* 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)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Journal, Feburary 2-9, 2011 (More or less)

February 9 2011

Byron's new home.

Written by Dick

This morning Pastor Juan, Jorge, Pat and I all headed out to Santa Rosa to get things set up for a teem that is coming in next week to build a house for Byron and his family.  Actually Pat and I headed off in one direction with my car while Pastor Juan and Jorge headed the other.  Both roads lead to the same place but the rout that Pat and I picked is a little longer but it is much more scenic and it  bypasses Guatemala City. 
After rendezvousing at Camperos in Barberana the 4 of us headed up to where Byron and his family live.  Byron and his brother actually live with their grandmother ever since one of their parents died and the other deserted them.  Grandmother is making payments on a small parcel of land and the family has built a small dwelling on it but the dwelling has no floor and is not nothing more than a wooden frame with some rusty tin nailed to it.  Grandmother informed us that some of the tin was loaned to them and the owner is wanting it back.  Not only that but Grandmothers sister in law recently died of cancer so her brother and all if his children will be moving in with them as well.  In all there will be 13 people living in the old structure and the new house.  It will be a bit cozy but everyone living there is nothing but thankful that they have a place to live. 
Thanks to a sponsor Byron who is deaf is now receiving an education.  Every Thursday he rides a buss in to Barberana where he attends a school that has a special needs teacher, and on Fridays that same teacher goes to his home and teaches him there.  Finding this teacher has been a real Godsend not only to us but to the teacher as well.  Little did we know that while we were praying for a teacher for Byron.  This Christian Lady was praying that she could find other Christians that she could work with.


Since Byron had no school today he  helped us unload the housing materials from the truck and then went along with us to to buy cement and gravel.  I think that he enjoyed the fact that the other kids were in school so that he could have us all to himself.  At noon Juan, Jorge, Pat and I headed in to Barberana to get some lunch.  Since Byron was still the only kid at home we invited him along.  Some times I feel like a grandparent.  I get to spoil these kids rotten and then bring them back home where there families have to deal with them.


Actually I don't think that I spoiled Byron to badly this time though, after all I only let him steer my car part of the time and since he was running a bit of a fever I am not letting him stay at the motel with us tonight.

After lunch Juan and Jorge headed back to Chimaltenango.  Pat and I are staying here for a few days though because we are planning on taking a little boy that lives about an hour form here in to Guatemala City to see a neurosurgeon tomorrow.  

We got checked into a motel (Yes - separate rooms) at about 2 and then decided that we had time to visit Marcos another  little boy that we have been working with.

I am going to let Pat tell you about what took place at the home of Marcos.  Fact is the next 3 journal entries were written by Pat.  She agreed to do the writing as long as I did the pictures and the layout.  The way that I type and spell I consider  that a no brainier.

Yours in Christ: Dick

 February 9, 2011,  continued

Marcos & Valentina

Written by Pat

We started off early this morning for Barberena, in Santa Rosa, thinking we were coming here to do some prep work on Bayron's house (that two friends from Westside are coming to build next week) and tomorrow take Walter to the neurologist (to see if he has hydrocephalus).

We finished at Bayron's in record time, and headed for the hotel for a leisurely afternoon.  In the car I casually asked Dick if he wanted me to call Flori (a social worker friend here) and see if she was free to visit Marcos Saul.  We had given him a chair a few months ago, and are providing medication for him to help stabilize his seizures.  We had promised to visit him the last time we were here, and ran out of time.

I called Flori, half-heartedly hoping I wouldn't reach her.  She answered and was happy to accompany us.  Only in Guatemala can you be told, "Meet me at the gas station" and, miraculously to me, actually end up in the right gas station in a town you hardly know.  I guess there is only one gas station in her town, but we had no way of knowing this.

We headed off up the mountain to Marcos' home, driving most of the way on loose sand.  I was grateful for Dick's 4-wheel-drive and his driving competence each time the wheels slid.  We could look down over the side of the road and see a sheer drop to the valley we had left below.

We arrived at Marcos' without problems, and were warmly greeted by the family.  Dick was able to make some adjustments to Marcos' wheelchair, we visited about an upcoming appointment he has with the neurologist at Hermano Pedro, and were wrapping things up to leave.

Up the drive came a lady carrying a small baby.  She had heard Flori was visiting Marcos, and had come hoping she could help her get surgery for her 20 day old granddaughter who also had a cleft lip and palate.  We talked a little bit, and while the baby seemed tiny, grandma said she thought Valentina was heavier than she was at birth.  They knew she had to gain at least 10 lbs. before the doctors would consider the surgery, and were waiting for that.  (Grandma is Valentina's primary care-taker, as Valentina's mother, has a severe seizure disorder and mental illness.  Grandma said she is afraid to leave the baby with Mom for fear she'll kill her. Talk about a difficult situation. . .)

Then, Dick asked to hold her.  The look on his face when he picked her up sent my heart into my stomach.  He said, "I don't think she weighs 5 lbs."  We gently began talking with grandma about the malnutrition project at Hermano Pedro, and she was interested immediately.  We asked her if we could take a picture of Valentina without all the clothes she was bundled in, thinking she could come to the clinic the 22nd of February when others from her area would be coming to Antigua.

I think both Dick and I caught our breath as soon as Grandma removed Valentina's cap--somehow she hadn't looked quite as tiny wearing a hat, and we could see that her sparce hair had already lost color from malnutrition.  As we removed her sleeves and pants, we could see that, despite the best efforts of Grandma and Dad, this little one had wrinkles betraying how much weight she had lost.

We began talking about the possibility of bringing her in to Antigua when we return next week to build Bayron's house.  The more we talked the sicker each of us felt, fearing she didn't have a week to spare before getting help.  And, she's healthy now.  No fever or diarreah, so could be admitted immediately to malnutrition.  In her weakened condition, we didn't think that would be the case in a few days.

We asked Flori if there was any way she could get them in sooner. . .we were committed to Walter already, and he had waited more than 6 months for this appointment.  I think we both felt a little helpless.  Flori reluctantly said she would be going to Antigua tomorrow, but they were leaving at 4 am and there was no way they could possibly pick up this family in such a remote place.

Immediately it was decided that, if they were willing, we would bring Grandma, Dad, and Valentina back with us to our hotel, which would be on Flori's way to Antigua tomorrow.  Grandma agree instantly, and was off to call Dad and get ready to come with us.

So, tonight we had a lovely dinner in the hotel with Grandma, Dad, and this darling little girl.  For as tiny as she is, she's so alert, and makes such great eye-contact that she's stolen both our hearts. I'm proud to say that Dick and I didn't fight over who would hold her more, but shared her attention pretty well.  I got tears in my eyes watching my bachelor friend walk the floor with this crying baby, looking for all the world like he had done this his whole life.  What a sweet moment.

I have to admit,  I feel somewhat sad that I can't just drop everything and go with them to Antigua tomorrow.  I'm learning more and more, though, that I don't have to do everything, only my part.  And tonight our part is just to get them to where Flori can meet them tomorrow.  I'm so honored to have Guatemalan friends and colleagues here who are competent to help their own people, they only need our support.

Was it a random thought that made me ask Dick to go to visit Marcos?  I'm sure it was the Holy Spirit, and for once I heard His voice, even if somewhat reluctantly.  Just like it wasn't a coincidence that today was the day we visited them, that Grandma just so happened to bring Valentina while we were there, that Flori just so happened to be going to Antigua tomorrow, or that our hotel was on their way.  I sit and marvel at seeing the finger-prints of God all over these events, and am humbled to be a small part of this.

How many days can you say you got to trade an afternoon of leisure for being a small part in saving a life?  Thank you, Jesus, for today, and be with them tomorrow as they travel.


Pat wrote about something else that happened on this trip. 
If you want to read about another Godincidence 


Written by Pat
Today we headed up to the mountains near Mexico, to pick up a young lady named Esmeralda.  We are going with her and her family to Guatemala City tomorrow for an appointment with a neurosurgeon friend of Dick and Roland. (Roland works the area around Xela and Guatemala City and finds many families in need of assistance.)

Esmeralda is receiving tutoring from a private teacher through Bethel Ministries, and her condition has been deteriorating as time goes on.  Dick and Roland wanted to rule out any type of a brain tumor or other operable condition, so we decided to bring this family down.  
Each time we do this I wonder, in my self-ishness, if this is a good use of our  (my) time.  And every time we do this, I realize how hard it is for these families to leave their remote villages to trust some unknown doctor in a city they have never visited.  This case was a little different, as Dad had been in the US in the past.  (This man put a whole new face on "illegal immigration for me. . .but that's a whole other article.)  I saw, however, how insecure they all were, and how fearful they were of what they would find out from the doctor and realized, again, the value of the "ministry of moral-support."  The family probably could have figured out how to get to the city, maybe even found a place to stay overnight, but with all the strain they were under, I know we did the right thing by being with them on the trip down.

Since they live a ways outside of Huehuetenango, we decided to drive to Xela and spend the night in a hotel there.  Roland met us for breakfast early Thursday morning, and we drove together to Guatemala City. Our appointment with the neurosurgeon was not until late afternoon, so we had a few hours to kill.  We killed the first finding the building the doctor's office is located in. (Guatemala City is a twist and tangle of one way streets, which always seem to go the wrong direction from where you want to be.)  Actually, we discovered, the building was only a few blocks from Oakland Mall where I've been going to the dentist these past few weeks.  We decided, with all the traffic and confusing streets to leave the car in the parking lot of the doctor's office, and walk to the mall.

I can't imagine what the people thought as they saw what a motely parade we made as we walked single file (the sidewalks are too narrow to do anything else) down the busy street.  A tall gringo with a bushy beard (Dick), followed by a Guatemalan man pushing a little girl in a wheelchair (Esmeralda and her dad), followed by a beautiful woman in traditional Mayan dress (Mom), followed by a more-than-middle-aged gringa (me) and finally, a tall, lanky European with a mass of unruly curly hair.  We really were quite the sight!  Dick figured with all the congestion, no one noticed.  I wonder though. . .

We got to the mall, and it was the first one Esmeralda and her mother had ever visited.  The whole experience, especially the elevator ride, was a little over-whelming to them.  We decided the best thing would be to see a movie while we waited for the appointment, and Yogi Bear (in Spanish) was about to begin.

When we entered the theatre, we discovered that this was another first for Mom and Esmeralda.  As Mom sat down in the folding seat, she was so light it just about swallowed up her tiny body!  It didn't help, either, that Dick was trying to close it on her!  We all got a good laugh about that, and strategically figured out a way for tiny Esmeralda to sit without being "eaten alive" by her chair. 

She and mom looked around wide-eyed at everything in the theater.  Though we had warned her the sound would be very loud, I swear she jumped 2 feet into the air when the previews began.  She adjusted well, though, and was enthralled by the previews.  She was really excited when the movie began, and she and mom giggled like a couple of school girls throughout the feature.  They were more fun to watch than the movie.

The appointment with the neurosurgeon went well.  Dr. Poszuelos donates his time and talents to helping children Roland and Dick find in villages.  Today I witnessed not only his competence, but his compassion as he carefully examined this scared little girl and gently talked with her anxious parents.  He decided he wanted to have an MRI done tomorrow, just to make sure, but thought that her problem was probably genetically based.  Roland will stay with the family tonight in Guatemala City, and help them get the MRI done and return to Dr. Poszuelos with the results tomorrow afternoon.


(Dr. Poszuelos spent much time, after a long day of surgery, calling around to find discounts for us for these tests at clinics run by his friends.  This guy is amazing.  We are so blessed to have him willing to help us with the difficult cases!)

It was really hard to say good-bye to them, as they stepped into a taxi with Roland to go to their hotel.  It was good to know, though, that he would care for them well, and let us know the results.

(The tests showed just what the doctor had expected--no organic abnormalities.  Next week Roland will go with the family to the city once again to see a neurologist this time.  We are hoping that an accurate diagnosis might help find a way to slow the progression of her illness.)

Mourn with Those Who Mourn

Written by Pat

We had gotten a call while we were in Huehuetenango last week, that our good friend Ronny (a 17 yr. old with muscular dystrophy) had gone to be with Jesus.  Today was our first chance to visit the family to pay our respects, and I was having difficulty as I considered the trip.  This morning in my prayer time, I journaled:

Today I go to Ronny’s—to comfort his grieving family after his death. How do I bind up the broken hearted? And as I wrote the question, I realized the answer. It is not for me to bind their broken hearts. Jesus said that was HIS mission, not mine. My job is to bring him, tangibly, into the situation. To share His presence by my words and actions. To bring Him through my very presence, because He lives in me. He will do the healing.

Is He already there? For sure. But sometimes in our pain, we need brothers and sisters help us recognize His presence with us. Lord, today, let me see you in my friends, and help them recognize you even in their grief. For you are grieving with them.

Even with this insight, though, this was not a trip I was looking forward to.  Dick picked me up with a car load of boys.  He had debated for days who he would take with to this visit.  The boys decided for him.  They were all feeling the loss of Ronny, who they had come to know well over the years. They needed to see his family as much as we did.

Walking into the yard was a painful experience.  Dad grabbed hold of Dick and wept.  Mom grabbed me and sobbed.  I really don't know how long we stood like this, though it felt like forever.  All I could do is pray, "Jesus give me words to speak. . ."  In time, the crying subsided, and I could hear Dick consoling Dad in much the same way I was trying to console Mom.  I had it easier, however, because I did not need a translator.  I realized, though, watching Carlin translate for Dick, that it can be a blessing that Dick needs an interpreter--I think Carlin learned much as he spoke Dick's words for him in Spanish. 

(I later saw evidence of this as Carlin sat with Dad, looking at Ronny's school work, pictures, and even some legal papers. Carlin understands the "ministry of presence" better than many adults. It was beautiful to watch 
a teenage do what many adults cannot. . .just be there.)

It seems we both talked a lot about grieving with hope, the knowledge that Ronny is now with Jesus, and the promise that we, as believers, will be reunited with him.  (I just realized, too, that as the boys and Ronny's siblings heard a gospel presentation in the context of real life.  I pray it touches their hearts, those who have not yet decided to follow Jesus.  The cool thing is, it was a natural part of life, not a contrived "evangelistic presentation."  I think those are the most powerful.)

We spent a lot of time reassuring the family, especially the other children, that we would be honored to still be part of their lives, as they all, not just Ronny, had become very special to us.  It was only later that we realized the importance of these words.  Carlin told us that Dad had shared with him that Orlindo (7 yrs old) had told him that he was afraid that now that Ronny was gone, Dick wouldn't visit any more.  My heart still hurts at those words. . .and I'm so glad we were able to talk with him about our "next" celebration of good grades.

It was a pleasure to watch the boys as they visited with the family--each one being kind and sensitive to their loss.  It was also good to see how, gradually, the kids all came to life and began riding bikes, playing, and finally traipsing down the road to pick green mangos to eat.  I think that the boys being with us helped the children in the family be children once again, even if only for a short time.

On the way home, we took a "short cut" that went through back roads too beautiful to describe.  Though I had been to Ronny's many times with Dick, he had never taken me this way.  Today was the perfect day to ride through the beauty of creation, even as our hearts were aching.  With the encouragement of the boys, we even stopped to play at a river bank for a while.  After spending much of the day "acting adult" it was good for them to once again have an opportunity to act as teenagers.  And they did--jumping across the river rock by rock, climbing over to the water fall, teasing each other and just laughing and being kids.  Watching them was good for the hearts of the two "older" kids in the group too--though Dick and I didn't venture into the water as they did.

Today was hard, and today blessed us in too many ways to describe.  We had the opportunity to live out Paul's direction, "to laugh with those who laugh, and mourn with those who mourn" (Rom. 12:15) all within the space of a few hours.  If that's not blessing, I don't know what is.


Thanks Pat

Yours in Christ: Dick


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