* GUATEMALA * * * * * * * * Dick Rutgers *

An ongoing journal of life as a Missionary in Guatemala. It will make you laugh and cry at the same time.

My Photo
Location: Chimaltenango, Guatemala

I work in Guatemala with Hope Haven international and Bethel Ministries. Along with my friends Chris and Donna Mooney and their family, we share the love of Jesus in various ways. Although giving out and maintaining wheelchairs is our primary ministry, we are involved in many other things as well. Building houses, feeding the hungry, providing education to handicapped children in orphanages and villages, and hosting a camp for the handicapped are just a small part of the things that God has given us the privilege of getting involved in. For several years now I have been keeping daily journals. Once a week I try to post new journals and pictures. My e-mail is dick@dickrutgers.com Guatemala Cell Phone # 502 5379 9451 USA Phone # 360 312 7720(Relays free to Guatemala)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Journal October 25-31

(Click on any picture to enlarge)

Monday, October 27, 2008, 3:29 AM

After being in Guatemala for Nine years I have learned not to be surprised at the condition of some of the motels that we stay at. I have also learned that unless the conditions are really bad not to complain. Tonight I am complaining.

(Question) If you were in the USA what kind of a motel room would you expect to get for $12.50 for 3 people?

(Answer) Perhaps a little better one then we are staying in tonight.

I think that helps to explain why I am up writing this journal at 3:29 AM. Not only is the bed that I have been trying to sleep in to uncomfortable to do so, but the bugs that I am sharing it with are having a hard time sleeping as well. I don’t think that they have been fed in a while so they are trying to have me for a midnight snack. I guess that I should consider myself fortunate though because none of the larger ones that shared a cold shower with me managed to take a bite out of me. Perhaps that was because I was only in the shower for about 30 seconds. That was partly do to the fact that the water was freezing cold, but mainly because it stopped flowing all together once I got my hare lathered up with shampoo. At least I managed to get part of a shower before we ran out of water. Had I known that we were going to run out I would have insisted that Calin and Fernando who are rooming with me had taken one instead. I could have stood going to bed a bit dirty and sweaty. Perhaps that would have been a deterrent to the bugs, but having 2 Guatemalan boys who have not washed their feet in several days in the same room with me is more than likely the main reason that I can not sleep. Saul and Hanna are staying in this motel as well. Their room is a bit smaller but the bugs are bigger, so they got it for the equivalent of $8.

I took the weekend off from writing so I will briefly fill you in on what has been going on. Saturday morning I went to Antigua and had breakfast with Kathy And Girvan, who are 2 friends that are visiting Guatemala for a few days. Judy Kerschner, who operates a wonderful Christian school up in Santa Maria Dejesus, joined us for breakfast. This mornings breakfast was in honor of Judy’s upcoming birthday and the four of us had a great time visiting and sharing old stories. I guess that when you get to be Judy’s age most stories are old. I would normally be afraid that she would get even with me for that comment but I am quite sure that she respects her elders.

After breakfast I went a visited the kids at the orphanage while Cathy and Girvan went and did some shopping. I am not sure what Judy did but I think that she went home to take a nap. At around noon I picked up Kathy and Girvan from their motel and took them to Guatemala City by way of Chimaltenango. Going through Chimaltenango is not exactly a short cut to Guatemala City but I had to stop off at home and pick up a DVD that I had made for Cathy. I had forgotten to take it along with me this morning. Funny how those kinds of things happen more and more when you get up around Judy’s age. After stopping off at home I brought them to a hotel in Guatemala City. They have an early flight to catch in the morning so they thought it would be best to stay in the City so that they could get an extra hour of sleep. You have to understand that Cathy and Girvan are not that far behind Judy and myself in years. (There now I doubt that I have any friends left in this world.)

When I got back home my house really filled up with kids. Not only was my usual crowd there but the kids that live across the alley from me also came for a visit. I guess that their father decided that keeping his 8 daughters locked up in their 2 room house all of the time was not a good idea. Their mom even came over to enjoy some of Fernando's cooking. I sent the entire crew home a bit earlier than usual because I had to get packed for this trip that I am now on.

On Sunday we did not go to church as usual because Saul, Hanna, Calin and myself wanted to leave for Robinal at around noon. I will try to fill you in on some of the details of this evening but right now am going to head back to bed. I think that most of the critters that were sharing it with me have followed me here, so if I run fast enough I may get a few minutes of sleep before they find me.

Good morning,
Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, October 27, 2006

This morning we walked from our motel to the market area of Robinal. (Having gotten only about an hour of sleep after going back to bed at around 4:30 AM I thought that the fresh air might wake me up. The small café that we ate in consists of a cooking area and 2 wooden tables that everyone that comes into the restaurant shares. The seats are long wooden benches and the more people that come into the restaurant the smaller your seating space. It is not a place that the department of health would sanction in the USA but the food is not bad and the prices are definitely right.
After breakfast we walked back to our motel and then drove over to where Julia lives. Julia and her husband Luis are very instrumental in helping the people of their town and the surrounding towns in any way that they can. Over the past several years they have helped us locate countless people that were in need of wheelchairs, water filters, or medical attention. This morning Julia joined us while we visited and gave out camp invitations to several people that lived in and near Rabinal.
Some of the homes that we visited today were not accessible by car but we enjoyed our walks in to these places. It somehow seemed that we had stepped back a hundred years in time. Most of the people that we saw along the way were very shy and some of the children would duck behind trees when we waved or even looked at them. Even some of them that have been to camp in the past were still very shy.

On one of our walks we had to cross a small river on a narrow suspension bridge. Even though it was not all that high above the ground some of the members of our group did not find this to be the most enjoyable part of our hike. Perhaps the boys should not have had a contest to see how much they could make the bridge swing.

Several families were out working their fields. It is nearly harvest time where I live but here many of the fields were being planted. Often times you would see father plowing up the ground with a teem of oxen while the rest of the family was dropping seeds into the ground. Life is not easy for these families but something about what I saw made me wonder if all of the modern gadgets that we have at home give us more contentment than these families seem to have.

One critter that we ran across today was a bit larger than those that were in my bed last night and although I did not run a test I understand that it’s bite was also worse. This is the first rattlesnake that I have run across here in Guatemala and to my knowledge the first that I have ever run over with my car. I do not think that I am the one that initially injured the snake though because there was a large rock with blood on it lying nearby. The snake was still alive when we walked back to have a better look at him but Saul and a man that showed up on a motorcycle put him out of his misery. The man asked if he could have the snake because he wanted to boil the meet and use it for medicine. We told him that it was no problem because we had no use for it. Actually I have eaten rattlesnake before but I draw my limits when it comes to eating road kill.

After dropping Julia off at the school where she teaches at Saul, Hanna, Calin, Fernando, and I did some more visiting. One family that lives in a town that is located about an hours drive from Rabinal was not nearly as shy as the others that we had visited with today, was Ludwig’s family. Ludwig is a boy that used to be in the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro. He has been back home with his parents for several years and even though Muscular Dystrophy had left him in a wheelchair this bright little 9 year old is now attending school and doing quite well. Often times when I am in this area I stop off and take him to a Camperos that is located in a town that is about a half hour from where they live. Camperos is a place that he was made aware of back when he stayed at Hermano Pedro. He was one of my regulars. Usually when I stop in I invite his entire family along but today we only had room enough in my car to take Ludwig. Even though we had to back track a bit to take him back home it was worth it. God is teaching me more and more that going out of your way for someone always ends up more of a blessing than a chore.

Tonight we are staying in Cobon. This hotel is running us a little over $10 each but the luxury of having hot water and beds that you can actually sleep on is well worth it.

Fact is since I only got a few hours sleep last night I am going to go and get some sleep now.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Today about all that we did is travel. We didn’t actually put on that many miles but after only 5 hours of some of the roughest road in Guatemala we called it a day. We are still at least an hour and a half drive from where Onias and two other kids that we are schooling live but Plya Grandi is the last town that we go through before reaching his place. It is also the last place where you can find a motel or get anything to eat so we had no other choice but to stop here. There would have been no way for us to visit Onias and get back here before dark. Don’t bother to look for Plya Grandi on your map because it is not all that big. The last time that I stayed here they told us that the town’s electricity gets shut off at 10 PM. That was a while back so I guess we will see if that has changed. Other than the fact that this motel has no hot water it is clean and comfortable. My room even has a view of Main Street. Much like the road that we were on today it is not paved. My view some what reminds me of that of an old Gun smoke Movie where someone is looking out of a room above the Long Branch Saloon. One big difference though, this room is located over a hardware store instead of a saloon, but there are still as many drunks out on the streets as I have ever seen on any Gun Smoke movie.

Well the kids are getting restless so I think that I will do something with them.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The road to Onias’ house was not in as rough of shape as it has been some of the other times that I traveled it but it still required a 4 wheel drive vehicle with lots of ground clearance. After nearly 2 hours of tooth rattling bumps and ruts we finally arrived at his house. Onias’ mother was not at home but he was there with some other relatives. A few dozen teddy bears that some friends had given me when they came to visit from the states a few weeks ago were big hit with the kids. Teddy bear or no teddy bear, Onias was very excited to see us and we had a great visit with him. It is hard for me to believe that he is now 18 years old. He is still being taught by a teacher that we hired to teach him and 2 other kids that cannot walk. Unfortunately the school that is in his village is not willing to take in any kids that have disabilities. In fact when his mother got home she took us to visit some other kids that are not allowed into school because of their various disabilities. Our first stop was at the home of a man and his wife that had a five year old girl that could not walk. At first the man, who is himself a schoolteacher and his wife were very suspicious of us. He cam out to talk with us but his wife stayed inside of the house with the little girl. After Onisas’ mom explained to him who were and why we had come he softened up a bit but it was still quite some time before his wife was willing to come out of the house with their daughter. Even after telling them that we were only there to see if they needed a wheelchair and were interested in seeing if they wanted their daughter to get an education, the wife seemed suspicious of us. I have little doubt that any one had ever showed much interest in them or their daughter before so mom kept questioning why we were offering to help. We tried to explain that we were Christians and we were simply there because of the love of Jesus but I think it was still a bit hard for her to believe. Onias’ mom then went into more detail about how she and her family have known us ever since Onias was at Hermano Pedro several years ago, and how we provided him with a wheelchair and an education with no strings attached. As she went on to tell her about the 2 other kids in her village that we now receiving an education I could see father’s eyes light up. I could see that even though mom was still really weighing things she to was taking an interest in what she was hearing. I give a lot of credit to Calin and Fernando as well because seeing 2 Guatemalans kids that were not petrified of Americans seemed to put the family more at ease as well. Fact is by the time we left we had established that we would some how get a wheelchair and walker to the family and that we would help father get the specialized school material that he needed to work with his daughter for one year. After that we are going to see weather it would be a good idea to have Onias’ teacher come to her home and teach her. By the time we left mom, dad, and the little girl were chatting with us like we were long lost friends.

On our way out we ran across Onias’ teacher. Up until now we had only talked to him over the phone but had never personally met him. At first I was a bit taken back how young he looked. I have high school students coming over to my house that look much older than him. It did not take much time talking to him to realize that he was certainly the right man for the job though. You could tell that he had a genuine interest in the 3 kids that he was teaching and that he wanted nothing but the best for them. He was right up front with us though and told us that next year he is planning on furthering his education so for at least one year he would not be able to teach these 3 kids. He told us though that he had a friend who is a teacher and that his friend had already met the three kids and that they were already working together so that this friend can step right into his shoes next year.

Next he took us to the only one of our 3 students that I have not met before. She is a little girl named Micaena. Micaena who has spinal bifida lives with her grandmother. Her parent and other siblings live only a short distance away but her mom and dad want nothing to do with her simply because she can not walk. I could not help but think of the little girl whose father is a schoolteacher. He and his wife had such a love for their daughter that it simply radiated. This little girl who was the same age and lived less then a mile away was not wanted by her family. The effects of not being wanted had left its scars. Micaena who unlike the first little girl had no brain damage, had emotional scars that had done far more damage. Our teacher had told us on the way to her grandmother’s house that she was very withdrawn. He admitted that he had days where he could not get her to say one word, and he had even questioned at times weather or not she would come out of her shell and be willing to learn anything. I could tell that he really felt that she could make it though and when he told me that she had finally learned the alphabet I knew that there was hope. I am praying that the transition of having a new teacher won’t be to hard on her but her teacher promised that he would come in with the other teacher several times before handing the responsibility over to him.

Next we went to the home of a little boy that Onias’ mom knew. There are not many places that I can not get to with my Land cruiser but this time the road was so badly washed out that we decided not to attempt the impossible, especially since the nearest triple A had to be several thousand miles away. When we arrived at this home. The little boy’s father told us that his son appeared to be dead when he was born but had been revived. The oxygen starvation had done some damage though. Even though he was already 6 years old he was just starting to say a few words. He was able to walk but it did not come easy for him. It seemed that he was just different enough from what most people call normal that the school and most of the people in the village did not accept him. I fell in love with him the minute that I saw him. When I asked him if he wanted to go to school he looked up at me and shook his head yes. Fact is he seemed to understand everything that we asked him. It must be very difficult to be so close to what we consider normal but still not quite reach the expectations of those around you. Lord willing, starting in January this little boy will be receiving an education though.

(Sponsors Anybody?)

It was nearly dark by the time we returned to Plya Grandi. We were all tiered and hungry but no one was complaining. It had been a good day. I was glad that I managed to get the first shower even if it was a cold one because the water quit flowing completely shortly after I got out. The boys managed to muster up enough water to wash their feet so at least we won’t have to leave the window open all night. Doing that in this town could mean that the only thing that you have left in the morning is what ever you wore to bed.

Well it is getting late so I will once again say, “Goodnight”

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Still no water when we got up this morning. This motel is really starting to feel like home. The water finally came on just as we were about to leave. No showers but at least the toilet finally got flushed. Since the road that we had come in on the day before yesterday was in such bad shape we decided to take another (or I guess I could say the only other) way back to Cobon. I had gone this way before and although it was several miles longer it was usually smoother and generally took less time than the five hours that it had taken to get to Plya Grandi from Cobon. Today however we discovered that it was in even worse shape than the other road. We drove through one place where the villagers had dug a truck out of the mud. They were doing their best to fill the deep ruts in with dirt but nothing other than a 4 wheel drive had a chance of making it through. The villagers had set up a tollbooth so that they could be paid for their efforts. Actually there was no booth, just a makeshift barricade with a lot of people standing behind it. One of the men approached our car and told us that they had been charging 20 Q about $2.50 for each car that they allowed to go through but he was going to give us a good deal and let us go through for 10 Q. Saul told him that he had just talked to a man at a place where we had stopped to ask how to get around a bridge that was washed out and the man had told him that we were going to have to pay 5 Q when we got here. The 2 of them argued for a while but the man finally settled for 5 Q. The people removed the board barricade that consisted of a 2X12 that was lying on 2 barrels moved out of the way and cheered as we went through. I am not sure it they were cheering because Saul had made a good deal of if we had still paid way too much. Not more than another 10 minutes up the road we found ourselves once again stopped. This time a truck that had attempted to go through a muddy spot had gotten good and stuck. By the looks of things he had been there for an hour or two. Traffic was already backed up in both directions. Actually there were two vehicles stopped that were heading our direction and three that were faced towards us on the other side of the stuck truck. Looking over the situation I knew that it was going to be a long time before we got through if we waited things out. I flashed my lights honked my horn and motioned for the people that were standing in the deep mud alongside of the truck to get out of the way. I won’t say that we didn’t do some slipping and sliding but we soon found ourselves on the far side of the truck and on our way. No cheers this time. I think that everyone was so surprised that we made it that they didn’t quite know how to respond. I was glad that we had made it because I am sure that we would have had to pay more than 5 Q to get dug out had we gotten stuck.
Today’s drive back to Cobon had been far from a shorter faster rout. In fact unlike the 5 hour drive that we had going from Cobon to Plia Grande the trip back took us 9 hours. Were we sorry that we had come this way? Not on your life. In fact we considered it a triple GODINCIDENCE. You see I left out one little part. We made and unscheduled stop today that made it all worthwhile. As we drove through a small village Saul just happened to notice an old warn out wheelchair sitting out in front of a very poor looking home. When he mentioned it to Hanna I asked her what he had said. We have all seen wheelchairs before but not very often when in these out of the way villages. I suggested that we turn around and take a look just in case there was some one that lived there that needed this wheelchair repaired or replaced. We were not sure how welcome we would be because the people that lived in the house where we turned the car around had quickly ran into there house and hid when they saw us. Nevertheless we all felt strongly that we should go back to this place and see what the situation was. When we parked the car near the house we saw no one. Perhaps they were too frighten of us to come out of the house. Saul and I went to the open door and knocked. There in an old wooden chair was a man that asked us to come in. After we introduced ourselves he told us his name was Chisec and that the wheelchair that was outside was his but it had been broken for several years, so he was now confined to the wooden chair that he was sitting in until his wife and other family members carried him off to bed at night. After we visited for a while his wife, daughter and grandchildren came into the room. They were shy at first but quickly warmed up to us. You should have seen their faces when we told them that we could likely get this man a wheelchair. They told us that years ago they had managed to buy the old wheelchair that was outside but now that it was warn out there was no way that they could afford a new one. I think that they were still trying to believe their ears when we told them that we were not going to charge them anything for the wheelchair that we were planning on getting for them but we were going to do our best to make it happen. We also shared with them that we were Christians and that we were there to let them know that God loved them. Soon Hanna and the boys came in and we were all visiting like we had known each other for years. In the course of our conversation I asked the younger lady whom I think was the daughter of the man that needed a wheelchair weather she by chance knew of anyone else that needed crutches or a wheelchair. Five minutes later we were following her down a muddy trail to visit an 19 year old man whom, although he could not walk had never owned a wheelchair.

This family looked even poorer than the one that we had just visited. The mother came to the door and once the lady that had taken us there explained to her why we were there she invited us in. There in the corner of the unlit one room dirt floor house was 19 year old Alverto. Alverto told us that when he was a little boy he could walk but since he had brittle bone disease his legs would often break and after this happened several times he was confined to this bed for what he figured would be the rest of his life. We noticed a bible lying next to him so we asked him if he could read. He told us that a relative who was a teacher came in from time to time and had tought him how to read. I asked him if he knew what a wheelchair was and he said, “Yes,” but told me that he had never owned one. I then asked him about his arms and hands and he told me that his disease had not affected his arms nearly as badly as his legs and that he felt that he could propel a wheelchair. Watching him prop himself up in bed I tended to agree. Just like the other man we could make no promises as to when it would happen but we did promise that we would do our best to get him into a wheelchair as soon as possible.

After visiting a bit longer and then saying good bye we hiked back to where I had parked my car and then drove about a mile or two. We then walked in to a small house that was built on stilts. Judging from the mud that surrounded it I have little doubt that it is at times sitting in a foot or two of water. There in a hammock was a 15 year old girl that looked more like 8 or 9. Her mother told us that Noemy could not walk or talk but seemed to understand most of what was going on. Mom also said that since her daughter was getting larger it was nearly impossible to take her anywhere anymore. Did mom want a wheelchair for her daughter? What do you think? That makes it five people in the past two days that we just happened to stumble across that are in need of wheelchairs. I am sure that there are many more but it seems that these are the ones that God has led us to.
Yes, it has been a long day. It has been a long week as far as that goes, but not one that we would trade for the world. Saul and Hanna are great to travel with and Fernando and Calin are unbelievable. I would think that they would be board stiff by now but they are loving every minute of it. Today they were especially excited when we spotted one of the largest tarantulas that I have ever seen. It too was out on the road but unlike the rattlesnake I did not run over it.

Tonight we are back in Cobon. Same hotel as Monday night but different rooms. This time Saul and Hanna have working hot water. We are suppose to have but lighting a candle next to a garden hose would heat up the water better than the set up that we have. Oh well at least we have water. Now if only the boys had not run out of clean sox.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, October 31, 2008, 12:09 AM

(Then again. I guess that it has just become Saturday)

Since it is so late I am going to make this a short one. We arrived back at home at around 6 PM. It has been a good trip but it is good to be back at home and it was good to see all of the kids. I told them that I am going to work on getting this journal out in the morning but that I will try to spend the afternoon with them tomorrow. As for now I am going to go check out my shower and then head off to bed.

Oh: We did make one other stop today to invite a boy named Kenneth to camp. He has never been to camp before but we are hoping that he comes this year. This 7 year old's determination to do some thing with his life in spite of any poverty or physical handicaps could teach us all something. Kenneth whom we gave a wheelchair and a walker to several years ago is now learning to walk with the aid of the walker. In fact even though it takes every ounce of strength that he has he now walks to school and back home every day.

Yours in Christ: Dick


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home