* 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)

Friday, July 29, 2011


Dick & Sam head to head

Written by Pat Duff

A few days ago Dick and I, accompanied by Katie and Heidi (a nurse from Hermano Pedro) finally make a trip to visit Sam-Sam.

Sam left Hermano Pedro about two and a half years ago, to move to a psychiatric facility in Guatemala City. Sam was one of the reasons I decided to move to Guatemala. Sam is also very special to Dick. We had heard conflicting reports about the place he was moved to, and frankly had been apprehensive about seeing it for ourselves. If we thought it was not a good place for him, both Dick and I knew there was nothing we could do about it. How would we deal with that?

What finally tipped the scales in favor of going was my desire to check out this home as a possible placement for Francisco, the little boy with autism who I met recently at the National Hospital in Quiche. I was hoping maybe this home would have an opening for him. So we have come. . .

When we arrived (unannounced) at the gate of the home, we were warmly welcomed by Marcia, the facility social worker. When we explained that we were from Hermano Pedro, and knew Sam, Estuardo, and Mohammed she immediately took us to see them.


The kids were just finishing lunch, and my heart dropped to my knees when I saw Estuardo sitting in a wheelchair with his arms covered by a sheet. Marcia must have seen the look on my face, because she immediately explained that the doctor had ordered this partial restraint for Estudardo because he would otherwise refuse to eat and bat at his food.

PlaygroundThe staff brought Sam and Mohammed to us, telling us we were free to take them to play in the large play area. Estuardo soon joined us. (All three of these boys are able to walk—a large part of the reason they were removed from Hermano Pedro.) The boys looked healthy, happy, and it was apparent that at least Sam and Estuardo were much calmer than they had been at the orphanage in Antigua. Estuardo had obviously gained a substantial amount of weight, too, since moving to this home almost a year ago.

Sam walking w Dick rearDick was immediately drawn to Sam, and they walked away hand in hand. Shortly, Dick came back with tears in his eyes. He said he had bent down and Sam had stroked his beard (as he had so often at Hermano Pedro) and suddenly planted a “big juicy kiss” on his face. After all this time, Sam-Sam had remembered his old friend. I could see that this moved Dick to his very core. If he ever wonders if what he is doing here makes a difference, this should prove to him that he makes more of an impact than he knows. It brought tears to my eyes watching these two old friends get reacquainted.

Estuardo & Dick

I was especially pleased to see how much calmer Estuardo is. At Hermano Pedro he often screamed in a pitch that could shatter the strongest eardrums. Today, he was “clucking” and making his “happy noises.” He made no attempts to head-butt or bite as he had in the past. It was a joy to see him able to run freely in the grass, coming over every once in a while for a hug before he was off again to explore on his own.

Heidi & Sam on swingWe played together for quite a while, just swinging, and running and hugging. I was touched to see Heidi just sitting holding Sam. I am grateful to her for her help in bringing us here. She is now working in the malnutrition area of Hermano Pedro, but continues to love on the kids in Anibal. For her, working with these special children is more than a job, and she has become a good friend to us as well. It was good to see her enjoying being with these boys again.

Marcia returned and offered to take us on a tour of the facility. Our first stop was a visit to the office of the director, who sat and visited with us, and explained some of the needs of the home. Though it is run by the government, we could see that these folks care about the children they serve. We could also see that they are lacking many resources, though make the most of what they have.

As we began our tour, we discovered a little boy sitting outside the “day room” area, all by himself. Marcia explained that he had just arrived at the home at 1 o’clock this morning, having been found alone on the streets of Guatemala City. He appeared to be somewhat shell-shocked, not responding when talked to and sitting huddled on the curb. The right side of his face, his right hand and arm were severely scarred from burns that he had somehow gotten and there was also a large scar on the top of his head that looked as though it could have been made with a Machete. Dick immediately sat down next to him, and I told Marcia I knew he would stay with this little guy while we continued the tour.

IMG_1043This place was much better than I had expected. It was clean, bright, and the staff friendly. We were introduced to the physical therapist, occupational therapist and some of the teachers, including some students doing their practicum from a local university. What impressed me most, however, was seeing, posted on the walls in the school/therapy area, pictures of the various children, along with a page stating the strengths was well as their needs. I don’t think I’ve seen this anywhere else that I have visited in this country.

Dick & new boyWe returned from our tour to find the newest resident walking hand in hand with Dick. Soon he was on Dick’s lap, responding more and more to the love Dick was offering him. Watching them together, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus and the children. Today, Dick was Jesus to this frightened, lonely little boy.

Did I like everything I saw here? Not in the least. There were some beds without mattresses. We had been told about this by the director—some of the kids tear at the mattresses until they are in shreds and they don’t have the resources to replace them, so the kids sleep on a number of blankets piled on top of each other.

What has bothered me the most, though, is the “day room” where the residents just wander around aimlessly until someone comes to take them out to work with them individually or in small groups. The facility is severely understaffed. Marcia explained it is hard to find people willing to work with these patients, who sometimes can become aggressive. I know I will be haunted by these children and young people calling out and reaching through the windows—longing for some measure of human affection and attention.

Do I believe these folks care about the people they care for? I do. Before I pass “final judgment” I’d like to see more of this place. We were invited back any time we want to come. They have a volunteer program—though only have a single volunteer who comes in regularly.

I do think, however, that this would be a better place for Francisco, and spoke with the administration about the possibility of him coming here. While they are already overcrowded, the director encouraged me to have the hospital in Quiche contact them. I’ll be following up on this shortly, and hope to go back to Quiche the middle of August to try to begin working with the staff in helping them care for Francisco.

And I do think that Sam and Estuardo are happier here than I had known them to be a Hermano Pedro. While we will continue to miss them, I believe being here is in their best interests. It was good to see them here, and I hope to come back to visit them in the future.

Dick & new boyd 2

Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. (Mark 9:41)


Thanks Pat.

Sometimes I question weather or not the time that we spend working with these kids makes all that much difference but then I am reminded that we should not be doing it for the hugs or the "Thank Yous" that we some times receive but we should be doing it because God asks it of us. James 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." I must admit though that an e-mail like the one that I received last night does make me feel good and it also reminds me that God said in Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

(The following is the e-mail that I received last night.)

"Hello my name is Charity Gaita from Kenya and i just read about you what you do helping the handicapped and your story was familiar to me. Have you ever helped in Kenya with the World Vision? Because i had a sponsor who was doing exactly what you do his name was Dick but didn't keep in touch after my primary school in 2004.Then the world vision had to shift and changed their addresses. I just need to know if you have ever assisted with this group.

I'll be glad if you'll reply my email. Thanks for your time."

Yours faithfully

(I quickly replied with the following.)

Hi Charity:

"Yes I was your sponsor for many years until world Vision wrote me and told me that I could no longer sponsor you because of some changes. I tried to contact you after that but was never sure weather or not the letters got to you since you were no longer in need of a sponsor.

I am sure that the pictures in my journal at dickrutgers.com look quit different then the ones that I sent you while I was sponsoring you because my hair is now gray and I now have a beard.

It is a real Miracle that you were able to find me after all of these years. I still have pictures of you back in the USA but none here in Guatemala. I hope that you will write again soon and tell me more about your self and what you are now doing and if possible could you send me a picture of yourself. Thank you so much for writing me and please write back soon.

Thank you for making my day a great one by writing to me."

<>< Yours in Christ, your foster father: Dick ><>

Ecclesiastes 11 "Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days."

God is so good!


<>< Yours in Christ: Dick ><>

Monday, July 25, 2011

Journal, July 23 & 24, 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Calin, Bryan and I got up a at 4:00 AM this morning. We were scheduled to meet at 5 with Chris, Donna, most of their family, several of the Bethel employees and about 10 volunteers from the USA, and then drive for about 2 1/2 hours to the town of Santiaugo for a wheelchair distribution that we were having today.

When we arrived at the school where the distribution was to take place we were a bit disappointed to see only a hand full of people waiting there. We had expected to give out nearly 40 wheelchairs today. By the time we got set up a few more people had arrived so after waiting a little longer we decided to get started. Saul, Benjamin and I partnered up with some of the American Volunteers and my 2 boys and did specialty wheelchairs. Moat of the others either helped Donna with paper work or grouped up in teems that did standard wheelchairs.

Since I had so much help on my teem I let them do the majority of the mechanic work It was fun watching my boys and the volunteers get so involved in what they were doing. I must have gotten more involved than I thought to because I never even noticed that more and more people kept arriving as we worked.

One of our more interesting cases was an 11 year old girl who was absolutely terrified of us. Try as I may I could not seem to gain her confidence and when ever i tried to get near her to take measurements she would go ballistic. We ended up doing a lot of guess work in sizing up her wheelchair and thanks to her patient mom did manage to get her into the wheelchair for a few brief moments to make some final adjustments. Once we were fairly certain that the wheelchair was adjusted correctly for her we decided to do one final fitting. Even with mom's help she was not overjoyed with the idea of getting into the Chair. I have some pretty deep scratches on my arm to prove that she did not like the idea. Funny thing though is once she was in the chair for this final fitting she immediately calmed down and within a minute or 2 got a big smile on her face. During the hour and a half that we had been working with her we had only heard crying and a few screams of protest so we all figured that she was non verbal. It had really surprised us that she calmed down and smiled but we were more shocked when she looked at us and said thank you. You could see in her eyes that she liked the wheelchair but It seemed to be a God thing that she went from sheer terror to absolute contentment in such a short time. She and close to 40 others that received not only wheelchairs but were told of and shown the love of Jesus were not only blessed today but were a real blessing to those of us that had the privilege of sharing the love of Jesus with them.

Our day was not finished though. although the rest of the crew headed back home Calin, Bryan and I decided to spend the night here in Santiaugo. On my last trip to Santiago a few weeks ago I had visited 2 young men who were in need of power wheelchairs. 14 year old Stephen was one of the young men that was in need of a power wheelchair. We had given him one a few years ago but the bumpy dirt road that Stephen has to drive on to get to school had taken it's toll. On my last visit I had taken his old wheelchair back to Chimaltenango with me in hopes that we could repair it but after looking it over it was decided that about the only thing that was worth saving were the batteries.

Today Stephen received a new front wheel drive power wheelchair that should provide better traction on the rough road that leads to his school and hopefully it will not shake apart as fast. Before we left Stephen's mom started to thank us but quickly broke into tears. She told us that she knew that Stephen and his older brother Sebastian, who is also in a power chair that we had previously given him likely did not have long to live but that these wheelchairs had changed their lives. Not only were both boys now able to attend school but they were able to get out in their neighborhood and join their friends.

Next we drove back into town where Alex lives. 16 year old Alex who has CP was delighted with his new power chair and caught on quickly to driving it. Within minutes Stephen, his family, my boys and I were heading down his alley and on to one of the streets of Santiago. Alex will also be using his power chair to get to and from school so this was a good test to see if he could navigate dirt alleys and rough cobblestone streets with it. Both he and the chair passed the test with flying colors. Once again we were embraced by a grateful family and once again we were able to share our real reason for being here. Both families agreed that the thanks was to go to God.

Goodnight from Santiago,
Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, July 24, 2011

This morning we just took it easy. The kids swam for a while then the 3 of us walked down to the lake. I guess they are quite common around hear but I was fascinated by some rocks that were floating on the water. I later learned that they are were pumice and they are formed when a volcano erupts. I took some home with me and my kids were just as fascinated as I was when I dropped some into a bucket of water and they floated to the top.

Not all of our day was spent in play but what we did once we left our motel was even more enjoyable. Yesterday Argentina, one of the ladies that helped us set up the wheelchair distribution told me about a boy that she knew who had no use of his arms or legs. She had met Manuel a boy who lives in a village across the lake from her. A few years ago I had set Manuel up with a chin controlled power wheelchair and Argentina was wondering if the same thing could be done for this boy. I told her that I could not be sure until I met him and agreed to see him before heading for home today. About a half hour later we arrived at the home of Neri. He seemed to have the same condition as Manuel and I am not sure exactly what either of them have. The parents said that years ago they took him to a doctor but all the doctor did is told him that it was CP and that there was nothing more that he could do for him. Unfortunately everything that can not be diagnosed in this country is labeled as CP and any time a family has no money most doctors tell them that there is nothing that can be done and the family is asked not to return.

Neri has a manual wheelchair but a family member must push him to school and every where that he goes. When I told Neri why we had come to visit him he began to smile. I told him that I was quite certain that we could set up a power wheelchair for him that he would be able to control with his chin or his head. I soon discovered that unlike Manuel Neri has some movement in his left hand and after testing how far he could move it I realized that he would be able to use a joy stick. I could not give him the day that we would be back but assured him that I would try to get one ready for him within a month. I will try to get it to him even sooner though because I think that he will be to excited to sleep until he gets it. His father and mother were beside them selves as well. Father told us that he had once seen a power wheelchair and had dreamed of getting one for his son ever since. He told us that he knew that it was only a dream though because he knew that he would never have enough money for something like that. He thanked us but said that he felt that the real thanks should go to God because this was an answer to his prayers. We wholeheartedly agreed.

We didn't get back home until around 4 PM but the word got out fast and by 4:30 my house was once again filled with over a dozen kids. Calin and Bryan did not waist any time in filling the others in on what a great time we had and the kids are already discussing who's turn it is to go with me the next time that I go out on the road for a few days.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, July 22, 2011

Journal, July 15, 2011 (Only a week Late)

"I know! I know!! I promised to start doing my own journaling again but Pat did such a good job on this one that I just had to break my promise. Once you read it I think that you will be glad that I did."

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pat wrote

"For a day for which we had no plans, this is one of the longer journals I’ve written—however, shortening it would not have done justice to a marvelous day. . ."

This morning we had planned to do a little bit of computer work, then return to Antigua/Chimaltenango. First we decided to have some breakfast, though, and that changed our whole day. (Funny how small decisions we make can do that...)

As we were paying our bill, our waiter (who had served us most mornings) very shyly asked if he could ask us a favor. He had seen Dick in a village near his home on a previous trip, and today noticed the wheelchair we had tied on top of the Land Cruiser. He had a cousin who needed a wheelchair. Could we help?

I have to be honest. Inwardly I groaned. Not another one. . .Thankfully my spirit won over my flesh, and I began asking him the questions that have become all too familiar to me in these situations: Where did they live? What was his disability? Could he sit up? Could he use his hands?

We told him we could give him a wheelchair application and he could send it, along with a photo, to the Bethel shop. The man would be included in the next distribution. The only problem was, Rocky, our waiter didn’t have access to a camera to take and print a picture. Could we go with him at 3 when he got off work and see his cousin?

We talked some more, and Dick thought he would be able to find the general area if someone would meet us at the main road. Rocky called a friend, and it was arranged. We would go out ourselves this morning.

After breakfast Dick and I began discussing how to handle our day. Should we see the man quickly and then head home? Should we check out but ask them to hold our room? Finally, we decided to stay another night—we could see the man and take a water filter to Amanada, a local woman who often helps us.

We did some work on the computer, I got a map from Rocky, and we set off. When we arrived at the home we discovered that Bartolo, the man we needed to see, was not there. Oh, man. . .we’d rearranged our day for nothing! We salvaged the visit as best we could, filling out what we could on the application, showing Bartolo’s brother how to take the needed measurements, exchanging phone numbers, and finally, taking pictures of pictures of the man. We would call tomorrow to get the measurements and then could at least turn in the application for the next distribution in the area.

Dick realized that the house was near where Silsa lived. I’d met Silsa about two and a half years ago when I had visited this area. We have been wondering about how she was doing and decided to visit her. Two and a half years ago, I’d written about her:

Silsa is a beautiful, shy young lady of 13 who, about six months ago, lost the strength in her legs. She also began having severe seizures. She would be coming with us to find out if the doctors at Hermano Pedro could figure out what is wrong with her, and give medication to control the seizures. Her family has already spent all their money on local “doctors” who have not helped Silsa, and now refuse to see her because the money has run out.

Silsa and her mother were some of the first people I helped navigate the clinics here, and I have felt close to them ever since. Over time, Silsa’s seizures had increase to where they would last an entire nighttime, yet her father had decided not to bring her back in to see the neurologist at Hermano Pedro. He preferred the witch doctors he had been “consulting” on her behalf.

She had weighed heavily on my heart because of this. . .not only a physical infirmity but a spiritual one was plaguing this beautiful young lady. I had known that Gordon, Donna Mooney’s father, had been visiting her and praying with/for her, along with some local pastors. He thought she was getting better. As we approached the house, Sylvestra, Silsa’s mom, came out to see who was there and was ecstatic to see we had come to visit.

Today, we witnessed the result of Gordon’s prayer. Not only is Silsa seizure-free, but she is now able to walk up the hill to her grandfather’s house if Mom helps her balance. While the “miracles” I wrote about yesterday can be explained away as “coincidences,” this is definitely a work of God in answer to prayer. Both Dick and I were brought close to tears by His goodness and mercy to his beautiful young woman.

Silsa had one request—she wants to resume her studies. She was beginning fourth grade when her seizures began, and craves to learn more. While she is still too weak to attend regular school, we would like to provide her with a tutor.

If you or your small group would be interested in sponsoring Silsa by providing $35/month to pay a private teacher to work with her about four hours a week, please email me and I’ll fill you in on the details.

After a wonderful snack of warm tortillas and fresh cheese that Sylvestra makes and sells, we prayed with the family then reluctantly left. Visiting this family today was an amazing blessing to both them and us.

Our next stop was to take a water filter to Amanda. Unfortunately, she was not at home, so we stopped and had lunch. Returning to our hotel, we were surprised to see none other than Amanda standing at the gate waiting for us. I have to admit, this was the second time today my flesh responded, “Oh, No” in response to God’s invitation to serve. Thankfully, Dick had better sense than I and we agreed to drive her home. We were a little surprised when she directed us to a different house. She explained her niece lived there, and wanted to talk with us.

Feeling more than a little “set up,” we hesitantly agreed to talk with her. (Another, “Oh, no” moment)

We found a meeting of their community organization was in progress, and about 10 people were waiting for us. This group attempts to help the poor in their area, and wanted to talk to us to see how we could help. After explaining to them that we work with children and families with disabilities, they were very excited when Dick offered them some children’s vitamins they could use with some of the children in their area who were malnourished. We also dropped off some food packets from Kids Against Hunger. As we talked further, Dick and I looked at each other, thinking the same thing.

Would this be a good place to give a water filter? When asked, Clara, one of the leaders of the association, became very excited, promising to not only use the filter for her family, but to share the water with the other families in her group. Dick assembled and demonstrated the water filter and Clara’s step daughter could not wait to “sample” the purified water.

As we left, we both were convicted of the fact that indeed we had been “set up” but not by Amanda, but by God. It was not hard to decide, therefore, to accompany Amanda when she asked us to visit a little girl they knew who needed a wheelchair.

We soon were meeting Esmeralda, and were appalled to find her sitting in a contraption that is supposed to substitute for a wheelchair. While I don’t doubt the good intentions of the group that manufactures these chairs, a plastic garden chair attached to a frame is a horrible excuse for a wheelchair. They not only are uncomfortable (have you ever spent a whole day just sitting in a plastic chair? Ouch.), they also cause pressure sores. In this country, far too many people die from these sores, and we don’t need to put anyone in a chair that might cause them.


Dick measured her, and it just so happened that for some “unknown” reason he had felt led to take along on this trip a folding wheelchair some therapists had given him. He thought it just might work. After retrieving it from his car with the help of some local boys, he tried it out. He had not even finished setting Esmeralda in the chair when she burst out with “calidad!” (“quality”) Even this thirteen year old knew a real wheelchair when she saw/felt one. She was beaming from ear to ear, and the chair needed only one minor adjustment in a footrest. Almost as if the chair had been made just for her. . .Godincident for sure. . .

It was hard to leave this amazing young woman, but it was getting dark and we wanted to get back to the hotel before dark. Not a bad day’s work for a day in which we had planned not to work.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Journal, July 12-14, 2011

Click on any picture to enlarge

Pat has once again joined me for a road trip to Huehuetenango. This week we agreed to share in doing the journaling. I did not mean for it to happen but due to my e-mail program crashing and nearly loosing everything that was stored in it, Pat ended up doing most of the journaling. Actually she did about 99%. My 1% is this paragraph. Funny thing is I recovered my e-mail and got my e-mil working just about the time that Pat finished up on the journaling. I do plan on doing the pictures though Unless of coarse Pat beets me to it.

I think that you will enjoy what Pat wrote.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Traveling to Huehuetenango,

Writen by Pat Duff

After seeing off Katheryn when her shuttle left for the airport, Dick and I set out for Huehue. When I returned from the States in April, I brought back a prosthetic leg for a Rudy, a little boy who lives near Huehue. More than 2 years ago I brought down Rudy's first artificial leg (LINK) which he’s now outgrown, and I’m looking forward to seeing him again.

The trip down was absolutely beautiful. Dick took a route I’ve never traveled before, and I think we passed through some of the most beautiful parts of Guatemala on our way up here. I also saw some of the largest landslides I’ve seen here, but thankfully, all the roads had at least one lane open. More than once, we’d come around a blind curve to suddenly find one lane of the road unexpectedly blocked, and a car coming towards us in the other lane. . .I have to admit, though, I was glad Dick was the one doing the driving.

When we arrived in Huehue, we stopped at the shopping mall to buy shoes to take with us to Rudy. Dick talked me into taking the prosthetic leg with us into Payless to find a shoe to fit it. It was very interesting walking through a mall in Guatemala carrying a child’s leg. (There are rumors in this part of the country about North Americans kidnapping kids for body parts—and here I was walking around carrying a “leg.” You gotta laugh.) The interesting thing was, no one seemed to pay any attention to what I was carrying!

The man working at Payless was very nice and understood our dilemma trying to figure out if the shoes we were buying would fit Rudy’s real foot. He told us we could buy a couple of pairs and return the ones that didn’t work. It was really funny watching Dick try on the shoe on the foot we had with us!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Visiting With Old Friends,

We had planned to go to Rudy’s today, but, after seeing how much rain fell last night, Dick thought maybe we should try to go up to La Libertad to take a wheelchair to Samuel, who we had met more than two years ago. I love traveling to the area around La Libertad, though the roads there are some of the most difficult we drive. I was a little concerned setting off up the mountain since we had not been able to contact anyone up there to let them know we were coming. We decided to chance it anyway, trusting that we would find someone who could help us find Samuel.

I also was hoping we would have enough time to stop in and visit the Perez family. I had met this family in January of 2009 when we brought them and their daughter Lisvi into see a doctor at Hermano Pedro. Lisvi was the first child with malnutrition I had seen with my own eyes and held in my arms, and she changed me greatly in the few days we spent together. She died a few months after we met, and I felt like seeing her parents would provide some closure for me, even years later.

More than two years ago I had written about her:

As Dick was measuring Noe, I walked over to a lady with a “baby” on her back. I hesitantly asked if it would be okay for me to hold the “baby.” Mom gently placed her in my arms. This was my introduction to Lisvi Escalante Perez, and her mother Francisca. Lisvi, however, is not a baby, but a marvelous little girl of SIX who could not have weighed over fifteen pounds. I thought I was familiar with starvation, but as I held this precious little one in my arms, my heart sank to my feet, and tears welled in my eyes. Lisvi will forever “haunt” me. This was not some abstract, starving child in an ad, but a flesh and blood little girl God had permitted me to hold.

The trip up to La Libertad was fairly easy, though we still had to travel some muddy, rutty roads. It was only sprinkling, and the new car was holding the road well so we kept on. When we reached the turn off from La Libertad to go to the aldea (village) where Samuel and the Perez family lived, we had to stop for a pick-up truck/”bus” that was loading passengers. When I looked up, I thought I saw Sr. Perez, Lisvi’s dad, getting into the back of the truck. Surely, I was wrong, but I couldn’t help but look again, and asked Dick, “Is that Lisvi’s dad?” By this time, though, the truck had started moving, and I thought we’d missed our chance to find out if it was him.

A minute later, though, the pick-up stopped, and Dick was able to pull along side. He rolled down his window, and I asked the man in the truck, “Do you know this man (Dick)?” After a minute of confusion, Sr. Perez recognized Dick and immediately jumped from the truck. We pulled over and had a great reunion on the side of the road. I just about burst into tears when I asked him if he remembered me, and he said, “Yes, you’re Sra. Patricia.” I know he probably has not spent too much time with North American women but I was totally honored that he remembered my name.

Another gentleman also walked up to us from further down the street, telling us he also knew Dick, since he had given his son a wheelchair on a previous visit. It felt like old home week in the mountains. When Sr. Perez asked where we were going, and I told him, “to your house,” he was very excited. So, the three of us piled into the front seat of Dick’s truck (the back was completely full of wheelchairs) and we were off.

"This picture was taken from inside of the Land-Cruiser.

We were thankful that Lisvi's father ran down the hill and

opened the gate because I am not sure that we could have stopped."

After once again traveling these steep and winding roads, this time in the rain, Dick grew in his appreciation of his new vehicle, and I grew in my appreciation of his driving. (Today, though, was the first time I’ve known Dick to break his word. The last time we were up here, he told me he would never drive into this area if there was even a drop of rain. Today there was much more than a drop, but he skillfully managed the roads without incident.)

When we got to the Perez home, Francesca, Lisvi’s mom, came out to see who was driving into her yard. I got out of the car, and she came over and hugged me for the longest time, neither of us saying a word, but both of us dissolving into tears, remembering the last time we had seen each other, shortly before Lisvi died (LINK). After warmly greeting Dick, the Perez’s took great pleasure introducing us to two of their grandchildren.

Inviting us into the house, Francesca began cooking up a storm. Of course she would feed us. This always amazes me here in Guatemala. No matter how poor the family, or how little food they have, they almost always feed us a meal of some sort when we visit. It feels somewhat uncomfortable to us, sort of like we’re crashing their dinner, but we have learned to accept this gift with due appreciation. Today we had the Huehuetenango version of pepian, a rich chicken stew which is typical of Guatemalan food.

While she was cooking, and later while we were eating, we caught up on developments with their family since the last time we were here. They now had 3 grandchildren, and the activity that filled the house seemed to be a healing element for them in their loss of Lisvi. Sr. Perez had bought the two older children twinkie like cakes and they were devouring them as they waited for lunch. It was so sweet to see him with his grandchildren. He adores them, and it was obvious they feel the same about him.

Beside our visit, today was a landmark day for the family. Their son has been in the US working for the last 7 months, and was, in fact, returning today to the Guatemala City airport. They were very excited to have him home again.

After lunch, Sr. Perez offered to go with us to Samuel’s home to show us the way. This was not as simple as it sounds on the surface. To find the exact location of the house, he had to scale a very steep, muddy hill, and returned telling us he had found a way we could drive almost completely to the house. This took us over more mud and fields, and involved him jumping out of the truck a couple of times to open and close gates for us. He did this all enthusiastically, enjoying the fact that he was able to help us out.

At the house, Dick discovered that he had already brought Samuel a chair and walker quite a while ago! He takes so many chairs to so many people in so many places, I can easily understand this minor lapse. The family was over-joyed by our visit, and we discovered that one of the footrests on Samuel’s chair had broken. Sr. Perez jumped right into helping Dick repair the chair, and in short order the chair was once again in working order.

It started to rain rather hard, and Dick decided we better head out before we could not get out. We did find out from Sr. Perez that there was a better way out than the way we had come in. Since Dick had never driven this road, he insisted on accompanying us part way to make sure we found it okay. We tried to encourage him to return home out of the rain, but he wouldn’t give in. After we were on our way on the right road, we were able to drop him off right above his house. I’m sure his trip down the mountain on foot was no picnic in the rain, but we could not help but be grateful for his enthusiastic help.

As we drove back to Huehue, Dick and I discussed the Godincident of running into Sr. Perez in La Libertad. If we had been five minutes earlier or later, we would have missed him. We only went today because Dick had a strong feeling that we should postpone visiting Rudy and head up the mountain before there was more rain. This morning I had prayed for God to arrange divine appointments for us today, but in no way did I expect to see His hand so clearly. I’m sure He knew how much we would be blessed by our time with the Perez family. I pray now that they were blessed by our time with them.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Surrounded by Miracles, and Coke Bottles,

Today we set off up the mountain, stopping at Maria Garcia’s to pick up her daughter Blanca Rose, who would serve as our interpreter today. Since most of the families we would be visiting today spoke only Mam (a Mayan language), her help would be indispensable today.

On our way to take Rudy his new leg, we stopped to visit a family who lived just up the hill from his house. This single mom has two children who are in wheelchairs, as well as a couple of other boys she has taken in because they have nowhere else to go. One of the wheelchairs needs a new footrest, and we will have to return with this part at a later time. Dick was able to adjust the brakes, however, and as we watched the young man walk about the area hugging the wall for balance, we discussed the possibility of bringing him forearm crutches to help him balance. When asked if he would like these, he became very excited. He manages to get around quite a bit despite his inability to walk alone, and we hope these will give him a further level of independence.

We hiked down the steep hillside to Rudy’s and Dick wisely suggested that we go inside to fit his new leg. A group of children from the area had followed us down the hill, probably to see what the North Americans were up to. Removing and replacing a prosthetic leg demands some level of privacy, so we went into the dimly lit house.

As Dick unpacked the new leg, it was immediately apparent that it had been made too long. Things became even more complicated when Dick went to try on the leg, and discovered that the leg cup was way too small for Rudy’s leg. We’re not quite sure how all this happened, since Dick had sent specific measurements as well as a plaster cast of the leg to which the prosthesis was to be fit to the specialist making the leg. Whatever the reason, we were faced with an impossible situation—there seemed to be no way to make the leg work for Rudy, and his old one was too small to use without damaging his back and hip

I can’t tell you how many times I heard Dick say, “Come on, Dick, THINK!” He stared at both legs, mentally matching pieces that just would not quite go together. We talked about the possibility of finding a hacksaw and shortening the tube on the new leg, but that wouldn’t solve the problem of the too small leg cup. We both were praying, unknown to the other, that somehow God would intervene. We had to do something for this precious little guy. Finally Dick took the risk of removing the foot from Rudy’s old leg to see if somehow that leg cup could be used with the new leg bottom.

It was immediately obvious that the pieces would not fit together. Dick cobbled and MacGuyver-ed as best as he could, but nothing worked. I know he worked more than an hour without any apparent progress. It looked hopeless. We talked about putting some kind of “lift” on the shoe of the old prosthetic leg, but ruled that out since shoes wear out too quickly in this rough terrain for that to be a practical solution. We were soon just out of ideas. . .

Rudy’s mom thanked us for our efforts, but saw the new leg would not work. Here she was, trying to make us feel better about the fact that the leg wouldn’t work. She even sent one of the children out to buy us each a Coke—our first of the day. We were stumped and Dick was ready to admit defeat.

As he started to pack up his tools, Dick glanced down one last time at the old foot. What would happen if he took the connector out of that foot, and tried to use it to fit the new foot to the old leg with the two fasteners? This would give the needed added length if it could just work.

After taking out the piece, Dick discovered that the coupler would not fit inside the fastener. There was a square piece of metal on the top, preventing it from going into the tube. How could we get it off?

After asking if there was any type of machine shop nearby which might have a hacksaw we could use, we thought we had struck out once again. Maybe there was a metal file in Dick’s tool bag. . .What he found was a detached hacksaw blade, which he managed to put in a vice grips pliers—and suddenly we had a make-shift hacksaw. Now, would it cut the metal.

Dick painstakingly sawed at the metal piece, with the help of Rudy’s brother and mother securing the foot and the stool. It was hard work, and Dick was out of breath and sweating, but finally he was able to break off the offending piece. We all just about burst into tears when the pieces came together. This was an engineering task far beyond even Dick’s abilities. We knew that we had experienced divine intervention on behalf of this little guy. Our first miracle of the day.

Everyone got into the act of making the final adjustments—even Rudy took his turn wielding a wrench!



As we were preparing to leave, I asked Rudy’s mom whether or not the boys (Rudy, age 7, and his brother, age 13) were attending school. Neither were, due to lack of funds. Mom explained that the older son would be in 6th grade, and that Rudy was always asking if she could find someone to teach him to write. I promised I would try to find sponsors so they could both attend school.

If anyone is interested in sponsoring one or both of these wonderful young men, please email me and I’ll send you the details. The cost would be approximately $35/month for one, or $70/month to enable both of the boys to get the education they both so desperately desire.

Next we set off further down the road to meet Alvarado, who Dick had been told needed new wheels on his wheelchair. Since he lived quite a way up the mountain, his family had packed both him and his chair down to the road so we could work with him there.

When we arrived, we discovered that the wheels were, in fact, falling apart. We also discovered that they were an unusual type of wheel, and, as Dick said, it would be another miracle if any of the wheels he had brought would fit this chair. We were looking at a couple hours of work at the least. Dick tried each of the wheels he had brought, and each would not fit. At about the same moment, both Dick and I thought about the Hope Haven chair we had brought with. Would those wheels somehow work? Dick tried them, and the holes were the right size, but the connecting bolt too long. The wheels would wobble.

If only we had some washers to take up the slack, but after looking through his tool bag, Dick came up empty handed. The wobbly wheels would have to do. As he started to pick up his tools once again, Dick discovered that, in a bag of bolts he had picked up at the shop a few days earlier, there just so happened to be a handful of spacers—and these would work perfectly. Our second miracle of the day. And our second bottle of Coke, once again provided by Alvarado’s grateful parents.

Our last stop of the day was to visit Rolando. Rolando is a twenty-three year old young man who Bethel Ministries had been providing a tutor for. A few months ago, Rolando had become so weak that it was decided to use the funds to provided extra food for him. It was obvious this had been a good decision—Rolando actually looked a bit robust today. And a bit discouraged—they had been looking for a teacher for him for a while now, and none can be found. We promised that we would ask for prayers that someone would step up to work with him, so I am asking you to join us in praying for a teacher for this ambitious young man.

After a quick glance at his wheelchair, it was apparent he was desperately in need of the new one we had brought him. The one we had fit him perfectly, and he was soon seated comfortably in a solid, safe wheelchair. As Dick worked on seating Rolando, one of his sisters brought us each a can of apple juice, a wonderful change from all the Coke we had been drinking. Rolando’s mom also insisted that she wanted to make us lunch. We gratefully accepted her invitation—it was after two o’clock, and we had not eaten since breakfast.

She prepared a rich egg dish with a fresh tomato sauce that was delicious, along with some of the tastiest tortillas we have eaten in Guatemala. As we were each given another bottle of Coke, Dick and I looked at each other somewhat hopelessly. Just how much Coke can one person drink in a few hours without exploding? Today we would find out, as we drank our last Coke of the day.

After visiting for a while, it was all too soon time to leave. We needed to be on our way back to Huehue before dark, and we still had to take Blanca and her son Everett back home.

As we drove back to Huehue, Dick and I talked about the Godincidents we had seen today, and joked about all the Coke we had drunk. God had blessed us with being able to accomplish things we could not have done in our own power. The families we had come to serve had blessed us with their gratitude and with Coke. A small thing to us, a bottle of pop. But to these families living in deep poverty, a bottle of Coke costs a lot, and is a tangible way they show us their appreciation. I’ve never known drinking Coke to be such a humbling experience.


We didn’t know it when we got back to the hotel, but God had one more “miracle” for us yet today. Dick was working on answering email, and suddenly, his computer just shut down on its own. When he restarted it, he discovered that his I-Mail account had somehow disappeared. All his email was gone until he could somehow repair this glitch. He worked on it without success, and finally we decided to go to dinner. We both continued to pray that somehow Dick would find a way to reconnect to his email server. Within a few minutes of returning from supper, our prayers were answered when he discovered the “missing link” that enabled him to connect. Thank you, God, for answered prayer. And thank you, Father, even more, that all his files were still intact in the server and he was able to access them.

Were these really “miracles” we had experienced today? I think so. . .in fact I think we walk among miracles all the time, and fail to recognize God’s hand in helping us on a daily basis. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d rather err on the side of thanking God than ignoring His gifts to us—natural or supernatural.

"Could it be that a coincidence is

when God performs a miracle,

but decides to remain anonymous."


Yours in Christ, Dick