* 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)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tonight I am once again in San Pablo Lagona. It was only 5 days ago that I posted my last journal entry from this same location. This time 3 of my boys are with me instead of Pat. You may wonder why I am back here after only 5 days. All I can say is most power wheelchairs can be cantankerous but Manuel's chin controlled power wheelchair seems to be at the top of my list for needing repairs. Fact is we hadn't even gotten back into Chimaltenango after repairing it last week than we received a phone call saying that it had quit running again. I told Manuel that it would likely be a few weeks before I could come and take a look at it because he lived several hours away. Besides that I had been told that there were still demonstrations going on in San Pablo Lagona and the only other way in to San Pedro was over the dirt road that was nearly washed out last week when we traveled it and since it had been raining hard for the past few days I doubted that even my new Land Cruiser could make it. The more I thought about it though the more I realized how important this wheelchair was to Manuel. Without it he would likely not be able to attend school and even if some one was willing to push him to school in his manual wheelchair he would have no way to move around once he got there. Yes returning to San Pedro would be an inconvenience but what would be a small inconvenience to me would mean the world to Manuel.

When I told Cesar, Jason, and Fernando (who have no school this week) that they could come along with me they were delighted. After making a few phone calls I was pretty much convinced that the tuk tuk drivers were no longer blockading the road at San Pablo so we decided to go that way. All I can say is that we did get through San Pablo but had to do a bit of zigzagging around a few not so friendly tuk tuk drivers and I have pretty much decided to take the dirt road out tomorrow. I am praying that it does not rain tonight.
Jason stands in the narrow alley way that Manuel
has to drive his power chair through to get to his home.

When we got to Manuel's house his mother told us that they had gotten his Power chair sort of running this morning and that he was at school with it. By the sound of things it was not running well though so we decided to drive to the school and have a look at it. Fortunately mom agreed to ride along with us because to my surprise Manuel was at a different school than I expected. Seems that he attend the special needs school that I have been to before in the mornings and a public high school in the after noon. After talking to the principal he agreed to let us use his office as a work shop. This time I took no chances and replaced the motor that had been acting up. Actually I did very little. Fernando did all of the interpreting while Jason and Cesar did the bulk of the mechanic work.

I know that I often feel overwhelmed by all of the kids that hang out at my house but let me tell you watching these 3 young men work together made me realize how blessed I am. There was Fernando a young man who never met his father and who's mother he has not seen since he was a year old, working along side of Jason whom we had assumed was dead after disappearing for over 2 months. Cesar has both parents but is from an extremely poor family and his dad is seldom home because he has to work 16 hours a day just to put food on the table. Thanks to some wonderful sponsors these 3 boys are now attending a Christian school and their self esteem is growing by leaps and bounds. Don't get me wrong they are still teen age boys and they still drive me crazy at times (That is why they are in a room on the first floor of the hotel that we are staying in tonight while I am on the second floor at the opposite end of the motel) but I could not be prouder of them and I love them like they were my own.

Tonight as we sat in the restaurant having dinner I once again thanked God for these 3 fine Christian young men. They didn't get the opportunity to talk to Manuel or his mother about Jesus today but judging by Manuel's thank you's and mom's tearful hugs I know that Jesus Christ was seen today not only by Manuel and his mother but also by the principal, the teachers and the rest of us who watched the boys work.

"Thank you Jesus for each and every teen that comes into my home, but please keep them from driving me crazy."

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pat has once again beat me to another 2 days of journaling. I have been having problems when I change the text layout or color or rearranging the pictures so here then is Pat's journal exactly as it was written.

Yours in Christ: Dick

One Year and Counting.

Written by Pat

June 22, 2011


Today marks one year that I have been living and working in Guatemala. Looking forward to it, I had hoped for a quiet day so I could reflect on the changes, challenges and blessings of the past year. It did not seem in the cards, though, as we were to be at the Lake (Atitlan) working on a chair, visiting a school and heading home.


God knew my “secret” desire, however, and He made it happen. We started out from Santiago fairly early this morning, and reached San Juan La Laguna, our destination, in reasonably good time. I have to say, though, that we traveled some of the ruttiest roads in Guate on this trip. What was fun, though, was literally, a few feet later, the road turned to four lane, divided paved highway. Of course, a short distance later we were back on dirt. Such is life in Guatemala. . .

When we entered San Juan, it looked like there were an awful lot of people on the streets, but we didn’t pay much attention. . .at least not until we hit our first closed road. Following his GPS, Dick tried an alternate route. That one might have worked, except that the road was too narrow to pass through, thanks to two “stands” that had been set up. Dick carefully backed down the crowded street. Alternate routes two and three were blocked also, and we decided to head to the outskirts of town. This was quite a challenge, as most of the streets are one way, and it seemed they all went the wrong way for us!

Finally, we encountered a traffic policeman who informed us there was a “parade” in town, and we would not be able to get through for an hour. We pulled in to a space in front of someone’s house, and decided to wait it out. In short order, though, we attracted the attention of at least a couple of locals, and decided it might be a better idea to go to San Pedro (the next village only a few miles away) and wait it out. After all, one hour in Guatemala is usually two or three in any other part of the world.

We did make it out of town, only because Dick pretended that the roads were going the direction we needed to go. After driving down a couple of one way streets the wrong way, we made it to the exit of the town. (Though the town was filled with police because of the “parade” no one seemed to even notice this huge Land Rover going the wrong way down its streets!)


We got to San Pedro and stopped at a restaurant on the Lake for something to drink. Katie had a ring side view of one of the most beautiful places on earth (at least in my opinion). We all (even young Katie) discovered we were unexplainably tired. (Of course, this had nothing to do with our hike in a thunderstorm yesterday!) We talked about it, and decided we would stay in a local hotel we knew that was clean, comfortable and very affordable. We would try to get to Manuel and his power chair tomorrow.


So, thanks to circumstances beyond my control (but not out of the control of my Generous Father) I got to spend the day resting, reflecting, and enjoying one of my favorite places on earth. Dick and I even took a walk that reminded me once again that he takes me to the “nicest” places—usually off the beaten path! I experienced once again, that my God cannot be outdone in generosity.


Stubborn Brushes and more Blocked roads

written by Pat

June 23, 2011


After a somewhat leisurely breakfast, we headed out to San Juan to work on Manuel’s chair. Today we made it to this small village on the lake without too much trouble. We even found his house on the first try.


Manuel is a very talented young man I met a few months ago who drives a power chair with a chin controller Dick created for him. This has been a God-send to him, but a real challenge for Dick as he tries to keep the chair running for Manuel. About a week ago we received a call that the chair was not functioning properly, and decided to add this stop to the trip we planned this week.

When we arrived, Dick discovered he was right—it was the “brushes” that were causing the problem. (He had used baking soda and super glue to repair one when we were there a few months ago. . .guess super glue doesn’t hold everything!)


Normally this is a very simple task of pulling out the old brush and inserting a new one. Nothing was simple today, however. First, the spring had broken off the old brush, and, using my eyebrow tweezers and an eye-glass screwdriver, Dick finally managed to get it out. We sorted through a can of different brushes, and found a few we thought would work. After putting in a new one, the chair still did not run properly. Then it happened. . .as Dick was trying to remove the replaced brush, the spring broke off of THIS ONE, too. That never happens, but it did today.


This time, the tweezers, tiny screwdriver, and even shaking the chair on its side didn’t work. The carbon part of the brush wasn’t about to budge. Dick tried to remove the motor cap to get at it that way—and discovered two of the three screws were stripped.


We hiked to the local hardware store (really one shelf in a store my mom would have called a “junk shop”) and managed to find a few screws that Dick thought he might be able to “drill” into the carbon with.


This was the large selection of screws Dick had to choose from. Mechanic-ing in Guatemala is no job for the easily discouraged!

Back to the house, and back on the floor, this didn’t work either. Finally, in desperation, Dick broke the carbon into pieces, and was able to insert the new brush. This time the chair worked perfectly.

We visited the family for a few minutes, and, before leaving, I asked Manuel’s mom how we could pray for them. I then discovered she spoke mainly one of the Mayan dialects common around the lake, when Manuel’s sister had to explain to her what I had asked. The precipitated a rather lengthy discussion in Mayan, that none of us could understand, and I wondered if I had somehow offended them. Finally, Manuel’s sister explained what her prayer requests were—evidently they had been discuss what to ask me to pray for! This was a new experience to me, but I assured Mom that I would pray for her family as requested.

We set off for home, and reached the town of San Pablo without any trouble. That was, until we got to San Pablo, where we found the only entrance into the town barricaded by tuk-tuk drivers who were having a dispute with the mayor of another village. One of them came over to talk to us, and after finding out we were heading to Antigua, told us to wait a few minutes and they’d let us through.

They were not so agreeable with the pickup truck trying to pass in the opposite direction, and, when the drive of the truck looked like he was going to ram the barricade, and about 25 men suddenly swarmed his truck, Dick made a quick U-turn and headed back the way we had come. As we pulled away, one of the men whistled to us to come back, but we continued down the road without slowing. If there was to be a confrontation between the locals, we wanted no part of it. Retracing our steps would be a bit longer, but much safer.

We made good time—that is until we came to Santiago Atitlan. Here a procession honoring Maximon, a Mayan god, was getting ready to take place and the one street through town was blocked. We backed up and pretended not to know that the other street through the town was really one-way, the opposite direction. (A number of tuk-tuks were pretending with us!)

The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful, though I know it was very tiring for Dick. Between the frustration of broken brushes, blocked roads, and just general congestion in the towns, he’d had quite the day.


As we were nearing Chimaltenango, where we were picking up some of his kids to ride to and from Antigua with him, God must have saw our fatigue and frustration. In the sky, there was a beautiful, full rainbow that lasted for some time. What a great reminder that, amid all the challenges, He had been with us every step of the way today. . .and a sign of His promise to continue to walk with us, no matter how rough the road!


Thanks again Pat. I think that I now owe you about a month's worth of journaling.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Visiting more families

June 20, 2011

Hello. My name is Katie Kuhns. I am 19 years old, just graduated High School and I have been called by God here to Guatemala for the summer. I am staying with Pat Duff and helping her wherever she needs help. I have been here since June 1 and will be here until July 27.

Pat, Dick, and I went out to La Gomera a few weeks ago to some families’ houses and got a few people measured for new wheelchairs. So this week we took another trip out to deliver the chairs. When we got to the first house we went to was to see a woman named Paty. She is 28 years old. Its obvious just by looking that her chair was not made for her. She practically was falling out of it. She was there in the front yard when we got there and her face lit up. Paty told Pat that when I go back to the states she wants to go with me so she can find an American husband. I thought that was really sweet. We got the chair out of the car and moved her into it. Then Dick had some work to do on it to get it specifically right for her. Meanwhile neighbors from all over came to watch and to just help celebrate with the family.

There were a lot of kids there and they were all busy either trying to help Dick with the tools or wanting me to take their pictures. They could have stood there for hours getting their pictures taken and looking at them and laughing. I had a lot of fun with those kids.

Finally the chair was just right for Paty and you could tell in her eyes that she loved it. We took pictures and then the family wanted to have a prayer. We all gathered around Paty and Dick started praying. What happened next I was not prepared for but it turned out to be one of the coolest things I’ve experienced. Everyone started praying out loud at the same time. I was surrounded by the sound of many voices crying out to God praising Him and thanking Him for what he has done. After the prayer we said our goodbyes and we left Paty being much more comfortable and happy than when we arrived.

Next we drove just a couple blocks to a boy named Yelsen’s house. Pat and Dick are pretty sure he has Muscular Dystrophy. This very likely gives him only a few more years to live. He doesn’t have enough strength in his arms to push a wheelchair so we brought him a power chair. He didn’t show much excitement outwardly but you could tell by his face how extremely excited he was. We got out the chair and got it fixed up just right for him. Pat and Dick put their heads together and came up with a contraption made out of a strap from one of pats bags and a pant leg from some jeans to support his legs.

Next it was time for driving lessons. He took it out in the street and drove it around for a little bit. He was having a lot of fun. He will get better at it the more he drives it. While we were there I got to hold a really cute baby for a little bit. We said our goodbyes then. We all agreed that that community was very special. Pat said in other communities neighbors would be almost jealous at times when you gave to one family and not to them but in this community the neighbors were all excited for them and wanted to come meet us and celebrate with the family. It is really cool to see the ways God works here.

On the left, Yelsin’s mom and sister watch him drive his chair for the first time.
On the right, Annie (who first introduced us to Yelsin) and her daughter.


Thank you Katie you did and excellent job of sharing. I keep thinking that I should get back to doing more of my own journling but I have still been a little sluggish since surgery. Besides that you and Pat do a much better job of spelling than I do.

Yours in Christ: Dick

June 22, 2011

Pat writes the following.

We spent last night in an “economy” hotel in Patulul near the coast. We had reservations at the best hotel in town, but, when we arrived, were told there was no room. The explanation was that the man who took the reservation was not authorized to do so. This was the third time this had happened to Dick here, though, and we are beginning to wonder if they just don’t like “gringos” staying at their place. This is one of a number of times God has given Dick the opportunity to practice patience and anger management, and he’s doing quite well.

We had dreaded this particular hotel, as there is no air conditioning and the day had been extremely hot. However, as we got to the room and put the fans outside the window to blow in cool air, the temperature dropped considerably. We all attributed this to a divine gift in our situation, and we all managed to get a good night’s sleep.

Our first stop this morning was at Jessica Vanessa’s home. She is the little one in the malnutrition ward at Hermano Pedro. Her family has become quite special to Dick and me, and I was anxious to introduce Katie to them. Thankfully, this is a vacation week for the school there, so all of the kids were there to greet us.

We visited a few minutes, and I talked with Mom, encouraging her to come to Hermano Pedro for an examination. She’s had a number of medical problems plaguing her for a while. She’s been somewhat hesitant, though, even avoiding an appointment when she was in Antigua to see Jessica the other day. Evidently, a “doctor” who came to her house the last time she was down in bed with pain told her she has cancer, and she afraid she’ll need surgery and there will be no one to care for the children. After discussing this, she agreed that an exam would be a good idea, but would not commit as to when she would or could come.

She then asked us if we could possibly help a little boy who lived near her who had a seizure so severe his family thought he was dead. Of course, we were off hiking to their home almost immediately. This later proved to be the “short” walk of our day.

We arrived to meet Noe Jeremias and his brother and sisters. His dad had died about a year ago, and two of the siblings, along with their mother, were doing field work to help them survive. After his second seizure a few weeks ago, Mom had taken him to the National Hospital where the doctor prescribed phenobarbital (a very commonly used drug here), and said maybe it would be a good idea if he had a neurological exam. He mentioned “brain tumor”and “cancer” to the mom, and she is scared to death.

Today, she was not home since she had finally gone to Patulul to get his medicine thanks to the help of the town mayor. A neighbor, though, who helps care for the children when Mom must be gone, came and talked with us, and was quite knowledgeable about his condition. She was sure Mom would be happy to bring him into Hermano Pedro to see the pediatrician and neurologist there. And Virginia (Jessica’s mom) agreed to accompany her on the trip. We are hoping this will happen the second week in July.

Noe is seems to be an example of what so often happens to the people here in Guatemala. They can go to a National Hospital, free of charge. They receive some type of diagnosis “off the cuff” (possibly correct, more likely not) and may even get a prescription. Then they’re on their own.

Most of these families have just barely enough money to buy minimal food to eat and pay whatever they have to to live on their land. Money for medication is pretty much unavailable, unless someone helps them out. Too often, though, this means a month or more wait, such as what Mom experienced in getting assistance with Noe’s medication.

This little guy just captured all of our hearts, and I pray the doctors at Hermano Pedro will come up with an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Please pray with us on this. Noe is one of the reasons we have set up a medical fund, so we have some resources to help in situations like this.

After walking back home with Virginia, we loaded up the car and started off to visit the family of Jessica “2” who is now living at Hermano Pedro. She was admitted shortly after the new year since her mother had to work and this was the only way her sister was able to attend school. This was another family Virginia had introduced us to.

As we started off for their home, Dick casually mentioned that he didn’t think he had marked their home on the GPS, but was pretty sure he could find it. (He was much more confident than I.) We did manage to find the turn off the highway, and started up the mountain trail to their home. Suddenly, her house “appeared” on the GPS! We did fine until we reached a “fork” in the road. Dick remembered going one way in the past, I remembered the other. (The house was on the GPS, but no roads were shown to it.) Dick graciously accepted my advice, and we started up the paved path. After numerous curves that alternately took us toward and away from her house, we finally arrived at the Duran home.

Vanessa, Jessica’s older sister, was washing dishes in the community pila when we arrived. Mom was home and we had a nice visit with her about how well Jessica was doing at the orphanage.

Here, again, Saundra (Jessica’s mom) told us about a child who was “worse than my Jessica.” She hoped someday we could go to see him. When we asked if she could take us there today, she did not hesitate before accepting. She told us the hike was about 25 minutes on “level” ground. Dick was a bit concerned about me attempting this trek, reminding me that in this part of Guate nothing is level.

I really felt we should go, however, and I was the only interpreter, so it wouldn’t be too much help for Dick to go alone. So we set off. The hike was a little steeper than what was originally promised, but, pacing myself I was well able to complete it. And I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Not only did we see some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve seen here as we walked, but I fell in love with the family we met off the beaten path.

For the life of us, we can’t remember the name of the little guy we visited, but he seemed a younger version of Bayron at Hermano Pedro. He was bright, responsive, happy, and very limited in his ability to move. As I entered the dark one room shack in which this family of five lives, I turned to Dick saying, “Look, a Hope Haven chair.” It turned out that not only was it a Hope Haven chair, but Mom immediately recognized both Dick and me from the distribution last March where “Bayron’s twin” had received his chair. Only God could have orchestrated such a meeting.

It was unbelievable to me that this mom had managed to get out with her eight year old, probably carrying him on her back, and managed to get to Antigua for a distribution. The dedication of this lady to do what is best for her child was astounding. (Remember, we had just walked this path in, and it was not a stroll in the park.) We didn’t know what more we could do for this family, but I knew we wanted to do something.

As we visited, we discovered that the two younger boys (age 5 and 3) were quite healthy, given their meager living conditions. The five-year old was really quite a spit-fire, and Mom definitely has her hands full managing his energy and enthusiasm, along with his two brothers.

“Bayon’s twin” however, seemed pretty skinny compared to the other two. Mom explained he cannot chew and drinks only milk. She told us that he drinks two “bags” of milk each day which cost about Q12 each. That means each day, the family must spend about $3 on milk for him alone. That does not leave much for the rest of the family to live on.

We will be returning in the near future to bring vitamins to this family, and I would love to be able to tell them that we have a sponsor to help with the cost of the milk this little guy needs. If you would be interested in investing about $30/month to help feed this child, please email me and I’ll let you know how you can help. Even one month of help would go a long way in encouraging this family.
As we were visiting and eating the “chuchito” (a tamale-like food made of soft cornmeal paste) the sky suddenly darkened, and all at once the sky opened up in a downpour. Of course, since it had been such a warm, sunny day, none of us had brought any raingear back into this area with us. So we began to hike out in the rain.

Dick, was worried that I would not be able to make the hike all the way out, set out ahead of us, planning to bring the car back as far as he could to get us. It was really uncomfortable having him off on his own, with no ability to contact him even by phone (no signal up here!). This was a good exercise in placing our full dependence on Jesus alone.

So Katie, Saundra and I continued to walk out together in the downpour, with Dick soon out of sight. We plodded along steadily in the heavy downpour, and I have to tell you, I was pretty impressed by Katie’s wear-with-all in this situation. At one point she quipped, “You have to have some good stories to go home with!.” She never uttered one word of complaint. What a gal!

A couple of times there were lightening strikes so close you could almost feel the electrical charge. At one point, we needed to leave the path and walk through a field, since there was a tree down, blocking the path. This was really quite the adventure for all of us.

Finally, we saw Dick’s headlights coming up the road. He was pretty surprised at how far we had come. (Though he did give us some advantage by over-shooting the road back to the car by about a quarter mile.) I have to admit, it was a wonderful feeling to see him coming down the road.

We climbed in the car, soaked to the skin, and Dick backed out the whole way to the fork in the road, since there was nowhere to turn around safely. This was really a feat given the heavy rain outside, and the steaming windows inside from our wet clothes mixing with what was left of our body heat.

We took Saundra back to her house, and headed for the highway. The rain made this usually challenging trail even more so, but we made it out without incident. We headed to Santiago, Atitlan, where we stayed in a hotel that more than made up for our mean accommodations last night.

Katie and I shared a small stone cottage while Dick had the one behind us. The beds were warm and comfy, the showers hot, and we even had a fireplace in each cottage. I can’t believe that in June in Guatemala we built fires to warm us, but we sure did and enjoyed every minute of the comfort they provided. What a great end to the challenge of the day.


Wednesday, June 22, 2010

Written by Dick.

This one is going to be short because we are all tired and in 5 minutes it will be Thursday. Today we had planned on traveling around the lake to a village that is about an hours drive from where we stayed last night. Our hopes were to repair the power wheelchiar of Manuel a young man that lives there and then head for home. As we entered the village we were met by a policeman who pointed for us to turn up a road that headed off in a direction that I did not want to go. He indicated that the road ahead was closed but did not tell us why. I immediately realized that this road would not take us where we wanted to go but the road was very narrow and people were beginning to line up on all sides of it. We knew that there was either going to be a parade or a demonstration and feared the latter. We tried a few other roads but they were all blocked off so I got to do a lot of baking practice with my new Land Cruiser. It seemed like an eternity but we finally got turned around and back onto the one way road that the policeman had directed us up. Yes we were going the wrong way on a one way road but it was the only way back out of town. About the only traffic we met were a few police cars though but most of them told us to keep going. We had to hurry though because we had to beat the procession to the intersection and make a right turn before running into them. To make a long story short we made it and are now spending the day in San Padro Lagona a village about 15 minutes away from the activity. We are not suffering though as we have a nice motel ($12 per room) that overlooks the lake. The food is good to but both Pat and Katie are taking it a bit easy on eating. Perhaps something they ate in the village yesterday. The rest feels good to because we are all a bit stiff and sore after hiking out of the village in the thunder storm yesterday. Not only that this is giving us time to get this journal done and hopefully posted. I guess God knows what he is doing. I do hope to get back home tomorrow though because I really miss the kids. Please pray that the roads are once again open and that we have a safe trip home.

James 4:13&14

Pay attention, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such-and-such a town. We will stay there a year, buying and selling, and making a profit.” You don’t really know about tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for only a short while before it vanishes.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A few days on the road.

I realize that it has once again been over a week since I have published anything in my Journal but even though I am back at my own home in Chimaltenango and my surgery went well my energy level is still a bit sluggish. Even today as I sit at home writing this the Bethel teem is in Guatemala City doing a wheelchair distribution that I would very much like to be involved in, and there is a teem of therapists from the States that is working in various orphanages here in Guatemala this week that has asked me to join them but I am not quite up to being out on the road that much yet. More and more God is showing me though that Christianity has nothing to do with how much we can do for God but is all about what He has done and is doing for us. Don't get me wrong though because I sincerely believe that after all God has done for us there is no way that we should do any less then give him our best and live for him completely. Today though for me that amounts to staying at home, resting up, and praying for those who are out on the front lines.

I did manage to get out on the road for a few days last week and Pat once again offered to do the writing if I did the pictures. So here is what Pat wrote.

Dick, Katie and I have been on the road in the department of Santa Lucia visiting families we know, or finding new people in need of wheelchairs. Dick often talks of this part of the ministry in terms of the story of the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 to go after one who is lost.

While those we have served today may or may not be lost, I know that many of them have felt forgotten by the government, the church, and even perhaps their God. So, we spend some of our time going after the “one” who may not be found and served otherwise. It is always such an amazing privilege and blessing to watch the faces of these dear people and their families when we tell them we believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God has led us to them. That He has seen their need, and has allowed us to be His servants in responding to that need. It is really a holy moment for all of us. The Lord hears the cry of the poor. Blessed be the Lord.

Since this was to be Dick’s first over-night trip since surgery, our plan was to take it slow and easy. And we did, though our “agenda” grew to what seems like God-sized proportions.

Originally, we had only planned two stops: La Gomera and Cerro Colorado. As we got near Esquintla, Dick was feeling pretty good, and suggested that we go to visit David in Las Palmas as well. David needed a better seat cushion, we needed paperwork completed on Ponciano who lived nearby, and I wanted to stop and visit Reina, an elderly lady who had been very sick the last time I saw her.

Visiting David’s family is always a treat, 
 and I was excited to introduce Katie to 
 them. This was her first trip into the 
 back country, and she fell into the 
 routine like an old pro. I’m sure it was 
 hard for her to try to keep up with what 
 was going on, since she doesn’t speak 
 Spanish. Then again, neither does Dick, 
 so that made them about even.

We visited briefly at David’s, showed him how to use the new gel/air cushion we had brought him, drank the pop his family graciously served us (as they always do) and headed off to Ponciano’s, accompanied by David’s mom. Guadalupe has found many of the people we serve in this Aldea, and they seem to love her as much as she loves them.

When we arrived at Ponciano’s he was just dressing. We were surprised to see him in his old, broken-down wheelchair. When we asked about this, his mother explained that he “saves” the new chair for when he goes to church. We reassured him that, if and when the new chair wears out, we will help him get another. Somehow, though, I think he will continue to “save” it for special occasions. We were all touched not only by his desire to care for his chair, but the fact that, for him, going to church IS a special occasion. Oh, how I wish I always realized what a blessing worshiping together is. First lesson of this trip. . .

We moved on next door to visit Reina. She was sitting in her doorway with her feet propped up, and a cool rag on her head. She looked like an entirely different woman from the one I met about three weeks ago, who could barely breathe. After going to the Centro de Salud and receiving proper treatment thanks to the efforts of her family, she is a new woman. While still frail (she’s in her eighties, after all), she was happy and energized to see us. We could only stay a short time, but she insisted on gifting us with a papaya (sorry, Dick) and some plantains. Though we repeatedly told her this was not necessary (Dick especially emphasized this about the papaya) she insisted and I left with my arms full of fruit. Second lesson of this trip: accept gifts graciously. . .

Our next stop was to visit Jorge, a young man Dick had recently given a wheelchair. (We still need a sponsor for this chair—if you are interested in helping with the cost of this chair, please email me at guatemalagrandma@gmail.com ) Jorge had been brought to our attention by Brenda, the principal of one of the schools in La Gomera. Brenda has a real heart for children with disabilities, and though Jorge does not attend her school, she wanted to find him help and contacted us.

Jorge has two very deep bed- 
 sores that needed treatment, 
 and he had not been able to 
 see a doctor the last time he 
 was in at Hermano Pedro 
 because no more 
 appointments were available 
 that day. So, we brought 
 some medication to tide him 
 over until his appointment on 
 June 21.

When he examined the sores, Dick discovered that Jorge’s mom has been doing an excellent job of treating them without any medical help. They were very clean, and while needing some dead skin removed from them, were well cared for. So, we left some gauze, tape, saline and salve, and prepared to leave to head to our hotel for the night.

Click on any picture you want to enlarge
this one would not be my #1 choice.

God had other plans, however. When we got outside, Jorge’s mom pulled me aside. She shared with me that, because she had been putting all of their meager earnings (she tries to sell used clothes, while his dad works as a helper on a chicken bus) into buying medicine to treat his sores, they had not been able to pay their rent for the past six months. They were facing eviction. Was there any way I could help?
After quickly consulting Dick, we decided that we could each contribute one month’s rent (about 600Q or $80) if that would allow them to stay in the house. (Daryl Fulp had found a sponsor to pay for Jorge’s medication, so the family could put their wages toward rent once again. ) When we told Mom this, she was extremely grateful, and said she thought it would help significantly. But. . .would I be willing to go with her to talk to the landlady about this?

Usually we believe it is best if we North Americans stay out of these kinds of negotiations. It often increases the cost of things when folks see the “rich American's” coming. However, Mom assured us that the landlady was a good woman who just needed some reassurance that she would be paid. So, hesitantly I agreed to speak with her, if Brenda would come with us also.

When we arrived, the older woman who owns the house in which Jorge’s family lives was a bit stand-off-ish. I let Brenda do most of the talking at first, and we discussed how hard life has been for this family. Mom could barely speak herself, she was so choked up. Gradually, the landlady’s face softened, and shortly I asked her if she would be willing to hold off the eviction if we could pay 2 months back rent.

You could see her struggling with this. Who could blame her? How many landlords would wait six month (now seven, as it was the beginning of June) before taking action. I suggested that it was win-win situation to accept this offer. If she evicted the family, she would receive no back rent, and would have to find new tenants. This seemed to make sense to her, and she agreed to the deal. The family now has two months to try to stay on top of their rent and catch up with what they are behind. Lesson Number Three for today . . .sometimes, even though I’m a gringa, I must speak on behalf of those who cannot find their voice, even when I feel uncomfortable and insecure. . .God will handle the rest. . .

When I got back to the car where Dick and Katie were waiting for us to head to the hotel for the night, I was more than ready to leave. As much as I love what we do, some days it is just very draining. Today, between the heat here at the coast, the struggle of helping Dick as he treated Jorge’s bed-sore, and the over-whelming concern for a family who could be homeless in short order, I was pretty well done in.

As we were preparing to leave, we were faced with yet another request from a lady who just happened to have come by. We helped with wheelchairs, right? Could we come and see her neighbor, who was a young woman badly in need of a proper wheelchair?

It was late, and we needed to reach our hotel by dark. We had a full day planned for tomorrow. I felt utterly helpless as I translated this request for Dick. He didn’t let me down. Without hesitation, he said to tell Annie (the woman making the request) that we would return to La Gomera tomorrow if she could meet us to take us to the home of the lady who needed the chair. She reluctantly agreed, almost as if she didn’t think we would really show up. After exchanging phone numbers, we finally began the half-hour drive to our hotel.

Lesson Number Four. . .make your plans, and then be prepared for God to change your agenda as He sees fit. . .

We arrived at the hotel too tired to even enjoy a swim. After supper (which took it’s own sweet time to appear, though we had ordered ahead of time!), we headed off to bed. Tired, spent, and satisfied that today we had served the “one” who might otherwise be ignored. And tomorrow, we get to do it all over again!

Day 2

Also written by Pat

We arrived at the clinic in La Gomera shortly before ten o'clock, and had a chance to visit with one of the social workers there about a number of families in the area, and also about the use of water filters to provide clean water to some of the villages. In the past, after Dick has given out filters, we return a few months later to find most of them tossed off in a corner of the house, no longer in use. Lidia suggested we place them in the health center, the school, and the church, and then gradually let the “need” and desire for filters in the homes grow on its own. This sounded like a good idea to us, and we'll follow up on it soon, God willing.

Annie arrived as promised, and we were off to visit the young woman she had told us about yesterday. She said that she lived “close” to the clinic. Well, here in Guatemala, “close” is a relative term. After a number of twists, turns and at least a couple of miles, we finally arrived at Paty's house.

Paty, we were told, had been able to walk until she was about 11 years old, at which time she had a high fever and convulsions. Now, she is not able to move either her arms or legs, and the only way she can swallow is to lay flat. Just a few days ago, as her mom tried to transfer her to the lawn chair to feed her, Mom tripped and they both fell to the ground.

While Paty has a wheelchair, it is not the correct size and does not provide her sufficient support to sit properly. We are also hoping to find a specialty chair which will allow her mother to recline the seat, so she will not have to move Paty every time she needs to feed her.

Paty is very bright, and got very excited when I asked her if she would like a communication book to help tell her mom and dad what she needs and is thinking. Her mother immediately told me that Paty loves to read. When I asked her what kind of book she would like, Mom told me that Paty's favorite book is the Bible, though she does not own one. I will be bringing her a large print Spanish Bible when we return to La Gomera the next time. Mom also said that Paty loves to listen to praise music, though they only have a radio. I would love to be able to bring them a small CD player and some praise music.

Paty surrounded by her family,
along with her neighbor Annie who led us to her.

I can't quite put into words the effect Paty had on me. So many of the children and adults we work with have been disabled since birth. Paty, however, had known a “normal” life, and has had to adapt to being totally dependent on her family for her very existence. If anyone would have a reason to be angry and sullen, it would be her. Yet, she is one of the most pleasant people I've ever met. She smiles easily, and though she can only communicate by shaking her head yes and no, she makes you feel immediately welcome in her presence. And, more than that, she lives with a strong faith that not only enables her to endure her situation, but praise God in and through it. She is the incarnation of Paul's command to praise God in all things. I felt touched by the Holy Spirit just being with her.

We were just about to pull away from Paty's house, when Annie's children began yelling for us to stop. A young woman had come to Annie's asking if we could follow her to see another person who needed a wheelchair. Dick looked at me and said, “That's what we're here for,” and in moments we were following her on a bicycle through the streets of this small village to Yelsin's home.
Yelsin is 14 and we believe has Muscular Dystrophy. His body has been becoming progressively weaker, and he is now no longer able to raise his arms or support his weight on his feet. Yelsin, too, has a wheelchair, but it is obviously not a good fit. Yelsin attends school and his mother must push him to and from the school each day.

After looking around the house where they live, Dick offered the family the option of a power chair. They were immediately interested in this, though seemed surprisingly unexcited about the offer. I think this is another instance where what we have offered seems too good to be true. Combine that with the fact that many of these people have been promised a multitude of things by well meaning outsiders, who unfortunately have not returned to fulfill their commitments. This family, I think, was exercising reasonable skepticism. I can't wait, though, to see their reaction when we are able to return with a power chair for this young man.

Leaving this aldea, we dropped Annie off back at the clinic, and headed to Cerro Colorado to bring a new chair to a young lady who lives just down the road from the Hernandez family. On our previous visit to measure her for a new chair, this child would barely look at us. The most fun part of this stop was watching how the little girl immediately took to Katie and had a great time playing with her. She seemed to come alive under Katie's attention. It was sweet to watch as Katie patiently helped her to take pictures with her camera.

While we were at this house, a woman appeared, asking if we could come and see her child. He, too, needed a wheelchair, and lives just across the road from the family we were visiting.

So, once again on this trip, we kept a “divine appointment” in meeting another child in need of a wheelchair, and became acquainted with Marvin and his family. As we walked into their yard, we were pleased to see one of Marvin's three brothers sitting on a log, holding him. So often children with disabilities are ignored or hidden by their families. It was good to see Marvin is a meaningful part of his family.

Marvin was pretty afraid of all of these strangers suddenly showing up at his house, and really didn't want anything to do with any of us. Even Dick, who usually can charm even the most resistant child, was not able to hold him. We did manage, though, to get basic measurements, and will be bringing him a wheelchair, God willing, in the near future.

Our final stop was to see the Hernandez family. They have been calling saying that they are having trouble continuing to send their children to school. Apparently, the teachers in their school have not been paid in the past two months. They are now selling snacks at the school to provide some income, and the children are expected to each bring 5Q (about $.60). For some this may not be too much of a problem, but with 5 children in school, and dad unable to find work, this is impossible.

So many times in the schools here there are unreasonable (at least to us) demands made on the families. When parents have barely enough money to put minimal food on the table, what may seem like a small request to the teachers can become a major impediment to the children continuing in school. Besides the reprimands the children receive when these demands are not met, the teachers also frequently dock points from their grades when they do not comply. This can be a real source of frustration for kids who are just making the grade.

It broke my heart to hear Clara, the 14 yr. old daughter in this family, talk about quitting school to sell lemons in the market, so her brother and sisters can continue attending school. In the past, Clara has struggled with school, and the past 6 months or so she has been doing better than ever before. It would be a crime to have her quit now.

So, among all of us, we figured out a short term solution to the problem, and will check back with them next month, to see how they are doing.

As I look back on this day and yesterday, I feel a tremendous burden for the people we serve. So many come to us asking for help, and, when faced with so much need, our resources are pretty measly. I try to keep looking to the Provider of All we need, but sometimes I have to wonder when we will be able to help those who have already asked us for help, let alone those we are yet to meet. I ask you to pray that God will continue to provide all we need for our ministry not only to continue but to thrive.
I often hesitate to ask for financial support, but I have been admonished more than once by people I respect that “I have not because I ask not.” So, if you would like to help sponsor one specialty wheelchair ($180) or part of any of the six wheelchairs we need to give out, or to make an undesignated donation to the general needs of this ministry, please email me and I'll be glad to send you more information.

Thanks Pat.

After reading Pat's journal you can see why I prefer to let her do the writing whenever possible.

Yours in Christ: Dick