* 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, December 2, 2008

Journal November 29-December 5

(click on any picture to enlarge)

Monday, December 1, 2008, 9:45 PM

My Saturday was spent at the airport in Guatemala City. Chris took an early group in to catch their flight and was back at home two hours later, but my trip took a bit longer than that. It took eight hours to be exact. Thankfully everything went fine on the way to the airport so the group that I took there had no problem catching their plane ,but the plane that brought two volunteers in from the states was several hours late, and when it did arrive so did several other planes so getting through customs took a long time for all of the incoming passengers and getting out of the airports new parking garage took even longer. Thankfully every one arrived safely though.

Sunday only four kids came along to church with me. Abner and Fernando went to another church were Kimberly was being baptized. Jason and Esben took a Sunday off from going to church. This was by choice, not theirs but mine. Last Sunday they caused a few problems in church so I told them that they would have to sit this one out. Funny thing, back when I was a kid I always thought that going to church was a punishment and staying home was a reward. Not any more though and thankfully most of my kids feel the same way about it.

After church I took the kids to Piccadilly’s to eat and then called Pastor Bill (That’s one time Barb) {private joke} to see what time he and the volunteers were coming in to Antigua. I had planned on taking some of them through the orphanage once they had eaten lunch. Pastor Bill (#2){same joke} told me that their church service had gotten a bit lengthy and that it was going to be a few hours before they got in to Antigua. I asked him if the preacher that they had at the service that they went to in Chimaltenango had gotten a bit long winded. He Said, “Yes but if I ever preach there again I promise to give a shorter sermon."
Since we had several hours on our hands the boys and I hiked up the hill that over looks Antigua. At around 3:30 I called Pastor Bill (#3) again and discovered that the entire group had decided to go shopping and no one was coming to the orphanage. I am now once again concerned about the mental stability of this group but can only hope that one trip to the junk shops has cured them. The boys and I decided to go to the orphanage anyway and were pleasantly surprised to see a large group of Guatemalan adults and kids there playing with the orphanage kids. They were having a real party with food games, and even a piñata. When I asked what all of the celebrating was about a Guatemalan gentleman came up to me and explained that it was his little boys birthday and that the family had decided to have the birthday party at the orphanage so that the orphanage kids could celebrate with them. This man’s son was not someone that was in the orphanage and he had no disabilities but the family thought that it would be nice to share their party with the orphanage kids. Wow! It was not all that many years ago that most Guatemalans would have nothing to do with anyone that had a disability.

When we got home Fernando asked if he could call his mother in the USA. I was quite surprised because I have not been able to get him to call her for several months now. They talked for over an hour and I think that it was good for both of them. If it were not for the Internet I would shutter to see my phone bill but a program called Skype allows me to make unlimited phone calls to the USA through my computer for $3 per month. I constantly have neighbors coming over to my house so that they can call family members in the USA so they love it as well.

Today (Monday) was our first day of adult camp. At last count we had 70 campers registered and several of them brought more than one family member along so we are bursting at the seems. I originally brought 5 campers and one care giver from the orphanage but ended up bringing Jose, one of the campers back to the orphanage because it was impossible to fit 6 people into one room. I guess I could have roomed with a few of the campers but after staying with four of the orphanage kids last week I was anxious to spend this week sleeping in my own bed.

Since Jose has never been to camp before he did not seem to mind going straight back to Hermano Pedro. I made the trip back to the orphanage a fun one for Jose and we even stopped off at Camperos for lunch. I did not mind going back there either because this morning while I was at Hermano Pedro I stopped off at the malnutrition ward to see how Lionel was doing. Just as I got to his crib he had a seizure. It was not a big one but I was told that it was the third one that he had with in about an hour. They thought that they had things under control since he has had none for several weeks but evidently the medication that they were giving him wasn’t doing the job. When I got back there this afternoon they told me that the doctor has put him on something else. I was worried that it would be something that knocked him out, like some of the other kids at the orphanage but other than being a little groggy he seemed to be doing quite well. I even managed to get him to smile once or twice this afternoon. Please keep this precious little boy in your prayers.

Well it is getting late and I promised the camp nurses that I would help them treat some bedsores in the morning. Sorry no pictures, I would not want to make you sick.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, December 2, 2008, 8:45 PM
This morning Alice, one of the volunteers from camp, and myself took Pedro, one of our campers home due to a medical problems that he came to camp with. It was nothing serious but since it was contagious we felt it would be best if he did not stay at camp. Alice has been here for several of our camps but has not had much opportunity to get into the back country, so after dropping Pedro off in Tecpan we bought some groceries and brought them in to Maria and her 4 children. When we arrived at Maria’s home we received a warm welcome and were soon surrounded by kids. I never got a head count but we must have handed out three dozen lollypops. Maria, who had been sick the last time that we visited was filling much better and she proudly showed Alice her new house and the two pigs that we had gotten for her. Any shyness that the kids had in the past is no longer there and once again the same kids that used to run and hide from us were begging to be held. I promised that I would come back and bring shoes to the kids before school started back up in January. On our way back home Alice said that this visit was one of the highlights of her trip to Guatemala.
This evening I had to take one of the older men back to Hermano Pedro because he seemed to have a touch of the flew. After that I worked on more bedsores. This year we have quite a few campers that have bedsores. This is not my favorite job but over the years I have gotten a good deal of experience in treating them, and if left untreated they often times lead to death.

When I got home tonight my house quickly filled up with kids. I am going to ask them to leave early tonight though because I have to be back at camp before 6AM. Tomorrow is the day that we take the adults to the beech so it will be a busy one.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Today's journal was easy for me because I did not write a word of it. Lida Merrill, one of our volunteers from New York keeps a journal when ever she comes to Guatemala to help out at camp. I thought that it would be a treat to read someone else account of a day in Guatemala.

I woke Mary Margaret up around 2:00 a.m. to take over the night shift with the men from Hermano Pedro. I showed her how to reposition Manuel because she has never done that type of care. I explained skin integrity and general health benefits of frequent repositioning. I don’t think it was a very thorough lesson because we were both very tired. Manuel prefers to sleep on his right side and he complains loudly about being repositioned differently. I don’t speak Spanish but I recognize when someone is yelling at me in any language! I fell asleep around 3:00 a.m.

After a short night of sleep I almost missed the bus for the beach this morning! Mary Margaret woke me up around 7:00 a.m. Breakfast was done and they were already loading the buses! I thought it would be about 8:30 a.m. before we headed out, so I thought I had enough time to make oatmeal and get my things together. Wrong! The next thing I heard was the announcement that the buses were loaded and it was time to leave! I hurried and made it in time. However, I forgot some things like a towel!

I missed the part of the adventure where we help get everyone on to the buses and load the wheelchairs on to the roof tops of the buses. The teens work hard lifting the wheelchairs to the top and then securing them with bungee cords and ropes. People have to take their seat cushions and footrests on the bus because they will fly away! In years past someone has had to climb on top of the bus and use a broom to lift telephone and other wires over the handles of the wheelchairs because the load is so high! We did not have that issue this year.

Today was a wonderful day at the beach! We drove through beautiful mountains to reach the flat coastal plain. We passed acres of white plumed sugar cane and a large coffee field. Coffee grows best in the shade so there are trees planted above the coffee bushes to provide the shade. I never saw real sugar cane growing- it is a tall bamboo-like plant with long white plumes that resemble feathers and reeds for leaves. This is the time of year that sugar cane is harvested. We passed a field where men were manually cutting the cane with machetes. I learned that before the canes are harvested the fields are set on fire to get rid of the cane leaves, any weeds and any varmints like snakes and spiders that may be at home in the cane fields. The burning process produces a lot of air pollution. Most of the canes harvested in Guatemala are harvested by hand. The people who work in the sugar cane fields put in long days of difficult physical labor during the harvest season. They earn very little for all of their weeks of back breaking labor.

We passed a beautiful volcano that was billowing thick gray smoke. We shared the highway with bicyclists, donkeys laden with sugar cane stalks, chicken buses, tourist buses, a boy pulling a cart with 3 younger children in it, motorcycles and scooters, and pedestrians. There was a supported bicycle team that we passed; well, first it passed us and then we passed it later. Why were we passed by a team of cyclists? Because one of our rented school buses blew a tire so our beach-bound caravan pulled over to the side of the highway. That was one hot blown tire! It smelled nasty and smoked even nastier! The kids enjoyed the opportunity to stretch their legs and run around. We also had a great view of the smoking volcano. That is what we were doing when the cyclists passed us.

It was cold when we left Chimaltenango a little after 8 o’clock this morning. We went about 2 hours and people began shedding layers of clothing. It was hot and humid on the plain. It was a hot, sunny, humid day with a welcome ocean breeze.

We arrived at Hotel Eden Pacific and the adventure really got going! The camp leaders had reserved several ground level hotel rooms for changing rooms. People got changed and headed for the 2 swimming pools. Manuel, Jose and David enjoyed the pool! Manuel enjoyed some time in the pool and then continued his fun while relaxing in a hammock where he could see everything going on. He was so relaxed that he fell asleep! What more could a man ask for in life- ocean air, swimming, bathing beauties, good food and a siesta! Jose was thrilled to be at the resort. He told someone that he came to this place when he was a young child and that he remembered it all. We don’t know if he meant this exact resort or if he was referring to the ocean. Either way he never stopped smiling for the whole day. I have not gotten to know David as well as the other 2 men. He spent some time in the water and then just enjoyed sitting in the shade and watching all of the activity going on.

Maria Isabella is a young woman who I met my first year in Guatemala. She did not come to camp that year, but I was fortunate enough to visit her home. She lives in a rural aldea (township) with her grandmother. When I went to her home I met her grandmother, her brother (Fidel) and her sister (Savilla). That visit to their home 2 years ago was life changing for me. I was confronted by the reality of Jesus’ teaching that ‘whatsoever you do to the least of these, my brothers that you do unto me.’ What does it mean in my life if Maria Isabella, Maria Savilla, and Fidel are truly my brother and sisters? They lived in a one room shack with a rutted dirt floor, running water 6 hours a week, no windows, and only 2 beds for the 4 of them. There was no other furniture. Savilla had the only mattress, and she had that because Dick had brought it to her a couple of weeks prior. We brought a second mattress with us that day. If they are really my family members then what should my response be to their extreme poverty? That question is what made that visit life changing for me. The family did not come to camp that year (2005) because of road damage due to Hurricane Stan and because Savilla and Fidel were too frail to make the trip. Savilla was in bed in her shack and Felix was outside in a hammock. Isabella was walking with a walker and enjoyed her independence. Their parents and grandfather were killed in the Guatemalan civil war in the 1980s. The grandmother has been caring for her 3 grandchildren all of their lives. Savilla and Felix have since passed away and Isabella can no longer use a walker, but uses a wheelchair. Generous donors provided a new home for Isabella and her grandmother.

I have a picture of Maria Isabella on my desk at work. In it she is smiling and holding a beanie baby white bear. Isabella looks very much like her sister. I hope I do not make her uncomfortable because I keep staring at her and remembering the afternoon I spent at her home and how I left there a changed person. So, to today and the outing to the beach: Isabella is of Mayan Indian descent. Many Mayan women still dress traditionally in clothing made from intricately woven and heavy material. She must have been very hot in her traditional clothing. I don’t think she owns anything appropriate for the beach, so she did not get in the pool. Isabella enjoys life and is a very sociable person. She joined us in the shaded area next to the pool. I noticed that when someone did a cannonball jump into the pool that she laughed when she got splashed. I asked Donna Mooney to gently splash Isabella and see if she liked it- she loved it! People nearby kept gently splashing Isabella and she kept smiling and laughing. After a bit she took off the hat she had decorated yesterday and asked someone to fill it with pool water. Next thing we saw she was splashing herself! When the hat was almost empty she put it on her head and laughed as the water ran down her face. Later, when Dick joined us in the shade she loved it when he filled her hat with water and put the hat, water and all, on her head. She has a beautiful laugh and a smile that includes her whole face.

We all enjoyed a picnic lunch of fried chicken (note for those who know me well- yes, I ate the fried chicken, skin and all).

After lunch came the time everyone had been waiting for- we headed out to the black sands beach and the Pacific Ocean! If you have ever tried to push a wheelchair through deep sand you know that is not an easy task! Fortunately the camp leaders provided a corrugated tin walkway for everyone to use. It stretched out ahead of us and made me think of Dorothy following the yellow brick road to Oz. We followed the shiny tin road to the ocean.

I was not sure how Manuel would like the fresh ocean water, so we started out slowly. First I pushed him on the compacted wet sand to just where the surf came up to touch his feet. He laughed and stretched his feet out to splash in the water. I asked Dick to help me get Manuel out of his wheelchair and down to the water’s edge. I sat behind Manuel and supported him from behind. We sat back from the water’s edge, but close enough that some of the rolling surf could reach us. Whenever a warm wave covered our legs he laughed loudly! In between waves I buried his feet with the warm, wet black sand. It was not long before the surf that was reaching us started to get too deep, so we scooted backwards a lot to keep out of the deeper water. I wish that you could have seen Manuel! He is a small man in his 60s, salt and pepper hair, Latin complexion, scoliosis and probably blind in one eye. He does not have much movement in is hands, but I noticed that he kept his right hand in the sand and he kept opening and closing his hand as he dug it deeper into the heavy and wet sand.

Helen (Canadian volunteer) and David were also enjoying the water and sunshine. There are three young men who are paraplegics and they are usually together. They thoroughly enjoyed the beach. They through wet sand at the Confidentes and then acted innocent when the Confidentes looked for who had thrown the sand. One of the young men speaks some English and he kept asking me if I was okay every time a wave came near us. There is another man at the camp who is a triple amputee due to an accident; he only has one arm. He did not let his disability stop him from swimming and thoroughly enjoying every part of the day. Everyone was laughing and having a grand time!

All good things must come to an end, and that includes our day at the beach. When we returned to the resort area we were greeted by a man with a garden hose to spray off the sand from the wheelchairs. People cleaned up as best they could and we all loaded up to return to Chimaltenango. I road in the Kia van with some other volunteers and one of the campers. Due to the lack of sleep the night before, a day in the sunshine, and a motion sickness pill I fell asleep. I woke up when the driver pulled over due to mechanical problems. I think the van was overheating, so we waited for it to cool down. When we resumed our travels the driver babied the van to keep it from overheating again. It was dark and rainy too. At one point in our return home there was a stopped semi tractor trailer stalled in the road with no lights on. Chris, our driver, had to make a quick swing on to the bumpy shoulder to avoid hitting it. It was all a part of the adventure! We arrived back at the camp at 7:30 p.m. I heard that one of the rented school buses had mechanical troubles too, but I don’t know what their problem was. They got back to the camp shortly after we did.

Dinner was one of my favorite Guatemalan meals- mashed potato and squash with a piece of chicken all steamed in a banana leaf. Delicious!

I have no idea what people did for evening activities. The motion sickness pill got the best of me and I went to bed right after dinner.

P.S. I heard this morning (Thursday) that Manuel had an asthma attack and had to return to Hermano Pedro. There is some concern that he may have aspirated some ocean water and be developing pneumonia. Please keep him in your prayers.


I want to thank Lida for writing today's journal entry. This allowed me more free time to hang out with some of my friends.

"Whoops". . . .
"Wrong Picture

"At least I wasn't caught
breaking into her room.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I didn't get to spend much time at camp today but understand that they had a great time. Thursdays at camp are usually game days and believe me our Guatemalan Teens that coordinate all of the activities do a great job of coming up with some really fun stuff.

Unfortunately most of my morning was spent visiting with my Mechanic. Since Land Cruisers are rated as the world's most maintenance free car all I can say is all of the other cars here in Guatemala must have full time mechanics assigned to them. Nothing big this time but it still took the mechanic several hours to get everything put back together. Some times I wonder if cars were actually designed to drive over boulders and cross rivers.

This afternoon I mostly ran around doing errands and only made it to camp for a short time. It is hard to believe that tomorrow morning all of the campers head for home. On Saturday the American and Canadian volunteers head for home. It has been a great year and each and every one that was involved with this camp seemed to give 110% to make it a success. I can sincerely say that the campers witnessed the love of Jesus in each and everyone of them and that was exactly what we were praying for.

Well it is getting late and I have to get the orphanage gang back to Hermano Pedro in the morning so I will say, "Goodnight".

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, December 5, 2008


They say lightning does not strike twice in the same place but today while I was parked at Hermano Pedro I relived something that happened to me over 30 years ago. On that day I considered my self very lucky when, after stopping off at a truck stop for a bite to eat, I climbed back into the semi truck that I was driving and discovered that the steering wheel spun freely in my hands. Evidently the bumpy gravel parking lot had jarred loose the nut on the tie rod end that a mechanic a few days prior had forgotten to tighten, and the tie rod fell off while I was eating my dinner. Had it fallen off a bit earlier while I was driving down the freeway I doubt that I would be here right now writing about this. From time to time something reminds me of that incident and I keep thinking that it had to be more than just luck that the truck that I was driving lost it's steering while it was standing still in a parking lot rather that out on the highway.

This one could make "Replies Believe It Or Not."
. . . . .A Ford pulling a Land Cruiser
I have been using my car all during camp to haul people around. Just last Wednesday I had driven it down to the Ocean wiht a car load of volinteers, campers, and neighbor kids in it. The 6000 foot decent from Chimeltenango to the ocean is a curvy one. This morning I used it to take the orphanage campers Lida, who wrote Wednescay's journal and myself to Hermano Pedro. The curb in front of Hermano Pedro is painted red to discurage people from parking ther but no one seems to mind if you park there for short periods of time to load and unlod people that are in wheelchairs. After unloading the campers and thier belongings from my car I asked Lida if she would stay withe them while I fond a legal place to park my car. I told her that I would be right back and then I would help her get the campers and thier belongings into the orphanage. When I jumped back into my car and tried to pull away from the curb it did not turn but only went streight. Fortunatly there was nothing parked in front of me but I did end up in the middle of the intersection. When I got out of my car to see why it would not steer I discovered that the part that the tie rod conects to was broken in half. Had that happend a few minutes earler while I was making the 1000 foot deccent from Chimaltenango to Antigua I would likely not be writing about this. I guess that I am relly unlucky that this has happened two times to me but at least I am lucky that both times that it happened I was standing still and not going down the road. Then again, was it luck. Could it possibly have been another one of those GODINCIDENCE things? Perhaps in all of the busyness of camp I needed a little reminder of WHO IS IN CHARGE.

. .Psalm 20:7

. .Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
. . . .. . but we trust in the name of the
. . . .. . . . . . . .LORD our God.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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