* 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)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Journal, June 26-July 4, 2009

(Click on any photo to enlarge)

Friday, June 26, 2009

This morning we went to the airport and picked up a teem of ladies that will be with us for about a week. They had been traveling all night but when we got to Chimaltenango they all eagerly helped us load up Jorge’s truck with wheelchairs and a house kit that we will be taking with us to the coast on Saturday. The teem plans on doing a wheelchair distribution there on Sunday, then building a house and distributing some food to needy families on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Please pray for Pat because this is what she ate for breakfast. So far so good but I get sick just looking at the picture.

Today was suppose to be a leisurely 4 hour drive for the teem that was heading to the coast but 3 out of the 4 vehicles that were heading there got caught up in traffic that was due to road construction and sat in line for over 5 hours. The three of us that were in my car had stopped at a store for some junk food and gotten behind the rest of the group. I knew of a way around the traffic but by the time I got there the others were already past the turn off and were unable to turn around. I guess the moral of the story is that stopping off to eat junk food really pays off. Actually I felt sorry for the others because they were very tired when they arrived at the motel this evening.

Sunday, June 28, 2009, 4:20 PM

We had a wheelchair distribution her in Champerica this morning. Even though this was a first time experience for every member of the team that was here from the USA everyone did well. There were not as many difficult cases as usual but we all stayed busy. Both Chris and I reminded the team that even though the wheelchairs are an important part of the ministry it is not the reason that we are here. We told them that the reason we are here is to show the love of Christ to these people whether it be by actions or with words. This team did exactly that.

I will likely be coming back here in a week or 2 because today we found another little girl who is very malnourished. I would have guessed her to be 3 years old at the most but her mother and father told me that she was 6. They said that even though she is very sickly they have never had the money to take her to a doctor. I told them about Hermano Pedro and asked them if they would like it if I could arrange for them to see a doctor and possibly even have her admitted into the malnutrition ward for a few months. They didn’t even need time to discuss this with each other but both responded with an immediate yes. This little girl needs help so please pray that they do not change their minds.

Shortly after we got back to the motel John, Pat, Donna, and myself headed over to the home of a little girl that lives only a few miles from here. Chris and I had given this little girl a wheelchair nearly 3 years ago and I was certain that she would have outgrown it by now so we wanted to give her a new wheelchair today. When we arrived at her home relatives told us that her mother had taken her to the hospital in Xela a few days ago. We were told that she was having convulsions, and also that her lungs were very congested. I would have loved to leave the new wheelchair with her relatives but this little girl Had CP and needed to be fit properly.
The rest of the team has already headed down to the beach so I am going to close for now and drive down there and join them for supper.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Today we drove for about 2 hours through sugarcane fields and an old rubber plantation to a remote little village where we were to build a house. We had met the family for whom we were going to build this house at a wheelchair distribution that we had in Ratio Laio a few months ago.

The family is very poor and the mother cannot walk. This village is rather remote and the weather gets down right hot. Knowing that Americans embarrass easily I have taken the liberty of adding fig leaves to a couple of my pictures.

We had a big crew so I was able to act my age and not work as hard as I did yesterday. Actually we all worked hard but I did break away from time to time to visit with some near by families and took a lot of pictures. On their last trip here John and Arles Bosman brought me a battery operated printer that can be attached directly to my camera. What a hit! It gave me the opportunity to go into several homes of people that I am sure that I would have never met had it not been for the fact that they wanted me to take a picture of their families. By some of their reactions you would have thought that I had given them a $1000 bill. Most of them would put on there best clothing before I photographed them others will have to learn to draw fig leaves.

Even though the weather was extremely hot, the bugs were bad and everyone got very tired, the crew finished the house in record time and by around 2:00 PM we were celebrating a home dedication with this family.

Howie and Nan have headed back to Antigua. The rest of the crew went back to Champerica , where we have been staying for the past few nights. Tomorrow they plan on giving out food to some needy families. I am at the Bamboo Hotel in Mazatenango. Tomorrow morning I plan on heading the rest of the way home. Stephen Snell is coming for a visit so I will be picking him up from the airport tomorrow night.

Well it is getting late so I am going to say, “Goodnight”.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Most of my day was spent either driving home from Mazatenango or driving to and from the airport. It was well worth it though because Stephen has come to visit. I first met Stephen who is now 24 back when he was 8 years old. I worked for a number of years with Stephen who has cerebral palsy. I can’t really call it work though because from the very start Stephen and I were best friends. Even though we have not seen each other much in the past several years we remain in contact and having him here for a week after not seeing him in well over 2 years is a real treat. I really want to think the members of Faith Community Church for making Stephen’s visit possible. I am especially thankful to Gary and Pat Hawkens who accompanied Stephen on this trip.

Even though I had to return home in order to pick Stephen, Gary, and Pat up from the airport the rest of the group is staying 2 more nights at the motel in Champerica Instead of me telling you what they did I am going to post a few of their journals.

Wednesday, June 30
Written by Rachel

After awaking to a squawking bird an hour before my alarm went off, I took a quick shower, had a Guatemalan breakfast complete with ice cold “jugo de naranja” (orange juice), and we headed off for our food distribution day. Today has been the most draining day, both emotionally and physically. Basically, we would drive to a neighborhood, walk to the home, spend a few minutes talking a praying with the family, and then leave the food and move onto the next house. Though I wish we could have stayed longer with each of the families, this was truly the only way we were able to distribute as much food as we did.
Today I saw a woman living in an abandoned train car, Guatemalan children with yellow skin because of malnutrition, a 24 year old boy who couldn’t speak but had a smile as bright as the sun, a child screaming and crying when we walked up because of myths about North Americans, a man who loses parts of his home and belongings to the nearby river if it rains for more than an hour, a woman crying and praising God because of what He had given her through us, a handicapped girl laughing because a young American boy held her on his lap, and many other glimpses of what is taking place in the nearby communities.Though I don’t understand all the political or social problems, I do know that suffering is part of life. I don’t know why these people go hungry while I whine because my mom didn’t buy the kind of cereal I like. I don’t know why a woman works all day and yet still does not have enough to provide basic necessities for her and her son. But I do know that I don’t need to have the answers; we serve a God who knows, and sometimes that has to be enough for me. I am grateful for the blessing He has poured out on the United States, and I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to get to know His children here in Guatemala. God is here in Guatemala and He is just as faithful and just and loving and wise as He is in America. This morning God led me to my favorite Bible story about the Samaritan woman at the well. Throughout the day, so many parts of the story ran through my mind. The food we brought those people will last a month, but the Bread of Life is eternal. Christ took time out of His journey to talk to one woman, and because of that, her entire village was saved. Though it seemed like we didn’t have enough time with these people, we told them why we were there. We brought them food and told them why we came; the Holy Spirit will do the rest. Christ’s disciples didn’t understand what He was doing at the well or why He was talking to such an outcast, but He knew it was the will of His Father, and that was enough for Him. I’ve been on missions trips before and sometimes people don’t understand why we come, why we pay money to sweat and cry and hurt, why we spend all this time and energy when we may not even see the results. I do it because I am called. I may not see any of these people come to salvation, I do not know what will happen to the house or the food, but I know that we are serving Christ and loving His people, and these people’s lives and hearts are blessing and teaching me.

Wednesday, June 30,

Written by Kristin

My favorite part of this day was experiencing the amazing way the Hispanic culture prays. Although my Spanish speaking skills are minimal, I truly understood the meaning of these prayers. Chris or Pat would begin the prayer, and would be followed up by many Spanish speaking voices in the background. Each voice thanking God and asking for prayer among the family we were visiting. All the voices in prayer would occur at one time, and were so powerful. I could feel it in my heart the words they were saying even though I could not understand them. Sometimes we pray by saying words but not feelings. Today, we all could really FEEL the prayer, but not from words. It was such an amazing experience that meant so much to many of us and really helped us feel that God was with us all and taking action. This by far is my favorite experience of the whole trip.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Stephen, Garry and Pat arrived last night. Stephen who is now 24 years old has always been like a son to me. I started working with him 16 years ago when back when I volunteered at our local public school. Having CP and not being able to walk did not stop Stephen from leading a fairly normal life. I can still remember the day when Stephen who was only 10, was at my house and his mother showed up unexpectedly. I had just cut down a large tree that was threatening to fall onto my house. When mom pulled up to my house she asked me where Stephen was. I sheepishly pointed to the pick up truck that was towing the tree to the other side of my field. “Who is he with?” his mother asked. “He is by himself," I said. Mom looked at me in disbelief. “My dad let me drive when I was that age.” I exclaimed. “Yes but you don’t have CP” “If you don’t want me to let him drive my truck or ride on my motor cycle anymore just let me know.” I said. “No, I realize how good it is for him to do these things but being a mom I do have the right to get a bit nervous.” Maria did well at letting her son be a normal kid when he did things with me and she even got used to most of the things that we did. Although I must admit she did turn a few shades whiter the day that Stephen came home and told her that I had taught him how to fly my airplane.

(Note to Maria)

Don’t worry Maria I am taking good care of your son. I do not have an airplane here in Guatemala. You will be happy to know that I did manage to talk him into getting a haircut. I told him that he would likely get his hair caught in the pulley if we went zip lineing.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Today we joined back up with the group that I was with earlier this week and we all spent the entire day at Hermano Pedro. Gary and Patty have worked a lot with special needs kids back at home so they took to the kids right away. The 7 people that are here with Pat Duff did equally as well. The highlight of our day was taking 9 of the kids out to Camperos for lunch even though it was a bit of a challenge getting them and Stephen back to the orphanage in a thunderstorm.

On our way back to Chimaltenango I got a call from Alex’s mom telling me that Alex was back in the hospital. He had been over to my house a few nights ago and other than feeling a bit week he told me that he was doing OK. Today he had another episode where his hands and legs went numb and he also experienced chest pains. When we got home Garry and Pat Stayed at my house with Stephen while I took Alex’s mother over to the hospital. Alex had been there since 1 this afternoon but due to the swine flue panic no visitors were allowed into the hospital. We were able to talk to Alex on the phone and he was crying because he was all alone. When we got to the hospital the night watchman told us that we were still not allowed in but after pleading with him mom was finally allowed to stay.

Friday, July 3, 2009

This morning Gary, Patty, Stephen, Mario and I headed down to the coast. There is a 16 year old boy there who has outgrown his wheelchair. I stopped at his place a few days ago and had decided that it would be easier to bring a new wheelchair to him than to have the family come all the way to our shop to receive one. On Thursday Gary and I spent some time at the wheelchair shop setting up this chair according to measurements and photos that I had taken earlier in the week. Today we did some final adjustments but the new chair fits Minor well. Mario did a marvelous job of interpreting for us and we had a wonderful visit with this caring Christian family.

After stopping off at Seritta’s for ice cream we headed out to Where Ronny lives. Ronny’s mom told us that he had gotten so sick last week that they thought that he was going to die but today he looked better than I had seen him in over a year. The family is doing well but it seems that there is still a lot of feuding going on between them and some of their relatives. Last week one of the uncles once again came on to there yard and threatened to kill them.

While we were there we gave out some shoes, clothing and vitamins. It was hard to say good bye because everyone that was with me had fallen in love with the children but I felt that it was best to be out of this neighborhood before dark. We did stop off at one of the not so friendly uncles and gave some shoes, and vitamins to his children. The family was a bit standoffish at first but by the time we left they had become a lot friendlier.

We made one more stop at Seritta’s on our way home. This time we stopped off for supper. When we got home Alex’s sister came over and told me that Alex and his mom were still at the hospital. She said that Alex was still having some problems and mom did not dare to even go out for food because she was afraid that they would not let her back into the hospital. I do not say no very often but when Gladys asked my if could take her to the hospital so that she could bring some food to her mom I told her that she would have to wait until morning. As tired as I am tonight I don’t think that I should be driving.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, July 4, 2009, 10:12 PM
This morning I picked up Garry and pat from their motel and brought them to my house for breakfast. Stephen, and the 3 neighborhood boys that had spent the night were just getting out of bed when we got back to my place. We were soon joined by a number of other kids and everyone pitched in with making breakfast. Even though Pat and Garry have never been to Guatemala before they seem to fit right in where ever they go. Today’s visit to my house was no exception. My kids loved them and they loved my kids.

After breakfast Calin, Cesar, Stephen, Pat, Gary and I headed over to the Maxi mall to do some grocery shopping. We wanted to visit Maria and her children today and knew that they could use some groceries. About a mile before Maria’s house we saw a large number of people standing in front of a home. I nearly drove by until Calin said that he thought that he had spotted Maria and her children. As soon as I stopped the car we were surrounded by most of the kids that had been standing in front of the house. I recognized 2 of them to be Mari’s kids. Evidently they had told the others who we were because everyone wanted to have a look at these faded people that are called Americans. Not long after that Maria came to the car. She told us that this was the home of one of her relatives. She said that the large gathering of people was their to morn the death of her 10 year old nephew who had been run over and killed by a car. Maria later told us that her nephew’s death had been exceptionally hard on her because it brought back memories of when her husband was run over and killed by a hit and run driver. She told me that the funeral was now over so she would meet us up at here house. Some of her children and other children quickly jumped into my car but the rest of them headed up a trail that was too narrow for my car. Even though Mari’s home was over a mile away we only beat them there by about 30 seconds. I must admit that we did not drive all that fast because the designated driver that was sitting on my lap had never driven a car before.

Maria still misses her husband and her children miss there father but overall the family seems to be doing OK. They are still as poor as church mice but over all they seem to be a happy family. After giving Maria some groceries we invited her family and several others out to my car. It was obvious by looking at their feet that most of the shoes that he children had been given when school started back in January were in need of replacement. The next half hour was spent sorting through the supply of shoes that we and taken with us and finding that perfect pair for everyone that needed them. Thank to the portable printer that I had been given we were also able to give several of the families pictures of themselves. This may not seem like a big deal but for many it was the first time that they had a ever owned a picture of them selves or of their children.

All to soon it was time to say good-bye. I had promised my neighborhood kids that we would rent a soccer field at 4 PM and we did not want to be late for the big game. All of the kids that had ridden with us from the home of the little boy that had been killed jumped back into my car and road back down the hill with us. Several of them scrambled for my lap because they all wanted to drive but I finally convinced them that I could only allow one of them to drive at a time.

We managed to get back into Chimaltenango just in time to wolf down a hamburger and then get to the soccer field. To my surprise when we got there none of the kids were there. A quick phone call confirmed that the kids had thought that they were supposed to meet at my place but within in a few minutes 14 of them were at the soccer field. Once they saw that soccer here is played on cement Patty and Gary quickly volunteered to be spectators along with Stephen. I played goalie but at times felt more like a target.

Since I had not gotten all that much chance to visit alone with my company I told the kids that I would help rent the soccer field for an additional hour so that they could play soccer while I took Gary, Patty and Stephen some where and just visited. We then went to Camperos and visited. I figured that I had burned of enough calories playing soccer so I ordered a piece of pie.

Tonight was suppose to be lock out night for the kids but that did not happen. As I was walking into the door of my house I received a phone call from Gladys asking if I could bring her and her sister over to the hospital to bring some things to there mother. Alex is still not doing well and I am not real confident it the doctoring that he is getting at the National hospital. On Monday we are going to check with a few places that are in the City.

When I got back home I told the kids that had been staying here with Stephen that they were going to have to sleep at their own homes. Not a way to win friends and influence people but tonight I needed to work on my journal. Fernando was so mad at me that he would not even say goodnight when he stomped out of my house but knowing Fernando he will be all smiles when he shows up at my gate in the morning.

Even though it will be several hours before I get to bed I am going to say “Good Night.”

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, June 26, 2009

Journal, June 20-25, 2009

Great news! The container of wheelchairs that was being held up at customs has been released. Thanks for your prayers!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Weekends are supposed to be relaxing but this one did not start out that way. Friday night at around 11 PM Alex’s sister Gladys came over and asked me if I had the phone number of the doctor that I had taken Alex to see earlier in the day. I told her that I didn’t and that there was no way that I would be able to get it until Monday because all of the offices at Hermano Pedro would be closed until then. Gladys told me that he was feeling worse and that he was vomiting. I quickly went over to his house to check on him. His pulse was racing and his color did not look good so we decided to take him in to the National hospital here in Chimaltenango. Most of you know what I think of the National Hospitals here in Guatemala but I knew that they had oxygen and was hoping that they could give him something to control the vomiting. Actually they did both for him but I am glad that it was not a life and death situation because it took them 3 hours to do this. I managed to get to bed at around 2:00 AM but woke up early because the kids that were at my house when I went over to see Alex the night before had decided to stay and unfortunately by 7:00 Am they were slept out.

After breakfast, (At least I think that we had breakfast) Calin and I headed over to the wheelchair shop. Before knowing that I was going to be at the hospital all night I had agreed to meet a family who was coming in all the way from Cobon to have their daughter’s wheelchair refitted.

At 4:00 PM the kids and I went over to the soccer field. I had sent one of the kids over to reserve it earlier in the day but when we got there at 4 we were told that they had accidentally rented it to someone else as well so we could not have it until 5 PM. Since I had to be at the airport at 7:00 Pm to pick up a group that was coming in I was not able to play soccer but the kids got to play.

I know that I usually keep my Saturday and Sunday journal entries short but since the group that came in has offered to do most of this weeks journaling for me I figured that I would at least do today’s journal.

Anyway I hope that you enjoy the following journal entries that are done by various members of the 12 member teem that is here for a week.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Ellis wrote,

Wow, I find It hard to believe that Just earlier today I was asleep, safe ; warm in my bed, with my cell phone and laptop available for me to use whenever I wanted, and now I am on a plane, headed to Guatemala, armed with only my IPod nano and books to entertain me for the next couple hours on the plane. Originally my father, Kelly, and I were supposed to share 3 seats right next to each other. Thankfully Emma volunteered to take my Dads place and Sandwich between Kelly & Me. Luckily our trip has had only 1 minor Setback , the plane was delayed 25 minutes. I can’t wait to get to Guatemala now! I know the feeling, it will be like boy scout camp, can’t wait to get there, can’t wait to get home once you get there. I Didn’t sleep well last night, so goodnight, I am going to sleep, Blog ya later!

Emma wrote,

Hello from Dallas Texas!! I miss you all already!! The plane ride is ok. Its kind of boring, but reading makes the time go by! Last night I was at my boy-friends party and slept the night away. I got up at 5:00 in the morning to catch a 10:15 flight. Crazy, huh? Anyway, the plane ride isn’t as bad as usual. We were supposed to arrive at 3:15 in Dallas but the pilot was having some technical difleculties so we are now, arriving at 3:55. Can believe only one more hour till Guatemala? I’m so excited!! I will write back tomorrow. You will be in my prayers!! See you all later!!!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ellis Hughes wrote,

This morning Brad, Josh and I woke up to the horrible sound of josh’s foghorn alarm after not being able to fall asleep until about 1 or 2 in the morning, Guatemalan time. We arrived in Guatemala about 8. Customs was quick, and only Cathy was tested for swine flu. Dick and Chris Drove all around Guatemala City to take us to the BK, and wow, I am glad none of us were driving. There are almost no rules! People were getting cut off, and I didn’t see anyone use a blinker. On our way to Antigua we saw a guy lying on the side of the road. Ted asked Dick if we should stop, but Dick said that if we stopped, the police would think we did it.

Sharron Leinweber wrote,

I am sitting here in the open air courtyard outside our rooms watching the rain fall. I am just in awe of the incredible beauty. It was dark when we arrived in Antigua last night so I couldn’t tell how rich and green everything is. All the flowers are in bloom and the colors are so vibrant. Surprisingly I slept really well. I think I was the first one out in our room. Luckily, we are all readers before bed so that worked out really well. I woke up this morning to the sound of beautiful Guatemalan women outside in the courtyard making and selling the most amazing textiles. Good thing I haven’t had a chance to get any small casallas (I don’t think that is how the money is spelled, but you get the idea). Well now I am going to eat breakfast and then be off to church.

Molly Anderson wrote,

Hello ! I wish you could see all of the things we have seen. We’ve been here less than a day, but I already love Guatemala. Even our hotel is amazing. Although it is raining, it is warm and we’re eating breakfast under cover in the courtyard. The food is great; they gave us eggs, beans and fried plantains, as well as the “ best watermelon on earth”. Now I’m not a watermelon fan, but even I thought it was pretty good. I am totally enjoying the company of everyone, especially my “roommates” Marlene, Sharron, and Emma. Oh my goodness, I think we were all a little loopy last night. Emma had a sudden fear of cockroaches after Marlene told her that they are in every tropical country. Emma wanted to leave the lights on all night to keep them away, but we finally convinced her that they weren’t gonna bug her. She swears she heard them moving last night, but I have yet to hear or even see a single bug. Well I guess I have to go get my prayer book, everyone is done with breakfast ( desayuno) and we’re getting ready for devotions out in the courtyard. Adios!
Brad wrote, . . . . . . . . . . . .

Hay haws it going? Today we went to Hermano Pedro (orphanage) and that was one of the hardest things in my life to do. We stand outside and Dick told us about himself and how he got involved and that was cool. Then we went inside and we went and saw some of the kids and then things got hard. We went to the babies and then we were expected to hold them; I could not do that. I don’t know why I just couldn’t. Our tour of the hospital was H... for me!!! The rooms as they go on they get worse. Starting with the adults all the way to the disfigured babies. In the end I “played” soccer with a kid that can kick my..... in a walker.

I’m worried that when we go back on Thursday it will be as hard or harder for me.

Monday, June 22.2009

Brad, Josh and Ellis, wrote,

Last night we had to change our room to a couple rooms down. Apparently the toilets here can’t...…… How were we supposed to know? Anyway, after we moved from room 3 to room 9 because it was “necessary”, we tried to fall asleep. At that time it was about 8:30, and there was to be no sleep for us for the next couple hours, unbeknown to us. The room was definitely the same size, but it felt smaller. Then something happened. Brad started to laugh almost uncontrollably, and Josh and Ellis were so tired, they started to laugh at Brad, ..............

Bill Hughes wrote,

We all rose early this morning to be picked up at 5:45 AM. All of were ready, when Dick arrived but Chris, the wheelchair guy with the van, overslept. Cathy made the executive decision that I would take Ellis, Josh, Molly, and Brad with Dick. Dick had brought along Fernando, an eight year old from his neighborhood. Plus, Dr. Brad was in to provide free medical advice. The eight of us crammed into Dick’s Toyota that can seat five comfortably, and left. (Do not worry. We complied with all Guatemala traffic safety laws, at least the ones that are enforced.)

(Good thing that Bill was not with us the day that I had 21 people in my car. Dick)

As we left Antigua, we passed through a shanty town. I have seen these in pictures, but this is the first time I have seen one in person. THIS is poverty. The drive was beautiful. There is a volcano on the horizon that looks like a textbook volcano. It is spewing ash. Fortunately it is very far away.
(Click on any picture to enlarge)

We drove to Rio Bravo, about two hours out of Antigua. We set up in a covered area with a dirt floor. It is about the size of a skating rink. However, ice would not last more than a second. It was in the 80’s and high humidity. Most of us were uncomfortably hot and were drinking as much bottled water as we could hold. Some of the Guatemalan folks were wearing wool sweaters. We set up plastic chairs for the “patients” and their families. I think that whenever I see a plastic chair when I am in the US, I will think of Guatemala. They are everywhere here. We lined up 35 wheel chairs from a truck. Dick taught us the basics of fitting a wheelchair as the local politicians greeted everyone. What looked like a news crew filmed the process. Only Ted took more pictures.

Dick Rutgers, Ellis, and Brad set up an area for “specialized” chairs. These were the more customized units for more severely handicapped people. We also set up an area for Dr. Brad to meet patients. Father Tom and a local pastor met with individuals at another station. The rest of us broke into four teams of two for the “standard” wheelchair recipients.
Chris had distributed pieces of paper with numbers on it.

Cathy and I started working with patient #1. He was an elderly gentleman with crutches. We helped him by picking from the selection of chairs in terms of seat width and height. We adjusted the foot supports to his needs, having to scavenge some pieces and parts. When we were done, he asked to see the doctor. We took his picture with us and wheeled him over to the doctor. The routine was the same, but each individual had his or her own story. One patient that touched me was an elderly lady. She said that she had broken her leg. She really had broken her hip. She is relatively frail, and in her 70’s. Her husband was in his late 80’s. He was really thankful to have us help his wife get around. The love for each other was apparent to me and all of us. Her prognosis is not bright. Dr. Brad gave advice to help her heal in the best way possible. We were able to help them get along in their lives.

Towards the end, Dick, Ellis, and Brad were working hard on a chair for a boy that needed a custom chair. Each time they added a piece, such as a chest belt or a head rest, he would break out in a BIG smile. It was a golden moment each time. He could not speak, but he did not have to.

After we gave chairs to everyone, Axel, our local contact, invited us to his home for lunch. A committee of women made us a delicious meal that we ate local delicacies on his patio. We all chatted about the people whom we served and had touched our hearts. We then loaded up and drove back to Antigua to take a shower.

Ellis wrote,

This morning we woke up too early. Granted, it was the time that I normally would wake up for school, but that night I had fallen asleep around midnight. After waking up, and getting dressed, we saw no one out in the courtyard, and assumed everyone had not woken up. After a few minutes, I saw some other people getting up. When Dick got here, only my dad, molly, josh, brad and I fit in with the gear, and two other people. When we got to the place to do the wheelchairs, brad and I got assigned to work on special wheel chairs.

The first kid that we helped was about 6, and after 3 hours, the chair had been modified and fit the child with Cerebral Palsy and seizures. The father and mother were thrilled, and eagerly learned how to move the angle of the wheelchair and move it around.
The next kid that was brought to us had scoliosis so severe that his organs had started to be destroyed. Brad, Dick and I took his leg, back, and waist measurements, and chose a wheelchair. Because Brad and I had gotten some experience from the previous person, our modifications were a lot quicker, and in less than two hours, the child was fitted and ready to go.

When we strapped him in, his smile almost split his face in half, and even though his scoliosis had almost bent his spine so it was nearly unrecognizable, he sat up strait in the seat. That had to be the highlight of my day.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The group will be with Chris and Howie building a house for the next few days. I will continue to post their journals but will also be writing about a few highlights of some of the things that have been taking place around here.

Doctor Brad Kamstra is here for a few days. About a year ago Brad is showed me how to treat the leg of Cesar, a man that 3 other doctors had told that his leg would have to be amputated. Brad had not seen Cesar since that first visit but I stayed in close contact with him and he continued to advise me on how to treat it. Several months of treatment and a lot of prayer proved positive and Cesar's leg is doing well. Today brad finally got to see Cesar again. Cesar and his family could not believe that Brad would take the time to visit them and thanked him over and over again.

Molly wrote,

Another early morning, and another great day. After showing up almost 45 minutes late yesterday, Chris Mooney decided to arrive to pick us up twenty minutes early today, much to my surprise (I was still in the shower when he pulled up, oops!). Although the hotel usually provides breakfast, six AM was too early for them, so we ate a gourmet breakfast at Burger King. After that deliciousness, we broke into two teams of six. One team jumped into Chris’s van and headed to the hills to build a home for a family with five or six children at home, and two more that are severely disabled and live in an orphanage. They spent the day leveling the lot, laying down cinder blocks, and mixing and pouring cement ( all by hand). They all worked very hard and got very dirty.

The team I was on went on a food distribution. At the beginning of the day, we sorted out several suitcases full of clothes into general age groups and packed six bags of food into the van, and headed out to visit families in need. Every family we visited was one part heartbreaking and one part awe inspiring. The children especially surprised me with their resilience. Even though they have faced hardships much more severe than I can fathom, they were cute and funny and downright joyful. Being able to communicate with them ( I’ve taken Spanish since 8th grade) more than most on the G-team has made it very easy to earn their trust and as Dick says, “Love on them”.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Emiliana Tol Vargas and her 4 children live in one room of a mostly vacant building in Chimaltenango Guatemala. Emiliana is unable to work due to poor health. Her oldest daughter works 3 days a week but after paying rent the family has less than $15 per month left for food, clothing, or any other expenses. We have found a sponsor so that the 2 younger children, Iadelaida and Estuardao can go to school and so that some food can be provided each month. Silvia who is blind was thrilled when I took her hand and explained each button of the audio bible that Calin, Cesar, and I brought her today. You should have seen her face light up when she heard the New Testament being read to here.

Emiliana tol Vargas and her 4 children
with their new Spanish audio bible.

Daughter Silvia , who is blind (holding bible) loves listing to Christian Music but up until today she had no way to read her bible.

After visiting Emiliana and her family the boys and I stopped by the shop to drop off some paper work. Our 5 minute stop turned out to be about an hour and a half though because a family that had a little girl that needed a wheelchair was there and there was no one around to fit her. My work was made easy though because Calin is getting really good a working on wheelchairs. Cesar does not have as much experience as Calin but he is very willing to learn.

Since I will be gone with a group on Saturday and Sunday, the boys and I took advantage of an hours break in the thunder storms and played soccer this afternoon.

I spoke with Alex today and although he still has to take it easy he is feeling much better. Please pray for a complete recovery.

Sharron Leinweber wrote,

Do you ever have those days when you know exactly what you are doing and everything is clearly planned and it doesn’t take you long to realize that God is laughing because you are silly enough to think you are in charge? Today was one of those days for me so bear with me as this may take a bit to explain. We split up again today and half the team began distributing food and clothes early this morning. Like yesterday, the first family we saw had several children without shoes. I cannot tell you how it feels to see these people in the muddy, dirty streets or hauling water without anything on their feet. That being said, I am already working on a way to possibly help alleviate some of this. The rest of the day was similar and we ended up finishing the distributions early.
Our last stop was to bring food to the family of the build site. We were excited about helping the rest of the team with the build, but there were just too many people so we were stepping on each other. Some of us ended up taking some of the children for a walk instead, besides, we had a few members with “crummies in their tummies” so we needed to find a farmacia (notice the use of Spanish). We had not been gone long when a thunder storm began to threaten so we headed back. I have good news: the roof of the house does not leak and the gutters work great. Unfortunately, after such an intensive downpour – we could not finish the build. Now, if you remember, we have a few members that found the orphanage to be more than they were ready for and did not have the skills to cope with the feelings they encountered. Tomorrow is the day we get to go back and serve at the orphanage again. Well, here is the part where God was laughing because he saw how much stress this was causing and he already had it worked out. The boys (and Kelly) have to go back tomorrow and finish the build and will therefore be unable to join us on the trip to the orphanage. Wow – who could have planned that rain better? I sometimes wonder why I worry so much and take so long to just trust in the Lord. It sure would save me an awful lot of stress if I could figure that one out! Well, I am now off to bed – Buenos Noches! Sharron

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Today most of the team that is with us this week came along with me to Hermano Pedro. For many of them this has been a real exercise in broadening their comfort zones, but I think that today the group was prayed up and most of the fears of really getting in there and loving on these kids that some of them showed on Sunday appeared to be gone.

At noon we took nine teen age girls to lunch and I don’t know who had the most fun, the girls from the orphanage or the team. Overall I think that it was a win win situation. Everyone ended up with new friends and everyone was a bit richer for it. After lunch we spent some time in the park and a few of the more childish members of our team even had a water fight in one of the fountains. I made a promise to the rest of the group that I would try to grow up and refrain from getting any one wet if we ever do this again.

We got the girls back to the orphanage at around 2 PM. That is when reality set in for the members of the team. The team members noticed that all of the wheelchairs were sitting empty in front of the rooms where the kids sleep and one of the ladies asked me if the kids were all taking naps. When I told her that they were in bed until 8 AM tomorrow morning they all looked at me in disbelief. “That is 18 hours!” one of them exclaimed. I think that they were still a bit in disbelief until the care givers motioned for them to bring the girls that we were bringing back from lunch to there beds so that they could be placed there until morning. Some of the team members stood by their beds weeping, others retreated for the halls where they could sit in silence. I know that some of them thought that I was a bit pushy when I insisted that they go in and say goodbye to the younger kids whom they had played with earlier in the day but I wanted the reality to sink in. Yes it was hard for them but I know that it would have been harder if they just walked out with out saying goodbye. Besides that, were we there so that we could feel good or were we there for the kids? So many people come and go in and out of the lives of these kids. Some of them refuse to love on the kids because they know it will hurt too much when it is time to say goodbye. Others leave when things get a bit uncomfortable. Thanks team for being there for the kids even if parts of your visit were difficult. I know that you made some of these kids very happy. I have a feeling that the kids had a positive impact on you as well. I wish that I could say that I no longer shed tears when I go to the orphanage. Then again perhaps I should be thankful that I do.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them.

Mother Teresa