* 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, August 30, 2008

Journal August 30- September 6

(Click on any photo to enlarge)

Saturday, August 30, 2008, 8:34 PM

Since it is Saturday I am going to let these pictures do more talking than me. These first 3 are Pictures of 9 year old Lionel. The first one was taken about 3 weeks ago when his parents brought him in to the wheelchair distribution that we had in Huehuetenango.

The second picture was taken a week later when we brought him in to the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro. He weighed in at 17 pounds.

The third one was taken today. In just 10 days he has gained 4 pounds. As you can see he is much happier and far more alert.

Most of my day was filled with happy kids. Abner and Alex who accompanied me to the orphanage today had a great time playing with the orphanage kids and helping me repair wheelchairs.

All 3 of the kids that we took to lunch had a great time as well.

hen I got home Alex and Abner washed my car and then the 3 of us plus 7 more kids that magically appeared out of the woodwork, walked down to the shopping mall and got some Pizza. Not exactly health food but they were as happy as the kids that we took for lunch.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, August 31, 2008, 9:04 PM

Shortly after finishing up last night’s journal I received 2 e-mails from friends that had visited here only a few weeks ago.

Please pray for the daughter and children of Pastor J in Guatemala. I just received a email from her saying that they are being extorted. They have received a letter telling them that if they do not give the extortionists $20,000 in 15 days they will kill one of their children. They are currently in hiding. Please pray for their protection. Pray for wisdom. This is not the first time and each time they increase the amount they must pay.

Thanks! T

Things like this are becoming all to common here in Guatemala. Unfortunately when fear tactics like this are used it is often hard for friends and family members to think rationally. In most cases weather or not a bribe is paid has little effect on the outcome and more often than not just like in this case it only marks you as the perfect target and the extortionists are back within a year.

Just last week some neighbors of mine who opened a small store in their home only a few months ago moved away with out telling anyone where they were going. Why? About a week before moving 2 men came into their home and demanded protection money. The men politely told this family that if they did not get the money their lives would be in danger. Not unlike most small family stores in my neighborhood this store wasn’t taking in enough money to keep the lights on yet alone to pay a monthly protection fee. So instead of paying these men off the family moved. Unfortunately if they try to open another store this gang or another one like it will once again pay them a visit.

I have always said that if anyone kidnaps me don’t give them a red cent. That is easy for me to say for myself but what if it was one of my kids? All we can do is pray that God will give us the wisdom what to do if a situation like this arises. I have said it before and I will say it again.

"Please keep these people that God has put in our paths, and us, in your prayers."

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance.

Proverbs 29:25

Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.

Last night I was once again reminded of why there is no other place that I would rather be than right here in Guatemala. Three of the ten kids that were here all evening decided that this was going to be home for them the entire night. At around 10:30 I told them that I was heading off to bed and that it would be a wise idea if they did the same within the next hour or so. Usually we do evening devotions together but since they were still going strong I did mine on my own. I am not quite sure how long after I had gone to bed I was waken up by the sound of some one talking. I recognized the voice as being that of Miguel. Miguel is one of the quieter boys so I was surprised to hear him doing all of the talking. I thought about asking him to stop talking so that I could get back to sleep but instead I listened for a while. It was then that I realized that 15 year old Miguel was praying with the 2 younger boys. I thank God for each day that he allows me to be part of this.

Oh, you may be wondering what went on today. Since it is getting late I will once again try to let the pictures do most of my talking.
I don’t want it to look like I do all of the work. This just happens to be the only picture that got taken this morning. All 7 of the kids that were here for breakfast pitched in and helped with breakfast as well.

Moises and Byron love it when we stop off at the orphanage and pick them up for Church. A lot of the other kids would like to come along as well but taking more than 9 kids to church at once can be a bit of a hand full. The kids that come along from home are great about helping out with the orphanage kids though.

After church we took Moises and Byron home for the afternoon. Abner and Fernando’s aunt and Uncle invited us over for lunch.
Tonight I am just relaxing at home. In a little while I will send the half dozen kids that are still here home.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, September 1, 2008, (Written on Saturday September 6)

I just reread my journal before publishing it and realized that I have either accidentally deleted Monday's entry or altogether forgotten to write it. Either way at my age it is hard to remember what I did a few minutes ago yet alone think back 6 days, so I guess all I can say is it must have been a rather good day because I am still healthy and I don't see any new dents on my car. Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, September 2, 2008, 3:18 PM

Calin ended up spending the night here but only after we played the game of “Who’s the Boss” for nearly an hour. For no other reason than that he did not want to be told what to do he refused to wash his feet before bedtime. Even though I was already half asleep when he went to bed, and his bed was on the far side of the room, my nostrils immediately told me that he had not done as I asked. I then told him that he would have to get back up and wash his feet but he told me that he didn’t want to. When I told him that he had no choice he accused me of being bossy and not allowing him to have any choice in the matter. I had to admit that he was right so I gave him a choice. “Wash your feet or go home.” I did admit to him though that he was write about me being bossy but then reminded him that since this was my house and I was older than him I had the right to be the boss. He turned on the tears for a while and then slowly headed towards his bed. I then reminded him that I had given him 2 choices and this was not one of them. I don’t know what got him the wettest, the shower or the tears but 20 minute later Calin was fast asleep and my sinuses were beginning to clear. This morning he was once again talking to me and even left a peace offering of a bag of potato chips for me. Some times it is hard for me to be so stern with the kids but then again if I wasn’t they might stop thinking that I loved them so much.

Judy Kurschner and I had made arrangements to meet at the wheelchair shop this morning. We had made arrangements for her to bring in 2 little girls from Santa Maria Dejesus that needed wheelchairs and walkers. I had previously thought that they would take me most of the morning to fit into wheelchairs but both girls fit comfortably into normal wheelchairs and seating them took no time at all. After that Carlos drove in from Antigua and the 2 of us met for lunch.

At around 7:30 I plan on heading for Guatemala City to pick John Bosman up from the airport. John only plans on being here for 4 days. We are heading for Huehuetinango tomorrow morning and it looks like we will have a full schedule until he leaves on Saturday.

5:02 PM

Fernando just came to my door in a bit of a panic. Four men were outside with a wheelbarrow full of water meters that they had dug up and removed from nearly half of my neighbor’s homes. They were now in the process of digging mine up. I had Fernando ask them what they were doing but the men seemed to ignore him. Thankfully Lizet who lives next door came out of her house and they were a bit more willing to talk with her. They told her that nearly half the people in my neighborhood had not paid their water bills so they were removing their meters until the bills were paid. I told her to tell them that even though my water has been off 95% of the time I had been paying my bill regularly. The men insisted that I had not paid my water bill in over 2 months. Lizet asked the man that had a hand full of paper work to show her the bill. He reluctantly did so. Sure enough there it was in black and white, a water bill for a whopping $3. The only thing was the bill was not for my house but the one next door. The man with the hand full of bills apologized and told me that he was sorry about the mistake. I was glad that the problem had been resolved before they had the meter completely removed because 2 years ago when they had made a similar mistake I had to go to the same man’s house at 8:00 at night to convince him to replace my meter because of a similar mistake. As I thanked the man for not shutting off my water, which has only been on for an hour or 2 a day, I noticed that one of the other men was still removing my meter. I politely asked the man that was holding the wrong water bill in his hand to explain to the other man that I owed them no money. The man with the bill in his hand then told me that while they were accidentally removing my meter the noticed that some water and mud had flowed from my alley into the hole where my water meter was so they were still going to have to shut off my water and remove the meter until the problem was resolved. “What problem?” I asked. Of course there was water and mud in the hole in the ground that is in my alley, which has about 6 inches of watter in it every time it rains. The man politely explained that the mud could seep into the sealed meter and pipe that ran through the inspection hole and contaminate the water of the entire neighborhood. I didn’t fully understand how mud could seep into a water pipe that is made to be underground but I could see that I was fighting a loosing battle. “What can I do to resolved the problem?” I asked. “I am a fare man.” said the man that I was more and more beginning to distrust. “I will give you until morning to build up the sides of the cement inspection hole a few inches so that water will not seep into the inspection hole.” He said. Great! It was now 5:30 I had to leave for the airport in an hour and a half and was planning on leaving for Huehuetinango at 6 AM. I explained this to the man and asked if there was anything else that I could do. “Oh yes.” He said. For around 200Q I can have one of my workers fix the problem for you and that way we won’t have to shut your water off at all. Now I have never been one that believes in paying a bribe but a few years ago I ended up giving a police man $25 for the convenience of sleeping in my own house instead of jail. Tonight I am another $25 poorer for the convenience of having water for an hour or 2 a day. Hopefully this will keep the storage tank that I just installed full enough to keep me supplied with water for the other 22 to 23 hours a day that I have no running water due to the community water tank that fell over last month.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I picked up John at his motel room at 6 AM and the 2 of us headed towards Huehuetinango. We got an early enough start that we got through most of the construction areas before the flag men were out so we made fairly good time until we got to within about 20 minutes of our first scheduled stop. This was one of those, close to an hour that leave you scratching your head trying to figure out why, type of road closers. We still managed to pull in to the Xela orphanage at around 10:30 though so we didn’t complain. Neither did the little boy who had been with out his power wheelchair for several months. We only stuck around long enough to unload the power wheelchair and say a quick hello to the kids and then we were once again on our way.

Before leaving Xela we picked up Rolland. Rolland is a man from Sweden that I had met at the wheelchair distribution that we had in Huehuetinango a few weeks ago. He lives in Xela and is quite active in working with various organizations that are involved in helping the Guatemalan people. It was Rolland that first introduced me to most of the people that we planned on visiting tomorrow. Wishing to avoid the traffic tie up that I had encountered on my way into Xela I decided to take a road to San Francisco that I had been on years ago. Since a good part of this road was not paved and it had no signs telling me were I was at or which fork in the road to follow I doubt that we saved any time but the scenery was spectacular. A few hours later we reached San Francisco. After reaching the far side of town we parked my car at the end of a dead end road. The family of a 16 year old boy that we had promised to bring a wheelchair to was waiting for us there. Donna Mooney had contacted them for us and told them that we would meet them there. We were still about a half hour drive from their home but I had never been there so they had agreed to meet us here. I explained to them that before driving to there home we were going to hike in to Erica’s home to deliver the 2 suitcases of medicine that John had brought along from the States. I told the man, his wife, and 16 year old son that they could wait for us by my car until we returned and that we would then drive them to their home but they decided to hike in to Erica’s with us. This was not an easy task considering that it was raining and the 16 year old boy could not walk but the man loaded him on his back and away we went.
Our visit at Erica’s was much to short but we still had to bring out 3 new friends to their home and set up the boys new power wheelchair before dirving to Huehuetinango.

We had been told that we would be able to drive right up to the home of this family and that even though the ground that surrounded there property was a bit uneven they had a large flat yard that surrounded there home. When we got out of my car and I saw no house I began to wonder. When the man took us to the edge of what looked closer to a cliff than uneven ground and pointed to the roof of his house that was located below, John and I looked at each other in amazement. Had I not already promised this boy a power wheelchair I would likely have changed my mind on the spot. I have my doubts that a dirt bike could have climbed the narrow trail that led to the house. O well they had told us that the yard that surrounded the house was large and smooth so at least the boy could use the wheelchair there. I wished that we had taken a rope along to help us lower the wheelchair to the house but with no less then 3 people at a time on the wheelchair we managed to get it down to the house with out loosing it. On our way down the side of the mountain we realized that, a bit of uneven ground, must mean something entirely different to the Mayan people than it does to Americans. Once we finally reached the house we also be came aware that, a large smooth yard, also has an entirely different meaning. Oh well at least he could probably use the wheelchair on the floor of the large home that this family had told us about. Guess what, the dirt floor of their small home was not much smoother, or dryer, and was a lot smaller then the small uneven yard just out side of their door. Oh well a promise was a promise. Besides that there was no way that we were going to try to get this power wheelchair back up the side of this mountain. Once we got the boy into the wheelchair we realized that it was all worth it though. Even though he could do little more than go in circles and the wheelchair got stuck a few times inside of the house the boy and his entire family seemed to be overjoyed. Father assured us that once the rains quit the house would dry out and that he would even try to smooth up the yard a bit. I promised that I would stop by the next time that I came through and check on them, and then we were once again on our way.

The rest of our trip to Huehuetenango was rather uneventful. Traffic was light so I was only run off the road twice. The motel here is a nice one and tonight more than ever it has a feel of home. I guess that is because the water has been off most of the evening.

Well the battery of my computer is getting low so I better say goodnight. Hopefully the electricity will come back on during the night so that I can charge it. At least the beds are soft. Now if I had only brought my flash light so that I could find my way to the shower. Oh that’s right; we still don’t have water anyway.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, September 4, 2008

This morning the 3 of us headed about an hours drive north of Huehuetinango and then turned off from the paved road onto a narrow winding mountain road that you would think no one lived on. I had never been here before but Rolland assured us that he had been here by buss and that there were numerous small villages located along this so-called road. How a bus could navigate the tight turns and make it through some of the narrow spots that had us nearly hanging over the cliffs is beyond me, but sure enough when we got into the first village we saw a few old school busses. It was in this village that we picked up Maria Garcia the lady that would be helping us locate the people that we wanted to see today. Rolland had been good friends with her son who was only in his twenties but had gotten sick and died a few months ago. Maria’s son had been involved in trying to do what ever he could to help the countless poor people that lived in this area. Rolland told us that after Maria’s son died most of the projects that he was just getting started fell by the wayside because they had not yet gotten off the ground. Maria is now trying her best to rekindle some of the projects that her son had been working on. Our next stop was at a smaller village another 15 minutes up the road. We seemed to be the item of curiosity when I parked my car near a school that had the only wide spot that I could find in the road that would allow another car to pass, by just in case one did come up this road today. Maria walked us back down the road to a small sore where a young man named Rolando was sitting on the ground. His legs were twisted and he could not walk because of the CP that he had but he had one of the warmest friendliest smiles that I have ever seen. I guessed his age to be around 16 but his father later told us that Rolando was 21 years old. Most of the other people in the village were quite shy and kept their distance at first but after we took one or 2 pictures of Rolando curiosity got the best of them and they came over to see the pictures that were on the screens of our digital cameras. It was not long before some of them wanted us to take their pictures as well. Others were more cautious and would turn their backs or even run away whenever we pointed a camera in their direction. Rolando who has never been to school simply because he can not walk told us that he once had a wheelchair but that it became so warn out that he could no longer use it. To my surprise as we were talking another young man who appeared to be a few years younger than Rolando came up the road in a wheelchair. As he got closer I recognized him as one of three children of a family that we had given wheelchairs to when we did a wheelchair distribution near Huehuetinango a few weeks ago. Rolando’s father told us that even though the road is extremely rough this young man, who up until he received his wheelchair was mainly confined to his house, was now going up and down the road all day long. You should have seen Rolando and his father’s face light up when I told them that one of the reason that we had come today was to see what we could do about getting Rolando a wheelchair. Moments later I was taking measurements and analyzing what type of wheelchair Rolando needed.

By this time a large crowd of people had gathered some of whom were adults and Children that Roland had arranged for us to see today. Several of these people were in need of wheelchairs so I did the necessary measurements and paper work on them. Others were people who needed medical attention but had never seen a doctor in their entire life. I had to keep telling them that I was not a doctor but they were so desperate to have anyone that had even a little medical knowledge look at them that they kept coming. We now have list of people that we are going to try to get to Hermano Pedro so that they can see a doctor there. We also gave Maria some money and arraigned for her and Roland to take one lady in to see a doctor in Huehuetinango tomorrow but want to keep it at 1 until we determine weather or not the doctor is any good. In far to many cases the city doctor’s only concern for the Mayan people is to see how much money they can get from them.

After measuring up more people for wheelchairs they brought Rudy to me. Rudy is the 4 year old boy that I met at the same wheelchair distribution that the young man who was continually going up an down the road was at. Even though he was not on our list of people who were to receive a wheelchair that day we had enough kids wheelchairs with us that we were able to give him one near the end of the day. The only problem was that what Rudy needed more than a wheelchair was an artificial leg, but where were we going to find the money to buy him a leg? Even here in Guatemala the cost of materials alone with out labor for an artificial leg is well over $1000. Guess what, thanks to of a lot of prayer and a lady that stumbled across what I rote about Rudy the day of that distribution I have been contacted by someone in the USA who is willing to make an artificial leg for Rudy. Today I was able to get all of the needed measurements and John will be taking several pictures that we took and a plaster mold that we made back to the USA with him on Saturday. Hopefully Rudy will soon be getting a new leg. A few years ago we did an arm for a man the same way and it worked out great for him.

After we finished up with Rudy we saw a lot more people. Some of them we had previously arraigned to see but many of them came hoping that they could get some type of help in receiving a wheelchair for themselves or a loved one. Others came seeking medical help for things that ranged from seizures to deafness. We will do our best to try to get some of them to Hermano Pedro in the near future but I am also praying that I can find a doctor that will be willing to come into this area with me for at least a few days and see these people.

Rolando’s father then took us to visit some people that lived further up the road. They also had various needs. Some of them were so poor that the dirt floor houses that they lived in had absolutely no furniture. The only clothing that I saw was what they were wearing and in many cases there were no beds or blankets so at night they had to sleep on the dirt floors of their homes. The needs seemed endless and it would have been easy to throw up our hands and walk away, but that is not what Jesus would have done.
After eating lunch at Rolando’s home, which had little more in it than the homes that we had just visited, we went to the home of the young man that had been going up and down the road in his wheelchair all day. It was this family that had originally drawn me to come here when I met them at the wheelchair distribution that we had come to a few weeks ago. This young man’s father had died a few years ago leaving his wife, and what I thought at the time were there 8 children, with out anything. We had given the 3 older children wheelchairs because 2 of them could only walk a few feet without blacking out and falling over and the other could not walk at all. I had wanted to stop at this home to share some good news with the family. A friend from the USA had read about them in my journal a few weeks ago and had offered to give some money so that we could help give this family some food each month and also put a younger sister of the 3 that are in wheelchairs into school. Even though the village has a public school, not unlike the rest of Guatemala, there are costs involved that many of the parents cannot afford. In this village it costs around $13 per month to keep a younger child in school and after grade 6 it jumps to around $30 per child. It was not until we saw this family today that I was made aware that 2 boys that were school age were not attending school either. All 3 of the kids said that they wanted to go but had never been able to because their mother has no money. I thought to myself if only the family were not so large perhaps at least on of them would have had an education by now. Don’t you just hate God’s timing at times? Moments later I was brought to teers when Rolland told us that the 2 boys that were not going to school were not the biological children of this lady who had almost nothing. I was told that she had adopted them when their mother died. “Why?” I asked, “She has so little.” “Because they had even less.” I was told. After the tears left I told this mother that when the new school year starts next January we well see to it that all 3 of these children are enrolled in school.

It had been a long day and a real tear jerker at times but one that I would not have traded for the world. We had made friends with a lot of people who were afraid to come near us only a few hours earlier. We did not preach a sermon to them or even share our theology but we let them know by both actions and words that we were doing this in the name of Jesus Christ. How could we do anything less after all that He did for us?

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, September 5, 2008

Last night the lights in out motel room did a bit of blinking but we never fully lost our electricity. Even more important than that, the water stayed on all night. This is a luxury that I have not had recently, neither at home or in the motels that I have been staying in.

After breakfast we got in my car and drove north on past where we had been just yesterday. We had told Luis (Lionel’s father) that we would meet him out on the main road that led up to his village at 9AM. Both he and his wife were waiting for us when we arrived. Today they were going to ride back to Antigua with us so that they could visit with their son Lionel, whom we brought to the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro about 2 weeks ago. Luis asked if we wanted to meet his other 5 children before heading to Antigua and I instantly said yes. I had wanted to see them because since their brother was starving I feared that perhaps they were not doing well either. As far as I know this families only means of transportation is by foot but I was beginning to wander if they possibley owned a Learjet when what I was told would be a 5 minute drive turned out to be more like 15 or 20 minutes. It also made the winding trail that I drove yesterday seem like a freeway in comparison. There were times as my tires had little breathing room between them and the cliff that I wished that my car had been a few feet narrower. We found no busses at the end of this road. Luis and his wife then walked us to their small one room adobe house that was only a short walk up the trail. We did a bit of joking about not taking my car up this trail but even a 4-wheel drive Toyota has its limits. Luis’s house looked no better than the worst of homes that we had been in yesterday. Other than a small table that was made from an old road sign and a homemade ladder the house was empty. When I asked where the children were Luis told to us that they were about 5 minutes up the trail at the home of their uncle, where they would be staying while Luis and his wife were in Antigua. John and I both looked at our watches as we headed up the trail. We were both wondering if the 5 minute walk would take as long as the 5 minute drive that we had just made. It didn’t matter much though because the scenery along the way was spectacular. There were streams to cross, waterfalls to look at and all different types of vegetation. The first part of the hike took us past some coffee plants that belong to Lionel’s family. Luis told us that growing coffee provides the families income. He then went on to say that if he works hard and has a good year he can clear around 2000Q. That comes out be $270 per year. When we neared uncles house mother went on ahead to tell the children that we were coming. All 5 of them were quite shy at first but it did not take long before they warmed up to us. I had been told that they had all cried the day that we took Lionel to Hermano Pedro so I had taken my computer along with me in my back pack, so that I could show them some pictures of how well he was doing and how happy he was. The entire family was thrilled and for the first time since I had met her I saw mother smile.Father told me that all of these children with the exception of the baby had been attending school, however the older daughter had to dropout 2 years ago because putting her into 7th grade would cost the family to much money. We were informed that the oldest boy who had only 2 months of grade 6 left would also have to drop out of school after this year for the same reason. It seemed such a shame because both kids seemed so intelligent. The older girl went into the house and got her report card from 2 years ago. This quickly confirmed what I already know in just meeting her. It was then that I once again put my big foot in my mouth. “Would either of you like to continue with your education if you were able to?” I asked. Now in the USA that might not be a stupid question but here I got an immediate reply even though I did not need one. In this case it did not take long to find a sponsor. John had fallen in love with this family as well. I try to never make my journals a plea for money but if anyone is ever interested in helping one of these families out with food, shelter, education, or something that can help them to make a better living just let me know. I have an ever-growing list of names of people and what their needs are.

Driving out from where they lived is noticed a small monument that had many names written on it. Louis told us that it had been put up in memory of 46 villagers that had been massacred there in 1988. He told us that 2 of his brothers were among the 46 people that the army had killed, because they felt that the village had helped the gorillas. Luis said that since he was just a child at that time he was allowed to live. For the villagers there was no right side to be on. Rolando’s father whom we had just eaten lunch with yesterday is still suffering from injuries that the gorillas had inflected on him at about the same time that these villagers were slaughtered. We were told that if the Gorillas or army came in and asked for food or anything else that you had you would be killed if you said no. However if the other side heard that you gave it to them they would come in and torture or kill you. No wonder some of these people have a hard time trusting strangers. Just yesterday we almost had to bypass seeing a little girl that was in need of a wheelchair because her father thought that we were perhaps there to kidnap her and some of the other children. Fortunately after meeting with us some of the villagers who’s family members had received wheelchairs from us a few weeks ago, went and talked with him and he later came out and talked with us. He proved to be a very nice man who was simply worried about the wellbeing of his family.

(Click on any photo to enlarge)

On our way down the mountain Luis asked if we would be willing to make one more stop. He said that he knew of another child who was much like his son Lionel, and wondered if I could look at him. From where we parked my car it was only a short walk in to where this child lived. I hesitate to even call this dwelling a home because it consisted of little more than a tin roof had corn stalks that had been tied together to form walls. Inside the house we found an old lady and a 10 year old boy. The boy was curled up on the dirt floor and it was apparent that he was quite handicapped. The old lady told us that she was the boy’s grandmother and that the boy’s mother was in another village for a few weeks picking coffee. I asked if I could look at the boy and was surprised to see that he appeared to be in fairly good shape considering his surroundings. As I started working with him to see if there was a possibility that he could be untwisted enough to fit into a wheelchair his 80 year old grandmother knelt down next to me. She showed us some stretches that she had been doing with him and said that she had been doing them every day. What she showed us amazed me because many of the things that she was doing were the exact stretches and exercises that therapists are trained to do. The little boy simply lit up every time this loving grandmother got near him. The love that she had for this child was something to behold. Even though we had mentioned nothing to her about it, she announced to us that she did not want her grandson to be taken to any hospital or orphanage. I assured her that we were not there for that reason but only wanted to see if there was some way that we could help. I had already promised Luis that I would send some vitamins back with him for his family when he returns from Antigua so he agreed to take some back for this child as well. We also told the grandmother that we would see to it that her grandson got a wheelchair so that he did not have to spend his entire time lying on the dirt floor. When I tried to explain to her the importance of getting this child out of a continual lying position she wholeheartedly agreed. I was amazed at not only the love that this lady displayed for her grandson but her medical common sense type of medical knowledge was beyond belief. Luis then told us that she was the medicine woman for this area. At first I thought of the Indian medicine men that I use to see in the old cowboy movies but this old gall did not dance around bonfires shouting and chanting. She, much like some of the true medicine men used plants and herbs many of which are used some of today’s drug store medicines to treat their patients. She even told us that every other day she puts her grandson into the steam bath that resembles a brick oven that many of the people have next to their houses. I hope that I will see her again because I have a feeling that she could teach me a lot. One thing for certain, even though this was one of the poorest dwellings that I have ever been in it still radiated with love.

On our way home we dropped Roland off near the home of Maria, the lady that we had worked with yesterday. She and Rolland had offered to take a young lady that we had met yesterday to see a doctor in Huehuetenango. Rolland is going to keep a close eye on things so that we know weather or not is best to pay a doctor in Huehue to see some of these people or to try and take them all the way to Hermano Pedro. The drive back to Antigua took around 5 hours but everything went well. Luis and his wife had asked if it was all right that they take their youngest daughter along since she was still nursing. I said that it was fine and almost invited the other kids along as well but was not sure wether or not I could get lodging for the entire family at Casa Defay.

Even though it was past 5:30 when we arrived at Hermano Pedro they said that it would be all right for Lionel’s family to visit with him for a little while before I brought them to Casa Defay. Once again I saw the smile come back on his mother’s otherwise expressionless face, and once again I felt the love that radiated between this child and his family.

It has been an emotional week. It is always hard to see people hurting knowing that you can’t help them all but praise God that he allows us from time to time to be used by Him.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, September 6, 2008, 2:10 PM

You may wonder what I have been doing all day. After getting back home from bringing John to the airport at 3:30 AM I went back to bed for a few hours. Ever since then I have been getting caught up on this journal. It will undoubtedly be another few hours before I get the pictures arraigned and the journal posted. I would hate to count up the hours that are spent behind this computer each week but it gives me the opportunity to look back on how God has been working. I also feel that it is important to share this information with those of you that are praying.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, August 29, 2008

Journal August 23-29

(Click on any photo to enlarge)

Saturday, August 23, 2008, 10:28 PM

PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH. I think that it has been years since I heard those words but I was reminded of them last night when I was proof reading the journal that I just sent out.

Just last Tuesday I had written these words but just 2 days later I had all but forgotten them.

Yes, allowing him to help took up precious time but what is this ministry all about, wheelchairs, or sharing the love of Christ with people? Some times it is so easy to get caught up in what we are doing to help someone that we scarcely have time for the person that we are helping. The kids that are always waiting at my gate when I get home from a long day at the orphanage are a constant reminder of that. It isn’t always easy to keep an even balance but it is my prayer that by God’s grace I will never get so busy doing God’s work that I do not have time for those that He places in my path.

Just 2 nights later, on Thursday night, I wrote the following.

You may be wondering how I am able to find the time to write after being gone since Monday morning. Since we had taken the van and not my car I had Saul drop me off out on the road and then I sneaked down my alley and into my house with out being seen. At least I don’t think that I was seen but my phone has started ringing more than usual and I have already had someone knocking at my gate. I think that the kids do that weather or not I am at home though. They just keep checking in case I come home with out them knowing it. Well I can’t hide out forever. Besides that I really miss them so I think that I will close for now and let them in. Then again a nice warm shower would feel good. Perhaps I will hide out for another 15 minutes.

Friday night I had allowed the kids to come in to my house to eat and to play but my mind was preoccupied with getting this week’s journal published, and getting caught up on a lot of other things that I fell behind on while I had been in Xela. The kids were all but begging me to focus my full attention on them but they had to understand that I was busy. Wasn’t offering to take them out for a quick Pizza and allowing them to play in my house while I worked enough? Some times it is, but last night they needed more than that. I had been away from home for 4 days and they needed my full attention. That is when I decided that mowing the grass, washing the windows, answering piles of e-mail, Selling the old tires from my car, and what seemed like a million other things that I had intended to do today were not as important as focusing my attention on a group of kids that desperately needed it. No we didn’t pack up and go to the zoo or the water park as we often do when I recognize that I am spending more time on the ministry than on those that God has given me to minister to. Instead I simply shifted gears. After breakfast I taught the kids how to play Uno and they loved it. Actually I think that it could have been tiddlywinks that we played and they still would have loved it. It wasn’t what we were doing together it was that we were doing it together that mattered to them. The fact is, even though I decided that I was going to focus my full attention on the kids today all of the other things that were on my list and more some how got accomplished. After an hour of Uno some of us went out and mowed my grass, nearly everyone chipped in by washing the windows while a few of the girls swept and mopped my floors, The kids thought it was a ball to be able to go along with me to a shop that buys and sells old tires. Calin did the bartering for me and was quite proud of him self when we got 500Q (around $60) for my old tires. This afternoon we strung a rope across my yard and used it as a volleyball net. No one seemed to mind that we had to stop an pump up the old soccer ball that we were using every few minutes, and Abner was the only one to complain about the bounders being twice as long on one end of the field than the other. Even he was Ok with it though when I explained to him that I had to keep them shorter on the end where my house was because we were out of new windows. At half time we drove to the glass store and bought a dozen new pains of glass then returned home and moved the boundaries. After the soccer game we replaced 2 broken windows and by then the kids were ready for some time to themselves playing on the computers or getting some schoolwork done. I even managed to get caught up on some of that e-mail.

This evening supper consisted of 2 roosted Chickens and lots of bread and some potato chips. Six kids are spending the night but we once again have a shower problem. I got mine in before the water went off. Well at least half of it. Warm wash cycle cold rinse cycle. There would have been no rinse cycle at all had it not been for my foresight to fill up an old garbage can with water earlier today when the water was on. I was careful not to use too much of the water that was in the garbage can though because there were still 6 kids that desperately needed baths. Not to mention having to keep enough water to flush the toilet a time or 2 during the night.

Well the kids are all settled in. Three of the older ones have claimed the living room and the 3 smaller ones are already fast asleep on an old mattress that is located next to my bed. During our evening prayers several of the kids mentioned how thankful they were for such a fun day.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, August 24, 2008, 10:19 PM

I cannot say that last night was the most restful night of my life. I had just drifted off to sleep when I was suddenly bombarded by the 3 kids that had been sleeping on the floor next to my bed. One or 2 of the older boys had decided to sneak into my room and scare them. I am not sure what they did to scare them but they did a good job of it. It took me the next hour to convince 3 trembling kids that my twin bed was not big enough for 4 of us. Even though I got them back onto the floor and fell back to sleep I woke up a bit later only to find Fernando back on my bed. This time I waited until he fell to sleep to put him back with the others.

Today instead of going to church In Antigua we headed to San Marten. Alex’s mom and a bunch of people from there church had already headed up by buss earlier this morning. This was the day that they were going to dedicate their new house. After the church service that we had at their new home we were served lunch then some of us hiked down to a small river. The country side where they are moving to is beautiful but the living conditions will be a bit different than what they are use to. At least for the time being they will have no electricity or running water. Windy, who has recovered well from her burns, has decided to drop out of school so that she can help her mother around home. I have considered talking to her to see if she would continue school if we found her a sponsor but it sounds like she does not want to continue her schooling. Alex and Elder will attend a small country school that is located about a mile from where they will be living. It looks like Chino is going to try to find a place to stay here in Chimaltenango so that he can go to high school. I have not yet been asked if I have room for him but will not be surprised if I am.

Tonight Calin is my only overnight guest. He is already fast asleep. There are on other kids here to scare him so I thing that I will have my bed to myself. I am tiered enough that I probably would sleep right through a dog pile on my bed anyway, so I am going to say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, August 25, 2008, 10:52 PM

You would think that after buying 12 new windows yesterday that I would have a replacement for the one that the tire pump went through tonight but you have to take into account that 2 of those windows were used up yesterday, and that not one of the 147 pains of glass that are in my 3 room house that has windows on only 2 sides seem to be the same size. I know that everyone has heard that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones but I think that they should have included soccer balls and tire pumps as well. At least chasing down the kid that threw the tire pump through my window gave me some exercise and as an added bonus I also retrieved the flashlight that he had taken from my house.

Actually I got more exercise than that today because this morning I got into the pool with some of the kids at Hermano Pedro. The influx of volunteers that were there in June and July has ended so once again it was just a few therapists, one other volunteer, and myself. The hand full of kids that we managed we to get into the pool really enjoyed it but I felt bad for many others who would have loved the opportunity to get into the pool.

After swimming I went up to the malnutrition ward to see how Lionel was doing. I know that up until now I have been calling him Dionial and that is the name that I read on his paper work but today they had Lionel Gabriel written above his bed so I guess we will go with that. Lionel seems to be doing well. He still looks like a little skeleton but the nurses claim that he is putting on some weight. One thing for certain he is definitely becoming more alert. Today he was looking around and focusing on things. I even got him to smile when I held him. Perhaps you are thinking that smiling is not a big accomplishment for a 9 year old but it is when you have been starving to death all of your life and weigh less than 18 pounds. I asked if I could carry him out into the sun light but the head nurse said that he had to stay in isolation for a few more days yet. I am just thankful that it looks like he is going to make it. I am sure that if he does it will open up a new door to reaching others that live in his community. In a week and a half I am planning on going there to see a family that has 3 children that cannot walk. After seeing them at the same wheelchair distribution that we met Lionel at we were all fairly certin that the main reason that 2 of them cannot walk is due to starvation. Another reason that I want to go up there is to take measurements and make a plaster cast so that Ruby, another child that we met at the same distribution can get an artificial leg. Lionel’s parents also plan on riding back to Antigua with us so that they can visit with their son for a few days.

I was hoping that I could find a few people that were able to help me take some of the orphanage kids out to lunch today but no one was available. Moses reminded me though that I had promised to spend an hour or 2 with him when I returned from Xela.

This after noon I was told that Sam Sam would be moving to a different orphanage tomorrow. I understand that this one is in Guatemala City and deals primarily with autistic kids. Today I reached out to give him a hug but he pushed me away. Five seconds later he walked up to me threw his arms around my neck and gave me a slobbery kiss. It will be hard to see him go after knowing him for over 8 years but I am praying that he will get the kind of help that he needs there.

One of the nurses brought Alex to me today ad showed me that he was not sitting properly in his wheelchair. I thought about repeating what Sam Sam had just done to me but didn’t know if this nurse liked slobbery kisses. This has to be one of the first times that I have seen any of the nurses show much interest in how the kids were sitting in their chairs. I have seen the nurses and other staff show a lot more interest in the kids in the past few months though and to me this was another milestone. I had intended on working on another child’s wheelchair but wanted to show the nurses that it was important to me that they took an interest in the kid’s well being so I went right to work on it.

On my way home I stopped off to see Caser, the man who has the infected leg. His mother has been changing the dressing fo rthe past few weeks ecause it has been difficult for me to find the time. I must say that I am pleased with the results of the unnaboot that is being used on his leg. Contrary to earlier beliefs I think that Ceser is not going to have to hav his leg amputated. Now that his leg is healing his overall health seems to be much better as well. Every time that i visit this family gets even friendlier if that is humanly possible.

For the first time in I don’t know how long I actually made more to eat than the kids could finish. It did not go to waist though because one of the kids took what was left home to his family. Some of the families are really hurting financially and a meeting that many of them attended last night has them worried because they are saying that each family that gets it’s water from the association that had the water tower collapse may have to come up with as much as $200 US if they expect to see a new water tower in the near future. For many families this is an impossibility. On Wednesday pastor Juan from Tecpan, is planning on coming over to my place and we are going to install a plastic storage tank on my roof. That way I should have water all of the time provided that they turn on the community pump for at least an hour or 2 a day. There is talk that they may cut down on the amount of time that it is turned on though because since it is now pumping directly into the lines instead of a storage tank it could burn out.

Well it is once again that time of night.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

This morning I headed to the wheelchair shop where I had an appointment to meet with a family that had a little boy who needs a wheelchair. He was a delightful kid and we hit it off right from the start. The boy’s father told me that the family had been praying that their son who had very limited hand use could perhaps receive a power wheelchair. They lived in Guatemala City and had electricity. Their home was also located on level ground and had wide enough doors to accommodate a power wheelchair. There was just one problem. Even though their son was extremely bright he did not have enough hand control to use a joystick. I placed my hand on the back of his head and asked him to push back with his head. He did exactly as I asked. I then asked him to look to the right, Perfect. His head movement to the left was the same. He was the perfect candidate for a head controlled wheelchair. My next hour was spent looking through the supplies that we had in the shop. We had a few power chairs that were his size but no head controllers that could be adapted to them. I phoned Mark over in Antigua and he told me that I could come and see what he had in storage there but didn’t thing that he had what we needed either. I then went in and explained to the boy and his family that I could put their son in an ordinary wheelchair right away but if they were willing to wait a few weeks, until I could locate the right parts and build the proper wheelchair he would have one that he could drive around in on his own. The response from the entire family was unanimous. They would wait until their son could have a head controlled chair. I thought that it would be hard for them to go home without receiving a wheelchair on the spot but knowing that their son will be able to get around independently seemed well worth the wait for them. Please pray with me that we can now locate the head controller to build the chair that this boy needs.

Only a hand full of kids came over tonight. Perhaps it is due to the rain or perhaps it is because I worked up a sweat today but I have had no running water the entire day. I think that I will go and heat up some water on the stove and take a sponge bath.

8:23 PM

Just finished my bath and now the house is filling up with kids. I guess I better start using some stronger deodorant, at least until we get this water thing taken care of.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

This Morning Chris brought pastor Juan, who lives in Tecpan over to my house. Juan has been helping Chris prepare the land for a pre-fabricated house that will be put up for a widow later this week. Today Juan was going to help me put a water storage tank on my roof. It looks like it could be months if not years before they decide what to do about the collapsed water tower that served at least 400 families so I decided that I had to do something. Hopefully the 1 to 2 hours a day that the water is on will keep enough water into my new storage tank that I will have water all day long. It is 300 gallons but only time will tell how full it will get each day. There is a shut off float in it just in case it ever does fill up. I have it connected to my one and only water faucet, my toilet, and my shower. If it works I will be in he lap of luxury. Can you imagine running water 24 hours a day? My only worry is that once the word gets out that I have running water the line ups to my shower will be longer than ever. I guess I may have to put a 5 minute time limit on each shower and raise the total number of people that are allowed to shower at once. I will make it perfectly clear though that the owner of the shower still likes to have shower time to himself.

Supper was late tonight because the chef had a long day but all of the kids pitched in and we managed to eat at around 9:30. Abner and Fernando who only 24 hours ago stomped off saying that they were never coming back here are my overnight guests tonight. Fact is they have been here ever since getting out of school at around 12:30 this after noon. I can’t remember exactly what they were mad about last night but it takes very little put Abner into a bad mood. Fernando on the other hand seldom gets upset but the last few days have been a little hard on him. He has been trying to get hold of his mother, who has been in the USA for the past 9 years, to remind her that it is his 11th birthday tomorrow. She has not returned his call. I talked to his aunt this evening. She said that her and her husband simply did not have the money to have any kind of a party for him. Now they do. Tomorrow night we will have cake and a piñata over at their house.

Well the kids are fast asleep and I am half asleep so I will close for now. I once again have my pots and pans stacked under the water faucet so if the water comes on I have little doubt that I will sleep through it.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, August 28, 2008

This morning I spent a few hours in the shop working with Alturo on a power wheelchair that needs to be repaired by Tuesday. This one really had us stumped but we finally located a small wire that was periodically loosing contact. The problem would have been much easier to locate and fix had it been something larger. I am sure there is a good object lesson here somewhere but we won’t go there right now.

After leaving the shop I headed for Hermano Pedro where I had intended on working on some wheelchairs. It was not until I arrived there that I realized that I had left my tools back in Chimaltenango. I am sure that there is a good lesson there as well but I am afraid that it has something to do with getting more forgetful as you get older, so I certainly don’t want to go there. I guess that I should be thankful that I still have a good enough memory to remember what it is that I forgot.

My day was not wasted though because I ran into 2 people that were willing to take a few of the kids to lunch with me.

Today we took Minor, Ervin and Bobby (Roberto). Minor was an angel. Ervin did pretty well considering that he is Ervin, and Bobby did a better than average job of getting more food on himself and on the floor than he managed to eat. After we ate we let the kids play on the playground equipment. We did not put Bobby on the slide though because he was too sticky.

.^ . . .Click on arrow above to view movie.

When we got back to the orphanage I met up with 2 people who have lived in Antigua for several years. They had never been through Hermano Pedro so I showed them around. By the way that they took to the kids I am sure that they will be spending more time there now that they have once visited.

When I got back to Chimaltenango this evening I went to the store and bought 2 cakes and a piñata. Fernando’s mom has still made no contact with him and he was pretty bummed out about it. A big birthday party at his aunt and uncles house helped cheer him up though. I wish so that his mother took enough interest in him to at least call him on his birthday.

Friday, August 29, 2008, 5:48 PM

Today we had a wheelchair distribution here in Chimaltenango. Since the group that was coming in from the USA had to cancel out due to predicted hurricanes in Florida we had mostly just the shop crew here to do the fittings. Fernando had no School. (Why ???????) So he came along and helped as well. Today’ distribution was not one of our larger ones size wise but we had quite a few kids and adults that were not easy to fit. The first little girl that Fernando and I worked on did well at first but by the time that we had finished she was not a happy camper. Her new wheelchair fit her well but she wanted to go home.

Our second customer was just the opposite. This 11 year old boy was so petrified of us at first that his whole body would get stiff as a board any time that we got near him. Fortunately he calmed down more and more as we kept working with him and by the time we had finished he had a wide smile on his face.

When I got home this evening the first thing that I did is hop into the shower. After being so long without running water I realized just what a blessing it is to have it. So far most of the neighbors have not caught on to the fact that I have running water 24 7 even though the water is on only 2 hours a day. I am sure that the news will get out soon but at least for now I can use my shower without standing in line or having an audience.
Next week john Bosman is coming down for a few days. We will be going into an area to the north of that does not see to many outsiders. There is still a lot of mistrust of white people in this area. So please pray that the people are not frightened of us. There are many needs in this area but unless they trust us we are quite limited in the ways that we can help.

Yours in Christ: Dick