* 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)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Valentina Goes Home

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It is not often that I repeat myself. It is not often that I . . . . . . At least not intentionally, but I posted the following just 6 months ago. Actually I am not repeating myself I am repeating what Pat wrote back then. Those of you who have good memories and want to skip over reading about the Godincidence that led into getting 3 week old Valentina into the Malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro before she died can skip over the Blue writing and start reading the light black (or dark gray depending on your web browser or your eyes,) to see how how things turned out.

Yours in Christ: Dick

(The following was originally posted on February 24, 2011)

Pat wrote

Up the drive came a lady carrying a small baby. She had heard Flori was visiting Marcos, and had come hoping she could help her get surgery for her 20 day old granddaughter who also had a cleft lip and palate. We talked a little bit, and while the baby seemed tiny, grandma said she thought Valentina was heavier than she was at birth. They knew she had to gain at least 10 lbs. before the doctors would consider the surgery, and were waiting for that. (Grandma is Valentina's primary care-taker, as Valentina's mother, has a severe seizure disorder and mental illness. Grandma said she is afraid to leave the baby with Mom for fear she'll kill her. Talk about a difficult situation. . .)

Then, Dick asked to hold her. The look on his face when he picked her up sent my heart into my stomach. He said, "I don't think she weighs 5 lbs." We gently began talking with grandma about the malnutrition project at Hermano Pedro, and she was interested immediately. We asked her if we could take a picture of Valentina without all the clothes she was bundled in, thinking she could come to the clinic the 22nd of February when others from her area would be coming to Antigua.

I think both Dick and I caught our breath as soon as Grandma removed Valentina's cap--somehow she hadn't looked quite as tiny wearing a hat, and we could see that her sparce hair had already lost color from malnutrition. As we removed her sleeves and pants, we could see that, despite the best efforts of Grandma and Dad, this little one had wrinkles betraying how much weight she had lost.

We began talking about the possibility of bringing her in to Antigua when we return next week to build Bayron's house. The more we talked the sicker each of us felt, fearing she didn't have a week to spare before getting help. And, she's healthy now. No fever or diarreah, so could be admitted immediately to malnutrition. In her weakened condition, we didn't think that would be the case in a few days.

We asked Flori if there was any way she could get them in sooner. . .we were committed to Walter already, and he had waited more than 6 months for this appointment. I think we both felt a little helpless. Flori reluctantly said she would be going to Antigua tomorrow, but they were leaving at 4 am and there was no way they could possibly pick up this family in such a remote place.

Immediately it was decided that, if they were willing, we would bring Grandma, Dad, and Valentina back with us to our hotel, which would be on Flori's way to Antigua tomorrow. Grandma agree instantly, and was off to call Dad and get ready to come with us.

So, tonight we had a lovely dinner in the hotel with Grandma, Dad, and this darling little girl. For as tiny as she is, she's so alert, and makes such great eye-contact that she's stolen both our hearts. I'm proud to say that Dick and I didn't fight over who would hold her more, but shared her attention pretty well. I got tears in my eyes watching my bachelor friend walk the floor with this crying baby, looking for all the world like he had done this his whole life. What a sweet moment.

I have to admit, I feel somewhat sad that I can't just drop everything and go with them to Antigua tomorrow. I'm learning more and more, though, that I don't have to do everything, only my part. And tonight our part is just to get them to where Flori can meet them tomorrow. I'm so honored to have Guatemalan friends and colleagues here who are competent to help their own people, they only need our support.

Was it a random thought that made me ask Dick to go to visit Marcos? I'm sure it was the Holy Spirit, and for once I heard His voice, even if somewhat reluctantly. Just like it wasn't a coincidence that today was the day we visited them, that Grandma just so happened to bring Valentina while we were there, that Flori just so happened to be going to Antigua tomorrow, or that our hotel was on their way. I sit and marvel at seeing the finger-prints of God all over these events, and am humbled to be a small part of this.

How many days can you say you got to trade an afternoon of leisure for being a small part in saving a life? Thank you, Jesus, for today, and be with them tomorrow as they travel.


Dick writes

In the past few years we have brought several malnourished kids into Hermano Pedro not knowing for sure weather or not we were getting them there in time to save them. Some of them did not make it and it broke our harts. Others made it and it made all of our efforts well worth while. One thing we knew was there was no way that Valentina could last more than a week or 2 if she did not get some help, so we at least had to try. Valentina survived the night with us at the hotel and survived the ride with Flor to the hospital. However after she was admitted into the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro her condition did not seem to improve. She remained in isolation and for at least a month her weight stayed at 6 pounds. The doctors and nurses did their best and there were a lot of us praying for her but we all know that if she caught as much as a cold she would likely die. Pat and I vised her nearly every day but saw little change but as week as she was she still recognized us and let us know that she rather be held then lye in her crib. Then it happened slowly but surely Valentina gradually started to gain weight. A few weeks later she was released from Isolation and then put on the pounds even more rapidly.

A few weeks ago her mother and grandmother came to visit her and they could scarcely recognize her. Even though at one time mom had wanted her dead I could see that she really loved her daughter. Both mom and grandma were thrilled when they were told that Valentina had gained more than enough weight and was now strong enough for the surgery.

Last week Valentina had her Cleft Pallet surgery and all went well. She is now eating even more than ever and some of the nurses have affectionately nick named her "Gordo" (Fatty). The day before yesterday her family came and took her home.

Please pray for Valentina and her family. Her mom still has convulsions but seems mentally stable. Dad and grandma love her dearly so we pray that all goes well. One thing that I am certain of is that the same God that orchestrated us finding her, made it possible that she get into the malnutrition ward hospital in less that 24 hours and brought her from being a skin covered skeleton to a plump little girl in 6 months is capable of looking after her even though she is now a half day's drive from us.

Like Pat said, "Thank you, Jesus, for today, and be with them tomorrow."

Yours in Christ: Dick

Trip to Santa Rosa

Once again Pat has offered to write this weeks journal if I did the pictures.

Pat wrote

After a week of being sick a week of being sick, I decided it was time to get back into the swing of things. So Monday morning Dick and I planned to go to Guatemala City to pick up my passport from Immigration. It’s been there about 20 days to get approval for a 90 day extension on my visa.

When Dick arrived, he hesitantly asked what I thought about going on to Santa Rosa since if we went straight from the city it would cut about 2 hours off the trip we had talked about taking later in the week. After a couple of minutes of thought, I agreed (two hours off the highway here in Guate is well worth packing quickly).

So, after a quick trip to my house for some clothes we were off to the City. Our first stop was to buy dog food at WalMart—which I seem to be doing more and more often as Yogi and Booboo grow. I also wanted to get some repairs done on my computer under the extended warrantee—but was told I had to call first for an appointment.

Next we went to get Dick’s hearing aids adjusted, and were pleasantly surprised by the competency of the young woman who helped us. (Dick is no longer saying he can hear better without them!) Our next stop was to pick up Dick’s computer at the Mac repair place (it would be way too simple if we could both get our computers fixed in the same place).

Finally we made it to Immigration, just in time for their lunch break. After waiting more than an hour for the lady with the passports to return, I finally had permission to be in the country again. Days like today kill any romantic ideas I still have about life as a missionary. Most of it is plain old every day living stuff that can suck the life out of you if you let it!
We were finally on our way to Santa Rosa, and arrived in Cuilapa in time for supper and some rest. Running errands sure tires me out more than it used to! When I unpacked I realized that I had packed everything I needed except blouses! So, tonight I am sleeping in my pajama pants and the blouse I wore today. Tomorrow I will be “styling” in my old t-shirt I brought with, planning to sleep in. Any vestiges of vanity are being stripped away by life “on the road.”

The night was made complete when, about 10 pm, we had a 4.4 “tremor” whose epicenter was only about 15 miles from our hotel. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to feeling the earth move under me, especially when sitting in a hotel room which is literally built on the side of a mountain! (I guess it’s better to up the mountain that at it’s base, though, in times like these!)

Tuesday morning I placed a call to Anna, Bayron’s teacher, who we had come up to visit. (Bayron is a little boy who is deaf who is taught privately through sponsors with Bethel.) She was just about in Cuilapa on her way to Barberena where she teaches. Did we want to meet her at the park and go the rest of the way with her? After managing to find the park (by ignoring the directions we were given at the hotel) we were soon on the way to the school where she teaches.

We arrived and were warmly welcomed into the building which serves as the school for roughly 800 children. As Dick put it, we have surely acculturated when we think nothing of a school being housed in a building that would most likely be condemned anywhere in the US. But the staff was warm and friendly, and the principal immediately gave permission for Anna to leave her class and accompany us to visit Bayron and his family. This flexibility was a difference from the States which did not fail to surprise me.

On the way, Anna told us that Bayron has been a bit of a pill—not wanting to work, and sometimes not being at his house when she comes to teach him. We all decided it was good that we were coming to see him together.

When we pulled into their yard we were immediately greeted by Edgar jumping up and down like a monkey. This has become almost a tradition when were come here. He did not have school today for some reason (here in Guatemala, we seldom know why, only that kids have a lot of unscheduled holidays). We visited with Grandma, and with the help of Edgar, Grandma, teacher and our made up sign language, we made it clear to Bayron that he needed to buckle down and get to work. (It has more to say about Bayron’s raw intelligence than our skills at communicating that we were able to get this across. How much he manages to understand without hearing or speaking continues to amaze me.)

It was good to see this family enjoying the house which was built by a couple of guys from my home church and the Bethel folks. There are probably about 8 adults and 5 children living in the new house and some old buildings adjacent. It was also good to hear that Grandma likes using her new Onil stove because it doesn’t take as much wood.

Bayron then showed us his work, and also demonstrated how he is learning to imitate sounds with the help of his excellent teacher. After visiting with the family we soon needed to take Anna back to school. We did promise to return later in the afternoon to take the kids out to eat—where else but Pollo Campero!

Our next visit was to the family of Wilmer and Walter. Wilmer is being tutored through a Bethel sponsor, and a few months ago we had taken Walter in to see the neurosurgeon in Guatemala City. We wanted to check on how they were both doing.

Arriving at their house, we were surprised to see that one of the buildings had been torn down. We were even more surprised to discover that the family had moved. (Note to self: check with Carlos at the Bethel office before setting off on these trips to see if anyone’s moved!) After calling Wilmer’s mom, we were given directions to their new home in Anonillo—a place we had never heard of. Not to worry, Mom said. Her older son would meet us at the highway.

So we back-tracked to what we thought was the highway she was talking about. After calling her we discovered that we had gone quite a way too far. Only then did it occur to us (to Dick, really) that the young man who had waved to us as we were traveling down the dirt road to get to the blacktop was probably Wilmer’s brother! I’m still learning Guatemala-speak. Never in a million years would it have occurred to me to call a narrow dirt road a highway, but here in Guate it was (especially after we saw the roads that led off of it!)

We started back tracking again, this time through town, only to get stopped behind a van which was next to a car going the wrong direction down the two lane road. Imagine our dismay when the van threw it in to reverse and back up full speed into the front of Dick’s new Land Cruiser! I prepared myself for the worst as Dick jumped out of the truck to talk to the driver of the van.

Fortunately, the van driver admitted his mistake. (Other Guatemalans might have thought we were at fault for not backing up when we saw his non-existent reverse lights!) As we were discussing the situation, up came Eric, a local man who owns a bicycle repair shop in town and had originally led Dick to Wilmer. With his help we negotiated a fairly good repair price (for the driver at fault) and Dick left with a grand total of about 75 Q (roughly $10) to repair the “cow catcher” on the front of the Land Cruiser. Eric was also kind enough to accompany us to Wilmer’s and with his help managed to make the right turn up the mountain. (Yep, it was right where we had passed the “friendly” young man who had been waving at us!)

We traveled up a dirt road which became a trail which became two ruts, which ended rather abruptly. As we were sitting there trying to decide what to do, a little girl came up to the truck and said, “Dick!” It was Wilmer’s little sister. She pointed a short way up the hill to where we saw Wilmer’s mom waiting for us holding Walter. They had moved to this isolated area to be near her oldest daughter who was married with two children. Wilmer’s dad was building a block house for them, which promised to be quite nice. Now, however, they are living into a lean-to which is no more than some wooden walls covered by metal sheeting. We were welcomed in immediately though, as Momma talked about her dreams for the new house.

Wilmer was up the mountain at his sister’s house, and we hiked up to see him. I have to admit it was a bit of a challenge as we seemed to go straight up, but I managed to make it without either falling or having a heart attack so it was all good. Wilmer’s mom had found him a new teacher, and he was already receiving lessons in his new home. We were also very pleased to see the water filter which we had left on our last visit in use. Chalk up two great home visits and some good team work on the part of Bethel!

We returned to Bayron’s to take the five kids who live there to an early supper, only to be greeted by a number of other children who had come to “visit.” As hard as it was, we stuck to our original commitment and just headed off with Bayron, Edgar, Vanessa, Oliver, and Maria Jose. (Oliver is a little guy on crutches who runs faster than most able-bodied kids, and Vanessa and Maria Jose are his sisters. Their mother, Bayron’s grandma’s sister-in-law, had died a few months ago, and Grandma is helping her brother raise his children now, as well as Bayron and Edgar).

Our time at Campero’s proved to be about the most entertaining meal I have eaten in Guatemala. The kids drew and played tic-tac-toe while waiting for their food. When the drinks came there was the mandatory straw shooting (begun by Dick, of course), and much teasing and joking. It soon became apparent that the kids were entertaining not just us, but most of the restaurant. It was fun to watch the servers laughing as the entered their orders in a near-by station. Again, it amazed me how Bayron could communicate with us so well without speaking or hearing a word.

As we were eating our ice cream at the end of the meal, we were approached by a man who said he was a pastor. He said something about making a donation, and I assumed he was asking us for a donation to his church. I was astounded when he explained that no, he wanted to make a donation to us to help pay for the kids’ meals. I was more surprised when he said he was not from this area, but lived in Guatemala City and had his church in Xenacoj, which is only a short way from Antigua. This encouragement from a fellow Christ-follower was like a kiss from God to top off a rather remarkable day.


Thanks Pat

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, August 20, 2011

August 13-20, 2011

For the past several days we have been blessed by having a teem from "Joni and Friends" that came from the USA to work with with us.

Grant and Rhoni Standefer who are with Joni and friends showed up a few days ahead of the rest of the teem.

Rhoni had collected some money for shoes from friends and members of her church so on Saturday we took about a dozen of my kids shoe shopping. This was a big blessing because the school year is about half over and many of them had shoes that were totally warn out.

Thanks Rhoni and everyone else who made this possible.

On Tuesday we we loaded up the 2 Bethel Ministry vans and headed out for 5 days on the road. Among other things we visited several families in their homes and did wheelchair distributions in 3 different towns here in Guatemala. The entire group has really rolled up their sleeves and pitched in to help make this week a huge success.

Not only were over 165 people blessed with new wheelchairs but many of the people that we worked with gave or rededicated their lives to Jesus.

Local pastors from each town that we did the distributions in worked with us and they will be following up on all of these people.

I am still working on trying to get some of the teem members to write a few things about thier
experiences this week but we have all been quite busy. When and if they do I will be sure to post what they wrote.

Chris and Donna's daughter Cindy (lower left) did an excellent job of interpreting for me at the distributions.

The little boy (lower right) was my enthusiastic mechanic's helper at the San Marcos wheelchair distribution. He shortened what would have normally taken me 3 hours to do down to about 5 hours, but his enthusiasm and the smile on his face made it all worth it.

We are now back in Chimaltenango and my house is quickly filling up with kids. Since they all want to share with me what they did this week I am going to cut my sharing short and let them have a turn sharing their experiences with me.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mostly Pictures This Time

I know that it has been nearly 2 weeks since I made my last journal entry but I have a good excuse. I lost my good camera and my Mac. computer is once again in the shop and it has taken me a week to figure out how to start up this windows contraption. And then another few days figuring out how to use it. Sorry this camera takes fuzzier pictures than the one that I lost, and no fancy frames on the pictures this week.

I have been busy doing many different things these past few weeks. Here are pictures and a few brief remarks of some of them.
My boys love spending time at Hermano Pedro orphanage almost as much as I do. We were happy to once again see 4 and a half year old Jose, but hearing that he was returned to the malnutrition ward weighing about 12 ponds after being back at his home for only 6 months brought tears to all of our eyes.

Stopping off at the park on our way to Camperos

Henry helping adjust a new wheelchair at the orphanage

These therapy students not only did a great job of helping repair wheelchairs at Hermano Pedro but they also had the time of their lives helping me take some of the orphanage kids out to Camperos for lunch.

Lunch at Piccadilly's with some of my kids
(See, we do occasionally eat at other places besides Camperos)

I also helped out at a few wheelchair distributions.

Not only did many receive new wheelchairs.

Several invited Jesus into their lives!

Lora who is staying with Pat for a few weeks,
has a real love for the kids where ever we go.

but then

How can anyone
not love
these kids ?

Pat, Lora & I visiting with
a widow and her children.

Pat and one of the
three widows
that we visited on
this particular day.

Pat's love for the Guamanian
people is highly contagious.

Up until we found a sponsor for them grandma, mom, and 4 kids lived on the income of Samuel, the oldest of the 4 kids.

Before finding a sponsor
for this family,

11 year old Samuel
had to work
every day
and was earning
$10 a week.

Well I better get this published before this computer crashes again.

<>< Yours in Christ : Dick ><>