* 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)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Journal, August 11-17, 2010

ednesday, August 11, 2010

I am once again graciously allowing Pat to write much of this weeks Journal.
(I hope that she never reeds the story of how Tom Sawyer got his friends to whitewash the fence.)

Pat Writes

Today we are in Quetzeltenango, or as many here call it Xela (the city's Mayan name), holding a wheelchair distribution at the Fundabien therapy center. This is a very nice facility, with good equipment and a great staff of therapists. These folks immediately pitched in unloading the truck, setting up seating stations, and actively took part in the seating process. They were eager to learn, and enjoyed getting hands-on experience in fitting wheelchairs. Many of the people coming today were "their" patients, and they wanted to help care for them. You could tell that working with the disabled is more than a job for most of these folks; it's a calling.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for men,
Since you know that you will receive
an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.
It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

(Col. 3: 23-24)

One of the first things I experienced today was a little girl sitting with her mother, who grabbed me as I walked by and gave the the biggest hug, a kiss, and the sweetest smile. Most Guatemalan children are a bit hesitant around gringos, but not this child. She was the "life of the party" as Jorge worked to adapt a walker to her small size. She was pretty fearful of using it at first, but I think within a few days she'll be running around in nothing flat.

I didn't do much today except translate for Dick when he needed me (I´m practicing my medical and mechanical vocabulary a lot these days) and talking with the moms/grandmas and playing with the kids while Dick and Jay worked on their chairs. I sometimes feel a bit guilty when I'm at distributions, because I get to do the "fun" stuff, while the others do the hard work of actually setting up chairs. Today, one little girl stands out to me. She was brought to the distribution by her grandmother. Her mother had gotten married about ten months ago, and her new husband wanted nothing to do with this little one, so she abandoned her to her own mother. This child was pretty sensitive, and would bite herself on her hand when she got agitated. I was able to help her grandmother with some ideas of how to interrupt the biting, and discovered, as with many of the children here, that singing very softly to her calmed her immediately. Her grandmother seemed pleased that someone cared enough to spend time with this precious girl, and I left feeling like maybe I'd managed to contribute something after all. More and more I realize that all I have to give is Jesus' message of love and hope and compassion to these families, whether I share the gospel in words or not.

I did get to present the gospel to one young woman in a rather interesting way. While they were working on her son's chair, I noticed he had been given a "witness bracelet" (of colored beads each representing a gospel truth) by someone on the team. I casually asked him if he knew what the colors meant, and he shook his head know. Immediately, his mother asked me to explain them, and I gladly did. Did she make a decision for Christ? I don't know--I hope she did when she talked with a pastor before leaving. But the seed was planted, and I believe that sometimes that's just what the Holy Spirit tells us to do.

Today it seemed many parents had brought their children to the distribution, but had not registered for a wheelchair in advance. In this city there seemed to be a lot of children with hydrocephalus who either had never had shunts put in, or whose shunts were obviously not working. These children need a very special type of chair, with adequate head support, and we had nothing suitable to give them. I know it was hard for Chris, but he made the right decision in telling them that they would have to wait for the next distribution to receive the correct chair. I used to think that any wheelchair was better than nothing, but working with Bethel I've learned just how wrong I was. An improperly fit chair will cause bed sores, and in this country bedsores become infected and people die. It's hard to say "wait," but it's better to disappoint a parent for a few months than to damage a child for life.

We also had another family who brought their eighteen year old son to receive a chair, but had not registered. They had brought him to the last distribution Bethel had done in this area, and left without one because there was not an appropriate chair to fit this young man. He is so rigid that he cannot be put into a sitting position, and his legs are twisted to the point they cannot be straightened. Dad was very upset that once again an appropriate chair was not available, but Dick promised to construct one at the shop in Chimaltenango and bring it to Xela as soon as possible. I'm not sure the father really believes he will do this, but he will when we make another trip there to bring him a chair made specifically for him. I hope the father will soften when he sees that Dick said "no" to him out of love and compassion for his son, and that he is a man of his word who will follow through and make a 3 1/2 hour drive to deliver a chair.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Today the teem spent a good part of the day at Hermano Pedro orphanage. I misplaced my camera so I didn't get any picture while I was at the orphanage. Actually I thought that I lost it after I left home but later this evening Elder found it under my bed. It had evidently fallen off from my belt while I was getting dressed. If you were ever to look under my bed you would consider the fact that he found it nothing short of a miracle.

Pat was already at the orphanage when we arrived but shortly after we got there she received a phone call form Mari, the lady who's house she lives in telling her that the place had been robbed. The bandits stole Pats computer, a photo printer and a back pack. Two more computers, clothes, bedding, a stereo, and, believe it or not, a papaya were also taken from the house. Mari the owner of the house was very upset and comforting her seemed to be Pats only concern as Pat took the loss of her personal items in her stride. I think that Pat realized that things like this happen here in Guatemala and also that everything that we have belongs to God anyway. I don't exactly understand why God wanted the bandits to have her computer but fully understand the papaya thing. (Those thing are disgusting!)

When I got home this evening my kids were hungry enough that they would have eaten even a papaya but I was not mad a them so I made them Spaghetti instead.
The kids don't like it when I am on the road so much but understand that it is some times necessary. I have to go back to Xela for a few days next week but plan on spending the next few days here at home doing some fun stuff with them.

Well over half the kids have headed for home and the remaining 5 have informed me that this is going to be home for them tonight so I guess I better head of to my bed before it gets taken.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, August 13, 2010

This morning Esbin (No School??) Elder, (Likewise??) and I headed over to the shop and set up a power wheelchair for a lady that live in Antigua. On our way to her house we stopped off at Pat's place. Since she can not wait to try out the computer that I loaned her I will let her take over from here.

Pat Wrote the following.

After lunch Dick stopped by and brought me a computer to use. (I don't know if he was trying to be extra kind to me, or just wanted to make sure we got "our" journal published!) He also invited me to go with him and Espin and Elder to deliver a wheelchair to a lady in Santa Ana who we had visited last week. Since I was having a little bit of "cabin fever" and Mari was home, I decided to tag along.

This dear lady has had four strokes, and has use of only her right hand. . She and her husband have lived in Guatemala for thirty years, and she knows both Spanish and English. She has some speech, but it is very slow and difficult. Her mind, however, is right on target, and she is a delight to visit with. I'm hoping, once I replace my computer, that I can develop a simple communication book for her so she can make requests more easily.

Today, after some minor adjustments, she was traveling around her house freely for the first time in a long time. She had used an electric chair in the past, and needed only a short time to get used to "driving" around her house. This is quite a challenge, as it is a small house with a lot of furniture, but I think she'll get the hang of it in a few days.

On the way back to town, I was delighted to hear Dick talk about how the kids had continued working yesterday even after I left. I was a little surprised when he told me how well my "students" had done working on their own, as I hadn't really thought of them in those terms before. From what he described, though, that is an apt description of these kids--they are learning much and teaching me more. I've always said that the sign of a good teacher was that her class could run without her. Today, the kids made me look good!


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Some of my boys had another soccer game this morning. We has intended on going swimming after the game but a thunder storm convinced us to postpone those plans for a day or 2. Instead I drove Pat to the City so that she could buy a new computer. Nearly all of the kids wanted to come along with us but since I was driving Chris's pickup and it has no canopy Bryan was the only one that came along with us. Why was I driving Chris's pickup and not my Land Cruiser? You guessed it. It is once again in the shop. After all it has been nearly a week since it was last worked on. Just think what it would be like if I did not drive a car that was rated as the most maintenance free car ever built. I must admit though I have been checking around just in case there is something out there that is a little more reliable. I now have it narrowed down to 3 choices.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Eight of the kids came along with me to church this morning. Even though it was raining a bit we decided to go swimming after lunch. Lately there have been several robberies at the hot springs that is located about 15 minutes from my house so they now have soldiers stationed there. I figure as long as they are there it is a pretty safe place to swim as long as one of their machine guns do not go off accidentally.

When we got home I told the kids that I needed a few hours to myself but changed that to only an hour when they reminded me that tomorrow I head to go to Xela for a few days.

It is getting late so I will once again say "Goodnight".
Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, August 16, 2010

Shortly after getting the 3 kids that spent the night off to school 2 others, Esbin and Elder showed up at my door. Esbin said that he had no school because his teacher was sick and Elder said that he was not going to school because he had a stomach ache. They both asked if they could go with me to Hermano Pedro to help me work on wheelchairs. Elder gave me a rather surprised look when I told him that if he was to sick to go to school there was no way that he could come along with me. I think that I was a bit smarter when I was little because when ever I played sick I waited until at least noon before I felt better. I did let Esbin some along to the orphanage with me after making a phone call that confirmed that Esbin's teacher did not show up at school. At lest she had the decency to give her students 3 days advanced notice that she was going to be sick today.

Esbin and I worked at the orphanage until about noon and then I picked up Pat. She had agreed to come along with me to Sela to help translate for a few days.

To help stifle any gossip or roomers.

Look, Separate Rooms

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In her August 13 journal Pat wrote about a man and his wife that brought their son in to the wheelchair distribution that we had in Xela. This family had not registered their son for a wheelchair so we had no idea that he was coming to this distribution. Had the family brought along the wheelchair that we had given their son 3 years ago we could have possibly made it larger so that it would accommodate their son but they had left it at home. If he needed just a regular wheelchair we would have done our best to give him one. However this young man was extremely rigid and after looking over every chair that we had I had to tell the family that I would have to take measurements and photos of their son and bring them a chair in a week or 2. At that point the boys father became extremely agitated and told me that he knew that we would never give his son a wheelchair. I promise that we would return but he would not give us a phone number and even ripped a piece of paper that had their address on it out of Pat's hand. Since they had not registered with us or filled out any paper work it would be difficult to ever locate this family. However even though Father was anything but friendly this young man needed a wheelchair. After he stomped out of the room mom told us what town they lived in and even gave us their phone number but told Pat that her husband would be angry if he found out that she had given it to us. Common sense told me that we should let this one go and do nothing about it but I had made a promise, besides I knew that a proper wheelchair could help keep this young man alive. Should I forget about him or his mother who was the one that had to carry him around simply because father was being a jerk? Pat felt the same way. That is why this morning we headed out to look for a family that we had no address for other than the nearest town which to our knowledge could be miles from where they lived and a phone number that we had been calling for the past several days but so far had not reached anyone on. Before heading out from the motel Pat made one more call and to our delight some one answered the phone. It was the boys father. Pat quickly explained to him who we were and that we had a wheelchair with us that the men at our shop had prepared for their son. Father seemed quite friendly and agreed to meet us at the central park of the small town that they lived near. When we got to the park no one was there but about 15 minutes later father arrived. He got into the car with us and pointed up a narrow dirt road. He told us that they lived only a short distance up the road. Here in Guatemala a short distance can be anything from a few hundred feet to several miles. Today's ride was even further than that. Father was very friendly though and seemed happy that we had brought the wheelchair. Perhaps we had read him wrong. When we finally got to their home we went inside. The young man that needed the wheelchair was lying on a bed. The wheelchair that we had given him a few years ago was sitting there but after taking one look at it I knew that there was no way that I could make it work for this young man. He had outgrown it and his body had also become too rigid for this type of wheelchair. I told the family that I was glad that we had indeed brought a new wheelchair. Because his old one was no longer going to work for him. About a half hour later I had everything adjusted and we had him in the wheelchair. I asked father if we could take the old wheelchair that was of no use to this family and in need of lots of repair back to the shop with us so that it could be rebuilt and given to someone smaller than his son that could use it. Father refused. I tried to explain that this wheelchair that was of no value to him would be a big blessing to some one else but he would not hear of it. Now that he had the new wheelchair we saw the same personality that we had had seen on the day of the wheelchair distribution. One look into his wife's eyes told us that you did not mess with this man. We shook hands and were on our way. I had thought about asking him to ride out with us to the town where we had met him because there were all kinds of switchbacks and turn off and I was not sure that I could find my way out but decided that I was likely better off getting lost for half a day than having his man in the car with us. I must admit the ride out was a lot further than the ride in and even though we never did get back to the same town we did eventually find our way back to Xela. Were we sorry that we made this trip? Not one bit. We kept our word, the young man got the wheelchair that he needed, mom would no longer have to carry him around and even though we are not sure how well it was excepted we did share with this family that we were there to demonstrate the Love of Jesus to them in what ever way we could.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Pat has offered to write about our next visit of the day.

Even though Henry, the boy who had the not so friendly father needed a wheelchair as badly as Christopher did the attitude of Christopher's family made this visit a little more pleasurable for us.

Pat writes
the following.

After leaving Henry’s we drove on to visit Christopher’s family. I’d heard about Christopher from Dick for a number of years, and was excited to meet him. Christopher, his widowed mother, brothers and sister live on the side of a mountain near San Francisco. Much of this mountain fell in a landslide during hurricane Stan a few years back, and where their house sits is actually condemned land. But, when you have no where else to go, you live where you can.

Christopher and his grandfather were home when we arrived, and one of his brothers went to get mom. I can’t be sure, but I think she was down at the creek doing laundry, because when she came her hands were wet. She is such a little bit of a woman, it wasn’t hard to believe that part of our reason for visiting was to arrange for a tutor for Christopher. He had been attending school, but, now at 16, is just too big for her to carry up and down their hill to the house where his power wheelchair is stored. And I used to gripe about driving my kids to school! Mom is pretty heartbroken that Christopher can’t attend school because she just can’t get him there anymore.

We were able to tell Christopher and Mom that a sponsor was willing to pay for a teacher to come and tutor Christopher for five hours a week. While not the same as being in school, this news excited them both. When we told them we’d also brought a new power wheelchair for Christopher, I thought his face would burst he smiled so big.

Christopher is a bright, delightful young man. He seems to appreciate everything that is done for him, at the same time expecting nothing more than what he is given. He was more concerned with the fact that his grandfather has been ill than he was with the fact that he was no longer in school. When I asked him what he would like the teacher to work on with him, he said whatever they would teach him would satisfy him. I have met few young men his age, either in Guatemala or in the States, who are this unselfish. He’s touched my heart greatly.

We asked him if he’d like to see his new chair, and he just about jumped with excitement. Dick offered to carry him down the hill to the truck, and then we would drive the rest of the way to the house where it would be stored in the pickup. As we walked down the hill, I was again amazed at the unselfishness of his mom, who had carried him up and down twice a day for years just so he could attend school. I’d had difficulty just walking up the hill myself. I really can’t imagine how she did it. The power of love is the only explanation I can come up with.

After changing out the joystick, and moving it to the left side of the chair, Christopher was off and “running.” He had such a look of freedom on his face. Watching him, I realized that it was probably just as hard on him that mom had to carry him as it was for her to do so. I realized once again the blessing of this independence for both of them. Now if we could only figure out an easier way for her to get him to his chair. While he doesn’t go to school each day, mom still takes him with her to market so he doesn’t feel quite so isolated. Even a once a week trip up and down the hill is too much for this lady, but she does it for her son.

It started to rain, so we headed back to their house, driving them as far as the pickup could go. When Dick offered to move the car and then come back to carry Christopher home, mom refused, saying she was able to do it. As we turned around, mom stopped, with Christopher on her back, to make sure we could get out. I can’t get the picture of her out of my mind as she stood watching us leave, waiting until we were out of sight, to make sure we were okay. I am grateful for meeting this amazing lady, and someday hope to grow to be as unselfish as she is!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's hard to read this and look at the pictures without crying. Your continual faithfulness is beyond inspiring. Chimaltenango is forever changed. I'm in awe of what God has done.

Thursday, August 19, 2010  

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