* 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, August 21, 2008

Journal August 16-22

(Click on any photo to enlarge)
Saturday, August 16, 2008

Abner and Fernando came along with me today. Fernando is always cheerful, optimistic, and ready to jump right in and help out wherever possible. Abner is a constant reminder that not everyone in this world is like Fernando. I love them both but must admit I have to spend a little extra time on my knees to keep it that way with Abner.
When we got to Ronny’s house we discovered (not to my surprise) that the 9 people that Ronny’s mother told me would be coming along from their house to the water slides had now reached 12. It was a bit cozy with 15 of us in my car and Ronny’s power wheelchair tied on top of my car but at least the water park was only an hour’s drive from where they lived. I had previously told the kids in Ronny’s family that unlike the beach where I had taken them another time appropriate swim ware consisted of more than a pare of old underwear. I guess they felled to relay the message to their dad. Fortunately he spent most of his time in the water so we did not get kicked out of the place. The water park was a new experience to many of our guests but it did not take long until all but a few of the little ones had made their way from the wading pool to the water slides. The only other time that I had taken Ronny to the water park I could not convince him to get into the water. Today however with a little coaxing from his dad and my self he let us carry him into the pool. Ronny has lost a lot of strength lately so we had to hold him carefully but he really enjoyed being in the water. It is hard to see him going down hill so fast. I could not help but think of Carlos who passed away a few weeks ago. Ronny has the same condition and I know his days are numbered. We stayed at the water park for about 3 hours then a thunder storm moved in so we decided to change back into our clothing and head somewhere for lunch.

Rule # 183 When going swimming at one of the classier places in Guatemala be sure and mention to the Guatemalans that are going with you that they prefer that you wear a swim suit instead of your underwear or anything less.

Rule # 184 When mentioning that you are going swimming at one of the classier places in Guatemala that prefers that you ware a swim suit it may be wise to mention this to the adults as well as the children.

Rule # 185 When mentioning that you are going swimming at one of the classier places in Guatemala that prefers that you ware a swim suit it may be wise to mention that they have dressing rooms that the management would rather have you use then the open area at the pool side.

Front of My Car..... . .. .. . Middle of My Car ... ....... . . . Back of My Car
I was thankful that we did not have to lift Ronny’s power wheelchair back onto the top of my car when we headed for home. It was raining much to hard to place it out side of my car. I must admit though that it made things a bit crowded now that it was packed inside of my car with the 15 of us.

I had promised everyone that we would stop at their favorite restaurant on our way through Esquentla. Notice I said theirs and not mine. I never thought that I would say that about Camperos then again I never thought that I would be their millionth customer and that they likely would have only been up to 500, 000 customers if it were not for me.

..............It felt good to be able to bring Ronny’s family back to a nice dry house. I can remember the days when I would see them standing knee deep in water inside of the shack that they called home. They are so happy with their new house that you can’t believe it. Mom will never get the good housekeeping award but she has certainly come a long way since when I first met her. I guess that makes sense though. It is much easier to sweep a cement floor than a mud one. The family has even planted all kinds of plants and flowers around their new house and it really looks like a home.

After saying our goodbyes we drove over to where Carlos the little boy that was having lots of seizures do to lack of medicine lives. He has been doing much better now that we have found him a sponsor that provides the money for medicine for him. In his case it is not one sponsor but a group of senior citizens that are from my hometown.

Fernando, Abner, and I stopped off for a hamburger before going home but that didn’t stop close to a dozen other kids from being hungry. I pointed to the cupboards, the fridge, and the stove, and said, “Have at it.” So they did. I may not have to restock my shelves but I did not have to lift a finger and the place was spic and span when they had finished. Perhaps spic and span is a little bit of an over exaggeration but you have to remember that I have always been a bachelor so my standards for a clean house may differ a bit from yours. You also have to remember that for the past few weeks I have only had running water 1 or 2 hours a day and I am not always there when one of those magic hours arrive.

Well the kids are fed, the house is clean, and it has been decided which 4 are not leaving so now all I have to do is figure out a way for those 4 to at least wash their feet before they drive me to making them all sleep outside, and then I will head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, August 17, 2008, 10:31 PM

Seven of us headed off to church this morning, ten of us arrived there. We figured that the car seemed rather empty after the 15 of us that we had in it yesterday so we stopped off at Hermano Pedro and picked up Moises, Byron, and Henry. We didn’t put all 3 of their wheelchair into the car though. We tied 2 of them on top. It is on days like these that I find it easy to convince myself that although owning a motorcycle would save me a lot of money in fuel, for me it just would not be practical.

Rule # 186 If you plan on taking 3 orphanage kids to church with you remember to take clean clothing along for the kids.

Rule # 187 Even potty-trained kids have accidents.

Rule # 188 Remember that when a potty-trained kid who no longer wears diapers has an accident things can get messy.

Rule # 189 Remember when carrying a potty-trained kid that if they do happen to have an accident they are not going to be the only one that will need a change of clothing.

(Rule # 186b Remember to take extra clothing for yourself too.)

(Note to self) {Remember to return the shirt that Pastor Mike loaned you.}

After church we stopped off at Burger King with the 10 of us. Then we headed for home. The kids played on the computer and watched videos while I tried to take a quick shower. It was not until I turned on the faucet that I remembered that I had no water. At least I had filled up some pots, pans, and garbage cans with water the last time that it was on so I was able to pour some of that on me. Usually I heat it up first but today I felt that getting clean was far more important than waiting 10 minutes for warm water.

When I got out the kids and I went out side a played with a small plastic helicopter that some one had given Alex for his birthday. No remote control here, not even batteries. You just pull on a string and watch it fly for a few seconds. The kids all thought that it was great though and played with it until it was time to return the 3 boys to the orphanage.

Now you are likely thinking that I probably went home and rested this evening. To be honest with you I had serous thoughts about doing just that. The only problem is that tomorrow is Alex’s birthday and I have to be gone for a few days. Fortunately I did not have to throw a big party for him though because a circus has moved in across the street in the same spot where the rodeo was last week. I have written about Guatemalan Circuses before and you likely remember me saying that anyone who can stand on their head for over 2 seconds or any animal that is not dead even though it may look like it is, is a candidate for a circus act. I must admit though that this circus was a bit more than the last one that I went to. The best balancing act was still the audience trying to stay perched on the 2X4 bleachers but the trapeze acrobat that doubled as the fat lady was quite entertaining and Christina and Calin will never forget being selected out of the audience to have a python wrapped around them. Actually I think that the clown was pointing at me but Christian is gullible and I convinced him that the clown was pointing at him.

Well that’s about it for my weekend so I guess that I will head off to bed. I stacked up some pots and pans under the faucet that is out side where I do my dishes and left the faucet turned on. If my plan works, when and if the water comes on, the pans will topple and the noise will wake me up so that I can take a shower. If not I will at least have cleaner pots and pans and a watered yard.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, August 18, 2008, 9:54 PM

I spent a short time at Hermano Pedro this morning swimming with the kids. Only 2 therapists and my self were there to swim with the kids so only five kids were able to get into the pool. I was surprised to see that Minor who was on oxygen just a few days ago was one of he kids that got to swim today. I was told that the breathing problems that he experienced a few days ago were from some medication that he was given. No one is saying if it was an allergic reaction to something that had been prescribed for him or if he was accidentally given an overdose, or perhaps even the wrong medicine. All I know is that he is doing well now and I am thankful for all of your prayers for him.

After swimming I went up to the malnutrition ward where Luis, Dionial’s father, was waiting for me. He was at his son’s bedside just like he has been everyday since we brought his son into the malnutrition ward close to a week ago. Today Luis would be riding along with Saul, Hanna, Gustavo, and myself as far as Xela and then catching a buss to where he lived. Saying goodbye was not easy for father or son but Luis knew that if his son did not stay in the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro he would likely die. I told him that I am planning on being up in the Huehuetenango area in a few weeks and I promised that I would take him and his wife back to Antigua to visit their son then.

Our drive to Xela was a normal one. We only got run off the road 2 or 3 times and other then a one our stop for road construction we made fairly good time. These one hour stops would not be so bad except for the fact that all of the buses force there way to the front of the line and park on the shoulders and in the oncoming lane. The big problem is that the buses from the oncoming direction do the same thing so once the flagman lets the traffic go you have a Guatemalan stand off. These are fun to watch from a safe distance but being in a car on a mountain road and being surrounded by busses that are insisting on going opposite directions can get a little exciting.

We managed to get into Xela before dark and we are taking it easy tonight. The motel that we are staying in is a nice one. It has a good restaurant in it and it even has running water. This is a luxury that I wish that I had at home. I hear roomers that a new water tank to replace the one that collapsed will run around $80,000. Unless the government steps in and helps I am afraid that I will have to get used of having water only and hour or 2 a day.

Good night,
Yours in Christ: Dick

August 19, 2008, 9:22 PM
After getting the breaks adjusted on the van that we took to Xela we headed to the orphanage. We try to get here at least every three months to refit, repair, and replace the wheelchairs that the kids at this orphanage use. This time it had gone way past 3 months so the needs were great. We had been sent a list of around 35 kids that had chairs that needed attention but with in an hour our list had grown by another 10 wheelchairs. It helped that there were 3 of us repairing wheelchairs and that Hanna was there to do the needed paper work and make sure that we had a new person picked out once we had finished with who ever were working with. Hanna also worked on some of the wheelchairs with her husband Saul.

My first customer was an easy one it was a blind girl who has been there ever since I first came there close to 9 years ago. She had recognized my voice the minute that I walked into the place and after a few hugs she told me that her brakes needed adjustment. It looked like today was starting off to be brake adjustment day. Perhaps I should have hoped for that anyway because this was a 5 minute job. At this rate we would be able to have everyone’s wheelchair done in no time. That is when (excuse the pun) the breaks really came on though.

My next customer was also an old friend that I had met on my firs visit to this orphanage. I will never forget the day that I found Mario lying in a small circular cage with a body that was so bent and twisted that the heals of his feet were firmly planted on the back of his head. That day we did not have enough wheelchairs for Mario or many of the other kids who we found lying on the floor or tied in little wooden chairs with their hands behind their backs. I still remember both Chris and myself getting physically sick from the hopelessness of what we saw. By God’s grace less than 2 weeks later we were able to return with wheel chairs for each and every kid in that orphanage. Things were not easy there at first. Often times we would return only to find that the wheelchairs were a handy thing to tie the kids in. I am happy to say though because of persistence and some caring people that work there this orphanage had made great progress. Oh yes there are still kids that spend far to much of their time locked in cribs but things are much better. Many of the kids now attend school and the girls that care for them are really starting to care about them as well.

Anyway back to Mario. The first time that I ever worked with him it took nearly 2 hours to get him out of the position where his back bent so far back wards that his feet touched his head. And it took over a day to set up a wheelchair that would hold him in a position where his muscles would not suddenly contract not only causing him possible physical damage but at one point actually snapping the frame of a wheelchair. Now nearly 9 years later 17 year old Mario is sitting straight and tall 99% of the time. It is that other 1% that make it necessary to constantly be repairing or replacing Mario’s wheelchairs. Today we had brought along a new chair for Mario however I had not realized how much he had grown, so after looking thing over I decided that it would be easier to readjust and use his old wheelchair then to try and make the one that we had brought big enough. The only problem was Mario’s old wheelchair needed a lot of repairs. That is why in spite or the fact that I got done with my first wheelchair in record time the total number of wheelchairs that I got finished with today was 2. Thanks to a slightly higher number of wheelchairs that Saul and Gustavo did we may be able to finish up some time on Thursday. That is as long as there are not to many Mario’s left to do. It was all worth it though because this evening he was once again sitting straight and tall in his wheelchair. He looked a lot happier than he did earlier today when I found him tied in his bed.

^ . . . . . ......... Click on button above to see movie.

On our drive back to the motel we shared stories about some of the kids that we had worked with either today or with in the past few weeks. Saul and Hanna shared about the absolute joy they saw in the face of one of the children that they gave a wheelchair to today. Since she had evidently come into the orphanage after out last visit. Not having a wheelchair for her, the people at the orphanage did the best that they could by putting her into a stroller. It served it’s purpose in being able to move this sweet little girl from one place to another but she had to remain wherever she was placed until some one came along and moved her. Not anymore! Today from the moment that Saul and Hanna got her seated into her new wheelchair she was nonstop. I managed to get her to sit still long enough for a picture but then she was once again off exploring a whole new world.

Gustavo, who is himself in a wheelchair got a smile on his face that was as big as that of the little girl that Saul and Hanna had just put in to a wheelchair as he shared with us about a little girl that he and Carlos had given a wheelchair to when on a recent trip to El Salvador. He said that he had never witnessed so much joy in a child.

Not all of this joy is necessarily seen in those that receive wheelchairs. Today I had to tell the only child at the orphanage that is in a power wheelchair that I did not have the parts to fix his powers wheelchair with me, and that I would have to take it back to Chimaltenango with me and repair it there. You would think that he would be in tears knowing that it will be at least 2 weeks before he gets his wheelchair back, but he was all smiles. Why? Because he was busy helping me drill some holes so that we could mount some brackets onto Mario’s wheelchair. 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.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, August 20, 2008, 8:33 PM

Today was much like a repeat of yesterday, more kids, more wheelchairs. You would think that after doing this for nearly 9 years that it would sort of become old hat. How many hundreds or perhaps more like thousands of people can you give wheelchairs to before it no longer sends chills down your back to see what a difference a wheelchair can make in their lives. I have no idea and I doubt that I will ever find the answer to that. It seems like each child or adult that we are able to give a wheelchair to has such joy that we can not help but feel the way we did when we handed out our first wheelchair. Notice I am saying we because judging by the conversation at tonight’s dinner table the whole crew feels the same. Another thrill is to be working with Saul and Hanna. Little did I know at the time that the little girl that helped interpret for me at the very first wheelchair distribution that I had ever been part of would be working with her husband along side of me 9 years later. When the Mooney kids told me that day that they were missionaries they meant it.

I am going to keep this one short tonight because tomorrow looks like it is going to be another busy one. Besides I have heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. Here then are several thousand words.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, August 21, 2008, 6:11 PM

After 4 days in Xela we are finally back in Chimaltenango. Our morning was once again spent at the orphanage in Xela where we worked on wheelchairs until noon and then headed for home. Even though we worked there for 3 days we still did not get finished with everything that there was to do. There were just too may chairs that needed to be repaired or replaced and a lot of the cases were difficult ones. Hopefully we can get back there soon and finish up on those that we could not get to. I think that it was time to leave anyway because we were beginning to get as attached to the kids in this orphanage as we already are to those at Hermano Pedro in Antigua. Today I had more little helpers than I really needed but it meant so much to each of them to feel like they were doing something constructive and to get a little attention while doing it that I just could not say no.

After leaving the orphanage we drove back to the motel, got cleaned up, had some lunch, and then headed for home. The first part of our trip went quite smoothly and the traffic was not to bad. Then an hour road closure put a stop to the light traffic thing. Once we got moving it was wall to wall trucks and busses. Some of these drivers are totally insane. At times busses or truck would come up behind you so close that you could only see their front bumper in your mirror. There was not much that I could do about it because I was usually had trucks and busses right in front of me. I think that I have an idea what anything that goes inside of a sandwich feels like. Add to that the fact that every now and then you suddenly find your self on a section of new road that will eventually be 4 lanes. The only problem is that you are switched from one set of lanes to the other so often that no one is cretin weather or not they are in there lane or that of the oncoming traffic. At one point today while following other traffic I discovered that we were the ones in the wrong lane. I had been following a car in front of me and both of us missed seeing a hand painted arrow on a rock that indicated that we had to cross through what appeared to be a small ditch into a newly opened section of highway. Fortunately there was a wide spot not too far down the road where we and the people that we had been following were able to turn around. That was a rather humbling experience and it even made me feel bad that I had gotten a bit angry about several other cars that we had met in our lane a bit earlier. Anyway it is good to be back home.

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 another 15 minutes. Oh that’s right, NO WATER!

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, August 22, 2008, 8:54 PM
Whenever the kids play soccer I have them open one of my car doors a little ways so that if a ball or kid happens to hit my car the alarm does not go off. Since I was gone from home since Monday morning all I can figure is my car door stayed open ever since Sunday night’s soccer game. I found out this morning that no matter how good your battery is it will go dead if the interior light of your car stays on for 5 days. Anyway that is why I was a bit late getting into the Hope Haven warehouse in Antigua this morning. A few weeks ago when Hope Haven did a wheelchair distribution down near the coast around a half dozen people showed up whom we did not have the right wheelchair for. Instead of giving them something that would not be right for them we asked if they could come to Antigua and be fitted into the proper wheelchairs. Today was the day that was decided upon. I was glad that Saul had decided to come along and help as well. Even though there were 6 people that needed wheelchairs it still took us a few hours because 3 of them were difficult cases. By around 3 PM we had finished up though and all 6 people were extremely happy.

^ .......... . . . . . Click on button above to see movie.

One of the more interesting cases was a lady that appeared to be in her thirties. She had been born with deformed arms and legs and was extremely overweight. As far as I know she had never owned a wheelchair and her size made it next to impossible for any one to move her. Due to her size and the deformity of her arms there was no way that we would be able to give her a manual wheelchair that she could propel on her own so Mark and I started looking at the power wheelchairs that he had stored in the warehouse. We doubted that we would find anything her size and if we did the chances of it running would be slim because none of these chairs had been checked out yet. Upon looking around we found an extra wide power chair but since it had arrived from the States without batteries we had no idea if it was in working condition. I had not brought any of my test equipment along from Chimaltenango because we were not planning on giving out any power chairs today, but we decided to put batteries in it hoping that it just happened to run. I guess this was another one of those Godincidence days because it ran well and it fit the lady perfectly. All that was needed were some modifications to the footrests and in less than an hour this lady who had never been able to move around on her own was driving all over the parking lot. She was thrilled and so were we. A little later a happy vanload of people waved goodbye as they headed back for the coast.

I thought about stopping off at the orphanage for an hour or so before driving home but it had been a long week. Besides that I knew that the kids in my neighborhood would be waiting for me.

I was not home for 5 minutes before my house had 8 kids in it and by the time that I announce that we were going out for pizza tonight there were 12 of us. The 3 that came a bit later told me that the police had just shot and killed a man in front of their house. I think that in the five and a half years that I have in this neighborhood at least half of my kids have seen some one get shot and killed. Some of the kids are staying tonight because they said that they did not want to walk down the alley where the man was killed. I offered to walk them home but they said that they rater stay here.

I am still trying to figure out how they will shower but since my head cold has cleared up and I once again have my sense of smell we will figure something out.

Well it is getting late so I think that I will say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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