* 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)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Journal, August 18-24, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

This was our last day in Xela before heading back to Chimaltenango and Antigua. I had planned on doing today's journaling but some how Pat once again beat me to the punch. I guess I better start doing my writing before 11:45 PM if I want to beat her.


I lost my hart Again

Written by Pat Duff

I visited a children’s home in Xela for the first time. I’ve heard Dick talk about it for years, and now that I’ve been there I understand why it’s one of his favorite places. As soon as we arrived, the nuns came and greeted us. The Mother Superior came and greeted Dick, and spent quite a bit of time talking with me about their home. We then met the head therapist, Ana Lilian. These folks are the reason why this is such a special place for kids and young adults with disabilities.

Dick tells me that ten years ago, when he went to this home the first time, he wasn’t sure that he’d ever go back, it was so horrible. Most of the kids had their hands tied, some behind their backs. Dick told me how he cut the restraints off José and took them with him, he was so angry at what he saw.

Dick and Jose today.

But Dick did return, and each time it seemed that this place was a little bit better, due in large part to the attitude of the Mother Superior, Father Superior, and Ana Lilian. Now it seems to be one of the best places for special needs kids in Guatemala. It’s the first home I’ve visited here in which, when I was describing communication systems, Mother told me they already had some children using them! This is the first place where they haven’t looked at me like I was crazy when I talked about teaching kids to communicate with pictures. They are already doing it! I even saw a schedule for speech therapy on the wall—again this is the first “institution” where I’ve heard of this being done with disabled children. Mother immediately invited me to come and work with them any time I wanted to! I will probably take them up on this, since I think I could learn a lot from these people.

Our goal in coming here today was to assess the need regarding wheelchairs in preparation for a team that will be coming with Bethel in October. As Dick measured 15 kids for new chairs, and noted many more in need of repair, I played secretary and did the documentation on my computer, with the “help” of Javier. Using the computer, Javier told me he was 14 years old, and asked to come to visit my “casa” (house). What a heart-breaker. He obviously uses a computer in school, as he even knew how to access the games on this computer, which is something I haven’t figured out yet! Next time I come I want to visit their classrooms. Since we had to return to Chimaltenango and Antigua tonight, I wasn’t able to see the school in session, as they only meet in the afternoon. I can’t imagine it’s anything less than stellar, given the rest of the program in this home.

Each staff member is responsible for caring for the same kids every time they work, and the kids become “their” responsibility. For each kid who needed a new chair or repair, there was a care giver standing right there, telling us what they thought would be best for the child. The whole time we were there, I’m not sure I ever saw a caregiver sit down; they were always actively engaged with the kids. It was a wonderful sight to see, and I would be proud to have any of them work with me in a classroom.

I absolutely fell head-over-heels in love with two little girls with Downs Syndrome. Elena is two, and Yolanda is three, and they are the sweetest, most affectionate little ones I’ve ever met. Neither of them walk yet, but Ana thinks they both will. They’ve been at the home less than 6 months, so have not received wheelchairs, and are in strollers most of the day. While this is expedient, a wheelchair will provide proper support and increase the likelihood that they will be able to walk, as their muscles will develop properly. It was such fun to watch Dick measure these darlings for chairs. I really wanted to bring them home, but felt a little better knowing that they each have families who love them but are unable to care for them at home.



On the ride home I couldn’t help but reflect on the difference between this home and Hermano Pedro. There is so much work to do there. Change happens so slowly. I need to keep fighting the good fight, because our kids are worth it. There is so much I want to see happen to improve the quality of the care the kids here receive.

I think tonight I need to go to sleep with the Serenity Prayer on my lips:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things that I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Where I belong

Written by Pat
(I know, I know, Pat is doing more writing than me lately. It isn't that I'm not trying to pull my weight. fact is tonight I started writing a half hour earlier than usual but when I sat down at my computer at 11:15 PM there it was, Pats journal.)

I've been praying for discernment to know what things I should do here among the hundreds of needs I see almost each day. Walking into Hermano Pedro today confirmed for me that I'm where I belong. I almost cried at the excitement of the kids when I came in after being gone a week. Maynor told me that the nurses had stored my materials for me, and offered to get them. The kids couldn't wait to get to work. Today, though, I mostly wanted to get reacquainted with them after not seeing them for so long. I never understood how Dick could miss them so much when he was on the road. Now I do. I love traveling, but I love being with "my" kids even more.

As soon as I walked in, I heard cries from Ervin, and just had to take him out of his crib. It was 11 o'clock, and apparently he still had not been put in his wheelchair today. I was a bit frustrated, as it seemed a number of kids were still in bed, as the nurses sat preparing for a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the children's unit on the 16th of next month. I wish they'd show half as much excitement over the kids as the do the existence of this unit. I need to reign in my critical spirit a bit, but guess my tolerance level is a bit low, given the excellent program I visited yesterday.

Today I worked for the first time with one of the teens in the Belen unit. Lanz greets me every day as I arrive, and appeared to be quite bright. Today he showed just how bright he was. He is a very independent worker, if you just give him a little praise and attention now and then.

It seems I'd just started working with the kids, when Flori, a social worker from the Santa Rosa area came to get me. She wanted me to see a child who was waiting for a doctor up in the clinic. Marco Gonzales is five years old, has a cleft lip, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy. Flori wanted to know if I thought we could get him a wheelchair someday. I called Dick who was on his way to the orphanage, and asked him to bring in an application form when he came. I visited with the parents for a while, and learned this dear little one was having multiple seizures every day--partly because his parents can't afford the $20 a month to buy him medicine. When I met his little brother, my heart absolutely melted. This was a loving family stretched to the limit by trying to care for their son.

When Dick came, he measured Marco and when we discovered he would only be in Antigua this one day, Dick called the Hope Haven wheelchair factory to see if we could get him a chair today. As usual, the answer was "yes." After a quick lunch with a few of his neighborhood kids, they were off to the factory to set up a chair for Marco while he waited to see the doctor, nutritionist, and head therapist. Some days things just seem to fall into place, and today was one of those days. Thank you, God.

While they were gone, I spent time with Estuardo, a little guy with autism. He has the highest pitched shreek I've ever heard in a child when he's upset, and makes the loudest popping noise I've ever heard a mouth make when he's happy. Today we went into a gated area outside, and he could run free, and play. I put a mat down on the floor, gave him some plastic glasses to play with, and sat down and let him have at it. Today there were many more "pops" than there were shreeks. I even heard a variety of other babbling noises from him as he ran around, occasionally hurling himself into my lap for a hug.

This may not seem like a lot, but a hug from a child diagnosed with autism is a major accomplishment for the child. It was really neat, too, that whenever someone would walk by and try to talk with him, he's jump back into my lap. For the second time today I was moved to tears. While we didn't do much "work" today, Estuardo and I spent time getting used to each other. I have to admit, though, that I'm trying to find a better way to get him back to bed after we work. I got a real cardio work-out today doing this. Sometimes I feel every bit of my age, and navigating him into the ward was one of those times. Gratefully, I finally figured out if I had him walk backwards, he didn't fight me as much. I'm sure he still knew where he was going, but cooperated, maybe because he saw the desperation on my face.

Dick and the boys returned and seated Marco in his chair. Flori still had not found a way to pay for the medicine he needed, so I made sure that at least for a month Marco would have a chance at being seizure free. What we'll do next month, I'm not sure. I know I can't provide for every kid that comes through the clinic, but today was one of those days I felt I needed to take care of the need right in front of me. If anyone would like to sponsor medicine for this little guy, please email me and I'll help you set up something. $20 a month would cover it.

Sr. and Sra. Gonzales could not seem to believe that in one trip to the hospital their son received not only the medicine he needed, but his first wheelchair. Before either Dick or I could explain that these were gifts from God, Sr. Gonzales grabbed my arm, asking God to bless us for helping them. Once again I got to explain that we only worked for God, and it was our privilege to be able to be the vehicle by which He blessed this family.

All together, I'd say this was a very good day.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Written by Dick

The past few days have not been easy ones for me. It seems like there has simply been too much going on. Both Chris and Donna and myself have been bombarded with more requests from people than we can possibly handle. So many are sick and suffering. There is no way that we can help them all. Fact is some times it seems that we can not even help those that we have been helping in the past. Tonight while 5 of my kids were showing me there warn out shoes Fernando's uncle came over to my house to let me know that he is broke. He sits with his old pickup truck in front of a local building supply store every day hoping to find some one that needs something delivered to their home or building site but many other men that have old trucks do the same and deliveries are few. Today I also received a phone call from Chris telling me that Ronny's parents called him telling him that the school that Ronny, his brother and 4 of his sisters go to told the children that they need uniforms in order to march in a parade next month. Uniforms in public schools are against the law but many of the schools have found a way around it. If you don't wear one your grades are lowered and you are in that way forced to drop out of school. Ronny's mom and dad are talking about pulling the 4 girls out of school. The past few months have more than drained our medical funds. How can we say no to a 23 year old lady who will die if she does not get medical help or a little boy who's head is bulging because his parents can not afford to get him in to a doctor yet alone pay for an operation?

Not all of the need are financial ones. Many require our time. Time that it takes to get these people to the hospitals. Time to go out and buy the needed shoes and uniforms. Time to build those houses or do those wheelchair distributions.

Some times when it seems to get overwhelming I go down to the orphanage in Antigua, leave my tools in the car and just hang out with the kids. Today I tried to do that. I took along Esben who was once again out of school (????) We figured that we would meet up with Pat. Play with the kids for a while and then take a few of them out to lunch. Even though it was nearly 11 AM when we got there we found that all of the kids were still locked in the 2 rooms where they sleep. After bringing a few of them out side one of the nurses who was sitting outside at a table with all of the other nurses working on making decorations for an up coming celebration came over to us and told us that the orphanage doctor had decided that any time that the sky is overcast the kids have to stay inside because a number of them have colds. It was overcast but it still had to be nearly 80 degrees out side. I am sure that the kids are less likely to catch a cold if they are all locked up together in 2 non-vented rooms.

Pat went inside and worked with some of the kids while Esben and I spent the rest of the day repairing wheelchairs. That to seemed a bit overwhelming. Out of over 200 wheelchairs that are in the orphanage only 4 of them are power wheelchairs. Not that there is not a need for more power wheelchairs but that is all that the orphanage will allow. (Something about too much electricity) In the few days that I was on the road 3 out of 4 of these power wheelchairs had quit running. Today we managed to get 2 of them up and running and replaced the third with one from the shop so if they ever do decide that the kids can come out of there rooms they will at least have a bit more freedom.

I am sorry if today's journal is on the negative side but it has to be known that as much as we love it here it some times gets hard. Perhaps this is just God's way of reminding us that we can do nothing on our own and it is all about Him, but we are human and we forget and we do get tired. Please uphold us in your prayers.

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

Before posting what I wrote today I decided to take a look at Pat's journal. I thought that perhaps it would be better to post something a bit more uplifting. The following is what I found. Like I said please keep us in your prayers.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Pat wrote the following. (Aug 20, 2010)

Today was hard, Really hard.

I think I must have been tired or touchy or something. But it irritated the snot out of me to once again walk into the children's ward and find the nurses more engaged in making decorations than they were with the kids. All the kids were inside, some still in bed. No one was allowed outside today because the doctor has decided that's why so many kids are getting colds. I know it's the rainy season but it's spring like temps. I wonder what it will be like in January when the temperatures do get cold. Besides, cold air does NOT cause colds (sorry, Mom, but it's true!).

The kids were still anxious to work, though, and work we did, with a short pause for lunch. After lunch all the kids (even the ones who usually are left up) were put to bed. I tried to make the best of it by working with them in their beds. How I miss the days only a few years ago when I was physically more able to lift and carry kids. The only ones I can get out are the smaller ones, or those, who, like Ervin, can and will support their weight. God help me, though, if I have to get him back in bed alone!

Today it seemed a number of kids were especially needy. Henry's mother had just brought him back from a visit home, and he was very sad. Elmer was cranky and cried every time he didn't get his way. Bobbie felt like I had ignored him, and sobbed when it was time to put the activities away for lunch, because he hadn't had a turn. Byron's electric chair was broken (though Dick managed to MacGuyver it back together again), and since he couldn't move around on his own wanted constant attention. And my precious Ervin, he was just Ervin.

How I wish there were five of me. How I wish the nurses would join in with what we're doing. How I wish I had a real place to work when we can't be outside.

But I can spend my time wishing, complaining about how things aren't the way I want them to be, or I can focus on the one child that is in front of me right now. Believe me, I want to cry, complain, today even maybe scream a little. But, though that might (probably would) make me feel better, I really don't think it would do much for the kids who today needed some lovin'. Today, though, for some reason, it was hard to get my mind off of myself and focus on what they needed. It was hard to be patient when Byron dropped the spoon he was trying to put in the tray for the 10th time, and wanted me to pick it up RIGHT NOW! It was hard to remember how far Ervin has come when he would purposely knock the spoon out of Byron's hand just as he was about to get it into the tray. It was hard to be patient when 7 kids all want attention, and there are 3 more lying in their beds crying and I can't get to all of them.

And as I write this, I realize just how much I am like the kids. I stumble daily in my attempts to love. I carelessly smack (maybe just with words, but they hurt nonetheless) at those closest to me when I don't get my way. And sometimes I just want someone to notice me, to pay attention to me. And my Father patiently puts up with me in all these times. More than that, He pursues me, comforts me, heals me. And I know He'll come through for me tonight, for I can say with Paul:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay
to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed.

2Cor. 4:7-9

Guess tonight, I'm just realizing how much my jar of clay (some of my friends would probably say my "cracked pot") at times gets in the way of His all-surpassing power. "Father forgive my self-consciousness and let me focus on you, realizing you will not permit me to be crushed, nor will you abandon me, or let me be destroyed. I will not despair".


Saturday, August 21, 2010

It is the week end, so I hung out with my kids today. They helped me do some cleaning and painting and as a reward for good report cards we even took in a movie. It was a dumb one, but then again aren't most movies now days?

Later this afternoon all of the kids pitched in and we got a lot of work done around the house. What is left of my grass (after a lot of football games) got cut. My car ( or I should say the one that I am borrowing while my engine gets rebuilt) got washed. And three of the walls of my house (Same ones that were painted 2 months ago) got painted. Several of the kids wanted work because I told them that I would help them out with new shoes if they could come up with at least part of the money. I was going to wait until someone brought some in from the states but if the kids are to stay in school they need them now. It looks like Monday night we will go sho shopping.

Tonight only 3 kids are staying but these 3 love to stay up late. They don't know it yet but I have the computer sett to shut off automatically at 11 PM so at least I wont have to listen to rigatoni or rap all night.

Well I am going to at least head of to bed and close my eyes. So I will say "Goodnight".
Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Still the weekend so I will try to keep this one short.

Church with the kids.

Lunch with the kids.

Visited the orphanage kids with the kids.

Hung out at home with the kids.

Rented a soccer field with the kids.

Three of my kids had to be spectators instead of players, because they had no shoes.

Tomorrow we are definitely going shoe shopping.

Went to Antigua and had supper with Pat. No Kids. I love them but everyone needs a break every now and then.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, August 23, 2010

Esbin was at my door at 7 AM this morning. He claimed to have no school today so I took him along to Hermano Pedro with me. When I first met Esbin a few years ago he was mad at the world, he had a foul mouth, lyed and, had sticky fingers. He has come a long way is a short time. He is now quite pleasant most of the time. I seldom hear him cuss. And to my knowledge has not stolen anything in well over a year now. Today I found out that he still has a ways to go with the lying though. He did great at the orphanage today. He not only helped work on wheelchairs but really loved on the kids. He even did well with Ervin when we took him to lunch. Ervin was once again being Ervin and wanted nothing to do with Esbin simply because Pat and I were pushing the wheelchair of 2 of the other kids and Ervin was jellos. Esbin stuck to it though and within a few minutes Esbin wanted little to do with Pat or myself because he wanted to be with Esbin.Where did the lying come in then. Well I did not find out about it until this evening but it actually took place at 7 AM this morning when Esbin came over and told me that he had no school. When I found out that he was lying to me I went over to his house and talked to Victor about it. Victor is only 24 years old but having had to raise his younger brothers and sisters plus the 4 kids that his mother took in before she got sick and died has given him a lot of wisdom. Victor and I decided that Esbin will have to miss the Pizza feed and Fernando's birthday party that is going to be at my house this Friday. Esbin was also told that if he ever pulls a stunt like that again he will be grounded from my house for several weeks. Perhaps we should have come down a little heavier on him but thinking back to my school years I knew that I would still be locked in my room had my parents not been lenient.

After all was said and done the kids and I went shoe shopping. Four of my kids will now once again be allowed to go to their PE classes and another will be allowed to stay in school. I would say that was $100 well spent.
David, the little one in the front didn't need shoes
but insisted on being in the picture anyway.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yesterday I was suppose to meet Geidy a little girl that lives about 2 hours north of Huehuetenango and her mother at Hermano Pedro so that she could see a one of there doctors and then be referred to a teem of ear specialists who are scheduled to come in to Hermano Pedro in January. The family had asked if Geidy's grandfather who has a hearing problem could also come along with Geidy ans her mother but I told them that since there was going to be another teem of specialists at Hermano Pedro this week things would be really busy and lodging would also be a big problem so it would be best for him to come at a different time. I still had my fears that all 3 of them would show up instead of the 2 of them. I must admit though that I was not prepared for 6 people to show up. Even though they claimed to have little or no money I told them that I had only arranged for food and lodging for Geidy and her mom and that the rest of them were on their own. As it was I had to find a hotel for Geidy and mom because Casa Defay was full. Ximora told us about a hotel that charged only 30 Q ($2.50) per person but they said that they would try to find a church or some thing to stay in. I held my ground and when we got to the hotel where Geidy and her mother were going to stay the other 4 mysteriously came up with enough money. Funny thing the same thing happened this morning when I bought the 2 of them breakfast. I hate to be hard nose but there are times here in Guatemala when it is necessary. As things turned out Grandfather managed to see a doctor and will soon be coming back to receive a hearing aid. Geidy will also be coming back in January to see a specialist who will hopefully be able to put an opening in her ear.

Oh I almost forgot to mention that this afternoon I drove Geidy, her mother and the rest of the crew down to Esquentla so that she could receive a test to see if she will be able to hear once the operation is done but the test equipment at the lab where the tests were suppose to be done was broken.

After the people at the lab explained this to the family they told me that they were sure that the operation would be a success and showed me that Geidy could hear her grandmother over a cell phone even when it was put up against her bad ear. On the way home I was also able to share with this family just why were were here doing what we are doing. So the trip was not at all in vane. In spite of the fact that 6 people came instead of 2 I found this to be a delightful family but made them promise that next time they come the only come with 2 of them unless they want to pay for everything themselves.

We have a small teem in this week and I planned on joining them for dinner this evening but after seeing the looks on the faces of the 11 kids that were in my house when I told them that I was leaving I changed my plans. I hope that the Americans understand but many of my kids go with out supper if they do not eat here. Besides that, I feel that family should always come first.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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