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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Guatemala Cell Phone # 502 5379 9451
USA Phone # 360 312 7720(Relays free to Guatemala)
I know that we celebrated Christmas yesterday but for Fernando and Etiline it came the day after Christmas.
Neither Fernando or his sister Etiline have seen their mother since she left to find work in the States ten years ago. Tonight we arranged for their mother to go to the home of a friend who has a computer, and thanks to modern technology, the marvels of internet and 2 small cameras, for nearly an hour Fernando and Etiline got to visit with their mother face to face. Can you imagine finally being able to see your 11 and 12 year old children who were 1 and 2 years old that last time that you saw them, or seeing your mother who you have not seen since you were a baby? Needless to say a lot of tears were shed but the visit was a healthy one for both mother and children. I am going to do my best to see to it that these visits take place on a regular bases.
I am hoping to give some of my other kids the same opportunity but needless to say some of them are bitter that their parents left them in an attempt to make a better life for them, and are not sure that they want to make contact with them. Fernando, Etiline and their mother were ready for this reunion. I think that a few more of my kids would like to do this as well but we are taking it one step at a time.
Christmas also came a day later than usual for this widow and her 5 children that we visited earlier today.
A few weeks ago while visiting 2 other widows that Bethel Ministries have given homes to I was told of this lady, her 5 children and her elderly mother who lived in a shack that was made out of corn stalks and mud. When the boys that were with me and myself visited her house we could not help but wonder if it would fall down before anyone could get anything done about getting a new one built for them. On Christmas day I told Chris about this family and he told me that we could make this family a priority so today I went back to see them.
This is the inside of their home.. ..........
Before going there the boys and I went and picked up Pastor Juan and his family. Pastor Juan who lives in Tecpan which is less than a half hour drive from where this lady lives helps Bethel with the construction of a lot of the homes that they build. With in a half hour after introducing him to this lady and her 5 children (None of whom she can afford to send to school) we had everything discussed and thanks to some short term mission teems that will be coming in to help us build some homes, we were able to promise her and her family a new home within the next month or two.
While we were were there Juan, his family, the 2 boys that came along from my neighborhood and I challenged the village kids to a game of soccer. Had we seen the village soccer field before we asked about playing we may have changed our minds. The field (if you can call it that) has to be on a good 15 degree incline. Saying it was a bit rocky is deffinatly an understatement. Some of the rocks were boulders that the opposing players often hid behind. Two sticks that were stuck into the ground at the high end of the field served as the up hill goal.
I usually like to play goalie but we had the low end of the field and and a 10 foot deep pit served as the down hill goal. Step back to far while protecting this goal and you were a goner. Never the less we all had a good time and good number of spectators had gathered by the time we finished the game.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ^Click button to play video
After the game we visited for a while with the families of Maria and Rosa. These area the 2 widows in this area who we have already built houses for.
When I got home this evening my kids and I rented a soccer field and about 15 of us had a game on a field that was level and had no boulders. Granted the surface was cement and not grass but that is kids stuff compared to what I played on earlier today.
Goodnight and MerryChristmas all over again. Yours in Christ: Dick
Sunday, December 27, 2009
I know it is Sunday and I know that I said that I was going to take some time off from writing in my journal but how can I brag about my kids if I can't write about them. No, mind you they are far from angels. They just proved that to me tonight when I rented a soccer field for $3 after all 15 kids promised that they would help clean up my yard after the game. Some how 15 kids dwindled down to 9 by the time we reached my yard, and some how only 6 of the 9 that made it to my house remembered that they had promised to work. I must admit though that it was almost worth seeing the expressions on the faces of the kids that I left behind when 7 of us drove off to Burger King after the yard was cleaned up.
Any way where was I? Oh ya, I wanted to do a bit of bragging about the kids that came along with me to church this morning. After Church I told the kids that I wanted to stop off at the orphanage for just a few minutes to see if some friends of mine happened to be there. As it turned out my friends were not there but a few minutes turned into something like a few hours. Not that I minded but every time that I mentioned that we should be heading for home all of my kids begged me to stay longer. None of them wanted to put the child that they were holding back into his or her crib. It did not seem to matter to them that most of the children that they were holding had severe deformities. Some had heads the size of basketballs, others had feeding tubes inserted int their noses and many of them were wearing diapers that needed to be changed. Some how my kids didn't seem to care. They saw a beauty in each of these children that I have seen many a visitor to the orphanage fail to recognize. I can honestly say that my kids are more and more seeing the orphanage kids and others that we visit in the villages as Christ meant for them to be seen, His children that He created in his image.
Why is it then that some of these same kids that I was so proud of only a few short hours ago are the one's that did not get to go along to Burger King tonight? Like I said they are far from perfect, but we are working on that. Meanwhile I still let them know that I love them.
Merry Christmas From Dick and the Crew. (Here in Guatemala we are still allowed to say that.)
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
I know that I said that I was not going to do any writing this week but I wanted to write about the Godincidence that took place just a few hours ago while it is still fresh in my mind.
Yesterday David who works at Hope Haven's wheelchair factory over in Antigua asked me if I could come in and fit a wheelchair for a little girl who's mother would be bringing her in today. I told him that I could do it and asked if it would be OK if I brought along a little boy that I had heard about who needed a wheelchair. David told me that they would love to give this this little boy a wheelchair, so this morning I picked him, his brother and his mother up at their home and then headed over to Hope Haven's wheelchair factory.
After seating the 2 kids David showed me a few boxes that had my name on them. He told me that they had arrived yesterday on a container of wheelchair supplies and he had no idea what was in them. I first though of just throwing them into my car and not checking their contents until later but something prompted me to look into one of the boxes. Before I had a chance to check out any of the other boxes David called me over to one of the garbage bins that are just outside of the building.
A little boy was rummaging around in the garbage trying to find some thing of value. This is not all that uncommon here in Guatemala but what caught David's attention were the shoes that this little boy was wearing. They were an unmatched pare of ladies open toe shoes. The little boy seemed quite amused that we had taken an interest in his shoes. He told us that they were the only shoes that he owned. Not only were they in terrible shape but they kept falling off from his feet. This was especially bad because this little boy spent most of his time scrounging around in the garbage bins where there is a lot of broken glass and other dangerous tings to step on.
Now here is where the Godincidence of the week came in to play. Hope Haven Antigua is a wheelchair factory and not a shoe store. Nearly every container that arrives there is filled with wheelchair related items. Shoes are not wheelchair items. What do you suppose was in the box that I had just peeked into? A few minutes later David was fitting Luis Andreas into a brand new pare of shoes. I am quite sure that this the very first Christmas present that Luis has ever received.
Have a MerryChristmas Yours in Christ; Dick
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
I think that I may have accidentally gotten up on the wrong side of bed this morning. Then again perhaps it was a good thing that I did. Otherwise I would likely have stepped on one or more of the kids that claimed my floor as their bed last night.
(Click on any photo to enlarge)
Breakfast went quite smoothly considering that the number of kids had more than doubled by the time we sat down to eat. Oh yes one or two cups of hot chocolate managed to make it onto my floor instead of into the mouths of some of my younger guests but that almost always happens. It didn't matter much though because it just sort of mixed in with the Pepsi that had been spilled there during supper last night. Usually my floor gets swept 2 or 3 times a day but last night the kids convinced me that playing a few games with them was more important than sweeping the floor or doing the dishes. Now I sort of wish that I had let them do their chores before sending them out of the house today. I don't do that often but one argument to many sent me over the edge. Actually 2 of the kids had what you might call a little more than an argument because arguments do not usually draw blood. Never the less once I got the tears stopped I announced that our plans to go swimming were on hold for a few days and then ushered the entire troop out of the front gate. I was surprised that there was not more weeping and gnashing of teeth but they all took it quite well. It does not happen often but I think that they have learned how to read it in my eyes when I truly need a day off, or at least part of a day off. I told all but the 2 of them that had been fighting that my house would be open to them later this evening.
Now I had a big decision to make. What was I going to do with an entire day all to myself? Suddenly I got a terrific Idea why not head on down to Antigua and spend the day with the kids there. I know, I know! but the kids at the orphanage never fight with each other. Then again I guess it is impossible to fight when you are all locked in separate cribs. I had full intentions of going to the orphanage all by myself but when I opened my gate I discovered that Calin and Fernando were out there staring at the ground and kicking rocks.
When I told them that I was heading to the orphanage to love on the kids there they reminded me that there were far to many kids there for one person to love on by themselves. They also reminded me that they were not the ones that had been fighting. Two minutes later the 3 of us were on our way. I know, I know! but there was no way that I could take 3 orphanage kids out to lunch all by myself.
I must admit that at first my hart was not in it nearly as much as it usually is but it only took one magic word, (Camperos) and the excitement that was on the faces of Fidel, Bobby, and Lionel made me forget about the chocolate milk, coke and blood that still had to be mopped up at home. Besides that the 2 boys that came along with me are professionals at showing the orphanage kids unconditional love.
I had intended on heading straight home after bringing the 3 kids that we took out to lunch back to the orphanage but Calin and Fernando convinced me that the kids up in the malnutrition ward needed some loving as well. Yes, the malnutrition ward is off limits to kids, but the nurses there know my boys and have no problems with me sneaking a few of the orphanage kids to a fenced off area just outside of their door. Any way that is how I spent a relaxing day away from the kids.
I've got to run. I think that the crew is gathering at my gate.
Yours in Christ: Dick
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Closed for the weekend. (Went on a picknick with the neighbors and forgot to take my Camera)
Monday, December 14, 2009
Took 4 of the kids along with me to Hermano Pedro where we met up with 2 ladies from the States. We then took some of the orphanage kids out to lunch. The girls have a saying around my house.
............................"The Boys Rule"
Not tonight though.
It does not happen often but for a few hours this evening the girls out numbered the boys.
I think that a few of my boys may have actually felt a bit intimidated.
Fernando hung in there,
most of the others reluctantly gave up the computers until the girls left.
Goodnight, Yours in Christ: Dick
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
On The Road Again
Tonight 3 of my Boys and I are in Coban. This is the first day of what will likely be a 6 day road trip. Our main objective of this trip is to get into the remote area abut 2 hours north of Plya Grandi to visit with 5 families that have children that we have been sponsoring or plan to sponsor this coming school year. Although this is primarily a work oriented trip the boys and I have full intentions of making it a fun time. Believe it or not I think that it will be a relaxing time for me as well. One thing that I am grateful for here in Guatemala is that most motels charge by the amount of people and not by the room. Don't get me wrong I love these boys but after spending all day riding in a car with 3 teen agers a bit of peace and quiet are more than welcome. Tonight the boys are in room #8 and I am in room #2. I can still hear them but having 5 rooms between us at least muffles the noise somewhat. I asked for rooms 1 and 9 but they were taken.
Today we opted for cutting off close to 100 kilometers by traveling dirt roads instead of staying on the main highways. Some people think that you have a better chance of getting robbed if you travel the back roads but I personally believe that any bandit would starve to death just waiting for a car to come along on some of these dirt roads. Some of the roads were extremely bumpy but we took our sweet time and even stopped off at a river for a swim.
Most of the people that live in the back country have no wells so the rivers are used for washing clothing, bathing, collecting drinking water, and some times as rest rooms. That is one reason that we always try to swim a bit up stream from where the the villagers hang out.
..................No this is not my crew. ...................We brought our swim suits.
Goodnight, Yours in Christ: Dick
Wednesday, December 17, 2009 Today we had planned on relaxing a bit and spending the day at Semuc Chanpey. Champey is about a 2 hour drive from Coban. The first hour is on paved roads but after that the road changes to dirt. The 2 hour drive is well worth it though because it has to be one of the most beautiful places in all of Guatemala. There is one thing about jungles though. Rain! Not only was it raining there today but it was a cold rain. We had 3 choices, stay there and get wet, backtrack 2 hours to Coban, or cut cross country on a road that made anything that we traveled on so far look like kids stuff. We took a vote. It was unanimous. What are Land Cruisers built for if not a bit of a challenge? Besides that retracing our steps back to Coban would only allow us to be on pavement for a few hours and then we would still have to drive on 5 hours of dirt road that was comparable to this before reaching Playa Grandi. I must admit the next 7 hours were some of the bumpiest that I have ever driven. I am not sure how my car kept from shaking apart but other than a few new rattles it seems to be OK.
We did have one experience where we had to do some fast talking. Some men who were filling in some pot holes (Talk about job security) told us that we would have to pay them 100Q to use the road. Between my lack of Spanish and Calin convincing them that we were poor missionaries, they finally backed down and let us go on without paying. It was dark by the time we reached Playa Grandi and we were ready to get out of the car and into our motel room. The clerk at the desk of the motel was very courteous but politely told us that there was no room in the inn. He told us about another hotel that he thought would have room so we went there and checked it out. No hot water but the had a single room and a triple and the 2 rooms were a good 50 feet apart. How was I to know that the people in the room next to mine had teen agers. Oh well I think that I will wad up some Kleenex, stuff it in my ears and try to get some sleep.
Goodnight, Yours in Christ: Dick
Thursday, December 17, 2009
This morning the boys and I drove another 2 hours to a settlement simply known as Nuevo Pueblo Número Cuatro (New Village Number Four). Some of the larger rivers along the way actually have bridges that you can cross once you adjust the remaining planks to your liking.
Many of the smaller rivers have no bridges.
................ ...................^ Click button to play video .. Nuevo Pueblo Número Cuatro is one of 4 settlements near the Mexican border where the Guatemalan government relocated Guatemalan's who had fled to Mexico during the civil war, which took place here in the seventies and eighties. It took several hears but the government finally followed through on their promises to build small homes for at least some of the people that relocated here once the war was officially over. Other than a few people who have been able to purchase solar cells that charge one or 2 old car batteries during the day none of the people have electricity. The nearest town is Playa Grandi and that is 2 hours away by four wheel drive. There is a public school in the village but it does not allow anyone to attend if they have any type of disability.
Onias, one of the kids that we visited today lived at Hermano Pedro orphanage for about 2 years. He was one of the first kids that we ever got a sponsor for so that he could attend school. About 6 years ago his family took Onias home for Christmas and never did bring him Back to Hermano Pedro. His leaving Hermano Pedro was bitter sweet for both Onias and for those of us who spent time with him at the orphanage. He was a neat kid and we would miss him but we knew that he wanted to be with his family. They loved him and he loved them. I guess one of the hardest parts about seeing him leave was knowing that he would no longer be getting an education. Even though Onias could not talk he was exceptionally bright and loved going to school. Nearly a year went by but I was still haunted by the fact that Onias Could not go to school. I discussed this with Chris and Donna and they felt the same way. That is why early one morning Chris and I packed up the old 4 wheel drive van and headed out to Plya Grandi, a town that was not even on the map. It took us 2 days to get there and once we arrived we realized that we still had no idea how to locate Onias. When we found a hotel we asked the manager, who appeared to be slightly inebriated, if he had any idea where Nuevo Pueblo Número Cuatro was located. He told us that he had been there once but it was still a 2 hour drive and trying to explain how to get there would be next to impossible. When we told him why we wanted to go there he said that he would go along and show us the way in the morning. I was glad to hear that the generator that at that time operated the lights to Playa Grandi shut down at 10 PM because that would mean that the bar that our room was attached to would also close down at that time and so would the jukebox that was separated from my bed by only a thin wall. This would perhaps also give our self appointed guide time to sober up a bit before we headed out in the morning.
That was five years ago. During that time not only has Onias been able to receive an education but so have 3 other children whom the public school in Nuevo Pueblo Número Cuatro would not allow to attend. Today I had the opportunity to once again visit with each of these kids and their families. The teacher that they had last year will not be able to work with them next year but we have located another one that is willing to go to their homes and teach each one of them privately twice a week.
One of the people that we visited with today was Mario. Mario is a spirited 12 year old boy whom thanks to a sponsor has been receiving private tutoring for the past few years. Mario who loves school is not allowed to attend public school because he uses a walker and crutches to get around.
Abner relaxes in a hammock
as he interprets for Mario's mother and myself.
Miceala is a very shy little girl who is confined to a wheelchair. It took a long time for her last teacher to gain her trust. I am praying that it will not take too long for our new teacher to gain her trust.
I hurt for Filipi. He is a sweet little boy who has suffered just enough brain damage at birth that he can't quite fit in at a so called normal school. His parents had thought about once again asking the principal if he could attend the public school but it is located a long way from where they live and walking any distance at all is difficult for Filipi.
Maria is a bright little girl that has CP. Although I met Maria and her family nearly 2 years ago, this will be the first year that we will be providing a teacher for her. Last year her mom and dad worked with her using some books and school supplies that we provided. Maria is still in need of a sponsor.
Onias's mom also took me to visit the home of a 5 year old girl who has downs syndrome. Since she is only 5 I told her mom that we would visit again next year but that I could make no promises. This little girl would be a real challenge to teach. Our new teacher will already be spending 30 hours a week with the 5 student that he has and we do not want to overload him.
Before heading back to Playa Grandi we returned to Onias's house where his mother served us lunch. While we were there Onias's father returned home from working the fields that are an hour away by horse back. Both Calin and Abner jumped at the chance when he asked them if they wanted to ride his horse.
Marcos politely declined after seeing Abner's attempt to get on the horse and Calin's not so graceful dismount.
Onias did not attempt to ride the horse either. He was having too much fun with the new walker that we had brought him.
It has been another long day.
but a good one!
Goodnight, Yours in Christ: Dick
Friday, December 18, 2009
Rainy season is suppose to be over but some one has evidently forgotten to relay that message to mother nature. We needed four wheel drive just to navigate the streets of Playa Grandi so we had a pretty good idea what the normal 5 hour drive back to Coban would be like. I have seen lots of pot hols here in Guatemala but I would consider some of the ones that we encountered on our way home to be sink holes rather than pot holes. We did not see many cars or trucks on our way to Cobon and most anything that was not four wheel drive was either stuck in the mud or pulled over to the side of the road until things dried out a bit. Who knows that could be days.
In spite of the mud and rain we stopped off in one little village. About a year ago I had brought 3 wheelchairs there after Saul and Hanna who were with me a few weeks earlier happened to see a warn out wheelchair sitting out in front of a house. This turned out to be a real Godincident because the visit with the owner of that wheelchair resulted in us being told about 2 other people in the village that were in need of wheelchairs. Today we decided that we would pay a visit to these 3 people just to see how they were doing.
Our first stop was at the home of the man who's warn out wheelchair had led us to himself and 2 others. Today he was sitting in an old wooden chair but he told us that he uses his new wheelchair a lot. He shared with us that after his old wheelchair completely wore out he was virtually a prisoner in this wooden chair for several years. His wife who id quite feeble would manage to set him in it in the morning and then get him back to bed each night. He told us that his new wheelchair has given him a whole new lease on life.
Our next visit was at the home of Alberto. Alberto has brittle bone disease and up until we brought him a wheelchair last year his bed was his prison. Alberto lives in a dirt floor house that has chickens running all around in it. If this were the USA I am reasonably sure that the humane society would come in and remove the chickens saying that this dwelling was not a fit place for them. In spite of the poor living conditions and the poverty that surrounds Alberto he is a delightful man. Even though he has never been to school a friend has taught him how to read and Alberto who is a Christian spend most of his time reading his Bible.
We had planned on seeing one more person who we had given a wheelchair to last year. This was a little girl who lived with her family in a one room house. I feel bad because I can not even think of her name. I do remember though how grateful her family was that some one had cared enough to come and see them yet alone give them a wheelchair. I am reminded as well that we have a Heavenly Father who cares far more than any of can ever imagine. Not only does He know us by name but he even knows the number of hairs on our head. More than that he loved this little girl so much that He gave his only Son to die for her so that she could spend an eternity with him. Today we were told that this little girl is no longer confined to a wheelchair. Two months ago she went home to a loving Heavenly Father who calls her by name.