* 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, May 8, 2009

Journal May 1-8 2009

Thursday, April 30 & Friday, May 1, 2009

Click on any picture to enlarge
I am back at home and things are back to normal, or at least as normal as they get around here. A fair size group of kid was already waiting at my gate when I got home Thursday night. There were 12 of them here for supper Thursday night and 16 on Friday. I think that I am going to have to advertise for a cook. The only problem is I don’t know if a cook could fit into my house when there are that many kids. Actually things went quite smoothly. Almost all of the kids pitched in and helped cook on Thursday nigh and on Friday those that did not help out on Thursday got drafted and once they realized that the only way they were going to get anything to eat was if they pitched in and helped. They are all great kids but a I do have a few that take advantage of the willingness of some of the others that are willing to help out with out being asked.A group of around 10 people that are with “Joni and Friends” are going to be with us for about a week, so Friday we had the first of 5 wheelchair distributions that we have planned while they are here. Today’s distribution took place right here in Chimaltenango. Fernando and Cesar came along and helped. No School again?? We gave out about 35 wheelchairs but we did not finish up until around 3:00 PM, because many of them were difficult fits. I worked with Dell a therapist from the States. Because of the severity of 2 of the people that we seated Dell and I only did 3 chairs today. It was great to see some of these people who had never in their lives had a wheelchairs leave for home with smiles on their faces though.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

I only thought that we had some difficult cases yesterday but today we had a family come to the wheelchair distribution in Santa Catarina, that had a 24 year old daughter that made anyone that I have put into a wheelchair lately seem easy. This poor girl was so deformed that I did not know where to start. Usually when we get some one that is extremely difficult I do my best to seat them only to find out a few hours later that I just can’t do it. Then I usually pray about it and God just seems to take over and the fun begins. Perhaps with age I am getting a little wiser because today I immediately recognized that if this young lady was going to be fit into a wheelchair properly it was going to have to be a God-thing.

This young lady was so deformed that Calin and I had to start out with a piece of foam that was nearly a foot thick and carve indentations into it that were nearly that deep just to accommodate for the disfigurement of her back. All I could say when her father laid her onto the piece of carved foam was “Thank you Lord.” The look that this young lady gave me told me that it was perfect for her.

I am starting to realize more and more that every day is a God thing day. It’s just that I don’t always recognize them as such. I think that it is easy to look at the days where everything seems to go relatively easy for me as one of those days where I didn’t really need to rely on God all that much. I guess for some strange reason God seems more real to me on the days that I have to really hold on to Him. How easy it is to forget that He is the one that has a firm grip on me.

Praise God at today’s distribution some of the people that came to receive wheelchairs also made a commitment to place their lives in God’s hand.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Some of the group that is here with Joni and Friends came along to my church with Chris and Donna This morning. After church they had lunch in Antigua while I ran the 11 kids that came to church with me Back to Chimaltenango. Dell the physical therapist that I have been working with the past few days rode along with us. Before dropping the kids off at home we stopped off at Martha's and had some lunch. After dropping all of the kids off Dell and I Headed back to Antigua and met up with the rest of the group at Hermano Pedro. I had planned on giving them a tour of the orphanage but they were already inside with the younger children when I got there.

That was all right with me though because I had not seen these kids in over a week. The next few hours all of us spent most of our time playing with or holding the kids.

At around 4 pm I headed for home. The group from the USA left the orphanage at the same time as I did, so that they could do a bit of junk, (I mean souvenir) shopping. I said a little prayer for them though so perhaps they came to their senses and did something more sensible.

Well it is getting late so I am once again going to say “Goodnight.”

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, May 4, 2009, 9:07 PM
We had another good wheelchair distribution today. I think that at least 40 people received wheelchairs. We always give the entire family the opportunity to speak with some one after they have received their wheelchair and almost 100% of the time they say that they want to.
I left the distribution a bit early because I needed to pick up some supplies for tomorrows wheelchair distribution in Antigua. I had also promised the kids that I would do my best to get home in time to rent a soccer field for them for an hour. We normally do that on Sunday afternoon but this weekend it had to get postponed.

After the football game I took Elder, Alex, and Daniel out for Pizza. It was Elder’s birthday yesterday so I had promised him that that I would take him and 2 other kids of his choosing out to eat. I don’t think that I will try that again though because each of the 11 kids that did not get to come along were not to pleased with Elder for not choosing them. Also I had actually planned on taking them out for something bit healthier than Pizza but there was little in the way of open restaurants in town this evening. How was I to know that all of Chimaltenango was going to be with out electricity for several hours?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009,
. . . . .9:26 PM

Wow! This one is actually getting written on the day that it happened. We had another good wheelchair distribution today. Over 50 people received wheelchairs today and for most it was a life changing experience. Can you imagine having to be carried around by some one all of your life? Or even worse having to spend most of your life in bed because there is no one that is willing to take the time to carry you? I feel so honored to be associated with several ministeries that are willing to not only talk to people about the love of Jesus but are actually demonstrating that love to not only the people of Guatemala but to people all over the world. I am also proud of the fact that their primary concern is to have God receive the glory with little thought to weather or not they or their organizations get any recognition. The last few days has been a good example of that. Although these five distributions were going to be primarily a “Joni and Friends” and “Bethel Ministers effort, When it w as apparent that we had more needs than wheelchairs, Hope Haven International was willing to drop everything that they were doing at their Antigua factory to quickly construct over a dozen children’s wheelchairs that have been given out during these distributions. Thanks Mark. Fact is the list of people and organizations that made this and other distributions possible is endless. For fear of leaving someone out I will simply say thank you to everyone.

This morning a few of us got to the distribution about an hour before it was scheduled to take place We discovered that a good number of people who had been invited to this distribution were already there. After we got things set up I asked Hanna if she would interpret for me while I looked over the children that were already there. I like to do this because when we register the people we give them numbers so that they can get served in an orderly fashion. Although we try to serve those who come the earliest first we do make exceptions. If while looking the kids and adults over we see someone that is going to be a difficult fit that will likely take a few hours we often take them first. This not only gives that family the opportunity to head back to their home as soon as possible but it also assures us that we will have enough time to properly fit this individual even if the fitting takes several hours. On today’s walk through we found a few children that would take an hour or 2 to fit but not anyone as severe as the young lady that Calin and I had fitted a few days ago. We did find 2 children though who are having frequent seizures. Fact is one little girl had a seizure while she was at the registration table. We were told by her mother and the mother of a boy who was having several seizures a day that doctors had put them on medications a few years ago but there had been almost no follow up after that. The mother of the little boy contacted the doctor that had seen her son several years before but he did not seem to be interested in even seeing the child and simply told the mother to continue giving her son the medication that seem to be doing him no good. It has to be so hard to watch your child suffer but not be able to find anyone who is willing to do anything to help them. When we asked the parents of both children weather they wanted us to get their children into Hermano Pedro for a good check up there was no hesitation on their part to say yes. On Thursday I will try to set up a day that these 2 kids can come in and be examined by a good neurologist.

The kids that I fit today were a lot of fun. One little boy was so eager to try out his new wheelchair that had a difficult time trying to get him to sit still long enough to fit him. Since he had never been in a wheelchair before I figured that if I set the brakes he would not be able to figure out how to release them. Wrong! Even though he had use of only one hand he quickly figured things out and I had to do a good part of the fitting while he was moving around the building. Perhaps this sort video of him will give you some idea of how much this kid loves his new wheelchair.

. . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . .. . . . . . . .^. .Click button to play video.

After the distribution the mayor and some of the people from the town that we were in of the town that we were in said that they were treating us to lunch. We drove a few miles out of town to a place that had dozens of large cement tanks that were filled with water. The water in the tanks was not the cleanest that I had ever seen but if you looked closely you could see fish swimming it. There were even one or 2 fish floating belly up in the water. I guess they were for anyone that was hungry but could not stand the Idea of having to have one of the fish that was alive slaughtered for his or her benefit. After seeing what our meals were going to be we all sat down and waited to be served our lunch. There were a few in our group that simply could not eat a lunch that was staring back at them but most gave it a gallant effort. Even Chris and Donna who are not big fish eaters did a fare job at picking away at theirs. Judging by this picture of Donna I am not sure that she will be recommending this place to her friends though.

On the other hand “Hurricane” cleaned up on his fish like a tornado. I didn’t do to badly either but contrary to the coaxing of the Guatemalan gentleman sitting next to me some how managed to get full before I reached the head. He told me that the head of the fish and especially the eyes were good for my brain. I convinced him that it was to late.

When I got home tonight the kids and I made spaghetti. I had given some thought to serving seafood but figured that I had eaten enough fish for the day, or perhaps even the year.

Well it is getting late and tomorrow we have another wheelchair distribution scheduled.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, May 6, 2009, 6:53 PM

Today was our 5th wheelchair distribution in 6 days. Some one would probably think that these wheelchair distributions are getting to be so much of a routine with us that most of the excitement is gone or that we are perhaps even getting a bit burnt out on fitting and giving so many wheelchairs away. Yes perhaps someone may think that but it certainly isn’t anyone who has ever took part in a wheelchair distribution. I can truthfully say that these past few days of wheelchair distributions have been as exciting for me as the first one that I took part in nearly nine and a half years ago. I never tire of seeing people, some of whom have been through so much be able to see that some one cares about them. Even more exciting is the fact that we can also share with them that they have a Heavenly Father who cared enough about them to give his only Son. No wonder this work stays so exciting.

Two of the teens that were given wheelchairs today looked like they may be candidates for power chairs.

The first was a teen age boy named Elvis. Elvis who is 17 years old has a body that is a mess. To my knowledge he has never owned a wheelchair and I think that I can understand why. When you first look at him you get the impression that there is no way to get this young man into a comfortable sitting position but after several hours work and a lot of prayer, by two therapists a few others and myself Sylvan was comfortably sitting in his new custom fit wheelchair. No, it was not a power wheelchair but his family is going to bring him to our shop in a few weeks and I am going to see what I can do about putting a power chair together that will work for him.

A little later in the day Chris called me over to see a teen age girl that George was setting up a manual wheelchair for. She had not hand use but much like Fidel who lives at Hermano Pedro she has writes and paints with her feet. I ran a few quick tests and I am certain that she will have no difficulty driving a foot controlled power chair. It took no persuasion at all to convince her family to come into the sop in a few weeks so that we can get a power chairs set up for their daughter. Talk about one happy family.

The teem from Joni and friends flies home in the morning. In less than a week we gave out over 220 wheelchairs. Not bad considering a large percentage of them were specialty chairs that required a lot of adjusting and fitting. Pastor Juan told me that several people receive Christ and many rededicated their lives to the Lord as well. Like I said there is no way some thing like that can get humdrum or boring.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Today Caser and Esben accompanied me to Hermano Pedro, because they had no school. Why? The reason for no school is really quite logical. Sunday is going to be mother’s day. Anyway that is logical by Guatemalan standards. Not all of the schools agree with the policy of giving the kids a day off 3 days before mother’s day. Take the school that Calin, Fernando, and Abner go to. They take a far more practical approach to things. That is why they have no school tomorrow, which is only 2 days before mother’s day.

The 2 boys and myself spent a good part of our day getting Byron’s power chair up and running. About a week ago his head controller broke. The poor kid has been lost with out his chair so he was all smiles when we got it going again for him. We managed to take a break from fixing wheelchairs at around noon, and took 4 of the orphanage kids out to lunch with us. Lionel’s father had been here visiting Lionel for a few days so he came along and helped us out as well.

Lionel is doing well weight wise but hates being locked in bed most of the time. I guess that is only natural for a 10 year old though. As much as I appreciate what Hermano Pedro is doing for these kids I have yet to understand why they Allow the caregivers to keep the kids in bed so much of the time.

The kids that showed up at my house when I got home certainly were not locked in any beds, Although in some of my weaker moments when I have really craved an hour or 2 to myself: the thought has crossed my mind.

Here are a few things that I have learned by having at least a dozen kids in my house most of the time.

-There is no such thing as a clean house.

-There is no such thing as a full refrigerator.

-There is no such thing as leftovers.
(I have not tried cooking liver yet though.)

-There is no such thing as quiet time.

-There is no such thing as a full first aid kit.

-There is no such thing as clean windows.
(There are always plenty of cracked ones though.)

-There is no such thing as a perfect lawn.

-There is no such thing as unbreakable plants.

-There is no such ting as unbreakable plates.

-There is no such things as an unbreakable anything.

-There is no such thing as a dry toilet seat.
(The majority of the kids that hang out at my house are boys)

(And best of all.)
-There is no such thing as not feeling needed.

Well I think that I am ready to put myself in bed for a few hours so I will say, “Goodnight”.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, May 8, 2009, 9:42 PM

This morning was spent doing all of the things that I love the most. “NOT!”

I did some of those exciting things like cleaning house, and running errands. I don’t think that I have looked under my bed in months and once I did it frightened me. I didn’t think that there was that much dust in all of Guatemala. Wow! I wonder if that is part of the reason that I cough the most when I am in bed? I guess that I will find out tonight. That is if I get over coughing from all of the dust that I inhaled while sweeping up this morning. After getting the house cleaned up I went to town and bought a new garden hose. This was a replacement for the one that Fernando set the hot frying pan on when he was doing the dishes. I also made my once a month stop at the local glass store. I am happy to say that I did not have to purchase any windows today. I still have about half of last month’s supply of windows left. I have discovered that if I partly deflate the soccer balls that the kids play with it keeps them from going so far and it also softens the blow when a stray ball hits me, my car, or my house. Today’s stop at the glass store was for my second glass top for my coffee table. Last month Miguel who is one of my older and bigger kids discovered that he weighted just a bit too much to us my coffee table as a chair. Then just a few days ago Fernando discovered that even though he weighs less than Miguel his weight combined with that of a computer monitor is a bit to much for the glass top to hold. Fortunately no Band-Aids were needed in either case. Although Fernando made up for that a few hours ago by some how falling onto one of my cactus. Actually my Cactus looks as though it needs more patching up than Fernando does.

At around 4:00 PM we rented a soccer field for an hour and the kids really got my money’s worth of fun. Our only casualty was the soccer ball that went over the fence of one of the more well to do families here in Chimaltenango. I guess that they are not as well of as we had thought though because they felt that they needed to keep the soccer ball. I must admit the boys handled it well and did not lose their cool. Then again it wasn’t their soccer ball, it was mine. We got our money’s worth on the field rental though. The man that collects the money appeared to have spent just a little too much of what he had collected on alcohol so he let the kids play for much longer than the hour that we had paid him for.

Since I had not gotten my journal out I came up with a brainstorm. Since we were so close to the mall why not walk over and take advantage of the 2 slices of pizza and a coke for 10Q ($1.25) that Camperos sells out in front of their restaurant? This way the kids would be fed and I would not feel guilty telling them that I was going to have the house to myself so that I could get this journal sent out tonight. Why is it then that it was not until abut 15 minutes ago that I got them all to leave? It seems that they came up with every excuse in the book. At one point as I was just getting ready to tell them to leave I walked into my bathroom and discovered that 3 of the kids were using the shower. So I decided to at least let them stay until they had finished. I know that this is Guatemala but I could not send them home the way that they were dressed. Or I guess I should say undressed. My next attempt at getting them home was interrupted by Fernando falling onto the cactus. Then when I discovered that some of them that have mothers were making mothers day cards and had not finished yet, how could I make them leave. Even when they did go Calin and a few others were mad at me because I would not let them spend the night. Calin promised that they would be quiet and let me get my work done. I reminded him that I had been given that same promise a good 3 hours earlier but some how I had still gotten hardly anything that I had intended on doing done. Anyway the gate is locked and as far as I know the house is empty and there is no one in the shower, so hopefully I will get this published before I go to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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