* 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)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Journal February 6-14

Friday, February 6, 2009

Tonight I am finally back in Chimaltenango. In the past few weeks I have spent far more time in motel rooms than at home so it feels good to be home. I had planned on getting back home on Thursday but the drive from our hotel in Huehuetenango to Lisvi’s home is a grueling one even though it is only two hours each way. If ever an auto manufacture wanted to do an advertisement for a four wheel drive vehicle it should be here. I honestly believe that several of them would scrap the idea once they saw where they had to try to drive to though. After asking Lisvi’s father what the little monument that was along side of the trail near one of the switch backs represented I wished that I hadn’t asked and then paid extra care to my driving. I also made up my mind that if as much as one drop of rain fell from the sky I was going to park my car and camp right there until we had at least a week of sunshine.

When we got to Lisvi’s house her father and mother insisted that I stay and have lunch with them. We were up at over 8000 feet and it was an exceptionally cold day so we mostly huddled around the fire and visited while mother and one of her older daughters prepared the food. As we visited various family members took turns holding this precious little girl. When it was my turn I held her for a long time. Even though we will hopefully return with some wheelchairs for others in this area, I knew that this could have easily been the last time that I will see her.

Before reaching Xela I stopped off in San Francisco (Guatemala). Christopher, a boy that has a power wheelchair lives there. His mother had notified our shop in Chimaltenango that he was having some problems with it so I figured that since there was no way that I was going to make it home tonight I just as well stop off and see if I could fix his wheelchair. Christopher’s mom informed me that he is starting to have more seizures and the doctor that she has been taking him to is not doing much for him. I told her about Silsi and that she will be coming to Hermano Pedro to see a specialist near the end of March. I asked her if she wanted me to see if I could get an appointment for Christopher on the same day. I figured that if I am coming out that way I just as well pick up a full carload of people.

I am not sure if the kids had given up on waiting for me or if they didn’t think that I was going to be back home until tomorrow but the amount of kids that showed up at my house after I got back stayed under a dozen. A few of them have already told me that they are spending the night though so I guess I better start hauling out the blankets.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, February 7, 2009
(Click on any picture to enlarge)

It looks like the word has gotten out that I am home because my house is now wall to wall kids. I managed to get out of the house with only the three that spent the night coming along with me to the orphanage this morning but by the number of kids that are here right now you would have thought that the entire orphanage came back home with me. I came back home at around 3PM because I promised those that were here last night that I would rent a soccer field for an hour at 4 PM. I was a bit worried that not enough kids would find out about it and they would not be able to put two soccer teams together. Silly me! We had fourteen kids before the game even started and the numbers continued to grow throughout the game. I played for a little while but after watching a few of the kids trip and fall on the cement I came to my senses and became combination medic and spectator. It always amazes me that no one ever seems to get more than a few scrapes but these kids are tough. Besides even if they are playing soccer on the cement it sure beats being out on the streets. After the game I took a few of the kids shopping. I had missed Abner’s thirteenth birthday while I was up in Huehuetenango so I had promised that I would bring a cake over to his house later this evening. It is hard for me to believe that he is thirteen. I still remember celebrating his seventh birthday. I also remember celebrating his thirteenth birthday just a year ago but yesterday he told me that his aunt and uncle had recalculated and decided that they had made a mistake and he was actually turning thirteen this year. Lucky kid, why can’t I get by with repeating birthdays instead of having new ones?

Well it is getting late and I once again have house guests.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Nine of us headed off to church this morning but we rounded the number off to an even ten by stopping off at the orphanage and picking up Moises.

The new building that we now have church in is a real blessing, especially when it comes to taking Moises or any of the other orphanage kids along to church. No stairways! Our church is growing so rapidly that Pastor Mike decided to choose a church board. I first told him that I was just to busy too be on it but he convinced me that we all have just 24 hours in our day so I finally said OK. I did not feel good about my decision though so last week I asked him if he could find some one to take my place. He told me that he understood and believe it or not he chose the exact person that I had in mind. All of the men on the board are really good God fearing men and I know that they will do a great job. The fact that I am at least 30 years older than any of them gives me a feeling that even though just like me they only have 24 hours in their day perhaps they have the energy to put more into this task than I would have had.

After Church the kids and I went to Martha’s for lunch and then we came home and just hung out. Once again Jason was asked to leave early. This time not for swearing but for lying. A few weeks ago he put a game on my computer that I did not approve of so I asked him to remove it. A little while later he told me that he had taken it off and I believed him, silly me. Fernando, who loves to snitch on people, is the one who told me about it so I confronted Jason about it and he told me that he had removed the game. He had not. We had a good talk as I walked him to the gate. He is only out for two days but was told that the punishment doubles every time the same offense occurs. I still remember Calin working his way up to two months. I hope that Jason learns before that because I think that it is harder on me to have to kick on of the kids out of the house than it is on them. I know what kind of trouble they can get into if they do not have a place to just hang out.

At 3:30 I suddenly remembered that I had to have Moises back at the orphanage by 4:00. I had almost forgotten that he was here because the other kids are so good with him that I do not have to lift a finger to help him with anything. I didn’t take any of the kids along with me because a friend from the States wanted to meet with me and talk over a few things. When I got back home the third group of kids in as many days asked if they could spend the night. I think that they have made an agreement to take turns staying at my house so that they can make sure that I am not going to leave for Huehuetenango for a several days again. I do plan on going some where over night on Wednesday but have not broke that to them yet. Well the kids have been trying to get me to come out and play a little basketball with them for the past hour so I guess that I will give in and shoot some hoops with them before bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, February 9, 2009, 10:26 PM

Most of today was spent at Hermano Pedro orphanage. Almost all of the kids are back now and it seems that the ones that did not break their wheelchairs while they were gone during Christmas time, outgrew them. Dave, a friend from the USA helped me work on them most of the day and even though we only made a small dent we did get quite a bit accomplished. However we can not give ourselves all of the credit because we had lots of little helpers. Moises and a few of the other kids are actually becoming good at helping out but the there are always those like Ervin and Elmer who manage to shorten a 30 minute repair job into nothing more than an hour and a half. That is not including the hour it take to find all of our tools back at the end of the day. Dave is a real sucker for kids so I some how let him talk me into taking Ervin and Jo Jo to lunch. Actually I am the one that suggested Dave but it sure didn’t take any arm twisting on my part. We had a great time with the kids and Ervin, whom some people refer to as Monster, was so good that I am seriously thinking of calling him by his real name.

Lionel is doing well and seems to be adjusting to his new surrounding ever since they moved him down stares from the malnutrition ward. He and Moises seem to hit it off great and Moises has no trouble getting him to laugh. I still hope that we can help get his parents the help that they need so that they feel that he could survive if he went back home, but for now I am glad that they are having him stay at Hermano Pedro.

Well since I did more writing than normal last weekend I am going to even things out a bit and keep this one short.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, February 10, 2009, 7:02 PM

This one is going to be short as well, because it was another one of those exciting go to the dentist, pay my bills, get my car fixed days. Actually the car fixing part of it was only suppose to last for about thirty minutes but today my mechanics abilities seemed to be right up there with Ervin’s. My original reason for going there was to see if he could sand down some of the bigger bubbles and runs that he left on the hood of my car when he repainted it for me a few weeks ago but then I decided to have him change my oil and replace a stud that broke off from one of my wheels on my last trip to Huehuetenango. Actually he did a fairly good job of replacing the broken off stud, at least I think so because my wheel has not fallen off yet. It was the oil change that seemed to be the problem this time. Seems that he some how stripped the threads on my fuel filter so I have to go back there tomorrow and get that fixed. He managed to Jerry rig another filter to my car so that I could drive it but I only got a hundred feet down the road before I turned around and had him redo that. I am not sure what kind of a filter it was but I quickly discovered that diesel only flowed through it fast enough to allow me to go about five miles per hour. It was probably a good thing that I had to go back though because while I was gone he found my air filter that he had entirely left off from my car. Oh as far as smoothing out the paint on the hood of my car is concerned, I have no Idea because it was pitch dark by the time that I got out of there.

I am still not at home because I had to stop off at the shop to pick up a few things. My computer was one of them. I intentionally left it there. Not that I think that my mechanic would steel it because he is one of he most honest men that I know. It’s just that I am a bit afraid that he may decide to do me a favor and try to repair or repaint it. I am going to leave those kind of things to professionals like Ervin and Elmer.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday February 11 2009

It seems that ever since school started back up the computers that are in my house have been going non stop. Knowing that I have computers that they can use most of the kids that had the opportunity signed up for computer classes. As long as the waiting lines are I may have to see if I can find one or two more that they can use. Yesterday I let a few of the kids use them while I was gone but I don't really like the idea of having them on them when I cannot monitor what they are looking at.

This morning I headed to the shop and got an electric wheelchair going for a man in Mazatenanto who up until now has only had a homemade wheelchair that some one had welded together for him from reebar. Dave Black, my friend from Canada decided to come along with me to Mazatenango. His Spanish is about as good as mine so we may have a fun time talking to the family of the man that we are going to give the power chair to.

On our way to Mazatenango we stopped off at Hope Haven's wheelchair factory in Antigua and helped seat a few kids that had come there to receive wheelchairs.

It seems really different not having any of the kids along. I miss them but have to admit it has been relaxing. Tonight we are staying at the Bamboo Motel. Why they call it the Bamboo when everything in the room including the beds are made from Cement is beyond me. Oh well I have been up since 4 AM so I have a feeling that I will be able to sleep on them. The only thing that I am not 100% sure of is weather or not I will be able to walk after sleeping in one. Guess the only way to find out is to try it, so goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, February 12, 2009, 9:41 PM

This morning Dave and I met Albergito’s father out on the Pan-American highway and followed him in to where he and his family lives. Albergito was sitting outside in his homemade wheelchair waiting for us. It had been over four months ago that I had met him at a wheelchair distribution that Bethel Ministry had near Mazatenango. At that time I had promised him that we would get a power wheelchair to him as soon as possible. Little did I realize at that time that as soon as possible would be four months but things have been a bit busy lately. If he or his parents had done any worrying that we would never show up they certainly did not show it today. Albergito who has CP was so excited that his hands were flailing all over the place so I had some doubts if he would be able to control his new power chair until he calmed down a bit, but once we showed him how to drive it and did some minor adjustments he did quite well. I have an idea that in no time at all he will have it down to a science. Since neither Dave or myself knew much Spanish we were wondering how we could convey to the family that we nor Bethe Ministries wanted the thanks but that this chair was being given to them because of the love of Jesus and we wanted God to have the glory. I guess that they some how knew because the entire family kept looking up towards heaven saying “Thank you Jesus”. Before we left Albergito’s father said a prayer of thanksgiving that had us all in tears.

On the way back home I asked Dave if he wanted to get off from the main highway and see some back country. He told me that he would like nothing better. The trip home took an extra hour and a half but was well worth it.

After dropping David off in Antigua I stopped in at Hermano Pedro for a few hours before heading home. When I went to Lionel’s bed I was surprised to see that he was not there because all but a hand full of kids were in bed. And he was not with the few that were still up (3 PM). Moises who was one of the fortunate ones that had not been put to bed at noon took me over to a crib that was on the other side of the room. There lay Lionel with an IV tube in his arm. He looked at me but I did not get the big smile that I usually get. Instead he just stared. When I reached down to pick him up I quickly discovered that he was running a fever. One of the care givers told me that it had gone down considerably since this morning and that he had given them quite a scare. I asked if he had experienced another seizure but she said no. I hope that she was right but often times the care givers are out of the room and seizures can go unnoticed. I pulled a chair up to his crib and took him out and held him for a long time. He certainly was not the smiling little boy that he was a few days ago but he did manage to give me a lopsided grin and even reached out to take hold of my hand. More and more I am realizing how fragile some of these kids are. I also realize how important it is to make their lives as pleasant as possible while they are with us. It takes so little but it means so much to them. I can not count the times that I have been asked by well meaning people what can we bring along from the States for the orphanage kids? I tell them that any toys that they bring them will be gone with in a few hours but if they are willing to give them their love it will mean more than they can imagine. After finally putting Lionel back into his crib I walked over to Jo Jo’s crib. He always feels bad if I do not at least come over and say hi to him. To my surprise Jo Jo who we had just taken to lunch on Monday also had an IV in his arm. He did not seem to be doing to bad though so I carried him out side for a few minutes. One at a time Moises, Byron, and Ervin, who were the only three kids that had not already been put to bed for the day came over and held on to Jo Jo’s hand for a while. Before leaving I went up to the malnutrition ward and checked to see how Alex was doing. I have not seen him for a while and I can see that he has actually put on some weight. I fear though that once he reaches 25 pounds they will move him back out of the malnutrition ward and he will once again fall back below 20 pounds. Not a good weight for a ten year old.

Since I was gone last night I had a big spaghetti feed for the kids tonight and even though there were about a dozen of us I managed to have some leftovers. That is a rarity around here. Usually I do not allow the kids to take any food home with them but tonight I told Alex that he could take what was left to his mother.

Well it is getting late and everyone that is going ot leave has left so I guess I will head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, February 13, 2009. 10:13 PM

This morning I picked up Tony and Marcia Banks, Cathy Christensen and her daughter, Emma, who came in from the USA late last night. After breakfast we went to Hermano Pedro where we spent a good part of the day. Both Tony and Marcia have been there before so it did not take them any time to warm up to the kids. Cathy and her daughter, Emma, had not been there before but they fit in like they had spent their lives with the orphanage kids. I later found out that Cathy has a daughter at home that has CP so that helped her and her daughter fit right in. We had a great time playing with the kids and an even better one taking five of them out to lunch. Dave Black also joined us so we were able to take five of the more active kids. After filling up on chicken and French fries we let the kids play on the playground equipment at Camperos. I think that the next time we do this I am going to invite some of the therapists from Hermano Pedro along. I often see them spend an hour trying to get kids like Ervin to move a few feet. Today he was climbing ladders and crawling all over the place. He even walked when he had something to hold on to for balance. If only the therapists could recognize that these kids are a lot more willing to do things if a little fun is involved.

After lunch we played with the kids for a while then we headed to Chimaltenango. Rosa, the mother of the girl that is blind had called last night telling me that she was out of blood pressure medicine, so we brought her some along with some groceries. Her 13 year old daughter told us that they have decided to stay in Chimaltenango so she started going back to school. Her little brother will also be starting school on Monday. I am very happy for them because they did not think that they would be able to attend school this year.

After a nice visit I took them to see Bethel’s wheelchair shop. Chris was there so he gave them the grand tour. I could see that they were impressed by how many people this ministry has reached.

After seeing the shop we headed to one of my favorite restaurants for supper. Unfortunately it was closed so we decided to go to Antigua where we had a good meal.

It is now 10:33 and the three kids that have decided to make my place their home tonight are getting hungry. If it were not for the need for food I think I would have a lot of free time on my hands.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, February 14, 2009 7:25 PM

Today Tony and Marcia, Cathy, and Emma, joined Abner, Fernando, Alex, and myself and we went and visited Ronny and his family. Actually almost all of my kids wanted to come along today but I simply did not have room for the entire crew. I promised some of the others that they can join us on Monday because we plan on visiting Maria and her family then.

It is about a two hour drive to Ronny’s home but we did a lot of visiting on the way. Fact is I must have been right in the middle of one of my stories when we got to where I was suppose to turn off from the Pan Am Highway and go south, because we found ourselves a few miles beyond our turn off before I realized that I had driven right past the road that we were suppose to take. It sort of reminded me of my Grandfather who use to get so involved about the story that he was telling that he would ramble on and on without even . . . . . . . . . . . . Any way you get the point. Now where was I? O yah, any way at least we didn’t end up in Mexico before I realized my mistake and it gave my visitors the opportunity to see a bit more of the countryside.

Ronny and his family were delighted to see us and it did not take long before each one of my guests was either visiting with Ronny’s parents or holding a child in their arms. I wish that I could say that everything is going great at Ronny’s place but Alverto, Ronny’s father told us that just yesterday his brother who lives just up the trail, came onto Ronny’s yard with a machete and said that he was going to kill Ronny’s entire family. Alverto showed us the plastic table that once sat on their porch. Ronny’s uncle had chopped it to shreds. There are also dents and large scratches that were made with the machete on the metal door to their home. Uncle never did get in but said that he would be back. I am sure that there is more involved but From what I am being told a lot of this has to do with the fact that Ronny is in a wheelchair and not only uncle but his entire family, and Ronny’s grandmother hate the fact that they have a handicapped relative. For the time being just to avoid getting anywhere near to where uncle lives Ronny, his brother, and sisters have to take a much longer and rougher trail to school. This makes it a lot more difficult for Ronny to get to school in his wheelchair. Please pray for piece in this family.

While we were there we cut a small hole in the roof of Ronny’s house and reinstalled the chimney of the airtight stove that we had built shortly after building their home. The old chimney had run out of a window at an odd angle and from my days of grade school science I seem to remember that smoke rises better then it goes down hill. At least it is my hope that mother will now be able to cook without breathing in a lot of smoke.

Before we left Tony prayed for the family. Just before that all of the kids had brought out workbooks and proudly showed us what they had been doing in school. I looked over at their parents and through the fear and uncertainty could see a bit of pride in their eyes. I think that it is their prayer that an education will help give their children the opportunity to at least a bit of an easier life than they have had.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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