* 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, September 14, 2008

Journal September 12-19

Friday, September 12, 2008

Saul, Hanna, and I finished up giving out invitations to all of the people that we were inviting to camp from the coast. This year we covered that area faster than any other year. One reason is that we are finally getting everyone’s location down on the GPS and another is that with an ever growing list of people to visit we no longer invite anyone who has not come to camp for 2 consecutive years. This also gives us an opportunity to add a few new campers to the list of those that we are inviting. In 4 days on the road we managed to hand out 29 invitations to camp and also visited with a number of families that had medical or housing needs. We got to visit with several of the kids that we have sponsors for and all of them are doing well in school.
(Click on any picture to enlarge)

We also came back home with a carload of broken wheelchairs and walkers that we promised to have repaired before or by camp time. Generally we repair everything that needs repairing when the campers show up at camp but some of these items were either broken beyond use or the person simply could not wait until camp time to have them fixed. It had been a good week but I was ready to get back home for a few days.
Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, September 13, 2008

This weekend has been wall to wall kids. I had thought about sending them home for a few hours but as happy as they were to see me I just did not have the hart to do that.
Today some of the kids helped me build up the cement box that is around my water meter. The man that threatened to shut off my water if I did not make it higher had promised to do it but he evidently changed his mind and left a note in my mail box saying that he was going to shut my water off instead. While we were doing the cement work we also cemented in several of the bricks that were loose around my flowerbeds. I think that they were accidentally knocked loose by stray soccer balls that hit the bricks instead of one of my windows. Saturday afternoon I took 8 of the kids swimming at the hot springs.

Tonight Chris and 3 friends from the States that he has been showing around came over with around 10 pizzas and all kinds of desserts. I generally limit the kids to 2 pieces each but since I know that there was no way that around 20 people could consume 10 pizzas I told them that they could have as much as they wanted. Guess what, I was wrong. They not only ate all of the pizza but some of them put away 3 desserts. Marcos held the bragging rights by eating 7 pieces of pizza but there were a good number of us that tied for second place by downing 6 pieces each.

Yours in Christ: Dick

9:56 PM, Sunday, September 14, 2008
Today only 5 kids came along to Church with me because some of the others were participating in a parade with some of their classmates. Five kids still seemed like 10 though because Jason came along with us to church today. It had been about 2 months since he robbed any money from the church so I told him that he was allowed to come along again. Never before have I met a kid seems to have such a knack for doing things without thinking as Jason. Today he did fairly well in church but things went down hill from there. After Church we drove my car over to Hermano Pedro parked it there and then started walking over to Burger king. On our way there Jason got a nosebleed. None of the other kids caused it. It simply started on its own, although the way he was bugging the others I would not have blamed them if they had. Jason did not have a handkerchief so he held his hands over his nose whle we all searched our pockets for a Kleenex or something that would absorb the blood. Next thing I know Fernando was in tears. Jason in his infinite wisdom had taken both of his hands that were full of blood and wiped them on Fernando’s white pants. I mindedly know where I wanted to place my 2 hands but refrained myself. Fortunately we were still close enough to the orphanage that we went back there and found a pair of pants that fit Fernando. I would have taken Jason straight home but Chimaltenango is a good half hour away and I was scheduled to meet Chris and the men from the States in a little while. I thought about making Jason stay in the car while we ate but I valued my car more than that so he actually got to come along to lunch with us.

After lunch Chris arrived and I showed our 3 friends around the orphanage. Before leaving the 5 boys in the play area while I showed our friends around I had a good talk with all of the boys. I told them that they had to be on their best behavior while they were left on their own. When I returned I found out that they had all listen to me. The only problem is Jason’s best behavior still leaves a lot to be desired. I apologized to the nurses for the problems that he had caused in the 30 minutes that I had been gone and they were pretty good about it. They all smiled though when I told Jason that he would not be coming along with us next week. The other 4 boys were smiling as well. It must have sunk in a bit though because when it was time to feed the orphanage kids Jason pitched right in there with the rest of the kids and helped.

The last of the kids that are leaving have just left. It looks like Calin is my only overnight guest tonight. Last night I had 4 guests. Tomorrow I plan on spending a good part of my day at Hermano Pedro. I will undoubtedly have some company. The kids once again have no School?????

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday: September 15, 2008

Calin, Lady, Cesar, and I had planned on spending a good part of my day at Hermano Pedro today. What we had not planned on was spending most of the morning trying to get there. The past 4 days have been holidays that are similar to a 4 day Memorial Day weekend. Today being the final day everybody was out celebrating and the roads were cluttered with cars, Parades, and Joggers. After spending nearly an hour getting to Antigua it did not take me long to realize that It would take me at least that much longer to reach the orphanage. I hated to turn around because I had promise these 3 kids and 4 kids from the orphanage that I would take them to Camperos today but I know that even if I could make it to the orphanage it would take me twice as long to get back home because Antigua was filling up with more and more people and towards evening most of them would be heading back to Guatemala City. The kids at the orphanage would have to wait until another day and my kids would have to settle for lunch in Chimaltenango. This afternoon was spent just trying to catch up on a few things that needed doing at home.

The new water tank that we put on top of my house tooks great. Now if I could only figure out why I am getting absolutely no water to it. All of my neighbors have water every morning for about 2 hours but for some reason I do not. The first thing that I checked was weather they had once again shut my water off due to another mix up in them thinking that I had failed to pay my water bill but my water meter was still there and the shut off valve had no lock on it so I am a bit baffled. Not much I can do about it anymore tonight and I am planning on leaving for Huehuetenango the first thing in the morning. I guess that I will have to deal with it when I return home on Friday or Saturday.

It is getting late and I still have enough water in my new holding tank for a quick shower so I guess that I will go and enjoy my short lived luxury of running water.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

This morning I headed out to Huehuetenango to do 4 or 5 days of camp recruiting. Since Fernando will be out of school until the 24th of September I let him come along with me. Why no school???? This time it is perfectly logical, his teacher cut his leg and had to have some stitches put in. Fernando told me that his teacher came to school last week but only stayed long enough to tell the students that his leg was bothering him so he decided that he was going to go home and that he would not be better until the 24th. I think that I have finally figured out why there are no substitute teachers. With all of the days that the normal teachers take off the poor substitutes would work themselves to death. Funny thing is though that I thought that perhaps the director of the school would make an exception and find some one to teach Fernando’s class since his teacher was going to be out for so many days this time, so we stopped off at his school on our way out of town this morning just to check. When we got to the school the lady that lets the kids into the gate told us that the director was not there. I asked if I could come inside and wait. She then told me that the director would not be there today. I then asked if I could talk to the teacher in charge. She told me that there was no teacher in charge. In fact she told me that there were no teachers at all. She told me that since yesterday was a holiday the director of the school had decided that there would be no school today as well. The lady at the gate told me that she was only there so that she could tell the kids that were arriving for school to go back home. I thought about asking for the janitor in charge but one look inside of the gate told me that he had been on vacation for much longer than 4 days.

There was a lot of construction on the road to Xela but we hit the road blocks that can last for up to an hour and a half with near precession timing and never had to stop for more than a few minutes. Another thing that I almost hit with not so perfect timing was a buss. Or I guess I should say he almost hit us. Since we were on a straight stretch of road I could see him coming at us while he was still a quarter of a mile away. He was passing a long line of traffic. I flashed my lights but could see that he was making no effort to gat back into his own lane. There was absolutely no shoulder on the road so I had no choice to do anything other than to sop my car right on the road and watch him come towards me. Had it not been for a not so happy truck driver slamming on his breaks and letting him back into his own lane I do not think that you would be reading any more of my journals. I have had some close calls but this one was far too close. Thanks for your prayers and please keep them coming!

When we got near Xela Fernando and I picked up Rolland. This is the man from Sweden whom I had met at the wheelchair distribution that we did in Huehuetenango about a month ago. Rolland had offered to send this week with me as an interpreter. He also knows many of the people that live in and near Huehuetenango and he has a real hart for helping them. When we got to Huehuetenango we checked into our hotel, had a late lunch and then headed out to visit out first camper.
Marvin’s house is not exactly one of the easier ones to get to, but the long drive and 45 minute hike into his home is worth the scenery alone. Rolland found it hard to believe that up until 2 years ago Marvin’s father carried him each day from his home to the school where we had left my car, just so that his son could have an education. When Marvin turned 12 his father told him that he would have to quit school because it was simply getting to difficult to carry Marvin up and down the steep trail each day. Last year we found a sponsor and a teacher that would teach Marvin right in his home and that is working out fantastically. Today Marvin proudly showed us his schoolwork and told us that he wants to study to be a lawyer. His near excellent school work proves that he can certainly be one if that is what he wants.

Marvin had some surgery last year and has to return to Guatemala City for more in November so he doubts that he will be able to make it to teen camp. Even though he is a teen I told him that he is welcome to come to adult camp, which runs 2 weeks later if he cannot make it to teen camp. It was hard to say goodbye to Marvin and his family but we had to make a long hike back to the car and were hoping ot get back to Huehuetenango before dark so we finally said good bye. This family is neat to visit. They are so dedicated to their son that the sacrifices that they are willing to make for him are unbelievable. Father shared with us that most of what he earns farming the steep hillside that surrounds their home has gone towards Marvin’s surgeries and that he is in debt because he had to borrow money for his son’s last operation, but he has no regrets. Both he and his wife love Marvin and are willing to do anything that they can for him.

We made it back to the hotel before dark and other than water that only trickles out of the faucet everything is quite comfortable. This hotel even has Internet and they told us that since we were planning on staying for 4 days they would see what they could do about getting it fixed. I guess that I could watch a little TV but Fernando has already laid claim to the remote, and cartoons are just not my thing.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, September 17, 2008, 9:06 PM

First thing this morning we headed for Aguacatan were we met up with Don Feliciano. We have known Feliciano since our very first camp which he and his wife both attended. That was eight years ago and I still consider him as being one of the people that camp had the most impact on. In the eight years that I have known him Feliciano, who is confined to a wheelchair, has gone from someone who was at time so depressed that he considered suicide to a man who is doing great things for disabled people in Guatemala. Not only is Feliciano active in finding people that are in need of wheelchairs but he has started a school in Aguacatan for children and adults that have various disabilities. He is also very active in making the people of his town and surrounding communities aware of the fact that people with disabilities are not people of no value. Thanks to Feliciano we now have close to 30 campers that each attend one of our 3 week camps that we have each year. He has made our job of camp recruiting in his area a breeze because all we have to do is get the invitations to him because he sees to it that they get delivered to the people that are being invited to camp.
After visiting with Don Feliciano we headed for Soloma. The 2 hour drive to Soloma has to be one of the most scenic drives in all of Guatemala. The winding mountain road From Huehuetenango to Soloma takes you from 6000 feet to over 11,000 feet and then back down to 6000 feet again. Today it rained a good part of the way there and back so most of the time we were unable to see down into the valley. We still enjoyed the drive as we traveled through countryside that resembled a lot of the high country of Peru. After reaching Soloma we had lunch and then started visiting the various people that we had come to see. Even though none of these people had met Fernando or Rolland before they treated them and myself like we were long lost family. Rolland has lived in Guatemala for several years now and much like my self he has fallen in love with the people. Unlike my self his Spanish is excellent and he not only does an excellent job of interpreting but his over all love and concern for the people is very evident. Fernando also has a knack for putting the people that we visit at ease. He is always upbeat and his friendly smile seems to make even the most timid person that we meet feel at ease. He is also a kid magnet. If there is a child around, Fernando will be talking and playing with them within seconds. Our only regret was that we had stopped off for lunch because each and every family that we visited with gave us something to eat or drink. These are such delightful people that it was hard to say goodbye but we wanted to get back to Huehuetenango before dark.

Tonight the water in the hotel was running a bit faster than last night so not knowing how long that luxury would last we all took showers before eating. The Internet is still not working but unlike our last stay here in Huehuetenango the electricity has stayed on.

Chris was suppose to drive up from Chimaltenango and join us for the next few days but there have been a lot of demonstrations the past few days and the demonstrators have blocked most of the highways. He is going to see if he can make it here by heading out at around 4:00 AM but is not certain. I am praying that the demonstrations are over by Friday or Saturday because I have other commitments back in Chimaltenango. I feel completely at ease traveling even into the more remote villages but am always reminded that we do need your prayers. Just Yesterday some of the people in one of the towns near where I live decided to take the law into their own hands, when the police refused to do anything about a man that was continually robbing busses. Not only did they set fire to the police station but they also tortured and killed the man that had been doing the robberies. Yes there are dangers here but there are also people here that are hungry, not only for physical food but for someone to share with them the love of Jesus. I know that I am exactly where God wants me and that is why I never travel in fear.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, September 18, 2008, 9:48 PM

Chris headed out from Chimaltenango at 3:30 this morning and would have gotten here to Huehuetenango before 7:00 AM were it not for a large landslide that blocked the highway for nearly 2 hours. After a quick breakfast Chris, Rolland, Fernando, and I headed out to an aldea that I had visited just a few weeks ago. This was the place where Rudy the little boy that needs an artificial leg lives. Although we did not see Rudy today we saw 3 children that are in need of wheelchairs and had a meeting with some of the key people from this area. Marie Garcia, a lady that I had met with a few weeks ago told us that the needs that we have seen during this visit and the previous one were just the tip of the ice burg. Not only is there a need for wheelchairs but most of the people, many of whom have medical problems of one type or another, that live in the small villages and mountains where we were have never seen a doctor in there entire lives. One little boy that I examined today had clubfoot and could not walk. I have little doubt that had he been born to a family that had access to a doctor he would have been operated on and walking normally. I wish that it were as simple as just bringing him to a doctor and scheduling him for the necessary corrective surgery but unfortunately there would be no follow up therapy, where he lived and within a year or 2 his foot would be back to the way it was today. Today we once again found more kids that have never in their lives attended school. Not nearly all of them were handicapped. May of these families simply can not afford the few dollars a month that it takes to keep their children in school.

Rolando is a young man that I met when visiting this aldea a few weeks ago. He is very bright and extremely outgoing. Since Rolando has CP and does not own a wheelchair he has never had the privilege of going to school. We will soon be giving him a wheelchair but that is not going to get him into school since here in his village kids with handicaps are not permitted to go to school. Today I asked him if he would like to have a teacher come in and work with him for at least a few hours a week. I had intended on telling him that this was nothing certain because we would have to find him a sponsor before we could guarantee anything but after seeing his reaction to my question I did not have the hart to tell him that it was not a done deal. I guess that you could say that I went out on a limb, but if we don’t find a sponsor for him I will gladly be his sponsor. If giving up one Coke a day means that I can help change one life I figure that it is well worth it.

After having lunch at Rolando’s home we did a bit more camp recruiting. More poverty and more kids that are not receiving education. One boy got talking to Rolland and asked him what was in the backpack that he was caring. He had no idea who we were or why we were there but when Rolland told him that he had some books and papers in his bag he asked Rolland if he could teach him how to read. As the 2 of them visited while they walked the trail back to my car the boy told him that he wanted nothing more than an education but his father had never allowed him to go to school. I am sure that part of it had to do with the cost but the boy also told Rolland that his father needed him to work the fields so that the rest of the family would not go hungry. As I ate dinner tonight I could not help but think about the fact that I was possible spending as much on my dinner as this boys father makes in an entire week. What was this boy’s name? We didn’t even ask our list of kids that needed help with an education was already much to long. I must admit though that tonight as I sat eating my dinner I could not help but think about the fact that, even though meals here in the states are not all that expensive, My dinner was costing me about as much as this boy’s father likely makes in a week.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, September 19, 2008, 5:45 PM

Chris headed back home early this morning and I had thought that we would be doing the same this afternoon but we got done seeing the last of the people here in Huehuetenango that we are inviting to camp, much later in the day than expected want to drive after dark. Even though Chris did not head out until daylight this morning he phoned me telling me about a bolder that was bigger than his car that he found lying on the road as he rounded a blind curve. He told me that he was fortunate that nothing was coming from the opposite direction because he had to quickly swing into the oncoming lane to avoid hitting it.

Our travels today took us to within a few miles of the Guatemala Mexico border. This is where Roger and his family live. Roger who just celebrated his 17th birthday has been coming to camp ever since our first one that was held 9 years ago. His parents had taken him to the Dentist but 2 of his brothers were at home. We stayed and visited with them for a while and also did some minor repairs on his power wheelchair.

Our next stop was at the home of Antonio and his family. They live in a small town about an hour and a half out of Huehuetenango. They and their children live in a small house that also serves as an electrical repair shop. It is located in a part of town where all of the drunks hang out. Unlike my last visit when Antonio was himself very drunk today he was sober and both he and his wife were very friendly to us. Their 2 month old son was running a bit of a fever so I gave them some medicine to help reduce the fever. Antonio’s wife thanked me and then shared with us that she had lost her last 2 children while they were still babies. She explained that her and her husband simply did not have the money to get them to the doctor when they had gotten sick. This little boy seemed to be on the mend but I could tell that they were still worried about him.

Next we drove out of town up a steep winding road. I had not realized how steep it was until last year when I helped push 12 year old Jose’s wheelchair most of the way from his school which is located over a mile away to the top of the hill where his house is located. As we drove up the hill today I commented to Roland that since it is Jose’s 11 year old brother’s responsibility to push him to and from school every day that I was seriously thinking of giving Jose a power wheelchair. Due to our cost of maintaining a wheelchair and the amount of hours that we have to spend in keeping them running we have always tried to keep it a rule that we would only give wheelchairs to people that did not have enough hand use to use a manual wheelchair. We have also Maintained that we want to keep a personal aspect to this ministry and that we would never get to big that we would not keep that personal aspect. Today the deciding factor in weather or not to even suggest the possibilities of Jose getting a power wheelchair came from Jose and his family. Although we had never mentioned to them that we had even thought about giving him one, in the curse of today’s conversation Jose’s mother told us that ever since Jose saw a power chair at last years camp he and his brother had been talking about how wonderful it would be if he had one to use for going to and from school. After a short discussion about the necessity of Jose continuing to use his manual wheelchair when ever he was at home, so that he would maintain good strength in his arms and back, it was agreed upon that when Jose comes to camp this year he will receive a power wheelchair. I don’t know who was happier, Jose or his 11 year old brother who had to push him up the mile long hill every day after school. I told the family that there were a few spots in the trail to their house that led from the road that needed to be smoothed out and widened and they promised that they would get right to work on it. Kids camp is still 2 months away but as excited as the entire family was I am hoping that they will be able to get some sleep before camp takes place.

When we got back to Huehuetenango we brought Roland to the part of town where all of the busses are. He is now on his way back to his home in Xela. Fernando and I are back at the San Francisco Hotel. Tomorrow morning we plan on heading for home.

Today I received a phone call that saddened me but did not surprise me. You undoubtedly remember me talking about Maria Isabel, her brother Fedel, and her sister whose name slips my mind. Their 76 year old grandmother took all 3 of them to camp each year until a few years ago when Maria’s brother Fedel and his sister became bed ridden. During the past few years we have helped them out with groceries and medical needs. A little over a year ago we built them a bath room that had a toilet and a shower, and shortly after that we replaced the small adobe house that was no longer safe for Maria to live in. Shortly before these building projects Maria’s sister passed away. I had always thought Fedel who looked much worse would go firs but even though he could scarcely move and was eating next to nothing he hung on to life. Last night Fedel passed away. He had been suffering a lot and I know that it is for the best but I also know that his family who dearly loved him will miss him. Especially his grandmother whom I would usually find sitting by his bedside when ever I visited. You would think that a woman that had lost her husband and most of her children during the war in the 1980s would be some what calloused to seeing her loved ones die, but having seen her reaction after loosing Fedel’s older sister a little over a year ago I know that she is hurting deeply. Please pray for Fedel and his family. Also pray that just because we see so much suffering here in Guatemala that we never get calloused to it.

Compassion ~ is not a bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not a reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull - .....On the contrary, compassion means going to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there. God's compassion is total, absolute, unconditional, and without reservation. It is the compassion of one who keeps going to the most forgotten corners of the world, and who cannot rest as long as he knows that there are still human beings with tears in their eyes." - Henri Nouwen

Once again it is my prayer that God allows our harts to be broken with the things that break His hart.

Yours in Christ: Dick


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, Dick

Somehow I found your website after saying a prayer for some people with health problems. It made a strong impression on me in two ways: questioning how God can allow these tragedies, and seeing the kind of faith you and yours must have to enable you to do His work.

I live in Miami, USA with my family, and don't have a lot of resources, but if there is anything I could do to help, please don't hesitate to ask and I will do my best. God bless you and all those whose lives you touch.


Monday, September 22, 2008  
Blogger Dick said...

Hi Juan:

You mentioned that you were praying when you found my journal. You also mentioned that you wanted to know what you could do to help.

Your prayers are what are needed the most.

Please keep on praying.

<>< Yours in Christ: Dick ><>

Monday, September 22, 2008  

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