be home. He sounded disappointed when I told him that it was going to be close to 8:00 before I got home. I told him to tell the other kids that I would make sure that I got home earlier tomorrow night though. I guess that he got the word out to most of the kids because only 4 kids were waiting for me when I drove up the alley to my house. They all headed for home a few minutes ago so I am going to stop for now and head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, July 23, 2008, 9:42 PM

You would perhaps think that on the only day this week that I am not scheduled to take a group through Hermano Pedro that I would stay at home or at least go somewhere else. You would also think that if I did choose to go there I would at least take the day off from taking any of the orphanage kids to lunch. You would perhaps think that unless you had met these wonderful kids. Especially if you knew that one of them was a little girl who’s body has become so deformed that she can no longer sit in her old wheelchair. Then it makes staying at home for a day seems far too selfish. At noon I figured that since I was hungry and wanted some lunch I just as well have company. It was not hard to find a few other volunteers who felt the same way and in no time we, and 3 of the kids from the orphanage were on our way to Camperos. I had given some thought to fining another restaurant to eat at today but it had been 4 hours since I had eaten at a Camperos and I was starting to suffer withdrawal. There are actually a number of reasons that we go to Camperos more than any other place to eat, Camperos is located quite close to Hermano Pedro, the food is safe to eat, the waiters and waitresses are friendly to the kids, and last but not least they have a play area that the kids love. Once again after filling up on Chicken, which is about the only thing that you can get to eat at Camperos, we took the kids into the playroom. Even though none of the three kids that were with us today were able to climb the ladders to the slides by themselves it did not dampen their spirits. They had the time of their lives. Those of us that hoisted them up the ladders, tossed them down the slides, and caught them at the bottom had every bit as much fun. Watching the delight on their faces made us all feel like we ourselves were kids again. Although I must admit I have often been accused of acting like one even when there were no children around. Never the less I still rather be accused of that than having someone say that I am acting my age. Perhaps when I am 90 I will try to act my age but not at 61.

After leaving Camperos we let the kids do a bit of splashing in the park fountains and then we headed back to Hermano Pedro. I had been told by Jessica that they were working hard on keeping the nurses from putting most of the kids to bed at noon and leaving them there until 8:00 the next morning and I think that perhaps they are listening. To my surprise today many of the kids were taken out of their wheelchairs for only about an hour and then put back in them until around 2:00 or 3:00 PM before being put to bed until tomorrow mooring. Granted 17 hours in bed is still a long time but it is a start. We have only been working on getting the nurses to do this for 8 years. Now we can only pray that it does not take that long to convince them that it is not good to lye a child on his back and force feed them.

Most of my afternoon was spent in trying to get Evelyn fitted into a new wheelchair. I managed to get a foam backrest carved but was not satisfied with the chair that I mounted it onto. For now Evelyn will have to stay in bed but I will keep working on it until it is right.

On my way home I met with Chris at Burger king and we visited for a while. It is sometimes difficult to find the time to get together and just talk things over but we like to at least get together over a cup of coffee (or if you are a health food freak like me a piece of pie and a coke) to just visit and compare notes. Today we synchronized calendars on teems, distributions, and other activates and found that are our calendars rapidly filling up for 2009. One teem that was scheduled to be here next week has canceled so a wheelchair distribution that we had scheduled here in Chimaltenango for next week Friday will have to be postponed. I am sure that at this late of a date it will be impossible to contact everyone that was scheduled to come in for a wheelchair so we are going to make sure that anyone who isn’t contacted and shows up on Friday will receive a wheelchair.

After our meeting I went to the groceries store and stocked up on groceries. I even bought a barbequed chicken while I was there. One chicken was scarcely enough for the number of kids that showed up for supper but ketchup and mayonnaise helped fill up the empty spots in the sandwiches and the stomachs and several of the kids had a bowl of cornflakes for desert.

Calin and Daniel are spending the night tonight. I have a feeling that they will be staying over a lot more for a while. Mother has once again moved back in with step dad and it sounds like the house that they are staying in is a dump. I know of many families that live in substandard homes but add to that a step dad that is anything but friendly and it does not make being at home much to look forward to.

Calin has finished his homework and now he and Daniel are playing a game on the computer. I told them to turn off the lights when they go to bed, so I am going to say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, July 24, 2008, 9:08 PM

Today I took a group of mostly physical and occupational therapists through Hermano Pedro and we took still more kids to lunch. Since many of them are used to working with children that have severe disabilities we took some of the kids that are more severe out to eat today. Some of the kids were able eat the normal chicken dinners that we usually order but for the 5 of them that have problems chewing and swallowing it was milk shakes and mashed potatoes. This unique lunch did not dampen the spirits though as everyone had a great time. Elmer had one little hissy fit and started screaming and crying but as soon as I picked him up and headed for the door he stopped crying. I guess he hasn’t forgotten the time that I brought him all the way back to Hermano Pedro without any lunch. I hate to always be the heavy but he is smart and catches on quickly. Much like Ervin the only reason that we don’t have him in school is because he acts up so badly when he does not get his way.

After lunch 2 of the therapists, a doctor who is visiting from the USA, Father Bernardo, and myself went to see how Cesar’s leg was doing. I had told him that we were coming so his mother had already removed the bandages. Cesar’s Leg does not appear to be healing as rapidly as it was when we first started treating it but it is improving. His mother is getting more and more at ease with changing the dressing and cleaning the leg so I told her that I am only going to come in every other time to check things out and peel away any dead skin. The therapists that were with us showed Cesar some exercises that he can do to help improve circulation. They also spent some time with his brother who is beginning to suffer from the same condition. His condition is not nearly as bad as Cesar’s but with out proper care it could be as bad in a year or 2.

After bringing everyone back to Antigua I headed for home. I made up my mind that I absolutely had to get some work done this evening so I was set to tell the kids that tonight was lock out night. How was I to know that there would be so many happy faces to greet me when I drove up my alley? Oh well there is always mañana to do my work.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, July 25, 2008

After showing a few people around Hermano Pedro the doctor that went along wit me yesterday and his wife, and 2 daughters came along with me to do some visiting. He had been in Comolopa about 30 years ago and wanted to see if he could find the family that he had stayed with while he was there on a 3 month training program. Since my kids had no school today (????) I stopped off at home and picked up Alex and Fernando. Abner wanted to go along until I told him that I was expecting all 3 boys to help me out by doing some interpreting. I guess that he somehow envisioned that this might come close enough to involving work because he decided not to come along with us.When we reached Comolopa I parked my car near the town square and we walked down some narrow streets in the direction to where David, (the doctor) thought he had stayed when he was here. Since things had changed a bit in 30 years he was unable to find the house where he had stayed but after talking to several people we were finally directed to the home of someone who at least had the same last name as the family that David had stayed with. When David showed some photos that he had with him to the lady that answered the door she began to cry. She told us that she was indeed a relative of the family that David had stayed with. She also told us that most of the members of the family had been killed during the war. We had a good visit though and she was delighted when David gave her the pictures of her relatives that he had with him.

Our Second stop was at Maria’s home. Fact is most of our stops were at Maria’s home. There are a lot of Maria’s here in Guatemala. This is the Maria who’s Grandmother used to bring her, her sister, who was also named Maria, and her brother Fedel to camp. Her sister passed away about a year ago and Fedel looks like he will not be around much longer. Grandmother who lost her husband and several of her children, including the parents of Maria and Fidel during the war had a hard time when we went into the dark unlit adobe house where Fedel lies dying. This poor woman has seen so much suffering in her life.

Maria has the small prefabricated house that we built for her a few months ago neat and tidy. The family is also proud of the bathroom that was built a few months before, and it was hard to convince them that we wanted to take a few pictures of them in front of some thing besides their new bathroom. Fedel has been bed ridden for several years now but when we said goodbye it was very likely the last time that we will see him alive.

After leaving Maria’s house we headed to where Maria lives. No we were not driving in circles, this was a different Maria. She is the lady who we built a house for after her husband was run over and killed by a truck several months ago. Her and her 4 children were delighted to see us. As they ran down to my car and through their arms around us I could not help but think back to a few months ago when most of the children ran away crying when ever I visited. Maria seems to be doing better every time that we visit. She still deeply misses her husband but is now able to smile and seems to be doing much better emotionally. Much like the other Maria that we had just visited she quickly asked my friends if they wanted to see her new house. We have not built her family a bathroom but she is every bit as proud of her new pig pin. We have been given some more money for her pig raising project so she is now looking for a second pregnant sow to buy.
I knew that her children and her sister’s children’s shoes were worn out so I had taken 2 large boxes of shoes that some friends had brought in from the states. I casually mentioned that after we had given these children shoes we would possibly be able to give a pair of shoes to other kids in the neighborhood that needed. Now let me tell you about this neighborhood. This family lives in the hills and although Maria and her sister’s house is a stone through from each other any other houses are a bit of a walk. Never the less the word got out and within 5 minutes there must have been more than 30 women and children at my car. Each and every kid that we saw was in need of shoes. Those that had any were wearing something that was more holes than shoes. We must have given out around 25 pare of shoes and I promised that I would do my best to get some to the children that didn’t get any today. The only thing that I regret was that I had not brought a large basin, some soap, and some water. The bad leg that I worked on yesterday didn’t even come close to smelling as bad as some of these feet.

It has been a good day but I am tired so I think that I will head off to bed. I am not sure just how much sleep I will get though because they are having 2 more days of rodeo only a few hundred feet from my house.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, July 26, 2008, 9:39 PM

It is the weekend. Today I took 3 of my kids to Antigua where we picked up 3 more kids at the orphanage. The 7 of us then headed to the zoo in Guatemala City. Tonight it feels like I am back at the zoo but then that is what my house is like most of the time and it would not feel like home if it were anything other than a zoo.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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