* 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)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Journal, September 12-18, 2009

(Click on any picture to enlarge)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A few years ago Chris and I met with some Guatemalan business men who had a concern for their fellow Guatemalans. These men had a vision of helping their fellow Guatemalans that lived in and around Huehuetenango, but did not know exactly how to go about it. After hearing about Bethel Ministries and the work that they do they asked us if they could help coordinate wheelchair distributions in Huehuetenango.

We told them that we would be happy to work with them but let them know up front that we were a Christian organization and that we were going to tell the people about the love of Jesus Christ at any wheelchair distributions that we did with them. Even though none of these men seemed to excited about our enthusiasm about sharing Christ with the families that received wheelchairs they more or less indicated that it would not bother them as long as the people got their wheelchairs. This morning those same 7 men were up on stage with Chris and 6 of them could not stop talking about the love of Christ to the people that had come to receive wheelchairs. God has certainly been working in the lives of these men.

Today 56 People here in Huehuetenango received wheelchairs and over a half dozen of them received Christ as their Lord and Savior.

It was a long day because after seating these 56 people into wheelchairs we drove all the way back to Chimaltenango. At 3:30 tomorrow morning the group that was here for the distribution will be heading for the airport. Chris offered to take them there. I did not argue. I get tired just thinking about it so I am heading off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sorry no journal today!

I'm spending time
with the kids

Monday, September 14, 2009

(12 year old Fernando in white shirt). . (19 year old Tim in red shirt)

Well I'm on the road again. Once again it is getting near camp time so today was the first of many days of camp recruiting. During this time of year we go out and personally invite people who are in wheelchairs to one of the three camps that we have in Chimaltenango each year. If my memory serves me right this will be our tenth year of hosting camp for around 180 people with disabilities. Since each person that comes to camp has some type of disability they are asked to take a friend or family member along with them to help serve as a care giver. Add to that 15 to 20 volunteers from the States,and nearly that many Guatemalan volunteers and you have a sell out crowd. This year we will have less accommodations than usual for the campers so when I visit them I have to make it perfectly clear that each camper takes only one companion along with them to camp.

Although recruiting for camp takes a lot of time and is very tiring it is also an extremely rewarding time. Many of the people that attend camp receive little or no visitors throughout the year so our visits are always welcome. It is not only a time to rekindle old friendships but it also gives us the opportunity to see first hand what some of the needs are with those that we are inviting to camp and others that we come in contact with while we are on the road. Today while trying to locate a family that has moved I stumbled across (Or was it perhaps a Godicident?) a man that lost is arm in an accident a little over a year ago. It just so happened that Mike Sitzman who along with Fernando and Marcos (no school) is accompanying me on this week's trip, has a ministry that collects and then distributes used medical supplies to those in need. We made no promises but Mike thinks that he can locate some used artificial limbs so that I can try to get a friend of mine here in Guatemala to use some of the parts and make an arm for this man.

Another one of our vistis today was at the home of Timothias, better know to us as Tiny Tim. Tim who is 19 years old has been coming to camp for several years now. He drives a power wheelchair that I set up for him him several years ago. Back when I built it I installed a seating system that had originally belong to a 2 year old. Tim's wheelchair still has that seating system in it because Tim who has no mental disabilities has a body of a 2 year old. Only Tim and a few brothers and sisters were at home today but we had a great visit and did run into his parents on the dirt road a bout a mile from his home.

We managed to visit a few other families today as well but since they are scattered all over Guatemala it will take at least a month to visit them all. Chris was hoping that he could join me on most of these visits but with all of the other responsibilities that he has that now looks doubtful. Please pry for my safety and the safety of anyone else that goes out on there own or travels with me during this tiring but rewarding time of the year.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, September 15, 20o9

It is independence day here in Guatemala so this morning we did not get out on the road until about 10 AM. Not because we spent the night celebrating but because of a parade that that kept us from getting our car out of the motel parking lot. I have learned to go with the flow here in Guatemala so for the next hour and a half we enjoyed the parade.

When we finally got on the road we managed to visit some campers but also discovered that most people don't stay at home on independence day. Over all we did not do to bad though because in the few cases where we could not track down the person that we wanted to invite to camp we managed to find friends or family members that promised to give the invitations to them. We were also able to give some canes and walkers to a friend in Nabah who had requested them for some people that needed them.

We then took a different road back to the same motel that we had stayed at last night. This road was steep and not paved but the scenery was breathtaking. Tomorrow we plan on heading for home.

Not Camperos . . . . . .. . . .
but the food was good... . . .
. .

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

After 2 and a half days on the road I am back home. It was a good trip but it is good to be back. This evening the kids and I celebrated by having a soccer game. My friend Mike came along as well. Mike had a sore leg so he sat out the game. I played for a little while but then I told the kids that I also wanted to be a spectator tonight. After the game most of the crew came over for spaghetti.

10:15 PM

Miguel, one of my older boys just brought some thing to my Attention. There is a text message on my phone saying that 100 Q (around $12 of air time was transferred from my phone to the phone of Alex's brother Chino. I just got off from the phone with Chino and Alex and discovered that this is not the first time that Alex has used my phone to transfer money to his brother's phone while pretending to be calling his mother about something. It seems that some of these kids think that it is OK to seal from you if you have more than they do. I some how have to convey to them not only that they can not take things from someone simply because that person has more than they do but also that they are betraying a trust and a friendship by doing so. I told Alex and Chino that I would be over at their house tomorrow afternoon to talk to them and their mother to discuss what the consequences of this theft would be. I also told Alex that I wanted him to be at my door at 7:00 am so that he could return the 100 Q that I gave him for his schooling at about the same time that he was stealing the other 100 Q from me. A short time later Chino transferred the unused portion of the money back over to my phone. I am still going to require Alex to return the money that I gave him for his schooling though. I also told him that tomorrow we will discuss weather or not we will continue to sponsor him in his schooling.

Well I am going to head off to bed now. I have an idea that it will be a sleepless night though. Please pray that I make the right decisions in dealing with this situation. I know that discontinuing Alex's sponsorship would be harsh punishment but I am considering doing that, at least for a month or two. I love these kids but they have to learn that they can not take things that do not belong to them.

"When your children are little,
they step on your toes....
When they grow up,
they step on your heart."

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Not nearly enough sleep last night worrying about Alex but if I stopped doing things every time one of these kids broke my hart I would be at a stand still. My friend Mike had planned on spending the entire day with me today. We were going to first visit Mark Richard and Hope Haven's Wheelchair factory and then visit the orphanage but Mike's planned activities ended right after the visit to the wheelchair factory. Seems that some thing he ate last night didn't agree with him. Since Mike had supper at my house I am afraid that doesn't say much for either my cooking or the kid's dish washing. At any rate I brought Mike back to his hotel shortly before noon. Mike is thankful that, unlike my house, this hotel has inside plumbing.

Miguel had ridden in to Hermano Pedro with us this morning because he had a doctors appointment. Yes he had school but he does not go until 6 PM. Since he had a second appointment at 3:30 he rode back to Hermano Pedro when I returned there after bringing Mike back to his hotel. Before heading back to Hermano Pedro we picked up Cesar. He had no school today. Fact is it looks like he is out of school until next year. He was sick for a few days and missed some exams during that time. Even though he has a note from hid doctor his teacher who had missed far more days than that, told him that he can not return to school until next year. Cesar's dad is going to talk to the teacher and the principal but doubts that he will get very far with either of them. I am afraid that even if he could get Cesar back into school against the teacher's will that the teacher would just make life miserable for Cesar.

Sometimes one lap is scarcely enough.

"If only I could decide.... which one to dance with."

Today they were celebrating the anniversary of Hermano Pedro and unlike many of their celebrations the kids were not put in their cribs but were included in the festivities. It was neat to see so many of the adults holding and playing with the kids. Since the kids in the part of the orphanage where I usually hang out at had so much going on today Miguel, Cesar and I decided to spend most of our afternoon up in the malnutrition ward. Actually kids are not allowed to visit the malnutrition ward but I talked the nurses into letting me take several of the healthier kids out into a fenced off area that is located just out side of the malnutrition ward. Later they allowed the boys and myself to take a few of them down to where all of the festivities were taking place. Cesar and Miguel are naturals with the kids and they had every bit as much fun as the orphanage kids did. At 3:30 Miguel went for his doctors appointment only to discover that the doctor had gone home for the day. Tomorrow he is planning on taking the buss in to Antigua and trying again.

Shortly after getting back home I went over to Lezett's house. Lezette, who is the daughter of Chris and Donna, and her husband Minor live right next to me. She is an excellent interpreter and tonight I needed one. Last night I had phone Alex and Chino's mom and told her what her son's had done but tonight I wanted to go to her place and talk to her so that an appropriate punishment could be agreed upon by both of us. She told me that last nights phone call had devastated her and her first reaction was to make her sons stay in the house for the rest of their lives. She know though that trying to keep them from getting into trouble by locking them in the house would not work but it was agreed upon that they would not be allowed to come over for a month and then only if mother knew exactly where they were. She shared with us that alex sowed true remorse for what he had done and that he got so upset over his actions that he actually threw up. He told me that he was sorry and that he would make it up to me in any way possible. I told him that I believed him and forgave him but that he would still have to be punished for his actions. Not only will he and Chino have to pay back the amount that they were unable to put back onto my phone but am trying to come up with some type of community service job for them.

It seems like when it rains it pours because when I got home tonight one of my older boys discovered a file on one of the computers that is used for school work that contained some pictures that we immediately destroyed. It looks like tomorrow night Jason and possibly his parents will be getting a visit from me. I haven't yet decided weather to do that visit before or after seeing Fernando's uncle who has owed me money for several years now. I would leave that one alone if it were just an unpaid loan but there is a lot more to it than that. Well I guess every day can not be a bed of roses but as I sit here looking at several of the kids who with out a helping hand would not be in school and watching Nancy, who had nearly dropped out of school a few years ago , Program a crashed computer, I realize how blessed I am. Just a few minutes ago Abner, who has given me a lot of grief over the years, came to the house to make sure that I was coming to see him get baptized this Sunday. No these kids are not all angels but God has placed them in my path and I love every one of them.

"Children don't make life easier....just better..."

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, September 18, 2009

This morning Mike, Mario, Cesar and I Headed down towards the coast. Cesar is still out of school but since Cesar's dad can not get any time off from either of his 2 jobs, Mario told me that he will go along with me to talk with Cesar’s principal. It seemed odd that Cesar is being kicked out of school simply because he was sick during exam week but Mario told me that the same thing happened to a child of a friend of his a few years ago. Mario helped his friend’s child get back into school and is hoping that he can do the same for Cesar.

Our first stop today was at a home that we visited a few weeks ago. Actually it can hardly be described as a home because it can scarcely be considered a shack by most standards. Within the rotting walls of this so-called structure lives a family of ten. Father and three of the children have a bone disease that prevents the children from walking and has crippled father and one of the other children. In spite of his condition father still manages to go out and work but the pay for farm labor is so low that he is not even able to take home enough money to buy corn for making tortillas. Today mother and 5 of the children were at home. Mother told us that she usually goes out and tries to find odd jobs but said that she has been sick for the past 9 days so she has been unable to do any work. When I asked her weather her and the children had been eating she said that other than a few tortillas that 2 of the children had begged for from some neighbors they have had nothing.

Today we provided them with some groceries and also brought in a walker and a wheelchair but this family needs much more than that. They have nothing. Even the shack that they live in and the mosquito infested piece of land that it sits on belongs to some one else. They pay no rent but they know that they can be evicted at any time. All they are doing is existing and they see no hope for anything more than that.

Several of the children showed no emotion when we approached them. One little boy just sat and stared into space when we waled up to him. Mother told us that her 13 year old son was the only one in the family that had ever received an education but that was only for one year. My first thought was to find a sponsor and get at least a few of these children into school but I also realized that there were several things that took priority over that. Things like food. Neither mother nor any of these children had eaten anything other than a few corn tortillas in several days. It is likely that father who was trying his best to provide for his family had eaten at all. At least they had water, if you can call a shallow well that had a green scum on it water. Because the wells near the coast are so shallow all kinds of pollutants including raw sewage seeps into them. Most families do not even put in outhouses because the water table is only a few feet down, so any human waist is even less absorbed before it reaches the water that you drink if deposit it into a hole rather then onto the ground. This family needs medical attention as well. None of them have ever seen a doctor except for a 9 year old girl that is in a hospital in a town that is located about 2 hours from where this family lives. At least that is where mother hopes her daughter is at. Fearing that their daughter would die the family scraped up enough money to bring her there few months ago but since that time they have not had enough money to go and see her. Mother told us that her one hope is that they can some how relocate to a place that they use to live at that is closer to the ocean. She told us that at least they were able to catch fish to eat when they lived there. She didn’t seem to have much hope though because she knew that if they moved there they would have to pay some type of rent and that there was no way that they could come up with that kind of money.

Mario shared with the family that we were Christians and that was why we were there, but some how a few bags of food, a wheelchair, and a promise that we would be praying for them seemed as shallow as the polluted well that was located out side of their house. As we walked back to my car I kept asking myself W.W.J.D.? (What Would Jesus DO?) That is why we spent part of our afternoon looking at small plots of land in the town where this family used to live. Land is getting expensive here in Guatemala but it looks like we can buy a small piece of land that would accommodate one or our prefabricated houses for around $1000. The land that we looked at even has water piped in to it.

This afternoon the social workers from the Clinic in La Gomara also took us to a village where 480 families live. A man that works with the mayor there took us around and introduced us to several families. At first I wondered why we were in this village because even though it was obvious that most of the families were by no means well off, the houses appeared to be better than many that I have seen in other villages. Once we started talking with the people we realized that even though several of the homes were made from cement and not from corn stalks or rotting lumber, the people here were still suffering a lot. This village had a lot of sickness in it and I believe that a good deal of it could be attributed to the water that the people drink. Not unlike the family that we had brought the wheelchair to, the people here had shallow wells that were polluted from raw sewage and everything else flowing into them. We were told that none of the families had any rest room facilities.

We went a stuck our necks out a bit by promising that we would soon give the people 10 water filters so that they could test them out for us. The social workers that were with us are going to work with the village leaders in monitoring the families that get these filters. We not only want to know how well they work but want to see if the families not only use them themselves but since many of the houses are huddled so close to one another we are hoping that several families can share the drinking water from one filter. This should be no problem because just one of these new filters can purify around five gallons of water every 10 minutes and if my math is correct that is about 30 gallons in an hour. Not bad considering we can get them for under $40 per filter.

Well it is getting late. (Truth is it is Saturday afternoon. I have fallen behind on my journal writing.) So I am going to say “Goodnight” or at least “Good afternoon”

Yours in Christ: Dick


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