* 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, July 19, 2008

Journal July13-19 2008

(Click on any picture to enlarge)

Sunday, July 13, 2008, 7:49 PM

This morning 8 kids came along with me to church from home. I figured that wasn’t quite enough kids since I only had 4 of them all night so we stopped off at Hermano Pedro and picked up Moises. I was glad that we headed out a bit earlier than usual because church was jam-packed. In fact there was standing room only until the kids were dismissed for Sunday school. I left for a minute to carry Moises to his class and when I returned my seat had been taken. I didn’t say anything to the man that took it though because he was wearing a gun. I guess I better explain. Our pastor and various mission groups that have been coming in the summer have been doing a lot of things with the Antigua Police department. Not things like getting arrested but good things like helping them learn English, (Using the Bible as their main text book). One group has even helped build a bathroom at the police station. Several of the policemen have now started coming to church.

After church the 10 of us went out for pizza. Now before any of you write me complaining that I fee my kids nothing but junk food. I want you to know that one of the pizzas had some vegetables on it. Had it not been so busy in the restaurant I would have asked the waitress to take it back and bring us the pepperoni pizza that we had ordered but we were all hungry and it didn’t take all that long for us to pick the vegetables out of it.

Since Jason and Abner had both come along I figured that I was safe in telling the kids that if there were no problems in church or Sunday school I would take the entire crew to the park that is about 15 minutes out of Antigua. How was I to know that they would both be good in church? Actually we all had a good time we played soccer for a while and then we went over to where they were giving horse back rides. Moises had been the only one who could not play soccer but after all of the other kids had taken a ride on one of the horses the man that owned the horses told me that he would let Moises a ride in front of him on one of the horses. I was a bit hesitant at first but didn’t want him to miss out on this activity as well so I said OK. When he had finished his ride I asked the man what I owed him and he told me that this there was no charge. Wow! It was not that many years ago when most Guatemalans would not get near a kid that was in a wheelchair. Kevin, one of the kids that came along to church today actually has lives with both of his parents, (A rare thing around my neighborhood) and his father has a job. He had some money with him so he and some of the kids stayed and rode the horses for a while others went over to the small swimming pool that is in the park and swam for a while. Jason must have held it together as long as possible because on the way back home he was once again being Jason. I think that he figured that he had it made because the fun stuff was over so now he could stop being good. When we got home I let him know that not only was the fun stuff over for the day but in his case it was not going to take place the next time I took the kids somewhere. Abner on the other hand did quite well. Other than hitting Cesar in the eye with a rubber snake that he had been holding out of the car window to scare pedestrians with, he did a good job of not making any one else cry.

This evening I made another run to the hospital. Some one is staying with Wendy all of the time because she is really getting stressed out with all that is going on in her ward of the hospital. There is no such thing as intensive care in this hospital so there are some pretty extreme cases in beds right next to hers. In the next bed over is a lady that is in critical condition who screams most of the time. This hospital is not a pleasant place to visit yet alone stay.

Well the kids are fed and all that are going ashore have gone ashore so I am heading off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, July 14, 2008

This entry may be a bit short or possible inaccurate because I am writing it 2 days late. Fortunately I took some pictures so that should help jog my memory as to what I did on Monday. Now if only I could remember what I did with my camera.

I once again received a 5 AM wake up call. Wendy’s sister Gladys was at the door. She told me that her mother had called from the hospital saying that Wendy had a rough night. Her Mom ssid that the doctor keeps increasing her pain medication and it is making her have the shakes, giving her stomachaches, and causing hallucinations. She wanted to know if I could talk to the doctor for her and see if all these pain medications were necessary. She also said that Alex had gotten sick yesterday so she was wondering if I could take him in to the doctor. I took a look at Alex and pretty much determined that he simply had the flue so I gave him something for the light fever that he had and convinced his mom that she should give it a day or 2 before seeing the doctor. As it turned out he was over at my house playing with the other kids a later this evening. I did go to the hospital but convinced mom that it would be better for her to talk directly with the doctor than for me to do it because she was family and also because the doctor know about as much English as I did Spanish. Calin had come along to interpret but I still felt that it would be better if I did not question the doctor’s judgment on Wendy’s medications. Guatemalan professionals have a tendency to get a bit upset with Americans that question their judgment, and American are known to have a tendency to question the judgment of Guatemalan professionals.

Since Calin and Abner did not have school today (?????) they came along with me to Hermano Pedro. It was raining so we decided to take Byron and Henry to lunch. Not because it does not matter if these 2 get wet but they are both light enough that we could take my car and simply carry them into the restaurant. Since we had the car we went to Piccadilly instead of Camperos. I cannot believe how friendly the staff there was to us. I think that the waitresses fell in love with the kids because they hung around our table most of the time that we were eating. Calin has also taken to Henry and the 2 of them have instantly become best friends. Even Abner did remarkably well and although he will probably deny it I caught him smiling a few times. When we got back to the orphanage we visited with some of the other kids and also fixed a few wheelchairs.

I received a rather disturbing phone call from someone that goes to our church this afternoon. An envelope containing some money was taken from the church yesterday. One of my boys had been seen looking at the envelope shortly before it disappeared. I cannot prove anything but I have a pretty good idea who took it. Fortunately it is not one of the kids that always hangs around here but I still feel bad about it. I am going to do a little more investigating before I speak with this boy because I want to be 100 % sure before I make any accusations.

Tonight’s supper crew was the smallest that it has been in months. Only Abner, Fernando, and Etiline showed up for dinner. I think that the rain had something to do with it but then again it could be my cooking. It seems we get a higher turn out when the kids do the cooking.

Well I guess I will go and take some Pepto-Bismol and head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Today was a full one. After spending about an hour at the wheelchair shop finishing up on a different power wheelchair for Ronny, I headed in to Antigua and picked up Jessica and Luanne. We then headed to the coast to see a number of different people. Our first stop was at the clinic that I often visit. I had taken a Manuel wheelchair along for a lady that they told me about that had her leg amputated. While talking to the doctor and the male nurse I was told about an 8 year old girl whom they had seen a few weeks ago who was starving. They asked if there was any way that we could help get her into Hermano Pedro. I told them that Jessica was the head therapist there and that if any one could get her admitted into the malnutrition ward it would be her. Not 15 minutes later Luanne, Jessica, the nurse, the mayor’s wife and myself were heading to where she lived. When we got to the house the grandmother and mother of the little girl greeted us. The mother, grandmother, and a 3 year old girl that the mother was holding looked very skinny. The little girl was quite pale and sickly looking. We asked if we could see the 8 year old. The grandmother told us that we were to late. The girl had died last week. I have no Idea if she had other complications or simply died because this family could not afford enough food for her. By the looks of the other little girl I fear that it was the latter. Had only we known earlier. Since the other little girl is not as sickly as this one was the clinic is going to put her on vitamins and monitor her. If she does not improve we will try to get her into the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro. I looked over at the outhouse that is located about 15 feet from the families well. So many of these already underfed kids also suffer from continual diarrhea due to all of the parasites that are in their drinking water. I promised the family that I would return as soon as possible with a water filter and some parasite medicine. It is to late for the 8 year old girl but hopefully we can prevent any one else in this family from needlessly dying. As we were about to leave the Grandmother broke out in tears and Luanne quickly went over to her and put her arms around her. How hard it must be to see your family starving.

Next we headed back to the clinic and picked up another lady that works there. While we had been visiting this family she had been buying groceries for Julio’s family. I had been given enough money to supply him with food for several months and on the months that I cannot deliver it the clinic purchases the food and delivers it for me. As things worked out they had planned on going bringing the food in today but had we not shown up the lady that was going to bring it in would have had to ride a buss part way and then catch a ride with the next truck that went that way. I guess this was just another one of those GODINCIDENCES. Not only did the lady that purchased the groceries come along but also the nurse and the mayor’s wife decided to spend the rest of the day with us. Usually the Doctor closes up shop for an hour or 2 and joins us when ever I go out to see some one but today we planned on making a number of other stops so he decided to stay so that all of the people that were waiting to see him would not have to wait around for several hours. Julio’s family is now living in their new house. They continue to use their old one as well because there are 8 people in the family. I was sad to see that Julio although still 7 pounds heavier than when we brought him into Hermano Pedro has lost a lot of weight. He was up to around 30 pounds when he returned home but is now at 24 pounds. His mother told us that he is eating the food that we bring in and that they are using the water filter but he has had diarrhea for the past 2 weeks. We made arraignments to get him into the clinic to see the doctor tomorrow. If the Doctor feels that he should be placed back into the malnutrition ward we will go back and talk with his family.

We then headed cross-country on roads that were anything but that. It had to be at least 90 degrees out side but my passengers quickly learned how to put up their window whenever they spotted a puddle or small pond that covered the road. I personally thought that the splashing water felt good but the mud did got a bit sticky when it dried out on your face and arms. With the knowledge of the nurse who had been there before, the use of my GPS, and a few wide spots where I could get turned around we finally arrived at a village that I had never before been to. This is where the lady that needed the wheelchair that we had with us lived. When we got out of the car we were greeted by a man who was a few French fries short of a happy meal but he was not violent and only wanted to visit. There beside a small house was the lady that we had come to see. A boy who appeared to be her grandson quickly brought us some chairs to sit on and then brought some water for us to drink. We thanked him for both but did not drink the water. The Lady was glad to see us and thrilled with the wheelchair that we brought She told us that the wheelchair that she was in was borrowed and the people that had loaned it to her wanted it back. I can’t imagine what she could have done had they taken it away before we got this one to her. She was diabetic and had recently had one leg and several fingers amputated. After a short visit we left never finding out how old she was. We were told that neither her nor anyone in her family know what year she was born.

Next we headed to where Carlos lives. This is the little boy who’s mother wanted him in an orphanage because she could not stand to see him needlessly suffer from daily seizures simply because she did not have the money to buy the medicine that he needed. On our last visit his mother told me that she could not pay rent on the house that they were living in and today I was told that they had moved in with her parents. We didn’t have much difficulty finding where they lived and were warmly greeted by several children. A friend of mine recently offered to pay for Carlos’ medicine for a year, and after I got back home this evening I received a phone call from some deer people back in the states that offered to make sure that he will continue to get the medicine that he needs. We did not stay long because it was beginning look like rain and we still had one more stop to make.
From here it was only about a 10 minute drive to Ronny’s home. He and his entire family were setting out on the front porch of the new house that we had built for them last February. Mother was holding the new baby, who quickly got snatched out of her hands by some of the ladies. He is adorable, but I can’t help but be reminded that he has a 50 50 chance of having muscular dystrophy like his brother Ronny has. Ronny was quite disappointed when I told him that I was going to have to take his power wheelchair back to the shop so that we could completely go over it. I explained that it was simply braking down far to often and I wanted to figure out why. Ronny’s frown did not last for long though because a few of us went over to my car and unloaded an almost identical power wheelchair. Ronny was soon zipping around his yard and house. Papa the brought me Ronny’s manual wheelchair and told me that Ronny had not been able to go to school for several days because it had a flat tire on it. I sat down and explained that I knew that there was a man that lived less then a mile away that fixed bicycle tires and asked why he had not taken the chair to him. Father told me that the man only fixed bicycle tires and did not know how to fix wheelchairs tires. I then asked Ronny’s father why he fixed one of the tires for me when we were their building Ronny’s house a few months ago. He told me that the man fixed it because he thought it was a bicycle tire, but Ronny’s father still insisted that this man did not know how to fix wheelchair tires. I leaned over and with the push of a button removed the wheel and tire from Ronny’s wheelchair and handed it to his father. “There now we have a bicycle tire that needs fixing.” I said. Father nodded in agreement and told me that he would take it to the man in the morning.

A little straighter rout back home but it was still 8 PM before I got there. The groceries store had just closed so my kids did not get much for supper I didn’t hear much complaining though because unlike many of the kids that we saw today they seldom go to bed hungry.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, July 16, 2008, 4:16 PM

To make up for yesterday’s lengthy journal this one is going to be short. I had to put my car into the shop today for new brakes and tires. I stayed home and got caught up on answering e-mails and catching up on my journal. No one has knocked on my gate all day. The kids always look in through the cracks in my gate to see if my car is there before bothering to ring the bell. Since my car is not here they figure that I am gone as well. Boy are they going to be mad when they find out that I have been at home all day. I feel a bit guilty but it sure feels good to get caught up on a few things. I do miss them though so I am going to go out and let them know that I am home.

10:58 PM

I decided that since there were no kids in the alley when I opened the gate, that I would walk to the mall and get something to eat and then bring some groceries back with me so that I could feed the kids. By the time I got to the end of my alley a few of the kids spotted me and by the time I got done with my supper at the mall there were 6 of us. I still brought groceries home though, and it was a good thing that I did because another 8 to 10 kids showed up for supper shortly after I returned. Nancy tried to make hot dogs in my microwave but found out the hard way that microwaves are much faster than cooking on a stove. She also discovered that it is wise to take the cellophane off from the individually wrapped hot dogs before cooking them. This is the firs time that I have ever seen the neighbor dogs refuse to eat some thing that we had to throw out.

After supper most of the kids played games while a few others looked through a box of shoes and backpacks that recent groups have brought down. These boxes of black shoes and backpacks are a real blessing because many of the schools require them along with a school uniform. Here in Chimaltenango if the kids don’t have them they are not allowed to attend school. The government passed a rule in 1996 that public schools could no longer require students to ware uniforms but try telling the school principals that.

Well I guess I will get out of my wet close and head off to bed. Oh yea, just before they left for home the kids and I had a water fight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, July 17 2008

Another fairly short one tonight, unless of course you want to here about the house cleaning that I did today because my car was in still the shop. About the only exciting thing that I did was go to the bank and take out $900 so that I could get my car out of the shop. That may not sound all that exciting to you but making it out of the bank and then getting all the way across town with out getting robbed has not been all that easy for people lately. I m starting to wonder if these robberies are inside jobs because the robbers only pick on people that have withdrawn large amounts of money, and they seem to know exactly how much cash the person has on them because in several cases when the people that got robbed handed the robbers some of the money they counted it and then asked for the rest. Anyway I had Carlos drive me across town to get my car. I figured that lightning did not strike twice in the same place. Carlos was robbed at gunpoint after leaving the bank just last week.
The kids are pretty quiet tonight. They are watching some movies on one of the computers. I brought home 4 movies that I bought for about $.75 each. Three of them are pretty good quality the fourth look likes it was shot with a cheep cam-recorder from inside a theater. I would not have caught on until a baby started crying and the lady that was sitting in front of who ever it was that was filming the move stood up and walked out of the theater. All of this was caught on film. I guess the price and the misspelled titles should have given me a clue that I was buying pirated movies. I wander if being Dutch had had anything to do with the fact that I let my pocketbook get in the way of my conscious.

Gladys just came over and asked if I could take her to the hospital so that she could get some medicine to Wendy, so I better say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, July 18, 2008, 10:43 PM

After spending a good part of the morning in the shop helping Altero get a stubborn power wheelchair going I headed of to Hermano Pedro. I got there just in time to sign Saul and Ervin out for lunch. Luanne, a lady that has been volunteering at Hermano Pedro for several weeks now, offered to come along with us. Saul who has been at Hermano Pedro for only a few weeks is one of the happiest kids that I have ever met. He is continually laughing and nothing seems to upset him. Ervin did really well again today. About the only ting that he did that allowed him to keep his nickname for at least one more day was bounce a dinner role off the top of the head of a lady that was sitting at a table near us. I must admit though that is the first time that I ever remember Monster (I mean Ervin) doing anything with his food other than devouring it. Actually that is what he does with any food that he can get his hands on weather it is his or someone else’s. After lunch we let the kids play on the playground equipment. Other than Saul wetting his pants and Ervin’s falling off while he climbed the ladder to the slide things went fairly well.

After getting back to Hermano Pedro I went and found Father Bernardo then he and I went to see Cesar (the man with the infected leg). Today father Bernardo was even more forgetful than ever and seemed to only use English when he was talking to Cesar and his family. They only understand Spanish. I on the other hand got a combination of Italian and Spanish with just a touch of Chinese thrown in for good measure. I guess that I can’t say much about Father Bernardo’s forgetfulness though because when I left home this morning I forgot my first aid supplies. I had left most of what was needed with Cesar so that I did not have to take it back and forth with me every week but unfortunately I did not have a scalpel. I shared this with Father Bernardo before we headed to Cesar’s house and he told me to follow him. Next thing I knew we were in the infirmary of Hermano Pedro and Father Bernardo was going through the cupboards looking for a scalpel. I told him that I didn’t think that we should be in there with out permission but he told me not to worry because he was the one that was going to take the scalpel and at 5:30 he had planned on going to church and doing confessions anyway. On our drive to Cesar’s home Father Bernardo told me about a friend that he met in a jail in California. I never did fully understand what he was talking about because he kept switching languages and after the scalpel incident I am wondering if he was in jle as a priest or an inmate.

Today it took about an hour and a half to work on Cesar’s leg. I took my time because the brand new scalpel that I was using was extremely sharp. Once again I was thankful for the kids that often come into my house and take of their shoes after having them on for several days. I think that it has numbed my sense of smell. Cesar’s leg continues to show signs of improvement and I am becoming more and more optimistic that it will not have to be amputated. Once again all of the kids in the family ran up to us and hugged us when we had finished. We then had prayer with the family and were also once again given some freshly baked bread to take home with us.

While I was in Antigua I received a phone call from Alex telling me that his sister was going to be released from the hospital today. He asked if I could pick her up and take her home but after I told him that it would be at least a few hours before I would be back home he told me that they would find someone else to do it. I only let the kids in for about and hour tonight because I wanted to get some work done on the computer. After finally convincing them all to leave I walked over to Wendy’s house to see how she was doing. Her burns do not look nearly as bad as they did when I saw her a few days ago and contrary to what I had been told she has not lost most of her hair. I honestly think that other than a few places on her feet that there will be little or no scarring. Tomorrow Chris is bringing a bed over for her. Most of the families here sleep several people to a bed so he is going to give her one that she can sleep in by herself.

Talking about sleep has given me an idea. Now if only the rodeo that they are having across the street would end I would probably be able to gat some. I have an idea that it is not a very good rodeo. Much like bands that play rock music, the worse the music the louder they turn up the speakers. I guess that I can always pray that the rodeo announcer looses his voice. Or I could hope for a power outage. We have not had one of those for nearly a day now.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, July 19, 2008, 9:37 AM

I didn’t wake up until about an hour ago. I did not fall asleep until about 3:31 AM. The rodeo lasted until 3:30 am. I am seriously considering finding a motel to stay at tonight. The rodeo is scheduled to go on for 4 more nights.

Yours in Christ: Dick


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing a part of your life and the lives of the children and people you help. I have led a very sheltered life all of my 58 years knowing that there is poverty and pain in this world - yet I have been so far removed from it. I have always remained in my comfort zone. God forgive me for avoiding seeing the reality of what is happening in this world. You and your children will always be in my prayers and I will try to help in whatever aspect I am able. You are the most wonderful human being I have ever met - your capacity to love is astounding and you reflect Christ in everything you do! It has been such a privilege to spend time with you and your children.

Your sister in Christ,

Wednesday, August 06, 2008  

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