* 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)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Journal April 5-11

Saturday, April 5, 2008, 9:33 PM

I gave some thought about just taking things easy today but it was only a brief thought. Ronny’s mom called a few days ago and said that the plug for the wiring that goes from the controller of his power wheelchair to the computer that operates it had broken leaving Ronny without the use of his wheelchair. Since that was 3 days ago and I have a rather full schedule next week I figured that I better do something about it today. We had a new the wiring harness in the shop and replacing it was only a 5 minute job. The problem was that Ronny lives 2 hours from here so I was looking at a 4 hour round trip to do a 5 minute job.

Calin and I left at around 10 because Elmer, my next-door neighbor was getting married today at 4 PM. And I had been invited to attend the wedding. I figured that as long as I was back home by 5 I would still have time to get cleaned up and very likely still be one of the first ones to arrive at the wedding. No my math is fine, this is Guatemala and nothing ever starts on time here. It was good to see Ronny and his family again. Ronny’s mother is due to have her 7th child any day now. Ronny’s antibiotics seem to have done the job because he is no longer running any fevers. All of the kids received their report cards and all but one of the girls did well in school. I was surprised to see that Ronny’s oldest sister got bad grades in almost all of her subjects. She seems like a very intelligent person so I am not sure just what the problem is. I am going to see if I can find out though because it could be something as simple as a sight or hearing problem.

I have promised Ronny and his brothers and sisters that if they got no falling marks that I would once again take them to the ocean but I may wait until the end of Sugar cane harvest so that Ronny’s father can come along. Mother said that she would come along but I am not all that fond of delivering a baby in a crowded car.

We got the wheelchair going and then had a good time visiting but had to go after about an hour so that I could make it to Elmer’s wedding.

I was only a half hour late for the wedding when I got home so that gave me an hour to get ready. Some day I will learn because I still got there in time to help set up the chairs. The wedding was over by 7:30 and then many of the people that were there invited themselves over to my house to play on the computers and have more food. It is now 10 PM so I am going to uninvite them and then head off to bed.

Before I say good night I want to fill you in on the condition of a few of the kids from malnutrition that I failed to write about in my last journal.

Milton, is still running fevers. they are talking about taking him in to Guatemala City to run some tests.

Jennifer, the little girl whose head drew back so far that she could scarcely breathe unless she was strapped on her side to a form fitted backboard that we made for her, was taken home by her father several weeks ago. He did not take the backboard with him when he left but promised ot return for it within a few days. He never did, and we have heard nothing from the family and have no idea weather or not Jennifer is even alive.

Byron, (not the one with the power wheelchair) is still in malnutrition and is not improving much. I am afraid that his kidneys may be falling. He loves being taken out side and rocked in a rocking chair. Unfortunately he is still connected to feeding tubes, has a catheter, and also looks very frail, so most people are frightened to handle him. I try to get him out of his crib and out side a few times a week but he should be taken out several times a day.

Perla, the little girl that came in about the same time that Byron is still hanging in there as well. She is still very fragile though, so much like Byron most volunteers don’t dare to hold her.

Well everyone but the 3 kids that are calling this place home tonight are gone so I guess that I will say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, April 6, 2008, 7:04 PM

Nine kids came along to church today. Had it not been for the fact that 3 of my regulars did not make it today I may have had a pretty good car load of kids. Jason who is often a bit of a hand full did not go today but promised that he will be joining us next Sunday. Esben who can also be a hand full came along but he and all of the others did well.

After Church I took them all out for pizza and then we once again went up the mountain that overlooks Antigua. All of the kids except for a new boy decided that they wanted to hike up from the bottom of the hill while I drove the car up. One of the mane reasons that I took them there was so that they could burn off some energy so I applauded the idea. Fernando has been running a low fever and has been very tired the past few days but there was no talking him out of hiking up with the other kids. We played around on the hill for a while and when I announced that it was time to go everyone decided to hike back down the mountain. I slowly strolled back to where I had parked the car knowing that I could easily beat them back down the mountain. Well it would have been easy to beat them had I not discovered that my keys were missing when I got to my car. After retracing my steps and still not finding my keys I called Abner who had a cell phone with him and told him to tell the other boys that I would be a while so they would have to stay at the bottom of the hill and if I did not find my keys with in the next half hour I would crawl under my car and retrieve my spare key. Why had I picked today to wear a white shirt? 15 minutes later all of the boys were back at the car. Most of them had hiked back up but Calin and Bryan managed to hitch a ride up the road with a policeman. We all searched for about another 15 minutes and then I went ahead and got my white shirt dirty. I would have had one of the boys do it for me but they all looked too tired. Oh by the way I found my keys after I got home. How they got into the bottom of the small camera case that I wear on my belt is beyond me. One thing that all of this did accomplish is that when I told the kids that I needed a few hours to myself most of them did not complain. I think that they went home to rest as well.

Monday, April 7, 2008, 6:17 PM

Abner did not go to school today so he came along with me to Antigua. Had I know early enough that he was not permitted to go to school because he did not have a Physical Education uniform I would have gladly rectified the problem by buying him a pare of shorts and a tee shirt. Fernando, Alex, and Elder also stayed home from school today. Alex and Fernando were not feeling well enough to go to school but called and asked me if they could come along to Hermano Pedro with me. Suddenly my mother’s words flowed from my mouth. "If you are to sick to go to school you are . . . . . . . . ." I always hated it when I was told that. So did Alex and Fernando. The therapists had about 6 of the kids in the pool when we got there. It looked like they were all more concerned with keeping their hair dry than swimming with the kids. Abner and I entered the pool by doing canon balls. I think that I heard a few Spanish words that I had never heard before but since there hair was no longer dry most of them quickly joined in on having fun with the kids. Mission accomplished! After swimming I actually worked on wheelchairs for a while. Fidel’s power wheelchair was having some problems. I talked Abner into helping me and after he got over the shock of having to do some work he actually started enjoying himself. Abner can be such a nice kid when he is not grumpy. Unfortunately much of the 80% of the time in tears that he used to be in has been replaced by grumpy.

At noon Carlos joined us and we took Moises, Byron, and Elmer out for lunch. Than I returned to Hermano Pedro for a 2 PM appointment to fit a little girl who has spinal bifida into a wheelchair. Her parents had taken her in to Hermano Pedro to see a doctor a last week and they asked me to look at her. Her back was starting to go crooked on her and I could see that unless she was put into a proper wheelchair soon she was going to get worse fast. Usually we try not to jump ahead on the list of people that are waiting for wheelchairs but there are times that it is necessary. Today I was able to put her into an Iowa Chair. Various people call it by many different names but I call it an Iowa Chair because this is one of the wheelchairs that Hope Haven International builds in Iowa.

Lots of kids for supper tonight. Nothing gourmet but no complaints. Our Monday night basket ball game is about to begin so I guess I better get out there before I get kicked off from the teem. Come to think of it perhaps I will stay in the house just a bit longer. It is far less tiring being a spectator then a player, but then again I hate it when they call me a wimp.

Good Night,
Yours in Christ; Dick

Tuesday, April 9, 2008

Today I never got out of town. I had been promising Altero for a long time that I would spend a day or 2 in the shop with him checking out the power wheelchairs that we have there. It is always hard to part something out knowing how badly people need wheelchairs but some of them have been around for a while and are totally warn out. Fortunately though they will now serve as organ donors and help keep all of the power chairs that we have given and will give away running for a long time. We were also thrilled that we were able to resuscitate about a dozen power chairs that had been pronounced dead. A few of them are now a mixture of 2 or 3 different brands but I am certain that anyone that receives one will not complain. Several years ago I had no other choice but to put a 12 year old boy into a pink wheelchair that said Barbie on the side of it. He was so thrilled to have a wheelchair that I think he would have even taken the chair if I told him that he had to wear a dress whenever he rode in it.

Tonight Fernando helped me cook supper. He is always willing to help as long as we make his favorite meal, scrambled eggs with sliced hot dogs. I relize that the picture shows the kids eating corn flakes but that was just used as a filler to keep them satisfied until the eggs and hot dogs were ready. I must admit that the kids did not get their normal ration of fruit tonight though because the store was out of Cherry Coke.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008
I spent the morning at the shop setting up a few power wheelchairs that Chris, and I plan on delivering to people in the Santa Lucia area tomorrow and Friday. One of the people is Sergio a boy who we gave a power wheelchair to at camp. Thanks to the power wheelchair Sergio is now able to go to a school. The only problem is the road that he takes to school is anything but flat and smooth. He makes it to school and back home with his present wheelchair but not with out great difficulty. Today I set up a power chair that has a stronger frame, wider tires, and bigger motors. I am hoping that this chair navigates the steep hills and rough terrain a bit easier.

The other 2 power chairs will be going to 2 people that we met at our last wheelchair distribution that was in Rio Bravo which is located near Mazatenango. Both people came in to the distribution expecting to receive manual wheelchairs but we found them both to be perfect candidates for power chairs.

At about 11 AM I headed to Peromis a town that is located between here and Antigua. I had made arrangements to pick up some one that called me last night asking if he could join me for the day. Little did I know that the leader of the teem that he was here with had not given her consent so when I got there it was decided that it would be for the best if he did not join me. Since I was half way to Antigua I decided to see if I could make it there in time to take someone to lunch. When I arrived I found Carlos and the 2 of us quickly signed out 2 of the residence. One was Juan Carlos a teen age boy who has been begging me to take him to lunch for quite some time now. Juan Carlos can not talk but believe me he can get his point across. The other person that joined us was Tito, a resident who is in his 20s. Tito is one of the few residences that is not in a wheelchair. He has been at Hermano Pedro for as long as I can remember and seems more like one of the caregivers than a resident. Tito can not speak but understands everything and is always helping the other residence out in any way that he can. I think that because he is mobile and always active he gets overlooked when it comes to being asked to go out to the park or go out to eat. Today when I invited him he was thrilled. As far as I know this was the first time that he had ever been to Camperos. I wish that I could say that about myself some times I think that if I eat any more chicken I will possibly grow feathers. What can I say though? I take the kids there because the food is safe and the workers there are friendly to us.

Caline, Abner and Fernando all announced they are staying here tonight. They say it is only fair because I am going to be gone for 2 days. I haven’t quite figured out what that has to do with fair but nevertheless they are staying. All 3have also offered to come along and help interpret but I reminded them that they all have school.

Well I think that I will head off to bed before one of the kids takes it.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, April 10, 2008, 8:19 PM

This morning Chris and I loaded the van with 3 power wheelchairs and 2 manual wheelchairs and headed for Rio Bravo. Rio Bravo is located about 2 an a half hours from Chemaltenango. When we got there we went to the home of Axel. He is the man that found the people that came to a distribution that we had in Rio Bravo about a month ago. Axel, who is in a wheelchair himself, is very active in trying to help out the people in his community. Even though Rio Bravo is located only a few miles off from the Pan American highway it seems that it has not received much help from the government or any humanitarian organizations.

We had told Axle that we were coming so he tried to contact both people that we had promise power wheelchairs to when we did a wheelchair distribution in Rio Bravo a few weeks ago. Axle had been unable to contact one of the people bur since we had met him and done all the necessary measurements a few weeks ago we were OK with leaving the wheelchair with Axle so that he could give it to him at a later date. Gustovo he young man who I had promised a power wheelchair to was at axle’s house with his entire family. They had been counting the days until their son got a power wheelchair. It was only a few weeks ago that I had promised him one but I think that the wait must have seemed like an eternity. Even though Gustovo, who had CP had never been able to walk he had never owned a wheelchair either. His family told me that he had a borrowed one for a while but it was in very poor shape so they never used it much. Axle and his wife had been clueing him in on how to operate a power chair so once Chris and I got a few things adjusted he was off and driving. We took a lot of pictures but they did little justice to capturing the joy that he and his family had in receiving a power wheelchair. Today was the first time in his 18 years that Gustovo was able to move around on his own.

Gostovo and his family lived about 15 miles from Axle’s home so we offered to take them and the new wheelchair to their home. They live in an area of a nearby town that did not look all that safe. We are praying that no one in his neighborhood tries to steel Gustovo’s wheelchair from him.

Our next visit was at a hospital that was located in the same town that Gustovo lives in. The father of the person that was in the hospital had met us at Axle’s house and had told us that his son was also in need of a power wheelchair. His son had been shot during a robbery and as a result had lost full use of his legs and partial use of his hands. I am amazed at the number of gun shot victims that we work on each year. Some are gang members but many are innocent people that have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. That is what had happened to this young man. It was not easy to see him helplessly lying in this dingy hospital room wearing only a diaper. It seemed so senseless that for a few dollars someone had sentenced this 28 year old man to a life time of hopelessness. I am thankful to God though that today we could be used to give this young man at least a glimmer of hope by telling him that we will soon be bringing him power wheelchair. As we said goodbye we could see a glimmer of hope in his eyes. Next time we visit I pray that we can stay longer so that we can share with him about Some One who gives an even longer lasting hope to a sick and dying world. It is not always easy to witness all of the suffering that we seem to see on an almost daily bases but what a privilege it is to be able to at least make some of these people’s lives a little easier and to hopefully lead them in the direction of Some One who can change their lives forever.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, April 11, 2008, 1:18 PM

Chris dropped me off at home about an hour ago and so far none of the kids know that I am here. Usually they know when I am at home because when they look through the cracks in my gate they can see weather or not my car is at home. This time we did not take my car so it has been sitting in my yard for the past 2 days. I guess that I should feel a bit mean by not telling them that I am here but this is honestly the only way that I can get any work done on my computer. Besides that when I this explanation helped to convince you because it has not fully convinced me. I still fell a bit mean because I know how much the kids like being here.
We woke up to clear skies this morning. This was quite a change from the thunder and lightning that we tried to go to sleep to. I think that our rainy season is upon us. It usually arrives in May but it has clouded up and rained the past 2 evenings now. One nice thing about the Guatemala rainy season is that the clouds do not generally move in until about 4 or 5 in the evening and then it is sunny again by the next morning.

After breakfast we headed to Sergio’s house. Sergio and his family live in Santa Lucia and are only a few miles from the hotel where we spent the night. Even when it has not rained the dirt alley that Sergio has to drive on to go to school with his power wheelchair is almost more than he or the wheelchair can handle. Today we had a more powerful wheelchair that had larger wheels on it than his but after unloading it from the van and trying it out we decided that the steep dirt trails and alleys would still be too much for it. I am now considering building up something that is even more rugged but anything short of a Sherman tank my not work. We are also considering paving some of the rougher sections of road and trail that he has to travel but would first have to get permission from the mayor. Why so much effort for one boy? Ever since we found a school that would accept Sergio he has been a new person. Much like the teen that we gave the power wheelchair to yesterday or the gun shot victim who we promised a wheelchair to. Sergio now has a new lease on life. True he is only one person out of thousands who is suffering here in Guatemala but how many times didn’t Jesus take the time to minister to someone just one person at a time? Unfortunately the more powerful wheelchair was not the answerer but we are going to continue to work on finding a way that Sergio can continue to go to school.

It seems like we were gone much longer than 2 days. It also seems that we found 2 or 3 people that are in need to every 1 person that we were able to help. I guess I should perhaps look at it as job security but I see it as a suffering world that needs more people that are willing to reach out and share the love of Jesus with their brothers and sisters who are dying without hope.

It is my daily prayer that my hart will continue to be broken with the very things that break the hart of Jesus. That is my prayer for you as well.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, April 4, 2008

March 29 - April 4

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I decided last night that I was going to spend most of this weekend around home with the kids that hang out here. To my surprise though most of them were only around in the morning. Much like most of Guatemala most people in a given neighborhood are related to each other in some way. My neighborhood is no exception so because a relative that lived in another town was getting married a good part of my neighborhood went there today. Even though Calin is a relative he did not go along with them though. I think that a few of the adults that went still think of him as the old Calin who would likely com back home with more of the wedding gifts than the bride and groom. It is funny how a bed reputation is easy to acquire but difficult to get rid of. Thankfully though more and more people are beginning to realize that Calin is a new person.

Calin and I spent most of the afternoon trying to get a few old computers going and cannibalizing an old wheelchair for an electric tilt system that I want to put on another chair later this week. It was sort of an, I didn’t get much accomplished day, but then those are good every now and then. I am always amazed at how much my kids enjoy being the only kid around even if we don’t do anything exciting.

Even though I thought that most everyone had gone to the wedding my house still seemed to fill up around supper time. It got even fuller when they all returned at around 8 PM but fortunately the second invading troop had eaten at the wedding.

Most of the kids have gone home now but a lot of them promised that they would be back first thing in the morning. The 3 that were a bit of a problem in Sunday School last Sunday have been told that if there are any problems this week that they will once again miss lunch and also not be able to come along to church next week. I can remember back to when I was a kid and felt that missing church was a treat not a punishment, but not these kids.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, March 30, 2008
Out of the 5 kids that went to church with me today 2 of them were ones that got into trouble last week. I am proud to say that they all did well today. I think that a big part of it had to do with the new class that has been started that is for the older kids, and the other thing that helped were the verbal threats that the boys received from me before we got out of my car. Actualy I only told them that I would not take them to lunch if they misbehaved but to a growing boy that can sound like a death threat.

After church we went to lunch and then to the orphanage. Having to behave for another hour was almost more than Jason could stand but he made it. (Barely) He is a neat kid but has a terrible time behaving. Fortunately some of the kids who I have had around here for several years now, help set him straight from time to time. It is sort of fun to see some of the kids who use to give me gray hair, help set the ground rules for some of the newer ones.

After visiting the orphanage we drove up to the hill that overlooks Antigua. I figured that this would be a good place to let the kids run around and get rid of some energy. Once they looked like they had used up all of their energy I announced to them that I was driving the car down the hill by my self while they hiked the trail down. Some of them went for the idea. A few said that they would rather ride down with me than walk. I quickly narrowed it down to 2 chaises. They all ended up walking down. I guess that spending the night on the hill by them selves didn’t sound all that neat to them.

Tonight’s supper was nothing fancy, but then when is it? Nevertheless it did not keep the number of kids down much further than usual. The neighbors from across the alley came over after supper. This is the family who had their first boy a little over a year ago. I wonder what it would be like growing up with 8 sisters. Dad, mom, and all 9 Kids stayed for about an hour. Since they are not over at my house all that often their Spinglish leaves a bit to be desired. Fernando did a great job of interpreting though so we had a rather nice visit. Father told me that even though he works 6 days a week that he simply does not make enough money. I think that he is seriously thinking about trying to sneak into the USA. He knows that he would have to stay there for several years and told me that he would greatly miss his family but sees no other alternative.

Abner, Fernando, and Calin were all going to stay here tonight but Abner had a hissy fit about something and went stomping off for home.

Well my eyes are getting heavy again so I will say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, March 31, 2008

This morning I went to Hermano Pedro, where I met with a group from Youth With a Mission. I showed them around the orphanage and I think that they fell in love with the kids because they asked if they could come back a few more times this week. When we went into the malnutrition ward I almost passed by Julio without recognizing him. The changes in this boy during the 4 weeks that he has been there are nothing short of remarkable. He looks like he has doubled his weight and is much more alert. I pray that when he returns to his home that he will stay healthy.

At shortly after 11 I said good bye to the YWAM group who were all still playing with the kids. Howard and Nan, some friends from church, joined me and we headed off to Esquentla where we met for lunch with Chris and Juan. After lunch all 5 of us drove to the clinic that had introduced me to both Julio and Milton. The workers at the clinic were grateful for some canes and walkers that we brought them. They are doing a marvelous job but it is obvious that they are running on a limited budget. Chris and Juan left their vehicle at the clinic and the 5 of us went in my car to the village where Julio lives. We are hoping to put up a prefabricated house for them before Julio is released from the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro but the last time I visited I could tell that there was some tension between Julio’s father and a younger brother concerning the land where we were planning to build the house. Since Chris is fluent at Spanish I asked him to come along this time to see if he could help get things ironed out. Things were a bit tense when we got there but thanks to Chris and Juan, with in a short time everything had been talked through and all of the family members were in agreement, so it looks like Julio’s family will be receiving a new home in a few weeks.

After dropping Chris and Juan off at the clinic Howard, Nan, and myself went to Milton’s home. Milton still had a light fever and the sores that were on his face and legs were still visible but he had improved a lot over the way he was a week ago when the Doctor told his mother that he would have to no longer have a fever or any sores before he could be admitted into the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro. He was obviously felling better but I was wishing that we had waited a few days longer before picking him up again but since were already here I decided to take him and his mother back to Antigua with us. I am praying that the doctor will allow him to go into malnutrition tomorrow.

I was late enough in getting home that only 4 kids were there when I came down the alley. They stayed long enough to have some food but now I am trying to convince at least some of them to leave so that I can head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, April 1, 2008.

I gave Milton’s mom money for cab fare when I checked her and Milton into Cassa De Faye last night. This meant that I did not have to get up at 5:30 to get her to Hermano Pedro on time. When I got there at around 10 she was still waiting to see the doctor. Milton was running a light fever and the spots on his face were still visible. When he went into the doctor’s office I prayed that the doctor would allow him to stay in malnutrition. It seems so strange that a child can be considered too sick to go into a malnutrition ward but those are the rules. I did not go into the doctors office right away but when I did, the first thing that I was told by the doctor was that his mother had been told not to bring him back until he was better. I was still praying though that the doctor would allow him to stay anyway and that is exactly what happened. He said that since he saw improvement from last week he was going to bend the rules a bit an let him stay. This was only the start of a procedure that took 6 hours to get Milton admitted into malnutrition. I had been hoping that I could bring Milton’s mother back to her home shortly after noon but it was 4 PM before the hospital was finished with all of the interviews and paper work so I filled out my afternoon visiting with the orphanage kids. I was thrilled to see the YWAM teem return this afternoon. They told me that they had indeed fallen in love with the kids and had come by just to hang out with them for a while.

Once again I did not get back home until after 9. A few kids were still hanging around but I told them that tonight I was heading straight for bed.

So goodnight,
Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Good intentions don’t always to a lot of good if you keep on procrastinating. Ever since the orphanage kids returned to Hermano Pedro from Christmas break an ever-growing list of wheelchair repairs has been hanging on the wall behind the nurses desk. I have occasionally been able to scratch a few things off from the list, but the nurses, therapists, and myself have added far more, than those that I scratched off. A few days ago Chris told me than it would be OK if a few of the men from the shop came along to Hermano Pedro and help work on wheelchairs for a day or 2. By the end of the day today it was obvious that we will be hard pressed to have gone through the list in 2 days. Even if we don’t finish up and they cannot come back a third day they well have done enough that I should be able to get caught up in no time. I was perhaps the slowest of the 4 of us today but I had a good excuse. I had lots of little helpers that at times slowed things down to a snails pace but I would not have denied them the experience of helping for the world. I think that the highlight of their day was when we took a coffee break and included our little helpers as we sat around a table sipping cokes.

I managed to get up into malnutrition for a short time today. Julio is looking better every day but Milton was running a fever and he really misses his mom. I held him for a while but when I put him down he started to cry. I have a feeling that his mother seldom lays him down when he is with her. Once he is released from the isolation room I will try to fit him into a wheelchair that will prevent him from twisting over backwards. Several of the other kids in malnutrition have been running fevers as well. I have been told that they already had them before Milton was admitted so that is a bit of a relief, but they need your prayers just the same. Some of these kids are so fragile that it takes very little to put their lives in danger.

Tonight I managed to sneak by the alley that leads in to my house with out being seen by any of the kids. I even managed to find a parking place at the maul that was not discovered by any of the high school kids that walked by on their way home from school. It felt very strange to be eating all alone but I am not complaining mind you. I must admit though after spending almost an hour by myself I started missing the kids so I headed for home. It took only about 5 minutes before I started asking myself why I had missed them though. I am not sure if it was the larger than normal amount of kids or the stray soccer ball that nailed me in the side of the head that brought me to my censes but I actually found myself wondering if it wouldn’t be nice to head back to the mall all by my self. After all I hadn’t ordered any dessert with my meal. The kids were great though, and I hope that you know that I am only kidding about not being happy to see them. They even offered to make supper while I got cleaned up. I no sooner got out of the shower than I got a few phone calls. Since it was far from quiet with a dozen or so kids in the house I quickly went outside so that I could hear what was being said on the phone. When I finally got off from the phone and came back into the house nearly an hour later I looked at the kitchen table and it did not have a dish on it. Nor was there any food on the stove. I asked the kids why they had not yet made them selves something to eat. They told me that they had already made supper and eaten it as well. How they did that and got the place cleaned up that quickly is beyond me but I told them that I was proud of them. If any of you are wondering if I would be willing to take in some of your kids for a few months to see if any of this rubbes of on them the answer is NO! If you think that there is a possibility that it could rub off on your kids I have several that would gladly move in with you though.

Well all have gone ashore that are going ashore so I guess I will try to convince Calin to go take a shower and move his dirty socks a bit further from the house. I still have not figured out if it is the Guatemalan diet or what but the foot odor of some of my kids could be marketed as tear gas.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, April 3, 2008, 5:47 PM

Some of the men from the wheelchair shop were originally going to go with me to Hermano Pedro today to help work on more wheelchairs but Saul had an appointment in Guatemala City so we are going to shoot for tomorrow. I still went in though because I had made arrangements to finish up on fitting a brother and sister who had come in to the hospital for 2 days of testing. Yesterday we gave them new wheelchairs but I still had to do some fine-tuning on them today. The doctors at the hospital are still running tests to figure out why both of them lost strength and quit walking a few years ago. They both had to drop out of school as well because without wheelchairs there was no way that any one could get them there. Their parents brought them into the hospital hoping that there was some medicine that would cure them over night but it does not look like that will be the case. I think that it is just starting to sink in that their children will possibly never again walk. Even though they were hoping for more the entire family was extremely grateful for the wheelchairs and for our willingness to spend the time to make them as comfortable as possible.

The rest of my day was mostly spent repairing wheelchairs and taking kids out to lunch. I was only able to take Roberto (Bobby) out today because the only other person that could come along with me was Carlos and his eremitism was bothering him so much that he could scarcely walk yet alone push a wheelchair. Bobby seemed to really enjoy being the only kid to go and made sure that he was the center of attention. He loves nothing better than dipping the same French fry into as much ketchup, ranch dressing, and barbecue sauce as possible and then after sucking everything off from it loading up the same French fry with more sauces. Today he managed to actually eat some of the fries and even some chicken while licking them off. In fact by the time he had finished there was nothing left on his plate. I wish that I could say that he ate it all but his hands, face, clothing, and the floor proved otherwise.

Moises and Byron (helped??) me work on wheelchairs this afternoon so before heading for home I bought them each a coke.

The kids are out for a bit but I promised that I would let them in at 6:30 so I guess I better see if there is any food in the cupboards and then let them in.

As I was reading my e-mail I read this one. I think that anyone who has a special needs child, or any one who has worked closely with special needs children can relate to what this wonderful mother just wrote.

Hi Dick
My name is Rhonda Howard. I have the great fortune of having John Bosman as a fellow member for the community relations committee of Cascade Christian Services. John shared your ministry with us at one of the committee meetings last year. Just before his departure last month, he shared the web address for your site. I was touched by what I saw and read. My husband and I are the proud parents of a developmentally disabled son who lives in a duplex owned by Cascade Christian Services. I have received numerous calls from parents whose adult children still live at home. Steve (our son) was on his way home from school his senior year when his car hydroplaned off the road and flipped several times, before landing on it's top. As a result he has a traumatic brain injury, is a spastic quad, and has cortical blindness. He can't perform the daily tasks of life necessary to be independent so needs total assistance to eat, bathe, toilet, dress, etc. I used to feel remorseful. With time I've learned that I am blessed. How many moms get to hold on to their sons for so long? Steve was 17 when the accident occurred. He's now 34. He's reached the point where he's been the Steve that "is" for as long as he was the Steve that "was." I look at all the pictures, and videos on your site and notice the same "look" in the eyes of most of the families. The pride and love they seem to share for their blessing; their child. I can't fathom what it must be like to walk in their shoes. We were blessed with the support of family and community, insurance, a house, doctors at our beck and call, hospitals, rehab centers, and Cascade Christian Services. I guess what I am trying to say in too many words is, God bless you for what you are doing for these children and their families. I have met many families throughout my journeys in this life who would have fallen apart had the Lord not put Angels in their lives. I see you and those who work with you as God's angels. May His light continue to shine through you, brightening the lives of those who you encounter through your journeys. May you feel the comforting hugs of an Angel's wings. Together in the Lord, Rhonda

Thanks Rhonda, for giving me permission to post your letter here.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, April 4, 2008, 8:35 PM

Today Rudy, Saul, and Chito once again joined me, from the wheelchair shop, and the 4 of us made a big dent in the amount of wheelchairs that needed to be repaired or replaced at Hermano Pedro orphanage. With so many kids who’s size and medical conditions continually change it is never possible to say that we are completely caught up but at least many of the kids are seated a lot more comfortably than they were a few days ago. We always try to seat the kids in a position that is healthy for them and promotes good growth but occasional we have one that is so deformed that anything that we do to try to get them into a better position is nothing but torture to them and does little in the way of improving their health. Daniel is one of those rare cases where we simply try and lye them in a position that is the most comfortable for them. As of today Daniel is no longer being put into a seated position but is now in a wheelchair that resembles recliner on wheels. It won’t do much in the way of improving his somewhat labored breathing and it won’t keep him from getting even more deformed but at least Daniel is able to lye there with a smile on his face. It was getting to the point where he could not stand to be in his wheelchair for much over a half hour at a time anyway. I try not to look at it as giving up it’s just that the agony that he was going through was not bringing any positive results. Now he is at lest a bit more comfortable.

As Saul was just finishing up on Daniel’s new wheelchair I was asked if I could go upstairs to see a boy who’s parents had brought him in to see the doctor. Before I went into the room I was told that this 13 year old boy had severe Cerebral Palsy. He lives about 2 hours from Antigua but this was the first time that the doctors there had ever seen him. His parent had brought him to see a doctor in his town and even tried to get therapy for him but they had been told that he was too severe and nothing could be done for him. Marvin, the therapist that had come to get me told me that a doctor from the USA was looking at him and was wondering what if anything could be done for him. Before going into the room where the doctor and the boy were I said a prayer asking God not to give me another Daniel. Saying that nothing can be done for 2 kids in one day is just a little to hard to take. I then walked into the room and was introduced to Carrillo and his parents. Carrillo was being held by his mother. His body was bent backward in a half circle and he appeared to be in a lot of pain. I have seen children with severe Cerebral Palsy spasms like this before but Carrillo’s parents told me that he is like this 23 hours a day. They told me that some times he falls asleep and relaxes but never for much more than an hour a day. The doctor told me that he did not think that there was even any medication that would get his muscles to relax enough to give much relief but was wondering if there was any way that Carrillo could at least be positioned so that the curvature of his body did not eventually shut off some of his internal organs. I took Carrillo from his mother’s arms and held him as we spoke. At firs his body was so rigid that I thought he would break in 2 with any movement. I was not surprised when his father told me that Carrillo had never been in a wheelchair, other than an old canvas one that a friend had loned to the family for a short time. He told me that they tried to used it for a short time but it only made their son’s condition worse. As we talked Carrillo slowly became more and more relaxed. I slowly got up and walked over to an examination table and placed him on it. After getting used to it he relaxed even more. After about 15 minutes I was able to get Carrillo into a somewhat seated position. Straightening his head out to a forward position took a bit longer but in less than an hours Carrillo looked a lot straighter and far more comfortable. I told his parents that I believed that a proper fitting wheelchair would do a lot more for their son than provide him with transportation. I told them that it should help to keep him alive. Jessica when on to explain to his parents what the severe twisting of their sons body would eventually do to him if left untreated. It was not meant to frighten them but if they returned home thinking that perhaps it was to much bother to come back and spend an entire day haveing their son fitted for a wheelchair, they had to know the consequences. As I looked over at the 2 of them and then back over at there son I know that they would indeed be back. I told them that we would set up a day some time next week. In the mean time I am going to start working on a wheelchair that will provide a lot more than transportation for this young man. Please remember Carrillo and his family in your prayers. Because of my limited Spanish, I did not get the opportunity to share with them about the love of Jesus, but then again perhaps I did.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, March 28, 2008

Journal March 23-28

(Click on any photo to enlarge)
Sunday, March 23, 2008

This morning 6 of the kids came along to church. After church 3 of the kids came along to lunch. The 3 kids that did not come along to lunch were brought back home by choice, not theirs but mine. Hopefully missing a meal will teach them that they have to behave in Sunday school. It seems that they have targeted one kid out to give a hard time to. Why? He reacts, and they love it. Right now there is no regular teacher in Sunday school. About 3 or 4 people trade off each Sunday and that is no good, especially when you are teaching a rather large group of boys. Please pray that they can find someone who is willing to teach this class on a full time bases. Please pray that it is not me. I really value this one hour spot each week where I can be in church and not be the one that is fully responsible for these kids.

When we returned home from lunch 2 of the kids that were returned home early came to the house and asked if they could come in. I told them that was no problem. Shortly after coming in they told me that they would like something to eat. I told them that was a problem. I explained that they had missed out on lunch because of what they had done and since I was not a short order cook they would now have to wait until supper, which by the way was going to be a much smaller meal than the big meal that the other boys and myself had just eaten. A short time later Jason, who had been the biggest problem at Sunday school came to the house. He told me that he was sorry for the way that he had acted and wanted to know if he could come in. I gave him a hug but no food. As I have mentioned before, had I known that raising kids was so much work I would have gotten married and had only a few to raise. The rest of the day was spent at home. Some of the kids played. A few of them helped clean the house and wash my car. Three of them spent a lot of time watching the clock and wondering what time we were going to have supper.

Calin has decided to spent the nigh. Abner was going to but has not returned from asking permission from his uncle and aunt. It may have something to do with my telling his aunt why he was brought home right after church today. She is a fair lady and I know that he will be back soon.


Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, March 24, 2008

Today John Ferral, who is here from Florida, and Benjamin, came along with me to see several people. Our first stop was at Ronny’s new home. Ronny has been feeling a lot better since he started taking the antibiotics that the doctor prescribed for him. He, his younger brother, and 3 of his sisters are once again back in school following a one week Easter vacation. I have promised that I will take each of them that has a good report card to the beach in a week or 2. I think that the word has gotten out to a few of their cousins as well because there are a lot of kids asking about it. I don’t think that I will take any more people than last time though because over 21 people in one car may be a little crowded. I guess that I could use our 15-passenger van because if my car can hold 21 there should be no problem getting 35 or 40 into the van. Our next stop was only a few hundred feet away. This was at the home of Ronny’s uncle and aunt. They and their 6 children live in a rusted out tin building that had it been in the USA and not here in Guatemala, it would have been condemned even if it were being used as a pig sty. We talked at length with Ronny’s uncle about the prospect of attaching 2 of the prefabricated houses that John supplies. Since the family is one of those rare ones that has both parents living at home it does not fall into our normal category of people that we furnish homes to in the respect that it has no one who is handicapped nor is the mother a widow. Much like Ronny’s father, this father also works in the sugar cane fields. During the 6 or 7 months of harvest he works 12 hours a day 7 days a week. Unfortunately his wages are so low that there seems to be no way for him and his family to ever live in anything other than the tin shack that thy call home. When we talked today we told him that we would look into supplying the house if he could put in the cement floor. It is always healthy to have the people that we are helping out to do as much as possible in helping out both financially and physically but we never want to make it impossible for them or have them go hungry just to hold up their end of the bargain.

I have been asked on several occasions weather or not there is ever jealousy between neighbors or relatives when one of them gets a house and the other one doesn’t. I have heard that in places like Africa that all of the villagers are happy and celebrate if some one in the village gets a new home. All I can say is, “This is certainly not Africa.” I know that it would be nice to help everyone but that is impossible so that leaves us with 2 choices. We can turn our back and help no one, or we can pray that God clearly shows us who to reach out to. Please pray that God gives us wisdom concerning this.

Our next stop was at the clinic that had told me about Julio and Milton. We only stopped off long enough to tell the director of the Clinic and the Doctor that we would be coming back that way in a few hours and were wondering if they could inform Milton’s mom so that she and Milton would be ready to go back to Hermano Pedro with us. I wanted to have them stay in Antigua tonight so that they could be at the door of the orphanage by 6:30 AM. tomorrow.

Next we went to visit with Julio’s parents. We were hoping that we could find someone who lived in Julio’s village who could put in the cement pad at the house will be built soon. Although after talking with Julio’s mom it was decided that we would wait until Chris has the opportunity to come down and talk to Julio’s dad. It sounds like there may be another one of those jealousy things going on between brothers.

Milton's mom was standing in front of her house waiting for us when we got there. She had Julio all cleaned up and wearing his best clothing. He was not feeling well though and cried the entire 2 hours while we drove to Antigua. After getting them settled in to Cassia Defay John, Ben, and myself went and had some supper. Yes I still had to cook dinner for the troops when I got home but I got to do it on a full stomach.

Well all those that are going home have gone so I am going to say goodnight to the 2 that are here and then head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, March 25, 2008, 9:43 PM

I had Milton at the front door of the hospital at 6:30 this morning. Even though we were there a half hour before they opened we were far from the first ones there. A long line of people had already gathered. I am not usually a line crasher but compared to where Milton and his mother are from, the air was very cold and Milton felt like he had a fever. No one said a word as I carried Milton to the head of the line with his mother following close behind. I told Milton mom to stay right there while I went and found a blanket to put Milton into. By the time I got back a few people had crowded in front of her but she was still near the head of the line. By the way it looked I honestly think that several of the people who were standing in line would have given Milton their place in line if need be. A few ladies who were standing near by even stroked his head and spoke to his mother. It wasn’t all that long ago that here in Guatemala, only rarely would some one strike up a conversation with the parent of a handicapped child. Milton’s mom also shows a lot of love for her son. I have a feeling that if we can get Milton healthy again his parents may very well decide that they do not want him to stay in an orphanage the rest of his life but only time will tell.After about an hour wait we go to see the doctor. After talking with Milton’s mother and examining Milton he told us that he agreed that Milton should be admitted into the malnutrition ward but told us that he was running a fever and it was hospital policy that no one with a fever can be admitted into the malnutrition ward until they no longer have a fever. This may sound like a strange rule but there are many kids there that are very fragile and exposing them to something that could possibly be contagious could be a death sentence to them. The doctor firs suggested that I take Milton over to the National hospital for some tests to determine what was causing Milton’s fever but then agreed that we could have the tests done at Hermano Pedro. He told me that once the tests had been made I would have to take Milton back home until all of the results were in though. He promised me that when he got the results in a few days that we could bring Milton in to malnutrition provided he no longer had a fever or that he had nothing contagious.

I have not been taking many of the orphanage kids out to Camperos lately because I have been busy with other things, so today I decided to take advantage of the fact that I was there. I could not find any other volunteers to help me out but decided that one kid was better than none. Gaspar has been asking me for a long time to take him to lunch so I decided that I would take him. He was thrilled but I can’t say the same for several of the kids that watched us leave. Moises who has just returned from home took it especially hard that I had not invited him. He was already having a bit of a hard time since his family just returned him to the orphanage this morning and watching me go out of the door with Gaspar was almost more than he could handle. It was little consolation to him when I promised that I would do my best to take him tomorrow. He would have much preferred going today. What kid wouldn’t?

By the time we returned Milton’s mom told me that he had finished with all of the lab work. So we were soon once again on our way towards the coast. On our ride home Milton was much less vocal than he had been the day before. He spent most of his time sleeping and even when he was awake he did not cry. Milton’s mother also seemed to be a lot more relaxed. I think that just knowing that her son is finally getting some help has been a big relief for her. In her eyes I could see that she had a lot of love for her son although 3 years of not being able to do anything for him had taken it’s toll on both her and her husband.

Four hours later I was home to more kids. I was tiered but knew that they needed a bit of my time as well. Even though I had a lot of work to do I put it on the back burner for about an hour and played soccer with the kids. An American adult against Guatemalan kids is far from a fare game but the kids took it easy on me and even allowed me to score 1 or 2 goals to each of their 10.

Most of the kids are gone now. There are still a few asleep on the floor. I am to tired to wake them or to even figure out who they are so I guess that I will leave them stay there until morning.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Today we received the first container of supplies at Hope Haven’s where house in Antigua. Lord willing before to long they will start manufacturing children’s wheelchairs there. Hopefully they will be able to manufacture not only enough wheelchairs to supply Bethel Ministries need of children’s wheelchairs here in Guatemala but they will also be able to ship them to other countries in central and south America. Today’ container not only contained wheelchair supplies but also several more house kits for needy families here in Guatemala. There were also materials that a California Rotary club had provided for collecting rain water. About 10 of their members showed up to help us unload the container. Golf Coast supply, who provides the houses had also sent us 80 water filters. These are an answer to prayer. Back in October after a several hour hike into the mountainous area where Antonio, a 10 year old boy that had returned home after spending several months in the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro Lived, I had mentioned in my Journal the need that hundreds of people in that Area have for clean water. Antonio who weight only 21 pounds when we brought him in to Hermano Pedro had returned home because he had gained a lot of weight and although his health was not perfect the doctors felt at that time that it was good enough that he could be reunited with his family. Unfortunately when Carlos and I visited his home back in October we discovered that poor living conditions and bad water had taken its tool and Antonio was once again doing poorly. Chris and I are making plans to contact the leaders of Antonio’s aldea so that we can arrange a day that that several of the villagers can meet us at the trail head so that we can carry in 40 to 50 water filters. It is to late to help Antonio because he died a few months ago but perhaps these water filters will keep Antonio’s brothers and sisters and other children in his village from dying needlessly. Thank you John, Jeff, and the rest of the Florida crew for responding to a need that you recognized.

I helped unload the container for about a half hour but then realized that there were so many willing and younger hands that wanted to help that these older hands were only getting in the way. That is when I asked some of the people from the group if they wanted to see the orphanage while the others sweated and got sore muscles. It did not take a lot of coaxing to come up with 5 volunteers who were willing to let the others tire themselves out while we went and visited the kids. Actually this being the first time in an orphanage for most of those that came along may have been harder on them than unloading the truck single handedly because emotionally the orphanage is not always the easiest place to be. All of them handled it well though and even though it was hard for them they were all glad that they had come along.

Our timing was perfect because we arrived back at the where house as the others were just finishing up. It was about 3 PM and none of us had eaten any lunch so it was decided that everyone would meet at the Camperos that is located on the west side of Antigua. As I got into my car to drive to Camperos I remembered the promise that I had made to Moises yesterday as I was taking Gaspar to lunch. I knew that there was a rule that any kids that were checked out of Hermano Pedro had to be back in by 4 PM but in the 8 years that I have been there they have allowed me to fudge on that rule from time to time. After explaining over the phone to the group that was on the other side of town why I was not going to be able to join them for lunch, Moises, Byron, and I were on way to a different Camperos that is located about 4 blocks for the orphanage.

Even though I had already eaten the kids at my house reminded me that they had not. With everyone’s help it was not long before the table was set and they were all wolfing down on ham and cheese sandwiches. This was followed by a soccer game in the front yard than some homework and then goodbyes. Every time I tell the kids that I am going to be gone for even one night they act like it is going to be for a year. After reassuring all of them that I would indeed be back because this was my home they were finally willing to go. A few of them asked to stay the night but I told them that it would be hard enough for me to get just myself out of bed at 1:30 AM.

Chris and John are stopping by at 2 AM so that we can drive to Cobon and meet up with the group that helped us unload the truck today. They didn’t leave for Cobon until about 5 this evening but should be there before 11 PM. I guess that I better close for now because by what the clock is saying they have already been to bed for about an hour.

Good Night:

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Well I made it to bed just before midnight. My head cold is still bothering me so I spent about an hour and a half trying to get to sleep. After that I no longer tried to sleep because my alarm clock was ringing. Chris and I had to take turns driving to Cobon but neither of us fell to sleep behind the wheel.
The trip was well worth it though because the California Rotary club that helped us unload the container yesterday had taken on a massive project in 3 aldeas that were located about an hour and a half out side of Cobon. They had gathered enough money to supply over 2 hundred homes with water. Up until now all of the villagers have had to walk any where from a half hour to more than an hour to the nearest river to get their water. Not only was this a lot of work but also the river water was making a lot of them sick. Today 4 large trucks carried in enough 450 gallon water tanks and steal roofing to provide each and every family with a rain collecting water system. The road was not exactly designed for semi trucks so one of them gut stuck for a few hours but eventually we all made it into the first village. Even though we arrived much later than expected the villagers were still waiting for us. The dirt road was lined up with all of the people that lived there. All of them were dressed up in their best close and many of them had signs that were welcoming us to their village. After being introduced to the village leaders we were taken to one of a few houses that had been given one of these water systems about a year ago. They had built these as an experiment to see if a 12 foot by 12 foot slightly pitched roof could collect enough rain water to supply a family with enough water all year around. The family that we met quickly had us convinced that this was a wonderful idea and that it indeed worked well in this region of Guatemala. Here near Cobon they get a lot of rain and even see rain about once every 4 or 5 days during what we consider the dry season. The family that we visited told us that they had never run out of water since the system was built about a year ago. The father then took us inside of the house to show us the new water filters that that each family who gets a water system receives. He went on to tell us that up until they started using the water filter the family continually had health problems. He told us that now they were all healthy. Although many of the people, especially the kids, dress less traditional than many of the villages that I have been in they are still very Mayan in their life stile. There is no electricity in the village and up until now there was no water. Hardly anyone knows Spanish, even the children that attend school speak their native tong.

The next several hours were spent unloading trucks demonstrating how to set up the rane collectors and eating a big lunch that the villagers had prepared for us.

We got back to Cobon at 4 PM by 4:15 I was asleep. We set our alarms for 7 so that we could go and get something to eat than headed straight to the motel. I did a few paragraphs of my journal when we got back to the motel but I got to sleepy to finish up on it. That is why today’s journal is being written tomorrow.

I can not say good night because it is actually tomorrow afternoon. Wow it sounds like something from Time Machine. Anyway that’s all for now.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, March 28, 2008, 3:12 PM

It really is Friday. I just now finished up on yesterday’s journal so it is now today.

By 5:30 AM I was pretty much rested up although had my alarm not gone off who knows how much longer I could have slept. Today’s drive was quite uneventful but John, Chris, and I had a great time of fellowship together. On our way through Guatemala City we dropped John off at the airport. We know that he will be back soon but we will miss him. He is a true brother in Christ.

I made it into the house before the kids got out of school so I am trying to finish up on my journal before they realize that I am here. I am not sure that it is working though because some one has been knocking on the gate or ringing the bell every 5 minutes. Perhaps they are just checking to see if I have gotten back home yet, but judging by how much they are knocking I am afraid that they may have had a well hidden spy somewhere out side of my gate

I guess I still did not get enough sleep because as I was writing the last paragraph my eyes got to heavy to stay awake. I figured that a short nap wouldn’t hurt so I laid down on bed for a few minutes. Next thing I knew it was 6:00. What woke me up was a phone call from Chris. He told me that he had just been awaken from a 3 hour nap by a phone call from the doctor at the clinic that is near Milton’s house. The doctor had called to say that Milton is now over his fever. I had spoken with Hermano Pedro earlier today and they told me that the results of Milton’s test had indicated that he had a noncontagious infection and that the medication that they gave him should take care of it so it looks like we can go there and pick him up and get him admitted into malnutrition on Monday.It has been another busy week but we have met a lot of interisting people and have seen a lot of positive things happening. God is so good.

Yours in Christ: Dick