* 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)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Journal, September 12-15, 2010

Sunday, September 11, 2010

(Click on most picture to enlarge. Then again others may self district)

I once again apologize for the layout of this week's journal but my Mack is still in the shop and I consider myself lucky when I can get a picture to post on this Bill Gates marvel, even if it is in the wrong place.


This morning 2 of my boys and I got up at 4:30 and headed up to a small Aldea just out of Tecpan where Maria and her children live. Mari who is a widow has been suffering from a hernia for quite some time now. A group of doctors from Spain that will be at Hermano Pedro this week have offered to remove the hernia, so today I was bringing Maria in for some final exams before her surgery that would be scheduled to take place sometime this week..

Maria was a bit nervous but know that she needed the surgery, so she was ready to go by the time that we got to here home. Her children who are usually all smiles were not all that keen on seeing there mother leave though. I am sure that they were remembering a day not that many years ago when their father headed down the trail to go to work and never returned home because of a tragic accident. Maria and her children can still hear the words of Maria's mother in law as she called out to her son saying, "Take care of your self your family needs you." and the words of Maria's husband as he called back saying, "I will do my best but I know that God will take care of my family if anything ever happens to me." God is taking care of this family but there is still a big emptiness in the lives of Maria and her children because of the loss of Maria's husband and her children's father. That is why today as we were leaving Maria's children clung to here and begged her not to go.

Since lodging for patients and their family members is limited and I was not sure just what day the surgery would be on I had told Maria that only one family member could come along wiht her today. Somehow something got lost in the interpretation though and after making a few unscheduled stops along the way we arrived at Hermano Pedro with Maria and 6 family members. Things worked out OK though because after her tests Maria was told that she would have to go back home because here surgery would not be until Saturday. After feeding the entire group (for the second time in 1 day) I made arrangements to get them back home. I promised Maria that I would pick her up Friday evening and find lodging for her and one other family member but told her that if anyone else shows up they are on their own. I love the fact that she has so much family support but putting food on the table for the 10 to 15 kids is enough mouths to feed.

I then went home dropped off the 2 kids that were with me, Picked up 2 of my other kids and headed to Mazatenango where I was going to join a Hope Haven teem that was going to show up there in the morning for a wheelchair distribution. The Drive there is usually about 2 and a half hours but a washed out bridge added another hour and a half to our trip.

So much for my relaxing week end.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, September 13, 2010

This morning the boys and I met up with the crew from Hope Haven. They had several Americans with them from the PET wheelchair orginazation and together we did a distribution. Actually I did not stay until the end of the distribution though because Aimy Deyong brought my Attention to a little girl who's mother had brought her there for a wheelchair. One look told me that this child needed much more than a wheelchair. Jessica who is nearly 6 years old could not have weighed more than 18 pounds. (I later discovered that she weighed 16 pounds.) Her mother told us that Jessica's father had died about a year ago. She told us that here and her 6 children lived in a settlement that was located in an old coffee plantation. Her husband who worked for the plantation owner had died about a year ago and now the family's only income was from a few bananas that mom tried to sell when the weather permitted.

In most cases the parents and other family members are quite suspicious of any foreigner that offers to take their child somewhere for help but this mother knew that without help her daughter would die and thanks to Mark who did an excellent job of translating and Amy and Maria who offered to finish up on seating those that still needed wheelchairs, mom, Jessica, older sister, Cesar, Marcos and I were soon on our way. I was very proud of my boys. When I told them that taking Jessica to Antigua meant that they would have to ride home in the back of the pickup over some extremely bumpy roads and that it would be very hot since we had the canopy on the pickup, they immediately told me that they know that Jessica needed help and that they were willing to do anything needed to help keep her alive.

Before driving to Antigua we headed up to where Jessica's family lived. Mom had to get some clothing for herself and Jessica and older sister had to get dropped of so that she could care for the other children until mom got back home in a few days. The hour and a half drive in to where Jessica and her family lived was a challenging one but we made it. I have seen some pretty poor living conditions in some of the plantations here in Guatemala but most of the homes that the workers lived in were exceptionally bad in this plantation and Jessica's home was one of the worst. Although Jessica's brothers and sisters were not starving to death like she was, it was obvious that they were not getting enough to eat. All of them look much younger than they actually were. This family needs help if they are expected to survive.

Jessica's brothers ages 14, 8, &12

On Monday Pat Duff, who has been doing a lot of journaling, is planing on heading back to the States for a few weeks. Since most of her journaling during her time in the States will likely be about her grandchildren I figured that would post some of her journals now and write my own while she is gone to the States. (It's not I am not interested in your grandkids Pat, but I don't want to steal everything that you write.

Here is what Pat wrote.

Shortly after lunch Dick called me From Mazatenango where he had been on a Hope Haven wheelchair distribution. He told me that he was bringing in another 6 year old to the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro and would I be available to meet him when they arrived in Antigua. We were both "flashing back" to about a year and a half ago, when we brought in Lisvi, another six year old, who is now with Jesus. As much as I wanted to "hide" from getting close to another starving child, there was no way that I could say no when I heard the pain in Dick's voice as he told me about Jessica and her family.

Tonight I met Jessica Vanessa and her mom. I am always shocked when I actually hold these little ones. . .there was literally nothing to this child. She is 6 years old and weighs 16 pounds. And she's beautiful. And she has more energy that anyone in her condition should have, and she has the sweetest smile. Mom is a widow, who was brave enough to come to the city with a man she had never met before, who didn't speak her language, because she wants help for her daughter, and could see how much he cared. I can't imagine how scarey this decision and trip were to her, but Dick said she never hesitated once she found out there was a place to help her daughter grow. And Dick, I know, never hesitated to make this trip into the middle of nowhere to bring them to Antigua.

So tonight she is in Casa de Fe, a hostel for those receiving treatment at Hermano Pedro. We will be meeting her there early tomorrow morning, to begin the process of seeing a doctor and hopefully having Jessica approved for admission to the malnutrition unit. We're praying tonight that she stays healthy (no fever or diarreah) or they won't admit her. And she needs to be here now. And mom is ready for her to be here, though I know it will be very difficult for her to leave Jessica to return home to her other five children. Somehow this seems like a lousy time for me to be going to the States next week. . .yet I know she will be well cared for at Hermano Pedro, and I imagine Dick might find his way up to hold her once in a while during the time I'm gone.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Jessica Vanessa

Got up early this morning and went with Dick to pick up Jessica and her mom at Casa de Fe. Mom said Jessica had hardly slept at all last night, and she would cry if anyone but mom held her. I did manage to get an almost smile out of her, though.

We got to the hospital about 7:30, and thankfully were #1 in line to see the pediatrician (due to the efforts of another Jessica, the head therapist at the hospital). This meant we only waited until 9:50 for the doctor to come in. He seemed to give her a pretty thorough exam, asked mom a lot of questions, and then sat down at his desk and began writing for about 10 minutes. I can't get used to how medical treatment is given here. Not once did he speak to Jessica, and he only spoke to mom when he was asking a question or telling her to do something. No explanation, no reassurance, no humanity. I finally could stand it no longer and waited for him to pause writing for a moment to ask him if he was going to admit her to malnutrition.

He looked at me as if I had fewer than 3 functioning brain cells, and slowly explained that that was what he was doing. Evidently, it didn't seem important to him to discuss this decision with mom, or anyone else. . .luckily this mom was prepared for Jessica to stay, but I had to wonder what would have happened if Dick hadn´t done such a thorough coaching job with mom before we saw the doctor. But mom, who is a widow raising 6 kids, is willing to do whatever it takes to get her healthy, so Jessica was admitted this afternoon.

As I watched the doctor examine Jessica, I couldn´t help but think of the verse in Ps. 22, that says, "I can count all my bones." I literally could count the vertebrae in her spine without even trying. What shocked me more than anything, though, was when Dick reminded me that most of the kids we find who are starving have cerebral palsy or another health problem that makes it difficult for them to eat. He reminded me that this is not the case in India, Africa, or many other places where healthy children are starving for lack of food. And I know that even here, for every one Jessica we find, there are a dozen more dying in hammocks in back of their homes. And I can't help but ask why. It would be easy to blame God, but I also know that if one tenth of the pepple who claimed to be a Christian fed just one starving child, there would be no starving children. I think of the jokes I've heard around many dinner tables, when parents tell their kids to eat because there are children starving in India. I pray that God convicts every parent who has ever said this to their child (me included) to actually DO something about a starving child.

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.

"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?

"He will reply,

'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

(Matt. 25:41-45)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Taking Mom Home

Home to the 7 people in Jessica's family.

Today is "Independence Day" in Guatemala. On my way to Hermano Pedro, I got to see a small part of the 3 hour parade taking place in Antigua today. Somehow, though, knowing I was going to meet Dick and Jessica's mother, to take mom back home, put a damper on my desire to celebrate. And, when I arrived at Hermano Pedro to find all the kids lined up along the wall, I couldn't help but think that they have no reason to celebrate this day--they have virtually no independence. Except for the choices we give them, they don't get to decide anything for themselves. Many can't move by themselves, and some of those who can have the wheels on their chairs tied so they don't get "into trouble."

I hadn't planned on taking out any "work" for the kids this morning, because I knew we'd be leaving shortly after Dick and momma arrived. However, after about 5 minutes of continual requests for "trabajo" from the kids, I broke down and brought out the boxes. Today I decided I really need to make a picture schedule, to help both me and the kids make sure everyone gets their time. It is so easy to spend time with the kids who "demand" it, forgetting about those more withdrawn who probably need the stimulation even more. Though it's hard to have 7 or 8 kids all calling for attention at once, I could help but enjoy the contrast from them sitting along the wall when I arrived.

I went with Mom up to malnutrition to see
Jessica. Since there is another Jessica who recently came in to the unit, it was decided that our Jessica would be called by her second name, Vanessa, to keep things from getting confused for the nurses. I think it was hard for mom to come in and not even see her daughter's real name used to mark her crib. I have a hard time understanding why it would be too confusing to have two Jessica's, but I just chalked this up to one more thing I don't understand about how people think here. This one is not worth fighting, though mom brightened considerably when I told her that her little girl will always be "Jessica" to me!

Mom's time visiting with Jessica was all too short, and I had the distasteful task of telling her it was time to leave to take her home. It was so hard for her to leave this precious little one behind, but she kept telling me that she knew if Jessica was going to live, she had to get help. I thought back, almost 30 years, to when I had to leave my newborn daughter, Mikayla, in the hospital because she was premature. I understood how hospitals work, had the ability to drive to see her each day, and still didn't think I'd survive this part of my life. To be a single mom, with no experience other than living in a small "finca" (farm), leaving your daughter with total strangers, took great courage on the part of this mother.

I promised mom I would check on Jessica each day, and that I would look after her as if she were my own granddaughter. When I said this, Mom burst into tears and just held my neck, thanking me for caring for her and her daughter. In my limited Spanish, I tried to explain that we consider it a privilege to support them through this. On the two and a half hour ride to their house, Mom would often say to me that Jessica now had new grandparents in Dick and me. That's one of the best compliments I've gotten since I moved down here, and I know Dick feels honored, too, to be "grandpa" to this little one. (I do feel honnered but worry a bit about this tarnishing my reputation since I have never been married. Dick )

Jessica's Grandmother

Dick had prepared me for the very poor conditions in which this family lives, but it was still hard to walk into this one room where 7 people eats, sleep, and live. When I asked Mom what happens when it rains, she matter-of- factly answered that they get wet. I could see the holes in the tin roof, and imagine the water from the hillside flows right through the house when it rains hard--which it does almost every afternoon during this time of year. The fact that Jessica was still alive, and as healthy as she is, seems even more of a miracle after visiting the conditions in which she was living.

This is the stove in a corner of their house

The boys carrying the wood needed to
fire the stove

And this was just one of many families who were "squatting" in this somewhat defunct coffee plantation. I asked Mother how she supported the family, and she said she sells bananas when she can, and that her mother-in-law sometimes gives her a little corn to make tortillas for the family. (Since you can buy a dozen bananas for 10 quetzales (about $1.20) I can't possibly imagine how this family has survived.) (Pat lives in Antigua where prices are much higher. Here in Chimaltenango I pay 3Q $.36 for a dozen bananas and I would imagine that mom gets far less for them where she lives. Dick) Mom was thrilled with the sack of groceries Dick brought with from the Bethel shop, and, at least for a few days, this family will eat well. We need to find a sponsor to provide food for them on a regular basis, though, if Jessica is ever to be able to return home.

We really wanted to visit longer, and were just going up the hill to see Jessica's grandmother, when it began to rain and Dick told us we needed to leave NOW. Living here has given me a new appreciation of the saying, "The Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise!" That was the only way we were going to get back home in the rain. And, God was willing, and the creek didn't rise (at least not before we got to the highway), though we went over a couple of rather interesting bridges on our way out.

This was a difficult day, but a good one. Today was one of those days when I felt privileged to be a woman in ministry. I could relate to Mom and the family in a different way than Dick could. I could receive the friendly touches and hugs, and even kisses. Mom asked if I would call her to let her know how Jessica was. I now have a new friend in Jessica's mom, and feel like I'm now part of another Guatemalan family.



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