* 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 9, 2008

Journal August 4-9 2008

(Click on any photo to enlarge)
Monday August 4, 2008

Not much for news today because I was still under the weather so I stayed at home. About the only exciting thing that happened was that Fernando broke my window. Actually that isn’t anything all that exciting because that happens about every other day.

I hope that I get over this sore throat and head ache soon because the home remedies that some of my neighbors are giving me are going to give me an upset stomach before long.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, August 5, 2008, 5:01 PM

Today I decided that I had enough of this lying around the house and headed for Hermano Pedro. I felt like a big meaney though because I didn’t get close to any of the kids due to the sore throat that I still have. The main reason that I went there was to fix Fidel’s power wheelchair. It broke while he was on his way to Carlos’s funeral last Thursday. Fidel gets depressed quite easily and loosing his friend Carlos has been hard on him. I knew that if he did not have his power chair to move around in that things would be even tougher for him. A phone call that I got from the orphanage indicated that Fidel’s wheelchair had broken in half so I was prepared for the worst. Although the chair was indeed in 2 separate pieces it is designed so that you can take it apart for transport so after replacing one broken bolt and tightening the other it was soon back together. Fidel was happy to got out of the his old manual wheelchair because he is has to rely on some one to do everything for him when he is in it.

Even though I had tried to make this orphanage visit a secret several of the kids found out that I was there so I had to explain to them that I still was not feeling 100% so I could not spend time with them today. They are smart kids and I think that most of them understood but it did not make it any easier for them or for me.

I am taking it easy this afternoon because we have a large group coming in from the States tonight and we are planning on driving up to Huehuetenango tomorrow and then having wheelchairs distributions on Thursday and Friday.

I just got a phone call from Chris. He had good news and bad news. The bad news is that most of the luggage that the group who is coming in tonight started out with is going to come in a day late. The good news is that since there is very little luggage arriving tonight. This means my car will not be needed to pick the group up. I usually love picking up the groups but this will give me one more night to get over this crud that I have.

Perhaps the drive to Guatemala City would have been more restful but the kids were glad that I stayed at home even if supper was about a dozen top robins of assorted flavors made in one large pan. I made sure that the kids got a well balance diet though. For fruit we had grape cool aid and only Fernando missed out on his vegetables. He didn’t want any ketchup on his top robin noodles. The kids are good about eating what ever I give them besides that I promised that as soon as I get back from this distribution I will stock up on good food. I hope that they still have that sail on hot dogs. Everyone has left except for Abner and Miguel. Some one has offered to help out with his education so I was able to tell him that tonight. It looks like he will no longer have to work all day then go to school at night. I don’t want him to think that he is just getting a free hand out so I talked to Chris about having him work a few mornings a week in the wheelchair shop and going to school in the afternoons. This will also give him the opportunity to learn how to repair wheelchairs. I asked if his father could possibly chip in a little for his education as well but Miguel says that since he makes only $130 per month and has to pay $38 per month to rent the dirt floor house that they live in there is barely enough money to put food on the table.

One more window is missing tonight. Funny thing though I never heard it break (although with my hearing that is nothing unusual) and there is no broken glass around. That means that unless some one stole it, Fernando broke it. I know that if it was broken it had to be Fernando because he is the only one that picks up after himself without being told.

Well it is bedtime again so I will say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

After loading around 100 wheelchairs into George’s truck moat of us headed on our way to Huehuetenango for Tomorrows wheelchair distribution. Most of us amounted to around 12 people. There should have been 6 more in our group but Chris had to stay behind to pick 5 of the Americans whose flight from the states was canceled yesterday. We had been told yesterday that it was only their luggage that was gong to be a day late but they were delayed as well. Our drive to Huehuetenango was a bit tense due to lots of construction and a lot of crazy drivers. A few of my passengers accused me of being one of those crazy drivers from time to time but they are not used to Guatemalan driving. If you are too passive you are likely to get run down by a buss. Any way we made it here with little more than a few shattered nerves and shattered eardrums. One of the American ladies that visits each year can really scream when she gets frightened. I promised not to mention her name though because Ardie gets embarrassed easily.

On our way here we stopped of in San Francisco (Guatemala not California) and hiked some medicine in to where Erica lives. The group liked seeing Erica but some were not used of hiking at 8000 feet. No CPR needed but a few looked like they were on the verge. Erica and her family are doing well. They are very happy with the results that they have seen since using the medicine. Before leaving Erica’s mom served us some bread and coffee. We did not stay long because I wanted to make it there before dark. None of us could help but think about the crew that Chris was picking up at the airport in Guatemala City at 9:30. They will likely not get here until around 3 AM. Driving here with so many of the roads torn up for construction even in the daylight is a challenge but in this case they have no other choice than to drive at night or they will miss tomorrows wheelchair distribution.

Well I am going to call it a day because tomorrow’s distribution is supposed to be a big one.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, August 7, 2008 (Written Friday, August 8, 2008, 2:08 AM)Following Thursday's wheelchair distribution in Huehuetenango we moved on to Sacappulas. Once we got settled in to our motel and had finished supper I got on my computer and tried to write down everything that had happened that day. Putting the things that I had witnessed into words did not come easy for me though. It had been a bittersweet day. Yes we had been able to share the message of the love of Jesus to hundreds of people. We had also given out over 40 wheelchairs and given each person that received a wheelchair the opportunity to see a doctor. For some all 3 were first time experiences. It had been a good day so why was it that I could not get my thoughts together enough to write about it until 2 AM the following morning? I guess holding starving kids in my arms and seeing families that had not just one child but 3 that were in wheelchairs primarily due to malnutrition was just to hard to write about. Sometimes it is not easy to think about such things. Besides that we had done our part. We had worked hard all day doing what we could to eliminate some of the pain and suffering that we had seen. There was nothing more that we could do. Besides that there are so many people like the 9 year old child that I held in my arms that was starving to death that it seemed almost silly to try and reach out and help just one more. Earlier today some one had come up to me and said, “You know just giving someone a fish to eat with out teaching him or her how to fish is only a Band-Aid”. If I hear that line one more time I think I am going to puke. I learned back in my EMT days that a Band-Aid or some other type of first aid was exactly what was needed to keep some one alive until you got them to the hospital. Rehabilitation has it place but you do not try to teach the people how to get back on their own 2 feet until the bleeding has stopped and the hilling process has begun. That is why we continually ask God to give us the wisdom of knowing whom to feed and clothe until we feel that they can make it on their own with the help of a new sowing machine, carpentry tools, a pig to raise, or what ever else it takes to get them back on their own 2 feet. For some it comes quickly, but much like those that we give wheelchairs, walkers or crutches to, some need support their entire lives. In some ways I guess it is a bit like Christianity. Another one liner that I have heard far to often is “Isn’t Christianity just a crutch? My answer to that is, “Yes and that is exactly what a cripple like myself needs.” Face it, none of us can make it on our own. That is why God’s own son had to suffer and die for us. I can’t help but wonder though if we have not become as calloused to His suffering as we have become to the suffering of those around us. I have met many people who have come here on short term missions that say they are glad that they have come here because God has really opened their eyes to the needs of this world. They also tell me though that they have to pray about how to return home and not feel guilty about living the so called good life with out feeling guilty about it. I wish that I had a comfortable answer for them but perhaps God is asking the same question.
After tomorrow’s distribution I will make a call in to Hermano Pedro to tell them that next week we are bringing in another starving child. I will also see what can be done about finding some one who can make an artificial leg for a little boy. We will also try to find a sponsor for the entire family whose only meal of the day consists of 2 corn tortias. Thank God for people like the Mooney family and for many others who are doing what they can to help those that are dying with out food, or without ever knowing what it is like to see the love of Jesus being demonstrated through his own children.

Here is part of a letter that I received a few days ago.

I have been checking your web page out and I plan on keeping myself updated with what is happening in your part of the world. How can life in America be so far removed from what is happening there. What a reality check. I want you to know my life will never be the same again since my visit to Guatemala. I can no longer bury myself in outside influences (TV, work, etc) to the reality of what is happening there and probably in so many other places. One of the things that stands out so much to me is the people who have so little seem to have so much faith. The hand of God is so evident and I would like to live my life with that kind of faith. I have taken so much for granted all my life. I feel I received so much more than I could ever possibly give back. Now that my eyes have been opened, I need to figure out the best way I can help. Thank you again Dick.

Your sister in Christ, R….

Well, it is nearly 3:30 Am. I think that I will try and get some sleep. We have another wheelchair distribution scheduled in the morning and undoubtedly we will see a lot more needs. I guess that we will have to remember that we can’t help them all but I still can’t help but wonder if we couldn’t be doing more.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, August 8, 2008, 7:54 PM
I managed to get back to sleep and actually felt quite rested when I woke up this morning. Our breakfast consisted of the same thing that we had last night, beans, eggs, and tortias. Some of these small town restaurants do not have many choices on their menus. This one had none. They gave us a choice of what kind of meet we wanted mixed in with our eggs though. Last night choice was hot dogs or ham. This morning’s choice was ham or hot dogs. Last night I picked choice number 2 and this morning I picked choice number 1. I always liked ham better than hot dogs.

After breakfast we drove to the municipal hall where today’s distribution was to take place. We were happy to see that once again we had a large building to work in. Today we gave out 50 wheelchairs. Which is about the same amount that we gave out yesterday. Once again several of the people that we gave wheelchairs to were quite severe. I could not help but think what they would have been like had we been able to give them wheelchairs 5 or 10 years ago. Several who were in their upper teens or early twenties were so deformed that we could not get them into a seated position or even get their legs uncrossed. I have little doubt that had they received just a little therapy or been seated in a good wheelchair when they were younger their bodies would likely have not been so deformed. Never the less all of them went home happy to be in a wheelchair that at the very least they could lye in.

After the distribution we took a vote and unanimously decided to try a different restaurant to eat at. Although this restaurant was nothing to look at, and you had to sit on long wooden benches that looked questionable in their ability to hold even one yet alone several Americans, the food was delicious. Even though they were on the menu no one ordered beans or eggs.

After lunch we headed to Chichicastenango where we are spending the night. Tomorrow we are planning on heading to Panajachel to spend most of the day at the lake. Personally I would much rather be giving out wheelchairs or spending the day at the orphanage with the kids but I am sure that I can find some place to hide while the others shop.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, August 9, 2008, 5:33 PM
I am finally back in Chimaltenango but I am still a half mile from home. It was hard not to go directly home after being gone for 4 days but I knew that if I did not stop off at Camperos and use their free Internet I would have no opportunity to catch up on 4 days worth of e-mail nor would I ever get this journal out this week end. The way things look right now the journal thing may still be iffy but at least I will try and get a bit more done.
This morning we went to the lake and after breakfast we decided to go zip lining. There is a mountain along side of the lake where you can do this. I thought that since I use to do a bit of aerobatic flying that this would not be to exciting but I must admit that sliding across canyons hanging from a pulley that is connected to a cable nearly 2 hundred feet above the ground is a bit breathtaking, and the view is spectacular. I tried to take a few pictures from one of the 8 cables that we crossed back and forth on but it is hard to snap pictures while you are hanging on for deer life. Not everyone that was in our group went but those of us that did totally enjoyed it. The ones that chose not to go said that they totally enjoined that they did not have to go. Perhaps when I get old I will feel that way to.

After lunch most of the group decided that they wanted to do some souvenir shopping. Three of the people that were in our group said that they really wanted to get back to Chimaltenango and just kick back at their motel. You all know how much I enjoy shopping for junk that no one back in the states would be caught dead with, but since every one else was as egger as I was to go shopping I made the ultimate sacrifice and offered to head for home early with the only 3 sane ones in the bunch.

When I checked my e-mail a few minutes ago I got the folowing letter that I would like to share with you. It is from a lady that I accidentally ran into in the park a few years ago. A few days before leaving for the wheelchair distribution that we just had in Huehuetenango she just happened to contact me and tell me about a little girl that desperately needed a wheelchair. It just so happened that she lived close to where we were having the distribution and just by chance, even though this lady was in the USA, she managed to gather all the necessary information that we needed in order to bring the right wheelchair, and fortunately she was able to contact the little girls father in time for him to bring his daughter to the distribution. Boy what a stroke of luck. Or was it? Here is part of the e-mail that I just received.

Dear Dick.... I don't know where to start. I want to tell you how much I have appreciated all that you have done to get Elida Dinora Francisco Juan fitted in her new wheelchair. I do believe that all of this was a GODINCIDENCE! I am still floored that I only contacted you last week and Elida now has her chair. I quickly spoke with her father, and he says that he and Elida are very happy with the chair and are most appreciative!! So am I. Thank you so very much! Thank you to everyone involved, it is just amazing!

Sincerely, Tana
God is so good!

Yours in Christ: Dick


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