* 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)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Journal, March 25-29 , 2010

(Click on any photo to enlarge.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

This evening the Joni and friends teem arrived at the motel that we have been staying at here in Rio Dulce. About once a year Joni and Friends sends a teem here to Guatemala to join us for a week or so of wheelchair distributions that are held in various towns and villages throughout the country. This week an added blessing has been that the teem leader Ronnie Standefer has offered to give me a break from writing by allowing me to post her daily journals. Thank you Ronnie and thank you teem. You are always such a blessing to us and to all of the people here in Guatemala that you come to share the love of Jesus with.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Last night our Joni and Friends Wheelchair Team arrived in the Rio Dulce where we joined up with Chris and Donna Mooney and Dick Rutgers so that we could hold our first distribution at Rayo de Esperanza, the orphanage of Karen and Mike Rhea here in the Rio Dulce. This morning when we arrived at the outdoor chapel at the orphanage we had people already waiting for us. What a beautiful sight! The people are so excited about getting a wheelchair and so thankful for this special gift from God. After beginning in prayer, we went straight to work on fitting chairs to the 58 recipients of today.

It is always hard to see the many children who are in need of wheelchairs, but also in need of medical care that we are not prepared to give. The diagnosis of most is Cerebral Palsy, a “catch-all” word for many of the ones who ran a fever as an infant, but were not treated with Tylenol or another fever reducer, but instead wrapped tightly up in blankets (because they are “sick”) even as the temperatures soar and the humidity rises each day. I look at these children and realize that illnesses our infants in the States easily get over with our medicine and proper care are often life-changing or fatal in Guatemala.

We also saw many adults who were in need of a wheelchair due to an accident (most of which did not receive proper care at the time of the accident), or gunshot wounds to the spine that left them paralyzed, and many who have had an amputation due to diabetes, which could have been controlled with the proper medication in most cases. It makes you understand the perils here in Guatemala as we see so many who, with the proper medical help, could have been living a normal life, but are instead the result of unavailable medical treatment, or the finances to afford the treatment and medication. A price cannot be assigned to the value of the work done by the Mooney's and Dick. So many get their life back with the wheelchair they are fitted into.

After each individual receives their wheelchair they are led to a minister who prays with them and tells them of the love of God. Today 12 individuals turned their lives over to God! What a great time of rejoicing! However, for those of you reading this journal I ask you to not only pray for them as they begin their walk with the Lord, but also pray for Marlon and his family who once were walking with the Lord, but turned away from him after Marlon was in a tragic car accident in which he broke his back. He claims he, nor his family, want to reconcile with the Lord. Chris planted the seed, however, as he spoke with him, and I want to you to join me in prayer asking God to continue to put those in their life who will lovingly lead them back to the Lord. We ended our day as we traveled to Poptun to get ready for our next distribution tomorrow. God was truly present throughout the day today!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I cried today. In fact I cried several times. First it was over Isabel who has a debilitating brain injury as a result of malnutrition. Then I cried over the family of Sandra, a 24 year old who is severely disabled as a result of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Her mom has been widowed for the past four years, and besides taking care of Sandra, she has11 other children. Her biggest fear is that the children will be separated because of their desperate financial need. And then I met Brenda, a beautiful 22 year old young lady in excruciating pain from bone cancer which also keeps her from being able to walk. The best we could do was provide her with a wheelchair to make her as comfortable as possible during her last few days on this earth. More disheartening was the fact that she is unable to afford the medication she has needed to properly deal with the pain.

Dick cried too. Both of our hearts broke over precious six year old Pricila who has club feet, a cleft palate, spina bifida, and a multitude of other disabilities. Although both of her eyes are unable to focus on you at the same time, they are beautiful. Even at this very young age she is well aware of her features and will hide her face when you looked at her. I sat there and shed tears as Dick gently took her into his arms and cuddled her to him. That's when I saw his tears. Her mom stood nearby as Dick lovingly examined Pricila to see what type of chair would best be suited to meet her needs, especially since she had good usage of her arms. Unfortunately we did not have one left that Dick deemed perfect for her, but he remembered that we had left one in the Rio Dulce that would be a great fit for her. He immediately started making arrangements on how to get that chair to Poptun, then took Pricila and her mom to their home so that he could find his way back on Monday and fit Pricila in the best chair possible. That's how these guys work. Whatever it takes…whenever it takes…no matter what it takes. Today I saw God work through the heart and hands of Dick and our entire team… from the ones who continually load and unload tools and chairs, to everyone who fits the wheelchairs to each recipient, the mechanics who help make the chairs fit, the ones guiding the families from one point to the other, and the ones who pray over them, give them a Bible, and share with them how much God loves each of them. We are definitely a team…or better yet, one of God's little armies using us as He wills. What an honor it is to serve. And what a wonderful day that resulted in 20 souls turning their lives over to the Lord! Praise Him!

Sunday, March 28, 2010
Today is Palm Sunday and we awoke to streets lined in palm branches. Well, actually we awoke to a rooster who started his song very, very early. We are on the island in Flores at a quaint little motel, but it didn't take us long to get ready and head over the bridge to our third distribution. After wandering around looking for a building that no longer existed, we were led to a new building and were warmly welcomed by the Mayor and his wife who were waiting with a host of people anxious to be seated in a wheelchair. Dick spent most of the day seating two adorable twin girls with Cerebral Palsy (those high fevers again!)

Becky had her second day of seating an individual that absolutely did not want to sit in a wheelchair. Today's child, although she was 7, had never been anywhere but in the arms of her mom or another family member. The feel of the chair was far more than she could bear, and she did not hesitate to let everyone in the building know about it.
We were extremely thankful for the new building to work in. The last time we were in Flores we were in a cinder-block gymnasium with absolutely no ventilation. People were crammed inside waiting to get a wheelchair, which only added to the already unbearable heat from it being 105 degrees outside. This new municipal building was well ventilated and extremely nice in comparison.

The twins that Dick seated were five years old, both females, and had relatively no muscle tone whatsoever. What a blessing it was to have two Kid chairs from Hope Haven that could be adjusted and fitted to meet their needs. What was amazing was how “in tune” the twins were with each other. They would both raise their hands at exactly the same time and in the same way, they would tilt their heads together, hold their mouths alike…something we couldn't explain but couldn't help noticing! I couldn't help but think about the hardship it must be on the mom of these girls dealing with not one, but TWO special needs children.

Today we had 15 more precious people who accepted Jesus after praying and speaking with our ministers. Unfortunately we had another family who had fallen away from the Lord and said they were not interested in restoring that relationship with the Father. Please pray that God will encounter the Moran family and that their hearts will be touched.
It's been a great three days of distributions. We have seated 161 in wheelchairs and had 57 come to know Jesus. Bibles were put in the hands of each family, and local ministers will follow up with these individuals. What a blessing to be a part of this work!

Monday, March 29, 2010

As I type, we are on the road headed back to Guatemala City. Jeanette and Dick Burkhart, Dick Rutgers and I left earlier than the rest so that we could go by Poptun and fit Pricila in the chair being brought to us from the Rio Dulce. We were greeted by her family at the gate and welcomed inside their very humble home. Although we were glad to see Priscila, she wasn't as happy to see us. Although she cried a little, she soon warmed up to Dick as he cuddled her in his arms and comforted her. She latched on to his tape measure (which she was very interested in) and a Beanie Baby fish that we had brought along, and soon afterwords they began to work on the chair. It didn't take long before they had the chair fitting her perfectly! I can't say that she was joyous once she was sat in the chair, but I do have confidence that she will grow to love the mobility it will give her, not to mention the joy it will bring to their family now that she can be pushed rather than carried. Her twin brother was there when we seated her, and his body was in such contrast with hers. But looking through the eyes of Jesus you can see only wholeness in both in them! Dick is working to get Pricila in Hermano Pedro so that her cleft palate can be closed, then following up with her to see what else can be done for her. We covet your prayers on behalf of Pricilia as she gets used to her chair and undergoes much needed surgery.



We caught up with Chris and the rest of the teem about 50 miles outside of Guatemala City. After Lunch Ronnie and my other passengers got into the van with Chris and the rest of the crew and headed for the hotel in Guatemala City, where the group will be spending the night. I had my share of heavy traffic for the day so I decided to head cross country on back roads to get back home instead of staying on the main road. At around 5 PM I pulled into a small motel and plan on spending the nigh here and then doing the 5 hour drive home in the morning. As you can see from Ronnie's journal we had a fantastic week. I really enjoyed working with this Joni and friends teem. They came to serve and to share the love of Christ and that radiated through them in everything that they did.

Thanks Teem!

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Journal, March 16-24 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Today 2 of my boys, 3 of the men from Bethel's wheelchair repair shop, 2 friends from Rio Dulci and myself traveled down to Mazatenango in preparation for a wheelchair distribution that we are having tomorrow. It is hot and our motel has a swimming pool so I am going to swim instead of write.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I'm Glad that we played a bit yesterday because today was a scorcher. Had it not been for a few electric fans that we were given to use I do not know how the 8 of us would have survived working in the unventilated room that we did the wheelchair fittings in. It was a good day though and even though this was a first time experience for nearly half our crew we managed to give out and fit 35 wheelchairs by 1:30 PM. Everyone that came for a wheelchair went home happy. We went home hot, happy and tired but none of us regretted the fact that we had been able to share the love of Jesus with these people.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Today I had the privilege of joining about a dozen people who are here for a week volunteering with Hope Haven International Ministries. For the past few days several of them have been building a house for a widow and her 9 children that live just outside of Ucappa. Ucappa is a small town that is located on the back side of Pwego which is an active volcano. After finishing up on the house we had a dedication ceremony. The father in-law of the widow gave a prayer of thanksgiving that was straight from his hart.

After saying our goodbyes we drove back into town to their central square and did a mini wheelchair distribution. The town dignitaries made quite a ceremony out of it. When we finally got to fit the 3 people that had come for wheelchairs we had to work right out on the street, in the hot sun with loud music blaring in our ears and a man on a microphone explaining my every move to over 100 people that were squeezed so tightly in on us that I could not see what I was doing. I felt a bit bad because I had wanted to let the group from the Sates have the experience of doing some of the seating while I explained to them what needed to be done but it was so noisy that I could not even hear myself think yet alone convey my thought to any one else. I am eternally grateful to an old lady who tried her best to keep my head shaded with an umbrella that she had brought.

A 4th person was suppose to show up for a wheelchair but the people explained to us that it would be a bit difficult for her family to bring her. When the gave us the option of going to her home instead of putting on a 3 ring circus in the center of town we jumped at the opportunity.

When I got home this evening my house soon resembled the wheelchair distribution that looked more like a mob seen but at least I was home. My 13 kids were every bit as loud but at least they did not have microphones and speakers. They were all great about helping out with making supper and even though I could have used a little piece and quiet I would have missed them if they were not here.

Well the roar is now down to a rumble so I think that I will close for now and just relax.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, March 19, 2010

This morning I went to Hermano Pedro orphanage where I was joined by David Black and a group of teens that are here from his church. By the time I got to the orphanage Dave had already signed out 6 kids that he wanted to take to the park. I quickly signed out 3 more kids from the malnutrition ward and soon 9 kids and about 12 volunteers were on there way to the park. I had strict orders to have the kids from the malnutrition ward back within an hour but even though their outing was a short one they certainly enjoyed it.

Out of all of the kids that went I think that Walter had the best time. Walter is an 11 year old boy that came into the malnutrition ward about 6 months ago. Unlike most of the kids at Hermano Pedro Walter can walk. However Walter likes to wonder off so he is either locked in a crib or tied in a wheelchair the entire day. Today when we got to the park we got Walter out of his chair and took turns following him around. He loved it.

At noon the group left to go and teach a bible school class in a nearby town. I stayed at the orphanage. It is not often that I take just one kid out to lunch but since there were no other volunteers available I decided that it would be good for Ervin to have a little one on one time. I wish that the caregivers at the orphanage could see how well behaved he is when he gets a little attention. It was hard to believe that it was the same boy that screams his head off when he does not get his way at the orphanage. If only Ervin could live in a loving home.

Later this after noon Jessica and I met with the head nurse of the children's ward to discuss the fact that most of the kids are kept in bed at least 18 hours a day. Earlier this month I had mentioned that I was beginning to wonder why we kept providing these kids with wheelchairs if they are not allowed to use them more than a few hours each day. I must admit that it was a bit of a bluff but I have tried everything else that I could think of to keep these kids from being locked up in their cribs so much of the time. The meeting seamed to go well and the head nurse has agreed to shorten the length of the afternoon naps so that the kids are no longer put to bed from 1PM to 3:30 PM and then returned to bed at 5PM where they stay until 7 AM the following morning. Not as big of a step as I had hoped for but at least it is a step in the right direction. As an American I have to remind myself that there's a right way and a wrong way to do everything and the wrong way is to keep trying to make everybody else do it the right way.

Fernando and Bryan are spending the night. As Bryan was showing me the welts on his back that his mother made with a belt for no apparent reason, Fernando came over and asked if he could stay over as well. He said that his uncle had come home drunk and tried to beet up on him. Fortunately Fernando's older cousin got between them and kept uncle from beating on him. How these kids stay so well adjusted and are able to show so much love to the orphanage kids and others around them is nothing short of a miracle. When I moved into this neighborhood I thought that I could change a lot of this overnight. That was 7 years ago. It is now my prayer that the kids that hang out at my house will treat their children the way that I treat them. Don't get me wrong. The rules are tough at my house but the kids know that I love them and they also know that I will never lay a hand on them unless it is to give a pat on the back or a hug.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, March 20, 2010

One of the girls that is here from the States for a week has asked if I knew of anyone that was in need of a guitar. It just so happened Godincidence? that Cesar had just asked me for a Guitar becasue his teacher has offered to give him lessons. I told him that I would do my best to help him get one but also reminded him that his schooling is costing quite a bit so I was not sure that we could get him one right away. Needless to say when I told him that we had been given one he was delighted.

This morning 4 of my kids had a football game in San Lucas so 13 of us went there in my car. After the Game we found a place that sold fried chicken for 5 Q per piece so we all ate for around $10. After lunch I brought all but 2 of the boys home and then the 3 of us went to the orphanage and hung out with some of the kids. We got several of them up from their cribs, laid them on mats and visited with them. My 2 boys were great with them and had them all laughing within minutes.

This evening my house once again filled up with kids and of coarse all of them were hungry. Not exactly a gourmet supper tonight unless you have a passion for cornflakes and hot dogs. No one complained though as they were simply happy to be fed.

Well there are only 3 kids left so I guess I will tell them that they can stay.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Not only are most of my kids getting quite fluent at English they are also learning to be as Dutch as I am. We had planned on renting a soccer field for 25Q (about $3) last night but then discovered that they rent for 10 Q if you play in the morning before 8 AM. This morning we got up at 6 AM and played for 2 hours and still saved 5 Q. No what red blooded Dutchman could resist a deal like that.

Actually I am still a little confused on just how much we saved because last night the kids still ended up playing soccer at my house and I am now minus one more window and my favorite plant.

After this morning's game 13 of the kids came over to my house for breakfast and then 11 of them came along to church. Abner and Daniel went to church with their grandmother.

It was really hot in church this morning so a few of my kids had a bit of a problem staying awake. I hate to admit it but there was a time or 2 that I even found myself nodding in agreement to what Pastor Mike was saying.

All of us were wide awake by the time we got to Martha's cafe though and each of us polished off $3 worth of food. I am now at home and believe it or not I am by myself. I told the kids that I needed a few hours of quiet time. The 11 of them promised that they would be as quiet as possible if I let them stay but I told them that would possibly not be as quiet as I was looking for. It seems a bit odd having no kids in the house but this has got to be the first time in weeks that I have been able to hear my refrigerator run. Of coarse with my hearing I still have to open the refrigerator door and stick my head inside to do that.

I recently read that, "It ought to be as impossible to forget that there is a Christian in the house as it is to forget that there is a ten-year-old boy in it."

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, March 22, 2010

Today I spent another day at Hermano Pedro. Part of my day was spent trying to catch up on the never ending list of wheelchairs that need to be repaired refitted or replaced. Even though there are presently more volunteers at the orphanage than I have ever seen before I still find it hard to devote 100% of my time to working on wheelchairs. I guess that it will likely stay that way as long as a kid is more loveabel than a wheelchair. The volunteers that are here this week are really great with the kids though so I am finding it a bit easier to devote at least some of my time at the orphanage to working on wheelchairs. An outing to the park like the one that I took Byron on this afternoon helped me to see just how important these wheelchairs are to the kids. It does not seem like all that many years ago that Byron had no way to move himself around but now he is non stop. Keep praying that his head controlled power wheelchair keeps going until I can find the parts and the time to build him a new one.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, March 24, 2010After getting the front end of my car realigned I headed to Hermano Pedro orphanage in Antigua. None of my kids came with me today because they are all having school exams this week. A doctor from the States and his sister joined me for the day though. This is there first time ever in Guatemala but judging by their enthusiasm and obvious compassion for the Guatemalan people it will more than likely not be their last. We spent a few hours at the orphanage and then took 3 of the kids out to lunch. Things got a bit messy but the 3 kids that we took loved it when we gave them the opportunity to try and feed themselves. The waitress were very patient with us and even replaced the 3 drinks and the order of french fries that managed to make their way to the floor. One waitress in particular simply fell in love with the kids and spent her entire time hovering around our table. This is such a refreshing change from the old days when I felt very unwelcomed when I brought any of the kids into this same restaurant.

Several years ago when I worked with special needs kids for a school district back in Washington State, a grandmother of a boy that I worked with shared an interesting story with me. Grandmother had decided to take Paul to a fancy restaurant in Seattle in celebration of his birthday. Paul was one of the happiest kids that I have ever met but due to the Cerebral Palsy that he had he was not the quietest person in the world and even though he loved nothing better than going out to eat his uncontrollable mussel spasms made it difficult to keep most of what you were feeding him from falling on the floor. Two ladies that were seated at a table next to Paul's were obviously disturbed by this so they asked the waitress if they could speak with the Owner of the restaurant. When the owner came over to their table. One of the ladies pointed over to Paul and said, "Sir this is outrageous, there is absolutely no reason that we should be in a fancy restaurant like this and have to sit next to some one like that and try to eat our meal!" The manager looked over at Paul and then back over at the 2 ladies and said, "Ladies you are absolutely right there is absolutely no reason you should have to be here sitting next to him." He then pointed to the door and said to the ladies, "There is the door, get your buts through it and please never come back into my restaurant again." With a smile on his face he then walked over to the table where Paul and his grandmother were sitting. He then looked into Paul's eyes and said, "Young man I hope you enjoy your meal, I want you to know that you are always welcome here and since it is your birthday the meal is on me." I hope that someday I get the opportunity to meet that restaurant owner and shake his hand.

Later this after noon we had the opportunity to bring a wheelchair to the grandmother of one of the ladies that works at Hermano Pedro. This lady has suffered a stroke and and was in need of a wheelchair. Both her and her granddaughter told us that they did not know how to thank us. We were then able to share with them that the thanks was to go to God because that was why we were there.

We then went to the home of Cesar the man whose leg I have been working on for several years now. Cesar is doing well but had just run out of the una-boot that I was using in treating his leg. Fortunately a friend of mine will be bringing some to Guatemala in a few days.

After that we returned to the orphanage for a while and them went over to Hope Haven's wheelchair factory to seat 2 kids that were scheduled to come in for wheelchairs. Both little boys were delightful and the one that had hand use had the time of is life once I showed him how to propel him self around the shop.

This evening was spaghetti night at my house. The kids know that I am planning on being gone for the next 6 days so tonight I think that they tried to eat enough so that they can go without eating for a week. Moat of them offered to skip school and come along with me but since it is exam week I convinced them that skipping school would not be a good idea. I will miss them but am looking forward to spending several days around the Rio Dulci area doing wheelchair distributions with Bethel ministries and a Joni and Friends teem that is coming in from the States.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

(View From My Motel Room)

This morning 2 friends from the Rio Dulci area, their 2 and a half year old daughter and myself headed up to Rio Dulci. What can be anything from a 5 hour to an 8 hour drive ended up taking us nearly 9 hours. When we got into the middle of Guatemala City traffic suddenly came ot a complete stop. After sitting in one place for about an hour we came to the conclusion that the City was having another buss strike. Just a few days ago the buss drivers in the city blockaded most of the major roads with their buses and for most of the day traffic was at a virtual stand still and it was not until late afternoon that the police moved in and arrested the buss drivers and then moved the buses out of the way. Today we had some hope though because from time to time the line of traffic that we were in was able to move a few feet. It was still not all that promising though because my GPS was showing me that at the speed that we were moving we would arrive in Rio Dulci by mid April. Two and a half hours later we finally started moving at someting a little faster than a snails pace and as we rounded a corner we saw that the problem had not been due to another buss strike but a container had fallen off from a semi truck and blocked the road.

I would like to say that this was our last encounter of the day with semi trucks but it was not. A few hours later as we were descending some mountain curves we were met head on by a semi truck who driver had obviously gotten tired of following a long line of slow moving traffic and decided that he would take his chances and pass them on the hair pin curves. Just a few weeks ago I was met head on by a buss whose driver had made the same foolish decision. Miraculously there had been a shoulder for me to swerve onto and the buss and my car narrowly missed each other. Praise God! Today there was another shoulder. Those of you that have driven mountain roads here in Guatemala know that this is not usually the case. Godincidence?

Chris and Donna are already here in Rio Dulci. They have been here for about a week helping put on a camp for families of people with disabilities. I had supper with them this evening and they told me that the camp went marvelously. I am sure that they will soon be writing about it in Bethel Ministries web page.

I think that tomorrow I am going to just kick back and relax. In the evening Saul and Benjamin will be bringing in the Joni and Friends teem and tomorrow we plan on doing our first of 3 days of wheelchair distributions in various towns. Please keep us in your prayers.

(My Motel Room)

Dwight L. Moody once wrote.

"I believe that if an angel were to wing his way from earth up to Heaven, and were to say that there was one poor, ragged child, without father or mother, with no one to care for him and teach him the way of life; and if God were to ask who among them were willing to come down to this earth and live here for fifty years and lead that one to Jesus Christ, every angel in Heaven would volunteer to go.
Even Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Almighty, would say, "Let me leave my high and lofty position, and let me have the luxury of leading one soul to Jesus Christ." There is no greater honor than to be the instrument in God's hands of leading one person out of the kingdom of Satan into the glorious light of Heaven."

Yours in Christ: Dick