* 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)

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


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