* 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, October 7, 2010

Journal, October 3-6, 2010

 "Your life will be measured, 
not by the amount of money or power or fame you gain, 
but by the way you allow God to touch others through you."

October 5, 2010

For the past several days Chris, Saul, Jeorge, 5 people from the USA, one person from Canada and myself have been in Zela working at an orphanage there.  Much like Hermano Pedro orphanage in Antigua all of the residents at this orphanage are in wheelchairs as well.  This place is clean and well run but many of the kids have outgrown their wheelchairs and many of the wheelchairs have warn out over the years.  We try to get in to this orphanage a few times a year and do some repairs and replace some of the wheelchairs but never seem to get fully caught up.  However during the past few days we have made major progress.  Pat Duff and I went in a few months ago and took measurements and pictures of those that needed new wheelchairs and ever since that time the workers at Bethel's wheelchair shop have been  preparing wheelchairs for the kids at this orphanage as well as other orphanages and distributions.  Most of the members of the group that are here this week are people that have had lots of experience in wheelchair seating and the few that have not had previous experience are very mechanical and willing to learn so we have a top notch teem.  We need one to because some of theses kids are among the most severe that we have ever had to seat.

The neat thing is even with all of the expertise and years of experience that this teems has each one of us has been reminded during the past few days that on our own we can do nothing. All of the seating teems have had at least one kid that has baffled us on how we can possibly fit them into a wheelchair and we have all been brought to our knees asking God for wisdom and guidance that surpasses what we think we know how to do.  Just yesterday I had a young man named Geronimo who's body was so twisted that there seemed to be nothing humanly possible that could be done to get him seated comfortably into a wheelchair.  Even the wheelchair that had been set up for him ahead of time at our shop did not seem to fit him properly.   That is when it happened again, another Godincident.  We had taken several extra wheelchairs along just in case the orphanage had more kids than I documented that were in need of wheelchairs so I thought that I would take a look at them just in case there was one there that I could modify and make work better than the one that had originally been set up for Geronimo.  I finally decided on one and brought it over to see If it would be any better for him.  Cindy who was working with me and we decided that by swapping parts between it and the one that we had originally brought for Geronimo we could at least come up with something better than we had.  There was still one big hurtle to overcome though.  Geronimo's back was so distorted that I would have to spend countless hours carving a seat back for him and even afters spending all that time there would be no way to know for certain if it would work.  I wanted to try to correct his posture as much as possible but at 21 years old I was not sure just how much straightening he could tolerate for an extended period of time and there was a chance that after spending all that time carving  the cushion that it would be worthless.  Never the less we had to try.  Cindy, who was working with me went to work on swapping out parts between the 2 wheelchairs that we had decided to use while I went to work on making and new back for the wheelchair.  I thought to myself as  I started to remove the foam from the back of the wheelchair that we had decided to use that  it would not be a complete waist because this back rest was one that had previously been molded or carved to fit someone who had a back that must have been as twisted and deformed as Geronimo's back.  How this one had slipped by our mechanics at the shop was beyond me.  They knew as well as the rest of us that a custom made back like this will only fit the person that it is made for and that there isn't a chance in 10,000 that you could ever find someone else that it would work for.  I guess that since we had grabbed this wheelchair at the last minute this was one that they had simply not gotten to yet.  OK, OK, I think that some of you may be getting ahead of me here, and you are absolutely right.  This seat back fit Geronimo perfectly.  Some of you who read my journals on a regular bases may think that this story sounds remarkably familiar to others that I have written about other distributions that we have had, and it is.  God has not limited these Godincidences to one or 2 but over the years I have seen this happen nearly a dozen times.   I have come to the conclusion that, "A coincidence is when God performs a miracle and decides to remain anonymous." Did the seat back mysteriously put itself  onto the wheelchair? Or did the other parts that needed to be changed magically fall into place?  No, it still took us nearly all day to get the wheelchair together and to get Geronimo seated properly but we still consider it a miracle wheelchair.  

"I sincerely believe that  Faith can move mountains, 
but I have learned not to be surprised when God hands me a shovel."

Yours in Christ: Dick

 Monday, Oct. 4, 2010

Debbie Hills who is here with the teem from the USA  has also been doing some journaling.   The following journal entries were written by her.              

..........We are having a great trip and God has been at work among us. This team of folks has come together well and is doing great things for our Lord. It is truly one of the most humbling and awesome experiences to be at work in such a place as this. The people on this team have a unity of spirit and selfless service that is nothing less than  God driven and Holy Spirit empowered, as we strive to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Our first day in the Orphanage, Monday, was begun by seating 3 young children brought in by their parents. These children receive therapy services at a nearby rehab center and were brought in by their parents. Two of them have untreated hydrocephalus. Their heads are very large for their bodies, and they have no head control. We were able to get them into chairs that give them support to hold their bodies in good alignment. This will help to keep them from developing deformities, and will also give them a chance to develop some head control. They will now be able to be close to the family without being held for the first time

Our third little one was Melvin, who is quite bright and has good head control and sitting balance. He has Spina Bifida and is unable to walk. We were able to set up a chair that is just his size, and will allow him to be mobile for the first time in his life.  

We then started working on the children and young adults who live at the orphanage. We had picked out chairs for them from pictures and measurements so we had a place to start. The severity of the deformities and disabilities is difficult to explain in words. Many of these precious ones have laid for years and their bodies have developed more and more deformities, things we rarely if ever see in the U.S. The first young lady I seated was Judith. It was amazing to see just how great she looked when we finished with her chair.

We started two other very severe cases but had to wait until Tues. to complete them. Both required total rebuilds of the chairs with some very creative adaptations. Things I have never done before. One of the seating gurus down here looked at it and said "I've never seen that done before." I had to admit, I had never done that before either.

We got about 10 chairs done this first day. We'll bring more pictures and stories  home with us to share.

Blessings,  Debbie

Tuesday Oct. 5, 2010

Debbie writes,

HI Again Friends,

We had a God sighting today. With the severity of some of the spinal curvatures of these older "kids" we sometimes have to do a foam carving to fit around the curve. Geronimo was one of these. As we tried the chair we thought would work for him, it wouldn't. But one of the extra ones we brought looked promising. And Dick found a back from another chair that was carved for the child who it was donated from, and it fit his curvature exactly like it was made for him. That is about a one in a 10,000 possibility. Wow! God is good.

We got many of the children and young adults completed including Josefina. I mentioned her in my last journal entry. We had to build a box that was fully padded to keep her feet safe and positioned under her because the tightness in her knees prevented her from using footrests in the typical way. She also has a very tight left hip that is fixed in a position bent up toward her chest. When we got the chair done she was sitting upright and seemed to be fairly comfortable. The proof will be when we hear from her caregivers in the morning. I am hopeful and thank God for giving us the inspiration of how to set this chair up. After spending the night actually dreaming about how to go about fitting a chair for her, it was a relief to actually get it completed.

We continued working on Gaudy's chair today but did not get it finished. I do believe that when we are done, it will be good, but there is more to do.

Tomorrow we have a lot of repairs to do and several new chairs to finish. We will see how it goes, but hope to be finished tomorrow afternoon. It has been amazing to see the amount of work and the quality of work being done these first two days. This team is working so well together, and our time in the orphanage has been a real blessing. 


Perhaps my favorite time was when I picked up a little one this afternoon and she just began to hug me. It was so hard to put her down, but after about 10 minutes I had to get back to work. She just wanted to be loved.

There is so much to do and so many children with so many needs. Please pray for this ministry. It is so needed here.

Blessings,  Debbie 

Wed. Oct. 6, 2010

Debbie writes,

Hi again from Sunny Guatemala. Please keep the prayers coming for sun here. It has been dry for 2 days!

We have had a great final day of seating at the Orphanage. Praise God, the report I got from Josefina's caregivers is that she was comfortable in her wheelchair last night and then again this morning. That is an answer to prayer. As I struggled with how to make a wheelchair comfortable for her, I just kept praying that we could ease her pain and make her comfortable and it seems to be working.

Another blessings is that Gaudy's wheelchair was finally completed this morning. With some additional work we were able to get her feet back under her chair a bit farther and that gave her the relief she needed to be able to bend her hips enough to actually sit on her bottom instead of her lower back. She was so happy and cheerful throughout the past 3 days as we tried her in and out of her chair, making adjustment after adjustment. When we finally got it done, she was all smiles.  

Before noon we had finished all the new chairs (we thought) and had started on the badly needed repairs on many of the children's chairs. About 2:00 a baby was brought to me for a new chair. Claudio is 18 months old and has many medical problems, he was about the size of a 4 month old. At first I thought we did not have anything that would work for him, but after I prayed (it's amazing how that works!) my eyes landed on a small chair that had been sitting not far from where I was working. I thought it belonged to another child in the orphanage, but after asking about it, we determined that we had given another chair to it's previous owner yesterday and so it was ours to use again. After a bit of work and retrofitting, it worked out just right for this precious little one.

 It is always a bitter sweet time when the work is done for another mission trip. With mixed emotions we left for our motel about 5:00PM. I hope I will be able to return here one day. I hope, most of all that one day I will see these precious little ones in God's heaven, running and playing as all children should. Thank you for all the ways each of you have supported the work down here. I have been blessed once again, by the experience.

 Blessings,  Debbie

Cyndi, another member of the teem wrote the following.

Wow! After 3 solid days working on wheelchairs at the orphanage I'm a bit tired and maybe even a little sore, but my hart is filled with joy at been given the privilege to meet some of the children and provide or fix their wheelchairs.  Never having been to an orphanage I didn't know what to expect.  The cleanliness of the center as well as the children was impressive.  Staff were so attentive to the needs of the children,  their care giving was exceptional.

A special thanks to Bethel Ministries and Dick.  Chris and his staff at Bethel were so helpful, their passion for doing God's work is clearly evident.  And Dick thank you for your patience, guidance and education over the last 3 days.  I've learned much from you.  May God continue to bless you and your work with the youth in Guatemala.

I return home soon and am excited to see my family.  The children and people I have met on this trip will always have a place in my hart.

Shalom:  Cyndi
Thank you Debbie and Cyndi and  thank you teemIt was a  pleasure working with all of you.  You were truly the hands and feet of Jesus while you were here.  We will miss you.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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