* 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)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Journal July 27-August 3

(Click on any picture to enlarge)
Sunday, July 28, 2008

After Church 2 friends that we met there, the 8 kids that came along from home, and I went to Burger king for lunch. We then went to Hermano Pedro where I was supposed to meet of around 20 people at 2 PM. Unfortunately they arrived close to an hour late and my kids were getting very restless. I had promised a good friend that I would show the group around but was apprehensive about leaving my 8 kids unintended. When they get restless they can make all 240 residents of the orphanage look like angles. Fortunately the 2 friends that had accompanied us to lunch were gluttons for punishment and offered to hike with my kids up to the cross that overlooks Antigua. I was glad that I had stuck around for the group because my friend that was supposed to have accompanied them had gotten sick. The entire group was extremely touched when they met the orphanage kids and even though I had to leave after showing them around they stayed and played with the kids.

Since the hike to the cross from Hermano Pedro was a long one I got there only a little after the kids did. No I am not a faster hiker than they are it simply takes a lot less time when you drive up there. The hike had done wonders for the kids, in fact a few of them asked if they could ride back down in the car instead of walking. I made sure that those still tht seemed the least bit restless walked though.

Tonight the entire crew that was with me today is pretty calm. I only wish that all of the other kids that showed up were this evening as tired. I can’t complain though because only one window has been broken tonight and that was not with a soccer ball. Believe it or not Abner offered to wash my windows for me. He got a little over zealous though and managed to push one out of the frame while washing it.

Hay I just remembered that I said that I was going to keep my weekend journals short.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, July 28, 2008, 9:06 PM

Today Fernando, Marcos, and Cesar came along with me to Hermano Pedro. (No School again????) For the first time in a month they used the pool today. My 3 kids did a great job of helping out with the orphanage kids. The more volunteers that we can get into the pool, the more kids they can put in for therapy. Some times therapy consists of little more than holding a child motionless for close to an hour but once we convince the adults who were trying to keep their hair dry that this just ain’t going to happen they seem to loosen up and have fun with the kids. I had to quit swimming a bit early because another group was arriving that wanted a tour of the orphanage and they also wanted to take some of the residence to lunch.

It seems some groups are hit harder than others with the reality of institution life. Today many of the members of this group broke down and cried as they met the adults and the kids. I had to remind a few of them to just zero in on one or two kids whom they could make a difference to today. Those are easy words to say but often times when I am saying them I have to remind my self to listen. It is so hard to know who to give the attention to when there are so many. The 3 kids that came along with me from home were even a bit upset with me today because I did not sign some of their favorites out for lunch. They are quick to forgive though and once I explained to them that I had taken those kids out a few days ago they cheered up and really helped out with the kids that we did take to lunch. Today we took a mixture of teens and younger kids and it seemed to work out fine. A few of the kids that that had come along to help got a little carried away and what started out as a bit of splashing in one of the fountains turned out to be a full fledged water fight, but all of those involved seemed to enjoy it.

Every thing went well all morning but perhaps I got a little too confident with the perfect little angels that I had taken along with me from home because as I later discovered the water fight did not end there. Several of the people that I had shown around this morning asked me if they could see the malnutrition ward. Kids are not allowed up there so I asked my three boys to stay and play down in the ward where the younger kids were, while I took some of the group up to the malnutrition ward. About a half hour later I got a visit from Jessica. She told me that Fryer Francisco had caught them splashing and playing by the pool which is off limits when therapy is not being done. I don’t think that they really did that much out of the way but Fryer Francisco has a way of seeing things differently. I asked Jessica if I should go and talk to him but she suggested that I let her try and calm him down first. I had a talk with the boys though and they are truly sorry that they caused any problems. They even offered to go and talk to Fryer Francisco themselves but Jessica suggested that we give that some time as well.

Tonight I was feeling a bit under the weather so I told the kids that I was going to have the place to myself. I don’t know why it is that I only have to tell one kid that we are going to have pizza, or I am planning on taking them swimming, and every kid in the neighborhood immediately knows about it, but when I tell one of them that I am not feeling well and don’t want any one ringing my door bell, they have to come over one at a time to see if I am going to let them in tonight. If they all came at once it would not be so bad but in the past three hours, ten minutes has been about the longest that I have had between visitors. One thing for certain, if walking is good for a headache I should be better by now.

I have now had over 15 minutes of silence so perhaps they have all gotten the message, even Elder who has been told three times that I was not letting any kids in tonight, has not been back. Then again perhaps the batteries have gone dead on my doorbell or they have sneaked in and are hiding in some of their favorite hiding places. Either way I am going to say goodnight and head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Today I took another large group of people through Hermano Pedro. Much in the same way as the dozen or so groups that I have had the privilege of taking through the orphanage in the past few weeks, this group also fell in love with the kids. At noon we took 9 of the residence to Camperos. Today we took mostly teen age boys out to eat. On our way back from lunch we played in the park until a thunderstorm started to move in. We beat the rain by about 30 seconds because we no sooner got back to the orphanage than it started to pour.

This after noon I took some of the group up to the malnutrition ward where they held and helped feed the kids. Since I can only bring 3 or 4 people in at a time I had each group stay for about a half hour and then another 3 or 4 people would come in. In a few cases I almost had to pry the children from the arms of the adults who had fallen in love with them. The kids were not overly fond of the idea of going back to their cribs either. After all 3 groups had held and fed children it was time for me to go as well. One of the nurses pried the child that I had been holding the entire time from my arms and I said goodbye.

Miguel who is 15, has been showing up at my house every Sunday to come along to Church. I seldom see him any other day of the week though so when he showed up at my house this evening I had Abner tell him that I wanted him to know that he was always welcome here and does to have to limit his visits to Sunday. Miguel thanked me but told me that he has little free time. He explained that there are 6 other children in his family and that his father is a hard worker but only makes 1000Q ($130) per month and by the time that he pays rent on the families 1 room dirt floor house, and tries to put food on the table there simply is not enough money left for Miguel’s schooling. Miguel has found a job at a bicycle repair shop so he now works there from 8:00 AM to 5:PM every day and then goes to night school. When I asked Miguel how much money he made working at the gas station he told me that he was paid 50Q a week. That is bout $6.75 a week, or just a little over $1 per day. He told me that he got very tired and found it hard to find the time to do his homework but he desperately wanted an education. I asked what it would take to get him back into school in the afternoons. That is when most junior high students go to school. He told me that he thought that the owner of the bicycle repair shop would let him work half days for around $3.40 a week so if he could somehow come up with another $6 or $7 per month he thought he could make it. I told him that we would talk more soon because I was quite certain that I could find someone that would be willing to sponsor him.

9:45 PM

I just returned from Alex’s house, where I had a long talk with him and his mother. Tonight while Alex was at my house I found him ripping up some pants that he had found in a drawer. He told me that they were his and he was making cutoffs out of them. After he left I found the ripped up pants in my garbage and realized that they were not his but were a new pare that belonged to Kevin. I am not sure why Alex chose to destroy these pants but I doubt that it will happen again. He was pretty humble when I told him that what he did was bad enough but lying to me was even worse. He was in tears when I left and said that he was sorry for what he had done. I put my arm around him and told him that I loved him but I did not like what he had done. I also told him that he was welcome to come back into my house in 2 weeks. Alex assured me that he would be counting the days.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, July 30, 2008
This morning was spent paying bills then this after noon I helped Alex’s family move some of there belongings to the new home that they will soon be moving into. Alex’s mom is unable to come up with the $100 per month rent that they are paying for the home that is near my house so they are moving to some property that her father owns that is located about a 45 minute drive from here. Alex’s grandfather built the house from cement blocks tin and wood. It has no electricity or running water but it’s picturesque setting on a wooded hillside give a charm that makes it feel inviting. Alex, Wendy, Gladys, Elder. and Chio had never seen it until today and had shared with me how much they dreaded having to move there but once we got there they seemed to like it. It will be a big change for them but I think that they are going to like finally having somewhere to live that they can call their own. Alex’s mother was so happy that the children liked the place that she asked me if she could phone her husband who has been in the USA for the past 3 years just to let him know. He was also pleased. We spoke on the phone for a while and he shared with me how much he misses his family but said that he will likely not be able to return to Guatemala for at least a few years because he will have to earn enough money to pay back his father in law for the house before he can return.

It rained all the way from Chimaltenango to their new house and the going was slow because the road there was full of deep potholes that were hard to see because of all of the water that was on the road. Having 8 people, a bed, a kitchen table, 6 chairs, and a whole lot of other household goods in my car did not help. Actually just before leaving Chimaltenango I had to tell several of their relatives that had already jammed themselves into the car with us that I simply could not take them along this time. I didn’t make any new friends by doing that but felt that it simply would not be safe to drive the steep mountain roads without being able to see where I was going.

Some of the kids and myself unloaded my car while Alex’s mom and older sister swept and mopped the new house. Several of us then went for a walk through the woods and just enjoyed being out in the country. Everyone came back to Chimaltenango with me but Alex’s mom plans on moving in to the house as soon as she is able to get a few more things from home. I think that she is afraid that the house will get broken into if no one lives in it. The children are planning on staying in Chimaltenango until the school year ends in November and then they will move. Mean while they will only stay with their mom on the weekends. I know that I just told Alex that he cannot come over for 2 weeks but if the children do not feel safe staying alone I may have to figure out a different punishment.

Calin just showed up at my door and asked if he can spend the night. Due to situations at home I never ask why. I simply say yes. Chris is suppose to be dropping Benjamin off here pretty soon as well because he and I are planning on joining Mark Richard and several people that are here from his home church in South Dakota for the next few days. Calin has been begging me to let him go as well but he has exams in school tomorrow so I had to say no.

Calin has been giving me that look that tells me that he has something on his mind other than not being able to come along with me tomorrow so I think that I will close for now so that we can talk a bit before Benjamin arrives.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, July 31, 2008, 9:30 PM

After getting Calin off to school Benjamin and I headed off to Antigua where we met up with mark and the group. We then headed to Nueva Consepcion, which is located about 2 and half hours from here. Mark and his church group are planning on having a wheelchair distribution there tomorrow. Our caravan consisted of 5 vehicles, one of which was a truckload of wheelchairs. Once we got to our destination we started to unload the wheelchairs in a large building that was located near the center of town. Even though the wheelchair distribution was not scheduled until tomorrow a few people had accidentally showed up this morning. Some of them live close enough that returning tomorrow would not be a big problem but 3 of them lived several hours away. We had planned on spending the, entire afternoon at the beach but it did not take any arm twisting to get us to stay and fit them into wheelchairs before we left.

When we had just about finished up a mother with a little boy showed up. I am still trying to get the story straight but from what I can gather this little boy was not some one that was on our list of people that would be receiving a wheelchair this distribution. It is not clear weather she had brought her son from their home that was several hours away simply hoping that we would give him a wheelchair or was she in this town with her son by GODINCIDENCE. What I do know is our trip to the beach got delayed for about another hour and no one seemed to mind. When we finally left for the beach it was not until we all said goodbye to a smiling mother and her son who was sitting straight and tall in his new wheelchair.

We still made it to the beach and had a good time there but tonight as we gathered as a group and talked about the highlights of our day the beach was not even mentioned. Instead everyone talked about the people that received wheelchairs.

I wish that I could end today’s journal here because what I am about to write is not easy. I mentioned in Monday’s journal that some of the kids that we took to lunch that day were teens. One of those teens was Carlos. Carlos is one of the 7 kids that we have in our school in Hermano Pedro. He has also been coming to camp each year since he first arrived at Hermano Pedro about 6 years ago. Lately he has been getting weaker due to the muscular dystrophy that he has and because of this he had to cut back on the hours that he spends in school. Just last Monday after taking him to lunch I discussed with Jessica, the head therapist, the fact that I thought I was going to have to come up with a different way for him to drive his power wheelchair. Even though he was still able to drive it all the way to Camperos and back that day I could see that he was getting weaker and told Jessica that I knew that it was just a matter of time before he could no longer push the joystick with his hand. Jessica greed and asked me to do what ever I could so that he could continue to drive it because she knew how much this independence meant to him. Although neither of us wanted to admit it we both knew that the day would come when Carlos would pass away. Today I received the phone call that I knew I would some day get. Carlos had died early this morning. I could write novels on the positive effects that this dear friend had on me and on those that knew him. Even though Carlos himself knew that his days were numbered he always remained positive and happy. He seemed to have an inner piece about him that radiated to those around him. I know that he has gone on to a better life but those of us who knew him will surely miss him.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, August 1, 2008

The motel that we spent the night in was not the worst one that I have ever stayed in. In fact as far as small town motels go here in Guatemala it was not bad at all. I think though that for some of our USA friends it was a bit of a shocker. I guess they are not accustom to having the electricity going off for most of the night, and perhaps we should have warned them that if they wanted to take a shower they had better take it when and if the water was on. A few of them also learned the hard way that it is wise to fill a small container up with water before you take your shower. That way you can get most of the soap out of your hair if the water does suddenly stop flowing at 9:30 PM. Oh well everyone did enough sweating once the sun came out this morning that most of the soap and shampoo got rinsed away.

(No, this is not a picture of the motel that we stayed in. It is a picture of A home. Many people in Guatemala have no idea what having running water or electricity is like.)

I think for most of them any small inconvenience of finding out that a 5 star hotel in Guatemala, is simply one that allows you to see 5 stars through the holes in the ceiling was quickly forgotten once they saw some of the inconveniences the people that came for wheelchairs had to deal with. Having to carry your loved one around on your back because they have no wheelchair has to get a bit tiring for a parent or a spouse. I also felt bad for the parents of 3 different children whose heads were so large that you would think that they would burst open at any time. Oh yes we have kids that are hydrocephalic in the USA but generally they are operated on at a very young age and the symptoms all but disappears. Moat of these children will not live to see their teen age years. One young man who was 20 years old was one of the fortunate ones though. Even though his head was twice the size that it should have been he was still alive. The entire time that we were setting him in a chair he remained expressionless while his mother carefully held his head up. An hour and a half later we put on the finishing touches by installing a headrest that we had to modify to accommodate the size and weight of his head. We were careful to get everything right. I have little doubt that if his head were allowed to fall forward or to the side he would likely sustained serious injury to his neck and possibly die. After I had finished I put my hand on his shoulder and uttered a small prayer in silence. Suddenly I felt a hand on mine. I thought that perhaps it was his mothers hand as she had continually been trying to express how grateful she was to have a wheelchair for her son. To my surprise when I looked down I saw that it was the hand of this young man who up until now had sat motionless with a blank stare in his eyes. He was looking up at me with tears in his eyes. He then opened his mouth and made a sound that was not Spanish or English but none of us had any doubt that this was his way of saying thank you. After wiping away his tears and mine I gave him and his mother a hug and said goodbye.

Another grateful family was the family of a young lady who also appeared to be in her early twenties. I spotted her as soon as she was carried into the door. We usually try to seat the people in the order that they come into the door but since she was one of the last people to show up and knowing that it would take the best part of the day to seat her I immediately asked her family to come over to my work station. I figured that we would be fortunate to have her finnished by the time each of the other seating teams had done 5 or 6 people each. I am terrible on remember names but I think that the name of the man that was helping me was Dean. If not I hope that he forgives me. At any rate he was awesome to work with. Even though he had never before worked on wheelchairs his mechanical skills were great and much like myself he liked to improvise by building what was needed out of what we had. Never before have I had to put a backrest on the side of a wheelchair but that was what this young lady who’s hips were rotated and fused at a 90-degree angle needed. I know it helped that we both liked a challenge but when we had finished we had to stand back and give the glory to God. Not in our wildest expectations had we thought that we were going to end up with a chair that worked out so well for this young lady. In a few short hours she had gone from some one who was lying on her mothers lap in excruciating pain, to some one who although very twisted was sitting comfortably in her new wheelchair with a large smile on her face.
(Click on any picture to enlarge)

I could share many other stories with you of others that I had the privilege of working with today, and those would only be stories of the 5 or 6 people that I personally worked with. Multiply that by about 50 people that receives wheelchairs not to mention their family members that were as happy as they were. Then talk to the over 20 people that were seating them or working with them in some other way and you could fill a novel with the things that we saw God do today. Yes we got tired and sweaty and a few of the Americans had streaks of shampoo mixed in with the sweat but I don’t thing any of us were sorry that we had come here and shared just a little of the love of Jesus with these wonderful people.
Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, August 2, 2008
Calin turned 14 today so I let him pick what he wanted to do to celebrate. He chose to invite 7 other kids, all of them relatives, to some water slides that are down on the coast. This water park is a bit more pricey than the one that I usually take the kids to but yesterday some friends gave me money to spend on an outing of some type with the kids so we decided to go fro it. We even stopped off at a Camperos in Esquentla and had some lunch. The man that sold us our tickets first told me that I would have to pay adult rates on everyone that was over 10 years old, (that meant all but one of us) but Calin negotiated with him and he let everyone but myself in at children’s prices. Since this water park is located right on the ocean you can go back and forth from riding the water slides and swimming in one of many pools, to swimming in the ocean. We stayed until closing time and then stopped off in Antigua for some Pizza. My kids let me know that they each wanted to do a repeat of today’s activities on their birthday but I told them that an outing of this size could only happen about once a year.

Tonight Miguel and Cesar are staying over. I have come down with a sore throat so I am heading off to bed early. I asked them to lock the gate and turn out the lights when and if the other kids leave.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, August 3, 2008, 10:29 AM

I am still a bit under the weather so I have decided to stay home from Church. To my surprise only Miguel and Cesar were here when I woke up this morning. That did not last long though because by the time I had the pancakes made there were a lot more kids. Usually I let the kids help flip the pancakes but I have just washed my ceiling so I decided to do it myself. I told them that they were all going to have to leave right after breakfast but they have been playing so quietly that I have not said any more about it. I think that I will ask them to leave pretty soon though because I could stand an hour or 2 just to myself. Besides that they keep asking me if I have taken some pills that 2 of them brought me. They said they are not sure what they are but just one of them made their mother feel better in less than a half hour, so they are sure that they will do the same for me. The envelope that the pills are in has some Spanish writing on it that leads me to believe that the pills are for morning sickness. Oh well I guess it is the thought that counts. Another reason that I want the kids to leave pretty soon is that I am thirsty and there is no way that they will let me get near the refrigerator for something to drink. Every Guatemalan knows that drinking anything cold when you are not feeling well will make you much sicker. I think that one is right in line with the fact that the kids keep bringing me a jacket and hat to put on. Perhaps I should listen to them but it is already 80 degrease out side. I also need a shower but that is another no no when you are not feeling well. Another reason that I will wait on the shower is that modesty thing that we Americans have. Like I have said before, watching Americans take showers seems to be just under watching a succor game as far as favorite spectator sports are concerned. The only draw back on sending the kids home is that those that have parents will tell them that I am not feeling well and within a half hour I will have people lined up at my gate with home remedies, some of which make cod liver oil seem appetizing. Oh will I guess that I should feel honored that everyone in the neighborhood tries to take such good care of me. I guess they figure that anyone who has not learned Spanish after all of these years needs all the help that he can get.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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