* 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 26, 2007

Journal August 23-26

Thursday, August 23, 2007, 9:29 PM

Ardie and Erika are now here from the states. Ardie comes here at least once a year but this was Erika’s first time to Guatemala. I could not remember where but I knew that I had met her before. She told me that she had been on a few wheelchair distributions in other countries. I then discovered that her first wheelchair trip ever was my second one. It was to Viet Nam back in 2000. I had met here there. Now she had come to Guatemala to do a wheelchair distribution with her aunt Ardie and ran into me here, small world.

After meeting for breakfast Ardie, Erika, Hanna, Abner, (who had no school????) and I headed to Santa Maria Dejesus. They very much wanted to see the school there. We did not stay long because we also wanted to take some of the Hermano Pedro kids out to lunch. The short amount of time that we were there left a positive impression though. It is so inspiring to see nearly 50 kids who would not normally be getting an education receive not only an education but an opportunity to witness Christ’s love in action.

A little before 11 AM we drove back down the mountain to Antigua. When we got to the orphanage we found all of the kids in bed. No they had not already been put back in bed for the day. They had never been taken out of bed. The ladies that are suppose to look after them told me that they thought that it was a bit cold out so they decided to leave them in bed all day. Considering the fact that most of them had been in bed since noon yesterday and would not be taken out of bed until 8 AM tomorrow morning that would make it 44 hours with out getting out of bed. I have had a few times when the thought of that sounded down right inviting but I am not a kid. We got some of them out but only the 5 that we took to lunch. Deciding which 5 got to go to Camperos with us was not an easy decision. One of the 5 was a girl that came into Hermano Pedro only a few weeks ago. Due to some serious medical problems that she had when she arrived this was the first time that she had been allowed to leave the orphanage. I find it hard to put into words but all of us noticed a total transformation in this little girl once she got out side of the orphanage. Up until now she had always seemed so lifeless that I often wondered if she was aware of her surroundings. Not 15 minutes after being out side of the building she was smiling and jabbering like mad. I am not sure if she was speaking in one of the Mayan dialects or simply making sounds but it was great to see her spring to life. What ever the case she was definitely conveying to us that she was happy and loved to be out and about.

After getting the kids back to the orphanage the ladies decided that they wanted to go shopping. This is where Abner and I bowed out. I still had 3 hours before we were all scheduled to meat for dinner in Antigua, so this would give me a chance to go home for a few hours. At 5:30 I returned rested and showered and joined them and the Mooney family for dinner.

Only 7 kids showed up at my house tonight. They had a great time figuring out what did and what did not cook well in my new microwave oven, and everything that was made got eaten.
None of them were too happy when I told them that I am going to be gone for 5 or 6 days so they just sort of hung around while I packed. Abner and Fernando were the last to leave and after walking about half way to the gate they both turned around, ran back to me, and gave me a big hug. I told them that I loved them and I would be back. They said that they knew that.

Well I still have a bit of packing to do so I am going to close for now.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, August 24, 2007, 7:43 PM

Tonight we are in Saloma. We headed out at 9 AM this morning and did not get here until 6 PM. We didn’t have any problems along the way but 9 hours of driving these kind of roads is a long day. The people here in Saloma, where we are doing a distribution tomorrow have put us up in a motel and have even offered to feed us while we are here. It is definitely not a five star hotel unless you count the one that you can see through the hole in the ceiling but we feel like kings. It is such a good feeling to know that they care enough about what we are doing that they show us this hospitality. There are 14 of us here and most of the team is made up of people from our shop. Our 2 guests from the USA have both been on wheelchair distributions before so we have a lot of experienced people for the distribution tomorrow.

We had a lot of fun on the way down and I even had one of the ladies convinced that a truck load of cabbage that we drove by was actually a load of brussel sprouts. I told her that things grew well here in Guatemala. I guess that I should have left it at that. Trying to convince her that watermelons were actually peas, blew my cover.

Well I am going to keep this short because I am running on batteries. No electrical outlets in this room. I guess that I will go and stand in line for the bathroom and then kick back for a while before going to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, August 25, 2007, 8:20 PM

It is always great to have a good night’s sleep after driving all day. At least as far as I can remember it is. Last night that didn’t happen for most of us. The mattresses that were on all of our beds were about an inch thick and hard as a rock. Every time I mannaged to get to sleep a car or a truck would pass by the motel and I kid you not the ground would shake like we were having an earth quake. It was probably a blessing though because the few times that I was able to sleep for 15 minutes or so with out being woken up I was so sore from lying in one position that I found it hard to turn over and let another part of my body get sore. In the morning I found out that I was at least more fortunate than Artie. She had all of the same discomforts plus the sheets on her bed had evidently been washed but not dried. After having beans, cheese, and tortias for breakfast we headed out to the distribution. Once again it did not take us long to forget our minor inconveniences and focus on the people that we were serving. When we saw some of the their circumstances we know that we had nothing to complain about. I am sure that many of them would have counted it a blessing if they had a bed to sleep on and would have been delighted to have eaten what we had left on our plates.

Most of today’s wheelchairs were given out to adults but there were a few children as well. I fitted a few kids who had never before been in wheelchairs and 2 kids received walkers. It is always such a blessing to see them maneuver a wheelchair or a walker across the room for the first time in their lives. I don’t know who gets the most excited, the kids, the parents, or us, but the over all excitement is hard to match.

Not all of the smiles are limited to the kids and their families though. Although I was not the one to seat him I could not help but notice a young man that had been seated in a new wheelchairs. He was sitting in line waiting for the final paper work to be completed on the chair that he had just received. I knew that I had met him before but figured that it was perhaps at another distribution and he had perhaps worn out the wheelchair that he had received back then. He kept looking at me though so I walked over to him. Chris came up to me and asked if I had remembered him. I said that he certainly looked familiar but I just could not place him. (Nothing unusual, I some times experience that when I look at myself in the mirror in the morning.) Chris then told me that this young man had told him that he had met me several months ago at the airport in Guatemala City. Suddenly it all came back to me. I looked back at him and them at his father who was holding a skate board. A few months ago while waiting at the airport for a team that had a delayed flight into Guatemala City, I had seen this young man. At first I had thought that it was another man who often begs for money at the airport. Just like this young man, the man at the airport is also unable to walk. We have already given him a wheelchair but he chooses to knell on a skate board and push himself around with his hands when begging. I don’t think that he likes using the skate board as well as his wheelchair but it does draw more attention and get him a bit more simpothy and with that a better income. I refer to it as income because many of the beggars refer to what they do as being their job. I guess in a way it is if you consider the long hours that they have to put in just to get enough to survive. Any way the young man that was in for a wheelchair today was not a beggar. He had come with his family to the airport to pick up a relative that had been working in the USA. Thanks to one of my neighbor kids who had come with me to the airport that day and thanks to American Airlines once again being late we had struck up a conversation with him and his family. For over 20 years he had no other way to get around than by slipping his crippled hands into a pare of warn out kids cowboy boots and pushing himself along on an old skate board. Unknown to me Chris told me today that he has been calling the telephone number that I had given him about once a week just to make sure that we were going to do a wheelchair distribution in his area. Today, 2 months later and over 8 hours from the Guatemala City airport where I had met this young man, the promise that I had made to him that night became a reality.
This evening when we reached Huehuetenango we pulled into a gas station to fuel our cars. When we got into our cars to leave Chris realized that his breaks were gone. Was it CHANCE or Godincidence that we were now on level ground? We had just returned from Saloma where we had descended some 6,000 feet. Had it happened a few miles back where we were descending on a narrow road that is full of hairpin curves who know what may have happened.

Tonight we are staying in a nice motel in Huehuetenango. We had a good meal and I will soon be crawling into a comfortable bed. Granted yesterdays accommodations were not the best and I have eaten enough refried beans for a while but the wonderful people who provided us with these things and the marvelous people that we were able to serve today made it a first class experience. Wow, I love this job!

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, August 26, 2007, 3:51 PM

Some days just can’t get any better. That’s how it was today. When we showed up at the public school building here in Huehuetenango this morning only a hand full of people were there for the distribution that we were having. Nevertheless we got all of the equipment and tools ready for what we were hoping would be a 45 wheelchair distribution. The number of people that we had invited to today’s distribution was less than the amount of people that we had invited to yesterdays distribution but there were suppose to be a lot more kids that needed specialty fitting today, but so far it was looking like not many of the people that we had invited where going to make it. While most of the crew got the wheelchairs that we had delivered last week out a room where they had been stored a few of us set up work stations in some of the class rooms. It didn’t seem like we were in the class rooms for more than a few minutes but when we walked out there were a lot more people there that needed wheelchairs. After examining some of the kids I was glad that there were not as many people as yesterday. Some of them were going to take a few hours each to seat. One little boy that I looked at appeared to be about 5 years old. I was surprised when his mom told me that he was 12.

Another young man who appeared to be about 11 or 12 turned out to be 22 years old. Chris had called me over to look at him and suggested that I start on him before the opening ceremonies got under way. His back was really messed up and seating him looked like it was going to be a challenge. Erika, who is here from the USA offered to help me. Although this young man was indeed a challenge we managed to have him fitted in a few hours. Granted we had to use 2 wheelchairs to get the necessary parts to build this one verry special chair but the end result was well worth it. This young man who has never before owned a wheelchairs and can scarcely sit up on his own was wheeling himself all over the school building.

Our next patient was a boy of 12 who was so twisted up that he could no longer get his legs to uncross. Even though he was in rough shape he seemed to be a very friendly and happy child. When I showed him the wheelchair that I had picked out for him he squealed for joy. He too was a challenge to fit. It is not often that I put someone’s right foot on the left foot rest and have to mount the right foot rest a extra 4 inches over to the right to accommodate some one’s left foot but when we had finished, other than having his legs crossed he seemed to be sitting fine. Erika who had been working with me later over heard his mother saying to him that now for the first time in his entire life he would be able to join his family at the dinner table. Not only that but for the first time in his life he will be able to get there under his own power.

The smiles did not end there. Everywhere I looked there were excited children and adults, many of whom were for the first time in their lives having a feeling of independence. Not everyone that was fit into a wheelchair today was as severe as these kids but all 45 that received wheelchairs had come in either not being able to walk at all or only being able to take a few steps at the most. All of them went home being a bit more comfortable and having a lot more independence and dignity. All of them also went home having heard of Someone who can give them a lot more than that.

When Chris and I met with a few business men here in Huehuetenango about 6 months ago we had little Idea how dedicated they were to finding and helping the needy people in their area. At that time they shared with us that they were not strong on the Christianity part but if we wanted to share with the people about the love of Jesus they would not stop us. Today one of those same business men got up and shared with everyone how he knew that the meeting that we had on that day and the 2 wheelchair distributions that we have had here since that time could not be any thing less than a miracle and he wanted to give all the praise to God. So do we and I know that is why God is blessing this ministry.

Yours in Christ: Dick

(Tomorrow morning we plan on leaving Huehuetenango. We hope to spend a few days at the beach just resting and relaxing. We are often told that is something that we should do more often. I guess we are willing to give it a try but I can’t possibley see how it can be half as much fun as we had today. At any rate I am going to send this journal out tonight. Who knows tomorrow I may be to busy having fun at the beach.)

Yours in Christ: Dick


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