* 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)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Still not caught up.

(Click on any picture to enlarge)

Tonight as I sat looking over my Journal entries I suddenly realized that I have not posted anything in nearly a week and a half.  I just tested my fever and guess what.  Unless Pat comes to the rescue and posts something that I can steal borrow my journal is likely to stay that way for a few more days.  Now before you start sending out Get Well Cards or worse yet Sympathy Cards I want yo to know that I am not all that sick.  Just sick enough to not fell guilty about doing no journaling or telling the kids that I need the house to myself for the night.

Thanks to Peter Burer who was part of teem that I talked about in my last journal entry I do have something to post though.  Peter did a lot of journaling during the 2 days that he and 5 others were on the road delivering water filters with 2 of my boys and myself.  I trust that you will enjoy Peter's perspective of the time he spent in the back country with us.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday December 28, 2010 

Journal by Peter Burer, 
Team leader Project:GO ; 
Warehouse 727 church. St. Pete, FL.

After Pastor Jeff had shared a devotional in the hotel courtyard, we split up in 2 groups. Patrick, Paul, Peter and Eric were heading to Rabinal to deliver over 40 water filters in a remote village, and the rest of the group went to The Club, a children’s center, which needed fresh paint and then provide games with the children afterwords.

Dick Rutgers was leading the 2 vehicle convoy loaded up with buckets and filters for a 7 hour journey into unknown (to everyone besides Dick) territory. The scenery was fantastic, going up and down the mountains, leaving 5,000’ elevation, down to 1,000’, and back up to 6,000’. We did this several times over the hours of driving, when we came upon a little village called St. Miguel Chica La Cumbre. We turned left onto a dirt road, and met up with the only oncoming traffic which  was a farmer on horseback, machete strapped to his side, and daughter holding on to him riding behind him. Then a quick right near a farm with pigs and chickens visible through the fence, and stopped at an entrance of a block fence behind which was a dirt court yard.

Dick entered first, to ask permission for the rest of the Gringo’s to come along. The OK was sounded, and we walked across the courtyard into a block house, with concrete floors, and chickens and a duck running loose into the home of Ludwig. Dick had blessed this young boy who has Muscular Dystrophy with a wheelchair, and wanted to check up on him as he hadn’t shown up this summer for a camp Dick helps out with for kids like him. He was concerned, and a visit was in order. It turned out he had been sick, and because of his remote location no one had been able to contact Dick about his situation. Because of his circumstances, he was given another chance to come back to camp the following year, as the rule is otherwise that if you miss camp, you can’t come back so he can give someone else a chance to enjoy this event.

We were warmly greeted by Ludwig’s mother and sisters, and she was asked about her drinking water situation. They have running water plumbed into the outside of the house at the ‘pila” where they store water for washing and other household chores, and get their drinking water from a bottled source which they have to purchase. I’m not sure where they shower, but based on what I had seen the day before, that probably happens outside too.

We offered her our bucket and filter system, which we prepared and assembled right there on the spot. No electric drill to put the hole in, just raw hand-power using a spade drill bit. It all went together well, and drew some water from the well which we ran through the bucket and filter system. Dick obviously had to show her that it was safe to drink, so he gulped down a cup of water, which if it hadn’t been filtered, would render him violently ill as no Gringo can drink the local water without getting sick.

A few more instructions about back washing and other safe keeping requirements such as keeping it out of the sun, and keeping the animals from drinking from it, and off we were to next destination, leaving a family behind much better off than before.

One more hour up and down roads which became increasingly worse, with sections washed out appearing unexpectedly around some of the bends and twists of the road. Finally we ended up in Rabinal, at the local hotel, a modest place to be sure, with each room consisting of 2 beds, a working toilet and a shower with a “widow maker” hot water contraption, which heats the water by electrifying it in the shower head. If you touch the shower head, you get zapped. The fuse box is also in the shower stall (for safety??).

After unloading some of our stuff, we walked to the local market, which had plenty of dogs lapping up the scraps strewn all over the place. Not a tourist in sight, just a working market to provide goods to the local population. We stopped at a place where they make tortillas the old fashioned way, on an earthen open fire hearth, and purchased tortillas for our own consumption hot off the stove. The tortillas were going to compliment the peanut butter and jam sandwiches we were to have for dinner out in the hotel courtyard, and no one was complaining. If you can imagine a camping trip where a tailgate and a shaky table make up the furniture, you get the idea.

With bellies full now, we started an assembly line making holes in the buckets. This time we employed a cordless drill, as we had around 50 buckets to drill out. We left the filter assemblies out, as this would interfere with stacking them again. Time to meet up with our connection for the following day, which at this author’s bedtime, hadn’t been resolved yet. Somewhere along the line, there was a broken connection in communication, but in this country expect the unexpected, be flexible and go with the flow.


Wednesday December 29, 2010

Journal by Peter Burer

The accommodations at Posada San Pablo were bare minimum, with a bed that contained a bed sheet to sleep on top of, and a cover to pull over you. That was it. So special gear was required for me to stay warm, which was sweat pants, a long sleeved T-shirt under a short-sleeved one, and then socks back on after I got a little chilly, then the bath towel for additional warmth. I know I’m a wimp when it comes to getting cold anymore, as I’ve been acclimated to a Florida climate for over 23 years now, and just don’t care to get cold anymore.

I didn’t take a shower for 2 reasons, one being the live electrical wire running through the shower head, the other that I didn’t want to be barefooted in the stall, or anywhere else in the room. The room also didn’t provide for any sound buffering between the rooms, so the boys next door (Dick’s kids whom he brought along and proved to be a great help later) kept me up as they first watched cartoons on the TV, then got excited about watching a soccer match. When they turned on their bathroom light, it lit up the ceiling in our room. I suppose this could only happen due to the cross ventilation space between the rooms.

The morning reveille came courtesy of 2 roosters sounding off to each other at about 4:00AM. The one closest to the room said one thing, and then another responded in a different tone. They repeated the same intonations over and over again, until it seemed to get pretty boring to me, as I could start to foretell when the next rooster would act up saying exactly what he had said before. I must have dozed off for a little while, as I didn’t hear the roosters after an hour or so, but then the neighborhood dogs started barking at each other. So I was awakened again with loud animal noises. The morning reveille was finalized by first a light footed animal running across the roof. Could have been a rat or perhaps a chicken. Then another set of footsteps got introduced to the drama, which was chasing the first set of foot steps. It was a little heavier, perhaps a cat, as they chased each other multiple times across the roof top.

At that point, it made little sense for me to stay in bed, and my room mate Patrick and I decided to get up, and stroll into town at approx. 5:30AM. We walked over to the market, which was quite deserted still, and got some coffee and a pastry at a corner bakery. As there wasn’t much going on, we headed back to the hotel to see the rest of the gang up also, and had breakfast in the hotel lobby which we had ordered to be ready the previous evening. Breakfast consisted of a black bean paste, not very appetizing to look at (looked like a pile of dog poop), but tasted quite good, especially with the goat cheese we were told to eat along with it, the plantains and omelet, tortilla, and coffee to round it off.

After we finished breakfast, we packed up again, got the vehicles out of the courtyard through the small entry way back out into the street. Then Dick’s contacts showed up, a couple named Lewis and Julia who rode in together on his 125cc enduro motorcycle. He is what one might call an elder for the village they were going to lead us into, and she is a teacher at a school in Rabinal. Both care very deeply what goes on with the village people of X’esiwaan, which consists mostly of inhabitants of Mayan descent.

They led us up a dirt road otherwise impassable without 4 wheel drive for about half an hour, and then stopped at a little enclave off the side of the road where we could park the vehicles. At the bottom of the enclave were two buildings adjacent to one another, and upon closer inspection, one of them was leaning precariously off its foundation due to a shift of the ground below it. The building that was unusable had been a municipal administrative building for the village, and the other was the school house. There was an open courtyard with a spigot attached to a pila which contained the only running water source. It came from the stream uphill, which was tapped into and I believe gravity provided the running water to the faucet. This is where our main distribution of the filters was to be, and I was getting excited!

We unpacked the buckets off the roofs of the two vehicles, and down a treacherous path towards the community center courtyard. We picked the schoolhouse to set up, as a lot of the women had already gathered there, resting on the veranda’s edge in the shade. These women were representatives of households who were previously supplied with a chlorine-based clean water solution. The chlorine kills bacteria but obviously leaves an unappetizing taste behind, so a charcoal filter was provided as part of the solution. Although I’m sure it was well meant by the original providers, this solution is not desirable in back country population centers which are far removed from supply lines that could provide new chlorine tablets, or fresh charcoal filters. As in this case, the filters had been mostly discontinued, but those who had expressed an interest in new filters and had shown a sense of responsibility with the old filters, were invited to come to the courtyard and partake in what we were about to share with them.

In all, about 40 women flocked in from up and down the mountains, and were anxiously awaiting our presentation. Please see Dick’s previous blog to learn how God’s hand blessed these events months before we got to Guatemala.

The initial presentation and introductions were made by Julia, who afterward handed it off to Pastor Mike. He  gave a very insightful picture as to why the Gringo’s who have a relationship with God came all the way from America, that we came without any motives or wanting anything back in return, and that the cleansing of the water can be tied to a cleansing of the heart that only God can provide. As the clean water will provide healthy bodies, a clean heart will provide a better life. This may not be immediately visible by a better house, or better crop, but life as we have to deal with on a daily basis can be viewed as a blessing, as God also came to us with unconditional love. The filters and accompanying Bibles are only good if they are being used, and a compelling relationship was presented by Pastor Mike presenting clean water with clean heart through a relationship with Christ.

It is interesting to note that although the majority of those present didn’t know how to read, they eagerly received the gifts and will learn the Bibles through the children who are being taught how to read.

Dick showed how the filter was to be properly used with the help of Juan Carlos, our translator who had come along for this trip. A bucket of water was drawn from the communal faucet, and due to its high turbidity, was strained through a hotel towel I had brought along, which came in pretty handy. Again, Dick showed that even a Gringo can drink this water safely once it goes through the filter, and not make him sick. He did offer one of the local women to drink the clean water, but it was with great reluctance that she finally did.  They just needed a better comfort level. And God provided that….

As we went along through the presentation, I had noticed that some of the turbid water had started to settle on the bottom of the bucket, and it made a compelling case between a before and after picture. We decided to show the villagers what the dirty water looked like in one bucket, and perfectly clear water in the other. Resounding gasps and murmurs of approval were displayed amongst them as they peeked into the buckets. I don’t think that it was until then that the lights went on, and they understood what they had been drinking and the relationship with what the filter could do for them.

After the demonstration, we assembled the buckets right there on the veranda with our team, included the Spanish language Bibles, and handed them off to the community leader who checked the recipients off against a list he had made. They all departed happily with buckets in tow up the hill back to where they came from.

We had one more stop to make there to visit a boy Dick had previously helped with a wheelchair. We learned Rueben has CP, his mother had just died earlier this year, his father started drinking right after that, and his 12 year old sister who loves to go to school, had to stay home to look after Rueben. This is a family dynamic that goes on out there and is not unique. If it wasn’t for the help of people like Dick and Julia, and others like them, these children would go unnoticed, and worse, probably wouldn’t survive. It is with many tears Dick has mentioned losing a dozen of ‘his” kids this past year due to malnutrition, lack of help, abandonment or beatings (especially when they have physical handicaps which puts additional pressure on the family) where he couldn’t get to them in time.

Bear in mind that even in a developed country, it is hard enough to get through life with CP and be wheelchair bound. Now consider someone who has to live in an adobe house, with no running water, dirt floor, chickens and duck running through the house, and mud in front because of poor drainage, and the nearest town hours away because they have no access to a vehicle. Just to get to the house, we had to climb a steep trail, rutted and strewn with boulders, which made it impossible for someone in a wheel chair to traverse. God places people like us in their paths to hopefully make a difference.

On a personal note, the last 2 days has been an emotional one for several of our team mates. Eric had a difficult time yesterday when we first visited Ludwig. Yes, Ludwig couldn’t walk and was stuck in a wheel chair which needed a front wheel bearing which made it more difficult for him to get around, yes, he had chickens running through the house, but he had a relatively clean house on a concrete slab, drinking bottled water from a clean source. We just tried to make his life a little better by giving his family a filter so they can save the money they’d otherwise have to spend on bottled water, and use it for other necessities.

Eric was very much out of his comfort zone, but God has really transformed him. He courageously joined us to make this difficult trip, always volunteering to do what not necessarily the easy thing to do, embracing the challenges, the language, and doing it with a changed heart. He has reflected on what Jesus told the rich young man to do and sell our belongings and take care of the poor. (Matthew 19:21-24).

Our most senior member, Paul aka Pablo, 69, also courageously embraced every aspect of the trip. He became emotional seeing all the village women gathering around us, who had come from afar to meet the Gringos with the water filters. It was very touching how Pastor Mike shared our relationship with Christ to the clean water filters for them. Except for his displeasure of the “short cut” we decided to take on the way back to Antigua, which was still over 4 hours long, mostly over dirt roads, rutted with gullies, covered with dust and bumps, he never complained. There were plenty of times he could have wimped out, as the terrain was difficult for even the most agile and fit person. In fact, it wasn’t until I got home that I noticed one of my sneakers had blown out due to the harsh terrain. Pablo embraced the workload (as we all did) with open arms, and took the lead in the bucket hole drilling production the previous day. He humped the mountains with armloads of buckets down the steep terrain, and trotted up the mountain with treacherous loose sand, rocks and steep incline.

It was so neat to have Dick make a connection via internet telephony for Pablo, so he could talk to his wife Donna in St. Petersburg. There were so many emotions and sights he had taken in, that the closest thing to any accurate descriptions was for him to tell his wife he wished she could have been there with him to see for herself. That about sums it up!

Patrick has been more of a background kind of person, always helpful with finding us the details of what we needed to know. He shines when he can provide minutia details about anything, whether we are talking about germs and the size of bacteria, or finding the name of Ludwig’s town which no one could remember. He ended up on Google Earth at the hotel in Rabinal, and back-tracked our journey through the mountains. I also delighted to have an early riser as a room mate because he didn’t hesitate to explore the town in the early morning hours before the town even had a chance to wake up.

As for me, I was proud to have a group of guys who are courageous, energetic, compassionate and resourceful. It solidified the reason why God planted the seed in my heart 2 1/2 years ago when we started fund raising for Purity Outreach and looked for suitable clean water technology.

It was almost 2 years later when He presented me with the PointOne filter through Larry Jacob and Pastor Bill. Then it took another 9 months after obtaining permission of the church Leadership Council to do a missions trip and start Project:GO. We went through the trials and tribulations of the GO Worship concert fundraiser, our first ever, and against all odds, made money to boot. Then all the many team meetings, a change of course mid-stream with our hosts in GUA, and then finally getting to the missions field in Guatemala doing exactly what we set out to do. God has smiled on us from the beginning, and so blessed this trip.

It has also solidified my initial belief voiced during one of the church Leadership Council meetings that funding set aside for corporate Baptist Associations would be like dropping money in a black hole with no visible evidence of the good it may have served (Return on investment ROI). Seeing and experiencing everything that Pastor Bill started in Guatemala, Pastor Mike has executed, and Dick Rutgers do everyday, makes me want to present a plan to the church Leadership to help sponsor several children under Dick’s care instead of the monies we send out to the Baptist Associations or our current missionaries right now. This is where the rubber meets the road! I have no doubt that the monies would go directly to benefit the children, and would be allocated to the most needy of them.

I feel privileged to have spent 2 full days with Dick, riding along with him through the back-country, visiting some of the families he calls on and cares for. I also really felt like a fat cat riding along in a vehicle, as we passed men, women and children walking along on windy mountain roads, going to who knows where in the middle of nowhere, leaving them in the dust as we passed by. I feel so much richer for the little bit of discomfort we endured during these 2 days, because this is about as real as it gets.
Thank you Peter,

Click here to see  to what Eric Heckathorne, another member of the teem wrote about this trip.

Yours in Christ: Dick


Blogger Mel~Bulldog said...

I enjoyed reading all of this today, Dick. Thank you! Of course, I always enjoy what is posted here...

I pray you're having a blessed day/week/year so far! God bless you all

Wednesday, January 12, 2011  

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