* GUATEMALA * * * * * * * * Dick Rutgers *
An ongoing journal of life as a Missionary in Guatemala. It will make you laugh and cry at the same time.
- Name: Dick
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org Guatemala Cell Phone # 502 5379 9451 USA Phone # 360 312 7720(Relays free to Guatemala)
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Mostly Pictures This Time
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Pat wrote this one.
Written by Pat
I have gotten to participate in a number of wheelchair distributions at the Hope Haven workshop here in Antigua. I never really know what I’m going to be doing at these distributions, but I know I want to be there. Sometimes I get to play “secretary,” others interpreter, other times there are children who need communication systems, and sometimes I find that my role is just to love on the people who come for chairs and their families. I do know, I never leave one of these distributions wondering why I have come. . .the people I meet here touch my heart and my life greatly.
Oliver is a delightful eight year old boy who we were told was blind. After playing with him for a while, it seems apparent to us that he has some residual vision and is able to walk with assistance. He captured everyone’s hearts, especially those of a couple of therapists on the Rotary Club team. Dick and I will be following up with him—Dick to give him an appropriate walker, me to see if we can get his vision re-evaluated and to help him begin to use whatever vision he has. He is not in school, and I will try to work with him in this area, also.
Just “any chair” won’t do
I am far from being competent in seating people in wheelchairs, but I am gradually becoming able to recognize an improper fit when I see one. The young woman above came in for her first wheelchair at age 31. Initially, she was seated in a cloth chair, and needed significant harness support to stay upright. When they finished her seating, I looked at her, and just knew something wasn’t right with the way she was sitting. Since I might recognize a problem, but still don’t really know what to do about it, I asked Dick to come over and take a look.
He immediately decided she was in the wrong chair and took her out to sit her on a folding chair. Imagine our surprise when she sat straight and sure without any support, only because the folding chair had a hard seat. Off Dick went to find another chair in the warehouse, and start the seating over from scratch. She left with a chair that fit her properly, and which she could even propel somewhat on her own.
I share this not to be critical of the first set of techs who seated her. They are good people who usually do good work. I share this, rather, to show just how complex this process is. Good enough is NOT good enough when it comes to a wheel chair. So many people who work with wheelchair services in Third World countries bring in “one size fits all” chairs, and in reality do harm to the people they seat. (See “Free Shower Chairs” on Youtube.) These chairs are the worst I’ve seen!
That’s why I believe it is so important to support ministries such as Bethel in Chimaltenango and Hope Haven here in Antigua. These ministries don’t just come down and do a “quick hit” distribution and move on. They know first hand that just giving someone any old wheelchair can do more harm than good, and refuse to give those living in poverty anything less than would be given to someone who needed mobility in the US. They treat people who cannot walk, even if they are in a Third World country, as first class citizens, and I love them for this.
These two groups have an on-going commitment to the people of Guatemala, and stay around to see the results of their work—both the good and bad. Hope Haven is continually reworking the design of their children’s chair to make it more comfortable, durable, and ergonomically correct. They have therapists and seating specialists at each distribution, and the staff of their shop is continually receiving in-service and on-the-job training from professionals in various fields. I am honored that they have invited me to work along-side them.
This six year old who cannot walk manages to roll around to get himself where he wants to be. While the guys were working making adjustments on his new chair, he flipped over and grabbed the box of nuts and bolts and a wrench, and wanted to help them out! Once he was seated, I was able to give him a simple communication book which he instantly understood. It was such fun watching him “talk” to his mother with it. I think she was a thrilled as he was to have it!
I first met Jennifer when I went outside to see who was screaming as if being beaten to death. Jennifer is 14 and extremely aggressive at times, a real challenge to her single mother. Many folks from this team tried to “comfort” her in some way, only to make her more agitated. When I spoke with her mother, she apologized for the commotion, saying Jenny frequently hits, bites, and scratches her. She seemed ashamed that she could not “control” her daughter better.
I recognized at once that my ministry here was not to find a “behavior management approach” that would work with Jenny. Her mom basically had one, it just didn’t always work. While I might have been able to make some suggestions, I would not be spending enough time with her to do anything of real value, and would probably just make her mom feel even more inadequate.
So I visited with mom about some of my experiences teaching severely disabled children. I shared with her not my successes, but my struggles and frustrations. I told her I could only imagine how tough her life is caring for her daughter, and how much I respect the obvious love she has for this difficult girl.
As we talked, I could see the relief flow into her face. Someone understood—she was doing the best she could. She didn’t have to apologize for her daughter, but could talk about how challenging her life is caring for her, without fearing being judged. (Thank you, God, for all my frustrations and failures over the years. They reminded me not to play the “expert” but just listen.) She cried and talked and hugged me, and it was what I consider to be a “holy ground” moment in this week.
Dick and the therapists helping him had quite the challenge seating this young woman, but they managed to do their usually excellent job. Once she was finally in the chair, she calmed significantly. She even began working willingly with mom using the communication board I gave her.
Will her life change significantly because of what happened today? Maybe not. But I think her mother will always be able to know that someone understood her struggles and is praying for her.
I don’t know the name of the last little guy I want to share with you. Again, this time, I found myself mainly supporting and ministering to his mom. This was a tough one though. As many of the team members were “ooooh-ing” and “aaaahhh-ing” over her cute little boy, Mom stood aside, almost looking confused.
Sonia shared with me how she and her husband had waited fifteen years to become pregnant. In this time, they had adopted two children, but longed for one of their own. She also told me how their dreams died when they found out their child was disabled.
I could see that the question here was deeper than her son’s disability. It penetrated down deep into her heart, where she was struggling to know if God loved her. How could I explain that the desire of her heart for a child had not been somehow twisted into a punishment?
And I found myself saying just that—that I could not explain God’s ways. That, while I don’t understand why God allows children to be born with disabilities, I know that He loves them—and their parents. That I know He has an eternal purpose for their lives, just as He does for ours, though we can’t always see it. I found myself saying that, rather than believing disabled children are a punishment from God, that I believe He gives them to those people He knows will have hearts big enough to love a child who is less than perfect. (Aren’t all of our children less than perfect.)
And the words rang hollow in my ears even as I said them, praying the whole time that I wouldn’t make life worst for this hurting lady. But, evidently they spoke to Sonia’s heart. She sobbed and sobbed and sobbed as she let out her hurt, disappointment, and sadness. I ached for her, wishing I could do more than just hold her as she cried. Talk about feeling useless and inadequate. . .
Once again, however, God proved to be more than adequate. As she was leaving Sonia hugged me, saying she would never forget what I had said. . .and how we had loved on her son as the most precious child in all the world.
Monday, August 1, 2011
Six days on the Road........
Yours in Christ: Dick
I always enjoy our annual trip to Guatemala and God never ceases to amaze me in all that he does. We have had three days of distributing wheelchairs. It is such a blessing to watch the ministries of the Mooney family, the Chopen family, Dick Rutgers and Jorge and his boys. They are ever patient and kind to God’s children and seem to have everlasting energy. I so enjoy my time here with them and with the people of Guatemala. It was fun to be able to flit between stations to see and visit! I think I like the job Chris Mooney (who we love and miss while he is in the States) usually does…Mr. PR man!!!
It was an incredible three days of distributing wheelchairs. It is hard to describe the impact it has made in my life. I am so grateful to work with Dick, the Mooneys, and George who do this so many times throughout the year. Each day is so very different even though we are doing the same thing. It is incredible how people are fitted and chairs are modified on the spot for the lucky participant. I am amazed when some unexpected need arises but a chair is fitted like a glove anyway. Amazing to see God’s hand in this work in this mission and I am so grateful to be able to touch lives in ways I never would have imagined especially being the continental US girl I used to be. I also want to thank Saul for his incredible driving.
Wheelchairs… I used to just think of a wheelchair as a mode of transportation for those who may not be able to walk, but that is such an understatement. For many of these people that we have seated these past three days, these chairs are a life line. I would have never guessed that I would come across the type of people that we have, but I am so glad that God gave me the opportunity to give them hope. They may think that we are the only ones helping but they have helped me more than they will ever know. I have gone through a lot these past couple of years, but meeting these people has given me a whole new perspective on life. There are so many things in my life that I have never truly appreciated, but thanks to these distributions I can finally see the significance to all of the little things that God has blessed us with. So I just want to conclude my entry by saying ‘thank you’; thank you Dad for letting me come, thank you Dick for letting me work with you on the chairs, thank you Chris, Donna, and Ardie for organizing everything for us, and finally thank you Lord for granting this opportunity to learn and grow in our faith.
This is my first trip to Guatemala and my first mission trip. I have wanted to go on a mission trip for many years now. When the opportunity presented itself through Ardie, I jumped onboard! One thing that touched me was watching a family being prayed for in Peten by the Pastor, the mother and possibly a grandmother were both crying after their child had been placed in a wheelchair. It was obvious that they were very thankful. The other blessing was watching Del and Chelsey working side by side for three days on the specialty chairs. They were very quick to get into the rhythm of things! It is always good to see father and daughter participating in the same experience. I am grateful for the opportunity to come here and see the country and meet the wonderful people of Bethel Ministries. This was our first experience with a mission trip thanks to Ardie and it was amazing. The country of Guatemala is so beautiful and the people were so friendly. But the most memorable part of the trip was seeing the smiles on the faces of those who were fitted with their new wheel chairs. The little girl in Rio Dulce who gave us a thumbs up when she was placed in her new chair and the little boy with a smile from ear to ear when he maneuvered his new hand pumped chair. Priceless! The hugs from the children when they were given a toy or candy was so heartwarming. The Mooney’s were wonderful. They immediately made us feel like part of their family. Loved little Joshua. Dick was amazing. He was so patient and tender with the children. His compassion showed through everything he did. We are so grateful we could be a part of this trip. I hope it is only the beginning of many more “Christ-centered” adventures in our lives.
Though this is my first time being in Guatemala, I genuinely felt like I had a relatively good idea of what to expect out of my week here. I had myself convinced that having been to Honduras as well as on several inner city trips in the states, that I was prepared for what I would see throughout the week. And for the first day or so, I felt like I had been proven correct. By the end of the day Wednesday, however, my perspective had been thrown completely off kilter. I expected to see the widespread extreme poverty, as well as see and hear the heartbreaking situations in which so many of the people here find themselves. I don't think that it was the elderly woman who, crying, hugged me and wouldn't let go because she was so thankful to be receiving her first legitimate wheelchair after fifteen years of being unable to walk on her own; or if it was the children, severely contorted and sometimes with little to no control of their limbs, received chairs that not only provided stability and mobility, but were also individually fitted for them to provide comfort as well as corrective growth and formation as they grow older. To be completely honest, as touching and heartbreaking as these instances and the countless instances like them were, I'm not sure when it hit me. I can tell you, though, that I don't think it had as much to do directly with the poverty and pain that I encountered as it did with my interaction with people like Dick Rutgers and the Mooney family. I didn't get a chance to spend a lot of time with Donna Moony this week as she was busy leading the distributions, and Chris was out of town; but I did spend a total of probably twenty hours driving with Dick, as well as time at dinner and a little time just picking his brain at the hotel at night after distributions. Let me just assure you that it is absolutely impossible to spend more than a few minutes with this guy, hearing him pour out his heart and tell you about his passion for the needy in Guatemala, without something clicking inside. Whether it be the countless hours and selfless acts with the wheelchair ministries, the educational support he seeks out and provides for needy children in villages, or the ten to twelve boys who have nowhere else to go that Dick allows to spend time in his home and practically raises, Dick lives out James 1:27 everyday of his life. I am hard pressed to think of a better example of "religion that God finds true and without fault" than what Dick does day in and day out. Has this week convinced me that I'm supposed to move to Guatemala for full time missions work? No. Nor has it really given me a completely different outlook on life. What spending this week with Dick and working with Bethel Ministries has done is given me an opportunity to have an up-close and personal look at the people who are truly in the trenches and who are not only passionate about helping those in need, but truly and completely committed to doing so. This week has provided me with a new and unique insight into the heart and mindset that it takes to live out the kind of faith that we are all called to live. We may not all be called to Chimaltenango or Rio Dulce, but we are called to, as Psalm 82:3-4 puts it, "defend the cause of the weak and fatherless, maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed, and rescue the weak and needy". This is something that we are not only called, but in fact, commanded to do throughout the Word of God. Prior to this trip, I honestly felt like I was living with this mentality in my everyday life. What I think I have most realized this week, though, is that there is a significant difference between having the mentality that this is how we as Christians should live and actively living my life in the context of James 1:27 and Psalm 82:3. Going back to the States, my prayer is that I will truly live everyday trying my best to exemplify "true religion".
This was my first time experiencing a different country and culture in the mission field. I felt as though I knew a lot about what was going to be going on all throughout this trip through photos and stories told by Ardie and her two daughters, Brooke and Brittany, but no individual person can prepare you for what you are about to experience. If you want to know what is really going on down in Guatemala, you have to experience it for yourself. Guatemala has such a beautiful people and a beautiful country side, but no one can prepare you for worse than what your expectations were. Despite the poverty, these people are being touched by the hand of God and experiencing the joy that he is able to provide. This week, I saw God in every smile of the people and in every embrace exchanged. The most memorable moment was the girl in Rio Dulce receiving a chair for the first time, smiling from ear to ear and giving us all the thumbs up. What a photo could not tell, I was able to experience first hand and that is priceless. I hope to share these mission trip adventures with my husband and my parents in the next couple years!
For the last 3 years, my prayer has come from the scripture Isaiah 6:8- "Lord, here am I, send me." Last year I took my first mission trip and I went to Honduras for medical and orphanage missions. It was beyond amazing and I was blessed personally more than I ever expected to be. This was my first time to Guatemala and it has proved to be yet another experience of how being the hands and feet of Jesus is not only about pouring out God's love to others, but also about growing in your own personal walk with Christ. People always tell you about how you will be such a blessing to the ones you're going to minister to and though I absolutely believe that God used us all in a mighty way, I can't begin to describe how the Guatemalan people impacted my life. With the few material things they have in their life, they still have joy that radiates through them and immediately lights a fire in you. The first day of the distributions was very emotional for me... I didn't know what to expect, but I was ready for what God was preparing to do. As soon as the people started coming in, my heart was overwhelmed with emotion. I can't explain it... my eyes tear up just thinking of that moment, but seeing such hope in the eyes of those mothers carrying in their disabled children and the boys and girls with disfigured bodies barely able to hold their heads up, but KNOWING and BELIEVING that you were going to be able to help them in some way. It was all I could do to hold myself together. I wanted to go love on each and every one and encourage them with the love of Jesus, unfortunately the language barrier made that quite difficult, but I soon learned that physical touch and a tender smile was always a way to make that connection. All the distributions were amazing and I can't say enough about how wonderful Dick, the Mooney's, Jorge and the boys, Saul, Hannah and of course little Joshua are and what an absolute blessing they have been. I personally feel that every person, Christian or not, needs to experience life on the mission field... we all have gifts and talents to share and there are needs in every area of the world. Why not start now? I look forward to working with them all again soon! Dios te bendiga y'all <><
If they smile to much........................
I always wanted
to be a dentist.
Yours in Christ: Dick