* 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)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Journal October 11-17 2008

(Click on any picture to enlarge)
Saturday, October 11, 2008

Since I have been on the go all week I decided that spending time with the kids was more important than writing in my Journal. I will try to get back to writing on Monday.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, October 12, 2008

It is still the weekend so I will make this one short. Kids, food, church, more kids, more food and then off to Xela for 3 days of wheelchair distributions.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, October 13, 2008

As you can see I kept my weekend journal entries shorter than short. I needed a few days off from writing. Besides that I was on the computer most of Saturday morning getting last weeks journal out. Saturday afternoon I took the kids back to the new restaurant that is located on an old plantation less than 15 minutes from where I live. We actually had baloney sandwiches at home before going there because it would have cost too much to buy lunch there for all of the kids. However the kids seemed delighted when I told them that they could each have a piece of cake at the restaurant and the price of the cake was no worse than the entry fee to a park that I sometime take them to. After the cake we played soccer, Frisbee and hiked around the plantation. The entire time that we were there we only saw 2 other customers come into the restaurant. I don’t know how long they are going to stay in business but while they do it is like having our own private park. On our way home the kids talked me into stopping off and buying street food for supper. We did OK on the street food this time. As usual it tasted good and so far none of us have gotten sick from it. I think that this is a new record because we have now made it 3 times in a row on street food without any of us getting sick.

Sunday I took 6 of the kids to Church but only after having a little talk with them about a few small items that have been disappearing from my house lately. Mostly it has been food and I think that is partially due to the fact that I have not been around to feed the kids as much as normal, but I let them know that they can not take even the smallest item from my house or they will have to be punished by not being allowed in my house for several days.

After church I fed them well by stopping off at Martha’s and letting them load up on food. All 7 of us left the place absolutely stuffed for under $20. I had wanted to go to the orphanage but we are having 3 days of wheelchair distributions up around the Xela area and I had to leave by 2 PM.

Now on to today. (Monday)

We spent the night in a motel in Xela and this morning had to drive less than a mile to the place where we were having today’s wheelchair distribution. We have now done several yearly wheelchair distributions here in Xela with a Rotary club out of California. Many of the 15 people that are here with the rotary club have been either to Guatemala or other countries on wheelchair distributions in the past, so along with about 10 of us from Guatemala many hands made for light work. Even though we gave out 67 wheelchairs, about a third of which were specialty chairs we still finished up before 2 PM. This had to be some kind of a record especially considering that some one who knew what they were doing properly fit each and every one who received a wheelchair.

One of our more difficult cases today was a 22 year old lady that appears to be dying. Looking at her I assumed that she had been disabled from birth but after talking with her mother we discovered that she was fine until 10 months ago when she suffered something that in some ways resembled a stroke. She is now in very bad shape and cannot even be put into a full upright position without nearly passing out. Kathy, a therapist from Iowa and I worked on her chair for several hours.

Now that we all have one day of working together under our belts we will see if we can face an even bigger challenge because tomorrow we have over 90 people scheduled to come In for wheelchairs in the town of Ratolaio. We plan on driving there in the morning and have to head out at 5:30, so I think I will call it a night.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, October 14, 2008, 9:22 PM

I wish that I could share the individual stories about those that received wheelchairs today, but that is not possible because today 98 people received wheelchairs. I will tell you about a few people that I personally had the opportunity to work with though.
One of these individuals was a man that caught my eye the minute that we walked into the building where we were conducting today’s wheelchair distribution. This gentleman who appeared to be in his mid thirties was sitting in a homemade wheelchair that had been constructed out of pieces of rebar that had been welded together. Even though his face and body were quite twisted and deformed he had a look in his eyes that told me that his mind was as sharp as a tack. I walked over and visited with him and his elderly parents. (I never thought that I would some day find myself calling some one my own age elderly.) Both he and his parents were extremely excited about the prospect of him receiving a wheelchair today. I was told that the homemade wheelchair that he was in was the only wheelchair that he had ever owned, and it was apparent from looking at it that even in it’s better days it left a lot to be desired. It was obvious that this man no longer had good enough hand use to propel himself but I could not help but wonder if he could have propelled himself in his younger days, had he owned a decent wheelchair.
For the next 5 hours everyone on our team was extremely busy. The weather here near see level was much hotter than it had been yesterday when we were working in Xela which is over 7000 feet above sea level, but no one complained about the heat. We were all to busy with what we were doing to think about the heat. Each of us met people that were in need and we were doing our best to at least give them the comfort and dignity of a wheelchair. One boy named Walter, reminded me so much of Onias, that I found my self accidentally calling him Onias a time or two. I first met Onias nearly 9 years ago when he came into Hermano Pedro Orphanage. He was an 8 year old that was determined not to let a little thing like cerebral palsy slow him down. Even though he could not walk with out the aid of a walker and had to spend the majority of his time in a wheelchair Onias had enough determination to make up for any handicap that he had. It was this desire that he had to live life as much like any other 8 year old that prompted Chris, Donna, and myself to find a teacher who was willing to come into Hermano Pedro and teach some of he kids. Since that time Onias has returned to his home, which is located 11 hours from Chimaltenango but his schooling has not stopped. Thanks to some sponsors he and two other special needs children that live in the same village are receiving an education from a lady that we have hired to work one on one with tem several days each week. I asked Walter if he went to school and his smile nearly turned into tears. His family explained to me that their 10 year old son has always wanted to go to school but where they live he is not allowed to because he is handicapped. A few weeks ago I stuck my big foot in my mouth by telling a young man named Rolando that we would find a teacher to come into his home and teach him even though we did not have a sponsor for him at that time. Actually I am learning that sticking my foot in my mouth and stepping out in faith are not all that different. I guess the big difference is that with stepping out on faith you are trusting God to come through when you do something that you know you are suppose to do, even though it may seem a insane to those around you. Funny thing is today it did not seem all that insane to those around me. When I shared my thoughts with Chris and Donna they were 100% behind me. We could tell that Walter and his family were 100% for this idea as well. They promised that they would start looking for a teacher as soon as they got home and it looks like Walter will soon be getting an education. Oh by the way God provided a sponsor for Rolando but we still have none for Walter or several others that we have made promises to.

By about 2 PM we had finished fitting all but a few of the 98 people into their wheelchairs. That is when the man in the homemade wheelchair that I had met this morning was brought into the room where we were working. Kathy, the therapist who is here with the group, and I quickly found a nice wheelchair for him that only needed a few modifications but I could not help but think how wonderful it would be if he could some how control it himself. Kathy must have been reading my mind because she looked at me and said, “If only he had a little better use of his hands.” “What about a power wheelchair?” Kathy asked. I did not want to get this families hopes up because I was not sure that even if the conditions where he lived were right, that he had enough hand use to control a joy stick. With out mentioning a power wheelchair we inquired about the type of terrain where he lived and weather or not this family had electricity. All of the answers were favorable, but what about hand movement. Next I held out a screwdriver so that it resembled a joy stick to see if he could hold on to it and then asked him to try to push it forward and backward, then to the right and to the left. His hand control proved to be very limited. Next I tested to see if there was a possibility that he could drive a head controlled wheelchair. Success! I then told this man and his family that it would not happen over night but hopefully with in the next six months he would have a head controlled power wheelchair. I already have 3 people that need head controlled wheelchairs on a waiting list but now there are 4. I guess it is that old foot in the mouth thing again. We have the power chairs now we just have to pray that we can find some head controllers so that I can adapt to them.

Tomorrow’s distribution in San Marcos is suppose to be a bit smaller than today’s distribution was but we are still planning on giving out and fitting around 65 wheelchairs so I think that I will get some rest.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, October 15, 2008, 8:36 PM

Another great day today and another 67 happy wheelchair recipients. I would love to share more stories but it has been a busy 3 days, so tonight I will let the pictures do the talking.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, October 16, 2008, 8:20 PM

It rained all night so I decided not to take the normal rout back home from Xela, because there are usually problems with landslides along this rout whenever it rains a lot. The rout that we took back home was about an hour longer but today it paid off because my suspicions about the other rout having landslides were later confirmed.

Today it was Calin who had the built in radar because I was no sooner in the gate than my phone rang. Within 20 minutes the word was out that I was back and my house quickly filled up with hungry kids. I spent the first few hours dealing with their hunger to have some one to listen to them and then we went to work on filling up their stomachs. Tonight’s supper of pancakes and eggs was not prepared in a frying pan on my gas camp stove like it usually is but instead we used a large electric grill that we some times take along to wheelchair distributions so that we can feed the people. This evening the kids thought it was really neat to be able to cook our dinner on the table as we ate. Everyone took their turn at flipping pancakes and even though my floor, walls, and ceiling will never be quite the same we all had a fun time. Perhaps I should have let the 4 kids that did the dishes wash them inside the house as well because the amount of water that they splashed around would have cleaned at least some of the pancake batter off from the walls and ceiling.

Things have now calmed down a bit but all of the kids that are not spending the night have already promised that they will be back first thing in the morning. I am sure that I will be seeing even more of them now that the school season is over. It is good to be back home though and good to see all of the kids.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, October 17, 2008, 6:05 PM
I have seen a lot of things happen here in Guatemala that can not be explained any other way than being a Godincidence or you could use the word miracle if you prefer, but some times I think things that do not seem all that unordinary are to easily accepted as just happening and God is given little credit. Tonight I am thanking God for the changes that I have seen in Abner since I got back home yesterday. Ever since I returned home yesterday afternoon he has been nothing but pleasant and goes out of his way to help out in any way that he can. I know that this has been only a little over 24 hours but for Abner to stay pleasant this long it has to be nothing short of a miracle. I have always loved that kid but much like with Etiline it has taken some extra time on my knees to do so. This morning he and Cesar even made breakfast for the entire crew without being asked. Doing something like that is nothing out of the ordinary for Cesar but for Abner it is a milestone.

I was worried that I was pushing my luck when I let Abner and three others come along with me to Hermano Pedro today but all went well and the four boys spent there entire time there playing with the orphanage kids. It was really good to get back there after not being there for over a week and a half and I spent my time just visiting with the kids as well. Not that there were not a lot of wheelchairs that needed fixing but accidentally forgetting to take my tools along helped ease my consciences when I did nothing but play. Who says getting forgetful when you get older does not have it’s benefits?

We did not take any of the kids out to lunch today because it was raining but still had a good time visiting with them. After spending some time with the kids down stares I snuck off to the malnutrition ward to see how Lionel was doing. When I walked up to his crib he immediately recognized me and gave me a smile that melted my hart. The nurses told me that he has had no more seizures and that he continues to gain weight. Twenty four pounds is still no record for a nine year old but that is 50% heavier than he was when we brought him in a little over a month ago.

I wish that I could say the same for Alex though. Even though he is on a feeding tube he just seems to be fading away. A good friend of mine wrote me while I was in Xela this week and said that she no longer knew weather to pray that he would stay alive or that God would take him home. After holding him today I felt the same way. He still managed to give me a grin when I said his name though. Funny thing how just having some one recognize you as a human being can light up your day no matter how miserable you are feeling. Alex is a lot more than just recognized though. I think that out of all the kids that are at Hermano Pedro I get more letters asking about Alex than any of the others. Sam Sam runs a close second and I am going to do my best to go and visit him as soon as possible, if the orphanage that he is now in allows visitors.

Before Leaving the orphanage I went up to Father Bernardo’s room. With in minutes Father Bernardo was in the car with the 4 boys and myself and we were on our way to see Cesar, the man who’s leg I have been treating. Father Bernardo had not seen me in over a week so most of the stories that he told me were repeats but for the most part he remembered that I spoke English and he did not use to much Italian, Chinese, or Spanish when talking to me. Once we got to Cesar’s house, Abner asked me if he could do the interpreting. After I picked myself up off from the floor I looked over at Father Bernardo and he nodded that it was fine with him. Cesar’s leg is looking so much better that I am going to stop using the Unaboot and just monitor things. Now this one really is a miracle because only a few months ago he was told that his leg needed to be amputated. Next week Cesar wants to take me to meet a man who has the same condition. Our visit with Cesar and his family was much to short. He and his family have become such good friends that it is always hard to say goodbye.

As we drove Father Bernardo back to Hermano Pedro we discussed how sad it is that so many churches and mission organizations are splitting up over small little things. This dear old Catholic priest has become a good friend. Even though he is nearly thirty years older than me and we are worlds apart on theology, we are thankful that we are able to work well together. God has given both of us a burden for those that are suffering here in Guatemala. Perhaps when we both get old and can find nothing better to do we will sit down and argue about theology.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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