* 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, January 30, 2010

Journal, January 25-30 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tonight I am sitting in a motel room in Xela. This is a trip that I have put off for 2 weeks partly because I simply had too many other things to do but mainly out of stubbornness. Two weeks ago Erica's mom phoned Bethel's wheelchair shop telling them that Erica had run out of medicine. I have repeatedly asked Erica's mom to let us know when they were down to about a 2 week supply instead of waiting until they ran completely out of the medicine that helps control her skin condition but it never seems to sink in. It seems like Erica's family just expects me to drop everything and make the 3 to 4 hour drive at the drop of a that. This time I asked Chris to call them back and tell them to send one of their family members by buss to pick up the medicine themselves. After all I wasn't their servant. Or was I?

Last night I started thinking. (I guess it's about time.) What was I doing? Was I actually jeopardizing the health of a 12 year old girl simply because I was feeling a bit used by her parents. Even if they didn't have a legitimate reason for not coming to Chimaltenango and picking up the medicine themselves, did I have the right to try to teach them a lesson at the expense of their daughters health. So what if I was feeling a bit like their servant hadn't I come to Guatemala to serve these people. After all isn't that exactly what Jesus had done for me?

Today as Eric's mother explained to me that they simply did not have the money to send any one to Chimaltenango by bus as she held onto my hand and thanked me for bringing Erica's medicine I wondered to myself why I had not done this a few weeks ago.

Mark 9:35

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."
While we were in the area we also paid a visit to Christopher and his family. Christopher seems to be in better health then he had been in for a while. His mom told us that he is having far less seizures the past few months and his overall health seems better. The family had some sad news to tell us though. A 12 year old cousin who lives next door to Christopher suddenly got sick and died within a few days.
Those of you that Have been following my Journals undoubtedly remember reading about Florinda a little girl that my friend Roland and I visited at her home last June. As you may recall 3 and a half year old Florinda had been perfectly healthy up until a year ago but then mysteriously started having occasional seizures that gradually worsened to the point where she was continually seizuring and in constant pain. In a few short months she had gone from a happy and healthy little girl to some one so frail that she was close to death. We managed to get her into the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro where she put on some weight but the seizures and the pain continued. The doctors there did all that they could to figure out what was wrong with her but neither they nor the specialists that they consulted seemed to have the answers. The doctors at Hermano Pedro made a decision to temporarily move Florinda out of Hermano Pedro for a short term stay at the national hospital in Antigua for some treatment of an edema that was on one of her knees. Florinda's mom had been OK with having her daughter at Hermano Pedro but shortly after she found out that her daughter had been moved to the national hospital mom panicked and took her daughter home. Both Rolland and I were devastated because we were not sure that Hermano Pedro would take her back since mom had taken her home without consulting them and they were the ones that had admitted her into the national hospital. In what seemed to be a last ditch effort to keep Florinda alive Rolland consulted a neurosurgeon in Guatemala City and some how convinced mom to take her daughter to see him. To make a long story a little shorter, the neurosurgeon immediately recognized the problem as hydrocephalus and offered to operate and put a shunt in for free. He told Rolland and Florinda's mom that it was uncertain how much damage had already been done and only time would tell how much permanent brain damage had been done and how much Florinda would improve after the surgery.

The following is part of a letter that I received from Roland today.

(Yes the 3 pictures above and the 3 pictures below are of the same little girl.)

Hi Dick:

. . . . .. . . .Florinda smiled!

On the 15th of January 2010 I traveled again to visit little Florinda to give her medicine and her economic support from Liz. I was in the little humble adobe house for about 20 minutes when it happened; Florinda smiled a beautiful smile. I tried to quickly get my camera to take a photo of her smiling but I was too slow. But the photos I did take clearly shows how much better her health is now. After awhile, she became tired and made a big yawn and fell asleep. It was so wonderful to see that she can now sleep good . Florinda keep on smiling several times each day now, I talked to her elder sister recently. A big change has happened the last weeks. Her mother had tears in her eyes when she was telling me about that she has started to smile the last weeks, this happens each day now they told me, but she does not talk. Her arms and legs are now softer I felt no tension like before and she was relaxed during the several hours I was at her home. No convulsions, crying or screaming like before and by her own force and effort, she suddenly turned around a bit to the other side! She also moved her head like I never have seen her before which is just incredible. I have never seen Florinda smile before since I came to know her in June 2009 when she was close to starving to death. A big step has been taken but still there is a long way left for her recovery and she needs a lot more help with food and medicine. I pray I can continue to coordinate the help she needs each month. The medicine I have traveled to give her since October is to alleviate convulsions that were caused by the pressure to her brain because of Hydrocephalus. Perhaps she may need to take that medicine several months more. She has a shunt now that takes away the liquid that caused the pressure she had on her brain. This week I hope to travel with Florinda and her mother and sister to the neurosurgeon to the capital so that Florinda can receive a new exam and also probably a new tomography of her head so that he can see how the development is. The doctor has to check how the shunt is working.

God bless you


Matthew 25:37-40

Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?"

The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Tonight we are still in Xela. Yesterday after visiting with Erica and then Christopher the boys and I stopped off at the orphanage in Xela. Much like Hermano Pedro orphanage in Antigua this orphanage only takes in children with disabilities. All but a few of the 72 residence there are in wheelchairs. We try to go there every 3 or 4 months to repair and replace warn out and outgrown wheelchairs but this time it had been much longer than that. I am not sure what they are feeding their kids but many of them have really grown. I was amazed at the number of kids that had outgrown their wheelchairs. Both yesterday afternoon and all day today the boys and I did our best to re-size and repair as many wheelchairs as possible. I guess we made a small dent but there are still many chairs that have to be repaired or replaced. Both Jason and Marcos worked hard but they do manage to get off task a lot easier than the kids that helped me last week. I am discovering that teen age boys can teach you a lot when you are on the road with them for several days. How much patience you have, for instance. Just in case God is actually trying to teach me patience or some other lesson by having these 2 with me I think that I will say this little prayer before heading off to bed.

"God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it's me."

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The boys and I had another busy day today. We left Xela at around 9 AM and arrived in Cimaltenango shortly before noon. Not bad considering the trip use to take nearly 5 hours. Something that has improved a lot over years here in Guatemala are the roads. Granted there are still a lot of places that can only be reached on foot or by 4 wheel drive but many of the major highways have seen significant improvement. Much of the highway between here and Xela is now 4 lane. Now all they have to do is convince the slower drivers that the left lain is the passing lane but that is hard to do considering the right lane often has people, dogs, horses or broken down trucks and cars on it.

Our stay in Chimaltenango was a short one. We only stopped long enough to get a bite to eat and then headed to Antigua. Last week there were a few people that did not get wheelchairs at the distribution that Hope Haven did near the coast, so today they came to Antigua to receive the wheelchairs that they had been promised. I had intended on dropping off Jason and Marcos here in Chimaltenango and going to Antigua by myself but the boys begged me to take them along with me.

This young lady fit nicely into the smallest size wheelchair that is made at Hope Haven's wheelchair factory in Antigua. She is 26 years old.

21 year old Sylvan was also delighted with this new wheelchair. This is the first wheelchair that he has ever owned.

Now I am back home and the house is quickly filling up with kids. Those pictured here sitting at the table are waiting for supper. These are the eager ones. There will be more kids at the table once I actually start cooking some food, but first I have to once again get out the first aid kit. Esbin's leg took a bit of a beating when he fell off from his bicycle.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Would you believe another wheelchair distribution today? This distribution took place in Guatemala City. Chris and Donna, about a half dozen of the Bethel Ministries crew, 3 members of a rotary club from my home State of Washington, 2 of my boys and myself managed to give out around 45 wheelchairs in about 4 hours. That may not sound all that difficult but each wheelchair was carefully adjusted to fit whoever it was given to. In some cases that can be done in a matter of minutes. For some of the more severe patients it can take several hours.

After Chris had seated a young man who has muscular dystrophy into a manual wheelchair he called me over to see what I though about setting him up with a power wheelchair. His hands are to week for a conventional joystick but after running a few tests I decided that he was the perfect candidate for a chin controlled power wheelchair. When we explained how this worked to him and his mother they both lit up like Christmas trees. I told them that it could be a month or 2 before I found the time to put one together but knowing what it will mean to them, I will do my best to get it done within a week or 2.

We got home at around 3:30 and the kids pleaded with me to rent a soccer field. I finally gave in and even agreed to play goalie. I still believe that goalie is the Guatemalan word for target. All I can say is some of those kids can kick a lot faster than I can get out of the way. There is a 3 inch by 4 inch spot on my left arm that is not bright red and throbbing. The rest of my body is.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, January 29, 2010

This morning 2 of my boys and myself went to Hermano Pedro and visited with the kids. Most of them are now back from visiting their families during Christmas break. It was good to see them all again. At noon Dave, the boys and I headed out and Picked up Dave's wife Lou. I will let her take over from from here and tell you about the rest of our day.


The following was written by Lou.

At noon today Dave and Dick (as well as two of Dick’s boys) picked me up outside of Casa Jackson and we headed off to visit Alex, a young teen that Dave and I are sponsoring for Christian schooling. First things first though, Dick had to stop off at home and switch kids. We dropped off two and picked up four more. Only in Guatemala would that be called an even trade.
The ride was only about 40 minutes but it was straight up. I’m sure that had the road been any steeper or twisted, we would have dropped off.

(I'm glad that Lou has never been along to the places where I have to put the car in 4 wheel drive. Dick)

When we arrived we were greeted by one of the nicest families that I have ever met. They have recently moved to this new home with a beautiful piece of property. Mom keeps this place spotless. When we arrived both Mom and Sister were painting the outside walls while all of the teenage boys were playing... I wonder why that is.

(Actually as we rounded the corner I saw them quickly switch places, but failed to mention this to Lou. I guess in this case a picture is worth a thousand words. Dick)

Mom immediately stopped to make us juice from fresh oranges. That speaks for itself, sooo tasty! We learned a bit about Alex’s new school and then Dick took the time to give Mom a new water filtering system which will ensure that their water is safe to drink. If you are thinking that this is a little late as we have already had our drink, don’t worry. Our drink was made from purified water.

(At least that is what we told Lou so she would not panic. By the way do you notice who is doing all of the work on the new water filter.)

Being true Guatemalans the family could not send us off without a gift of their own to us so they suggested we visit Grandmas place which was “really close”. A short drive, a blocked road, a 15 minute trek down a mountain path, through the forest, past some dogs and across a creek....sounds like “over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go”...we arrived at the home where Alex’s mom was born.
Here Grandma and two aunts were earning a living by harvesting corn. As it turned out we had been brought here to receive our gift of fresh oranges. In fact we knocked them off the tree with a long bamboo stick. After filling a large bag, eating some of the oranges and receiving a tour of their place, which included the murky source of Grandma’s drinking water, we headed back. Mom decided we should take a short-cut back to save us some time. This simply meant using a less traveled path up the forested hillside. I was very proud of myself for keeping up with everyone until I realized that I was following a grandmother plus I’m pretty sure that they were being polite and had slowed down to keep pace with Dick.

(I thought that perhaps Lou would have thanked me for being a gracious host and walking slow enough that she could keep up, but will post this blog the way she wrote it trusting that the readers will know who is telling the truth. Dick)

What a gracious family. Once again I have to say that I had one of the best days of my life.

Your Sister in Christ:

I guess if I want to keep Dave and Lou as friends I better be truthful and admit that Lou's account of what really happened today could possibly be more accurate than mine. After all I am getting that age where I get up in the morning and say, "The face is familiar but I just can't think of my name." Thanks Lou for writing this, and my personal thanks to you and Dave for sponsoring several of our kids.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tonight I am doing my own writing. For some strange reason after yesterday I could not find anyone to volunteer to do my journaling for me.

Today 4 of my boys and I met up with Dave Black and 3 of his friends and the 9 of us took 8 of the kids from the orphanage out to lunch. (No, Lou is not boycotting going places that I go she simply had other commitment.) All of the kids that we took out today were ones that had gone to their homes for Christmas so it was good to see them all again. I just found out yesterday that Gaspar's brother Filipi died while he, Rifina and Gaspar were home during the Christmas Holidays. It seems that almost every year at least one of the residence dies while they are at home. Gaspar and Rifina worry me because they are slowing down a lot. When I think back to how they were a few years ago I can see a big difference. I guess that is one of the reasons why I enjoy taking a bunch of the orphanage kids out like we did today. We can never be sure weather or not we will be given another opportunity to make their lives just a little brighter.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Journal, January 19 -23, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Yesterday I had the privilege of going to the opening ceremonies at the school that Cesar will now be attending. Cesar's father and I placed our hands on Cesar as the pastor from the school prayed over him and the other students that will be attending this small Christian school that has welcomed Cesar with open arms. What a contrast compared to the 2 public schools that turned Cesar away for no legitimate reason. After the prayer Cesar's dad looked at his son with tear filled eyes. I could see that his sons education meant a lot to him.

It was not until today that I realized just how much it meant to him. At 8 AM he and Cesar were at my gate. I had promised to take Cesar shopping for some school clothing and supplies. Even though it meant that he would once again have to pay another man to take his place at work Cesar's father had decided to take a few hours off from work to go along with us. Fernando came along as well because his English is a bit better than Cesa's and I was hoping that I could get more of an opportunity to visit with Cesar's dad. After getting the school supplies and fabric for Cesar's pants I asked Cesar's dad and the kids if they would like to stop of at Camperos for breakfast before going to the tailor shop. Naturally the boys jumped at the opportunity. Cesar's dad was a bit more hesitant but agreed. I have an idea that this was the first time that he has ever been in a restaurant. While we were eating Cesar's dad and I struck up a conversation, with the help of the 2 boys as interpreters. When I asked Cesar's father how he felt about Cesar going to this school I saw his eyes fill up with tears. He told me that he had been praying that Cesar would be able to continue his education but had never expected that he would be attending a Christian school. He then looked down and said. "I wish that I could have had the opportunity to go to school myself." He went on to explain that after the second grade he had to drop out of school so that he could work. He told me that his mother and father had both died when he was 8 months old and his 2 brothers who were scarcely school age ended up raising him. Since he was the youngest they tried to keep him in school while they worked but at age 8 he had to quit school and go to work with them so that the 3 of them could stay alive. Since Cesar's dad can neater read nor write he has never been able to get a job that pays very much. Even though he works 16 hours a day he still brings home less than $200 per month. No wonder he is so proud of his son.
Late this afternoon 5 of the boys and myself went and got haircuts at the barber shop where Cesar's brother Miguel works. Miguel is a great kid and a hard worker. We have a sponsor for him so that he can attend night school. He also spends 48 hours a week at the barber shop but for now is getting no pay because he is in training. While we were there Cesar and Miguel's father came by with a wheelbarrow loaded with fruit that he was trying to sell. When he saw us he stopped and loaded some tangerines into a bag and handed them to me. He then once again shook my hand and thanked me for helping get his to sons into school.

It is days like this that help me see more clearly that we are not wasting our time even if it is difficult to get some of the 64 kids that we are providing sponsors for into school. Thankfully many hands make the work load much lighter. Donna and Hanna, are spending countless hours communicating with sponsors and updating our ever growing spread sheet that helps us keep track of who is sponsoring what child and who is still in need of a sponsor. Carlos is also helping us keep track of sponsors and those that are being sponsored. Little did we know that when we started with a hand full of kids not that many years ago that what we then looked at as a little side line project would be so blessed by God and such a big part of this ministry. We pray that God continues to allow us to minister to more and more families in this way but do not want it to grow so fast that it is no longer personal. At this point I can truthfully say that either Chris and Donna or myself personally knows each child that we are sponsoring. Seems like personally knowing each family has one drawback though. It makes it harder to say no. This month we went out on a limb a little bit by putting some kids into school that we do not yet have sponsors for. Had these kids not been registered last week they would not have had an opportunity to attend school for at least another year. We are trusting God that somehow the $350 per month that is still needed for school sponsorship of unsponsored kids that we have enrolled in school will be supplied.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, January 20, 2010
My good friends Dave and Lou plan on being with 3 of my boys and myself for the next 3 days and Lou has graciously offered to do a few days of journaling for me.

(click on any picture to enlarge)

Today we headed out for a wheelchair distribution. We got an early start…the distribution isn’t until tomorrow but the sun is hotter where we are headed. We spent most of the day on the road, Dick, Dave, myself (Louanne…better known as Lou) and three awesome Guatemalan boys, Carlene, Fernando and Brian. Before we left Antigua we stopped in at Hope Haven where they make and assemble the wheelchairs. The work is done mostly by locals, many in wheelchairs themselves. We sorted through parts and threw extras into boxes so that we wouldn’t find ourselves running short when we got to the villages. When we left Carlene was a gentleman and let me have the window seat. I soon found out it was really the pillow seat (I was the pillow). We had a great time traveling with the boys and they seem to feel quite comfortable with us.

Mid afternoon we stopped in Santa Lucia for an ice cream and picked up a few snacks at a grocery store. We then went on to San Bernardino where we visited with Dona Maria and her daughter Deborah who is deaf and mute and is an amazing artist. She mixes painting and embroidery to make the most incredible pieces of art. Apparently Dona Maria is the lady, in this area, who finds most of the people in need of wheelchairs.

After that it was on to Matzatenango and the Bambu Hotel where we drowned the kids…or should I say they drowned us (and I have the red eyes to prove it). The hotel had a great pool with a water slide which we took advantage of before dinner and the boys did again after dinner.

That’s it for tonight.
Your sister in Christ:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Today I became the perfect wife. My husband is always bugging me about the Proverbs 31 wife. He says that I have it down pat with the exception of getting up in the morning and getting him breakfast. I tell him that the chapter reads that the wife is to get the servants organized to make the breakfast and if he supplies me with servants, I will gladly organize them. Well today he was greeted with smiling waiters and waitresses who provided him, and the rest of us, with a fantastic breakfast….finally allowing me to gain that “perfect” wife status. We left the hotel and headed back to San Antonio where the wheelchair distribution took place. What an amazing process that was. A group from the States was here to distribute P.E.T. chairs which seems to be a cross between a hand-pulled wooden cart and a hand-driven bicycle. Mark was the leader. He had asked Dick to come along to distribute about 13 Hope Haven chairs. That’s where Dave and I and the boys fit in. We are here to help Dick assemble and fit the chairs for the recipients. Well actually, I took pictures while the others worked. Two of the boys, Carlene and Fernando not only did the manual labor (that’s labor for you Americans) but they also do the translation. They really are amazing young men (about 11 - 14 years old). After the work was completed and the grateful locals had left, we were treated to a late lunch.

During the distribution we met a lady whose son already had a chair that needed alterations made to it so that her son could sit more comfortably. After everything was cleaned up, we headed over to her house so that Dick could make the adjustments. While he was working on the chair the mom led me to the back of her house where she had some half-grown chickens. Through Fernando’s translations, she asked me if I had room at my house for a chicken as she would like to give me one. When I explained (or rather Fernando explained) that just wouldn’t work, she took off into the back fields and came back with a bag of freshly picked tangerines. Wow, are they tasty! We still have some left for tomorrow. Following that we went to our hotel, did some more swimming, went for dinner and now here I am.

Have a good night.
Your sister in Christ: Lou

Friday, January 22, 2010

Written by Dick

Today we had another wheelchair distribution in Esquentla. It was not the easiest distribution that I have ever been at but it did result in lots of happy people receiving wheelchairs.

Some of the parents that came for wheelchairs for their children got a bit nervous when they realized that we had not taken along quite as many wheelchairs as there were children. 2 families actually tried to sneak out of the door with chairs that had not been given them but things calmed down a bit when we told the 3 families that we did not have the right wheelchairs for that they could bring their children to Antigua on Wednesday and we would give them the type of chairs that their children needed. Over all it was a good day though and the majority of the families went home praising God for answered prayers.

Saturday, January 23, 2010
Well I am back home and things are pretty much back to normal. Well as normal as a house full of kids can be. With in 15 minutes after arriving back home there were no less than a dozen kids in front of, on top of and inside of my house. At bed time I had narrowed the numbers down a bit but there are still enough kids camping out here that I will have to watch where I walk if I have to get up to use the rest room during the night.

While we were having supper the kids told me that I looked a bit tired, so I think that I will try and get some sleep myself, but first there are still a few band-aids that need to be put on wounds both visible and non, so I guess I will go and see how many hurts I can do something about. Giving enough love and attention sometimes seems a lot like giving out wheelchairs. No matter how much you give there still seems to be a few that are left wanting.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders,
but they have never failed to imitate them.