* 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)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Journal May 9-16

Saturday & Sunday, May 8 & 9, 2009

A friend that was here with the last team gave me some money and told me to spend it on my kids so this weekend we did it up big.

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We went swimming and then out for hamburgers on Saturday, and after church on Sunday we went out to eat and then 15 of us rented a soccer field. That was my weekend in a nut shell.

Monday, May 10, 2009

While I was at church yesterday, I was told by some friends that they had gone to visit Hermano Pedro but were turned away at the door. They had been told that because of fear of the swine flue no visitors were going to be allowed into the orphanage section of Hermano Pedro for the rest of the month. This morning I went to Hermano Pedro to check into this. I met with Xiomara (easy for you to say) who coordinates the volunteers and she confirmed that the board of directors had made this decision. I guess that they figure that if any one were to bring the virus into the orphanage it would likely be a foreigner who had come in from another country. So I am allowed in but at least for the time being I cannot take any of my kids into the orphanage with me and I cannot take any groups through the orphanage or take any of the kids out to lunch. They are talking about lifting this restriction at the end of the month.

After my visit with Xiomara I went into see the kids. A few of the therapist were in the pool with a couple of the kids. I quickly put on my swimsuit and joined them. This at least allowed one more kid to get into the pool. Five kids is not a lot but since there were no volunteers, only 5 kids got to swim this week.

After swimming with the 5 kids I went in to see the other kids. I tried to explain to them why I well not be able to take them out of the orphanage for a while but I am not sure that many of them fully understood. Moises who I had promised to take to Camperos today seemed to understand but was not happy about it.

As you can see by the photos neither Byron nor Ervin were all that pleased either.

I did not stay long because I had to make an emergency run to the coast. Carlos a little boy who we supply seizure medicine for had run out of medicine. Since there was no school today (What is the reason for no school? Logical - It is 1 day after Mother’s Day day today.) Calin, Caser, and Miguel accompanied me.

After getting money for the medicine to Carlos’s mother the boys and I stopped of and visited with Ronny and his family. Things are going quite well with Ronny’s family except that the teacher that always worked with Ronny has transferred to another school. Ronny’s family is getting braver though and they have gone to the administrator of the school to complain about a teacher that dislikes Ronny and does not want him in school. I am staying out of this one but am happy to see that Ronny’s family is standing up for their son’s rights. Guess what, the entire school in Ronny’s aldea is out for the week. Why? You guessed it. It was mother’s day on Sunday. I guess some of you moms who don’t think that you get enough recognition, as mothers should move down here. Then again I am not sure that the mothers here consider it all that much of a treat having 5 to 10 more of their kids stay home with them all day.

Ever since there last visit I had promised Ronny and his brother Arlindo that I would let them come over and visit at my house again, so since they had no school I figured that today would be as good of a day as any. Mom made Arlindo take a bath before he came along though. I think that was a wise decision because I was not sure weather or not there was a kid under all of that dirt. I think that once he got the hang of it he liked being clean because he asked if he could take another shower when he got to my house and then took his third one of the day before bed.

Ronny is not running fevers like he had been a few months ago but he is getting weaker. He can still sit up and drive his power wheel chair but often times his head falls forward and he does not have the strength to bring it back up again. I will likely have to get up every few hours and re-position him because he gets sore lying in one position and cannot re-position even his arms or his legs anymore.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Arlindo is in the shower and Ronny is in his wheelchair playing on the computer. Ronny slept about an hour and a half at a time but then he would call me to re-position him. We did this all through the night but at around 6 AM he asked me if I would put him into his wheelchair. He seems to really be enjoying himself though and although he is a very quiet boy and visits very little with my other kids he seems quite content just being here. Seven year old Arlindo on the other hand is an extrovert and has my neighbor kids in stitches most of the time. I am praying that he does not have muscular Dystrophy like his brother. If he does it will likely show up with in the next year or 2. There is a 50-50 chance that he has it. He and Ronny have a younger brother that also has a 50-50 chance of having it. It is not likely that the girls in the family will get it but there is a 50-50 chance that they will carry it on to any sons that they have when they get older.

Once Arlindo got out of the shower the 3 of us headed to Camperos for breakfast. (Believe it or not all of the other kids are in school today). Since we had taken Ronny’s power wheelchair along to my house we decided to walk. When we got to Camperos Arlindo complained about how cold it was. Actually it was near 75 but that is a lot colder than the weather where he is from. He told me that when we got back home he wanted to take a hot shower to warm up but fortunately he forgot about that by the time we returned.

At 2:30 the kids got out of school. I had promised Abner, Fernando, and Alex that they could come along to bring Ronny and Mr. clean back home. I had also hoped to pick up 2 families that live near the coast on our way back from Ronny’s and get them in to Hermano Pedro to see the doctor but we were unable to contact one of them and the other evidently waited for us at the wrong place. Tomorrow both families plan on taking the bus in to Antigua and meeting me there. We can only wait and see.

I am back at home and have just ushered the second to the last of a dozen kids to the gate. It seems that even though it is past 10 PM none of them were all that anxious to leave. Calin is still here but I told him that he may stay. I want to have a little talk with him. His brother Walter just sent him $100 so that he could buy a new cell phone that has a built in camera and plays music. I am paying Calin’s way through school because his family cannot afford to. Am I just tired or is there something wrong with this picture?

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

As I was on my way out of the door I received a call from David, who works at the Hope Haven wheelchair factor in Antigua. He told me that a family had shown up there with a 13 year old girl that needed a wheelchair and he was wondering if I could come by and fit her. I told him no problem but when I got there I discovered that there was one. None of the wheelchairs that Hope Haven had on hand were right for her. A quick phone call to Chris over at Bethel Ministries and we were back in business. Chris confirmed that he had the right chair for her. At first I was going to drive back to Chimaltenango by my self and pick up the chair but then I decided to take the family that needed the chair along with me. That way I could fit the girl there and make sure that it was indeed the chair that she needed. It was, and with in an hour we were all on our way back to Antigua. I love it when Christian organizations can work together to help change someone’s life.
I am now sitting at the coffee house that our church runs having some lunch. Believe it or not I am all by myself. Seems that all of my kids happen to have school at the same time. That is a rarity. Fact is Caser has already informed me that he has no school tomorrow. I didn’t ask why but it is probably in celebration of it being 3 months and 12 days after ground hog’s day tomorrow.

Well I guess I better head over to Hermano Pedro. The Lady that I waited nearly an hour for yesterday is suppose to meet me there in a little while. She called this morning to ask why I wasn’t at the place that we had arranged to meet at yesterday. I was there, so I am hoping that today one of us is more visible. There are actually two families that are supposed to meet me at Hermano Pedro today. Each of them has a child that has been having severe seizures and the parents want to see if anything can be done for their children. These are the 2 kids that I wrote about on May 5. They have not seen doctors in several years and there seems to be little interest on the part of the doctors that they had seen to see them again.

I had to wait until around 5 but didn’t have much time to sit around because Jessica wanted to show me 2 new kids that are in need of wheelchairs. Actually I discovered that only one of these 2 little boys needs a wheel chair. Upon examining the second one I could see that he had good strength in his legs so I stood him up. He had no problem standing so I took his hand and motioned for him to walk with me. After a few steps I let go of his hand and away he went. You would think that everyone would have been happy but Jessica looked at me and said. “You realize that if the nurses find out that he can walk on his own they will likely keep him locked up in his crib the entire day, just like they always did with Sam Sam”. Since I was in the room alone with the 3 therapists I asked them if they had no power over this. I told them that I thought that they were there to try to get the kids to be as mobile as possible. I asked what good it was if they succeeded in making a child mobile if that child was only going to be locked up all day. Jessica said that they had a meeting scheduled tomorrow morning so she promised that she would once again bring up the subject. I think that after years of seemingly banging your head against a wall most people get tired of the head aches and ease up a bit. I pray that the children continue to take priority over the headaches. If not I will be guilty of letting my comfort take priority over that of the kids. I know that Jessica feels that way as well, it is just that we have to remind each other every now and then. OK I will climb back down from my soap box, but there is something terribly wrong when a child has to be put in a wheelchair so that the nurses do not find out that he can walk. I praise God for Hermano Pedro because a lot of people are getting good help there but I will not give up on advocating for the changes that still need to be made.

After the families showed up we got the needed paper work done to get both children scheduled for an appointment with a pediatrician in the morning and then hopefully the opportunity to see a neurologist. I got them settled in to Hermano Pedro and then headed for home. It was my full intention to lock the kids out for a few hours but since 2 of them were already in the house doing home work and those that were waiting at the door gave me a look that can change even the hart of a tired old man I gave in and told them that they could come in for a little while. That was about 4 hours ago. Now that all 10 of them have eaten and we have all done a lot of visiting I am going to get firm and tell them that they have to leave. Well most of them, I have promised Fernando and Caser that they can spend the night. The other day I overheard some one, and it sounded like they said that I had a soft hart. Then again my hearing isn’t all that great so they may have said that I had a soft head. Either way those brick wall have worn it out for the day so I am going to say, “Goodnight”.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, May 14, 2009, 10:27 PM

My entire day was spent at Hermano Pedro today. Because of the Swine flue threat there is still almost no one accept staff allowed in with the orphanage kids but hopefully that ruling well be lifted by the first of June. Although a good part of my day was spent in the orphanage part of Hermano Pedro I also spent part of it with the 2 families that brought their kids in to see the doctor. Both kids got to see the pediatrician but well have to come back to Hermano Pedro in July to see the neurologist. While we were waiting to see the doctor I went and got one of the walkers that some of the orphanage kids use. I put Sylvan the 7 year old boy that was there to see the doctor in it and even though he did not seem to like the idea at first with in a few minutes he was allover the place with it and I had a real battle when it was time to get him out of it. I wish that we could give him one to take home but his mother told me that the floor of their house is uneven dirt. Perhaps he can not have a walker but I am praying that something can be done about the frequent sezures that both children are having.

I managed to get some wheelchair fitted to a few of the kids and even got one of the new little boys into a wheelchair. This was not the boy that I met yesterday that can walk. though. I am still fighting that one. The work that I got done on the wheelchairs went even slower than usual because there are almost on volunteers allowed in the orphanage, thus my amount of little helpers was even higher than usual.

I hated to do it but tonight I simply had to get caught up on answering e-mails, returning phone calls, and getting caught up on this journal, so no kids tonight. This is not easy for me or for the kids but sometimes it simply has to be done.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, May 15, 2009, 7:42 PM

I worked fairly late on the computer last night so I had full intentions of sleeping in this morning. Jason and Caser had other plans though. Jason, who has school in the afternoon came to the house early and informed me that he had to use my computer so that he could do an assignment that had to be handed in today. Not long after he arrived Caser showed up at my door. He announced that just like yesterday he had no school today. I had not been aware until now that the 3 months and 12 days after Ground Hog day celebration lasts for 48 hours. I think that the animal rights people are fighting to have the ground hog get as much recognition as mothers get.

Since Cesar had no school I asked him if he wanted to spend the day with me. Our morning was one of those run around and get nothing done mornings but Cesar seemed to enjoy just hanging out with me. One of our more interesting get nothing done stops was at the upholstery shop that had upholstered the drivers side seat of my car a few months ago. A few weeks ago the front passenger seat of my car got a tare in it so I decided that I would fork out a whopping $25. Not only would it be good to have the tare in the seat fixed but I thought it would be nice to have the 2 front seats match. Who knows if I liked it I would possibly have them upholster the back seat some day so that all of the seats were the same color. Before the helper of the man that owns the upholstery shop removed the front seat of my car I double checked on the price and also confirmed that they could have the work done by noon tomorrow. We have a group coming in from the States Sunday night and I hate to make them sit on apple boxes all of the way from the airport. The owner promised that the job would be done by noon tomorrow because he already had the fabric and confirmed that the price would not change. I then gave a nod to his helper who was already standing next to my car with his wrenches in his hand. With in ten minutes he had the front seat of my car lying out on the ground. As I helped him carry it into the shop the owner proudly held up the piece of material that he was going to upholster the passenger seat with. I quickly gave his helper another nod and with in 10 minutes we had the seat mounted back into my car. Before driving off I promised the owner that I would stop back next week and if he had a piece of fabric that actually matched the drivers seat of my car I would still let him do the job but if not I would take my business else ware.

After a few other stops that were nearly as productive as the upholstery shop, Caser and I headed over to the wheelchair shop. We had several power chairs there that have been had been brought in for repair over a month ago and I knew how desperate their owners must be getting to have them back. Alturo does his best to keep up with the repair of the power wheelchairs but he has several other duties at the shop as well so every now and then I try to spend a day at the shop helping him out. The first wheelchair that we looked at is a head controlled power chair that I put together for a boy about 6 months ago. Since we had no head controllers I attempted to build one. When we gave this boy the chair I told him and his family that I was hoping that the controller that I made would last him until we got a factory made one into the shop. Unfortunately the controller that I made gave out about a month ago and we still do not have a replacement for it. I gave some consideration to building another one but we do not have the right parts, so I guess this young man is going to have to wait. At least he had some freedom for a few months. We still have 3 other people that are waiting for head controlled chairs. I have been promised by some one in the USA that they will arrive shortly on a container.

Next we went to work on Myrna’s wheelchair Myrna is a little girl that lives up in Santa Maria Dejesus. She has gotten good use of a power chair that I set up for her several years ago but has finally outgrown it. Alturo had already replaced a faulty controller so today Caser and I dissembled the chair and built a new seating system for it.

I think that tonight the amount kids have made up for lack of kids that were at my house last night. I am sure this was partly due to the fact that I did not lock them out tonight, but for some reason there were even more kids than usual. I don’t think that wall-to-wall kids is an overstatement. I tried to get a head count but outer than a half dozen that were quietly sitting on a mattresses and another 5 or 6 that were on one of the computers, it was like trying to count a swarm of bees.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, May 16, 2009, 11:10 AM

That’s right it is the weekend. The 4 kids that never left last night have finished making breakfast and are now doing the dishes, sweeping, and mopping the house. I am paying them for doing some of the chores but they are doing some of the other things with no pay because even though they are not here all of the time (some are getting close to that though) this has in a lot of ways become their home as well as mine.
I am going to try to get this journal out yet today and then the kids and I are going to go out and play soccer.

Hope you have a great weekend; we plan to have one.
Yours in Christ: Dick

2:12 PM

Well we almost got out of the gate to go and play soccer but when we opened it there was a man standing there who told us that he had just driven in from his home that is several hours from here. He told us that he had a 17 year old son that has muscular dystrophy and that his son's power wheelchair had stopped running. This man had taken the wheelchair to Guatemala City hoping that someone there would be able to repair it but had found no one. By a stroke of luck he ran across someone that know about Bethel’s wheelchair repair shop, so not knowing that the shop was closed on Saturdays he had headed out early this morning to see if he could get the chair fixed there. Even though the shop was closed it just so happened that Pastor Juan was there doing some carpentry work. Once Juan heard this man’s story he told him where I lived. Luckily he showed up when he did because if he had shown up at my door 2 minutes later he would not have found me. Normally I would have told him to leave the chair at my place and I would see to it that it got to the shop next week but I could not help but think abut Ronny who also has muscular dystrophy. I know how much Ronny’s power chair means to him and know that a week or two with out his wheelchair could seem like an eternity to this young man. The foot ball game would have to be put on hold.

Twenty minutes later Calin, Cesar, the father of the boy that needed his wheelchair repaired, and myself were at the wheelchair shop. As chance would have it we happened to have the needed parts and in less than an hour we had the chair loaded back into this man's car and were on our way back home with a good running wheelchair. Over and over again this father said how grateful he was, and that he considered it a miracle that his son’s wheelchair had been repaired. Neat thing is Calin and Caser were more excited about the fact that this man’s son now had a working wheelchair than they would have been about scoring a goal in soccer. Could it be that just perhaps all of the so called coincidences that made this happen was actually a GODINCIDENCE ?

As far as the 12 other kids that had been told that the game was being delayed until later this afternoon. I think that they all understood and would have actually felt bad if I had not gone to the shop and repaired this chair. You see, all of my kids have been involved in the ministry in some way and they seem to have caught on to the fact that sharing Christ’s love with those that you come in contact with gives true happiness.

Oh by the way, we did get that Soccer game in a bit later today.

Hope that you have a great weekend; ours certainly has been so far.
Yours in Christ: Dick


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