* 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, 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


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