* 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)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Journal September 20-26

(Click on any pictures to enlarge)
Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ever have one of those, “Lord I’m here to serve you but today it’s just raining too hard, days? I almost had one today but Fernando came to the rescue. We had been away from home since Tuesday and we were looking forward to getting back home today. Since it was the weekend and there was likely to be a lot of traffic on the main road that led from Huehuetenango to Chimaltenango, I had decided to take a different way home. It was a longer rout but there would likely be less chance of land slides blocking the road and the amount of construction and traffic on this road was likely to be lighter. One thing that I did not count on was a parade that had us sitting still for nearly and hour. I ran into that only 10 minutes from our hotel so I told Fernando that we were going to turn around and take the main road back to Chimaltenango. 5 minutes after turning around traffic was once again slowed down to a snails pace due to a funeral procession. As slow as these can be it is a wonder that more people do not die on their way to the graveyard. About a half hour into that I once again turned around. I decided that if we were going to be stuck in the middle of something I would prefer that it was a parade and not a funeral. About a half hour later the parade broke up and we were on our way. We had left our motel at 9:30 AM and it was now 11:30 AM. Judging by how far we had come we would likely be home by Early October. A few miles down the road I came up on some mudslides but the good old land cruiser made it through them with out even having to put it into 4 wheel drive. I probably should have gotten out and turned the hubs but it was raining out and I had decided that I was going to stay dry all of the way home. I did fairly well the first few hours but then nearly had to get out of my car to tell a buss driver what I thought of his driving when he came at me in my lane. At first we just sat there nose to nose staring at each other but after about 5 minutes I decided that even though he was the one in my lane I would have to back up and let him by or we would be there all day. I hate to give in when I know that I am the one that is right. Once he got by me I saw that there was a policeman right behind him. Had I known that, I might have stood my ground a bit longer. I was quite sure that one of the police man would have gotten tired of him blocking traffic and given him a piece of his mind. When I got next to the police man he yelled something to me that was loud enough to wake up Fernando, who had been sleeping most of the way. “What is he yelling at me for? It was the stupid buss driver that was on the left side of the road.” I told Fernando. “He was telling you that you were going the wrong way down a one way road.” Fernando exclaimed. I wish that more Guatemalan signs had arrows on them instead of just words. Either that or one of these days I just have to take the time to learn to read Spanish. It sure would be easier if the Guatemalans learned to speak English though.

The next hour went well. It looked like we were going to make it home before dark. It was raining but we were in the comfort of a warm car and since I had kept my cool and had not gotten out of my car to tell the buss driver what I thought of his driving, I was nice and dry. That is when it happened, that “Lord I’m here to serve you but today it’s just raining too hard,” thing. Three people were coming towards us down the road. Two older boys were pushing another boy down the road in what appeared to be an old go-cart or a soap box racer. My first thought was why are these crazy kids out on the middle of the road in the poring rain? I said nothing to Fernando though because the earlier incident that I had with the buss driver and the police officer had taught me not to be too judgmental. I could not help but comment on the radical way that the boy that was in the go-cart was driving though. Unlike the bus driver that had been in what I thought was my lane this young man was staying somewhat on his side of the road but he was doing a lot of swerving. As I slowed down to go by the three boys I thought to my self that I was at lest grateful that this contraption did not have a motor in it. At least it could go no faster than the speed of the two boys that were pushing it. As we drove by I took a better look at the boy who was doing the driving. It was then that I realized that it was not a boy at all but an older man who was obviously disabled. He was doing his best to steer this cart that he was driving in a straight direction but it was obvious that it was difficult for him. I gave a friendly smile as I drove by. That is when Fernando spoke up. “I wonder if that man has a wheel chair?” he said. I told Fernando that it appeared that he was doing fairly well in this cart that he was in, so there was no need to worry about a wheelchair. “What about when he is in his house?” Fernando asked. Why had Fernando not stayed asleep just a little longer? I almost commented to Fernando that it was raining but could not help but think abut more than once seeing him scale the bars of some of the cribs that are in the orphanage just to be with the kids that were not allowed out of their dungeon like cribs. As I turned the car around I thought to myself, “If only it were not raining.”

It did not take long to strike up a conversation with the 2 young men who were pushing the older man in what was indeed an old go cart that had no motor. Daniel, the young man that seemed to know the most Spanish explained to us that the man that they were pushing was not a relative but some one that he and his friend had met several years ago. At that time the man had no way what so ever to get around. He was able to walk short distances with the use of 2 boards that he used for crutches but was for the most part confined to his home. Daniel said that he fixed up this old go cart that had been discarded and gave it to the man so that he would be able to go places, and a few times a week Rain or shine he and his friend would go over and help this man out with what ever he needs.

Daniel was not the only one doing the talking though. The man that was in the go cart had been talking non stop since we had gotten there. Neither Fernando nor I could understand a word that he was saying since he was speaking one of the 22 Mayan dialects, but that did not seem to matter to him. Daniel told us that he was thanking us for stopping and visiting with him. If you think that he thanked us a lot for just visiting you should have seen him when we took a pare of crutches out of the back of my car and gave them to him. I was glad that they fit him perfectly because once he latched on to them there was no way to get them back. from him. Daniel told us that these would be perfect for short distances but that this man still needed a better way to get around on his own. “What if we got him a wheelchair?” I asked. Now Daniel, his friend, and the old man were all talking at once. Even though neither Fernando nor I could understand one word of the conversation we immediately knew the answer. When things finally calmed down long enough and the thank yous were only a small roar, I went to work on my philosophical sermon of the day. “We are Christians, and it is because of the love that Jesus has for all of us that we are doing this in His name.” I proclaimed. The 3 of them pointed toward heaven, then Daniel spoke. “We knew that when you stopped and took the time to visit with us in the rain.”

The rest or the trip home went well and our clothing was mostly dried out when we got there. Only the front of my shirt was still wet but that may have been from the tears.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, September 21, 2008

After the big Spaghetti dinner that the kids and I made after getting home last night no one was all that hungry this morning. Abner ran over to one of the small stores that is in the neighborhood and bought some ham and bread and made sandwiches for everyone though. Actually Abner’s entire day went well. I think that this was in part due to the fact that I did not allow Jason to come along to church with us this morning. He and Abner seem to feed off from each other. Jason didn’t even put up to much of a fuss when I told him that he would have to wait until next week to come along, and that if he ever behaved as badly as he did last week it would be much longer the next time.

When we got to church we met up with 8 people that have come down here from the States. Up until now I had only been in contact with them by e-mail but it did not take long for me to realize that they have definitely come here to serve for a week. After Church they treated the boys and myself to lunch and then we spent the rest of the day at Hermano Pedro.

My boys stayed and played with he younger kids as I gave the group from the USA a tour of the orphanage. I can always tell how well a group is going to do with the kids by the number of people that have tears. Today we all had tears. I actually held most of them back until we reached the malnutrition ward and saw that Lionel’s bed was empty. “Where is Lionel?” I asked. The head nurse told me that he had been doing well but on Friday he had 2 seizures. On Saturday he had another, and he was now in isolation. I excused myself and went in to see how he was doing. Even though his face has filled out and he is a lot heavier than he was when I brought him in a few weeks ago he did not look well. He was conscious but not at all responsive. The smile that I had seen the last time that I had held him was gone and he didn’t even seem to recognize me. I did not stay with him long but promised him that I would be back soon and kissed him goodbye.

The rest of our day was spent playing with the other kids in the orphanage. It was hard not to just go up and spend the day with Lionel but there were dozens of other Lionel’s that needed some attention. I had been gone for nearly a week. Thanks to the eight people that are here from the States for a week and my six boys, a lot of the kids got held and played with though.

Wow! Once again my weekend journals have gotten longer than expected, but so much as happened that I just could not help but share it with you.

Yours in Christ: Dick
Monday, September 22, 2008

After repairing my printer, paying my phone bill that I never received, and talking with my landlord about my water that is once again completely shut off I headed off to Hermano Pedro. Hopefully I will have water, phone, and Internet by tomorrow, and believe it or not my printer seem to heal itself.

My friends from the USA were already at the orphanage when I arrived. They had several large suitcase of clothing, medical, and school supplies for me. Most of these items will be given out to those in need in several villages. Several of us swam with the kids this morning and then we took 8 of the kids out to lunch. I am seriously considering steeling the return tickets of the group that is here because each and every one of them is awesome with the kids. Even an “Oh oh” from Henry who is suppose to be potty trained did not seem to faze the two ladies that attempted to get him to the rest room in Camperos on time.

We spent a little to long playing on the playground equipment at Camperos after lunch though because the afternoon rains had started before we got out of the restaurant. I told the rest of the group to go on ahead as one of the members of the group and myself stayed with Byron who is a bit slower in his power chair. I figured that if they ran the kids would not get as wet. As it turned out Byron and the two of us were the first one back though. I guess I should have remembered that until you are in Antigua for a while all of the roads look the same. The caregivers didn’t say much about the kids being a bit wet though and I think it really helped when the group from the USA offered to help them get the kids into dry clothing.

After getting all of the kids into dry clothing I snuck off to the malnutrition ward. Lionel is still in isolation and is on a lot of medication to keep him from having more seizures but seems to be more alert. When I picked him up he made eye contact with me and just for a second or two gave me that smile of his that melts your hart.

Still no water but my phone and Internet are back on. Most of the kids are watching a video on one of the computers. A few of us just got back from the store tonight gourmet meal. Tonight we are having cup of noodles. After supper I plan on spending some time with the kids so I will say an early, "Goodnight."

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, September 23, 2008, 8:37 PM

Today was one of those days that I never made it out of town. Things had been busier than usual (if that is possible) for the past few days so I had fallen behind on several things that needed doing. One of my first activities of the day was getting caught up on my journal. If you think that I had long journal entries the past few day you can just about imagine how long they would have been if I had written them on the actual days that everything happened. Thanks to the photos that I took I think that the accounts of what actually happened are fairly accurate though.

I managed to get out of the house for a little while this afternoon. Shortly before dark Calin and I took an unplanned trip to an area of town that is better off not visited after dark. A girl who’s family we have been helping, that goes to his school, had told him that her family had been without food for several days now. This is the mother and her 3 children that we met while building a house for Maria another lady whose husband was killed by a hit and run driver less than a year ago. This lady and her 3 children, one of whom is blind have since then moved into a room of an otherwise vacant building and we have since that time put her other daughter who is not blind into school. This evening we once again found the family huddled together in their small one room dwelling. For our benefit they turned on the light that was in their room. Mother told us that she had been fighting depression lately and that she was happy to have visitors. I asked her how long it had been since the family had eaten and she simply said that it had been quite a while since they had any food. After visiting for a while I gave her some money for enough food to last until I returned and promised her that on my next visit I would try to bring some shoes and clothing as well. As we left she turned the light back out. I was not sure whether or not it was dark out side because the only window that they had in their room was boarded up. Her one daughter and little boy followed us down the dark stairway and out to my car. They stood there waving until we drove out of site.

Lots of kids tonight. I promised them that I would bring home a few roasted chickens but the market was out of them. We settled for chicken hot dogs instead and even though everyone was a bit disappointed only Calin complained.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Howard and Nan showed up at my place at 7:30 AM. After stopping off at the wheelchair shop we were on our way to Queshay. Normally we would have taken the main road but we were told that the traffic had been blocked by demonstrators for the past 2 days so we decided to take back roads that Chris and I had discovered 3 years ago when the main road was closed due to land slides that were the result of Hurricane Stan. The scenery on these back roads was spectacular but this was certainly not Corvette country. I was glad that I had a four wheel drive that had plenty of ground clearance.
When I asked Howard and Nan if they wanted to join me on this camp recruiting trip I had no Idea that they had ever been in this area before and they did not realize that we would be driving through some of the territory where they had served as missionaries when they first came to Guatemala a few years ago, so it was an added treat for them when we stopped off at the place where they had been involved with a feeding program with Living Waters Ministry. Living Waters has 6 different locations where they bring food in and feed children twice a week. This is no small scale effort considering the amount of kids that are fed at each location. The place where we stopped at fed over 500 kids today. Many of the children walk in for miles to get a delicious meal twice a week. Today we had the privilege of joining them for lunch and I was surprised when I saw the quantity and quality of the food that was served. Not only do the children receive food and something to drink but also after lunch the kids go to classes where they learn about Jesus. Looking at the number of kids that were attending these classes I would say that the majority of them get the Living Water as well as a full stomach. I was surprised to see that even though these kids come from extremely poor families each one was dressed in their Sunday best. I was told that this was not a requirement but the kids did this on their own because to them this was a very special event. Howard and Nan had a great time visiting with old friends and I as much as I hate being around kids (NOT), I managed to enjoy myself as well.

After lunch we headed out to visit more campers. One of our visits was at the home of Tim and his family. Tim who I first met about 3 years ago, when I put him into a highly modified power wheelchair, is doing well. It is still hard for me to believe that this young man who is smaller than a two year old is actually 17. Even though his parents have to carry him around like a baby and he cannot even crawl, Tim has a keen mind and loves our visits. Mom and the other children in the family were a bit shy at first but quickly warmed up to us. Even though Howard and Nan speak Spanish our conversation was quite limited because father, who was working the fields was the only one in the family that spoke Spanish. After a while one of Tim’s sisters went and got him, and when he came home we were able to converse.

On our way out from Tim’s house we saw an old lady that was sitting in a wheelchair along side of the narrow dirt road, begging for money. Nan immediately recognized her as some one that she had visited with several times when they lived in this area. We stopped the car and as soon as Nan got out the old Lady lit up like a Christmas tree. I think that these pictures say more about this reunion than I could ever say with words.

More stops and more old friends. Each year it gets harder and harder to convince the people that we visit that we have other campers to visit and that we can not stay and visit all day. I promised each one of them that I would visit more with them when they came to camp but it was still difficult to say goodbye to old friends.

Tonight we are n the town of Qushay. The motel that we are in is very comfortable and we even found a Camperos to eat at. For some reason though I felt wide awake at 3:00 AM so I decided work on my Journal. It is now 4:36 AM and I no longer feel wide awake so even though it is early morning I will say, "Goodnight."

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, September 25, 2008, 8:34 PM

This morning we headed towards Nebaj. Where we visited with a number of families. The traffic was not bad but we encountered a few landslides along the way. We had to sit at one of them for nearly an hour before they got it cleared away enough to get through. By the looks of things more rain would instantly cause more mud and rock to close the road again though. This years rainy season has left many of the paved roads in worse condition than the gravel ones.

We thought that we would likely make it home tonight but one of my wheel bearings evidently took a little to much pounding and it is starting to make some noise. I did not want to break down somewhere after dark so we decided to stop when we reached Chechecastenango. The motel that we are in tonight is nice and I did not think that paying $15 for a room was all that bad. In the morning I will take a better look at my car and then decide weather or not to try to make it to Chimaltenango before having it fixed.

Since My weekend journals were long ones I am going to act like it is the weekend tonight and keep this one short.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, September 26, 2008

When we started heading for home this morning we were pleasantly surprised by the sound of silence coming from what we had previously thought was my wheel bearing. Evidently a rock that had lodged itself up in the break calipers had fallen out. Nan was not feeling all that well today so we were glad that the there were no long construction delays and made it home before noon.

I had promised some of the people from the USA that I had spent time with at Hermano Pedro on Sunday and Monday that I would take them out to visit some of the families in the villages this afternoon so my stay at home was a short one. Fernando (Who once again had no School????) was more than happy to join us as an interpreter. I guess that I can understand his teacher not being at school because after 2 weeks of not showing up he had actually managed to be there for three consecutive days so he obviously needed a rest.
Our first stop was at the home of Maria. She is the lady whose husband had been killed when he was hit by a truck about a year ago. Three of her children were home and they told us that Maria and the baby had gone to a nearby church. We stayed and visited with the kids while Fernando and one of her sons went to tell her that we were there. The family was all excited because one of the pigs that we had given them had given birth. These piglets and those from another sow that we helped her buy will hopefully generate some income for her and her family. It is always our prayer that the families that we bring food and clothing to eventually become self sufficient. The four people that had come along had a hard time saying goodbye to Maria, her family, and all of the neighbors that had gathered but it was getting late and we still wanted to visit more people.
Our next stop was at the home of Maria Isabel and her relatives. This is the family that up until about a year ago had three people in wheelchairs. Maria’s sister passed away last year and just last week her brother Fidel died. Grandmother, who has always been the primary care giver of these three, was not at home but Maria and several family members were there so we stayed and visited until it started to rain.

Since it was raining and also going to be dark soon I decided to postpone seeing the last family that we had groceries for and headed for home. I think that my friends from the USA would have gladly stayed all night though because they had fallen in love with the people that we had visited. When we got back to my place they quickly fell in love with more people though when some of my kids started arriving. After about an hour it was time to bring my friends back to Antigua, because they had to head to the airport at 4:30 AM. I only had room in my car for them, plus four of my kids so I had to make a few very sad one stay at home. Much like lunchtime at the orphanage, It is always hard to decide who gets to come along and who has to stay behind. I try to be as fair as possible but those that have to stay behind do not always agree with my decision.

Tonight it was Abner, Caser, Alex, and Elder that got to come along. Before dropping my friends off in Antigua they treated us all to supper.
Abner and Caser have decided to spend the night. They are still going strong but I am going to say, "Goodnight."

Yours in Christ: Dick


Blogger Becca said...

This was one of the best experiences of my life. Thank you for the opportunity to serve Him. I look forward to working with you again - soon!


Sunday, September 28, 2008  

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