* GUATEMALA * * * * * * * * Dick Rutgers *

An ongoing journal of life as a Missionary in Guatemala. It will make you laugh and cry at the same time.

My Photo
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, February 29, 2008

Journal February 22-28

(Click on any picture to enlarge)

We have been building houses and doing wheelchair distributions with a church group from Washington State this entire week. It has been a busy but very rewarding time. However finding time to keep a journal has been next to impossible for me. Besides that I figured that it is about time you get a perspective of life here in Guatemala through someone else’s eyes. So this week some of the volunteers who are down here from Washington State are going to share some highlights from the journals that they have been keeping. I think that you will enjoy what they have written. I know that I will enjoy a few days off from doing the writing. I know that I have already published Journals for the first 2 days. (Friday, February 22, and Saturday, February, 23) But I have included those 2 days as well because I thought that you would like to see someone else’s perspective of the same days. I hope that you will find this week’s journals, that were written by various people, as interesting and informative and I have.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, February 22

We woke up this morning in Chemaltenango. Some of us went for a short walk from the hotel. As we walked down the street, we were passed by horses being led to the market. About a block form our hotel, we stopped and looked down at the area below. It was the first look for many of us at how many of the people here live. Pieces of the tin siding patched together filled the approx. ½ acre area. They did not have power or water and the smells of garbage and dead animals filled the air. What an eye opener! At 8:00 a.m. several showed up with vans. We piled in and made a short drive to a restaurant for breakfast. Then we hit the road, headed for the hotel closer to Ronny’s family. We checked in quickly and headed to Ronny’s place. The drive there took us past fields of sugar cane and lots of ran shackled homes. We pulled up to the work site at about 11:00 a.m. and unloaded the tools. We said a prayer and then Dick took us to the family’s current home to meet them and see the conditions they are living in. I think we were all shocked at the living conditions. It gave us motivation to get to work and so we walked back to the jobsite and got started. With the help of two local block layers we added to the walls, moved dire into the building in preparation for concrete, dug ditches for power and water. We all struggled with the heat & humidity. But all in all a good day. I think we are thinking about how blessed and fortunate we are.

(Lane Stremler)

Sat., Feb. 23

A few impressions
Most popular means of transportation – walking; 2nd – bikes; 3rd motorbikes; 4th – old school buses; 5th – anything with Toyota written on it.
Weather: typical climate
– HOT! Typical house, corrugated tin and cement block.
Typical family siz
e – way too large.
Speed limit
– none. Result…. Use your imagination.
The homes are very small with dirt floors, no glass windows. The family we are building for has seven children, the mother is 34 years old, pregnant – very friendly and loving!
Typical dog
– sick looking and skinny.
Typical horse
pony size.
The cattle are mostly Brahma with ribs exposed. We are so blessed in our country. The children come around every day – we give them toys and such that we brought along. We give them some of lunch each day – cookies, oranges or anything extra. Today we walked to Grandma’s house – she was a very nice lady. Her sons all live on the lane and she will give each a portion of the land legally. The more the children – the more divisions. We are so fortunate to have what we have. I don’t think I will ever complain again in my whole life.

(Don & Tres Kamphouse)

Sun., Feb. 24

This is the day the Lord hath made. Not only did we remember our church and church family today, particularly, but Jay & Debbie remembered our wedding as we celebrated our 17th anniversary. En route to our third day of house building, we stopped at a dirt floor hardware store. We were definitely in the minority as only a small handful ventured past our 4 armed guards, past the machetes for sale and the man sewing to the inside. Arnie purchased a plumb-bob and our crew chiefs (Chris, Dan & Jay) picked up the other misc. items. No one spoke much as unloaded our vans of people, protected tools, water and food. We knew the day would be full and the tasks ahead seemed burdensome. Our worker bees came alive, however, and forms were pulled, nails pulled, boards cleaned, new forms, block laid. Periodic breaks are necessary as the heat (over 95 degrees), humidity, sun & other factors drain our energy. The only physical injury today was poor Kim – when a piece of scaffolding fell on her head. By lunch time we were ready for a good break. We all ate our full & then shared our “5 loaves & 2 fishes” with the poor hungry mothers (2) and their children (approx 10-12) that were amongst us, but never begging. After lunch, most of us women went with Dick to visit a few neighbors. We shared candy, toys, clothes & love. The dirty faces of the sweet children completely light up when their photo is taken on a digital camera and then shown to them. One woman we visited had a broken femur – the doctors had put 2 plates in, but incorrectly and the nearly 10-12 inch incision was badly infected. It is amazing how one photo, one piece of candy, one item of clothing or one toy is a gift beyond words for these children. The children crave attention – they want to be near us. The girls love having their hair fixed and braided. They want to help, even spreading dirt or straightening nails. We journeyed to a second home – at one place a jump rope was given to the children. They had no idea how to use it, but were demonstrated to by Kim… the children were thrilled. On to visit Gabrielle who has spinal bifida. He is such a darling little guy – the one with the large soft-ball size tumor at the base of his spine… then back to the work site to pitch in. Meanwhile, this writer was still pulling burs from her under clothing from a walk in the weeds to water the horses. Never again!

Jesus had a heart for the poor! In John 2 and Mark 11 we read how Jesus was angry when there were those who used the temple as a place to inflate the $ the poor had to pay for the doves they would sacrifice. These instances were some of the few when Jesus showed a side not typically seen by Him – when oppression and/or hurt were inflicted on the poor. As the afternoon work picked up pace again, I silently prayed these people would not and will not be oppressed by those seeking to do them harm. Crime and jealously are rampant because anything is scarce and all are terribly poor! The afternoon finished with a flurry of cement pouring – columns, more brick laying – even more, the first cement floor in the house was poured. Nearly everyone was involved in one way or another as the mixer made several batches – then wheelbarrow load… one after the other were run up into the house (elevated because of flooding). Our Guatemala Team is most certainly a team. We are working – and working hard, but we are having fun bonding and putting our actionable and practical love for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ into action. (Matt. 25: 35-36) May His name be praised!

(Debbie & Jay DeJong)

Monday, Feb. 25

After breakfast & our morning ritual of push-starting the security guards’ car we were headed back to the house. There are so many people walking – usually almost on the road, on motorcycles – many times with 2-4 people and sugar cane trucks – bursting at the seems. We were pretty excited when we got to the house b/c the trusses had all been put up, which made it look more like a house and more importantly it meant that we could put the tin on the roof and be able to work in the shade some of the time. This was very important to us because it was 97 degrees in the shade and 107.5 in the sun. Everyone is working so hard to try to stay hydrated but we have to admit we are pretty new at this working in the heat thing. So today the roof got put on and cement was poured in 8 (ocho) rooms leaving 1 room and the porch to go for tomorrow. Ronny’s Momma & Papa & seven siblings spent a lot of the day with us – even Grandma came to see. They are almost speechless, they are just overcome with happiness at what they can now see will soon be their home. We took family photos at the end of the day in front of their new casa. Also today we had Ronny’s school class come for a tour. So many (30 I would guess) happy kids! They all wanted to get down in the dirt and help dig through the sand to pick out the rocks. We took lots of pictures with them & exchanged words in English & Espanola, needless to say they learn a lot quicker than I do! They all wanted to drink some agua from our jug & cup and then they each got a sucker. I think it is a good thing that it’s illegal to take these kids home! We ended up taking Ronny & Orlindo (his little brother) back to the hotel for a night, this will be quite an eye-opener for them I think.

(Deb & Dan Kuiper)

Tuesday, February 26

What an eventful day it was. The day started with breakfast at 6:15 a.m. Then some of the guys left early so that they could get the supplies from up by Ronny’s old house, so the whole team could start at a run to finish what we needed to. Once the frame had arrived the droning noise of the cement mixer started and the first batch of concrete. We had to finish the “dining” room floor & the porch. We also had a crew that stripped form boards off the columns. Then we had a crew setting up form boards for the wheel chair ramp off of the front porch. And then the electrical crew. We finished all the concrete work in time for Ronny’s class to stop by and sing us Guatemala’s national anthem. It takes at least 5 minutes to sing. We came to the conclusion that it would not survive in the U.S. Once the concrete was laid as smooth we wrote NVRC and 26-2-2008 because that is how they read dates. We decided to write NVRC because it was the church who donated to make it possible for us to build the house. We then had Ronny press his hand into the concrete as flat as he could get it. Then we gathered around with the family & the school kids and teachers. Chad said a prayer in English while the teacher said a prayer in Espanola. Once done with the prayer the teacher said a few words, then Chris & Ronny’s mama, and I don’t think there was a dry eye when it was over. We then went around & said our goodbyes to all the people we had grown close to. We then had 2 soccer balls to give away & couldn’t decide who we wanted to give it to. So we finally decided to give it to Alex to keep for the neighborhood kids to play with. And then we gave the other soccer ball to the teacher to donate to the school. The school children were so into the dedication that they bought string & balloons to decorate the outside of the house. So we were finally able to break away from them and head back to our hotel. We were able to eat there. We then packed up our bags and headed into Mazatenango where we will be doing the wheel chair distribution. Along the way, we saw road widening construction like the Guide Meridian & concluded OSHA would have a fit down here. We finally reached Mazatenango where we saw a saddle shop. Once we had dropped our stuff off at the hotel (12 of us) went and checked it out. There wasn’t much there but the quality was good. There was also a taxidermist so they had a horse head that was mounted which we found interesting. They also had snakes they were skinning there. We went back to the hotel & saw that they had a cool water slide into the pool.

In Christ, (Brent, Bruce & Kelby Stadt)

Wednesday, February 27

We once again woke up to the rooster crowing. Pretty sure he was walking back and forth on the walkways crowing! Our breakfast here in Mazatenango was more than most expected - buffet with eggs cooked to your liking. After breakfast, we loaded into the vehicles and headed to the wheelchair distribution.

My expectations are vague at best. What will I do? How should I act? Honestly, if I really got honest with myself – will I be uncomfortable?

Once inside, we unleaded the wheelchairs out of the truck and laid them on the yard. In the front of the building is a small court area where Guatemalans are gathering to receive a wheelchair. At this time they were only getting a number.

I find it strange how the brain will listen to emotion when intentions are good. God was working in me and preparing my hands to work – work in a way they have never worked… only at this time I was not yet aware of it. How should I know, we were working?

After unloading the wheelchairs, we gathered around Dick while he gave us a “crash course” on adjusting a wheelchair to fit each person. This took about ten minutes and we proceeded to the courtyard where the people were waiting. Chris asked that we lay a hand on a family or person while he prayed.

Feelings of extreme joy followed by valleys of despair. I seemed to be losing a “grip” on my emotions as I watched parents cry to God for their child or elderly praying with thankfulness. Voices, prayers, tears, weeping were heard in the courtyard, and I felt God broke down any perceptions I had in that moment. I was ready.

Chris and Juan prayed and our team excused themselves to begin preparing for the people. A small group worked on the more specialized wheelchairs for the children, while the larger group fitted wheelchairs for adults.

there are moments in my walk with Christ that I feel completely in His will. As if noise, busyness, temptations and greed all melt away and there standing in front of me is God with his hand out to me – showing me the way. I felt this, not literally, but in this moment – I knew this is what God wanted from all of us.

The adult wheelchairs took about 15-20 minutes to fit; however, the kids could take an hour or more. The people are thankful and we are too. After about three hours, the adults are all fitted and out the door.

Sometimes I use work as a distraction – a way of postponing a short term problem. I used it today. I even wondered if what I was observing, what I was experiencing, what I was doing, was too sacred or too intimate to share with someone. Or could I even get myself to say a word?

The children took another two hours to finish. Chris’s family directed us in the proper fitting and piecing together of each wheelchair. This organization takes extreme pride in making sure every part fits each child perfectly. At the end of our time together at the distribution center, a woman gave her life to Christ!

God is it this simple? Food, water, a chair brings a soul to you! You can make mountains move and yet you choose a chair to reach a lost woman. Jesus Christ smiled through those children and adults today. I felt it! We all felt it!

(Chad Van Ry)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

It’s Thursday, I think. Hard to keep track of days when it’s just been go, go, go. Today was our first day off really, so before I get into that I want to talk a bit about the wheelchair distribution yesterday. I didn’t think there would be anything as gratifying and emotional as when we left the building site. I was wrong. I only worked on three chairs, but what a blessing. The gratefulness of the people was incredible. The smiles of the kids and the joy of the parents knowing that a burden has been lifted from them by a single piece of equipment. It was as tough to leave there as it was to leave the house we helped build.

As far as today, part of the group went to see Erica and bring her some medicine (I’m sure someone will write about that). The rest of us drove about 3 ½ hours past some smoking volcanoes, motorcycle accident (miracle if the driver survived) Chris’s erratic driving, overheating and near misses. I had the fortune of riding with Dan in the pickup. We finally arrived safely by the Lake in Panajachel. Once there, we ate lunch and went to look at the street vendors goods. This is where Luke learned the fine art of bartering from “the negotiator” aka Don Kamphouse. It’s hard to believe we are only a couple days from returning home. This trip has been an incredible blessing for all of us - just in the realization of how blessed we are at home with homes, food and support from family and friends – not to mention…. No scorpions. I feel that for myself, and speaking for others, I have truly seen God at work on our trip and our lives will be changed for it!

(Len Smit)

Thursday, Feb 28 (second group)

After a great breakfast we separated from the group that went direct to the lake. We headed West toward San Sabastian with 12 people crowded into a 9 passenger van and immediately were caught in the first of many traffic jams. Eventually we turned north to Xela where we dropped off Liliana and Juan Davis to catch their bus home. Liliana is a friend of Debbie and Jay DeJong, they are helping her obtain a work visa to return to the US to join her husband. Liliana had lived in one of Jay and Debbie’s rental houses for a few months 14 years ago. Debbie received a Christmas card from Liliana this year after not hearing from her for several years. Debbie was able to contact her in time for her to meet us at the hotel in Mazatenango. Liliana and Juan Davis joined us at the wheel chair distribution, Liliana was a great help interpreting for us and encouraging the families that could only speak Spanish. This was a Godincidence, as Dick would say!

Three hours later after many construction stops we were in San Francisco. Yes, there is a San Francisco in Guatemala. Only the spelling is different, the town is much the same with narrow streets and steep hills. We took a few detours since we were too heavily loaded for some of the steep streets. Finally we were at the end of a street where the slide took out Christopher’s house three years ago. This is where we start the hike up to Erica’s home. We transferred Erica’s medicine to backpacks, put a rock in front of the van’s tire on the steep hill and headed up the half mile trail. We were greeted by a couple of Erica’s brothers on the way. We were overwhelmed with their friendly welcome! They quickly invited us into their cement block home (the sewing room area) making sure we all had a chair to sit on. Erica’s mother then came in with a tray of cups filled with something and we all looked at Dick, what do we do??? He said, “it’s okay, it’s just Pepsi”. Whew!!! As we all got settled in, (with Ben translating) they told us how thankful they were for all of us and the medication that we brought. We told them that it was from God and not from us and the grandpa responded with “it is from God, but you are His representatives”. It was a moving moment! We greeted a smiling Erica. What a pleasant change after eight months on the medication! (a year ago she stayed in a corner away from everyone). Someone carried in a 17 year old boy who had CP who lived 3km away from Erica’s family. He was quite bent over and crippled and could not walk. Dick held him and measured him and went over some motor skills with him to see if he could use a power wheel chair. With Ben translating Dick was able to determine if the area around their house was smooth enough for a wheelchair. In the end, Dick decided he would be an excellent candidate for a power wheel chair. Once again the parents thanked us over and over again! Chad offered a prayer of thanks, praising God for His Presence with this family and allowing us to show our love to them in return for the incredible gift He has given all of us through His Son.We then went outside to take pictures and give them gifts from the employees at Fairway Drug in Lynden where we have been getting the medication at a huge discount. With smiles and giggles they accepted the lollipops and toys that Debbie had also brought along for them. We left them with hugs and good byes and went down the trail a different way to Christopher’s house (Dick found Erica by mistake when he had come to visit Christopher but missed his place and ended up at Erica’s) which was a Godincidence as Dick would say.

Christopher was home from school and happy to see us. His grandfather saw us going up the trail to Erica’s home so by the time we arrived his whole extended family was there along with neighborhood children (they heard about the gifts and suckers!) While we were visiting, there was an older woman shucking dried corn, which caught Arnie’s attention right away! He asked if he could help, she nodded. Soon Arnie and Steve were busy helping her and Christopher’s grandmother offered them a small bag of corn to take home for their garden. That put a big smile on Arnie’s face! We handed out more gifts and lollipops, took some pictures, accepted their gift of bananas and then said our good byes. We headed back down the trail and were happy to see the rock still in front of the tire and not through the window!!

We left San Francisco for the lake where the other group was enjoying a leisurely afternoon of sight seeing and shopping, (we wouldn’t have traded places for anything)! On the way we stopped at a service station for a wonderful lunch of ice cream bars, munchies and sodas! As we ate our lunch outside the service station we shared with a little boy who was begging.

We drove through many villages with beautiful farming areas all terraced on the hillsides with fruit and vegetable stands along the road. We were thankful to survive the aggressive Guatemalan driving and arrived at the lake after 5pm.

What an awesome day! One we will never forget! We felt God’s Presence and saw Him work in the lives of these people and in the hearts of all of us. To witness their love and gratitude for God was an experience that is hard to explain. A very emotional one at that!

To God be the Glory!
John & Arlis

We have truly seen God at work in everything that has been taking place here this week.

Yours in Christ: Dick


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was awesome! Thanks to all those who shared their insight and bared their hearts!


Friday, February 29, 2008  

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