* 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)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Journal, October 30-November 4, 2009

Jack Craigs is down from the States and working with us this week. Not only have I found Jack to be a talented seating specialist but also a wonderful brother in Christ who on his first time here seems to be falling in love with the Guatemalan people. Jack is graciously allowing me to publish his journals. So once again you will get to see some one else's perspectives of life here in Guatemala.

I usually do not publish my journals until the week end but this one has a lot in it. My friend Jack seem to be the only one that I have ever met that can find even more to write about each day than I do. Please try to take the time to read this week's journal. I don' think that you will be sorry that you did.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Jack Writes,

Our day began by stopping in at an orphanage in the town near where Dick lives. I will not attempt to record the names of where I am working as I would misspell them anyway. The first contact there confirmed for me the authenticity of my host. I had heard many wonderful endorsements from Kathy Mulholland, back in the states about how good Dick was at seating and positioning, however that was not what I was here to experience. The facility houses 240 residents and most appeared to be using wheelchairs that Dick had helped place. Everyone of the kids that we saw just lighted up when Dick arrived. You could tell there was an incredible bond between them. It is enjoyable to listen to Dick’s version of the language. I am undecided as to which is harder to understand, Dick’s dialect or that of the local population. The language that was unmistakable however is the bond that I see expressed in there eyes as he approaches them. Dick seems to have wonderful recall as he describes to me the circumstances that brought him to each child he has helped.

From there we went to the wheelchair shop in town and spent the rest of day one working on some of the equipment that has been donated. I was overwhelmed at the amount and variety of chairs that were being housed. I had no concept of just how many power wheelchairs I would be looking at. I met two other missionaries from Ohio that were here to help. Debbie is a Pediatric PT and her husband Denny helps with chair assembly. Like most volunteers, they have much to contribute and a willing heart. I managed to get a couple of the power chairs functioning and will be working on them again in a few days. The shop is huge and in much need of some skilled organization and direction. I am starting to feel a little bit like Jonah in the Bible and have been dreaming about whales!

I was told by several people that I have met that I was an answer to there prayers to be able to help with the high end power chairs. It is a humbling experience to be told that. I am not sure that anyone has ever verbalized that to me. It has caused me to be more focused in my prayer life. I feel a little bit like those characters in the Bible that were convinced that God could find someone other than them to lead those in need. Someone was with better skills. I am scheduled to see a young man that is a gun shot victim that has been waiting for two years to use a chair that was donated but never set up properly with a head array control. I found myself praying all day that what ever skills I have embedded in my old brain would be at the top of there game when I see him. The more I thought about it however the more I realized I was just someone God had placed in a situation that He could be praised for and any success would be His miracle not mine. That took some of the pressure off.


Saturday, October 31 2009

The day started early with breakfast with Dick, Debbi, Denny and two of Dick’s posse. I have not as yet commented on the “posse.” At any given time Dick is surrounded by 2 to 10 young boys that he has adopted off the streets that his ministry to them is to be a surrogate father. I must admit at first I was uncertain how that worked but have been amazed to see the love expressed by these young boys toward Dick and his enthusiasm directed back to them. We rarely have a meal in which one or more of them are not included. They all eat like vacuum cleaners but are well mannered and respectful. Dick is no spring chicken and I think the best part of there relationship is to keep him young at heart and optimistic of just what God is capable of when we yield to Him. The “posse” is fun to have around!

We headed back to the big congested Guatemala City to meet with Edwardo and his family to see if the Head Array that I brought could be put on his chair. You need to understand that Dick is one of those “glass half full kind of guys” about everything. On our way into the city we remembered that we did not bring a reset switch that would be needed to activate the head array control. There were some back at the shop but that was hours behind us. Dick was convinced that we could make do with something. He mentioned perhaps a nail might suffice however, I was not so optimistic at that point so we stopped at a local mall that had a retail electronics store and found a stereo switch that I prayed I could some how modify.
Edwardo was like so many disabled people in that he was just at the wrong place and wrong time when his car was hijacked and he was shot in the neck and left for dead. The level of his injury leaves him with only head movement and unable to use his power chair to have any freedom of mobility or repositioning while sitting in it. I was told he had become very depressed and desperately wanted to have some freedom of movement. We met with his extended family which numbered 7 and they all had prayed for this event. As it turns out one of his beautiful young children was 11 years old that day and was having a birthday party. Dick and I worked on the chair for an hour or so and the head array was installed however without the reset switch, it was limited as to how many of the functions were activated by head movement but most importantly, the chair could be driven! While I was working on the equipment, Debbi and Denny were able to do some training with Edwardo and his wife about wound care and proper positioning. Everyone in our group that came for the visit was absolutely needed. That included two of Dick’s posse to help entertain the kids in the house while we worked. We loaded Edwardo into the chair and made some minor adjustments with seating components and I began to explain what was about to happen. I have worked with patients for many years now with these type of controls and sometimes they respond great and other times the complexity of the commands are over whelming. As it turned out, with out the reset switch everything was much simpler and fortunately, Edwardo understood enough of my English to know what he needed to do. We cleared out the small living room and let him to do some basic starts and stops and worked up to a figure eight then decided it would be best to go outside and give it rip! The sidewalk and driveway were a little challenging but once we got into the private cud-de-sac Edwardo was off and running. I’d like to tell you that it always works this way but that is not the case. My months of preparation to come to Guatemala, the help I had from others to assemble equipment, the stumbling blocks that I experienced before arriving all flashed before me and I knew at that moment that I was at the exact place on the planet and the exact time God wanted me there and nothing else mattered.

...................^ .Click to see Video
Edwardo driving his new head controlled wheelchair.

I have never before been able to be a small part of such a wonderful birthday gift to a beautiful young Guatemalan girl and her family. Watching her hold her Dad’s hand and walking down the street in front of her grandma’s house was worth the price of everything!

We stayed and enjoyed Pizza with the family and loaded up Edwardo’s chair to bring back to the shop for some final upgrades and will return it back before I leave to come home.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

After taking a little time to visit some of the local shops in Antigua, Dick and the crew picked me up for church and lunch together. I was able to meet Daryl a missionary from Ohio that I had been emailing back and forth about Guatemala. He is trying to relocate to Guatemala and establish a home based orphanage. It was an enjoyable time.
We then headed back to Dicks village and did some grocery shopping to take some food into the back country for a widow and her children. It was a long rainy drive into the mountains but shortly before arriving the clouds parted and we had a weather break and were able to get to the field where their hut was located. For me, it was a trip into a land that time forgot. No electricity, no plumbing, no roads! We were greeted by a small community of local Mayan farmers that were in desperate needs of everything. Dick knew the importance of bringing several small bags of suckers for the kids and it was like waving cheese in front of mice. Little ones were everywhere. Most were hidden in a corn field at first but slowly emerged. Again I got to witness first hand was a man of God actually looks like in action! Dick takes very seriously the admonition to visit the widows and help provide for the orphans. The simplest of things can be so critical to those in need. The food we brought will help keep a mother and her 4 children alive for a month or so.

Dick told me about what sponsoring kids to keep them in school involved. Sometimes providing a back pack and a pair of shoes was all that was needed. Immediately I thought of all the times that those items in my home were thrown out because they got in the way or were outgrown and here they were the difference between life and death. The smiles on all the children’s faces were a sight I will not soon forget. We heard singing of hymns in the valley near by and were reminded that worshiping God is heard in the remotest villages on the planet.


This week I am blessed with several friends that are willing to either place entries in my journal or allow me to copy from theirs. Today Daryl Felts and Jack Craigs have both provided journal entries.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Written by Darryl

Once again I find myself back in Guatemala leading a Hope for Home ministry team. It is so wonderful to be back with the children I have grown to love so deeply! Our team, although small, is great and have embraced the children with abandon and joy.

Today has been both wonderful and challenging. It started out at Hermano Pedro as we spent time holding and playing with the children. Once again, bubbles are in great demand, and the newest hit is the Flying, Screaming Rocket Balloons that I purchased at Wall-Mart for one dollar. You blow them up and release them and they fly around the room making loud, obnoxious noises. However, the noise is usually drowned out by the laughter of the children.

As always, we are fighting the battle to keep the kids out of their cribs during the day. The mindset of the caregivers continues to insist that the children go back to their cribs as soon as lunch is over, so we continue to sponsor “jail breaks” every afternoon. This morning I spent time with David, a little boy in the Anibel ward who continues to struggle with respiratory troubles. Each breath is a battle and his chest retracts deeply each time he inhales. He is on oxygen, but his O2 stats continue to remain low. I stroked his head, massaged his chest, and prayed that he would take another breath. I don’t know how much longer David will live, but I want so desperately for him to experience love and care for whatever time he has left. Please pray for David.

This trip has been a special treat for me as I have been able to spend quite a bit of time with my good friend Dick Rutgers.

Yesterday after church we were able to eat with him and three people who are visiting and helping him with wheelchair seatings. Then today we checked six kids out of Hermano Pedro and took them to Pollo Campero for lunch. What a great time was had by all as they all ate until they were both stuffed and messy!

This evening we traveled with Dick to Chimaltenango and played soccer with some of his crew (a large group of boys who hang out at Dick’s house and assist him with ministry). After about 30 minutes of soccer in the rain, I find myself exhausted and sore and wondering how I will feel when I try to get out of bed tomorrow morning! What a great time we had with them!

Thanks for a great day, Dick!


friends Debbie and Denny Hills were also busy working with the kids at Hermano Pedro. So busy seating kids into new wheelchairs that they did not even take time from their busy schedule to go to lunch. Debbie and Denis also got the opportunity to spend a day at Hope Haven's wheelchair factory seating some kids.

. . . . . . . .Thanks Debby and Denny.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Written by Jack

I am spending the day at the local wheelchair shop in hopes of finishing up the work we began on Saturday for our young spinal cord patient. The shop is really quite impressive. There is an incredible amount of reprocessing of donated equipment and some very extensive repairs to the countless chairs that have been placed throughout Guatemala. I actually started the day at breakfast and was able to sit and hear all about Bethel Ministries with it current chairman Chris Mooney. I wonder how few people in the states have any idea of the incredible unmet needs that this population has. It seems Bethel Ministries is involved on multiple fronts. The wheelchair effort is very significant but feeding the very poor, providing housing and meeting basic daily needs is among the many things this group of dedicated men and women are about each and every day. I came down here thinking that wheelchair distribution was the main activity and it is just one of the many things that are being addressed.

I worked through out the day looking over the vast amount of power wheelchairs that have found their way down to Central America and are being housed in this wheelchair shop. The need for professional technicians just to service and make operational the vast number of power chairs is very real. The most urgent need is for some organizational support just to sort out and eliminate obsolete equipment. Guatemala is one of the only third world countries to accept and distribute power wheelchairs. I hope to become a part of the initial planning and implementation of setting up a functional power wheelchair distribution system. It is good to see so many seating teams from North America make there way down her to help the many disabled people of this very poor country. I have had the privilege of working with a husband and wife team over the last few days that have served here before and will be leaving shortly to finish up their trip in Honduras. It is amazing what good can be done when we just make ourselves available.

The day was absolutely exhausting and before I knew it the shop closed up for the day. I was able to reprogram and ready the chair for our Guatemala City patient on Wednesday. I spent much of the day on the phone with the great technical service team at Invacare. Still there are many many chairs in need of attention.


Tuesday November 3, 2009

Today was a great experience at one of the local orphanages that houses around 250 children and adults. The day began with a graduation ceremony for 7 of the young disabled children. With the help of Bethel Ministries these children were provided with a young school teacher to work individually with them and help them to accomplish things they were never expected to do. We viewed some of there work and enjoyed some cake and celebration after the ceremony. It was very awe inspiring.

The rest of my day involved equipment modifications and wheelchair fittings. The first was on a highly involved young CP patient that had very extreme spinal and trunk abnormalities. It was a pleasure working along side of my friend Dick and seeing in him the dedication to these young kids. We then shifted gears and went to what is called the “Malnutrition Wing.” Even the name of this department had me spooked. As it turned out, we worked with two beautiful young boys that had recently been brought into the orphanage and were suffering with extreme malnutrition and under development. We worked with them for several hours and got them both into there first wheelchair and were pleased with the outcome. All and all the day was extremely interesting and very rewarding for both of us. The needs are so very many and the time is limited. As we left we both knew many many more kids were in need of special attention. Tomorrow will close out my first week in Guatemala and I will most likely not be the same man that arrived just looking to see where I could help.


Thanks to Bethel Ministries and Hope Haven international during the past 2 days Debbie, Denis, Jack and myself were able to set up and give out 10 specialty wheelchairs to children at Hermano Pedro who either had no wheelchairs or were in need of new ones.


Wednesday November 4, 2009

The final work day has arrived already and as often is the case, the time spent lending a helping hand has just breezed by. The day started with a final breakfast with Debby and her husband Denny as they headed out for there mission work in Honduras. It is exciting to hear about all the great projects that are underway in South America. I finished my efforts at the wheelchair shop early in the day and headed off with Dick and two of his posse boys for the big city in Guatemala. The time spent on the roads here has been an adventure each time we got in the car. I am so very grateful that Dick must have spent a previous life as a “Pakistany Cab Driver” because each trip requires nerves of steel and the patience of Job!

We redelivered our head array driven power wheelchair to our friend Edwardo and his family. After some final adjustments and much family education we left this man with the hope of some independent mobility and more importantly the ability to take rides with his three young children at his side. I do not remember a time when I was more satisfied with the efforts of a few dedicated professionals willing to give of there time to improve the life of someone in such need. As we drove off, remembering the smiles of this family will go back home with me and help sustain my efforts to help others for days ahead.

I had the chance to make one final visit to another orphanage and was able to view Dick at his very best. Each child seems to just light up as Dick and his boys arrive for a visit. We looked closely at one young CP man that like so many has very uncontrolled spastic movement that everyone is intimidated by. So often the ability to capture some purposeful movement, like a stable head and putting that together with a power wheelchair opens many opportunities with these challenging patients. The wheelchair camp is coming up in just a few weeks and Dick hopes to evaluate this young man with one of the many power wheelchairs that are available for use.

I am now in my last hotel room before returning to my home in Phoenix tomorrow. It was hard saying good bye to Dick Rutgers and two of his boys but I am certain that I will be back. This stuff just gets into your bloodstream and always pulls you back to just lend a helping hand. I am grateful for the chance to use some of my vocational skills and I know my work was appreciated!

Jack Craigs,
Assistive Technology Provider

Phoenix Arizon

After publishing this journal on Thursday I received the following e-mail from Debbie hills. Since I have already published this weeks journal it is nearly impossible to incorporate Debbie's journal entries into it so I am going to attach them here. I think that you will enjoy them.

Yours in Christ: Dick

The following is what Debbie wrote

Sunday 11-1-09

A very good day! We were treated to a bilingual Church service in Antigua today which included the Lord's supper. A real blessing to feast with brothers and sisters from many countries and walks of life. We met new friends and hope to have an opportunity to work with some of them in the future. Although we have eaten at Comparo Chicken for nearly all our meals since ariving last Wed., the company was different and enjoyed getting to know Jack and Darryl as well as Darryl's crew. We also had a number of Dick's boys with us and they thoroughly enjoyed the meal.

The best part of the day though was our trip out of Chimaltenango this afternoon to take groceries to a family in the mountain. It's hard to put into words just how poor these people are and how much need there is all around. I was particularly concerned about all the young children running around a cluster of homes with an open well with sides only about 10 inches off the ground. I keep thinking of the children so at risk of falling into the well. There was so little in the way of food and clothing in the homes. I think of how much I throw away each week, each month, each year, and it is so much more than these people have. It makes me ashamed of the waste, and the extravagance in which we live...while people are going to bed and living many days in hunger.

The funny (peculiar) thing is that these people seem quite happy. As we got out of the trunk on the path to this home, we could hear people singing praises to God from a worship service not far from were we were. We need to catch a little of this joy to use in hard times. These folks seem to really rely on God for everything. There is a beauty in what we saw today that is hard to put into words.

Monday 11-2-09

We had a chance to get into Hermano Pedro Orphanage in Antigua today to seat several children in the wheelchairs we prepared on Thursday and Friday. It was a whirlwind day. The time passed way to quickly. We were able to get six of the kids into their chairs with good seating and time to show some of the nurses how the chairs worked. One little girl of about 3 years of age stole my heart. Brenda's smile was infectious and increased as see settled into her new wheelchair. Some of her stiffness began to decrease after just a few minutes of proper positioning. Diago was also a real heart breaker. He was literally stuffed into his old chair. With proper positioning in his new wheelchair, his head control was better and he showed more controlled movement in is arms. He thoroughly enjoyed the interaction with us as we worked on his chair.

Both of these kids along with several others enjoyed the attention of Darryl and his team as they played, cuddled, and sang to the kids throughout the day.

Dick was able to get an electric wheelchair working for a young man who lives in the orphanage. He was amazing as he quickly learned to operate chair from the joystick for the first time.

There is so much that needs to be done here. I could work here full time and never run out of things to do.

It was a good day. I should be tired, but the work energizes me. I think this is God's economy at work.

Tuesday, 11-3-09

Our last day to work. We were on loan to help with a wheelchair distribution in Antigua. There was a team of PT students and one of their teachers working th seat approx. 20 children. I was asked to be there to help with any problems they had and to help out however we could. they were a great group of young people with a lot of energy. They tackled tough seating issues and with a little guidance, put out great work. Most of the kids had never had wheelchairs before and it is always so interesting to see the responses of the kids and their parents. One Dad in particular, left only after giving out hugs and thanks to everyone in the room. He left actively praising God for his Son's new wheelchair.

It's hard to imagine being a parent of a disabled child and know that you will never have the resources to buy our child a wheelchair. We served an amazing God who brings all the right things together in just the right way, in just the right time. What a blessing to be used by Him. I am humbled beyond words to realize that God can use even me in such a way. Tomorrow we leave this wonderful place to venture into Honduras again with another team to serve the disabled there, but we will not easily forget this time we have spent in ministry here.

Debbie Hills

Thanks Jack, Daryl and Debbie for making this week's journaling a breeze for me.

Yours in Christ: Dick


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Bravo, the excellent answer.

Friday, December 18, 2009  

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