* 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, March 24, 2009

Journal March 18-24

(Click on any picture to enlarge)

The group from Jericho Ridge Church is still with us and since they are journaling their entire stay I will continue to post their journals for the next few days. I am sure that most of you welcome reading some one else’s account of what is happening here as much as I welcome the break from sitting at my computer for several hours each night. I’m Sorry I could not find anyone that was willing to translate these next few entries from Canadian into English so you are going to have to struggle you way through it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

– Food & Clothing distribution // 2nd House building

We did 5 additional distributions today. The first family had 5 kids. They were a very shy family. They were cooking in the house and the smoke pretty much fills up the place. The baby was sick so we prayed for the baby and for God’s grace and presence in their lives.

At the second house, the lady opens up her house as a church for the local community. There are about 19 people who meet there regularly. She had three kids and the eldest was out working in the field. She served us Coke in the traditional round plastic bucket. The walls were painted bright blue and there was artwork on the walls. There were cobwebs on wooden rafters filled with spider eggs. The kids were very proud to show us their schoolwork and we were so proud of them. The primary school goes up to grade 6 but many many kids are not able to attend. It is illegal for schools to kick kids out if the don’t have supplies or black shoes but that doesn’t stop them from disallowing them from attending.

At the third home, the eldest son Ephraim, hauled the heavy 60-pound bag of groceries. The 3 boys were all wearing gumboots and when we said we were going to pray for them, they all hit their knees. The father had been in an accident and it was great to see him show a level of leadership and pride in his home and family – something you don’t always see in Guatemala. Chris told a fabulous story about hauling a refrigerator up a hillside on his back and they serious mom even cracked a smile.

Meanwhile, back at the building site, we started out differently by having to haul materials out of the center of the ?...? (Brad must not have known the Canadian word for this so he left it blank. Had I been doing the writing I would have at least inserted the word EH.)

Many people complained during our time here about the lack of industriousness amongst locals. But our team – Saul, Jorje and Carlos – man, those guys can work! If they hadn’t assisted us, we’d still be there mixing concrete.

When Chris had gone up the week prior to tell this lady about the home and he told her that she was going to receive a concrete floor she cried. She has two kids – for some reason her and her husband were separate and she wasn’t too sad about it. It must have been a tough situation for her. Chris told her ‘when we build you this house, people won’t be able to look inside your house anymore through the cracks’. She laughed.

The houses themselves are 16x15 and they look fantastic and are highly functional. This one had a bit of a back yard so we allowed for a second exit at the rear. It’s a great situation. We had a great team leader in Howie. He’s a builder and a professional but has an incredible way of giving a team ownership of the project. He was a patient leader but would say what needed to be said to keep things on project. There was a pride on doing a good job of the project and so we dedicated it and then piled into the van for the 30-minute ride home to Coban.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

– Second Wheelchair distribution at Tactic

We pulled up to what we are now feeling like and affectionately referring to as ‘our neighborhood’ – just off the main road in Tactic just underneath the cemetery. We had about 30 chairs to distribute and there were many stories that came out of this experience. Here are just a few…

• One older lady had been carried in by her family. When they picked her up she was covered in fleas. Some of our team fitted her for a chair and afterwards she was so pleased that she said ‘I don’t want to leave’. At the prayer station we noticed that she was falling out of her chair so we went back and got Saul and he put a seatbelt on her chair. This was the same lady who had Alzheimer’s and didn’t know her name or her age. This story really touched me because my grandmother passed away from Alzheimer’s in December.

• One of our team members collects wheelchairs in the Vancouver area and he commented on how much he appreciates coming down and seeing the end result of the collection projects. From collection out of rest homes and from private individuals and clinics right through shipping to in-country distribution – it’s an amazing motivation and fulfilling experience to see the smiling faces of the people.

• We had a blind lady who didn’t want to let go of anybody and so she became number 1 on a list. She was precious, as were all the older ladies. One team member commented on how they all reminded her of her own great grandmother and how she wanted to take them all home.

• Ralph told one lady that we came all the way from Canada for this hug and so she made a point to come around to every station and gave hugs out again and again. Too fun!

• There was a man named Pedro who was injured in a fire and only had one leg. We were able to provide him with a wheelchair and crutches and when he came to the prayer station, the pastor’s wife asked him if he was sad. He said ‘no, I have the joy of the Lord in my life!’

• and there were the children.

We also went over to the house we built on Tuesday for Odelia and her 6 daughters for a food and clothing distribution. The girls were so excited. They were going to school that afternoon and we provided them with new backpacks, several outfits apiece, and some silly putty. We rolled the silly putty into balls and since the floor was cement and they hadn’t moved in yet, the silly putty was flying around that house! They gave us about 6 hugs on the way out the door and we felt like we had a special connection with them. Odelia’s story is a tragic one. Her husband died suddenly 13 months ago.

I just got off from the phone with Stephen Snell. Many of you know Stephen from stories that I have told about him. Others have had the privilege of meeting him. Stephen father Ray has been fighting Cancer for several years now. This morning Ray passed away. I considered flying home for the funeral but since it is spring break in the States it looks like getting a ticket will be impossible.

FRIDAY, March 20, 2009

– Visiting Hermano Pedro Orphanage, Antigua
This morning, we went with Dick to the orphanage. What a blast! For some of our team they were a bit nervous and apprehensive but it became a very emotional and powerful experience. For some of our team, they have grown kids and haven’t fed kids in a while but the love and compassion that came out today was incredible to behold. A good amount of our team cannot speak the language, but here, all of that melts away as the only language you need to speak is love.
Dick gave us a tour of Hermano Pedro, where he spends about ½ of his time. He took us through the teens, the school they have sponsored in one of he rooms and then onto the pediatric ward. Here we met kids from all different backgrounds with one common theme – their infectious smiles. They have a saying here that these kids are little thieves because one encounter with them and they steal your heart.

Some of our team had been here last year. They were so excited to connect with kids they had seen. One was named Jo Jo and he is an amazing kid. Immediately today, when he saw them, he lit up like a Christmas tree! That’s how much affection means to these kids. Many of them spend much of their time either in their chairs or in their cribs.

We took the kids out to lunch at Camperos (while some went to visit another wheelchair production facility here in town for Hope Haven).
Lunch was so much fun! These kids love spending time out and about in the square and in the play area. I had a little guy named Bobby. He was a French fry monster. If you think that Dick thought Bobby was messy with his eating until today, I finally found a man who loves condiments as much as I do! We mixed ketchup and ranch sauce and mustard and we were all set to go. We got so dirty – it was a blast! Eventually, we decided that fries were just a receptacle and we should go straight to the source. It’s probably against Camperos policies, but we began dumping ketchup straight from the bottle right into his mouth! Cutting out the middleman, that’s what it’s all about for Bobby!

I also had a neat experience… There was a businessman sitting across from us and he kept looking at us. I wasn’t sure what he was thinking but as he finished up his meal he came over and asked if he could say something to me. I wasn’t sure what he would say but he insisted that he wanted to share in English. He shared that he was a local hotel manager and he told me that he was so impressed with our group and how we showered love on the kids. He expressed in his broken English that emotion was welling up in his heart and he began to cry. It was a very emotional experience for me to see his heart softened and touched in that way.

Dick often asks teams about the highlights of their trip and they say “The orphanage.” He then asks them “What has been the hardest part of your trip?” and they say “The orphanage”. It’s a mix of emotions and it stays with you forever.

One of the amazing learning experiences was, what elements of this will translate into our lives and experiences back home? There are people with disabilities everywhere and they are marginalized in many ways. This kind of experience gives us the courage and motivation to step out in love and meet the needs of the people around us.

One other huge take-home experience was the reminder that every person is made in the image of God. That these people are image bearers and that everyone is of value and dignity and worth. From getting right down in the dirt with people in their homes to pray, to massaging old ladies feet or gals with CP… There is sometimes a sense that you are coming from your position of affluence and comfort to minister to the least of these. But what ends up happening is that you learn so much about courage and compassion and the love of Christ from these people. What beautiful people with so much to teach us.

This week has been spent with another one of those teems that we hate to see leave. They came here with a common goal - To love and to serve - and that goal was met. It did not seem to matter that most of them could not speak Spanish, because they all spoke a language that rang out much clearer than that, it was the language of love, not just any love but the love of Christ. Thanks gang for allowing not only the Guatemalan people but all of us here in Guatemala to be able to see Jesus in each and every one of you!

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, March 21, 2001

Wow, I am not sure if I can do this but today I am going to have to write my own journal. I was going to try to get the Jericho Ridge Group to do it again but those that I asked said that they didn’t think that they could find the time since I would be picking them up at their motel at 4:15 AM to take them to the airport.

I got back home at around 6 AM and had full intentions of going back to bed for a few hours but some how got doing other things and before I knew it it was 8 AM and time to leave for Huehuetenango. I had promised the mother of Silsi (See February 2 journal) that I would pick her and her daughter up and bring them to Hermano Pedro to see the doctor on Monday and since they are over five hours away I decided to leave a few days early so that I could see some other people that lived in the same area. Today David, my friend from Canada who has been doing a lot of traveling with me, and two of my boys, Calin and Fernando came along with me. Since the boys are only going to miss one day of school I gave them the OK.

About 4 hours into our trip we turned of the main road and drove up to San Francisco. This small town is well named because much like San Francisco California everything is located on a hillside and all of the streets are very steep. Even though I have finally memorized the roads that lead to the trail that we walk to get to Erica’s house today we had a rough time getting there. Several of the streets in town were dug up and the only one that seemed to head the right direction was marked with a one-way sign. Going the wrong way down one-way streets is generally not a problem here in Guatemala, and even though this one had a lot of blind corners on it and was also located on the side of a cliff would have made it a bit more of a challenge we would have been willing to try it had it not been for a rather stern looking policeman that was holding a very intimidating looking rifle in his hands. After at least a half hour of driving around we finally reached the place where I usually park my car. I noticed that some work had been done on the trail and since there were no one way signs on it and no cops around I put my car into four-wheel drive and continued on. About a half-mile further we got to a spot in trail that proved to be too much of a challenge for even a Land Cruiser. It wasn’t very steep or even all that muddy but there was simply no way that my Land Cruiser was going to fit on the narrow foot bridge that crossed a small river. At least we had made it to with in a quarter mile or so of Erica’s house. Usually I am not all that lazy and I actually like walking but today we had lots of medicine to carry in. Everyone helped out though and in no time at all we were at her house. Erica’s mom told us that they had run out of medicine about a week ago and judging by the way her skin looked I was glad that we had gotten to her when we did. Erica and her family were in good spirits though, and when it was time to go it was hard to say good-bye. Before leaving I gave Erica’s mom a bag that contained some Urea. I told her that it is a more powerful medicine than the Ammonium Lactate that they are presently using but said that I wanted them to try it on one of her legs to see if it gives better results. It seems that the Ammonium lactate is working well on the rest of Erica’s body but her legs and feet continue to have leather like scales on them that seem to grow back instantly even when they do fall off. I told mother to stop using the Urea if she saw any side effects and to contact us immediately. Some times it is a bit scary playing doctor, but in Erica’s case and many others there are few alternatives. I am very grateful though for doctors that have been willing to go with me to places like Erica’s and continue to correspond with me giving me advice on how to treat some of these things that we run into. If there are any doctors reading this that would like to spend some time on the road with me please let me know.

After leaving Erica’s house we hiked up to where Christopher lives. I think that he and his family had seen my car parked down the trail while I was at Erica’s because he and his entire family were waiting for us in front of their home. Christopher’s mother told us that he is now having seizures on a daily bases and is also suffering from frequent nosebleeds. She had been taking him to a doctor in Xela but when she ran out of money the doctor refused to see him anymore. One of the reasons for this visit was to talk with her about having her and Christopher come back to Antigua with us on Monday so that he could see a specialist at Hermano Pedro. She told us that they would go so we are planning on going to their home after picking up Silsi and her mother on Monday.

There is a foosball table here in the motel and the boys have challenged me to a game, so I guess I better get my priorities straight and go out and play for a while.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Once again I have been given a night off. David has offered to do today’s journal. I am not sure if everyone is offering to do this for me simply because they want to be nice or if it is because they are tired of reading what I have been writing. Either way I am grateful when ever I can get a night off.

Here then is,

“Sunday According to Dave.”

Well, I am back on the road again with Dick, Roland (Dick´s Swedish friend who translates and keeps good records), Fernando and Calin ( 2 of Dick’s boys from Chimal ). We are in Huehuetenango, visiting some families and bringing 2 (hopefully), children back with us to Antigua on Mon. to see a neurologist on Tuesday.

We are staying at a very nice hotel in Huehue, where we enjoyed a 40Q brekky (I'm not sure if this is a Canadian word or a Dave word. Dick) this a.m.

We then went to the new Maxi store here ( the local Wal-Mart ), where Dick bought some groceries for 2 families we are to visit today. Before leaving the store, we think we asked the security guard where the A.T.M. was , but with our Espanola, we could have asked ,¨Where is the money?¨ God must have been translating for us, because we did find the A.T.M., and no shots were fired!

Our first stop was at Maria Garcia’s house in a village north of here. She is a wonderful lady who helps Dick distribute school sponsorship monies and groceries to local families here.

She also looks after her 4 yr. old grandson, Luis, whose mother deserted him about 2 years ago and then his 28 year old father passed away last yr. By the sound of things a good doctor could have done something for him. Unfortunately he went to three bad ones first and each one told him that he had something different. By the time the family got enough money together to see a fourth doctor it was to late to do anything for him.

Most of Maria’s daughters and other grandchildren also live with her - what a beautiful family. Dick is going to see what can be done to get sponsors for a few of Maria’s grandchildren because Maria spends countless hours helping others in her community while she and her family go with out even the basic necessities.

After about a 2 hr. meeting with Maria, we headed to Gabriela´s to repair her daughter’s wheelchair. Ever since her husband deserted her Gabriel has been having a rough time providing for her three children. One of them is in a wheelchair and Gabriel herself suffers from frequent Seizures.

We had a lunch at a small tienda on the Pan-Am highway, where some men loading a dump truck with sand offered me a shovel. I politely declined. (What Dave has failed to mention is that when we paid the bill for the food the lady that served us told us that even thought this was not a place that normaly served food we were welcome to eat here any time that we were in the neighborhood. We are all still wondering what kind of a place this was if it wasn’t a tienda.)

After lunch we headed to Lionel’s family house, with Maria in tow - she speaks Spanish and Mam, the local Mayan dialect. We dropped off the groceries, and discussed with Lionel’s mom and dad when would be a good time to return Lionel to his family. He has more than doubled his weight since arriving at Hermano Pedro last Aug., but misses his mom and dad.

The doctor had told Dick on Friday past, that Lionel could go home, only if he received proper food, otherwise he would probably lose all that he has gained. After talking with mom and dad, they thought it was best to keep him in Hermano Pedro, and bring him home only for the Christmas break. They really do not have the money or resources right now to properly care for him.

After visiting with Lionel’s family, we visited the ¨medicine lady¨, whose daughter’s son Edgar, needs a special chair. We found out today that she was headed to the States, and was attacked and raped in Mexico. She returned to Guatemala, had her son, and even though he is severely handicapped she loves him very much. We gave this family some groceries, and Dick measured Edgar for a chair.

Our last stop was at Rolando’s house, a 21 yr. old young man who runs a tienda, and very much wants to learn, so Dick, Maria, and Roland have arranged for a teacher to come to his house and teach him. Rolando brought us 4 Pepsi’s, and opened them all for us - this time with a bottle opener, last time it was with his teeth!

I should mention that Dick had 4 yr. old Luis on his lap steering most of the day, and taught (?) him to honk at all the ladies!
(Only because I though it was more polite than the whistling and wolf calls that Dave was telling my boys to do.)


(Hay Dave, what about trinket shopping?) :<{)

Thank you Lord, for this day.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Written by Dick

Today was one of those bittersweet ones. My original reason for heading up to Huehuetenago on Saturday was to bring Silsi, the girl that we had taken there to see the doctor a few weeks ago, back in to Hermano Pedro to see a neurologist. A local doctor who had already taken every cent that Silsi’s family ever had, has now somehow convinced the family that a $100 injection will cure their daughter so they decided to go that route. He also told her family that he needs every cent of the money before he works his magic. Unfortunately I have a strong feeling that the only magic that they will se is a vanishing act of the money that they have borrowed from friends and relatives. How some of these so-called doctors can live with them selves is beyond me. Our hands are tied but we told the family that we will still be there for them if things do not go well and they decide that they want their daughter to see a specialist.

The good side of this trip is that we were able to make lots of contacts and get a lot done in terms of children and families that we are finding sponsors for. Most of these people are kids that we are putting in or helping stay in school but some are being helped out with life giving medicine and a few are simply going to receive groceries. I know that it is better to teach a person how to fish than it is to simply give them a fish to eat but I think that it bares repeating that it is difficult to fish if you have not eaten in several days. Perhaps once they are strong enough to walk to the river we will teach them how to fish.

Another positive note is that Christopher and his family came back to Hermano Pedro with us. I guess Doctor Cureall did not get to them. Tomorrow Christopher plans on seeing the neurologist that Silsi’s family were suppose to have an appointment with.

It was quite late by the time I got Christopher and his family a place to stay and even later by the time that I got home because I had promised them that I would take them to Camperos for supper. (I am seriously looking into seeing if I can buy stock in Camperos in hopes that I can get a bit of a discount every time that I eat there.

When I pulled into my alley this evening I was greeted by at least a dozen kids. By the time the corn flakes box hit the table there were at least another four or five. It seems that they think that visiting with them is more important than my writing in this journal so I am going to close for now.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, March 24, 2009, 8:11 PM

Wow, I am finally caught up enough that I am writing my journal on the actual day that I am writing about. It seems that even though others have done several of my journal entries for me I have still been at least one to two dasy behind for the past few weeks. Today I had enough down time while sitting at Hermano Pedro for Christopher to see various doctors that I actually got caught up. Normally I would have gone into the orphanage part of Hermano Pedro and spent time with the kids between Christopher’s doctor appointments but I picked up a bad cold while I was up in Huehuetenango and did not want to share it with the orphanage kids. I am not pointing any fingers, but Roland had a bad cold when we met with him on Saturday night and soon after that David, who roomed with him developed one as well. None of the kids seemed to catch it but Roland and Dave managed to share it with me as well. I guess that I can’t complain though because I did manage to get a lot of e-mails answered today and also got caught up on this journal.

Helen, the little girl from Comolapa also came into Hermano Pedro today. Both her and Christopher have to go into the city to have further tests done on May 3 so Roland and I are planning on taking them there. A day in the city is not my favorite thing to do but I didn’t want them to try to get there by buss, especially considering that both of the kids are in wheelchairs. One good thing though they originally had us going to a place in Zone 1 but have now changed it to zone 9. Zone 1 is not exactly the place where 2 gringos care to wonder around asking for directions.When I got home tonight I was feeling rotten but there was no way that after once again being on the road for a few days that I could tell the kids that they could not come in. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do for supper because I did not feel well enough to stop off for groceries. Fortunately Alex’s mom came to my door selling some traditional street food. I have learned from experience that it is not wise to buy street food from just anyone, especially when there are so many of you and only one bathroom, but I have eaten at Alex’s house and his mother is a great cook. Besides that her floors are much cleaner than my dishes. Alex’s mom was delighted with the money, (about 36 cents per kid) and I was delighted with not having to cook. I know the kids would have gladly cooked but since I had not stocked back up on groceries we would have had to settle for pancakes again. Don’t get me wrong, I like pancakes but getting the missflipped ones removed from the ceiling still proves to be a chore.

Calin’s half brother Daniel was relieved of his bike yesterday. Two men with knives not so politely asked him for it. Daniel felt that a $30 bike was not worth his life so he gave it to him.

I let the kids stay until about 8 PM and then told them that I needed some quiet time. I am not sure if they are listing better or if I looked sick enough that they had pity on me but they all left with out a lot of threatening.

Well all of my sneezing is starting to fog up my computer screen so I guess that I will call it a night.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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