* GUATEMALA * * * * * * * * Dick Rutgers *

An ongoing journal of life as a Missionary in Guatemala. It will make you laugh and cry at the same time.

My Photo
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)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Journal, September 26 - October 2, 2009

(Click any photo to enlarge)... . ., , . . .

Saturday & Sunday, September 26 & 27, 2009

It's the weekend.

So I am spending
time with the kids.

I did manage to
get my hair done,

& play a little foot ball.

I even found the time
to do some fun things like
work on Caesar's foot,

But most of the time
I just hung out
with the kids.

Monday, September 28, 2009, 9:12 PM

Tonight Benjamen, Cesar and I are in Huehuetenango. We plan on spending the next 4 to 5 days on the road recruiting for camp. Benjamen is home schooled so he has taken his school work along so that he can work on it in the evenings. Cesar is out of school for the year. We tried our best to get Cesar back into his school after they kicked him out but finally had to throw in the towel. It does not seem fare that they can kick a kid out of school simply because he gets sick during exam week but that is exactly what they did. Cesar's father missed nearly a weeks work trying to meet with the principal of the school but would some times sit out side of the principals office the entire day only to be told at the end of the day that the principal was sorry but she did not have time to see him. On the rare occasion that Cesar's father or one of us were able to meet with her we were told that the letter that we got from the doctor saying that Cesar had indeed been sick, or any other paper work that we had been told to bring was inadequate. It slowly became apparent that there was no way that we were going to get Cesar back into school this year. Cesar's father finally told the principal that he would go along with their wishes and keep his son out of school until the new school year which starts in January. The principal looked at him and said that she was sorry but they would not allow Cesar back into their school because they had a policy that anyone that had to repeat a year of school was not welcome there. Even though it is not fare and it will likely be difficult to find a new school for Cesar I think that we are fortunate that he will not be going back to this one.

Since most of our day was spent in getting here we were only able to see 2 campers today. Our first stop was at the home of Erica. Actually our stop was quite a ways from her home because the trail leading into where she lives is not accessible by car. We had a large suitcase full of medicine for her so the boys and I took turns dragging it down the trail. I don't think that Samsonite had this kind of terrain in mind when they put those little plastic wheels on their suitcases. Never the less we made it and a suitcase is still a suitcase even without wheels.

Erica and her family were excited to see us. I felt bad that she had run out of medicine over a week ago but told her mom that they had to let us know a few weeks in advance when she was getting low on medicine instead of waiting until the day that they ran out. Not only were they happy to receive the much needed medicine but mother told us that Erica had been getting worried that she was not going to be invited to camp this year.

Our next visit also required a bit of a hike but was much easier because this time we did not have 50 pounds of medicine with us. Christopher and his family were happy to see us and mother said that since we were a few weeks later than usual they were also worried that Christopher was not going to be invited to camp this year.

I wish that all of you could spend just one day on the road with us. I think that you would be amazed at not only how essential these visits are but also how important camp is to these people.

Well we are now settled into the San Fransisco hotel. This will be our home away from home for the next 4 nights. The price is right (about $13 each per night) and the rooms are very nice.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, September 29, 2009

Today we did more camp recruiting. Some of the places that we drove to today brought us to altitudes that were over 11,000 feet above sea level. Driving some of these steep mountain roads can prove to be a challenge but that is nothing compared to having to get out of you car and hike for nearly an hour at this altitude. Today's hike into where Marven and his family live has to be one of the most breath taking of any of the places that we visit. not only is your breath taking away by the view of the valley that lies thousands of feet below but descending over 700 feet knowing that you will have to climb back up to your car after your visit can also take your breath away.

I am not complaining though because the view alone makes it well worth the effort. I could not help but think about how exhausting it had to be for Marven's father who up until a few years ago would carry Marvin on his back every morning to the school where we left our car and then back home every afternoon. This was no easy task especially considering he had to carry Marven's wheelchair to and from school as well.

A few years ago when Marven finally got to big to be carried in and out from his home on a daily bases Father and mother told him that he could no longer continue his education. This was hart breaking to both Marven and his parents but father had to work the fields to make enough money to feed his family and the 2 trips a day up and down the mountain were simply taking up to much of father's time and energy. Thankfully we had known Marven and his family for several years so when we became aware of the situation we found a teacher that was willing to hike in to where Marven lives and teach him at his home. In spite of numerous health issues Marven's is doing great in his schooling and is thinking about studding to become a lawyer. His father told me that Marven has dreams of some day owning a computer but since the family has no money they only look at it as a dream. I have not made any promises but knowing how much that could help him in hid studies, I am going to keep my eye out for a used one.

One other place that we visited today was at the home of Jamie and his family. Jamie is an old man (perhaps my age) that has been coming to camp for years. A few months ago he told us about a family that had 2 children that were in need of wheelchairs. Even though we did not have wheelchairs with us that we could give them today we decided to go and visit this family so that I could examine the 2 children and see what size and type of wheelchairs they needed. When we reached there home their grandfather told us that his daughter and his 9 year old granddaughter who was one of the children that needed a wheelchair, were at a house that was a short distance from there. He quickly sent some one to get them. Grandfather then informed us that his 12 year old grandson who had also been in need of a wheelchair no longer needed it because he had died a little over a month ago.

It has been a long day and both of the boys have already gone to bed so I think that I will do the same.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Another day of recruiting for camp today. Once again we spent most of our day in the mountains outside of Huehuetenango. Moast of the people that we visited today are old friends that have come to camp before. Several were families that we have helped out over the years. Some we have given tools to so that they could do carpentry work. Some are receiving education. Some who are to old or to week to work are receiving some groceries each month.

One of the families that we hiked in to visit with today was Ernesto's family. Ernesto is a shy little boy who lives with his father and his sister. Ernesto is in a wheelchair and his father is in poor health. Ernesto's older sister is even shyer than he is and will scarcely come out of the house when we are on the yard. Since her mother died several years ago and father's health is so poor a lot has been left on her shoulders. When father's health permits he tries to work the fields so that he can bring in a little money to feed his family. It is not enough though and often times the family goes to bed hungry. Father told us that his daughter is talking about moving away and that he does not know how he will be able to care for Ernesto by him self. We have been helping this family out some in the past but I feel that they are going to need even more help or they will starve to death.

Nearly all of the families that we visited today are struggling to put enough food on the table, but most of the people that we invited to camp said that they would do their best to make it. It was hard for me to tell them that we could not let the entire family come to camp but had to limit it to the family member that had a disability and one care giver. This has always been the policy but up until this year we allowed it to be bent or broken. This year due to lack of sleeping space we are going to have to enforce the rule.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Today Benjamin, Cesar and I headed into the high back country to a remote place that lies near the Border of Guatemala and Mexico. This is the area where Lisvi, the little girl that died shortly after we brought her home from Hermano Pedro, had lived. The first time that Roland and I went back into this area we found several people that were in need of wheelchairs. I have visited there a few times after that and on each visit I brought in a few wheelchairs but we still had three people that had requested wheelchairs on that first visit that we had not gotten to. We sent them invitations to come to a wheelchair distribution that we had in Huehuetinango about a month ago but received word that even though they desperately needed wheelchairs there was no way that they could get to the distribution. If you could see the so called trail that leads from the nearest settlement over 4000 feet below to where these people live you would understand why. on a dry day it can be navigated by 4 wheel drive but it is indeed a challenge. Today's the trail was in worse shape than I have ever seen it but my good old Land Cruiser made it. I must admit I got a bit nervous when some clouds rolled in while we were there but we only got a drizzle and the trail stayed fairly dry. Had it rained hard we would have had to spend the night and prayed that the sun dried things out enough that we could make our descent tomorrow.

Most of the people in this area never see strangers yet alone Americans so on our first few visits they were quite afraid of us. Even though we had already picked up a local man named Luis when we pulled into the school yard to meet with Araldo our contact person most of the children who were just getting out of school kept their distance. Curiosity finally got the best of a few of them though and after a while the came close enough that was able to show them my camera. Several of them scattered like flies when I asked if I could take their picture but a few of them stood their ground and came up to me to see their picture after I had taken it.

Araldo was not at the school but Luis and another man that worked there offered to take us to where the people that we were looking for lived. What we were told would be a 10 minute ride to where they lived turned out to be more like 20. I think that as rough as the trail was we could perhaps have made it faster by walking it. In fact I am sure of it because by the time we got to the place where they asked us to park my car several of the children that we had seen at the school were already there waiting for us. We did not see any one there that needed a wheelchair though. After waiting for quite a while a woman came walking down off from the mountain with a child in her arms.

I recognized the child as being Samuel a boy that I measured for a wheelchair on our first visit. What ever fear the children and adults had of us when we showed up quickly disappeared when we got the wheelchair that we were going to give Samuel out of my car. Judging by the interest that the villagers showed you would have thought that we were assembling a space ship instead of a wheelchair. I am not sure if it was a fascination in the wheelchair or the fact that we were doing some thing to help one of their people but any fear that the people had of us or our cameras seemed to vanish. They showed even more interest when we gave Samuel a walker and soon had him taking a few steps.

When we had finished we asked where the girl and the lady that we had wheelchairs were at. We were told that the lady was back at the school where we had come from and that the girl lived up on the hill that Samuel had been carried from. Her father had come down to see us but said that since his daughter Eufemia was much heavier than Samuel there was simply no way that they could carry her to us. I told him that I did not want to give him a wheelchair with out seeing his daughter because we wanted to make sure that the wheelchair fit her properly. Father said that the hike up to his house was a steep one but that it could be done in around 5 minutes. I reminded him that I was an American and an old one at that. He then said that it would be a 10 minute hike. Remembering how long our 10 minute drive had ended up taking I figured that if we made it in a half hour we would be doing good.

. . . . . . .
. . . .. .^ Video
. . . .Delivering A Wheelchair To Eufemia's House

Soon we were on our way up the mountain. At first several of the kids tried their hand at carrying the 2 wheelchairs and Samuele's walker up the steep trail but soon it proved to be too much for them. Eufemia's father grabbed her wheelchair and put it on his back. Samuele's mom handed Samuel to her daughter who was not all that much bigger than Samuel and a few of the older kids grabbed the walker and off we went. I was tired and my legs were aching but there was no way that I was gong to let this girl carry her brother up the mountain. I must admit though that I was happy when mom told me that they did not live as far up the mountain as Eufemia and her family did. As it turned out they were only 25 minutes from the car compared to the 30 minute hike that we made to Eufemia's home. The hike was well worth is though because Eufemia and her family were thrilled with the wheelchair. Even though she lives on the side of the mountain her yard is level and smooth so she will now be able to move around on her own.

The down hill walk back to my car went much faster and soon we were on our way back to the school. Soon Manolia a lady that has great difficulty walking was also enjoying a new wheelchair.

Before leaving Luis and the man from the school asked me if I had any more wheelchair forums. I told them that I had about a half dozen. They said that would be a start but informed me that they know of at least 20 more people that needed wheelchairs and were quite sure that if they did a little looking they could find a lot more. I had assumed that at most there were a few hundred people in this area but they told me that there were over 2500. They also informed me that because of their remoteness most of their people have never seen a doctor. They said that if I could ever bring a doctor up there for even a few days it would be a big blessing to them. They said that he could set up shop in the school. I told them that I would get the word out. . . . . . Now I have.

On our way down the mountain Louis asked me if we could stop off at the nearest town and see a friend of his that had been injured in an accident a few months ago. This friend had been building a house and some how touched a steel rod to some power lines. His friend lost his left leg as a result of this accident. Today we were able to give him a walker and a pare of crutches and we promised that we would get a wheelchair to him as soon as possible.

.. . ^ Video
.Our 4500 Foot Decent Down
The Mountain


Tomorrow the boys and I will head for home. It has been an action packed week and I have enjoined every bit of it but I am missing the kids from my neighborhood and it seems like it had been forever since I have been able to spend any time at the orphanage.

yours in Christ, Dick

Friday, October 2,, 2009

We are back in Chimaltenango and even though we had a great time, after spending five days on the road it sure feels good to be back at home. I really missed the kids and I have a filling that they missed me as well. Within 10 minutes 10 of them had once again made themselves feel right at home. After helping me unpack my car, one of the first things that they did was remind me that we had not played soccer all week. 5 minutes later 16 of us were heading for the soccer field to have some fun. I was a bit worried though, 15 kids in 15 minutes what would things be like an hour from now. At around 7:30 PM things thinned out a bit because some of my older kids scraped up enough money to rent the soccer field for another hour. I must be getting old, or 4 of the younger kids are getting to be pretty convincing liars because they convinced me that before leaving home on Monday I had promised them that they could spend the night. I didn't feel much like cooking for them though so about an hour ago we all headed down to Burger King. The past hour has actually been rather relaxing because while I have been on the computer the 4 of them have been in the shower. I am once again glad that my bathroom is not anything all that fancy aid since it is not connected to my house any excess water simply flows outside. A few minutes ago 3 of the kids came running through the house in search of the soccer ball. My only worry is that if they are planning on having a soccer game in the shower they will have a hard time remembering who is on who's teem because when they came running through the house none of them were wearing uniforms. I think I will go and tell them to limit their game to a half hour though because when I was a kid my mom always warned me that if anyone stayed in the shower too long their skin would shrivel up. Well that's about it for another week so I will see if my spell checker can make sense of at least a few of these words, and then I will try to get this published.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Journal, September 19-25

(Click on any picture to enlarge.)

July 1996 - September 2009

Things have been rather busy around here lately so I have once again fallen several days behind on my journal entry. The following pictures and captions will be my feeble attempt at catching up on at least some of the highlights. (At least those that I can remember)

Hedy comforts Lionel who is having a bad day.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

On Saturday morning I arrived at Hermano Pedro to fined that Ervin was not locked in his crib like he usually is. Instead they had him tied in his wheelchair and the wheel chair was tied to a post.

My friends Daryl, his wife Wanda, and I remedied this by taking Ervin and 2 of the other kids out to Camperos.

Click here to see Daryl's journal

These are a few of my new friends that are up in the malnutrition ward. Allen on the right came in malnourished but is now doing great. The little boy on the left has a hart condition that may require surgery.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

On Sunday I loaded up my car with kids and we followed a buss load of people that go to Abner and Daniel's church, to a water park down in Esquentla. Even though we had a picnic and did a lot of swimming our primary purpose in going was to see Abner and Daniel get baptized.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Most of my day was once again spent at Hermano Pedro.

Three year old Jose has put on a little more weight. He is now 12 pounds. What he lacks in size he makes up for in personality.

Florinda is gaining weight and her back is straightening out a lot. It is still not known weather or not she will fully recover though.

I took this picture of Florinda a few months ago.

Another little girl was recently admitted into the malnutrition ward who appears to be in as bad if not in worse shape then Florinda was in when we brought her in from her village.
I don't even know the name of this little girl but I know that she needs your prayers.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

On Tuesday Mario and I picked up Cesar and his Father and took them to Cesar's school for a scheduled meeting with Cesar's principal. As it turned out the principal had no time to meet with us today. Tomorrow Cesar and his father plan on going to the school again hoping that the principal will meet with them. Cesar wants badly to be back in school but the longer that he stays out the harder it will be for him to catch up. Hard to believe that they can expel a kid simply because he was sick for 2 weeks.

Mario and I then headed off for a 5 day road trip. We plan on visiting a lot of people on this trip.

Some of the people that we visited
we have never met before.

Others we have known for years

All of them were excited about being invited to camp.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On Wednesday we visited with more families.

Sergio was busy doing his school work when we stopped in to see him. Thanks to a generous sponsor Sergio is now going to a private school. The public school that is located in the town where he lives will not accept him simply because he can not walk.

Jason's mom said that she will do her best to get her son to camp but that having to catch 3 different buses to get them there is difficult because many of the buss drivers do not like stopping and picking up people that are in wheelchairs. last year Jason's wheelchair suffered a lot of damage when the workers on the buss carelessly threw it down from the top of the buss.

Six years ago Jason's dad left home to find work in the USA. That was the last time that Jason's family heard from him.

After dad left mom had no other choice but to put Jason into the orphanage at Hermano Pedro.

Now that her other children are no longer babies mom has more time to care for Jason, so he is once again living back at home with his family.

Jason is much happier now that
he is back with his family.. . .

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nearly every year I have at least a few people ask me, "Why don't you just call or write a letter to the people that you want to invite to camp, that would not only save a lot of time and money but it would also free up so much of your time you would not have to be on the road for a month and a half straight handing out those invitations?" I must admit that this year before heading out I asked my self the same question. As much as Chris loves going out and doing this the responsibility of being director of Bethel ministries only allows him and Donna to go out recruiting a few days a year, so this year even more of it has fallen on my shoulders.

The thought of simply making a phone call or sending out the invitations by mail crossed my mind but I knew that if we did it that way the majority of the people would never get their invitations. Mail service here in Guatemala is lousy at best. In the 10 years that I have been here in Guatemala the track record for receiving letters or packages that have been sent to me stands at 100%, not 100% success but 100% failure. In 10 years I have never received a single item that has been sent to me by mail. As far as calling the people is concerned many do not have telephones and many of those that do have phones, often loose them, break them, have them stolen, or trade them in for new ones. Since phone numbers are assigned to each phone and not the owner a new phone means a new number. Chances are when you call any number that is more than a few months old you will either find that the number no longer exists or that you are talking to the person that stole the phone.

These are a few reasons why we put on thousands of miles each year recruiting for camp, but after just a day or 2 on the road I am always reminded of far more important reasons. To most of the families that we see this visit is an event that they look forward to all year. They cherish the fact that we take the time and effort to come and visit them where they live. Over and over again some one will take my hand and weep while they are thanking me for coming so far just to see them. Many people with Disabilities here in Guatemala and other third world countries are continually being told that they are nobody's. To have some one come and visit them means the world to them. Some of them simply want to talk. Others may have a broken chair that we can sometimes do a quick repair on. Some want to show us what they have learned now that we have provided a teacher for them. Some need medical advice. Just this week alone I made appointments for several of them so that we can get them in somewhere to see a doctor. Others simply want a listening ear or to have some one pray for them. All of them seem grateful that we were willing to take the time to come and see them. We always leave feeling grateful that we had the privilege of visiting with these beautiful people. This has to truly be one of the most rewarding times of the year and I would not trade it for the world.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, September 25, 2009

Our first stop today was at the home of Juan Gerando. Juan who is in his early thirties lives in one of the rougher sections of Mazatinango. I mentioned to Mario that we would make today's visit with Juan a brief one. I guess those were my plans and not God's plans though, because we ended up spending several hours in this neighborhood. Not only did we end up visiting with Juan much longer than planned but on our way out of his yard we were approached by several of his neighbors. One of them was a mother that was holding her son who had cerebral palsy. As she handed me the child she looked into my eyes and asked where she could get help for her child. As it turned out he had received a wheelchair from us several years ago but he had now nearly outgrown it and due to lack of any therapy his condition now required that he should have a wheelchair that gave him a lot more support than this one. A short time later I had him sitting much better in his wheelchair but it still required a better head rest and a few other things that I did not have with me. By now a large crowd of people had gathered out on the street where we were working. In this crowd was another mother who was holding her 9 year old child. She told us that she has gone to several doctors with her son who was also unable to walk but none of them would give her as much as the time of day once they discovered that she had no money. I examined the boy and found that he could stand up and even take a few steps on his own if I supported him. Fact is he even stood up on his own by holding on to the front bumper of my car. I didn't want to give him my car but promised that I would do what I could to get him a walker and a wheelchair. The mother asked me when that would be. I started to tell them that at best it would be a few months but suddenly remembered that we happened to have a wheelchair distribution in a town that is 10 minutes down the road in less than two weeks. What a coincidence or then again was it a Godincidence? A quick phone call to the wheelchair shop confirmed that we still had room for both boys and that they could come in to that distribution. I am not certain if this mother understood English or if she read the look on my face but before I could hang up the phone to tell her that she could bring her sons in to the distribution to receive a walker and a wheelchair she started to cry.

Mario and I stuck around for a while and just loved on these people. We explained to the mothers of the 2 little boys and the other villagers that even though these boys were unable to walk they were a gift from God and that they were a blessing and not a curse. I think that the fact that one of the people telling them this was himself in a wheelchair helped them to understand more deeply what we were saying. Mario has been such a blessing on this trip. Funny how God seemed to open my eyes as well. Only a short time earlier I had been telling Mario that I wanted to make this visit a brief one, partly because we had a lot to do today but also because this area was considered dangerous. Now I was wishing that I could stay with these people forever.
"Thank you God for allowing me to have a small part in this ministry."

11:05 PM

I am now back at home here in Chimaltenango. It has been a long week and I am tired. I was going to head off to bed as soon as I Got home but several of the Neighborhood kids quickly discovered that I was home and there was no way that I could not let them in. All but the 2 that are spending the night have now left so I thought that I would quickly check my e-mail and then call it a day. One of the first e-mails that I opened was from my friend Rolland who has contacts with with several of the kids that we sponsor up near Huehuetenango. Here is part of the letter that I just received.

Hello Dick,
Very sad news:

Today I talked on phone with Maria Sanchez Perez mother of Edgar grandson of medicine woman Josefa, Huehuetenango, Maria Sanchez was crying on the phone, her son Edgar died yesterday,

I said to Maria I want to continue to help your family, she has 5 sisters, and medicine woman. I asked Maria if she has studied and she said - I have never studied, so I asked her if I can find a way so that she can study, does she want to? - Yes - she said if that can be possible she would like to study. Let’s see what I can do. She thanked me so much for phoning her; she was talking and crying during all the conversation. She has suffered so much.

Now Edgar is with God.

God bless

All 4 of the children pictured here live within a few miles of each other. I guess that I should use the word lived. All 4 have died this year. As I look at Lionel and others that we have helped from this area that are making it, I am happy that we can help at least a few but at the same time I am deeply saddened. There are so many that are dying and we simply can not reach them all. Or can we? Just recently I read the following.

According to several different resources, there are an average of 147 million orphaned children in the world today (this statistic includes children who have lost only one parent as well), 11 million children starve to death each year or die from preventable, treatable illness. 8.5 million children work as child slaves, prostitutes, or in other horrific conditions (making things like that cute baby Gap dress your child may have worn today...) 2.3 million children world wide are living with HIV.

That is 168.8 million needy children like Edgar and Lionel. Seems like a big number, huh? It shouldn't, because there are 2.1 BILLION people on this earth who profess to be Christians. Jesus followers. Servants. Gospel live-ers. And if only 8 percent of those Christians would care for just ONE of these needy children, they would all be taken care of.

Good night,
(Then again perhaps a sleepless night would not hurt a few of us.)

Yours in Christ: Dick