* 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 24, 2009

Journal April 17-24

(Click on any picture to enlarge)

Friday, April 17, 2009, 9:12 PM

Bethel Ministries had a wheelchair distribution this morning but I actually took the advice of my doctor and at least a dozen people that advised me to get some rest. Some times I think that trying to rest is harder than working though. I did manged to get caught up on my journaling and even got it published so that was a good feeling. I have not heard how the wheelchair distribution went but Chris told me that it was going to be only about 20 chairs and there were going to be no specialty fittings. Nice thing is that more and more of our people here are getting good at fitting even the difficult cases so I do feel like I have to be there. I still miss it when I am not there though.

I kept the gate locked until later this after noon but that did not keep the kids from knocking. My doorbell finally gave up the ghost. I think that at an average of at least 25 rings a day it must have set some type of record before it finally gave out.

There were 15 of us for supper tonight but I honestly did not have to lift a hand. I did have to lift my feet to keep them out of the coke that Calin spilled on the floor though. He did a fairly good job of cleaning it up but it still feels like you have suction cups on the bottom of your shoes when you walk through my house.

There would have been 16 of us for supper but Jason left early. Not his choice but mine. I finally got the printer the kids use for home work going again. I think I am going to have to find a place where I can buy printer ink by the gallon. Jason asked if he could print one small picture and I told him yes but made him promise that he would only print the one picture. Most of my kids are now trustworthy enough that I do not have to watch them like a hawk. Jason has not yet proven himself to be one of them. He will be allowed back into my house tomorrow night. But will not be allowed to use the computer for a week. Seven of my kids are delighted with the seven full page color pictures that I confiscated from Jason before sending him out of the gate.

I told three of the kids that since it was Friday I would let them spend the night. Come to think of it I am not sure that Friday had much to do with it because that is the exact number that stayed over last night.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Defying gravity

I was still coughing a bit this morning so I decided to give my self a day off, head for the beach, and just relax in the sun. The nine kids that came along with me thought that it was a great idea as well. Actually it was a relaxing day and seeing how much the kids enjoyed themselves made it a lot more enjoyable than it would have been had I gone alone. One thing that really helped was that Lesley, Fernando’s 19 year old aunt, came along and helped keep an eye on the younger kids. I may have to do a repeat of this trip in a few weeks because there were just too many kids with good report cards for me to take the entire group today.

We stopped off at Burger King for supper because I did not want to cook for 12 of us when we got home. It didn’t do much good though because there were 8 or 9 others at the gate when I got home and there was no way that I could say no to them after taking the others out all day.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

An even dozen kids came along to church this morning and then Burger King for lunch. I really had planned on healthier food for lunch but everything else was closed because the electricity has been off all day.

After lunch I broke away from the group. I had not been to the orphanage in quite some time and I wanted to see how the kids were doing. My kids from home were not al that happy about me going there without them but last time that I took a few of hem along they got a little lively and Fryer …… was not to pleased. Actually in the nine years that I have know him I have never seen the man smile but then again perhaps the poor man has a permanent case of indigestion. I only stayed at the orphanage for a few hours but it was good to see the kids.

Lionel seems to be doing well but he still misses his family. I spent a lot of time visiting with him, which he truly liked but he was not to pleased when I had to put him back to bed. It looks like we are going to be able to fix up and add on to his house sometime in June. I am not sure weather or not his family will be able to care for him even after this is done but at lest his Father, mother, and five siblings will be more comfortable. I know that Lionel’s parents really love him but I can also see their concern that he might not make it if he returns home. Who is to say what the right thing to do is in some of these situations. Not all that many weeks ago Lisvi’s parents, who live little more than an hour from Lionel, acted out of love when they made the decision to take her home instead of leaving her at Hermano Pedro and she died a few weeks later.

Many of you have been asking about Jose, the Two and a half year old boy that weighed in at 8 pounds. I personally think that Jose is proving that if you are feisty enough you will survive. Jose still has a feeding tube and is in no ways fat but he is doing much better. Fact is he seems happier most of the time and was happy as a clam while I held him today. Putting him back into his crib was another story though. I think that he could give ErvIn a run for his money if they were to have a screaming match.

Karen the little girl that Mike and Karen Rea brought in a few weeks ago seems to be doing well. Other than finding out the hard way that her diapers were not leek proof, I enjoyed holding her for a while.

Another little angle is Lesley, a little girl that arrived at the orphanage about same time as Karen. Lesley was not as malnourished as Karen when she arrived so she was not put into the malnutrition ward but was put in to the regular ward. Lesley is blind and has some other complications but she has an extremely sweet personality. I am going to try and find a wheelchair for her as well as Karen and several others with in the next few days.

At 4:30 I headed for home. Why? I guess you might say I sort of bribed the kids when I went to the orphanage on my own. Before leaving for the orphanage I stopped off and reserved a soccer field for 5:00 PM. I guess I sort of spoiled them this weekend but I figured the $3 that I paid for the soccer field was a good investment. From the looks of the number of kids that showed up I think that they agreed. The hour’s fun ended up costing me 20 cent per kid.Jason has been allowed back into my house but lately he is requiring me to spend as much time on my knees praying for patients with him as I do praying that I have patients with Etiline. Not many of the kids that come to my house are from 2 parent families. Jason is. I am beginning to wonder if his parents send him over here so that they can get a rest or if they perhaps have something against me. Jason can be a very nice kid and I think that he is quite intelligent. I guess his problem is he just doesn’t think. It is hard to explain. I know that he hears me when I ask him not to put a loaf of bread or a dozen cellophane wrapped hot dogs into the microwave for 45 minutes but as soon as I turn my back he goes and does it anyway. I have also tried several times to tell him that a drinking glass will not hold 3 liters of coke but he just doesn’t seem to get it.

Well all of the kids that are leaving for the night have left. I am tying to decide weather or not to mop my floor before going to bed. Since Jason is one of the kids that is staying I think that I will wait until after breakfast in the morning.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cesar and Abner had no school so they accompanied me to Hermano Pedro this morning. After meeting with Jessica and going over a long list of kids that have outgrown their wheelchairs the 2 boys and I took 3 of the orphanage kids out to lunch. Guess what we actually had a lunch that was good for us and it was not at Camperos. The coffee house that my church runs has turned into a restaurant that has great food and a wonderful atmosphere. There is a large grassey courtyard that the kids love to play in. After lunch we went back to the orphanage and spend some time with the kids.

Today I met some ladies that are from the town where Lesley lives. To my surprise Lesly is from Santa Rosa. This is the same town that I brought Daniel and Byron in form to see the doctor last week. This is also the town where we had a wheelchair distribution and built a house in the week before that. I guess we missed a few people though because today the ladies that were at the orphanage showed me pictures of Lesley’s family. Lesley’s mom cannot walk and has to get around on all fours. I also discovered that the house where and here other 4 children live in is not fit for a pig. Tomorrow I plan on copying down all of the information and turning it in at our office. I wish that I could have promised the ladies that saw me today that something would be done, but our list of people that need houses and wheelchairs is an ever growing one so it makes it impossible to help everyone. Praise God for those that we can reach though.

. . . Lock out night tonight.

The kids hate it when I do that and actually so do I but some times that is the only way that I can get caught up on things. I had to go out and get in Alex’s face a few minutes ago. He got the idea that if he continued to knock on the gate long enough and hard enough he would get results. He tried to get my attention by doing that and making at least 20 phone calls where he would dial my number and then quickly hang up before I answered my phone. It worked, Alex got my attention. When I finally went to the gate I got his attention and I think that he now understands that he is not to do that again. I finally opened the gate at around 9 but all but a few of the kids scattered. I guess that they had heard my conversation with Alex and did not want to stick around for a repeat performance. Nancy’s boy friend and Abner came in for a while but all of the other kids are staying clear of me until they know that I have calmed down a bit. I hate it when I get mad at these kids but they know that I love them and they will all be back tomorrow night and perhaps instead of demanding to come into the house they will politely ask.

Well I am tired and bed looks pretty inviting so I guess that I will call it a night.

Yours in Christ: Dick (the neighborhood grouch)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Either my kids are forgetful or perhaps they are just quick to forgive; then again they may have been hungry enough that they were willing to take their chances.
Earlier today I went to the orphanage and refit a few kids in their wheelchairs. Lesley, the little girl that came in a few weeks ago finally has a wheelchair. Now I have to come up with one for Marvin, the little boy whose wheelchair I gave to Lesley. I usually do not rob Peter to pay Paul but Marvin had clearly outgrown this wheelchair.

All of my neighborhood kids had school today and I could not find any adults to help me take any of the kids to lunch so I could only take Byron along today. Ervin clearly vocalized his disapproval. If he has stopped his screaming by tomorrow I may take him then.

Well my house is still full of kids and several of them are in need of some first aid.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Another day at the orphanage today. There were lots of groups of volunteers there today. Some of the visitors looked a bit shell shocked and just stood motionless staring at the kids. I think that they wanted to help but were just too overwhelmed to know where to start, so they did nothing. Others were dressed up like clowns and animals. They did their best to entertain the kids. This is a good way to do something for the kids without getting too emotionally involved. It doesn’t hurt quite as much that way. There were others that made them selves a bit more vulnerable. They actually took hold of the wheelchairs that some of the kids were in and pushed them around the courtyard. I even saw a few of them reach down and touch whoever it was that they were playing with on the head. Some of them even did this with out reaching for their bottles of hand sanitizers immediately after touching a child. There was another group there that really caught my eye though. I could see it in their eyes that they were there to love on these kids whatever the cost. Oh yes they were a bit nervous being in the orphanage for the first time. It can be a scary place. They had no idea weather or not they were even allowed to hold the children, and I am sure that they were afraid that they would possibly hurt a child if they did pick one up and hold him or her wrong. There was something about this group though that told me that once they were told that it was OK to hold the kids and once they were shown how to hold some of the more severe ones, they would swoop them up into their ungloved hands and love on them in a way that the children really needed to be loved. All I had to do is pick up one little girl and ask who wanted to hold her and soon the entire group asked if they could hold someone. I am sure that these people know that it was going to be hard to say goodbye to these kids when it was time to go. They probably even know in advance that they would likely get emotional and shed some tears. I am not sure if they know that it would have been wise to take a change of clothing with them but I don’t think that mattered much to them. You see, they came to love, unconditionally and with no strings attached. They came to show these kids that they cared because Jesus cared. They came to love on them and pray over them in a "Jesus way." In the same way that Jesus put our needs before His, these people put the needs of the children ahead of their own. What if Jesus had said, “I am uncomfortable with this I just can’t do it.” Once again today, I had the privilege of seeing Jesus shine through in some of his children that were indeed images of a Father that loved them. Thanks Gang. I don’t think that I caught any of your names of even the name of your group, but you made it evident that you are my brothers and sisters. You made that evident to the kids as well.

All of the groups had other commitments for lunch so I was only able to one of the kids along with me. Ervin has not had an easy time watching me take other kids the past few days so today I decided that I would take him. This choice was a good one . This kid who is generally locked in his crib from 1 or 2 PM had the time of his life. I must admit though he certainly has a mind of his own. I have watched the therapists at Hermano Pedro try to get him to walk. If he is in the mood he will take a few steps for them but if he decides that he is going to sit down and not move you couldn’t get him to move with dynamite. This afternoon after we ate I took him over to Camperos play ground equipment and once I got him out o his wheelchair there was no stopping him.

I spent the rest of my afternoon with a Christian Brother, 90 year old Father Bernardo. Cesar, the man whose leg we have been treating for quite some time, and his family are Roman Catholic. Since it is still difficult for Cesar to get out of his house Father Bernardo had offered to go to his home and do sacraments with him. Father Bernardo knows that I am not Roman Catholic but he asked me if I would take him there so that he could perform the Sacraments with Cesar and his brother who also has difficulty walking. While Father Bernardo and Cesar were doing sacraments I had a great time visiting with the rest of Cesar’s family. This family has been so grateful that some one has been willing to take the time to help Cesar that they can’t stop thanking God for what they consider a miracle. Do they differ with me on Christian doctrine? Undoubtedly. Are we able to pry together and thank the one true God for what he has done? Unquestionably! I see the love of God shine through in this family in a way that is unbelievable. It is my prayer that they see that same love in me.

On our way back to the orphanage Father Bernardo and I had a lengthy discussion about true Christianity. I would love to share that discussion with you but unfortunately this was one of these days when Father Bernardo could not remember witch of the four languages that he speaks, I can understand. So I did not get much of what he said. I think that it had something to do with loving orphans and widows. I am not sure though but we still had a great time of fellowship.

I guess the word got out that I had sent 2 of the boys to town for some roasted chicken because tonight there were 17 of us around the dinner table. What was going to be a chicken dinner for 10 to 12 had to be stretched out into chicken sandwiches for 17 but everyone left the table satisfied. Well almost everyone. Calin complained that he was still hungry. Then again I could have given Calin both chickens and all three loves of bread and he would have likely asked for more.

At 9 PM I told the kids that it was time to leave. Three of them told me that they were spending the night and two more asked if they could. I had no problem deciding what to say to the three that told me that they were staying, but I still needed to get some work done and did not want to get up at 6 AM to get the kids off to school so I told the two kids that had asked, no as well.

Well it is getting late so I think that I will close for now. I am not going to head straight off to bed though. Instead I think that I will just sit here and listen to the silence.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Before leaving for the orphanage this morning I received a phone call from the clinic that I had just visited last week. Doctor Jose speaks about as much English as I do Spanish so our conversation was brief. I understood enough of it to know that it was about Melvin though and I knew that things were not good. I told him that I would call Donna and have her call him. Fifteen minutes later Donna called me saying that the doctor said that Milton was at the clinic and the doctor had told her that things did not look good. The doctor said that Milton appeared to have pneumonia and was wondering if we know of a hospital that he could come to. As hard as it was I had to tell Donna that because of their fear that they may be contagious, Hermano Pedro will not accept anyone into the malnutrition ward if they are running any type of fever, and about the only choice was the national hospital. Neither Donna nor Chris knew of any other alternative either so Donna had to call the doctor back with the bad news. I have not heard anything back from the Clinic yet but may try to call them this evening or tomorrow.

When I got to the orphanage I got a few more wheelchairs fixed and took another kid to lunch. Today Roberto (Bobby) got to come along to Camperos. What ever money this restaurant made on the kids that I brought in this week I doubt that they broke even because of all of the napkins that I used trying to keep up with everything that Bobby spilled. I tried to only mop up when absolutely necessary because the messier Bobby gets the happier he becomes. The combination of colors in his hair from the ranch dressing, ketchup, and sweet and sour sauce would have put any punk rocker to shame. He was a bit disgusted with me for trying to clean him up before pushing his wheelchair back to the orphanage but I was afraid that I would get fined for polluting the streets if any of that stuff fell off from him.

After returning to the orphanage I worked on a few more wheelchairs. This was not a fast process because the only 3 kids that had not already been put to bed for the day decided that they would help me. There were about 40 other wheelchairs sitting around in the courtyard but they were all empty. While Bobby and I were eating lunch all of their occupants had been put to bed, and that is where they will stay until tomorrow morning.

I left Hermano Pedro at around 3 PM because I had a few things that I needed to do. Calin had talked to the brother of the little blind girl who lives with her mother and 3 siblings in a vacant building here in Chimaltenango. He discovered that the family has been with out food for several days now. I had called Chris and he had Carlos go to the market and pick up some food for them. This afternoon Alex and I brought it to them. The reason that I took Alex along was because his school shoes had warn out and I had none on hand that fitted him. He had gone to school today wearing some brown shoes that he had but his teacher told him that he would not be allowed back in school until he had black leather ones. Requiring public school students, here in Guatemala to wear uniforms or certain color shoes is against the law. Convincing the school principals of this is another story though. After visiting the family that needed the groceries we went and bought 2 pare of shoes. It just so happened that the little boy who had told Calin that his family was out of food no longer had school shoes either. I will try to bring him his new pare tomorrow so that he to can once again go back to school.

I felt a bit mean tonight but instead of going home and cooking supper for the kids Alex and I stopped off in town and got something to eat. When I got home I explained to the 15 that were at the gate that this was the cooks night off. We did find enough junk food to satisfy most of them and later I fed the two kids that had decided that this was going to be their home tonight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, April 24, 2009, 12:40 PM

I had breakfast with Chris this morning. Some times things get so busy for bouth of us that we don’t get as much opportunity to just visit as we would like. We discussed the upcoming wheelchair distribution that we will be having with Johnnie and Friends next week. You would think that between this distribution of over 200 wheelchairs and a distribution of about the same size that Hope Haven is having we would be some what caught up but that is not the case. Chris told me that he still had to turn away40 kids because number of kids that need chairs has exceeded the number of available kids chars that are on hand. Praise God for these Christian organizations that are shipping or manufacturing wheelchairs, Hopefully as God continues to bless them they will be able to continue to supply more and more wheelchairs to those in need. It is our prayer that the 40 kids that had to be scratched from next weeks distribution will be able to be given wheelchairs soon.

I planned on returning home and doing some bookwork there after breakfast but knew that at 12:30 the kids would be home from school. I love hose kids but trying to write a journal while several of them are talking to me tends to make it hard to concentrate on what I am doing.

I am actually hiding out up stares in front of the malnutrition ward at Hermano Pedro. I must admit though that I do not know how long I can hold out. No, I am not afraid that the kids will discover that I am here. I am afraid that I will come to my senses and realize that spending time with them is more important than writing in this journal. Fact is I think that is exactly what is hap……………….

Yours in Christ: Dick


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