* 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, June 5, 2009

Journal May 30 - June 5, 2009

(click on any photo to enlarge)

Saturday and Sunday, May 30 & 31, 2009

Since it was the weekend I am going to keep this one short. Since things have been so busy lately I am trying to spend more of my weekend time with the kids that hang out at my house and those at the orphanage. This is even difficult because they are still allowing almost no visitors into the orphanage so I am unable to take any of my neighborhood kids along with me when I go there. Hopefully this will change on Monday. My neighbor kids certainly hope that it does because they really miss the orphanage kids. Mean while I will have to try to figure out how to better divide my time and we will have to have separate soccer games on the weekends.

My friend Pat Duff has graciously offered to share her Monday and Tuesday journal entries with me.

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Thanks Pat.

Monday, June 1, 2009 (by Pat Duff)

Today I finally got to spend the day with the kids at Hermano Pedro. I was walking around saying hello to the kids, and came upon little Brenda. As I said hi, and tried to walk by to see other kids, she quickly lost her smile and began to cry. All she wanted was a little attention, and was happy to be wheeled around with me as I saw some more of the kids. Shortly after I got there, Dick came in with Di, a nurse/paramedic from Australia who is down doing volunteer work in Guatemala. Di is a very interesting lady who has quickly become bored with the tourist activity of Antigua and was looking for something more challenging to do with her time here. Dick immediately invited her to go with us to Esquintla tomorrow to visit some families in that area.

It seemed that as soon as Dick got into the children’s ward, there were constantly staff members coming up telling him about one child or another who needed a chair fixed. His goal for today was to fix Fidel’s power chair, but before he got to that, he fixed a walker, two head rests and was told about a new boy who needed a wheel chair. How he manages to keep all this straight is beyond me. He even took time to show me how to fix a few things on chairs. He has much more confidence in my mechanical ability than I do, but, if I can tighten a few screws to keep things from totally breaking, and maybe lighten his load a bit, I guess it’s worth stepping outside my comfort zone. My biggest fear is that I’ll mess things us more than I’ll help, but I guess that’s how I’ll learn.

Dick also walked me through the process of signing out kids for lunch. Since there were only two of us here today, we could only take two kids. You could see the inner struggle Dick was having deciding who to take. This was one time I was more than happy to be “submissive” because then I didn’t have to carry the guilt of the sad faces of those who could not go. Moises had been promised a trip out a couple weeks ago, and then the orphanage was “closed” to volunteers and outings to keep out the swine flu. Today was the first day kids could go out, so Moi needed to go with us for sure. Henry was our second lunch guest. He’s a really bright 5 or 6 year old, who only recently returned to Hermano Pedro after being at home with his family for a number of months. Dick said he just doesn’t seem to be himself since he returned, so we hoped a trip out would cheer him up.

Our original plan was to go to Campero’s, but when Dick asked him if he wanted to have lunch at Camino’s Café (run by the church), Moi jumped at the chance. As we were walking there, Mark Richard, from Hope Haven Guatemala drove by, and decided to join us. With him was a gentleman (whose name I can’t remember, but you can feel free to fill in, Dick, if you do!) from Hope Haven in Rock Valley, Iowa. This is the second time I’ve met someone here in Guatemala who lives only about 2 hours away from me back in the States! They joined us for lunch and I got to hear a bit more about what Hope Haven International is doing here in Guatemala.

The boys had a chance to wheel around while waiting for our food and enjoyed the freedom. There was a little boy about 3 years old in the café, who you could see was fascinated by the boys’ wheelchairs, but was too timid to come over to them even with encouragement. Moi and Henry seemed to enjoy “showing off” for him a bit. When lunch came we all settled down to eat, though I think Henry was a bit disappointed that he got stuck with me helping him rather than Dick, but we managed. He did get to sit on Dick’s lap for a bit, and I think that satisfied him.

After lunch Moi wanted to take pictures with my camera, so we started taking pictures of flowers and the garden area. There was a young woman (the three year old’s mom) sitting on the couch and Moi wanted to take her picture. I told him he would have to ask her permission, and I swear he blushed. But he did, and she was happy to “pose” for him. We began talking and I discovered that Rosa Angelica was born in Antigua but was married to an American and has lived in San Diego for the past 20 years. She was interested in finding opportunities to do some volunteer work with her children (Lauren, age 10 and Christopher, 3) and was very interested in knowing more about Hermano Pedro.

After he had his fill of photos, Moi decided he wanted to get out of his chair onto the grass in the garden area. Henry didn’t even have to think about joining him, and soon the two boys were crawling around and playing with Lauren and Christopher. It was a delight to see them interacting so “normally” with kids who could walk. And, to their credit, Lauren and Christopher seemed totally comfortable with the boys. A couple of times we had to reign in Henry because, though he’s only a couple years older than Christopher, he’d actually get a bit rough with him. If I didn’t know them, I’m not sure I would have been able to tell which of the four kids on the grass needed the wheelchairs. When we talk about “normalization” for individuals with disabilities, we get all technical and theoretical. This was real “normalization,” just letting the kids BE normal and getting out of their way! I’m grateful we met this wonderful young family who was willing to reach out to our two kids.

When we got back to Hermano Pedro, Dick finally got to fixing Fidel’s chair, with Moi’s help as “tool handler.” I went and got Brenda and we just rocked and rocked and talked. She would just light up with the least bit of attention. Dick then introduced me to Eduardo, a new boy at the orphanage. He literally looked like a tiny little waif, and almost appeared to be “shell shocked” in his responses. What happened next is one of my best memories from this trip. Ervin, whose nickname used to be “monster” wheeled over and tried to play with Eduardo. He didn’t get much more of a response than Dick and I did until he started clapping, and Eduardo brightened and imitated him. Ervin kept this up, and Eduardo came out of himself more and more, even beginning to vocalize a bit. I haven’t seen him smile yet, but am hoping this will come if Ervin keeps “working” with him. I don’t think that there is anything that touches my heart more than to see these kids reaching out to each other.

After helping Moises with his homework, it was time to head home. I still had a couple of errands to run and it was getting late. This was a full day, but a satisfying one. It seems every time I am here, each day is better than the last. After a day like this, I fall into bed exhausted, but I wouldn’t trade this exhaustion for a week in the Bahamas!


Tuesday, June 2, 2009 (by Pat Duff)

Wow! Each day seems to get more jam packed than the last, if that’s possible. While I can’t say the pace is hectic, it sure is intense, at least when I’m hanging around with Dick. But what I get to experience going out with Dick makes the exhaustion at the end of the day well worth it.

Today we planned to leave early for the Equintla area. Shortly before he was to pick me up, Dick called saying that he’d be late (yes, this is Guatemala. . .yes, this is Dick. . .’nuff said!). He thought his steering felt a little off, and when he got down to check it found that 3 of the 4 bolts that hold the steering arm on had snapped off. He thought it might be a good idea to get these fixed before we set off on a two hour drive, so he’d be a little late. I guess this time, he was right. I’m so grateful that God let this happen BEFORE we set out, and even more grateful for Dick’s sensitivity to what’s going on with his vehicle.

This gave me time to work a bit on my journal. I now know why Dick only publishes once a week. This last week we’ve been too busy DOING for me to want to spend much time writing about what we’ve done. On the other hand, I don’t want to forget any of it, and, if I can give you just a “taste” of Guatemala, it’s worth the effort.

About 11 I met up with Di, the young woman we met yesterday at Hermano Pedro. She was anxious to get out of the city and see some of the “real” Guatemala, so was coming with us today. As she shared her experiences, and Dick shared some of his, I kind of felt like a “poor relation” tagging along, but enjoyed their stories immensely. Cesar, one of Dick’s boys, came along with us, too, since, once again, he had no school today. I couldn’t quite get a good explanation of why this was, but do know that there seems to be no such thing as a substitute teacher in Guatemala, so if the teacher will not be there, there is no class. I was glad he was coming, though, because I’d wanted to meet him since I met his brother, Miguel, last January.

As we headed out I was excited to get to return to a part of Guatemala I’d visited with our mission team last year. This coastal area is very different in almost every way from Antigua, and I think that’s some of the reason I’m so attracted to it. Our first stop was to see Sergio who lives near Santa Lucia. Going to his home seemed like an exercise in “you can’t get there from here.” We kept hitting dead ends, closed roads, impassable parts. When I went to take a picture of one of these dead ends, Dick calmly suggested that I might not want to do that, since this would greatly increase our chances of getting lynched before we got out of town. Seems the folks in this area are not too sure of white folks, given the stories they have heard about foreigners. Somehow Dick, with the help of his GPS, managed to find the house. Sergio was not going to school because the wheel on his power chair was broken. It just so happened that his mom had called Chris Mooney, head of Bethel Ministries, about this just the day before, and Chris called Dick to find that it just so happened that he was planning to go to this area this week. Godincidence Perhaps?

When we got there Dick discovered that all that was needed was a nut to go on the bolt of one of the front wheels. It seems incredible that something so simple can keep this young man from school, but this was the case. Since I was the only one on the trip with a passable knowledge of both English and Spanish I got to do the interpreting today. I’m continually impressed by the willingness of the Guatemalans to help me muddle through. This family was no different, and I think Mama even enjoyed having someone to talk with about her son. I tried to explain to them that if this happened again, they could perhaps get the part at a bicycle or auto shop. Am not sure they “got it” but it was worth a try.

I am always humbled by the hospitality of the families we visit. As soon as we enter a home, the family scrambles to find chairs for us to sit on. In this case, they also brought us juice to drink, and offered us a snack. Sergio’s brother enjoyed having to teach both Di and me how to eat guyaba. I don’t know exactly how to describe these except that they look like a tiny green orange. So I started trying to peel it, much to the family’s amusement. I now know that the entire fruit is edible, and the pulp inside is a bit sweet.

Our next stop was Ronnie’s. I was really looking forward to seeing this family, because I was part of a group that had painted their house last summer. Ronnie is one of seven children, and has Muscular Dystrophy. He is obviously much weaker than he was a year ago, but was still able to show his excitement at seeing Dick. We were bringing him a new battery for his power chair so he could go to school.

It was wonderful to see this family again, and I got tears in my eyes when Clara, the second oldest daughter, came up to me and said, “I know you. You painted my house!” I’d fallen in love with the three older girls, and it touched my heart that she had remembered me. It was nice to see, too, that the family had made “improvements” on their home, putting a fence around the yard and planting flowers on both sides of the “walk” to the house. You can tell they appreciate and take pride in their home.

Dick and Cesar, with the help of Ronnie’s dad, were able to trade out batteries in no time at all, while I got to visit with his mom about the family. Orlindo, the 6 year old boy, had just “made” his school’s soccer team and was so proud. All the children were doing well in school and Dick was happy to hear that Jessica, the oldest daughter, was still in school. She had been having some problems with her teacher because she was often late, after helping get Ronnie ready and to school. It seems her parents have resolved this issue with the school at least for now. It is so good to see these parents willing to advocate for their daughter.

Mom told me that Jessica would turn 15 next year, which is cause for a great celebration when a daughter hits this milestone. Dick tells me the families often make a bigger deal about a “quinsinera” than they do a wedding! Evidently Mama was already starting to dream about what she would like for her first daughter’s “coming of age.” I’m hoping I’ll be here to attend Jessica’s party. The two older girls were excited when Di gave them a dress and blouse she’d brought with her. She literally gave Clara the “shirt off her back” and the two girls tried on their new clothes and looked like princesses.

Since it was getting late and threatening to rain, we cut our visit with this family short and started back for Antigua. We did have time to stop at a clinic operated by a doctor from Cuba and his nurse Walter. They help with providing food for some of the children in the area who have returned home from the malnutrition program at Hermano Pedro. Walter updated us on Julio and Milton, two of these children. Dick was not sure that Milton would still be alive, and was pleasantly surprised to hear that, at least for now, he is doing well. Even though it was after 5 in the afternoon and there were still a number of people in the doctor’s waiting room the doctor came out to greet us in between patients. He is such a kind and gracious man.

As we finally headed back for Antigua, I was pretty well exhausted. But Dick’s day was not nearly over. He still needed to connect with Roland who had brought a young girl with spina bifida and clubbed feet down to the hospital. Roland needed money for some tests the girl was to have done in Guatemala City next week. Dick provided these funds from his own resources, but had to firmly explain to Roland that Bethel’s medical fund was completely out of money. With all the things I’ve gotten to watch Dick do, having to say no to helping someone always seems to take more out of him than anything else. From the little I’ve been here I can understand this. There are so many people in need. How do you decide who gets help and who does not? All they can do is pray and trust God to show them who to help. When there is no money available, however, this makes the decision easier, but even more painful. If you’d like to donate to this fund, please e-mail Dick at dick@dickrutgers.com or click on Bethel Ministries to find out how you can help. I know Dick doesn’t like to ask for donations in his journal, but I’m hoping in this case he’ll make an exception and allow me to make you aware of this great need.

While I’m sitting here writing this, I have (finally) realized just how different my experience of Guatemala has been because of my friendship with Dick. I first met the kids at Hermano Pedro through him, went into a traditional village for the first time with him, and have gotten to tag along and meet countless “real” Guatemalans over the past 2 years and even have the privilege of sponsoring a wonderful young man named Miguel so he can stay in school. I probably would have been very satisfied to stay with the “traditional” volunteer activities here in Antigua, were it not for his encouragement to step out and try something different. When I first thought of moving to Guatemala, he was one of the first people I talked to abut this, and his belief that I could actually pull this off gave me the confidence to take the risk of pursuing this dream. And if I “fit in” with the Guatemalan people, so much of this is due to what I have learned watching him and from his stories. Little did I know a few years ago what would happen when a young man in the Guatemala City airport told me that I needed to meet “this guy” in Antigua who makes and fixes wheelchairs. Thank you, God, for all the “Godincidents” you’ve given to show me the way, and thank you, Dick, for letting our Father use you in growing me.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009 (by Dick)

After stopping off at the shop and picking up the powered wheelchair that Cesar and I had rebuilt for Myrna. I headed out to Hermano Pedro. I had forgotten a few things at home so I stopped of there to pick them up. When I pulled into my alley I was greeted by Fernando He told me that he had woken up with a stomachache so he had stayed home form school today. His stomachache was no over but if you are not at school by 7:30 you are not allowed in. It took a bit of talking by both Fernando and his aunt but I finally gave in and let him come along to Hermano Pedro with me. When we got to the orphanage we were met by Pat who already had all of the needed paper work completed, so that we could take Ervin, Brenda, and Bobby out to lunch. I think that Camperos my be loosing some of my business because we are starting to enjoy the food and relaxing atmosphere of the cafe that our church has. Even though there is no playground equipment and no toy with your meal the kids seem to enjoy it every bit as much as the adults. They love playing on the large grassy area as well.

After lunch Fernando, Pat, and I drove up to Santa Maria De Jesus. Myrna had been with out her power chair for far to long so I was glad that we finally had the opportunity to bring it to here today. What we did not count on was a cloud burst that soaked us and the wheelchair while were pushing it up the narrow alley that leads to her home. Even though we tried our best to keep the chair as dry as possible something got shorted out and when we finally got it into her house we discovered that it would not run. I tried my best to get things dried out but could not get it going. Myrna’s family was very understanding though and seem far more concerned about how wet we were than the fact that the wheelchair would not run. They even found a shirt for me that somewhat fit and even attempted to dry me off with an old towel that felt like sand paper. We visited for about a half hour but the rain did not let up. I told the family that I would leave the wheelchair there and return for it on a dryer day.

When we got back to Antigua we drove straight to Hope Haven’s wheelchair factory. Mark had called me earlier in the day telling me that some one was bringing in a little girl that needed a wheelchair. Shortly after we arrived Moraine a lady that live in Chimaltenango arrived with 2 a and a half year old girl that is named Lady. Moraine operates a small orphanage for special needs children right here in Chimaltenango. Judging by the love that was shown to Lady by both Moraine and a caregiver that had come along I think that I want to visit this orphanage as soon as possible. I nearly wept when I was told that this precious little girl had been thrown into a hole and left to dye bye her parents because she had some brain damage. Praise God she now has people that love her to care for her. Both Pat and I would have loved to have the opportunity to hold her more but Fernando beat us to the punch.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ronny’s mom had called to say that Ronny was quite sick and that they had no way to get him to the doctor. I picked up Pat and we headed to his house. The rest of our day was spent in seeing doctors, and having tests done at various labs and clinics. He has some infection in his lungs but it looks like it has been caught in time to prevent it from turning into pneumonia. Please pray for Ronny because he seems to be a bit weaker every time that I see him.

Friday, June 5, 2009

I would like to write more about days like yesterday and today but lately I simply do not have the time. I am finding it harder and harder to find the time to write these journals. I don’t know the answerer but may have to stop doing daily entries and just post the highlights of the week.....Just five minutes ago I received a phone call form a lady in Antigua who I promised a power wheelchair to over 3 months ago. Yesterday when we went to see Ronny I had taken a wheelchair along for a boy who lives in Esquentla hoping that I would have enough time to get him fitted. As severer as he was I need several hours to do this. This chair still sits in the back of my car. Even with out stopping there last night I did not get home until 10:30 PM. I have been praying about this and it seems that one thing that takes up a lot of my time is this journal. I love doing this journal because it gives me time to reflect on what God is doing down here and I know that it is also important to keep people informed, but I often find myself having to put off things that are possibly more important. Please pray that God gives me wisdom in this matter.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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