* 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, September 11, 2012

Walking Amidst Miracles

Pat Has graciously offered to write this week's journal if I did the Pictures.

Thanks Pat! And I was only kidding about making you walk home from Panajachel if you didn't journal.

Yesterday, we Took a chair to Luis, who we just met just a little more than two weeks ago. He is a twelve year old with muscular dystrophy which is gradually causing the muscles of his body to become useless. He still has pretty good hand use, though, and lives close enough to his school that he could “drive” there independently in a power chair, so he was a good candidate to receive one.

When we met him back in August, Luis was very reserved, seldom smiled, and we were concerned that he was depressed. Just four years ago he was walking and running like any other child, before the MD started eating away at his muscles. That’s a lot for any young man to handle, being totally dependent on his mother for his care at a time when he would normally be breaking away from her to do more and more on his own. Dick had been hoping that the independence a power chair would cheer him up a bit.

Today we met a slightly different Luis.
While he wasn’t instantly excited at the news we had brought a power chair (as many kids are), he was cautiously curious. When Dick actually brought the chair in, he seemed to perk up. As the fitting process progressed, he became more and more open and spontaneous, especially when he was able to help with some of the “mechanic-ing.” He and his brother Jaime even learned to operate an electric drill under Dick’s watchful eye.

When he finally was able to sit in the chair, he became a little more animated. He carefully listened to Dick’s instructions on driving the chair, as well as its care. Then he was ready for a “test-drive.” He proved to be a bit timid about trying it out and somewhat nervous (of course, the four relatives “coaching” him didn’t help much!). Gradually he became more confident. He will need some practice, but I think once he has some time on his own, without an audience, he’ll quickly adapt to moving around independently.

He couldn’t wait to show off his new chair at school, so we decided to walk with him as he drove there, even though he did not have classes today. It was so touching when he drove in—all the teachers and students applauded for him, and he absolutely beamed.
All this would seem like any other wheelchair distribution, but a conversation with Luis’ grandmother showed us what a divine appointment we had kept, though we were unaware. Early in the visit, I shared with Luis, that this chair was a gift from God. This is something I frequently say to people receiving chairs, but today learned just how accurate this statement is.

According to Grandma, about a month ago, Luis’ grandfather saw, for the first time, a man using a power chair on the streets of Panajachel. He thought about how wonderful it would be for his grandson to have a chair like this, and the man even let Luis try it out. Grandpa began praying, saying something like this: “God you know my grandson and what he needs. He needs an electric powered wheelchair so he can move around by himself. If you are as powerful as you are supposed to be, please bring him one.”

We just so happened to stumble across Louis and his family eight days later, soon we were taking measurements for a power chair. Today, less than one month after Grandfather “challenged” God to provide a power chair for Luis, he received one. The entire family sees this as proof that God cares deeply for them, and hears their prayers. It is humbling to get to be part of an answer to prayer in this way.

Later we accompanied Karla, one of the special ed. teachers at the school, to visit Josue Efrain’s family. He is a fifteen year old in Luis’ class who also has muscular dystrophy. We had also met him last August, but he lives a great distance from the school, and we were not sure a power chair would really benefit him.

Karla, however, felt it would and agreed to help us find his house once again. He lives about 1 km. from the school (by Guatemalan measurements; by US standards, it seemed more like a couple of miles.)
The last few blocks are through an uneven alley, and a path along the side of a wash-out from previous flooding in the area. There was no way a power chair could safely pass through this area, and we explained this to Karla on the way in.

She continued to advocate for Josue, however, telling us how his mother would carry him the blocks we had just walkd. Remember, he is 15 years old, and she is an average size Guatemalan middle aged woman (i.e. pretty tiny). She would then pay 10Q a day (about $1.25) to take him to school in a tuk-tuk (a motorcycle taxi).

If this lady had such determination to help her son, we would have to see what we could do. Arriving to the house, the use of a power chair seemed even more impossible. They live at the bottom of a steep stairway—if you can call the rocks and cement blocks stacked on top of one another a stairway.

There was absolutely no way a power chair could get into this home. In fact, it was too unstable to even safely carry up a standard therapeutic wheelchair.

Our only hope was to find someone who lived up near the road, who would be willing to store and charge Josue’s power chair each night. Not a total solution, since mom would still have to get him to the road, but it would at least save her the tuk-tuk fare.

Unknown to us until last night, It just so happens, that Karla, the teacher, lives off the alley, near where it meets the road. It also just so happens that she has a nice, secure cement block garage, with a ramp leading up to it. Finally, it just so happens that she was more than willing to house and charge the chair. (Finding someone willing to pay for the few cents of electricity this uses is usually quite a challenge, even if we can find someone to house the chair.) This was no small Godincident, and without this arrangement, there is no way Josue would have a chair.

So this morning we met Josue and his mother at Karla’s house, and Dick set about fitting the chair. After about 45 min. of work, it was ready for Josue to test-drive.

Josue took to driving this chair like a duck to water. He steered errorlessly out of the living room and into the hallway, not even touching any of the surrounding furniture. Dick said he was the fastest learner he had ever seen. So we decided to try the street.

It was only about a block to the street through the alley, but this was not without challenges. Two metal grates with holes large enough to trap the front wheels, and another two steep ramps had to be conquered. These were somewhat crudely problem solved, and Josue was able to practice driving on the road he would take to school. He attracted quite a bit of attention going down the street, and it was very cool to see the number of his neighbors who were celebrating his independence.

The final miracle of these chairs was that we should not have even had them available for these boys who we had not met until August. Many months ago, Rob, an expert in power chairs, had shipped these chairs from Canada to use in teaching some of the guys a Bethel’s wheel chair shop in Chimaltenango more about power chairs. As things often go here, the container did not arrive in time; if it had, these chairs would probably have been given out long ago. In fact, they only arrived recently, so the chairs were available when Dick requested two power chairs for these young men in August.

Here’s what I think is the neatest part. We always say that God knows our needs and is already preparing a way to provide for us before we even ask. Well, think about it. When these chairs were sent from Canada, Luis’ grandfather did not even know about power chairs. The chairs were shipped before they were asked for, but held in port until they would be needed by these two young men. God had planned to meet Luis’ and Josue’s need before they knew about it, before we knew about it. This give a human face and experience to the words we so often claim but I think seldom really understand:
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or imagine, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever, and ever, Amen.

Eph. 3: 20-21


Saturday, September 1, 2012


(Click on any picture to enlarge)

A few weeks ago pastor Mike, a few other people and myself took a small group of people from the USA along with us to distribute about 30 Sawyer water filters in a small village that is located in the mountains above Rabinal. Rabinal is a town that is located 37 miles as the crow flies from here. Unfortunately we could not all fit on a crow so we had take two four wheel drive rigs. When the road to Rabinal was built the engineers did not exactly follow the crow either so instead of having to drive 50 kilometers you end up putting on more like 180 kilometers and this takes a good 5 hours with out any lunch or potty stops. We did both along with stops to visit with 2 people that I know and repair their broken wheelchairs. The hotel in Rabinal is nothing to brag about but after convincing them to turn the water back on for about an hour most of us got showers before heading off to bed.

The next morning we met up with Julia, a local school principal who we often work with. She accompanied us to the village where we did the wheelchair distribution. I had it easy this time because Lou, who works with Sawyer did the demonstration. Lou did a great job and all of 30 families that had been invited to the distribution really listened and even asked a lot of questions. I have no doubt that they will use these filters. Mike wrapped up the presentation by telling the people about Jesus, The Living Water.

We had intended on taking the shorter rout back, but found out that this 120 kilometer narrow dirt road had a land slide the night before and no one knew when it would be reopened. On our way out I asked the crew if they would like to hike in to see a family that I knew. Mom had died a few years earlier but dad and some of his 6 kids still lived in a small mud brick house that was about a 10 to 15 minute hike from where we could get to by 4 wheel drive. The decision to do so was nearly unanimous and after convincing Mike that I would not leave him too far behind in the dust like the last time that we did some thing like this, we all hiked in. As it turned out the laugh was on me because I over shot the turn off to Ruben's house and those that were following me did the same so Mike ended up getting there first.

Ruben is 19 years old and has CP. Even when mom was alive the family had a hard time caring for Ruben, and ever since she died things have gotten even worse. Ruben's father is a likeable person but after his wife died he started drinking and much of what little money he was ever able to earn is now spent on alcohol. Last year Ruben's 12 year old sister dropped out of school to care for him but this year she has returned to school and Ruben is left sitting in his wheelchair all day. A few month ago I dropped in unexpectedly and Rubin was filthy. It appeared that no one had taken him to the bathroom or changed him in several days. Today on our way to the water filter distribution we saw father walking down the road towards Rabinal carrying a bundle of fire wood. Julia said that he was likely on way into town to sell it and that he would then use the money to get drunk. Evidently when Father saw us today he must have figured that we would likely stop by later so he turned back towards home because when we arrived at Ruben's home after the distribution we found father at home and Ruben was cleaned up.

I know that spending what little you have on alcohol can not be justified but I also know that this father loves his children. Loosing his wife and never being able to have enough food to feed and clothe his family has simply brought him to the end of his rope. Last year he asked me if there was any way to get Ruben into the orphanage. He said that he loved his son but also knew that if any of the children were to stay home to take care of him they would have to drop out of school and if he were to stay home he would not be able to cut fire wood or grow any crops. At that time I had promised him that I would look into it but told him that finding a place for a disabled 19 year old would be difficult. A few days after that I met with some of the staff of Hermano Pedro orphanage in Antigua but they told me that their teen section was full. On this visit father once again asked me if I could do anything. I told him that I would try but that I was pretty sure that the orphanage was full and that they had a long waiting list.

Last Wednesday I went in to Hermano Pedro to take some of the orphanage kids to Lunch. After lunch I decided to go over to Ximora's office and ask her if there were any openings in the teen section of the orphanage. Ximora told me that Luis one of the teen age boys had died that morning. Luis was one of the few residence of the orphanage that could actually walk. He was a tall boy who was kept in a cage so that he would not wonder off or hurt an of the other kids. Luis never responded much to other people so not many of the volunteers really got to know him. About a week ago he got very sick and may have even suffered a stroke. He was taken to the hospital but had gotten some what better so he was returned to the orphanage a few days later. Ximora then told me that Luis suddenly took a turn for the worse and had died earlier that morning. Ximora said that since this was just a few hours ago she was sure that no one had done anything about the vacancy. She said that if I could get Ruben into Hermano Pedro for an evaluation within the next day or 2 she would do her best to keep the spot open for Ruben.

At 4:30 the next morning Calin, Elder and I were on our way to pick up Ruben and his father. This was not an easy feat because I had to make sure that Father would have all of the necessary paper work ready by the time that I picked him up, and that I had an interpreter that could go with me. It was not until after midnight that I got things worked out so that Calin could miss school to come along. We decided to take a chance on the land slide being cleared and the shorter rout to Rabinal being open because this would cut out about an hour and a half travel time each way.

The road was open and we made it there in less than 5 hours. the last hour and a half made us wonder if it was worth it though because the dirt road was very narrow, muddy and bumpy. The hike up to Ruben's house only took us about 10 minutes but we knew that it would take much longer coming out. Ruben, and his wheelchair would have to be carried down the mountain to my car.

Only Ruben and one of his brothers were at home when we arrived. Ruben's brother told us that his father had gone down to Rabinal to get the necessary paper work but that he should be back at any time now. Any time here in Guatemala can mean exactly that, only with out the word now behind it. I must admit that I was a bit worried that once dad got into town he may decide that moonshine was more important than Paper work and I was really relieved when less than an hour later I saw him walking up the trail to their home.

Father and brother took Ruben into the house to clean him up but he came out looking much the same. I suggested to father that he take a few extra sets of clothes along for himself and for Ruben but he told me that what they were wearing were all that they owned. After looking into the bedroom I think that he may have been telling me the truth. Papa then hoisted Ruben onto his back and we started out hike down the mountain.

When we got to my Land Cruiser I could see that father had been crying. Ruben also had tears in his eyes. I told them that this had to be their decision and that I would not be angry if they changed their minds but they both reassured me that they felt that this was the right thing to do.

A little over 5 hours later we were in Antigua. I stopped off at Hermano Pedro to get some paper work so we could put them up at Casa De-fay for the night and also went in and talked to Ximara to let her know that we had made it. She told us that she had already made an appointment for us to see the doctor at 8:00 the following morning. After dropping them off at Casa De-fay I headed for home quite exhausted. I had an hour and a half to rest before I had to go over to a birthday party that was being held for Calin's 74 year old grandmother. I was suppose to go and watch several of my boys play Soccer after the party but it lasted much longer than expected so the game finished before the birthday party did.

From there on I can remember nothing until my alarm went off at 6:20 the next morning. It would have been easy for me to turn over and go back to sleep but I knew that Hermano Pedro was going out of their way to see if we could get Ruben admitted into the orphanage. Before picking up Ruben and his dad I stopped off at Marie's and had breakfast with Pat. Pat had several other things scheduled for the day but graciously canceled them all so that she could help me try and get Ruben admitted into the orphanage. Our visit with the doctor went well. The doctor gave us some paper work and told us that we had to see the neurologist and then go to social work. It was then that we ran into a major hurtle. Not only was the neurologist not in but he would not be in until Tuesday of next week. As Pat and I were discussing where we would have Ruben and his father stay for 5 days the receptionist told us that not only was he booked up for Tuesday but unless there was a cancellation he would have no openings for the next few months. We then went back to the doctor and asked if there was another neurologist that we could see. She told us that normally that would be OK but that this was the only one who had authorization to recommend that Ruben be admitted into Hermano Pedro. We then went and talked to social work and also to Ximora. They both told us that it was policy that the neurologist had to OK things before we could go any further but that they would see if anything could be done. All I can say is if I ever said anything bad about Hermano Pedro in the past that I take it all back. In the next few hours everyone was scrambling to figure out how to make it possible for Ruben to become a resident of Hermano Pedro. Social work agreed to have an interview with Ruben and his father and Ximora went to work on seeing to it that if he was accepted into Hermano Pedro that he could see the neurologist after he got admitted instead of before. Pat and I went in to talk to Social work first and they listened carefully to what we told them. then it was Rubin and his father's turn. Pat and I both knew that this meeting could take well over an hour and that simply waiting out for a decision would drive us both crazy. (OK I fess up it would drive me crazy) We decided that we would be better off doing something so we decided to take 2 of the orphanage kids out to lunch. Just as we were about to leave we saw a lady who had a little boy with her. The little boy had CP and was in a wheelchair that was twice his size. We were both already on overwhelm but we could not help but ask his mother if this was his wheelchair. She told us that it was the hospital's and that she was only borrowing it for the day. She said that he had no wheelchair at home and that she had to carry him wherever he went. She went on to tell us that she was a widow with 5 children and that she had adopted this little boy after his parents had abandon him. We quickly filled out a wheelchair application and assured her that we would soon be getting a wheelchair for the little boy. Another Godincident was that Flori a friend of ours who also lives in Santa Rosa just happened to be in the hospital. Flori lives in the same town, 3 hours away and will stay in contact with her. we were sure glad that we were not to busy to stop and talk to this lady.

We still managed to take Byron and Julio to lunch and they were both so good that we actually relaxed a bit. That is until I got a call from Ximora. She told us that social work had agreed to accept Ruben but that they needed his birth certificate before they could do any paper work or allow him to stay. Birth certificate? Wow! I had told papa to bring all kinds of paper work but had failed to mention a birth certificate. I asked Ximora if she could delay going to lunch for 5 minutes while we ran back to Hermano Pedro to see what could be done. We made a fast exit from Camperos and headed back towards Hermano Pedro as fast as we could. As we rounded the corner only 2 blocks away from the orphanage I saw a lady with a little boy. I thought to myself "I hope that this little boy does not need a wheelchair, I simply do not have time for this." I then noticed that mom was limping badly and looking straight at me. Sure enough when she got op to me she said "Sorry to bother you but I have seen you from time to time when I am in to see the doctors at Hermano Pedro. I do not like to beg but I need 100 Q for some medicine. I have 40 Q but need another 60 Q for the medicine." She went on to explain that she had cancer. She had been operated on several times but the cancer had now returned and she was beyond the stage of needing surgery. I was then reminded of my own sister Fay who died of Cancer. She was supported by friends and a loving family. This lady had no one except her 5 year old son. By this time Pat had caught up and offered to talk to this lady while I met up with Ximora. I knew that Pat would make sure that this lady was on the up and up and was not trying to swindle us. Both of us already felt that she was on the up and up though.

When I finally got to the orphanage Ximora was still waiting for me. I apologized for causing her to miss most of her lunch break but she told me "No problem." She confirmed what I thought she had told me over the phone. We had all green lights except for the birth Certificate that was back in Rabinal. Papa could not go back on the buss because the orphanage could not admit Ruben until he had a births certificate and there was no one that could look after Ruben if papa went back home. If they both went back I would have to take them so it looked like all 3 of us would have to go. All of this would have to be done by Monday because the neurologist had been contacted by social work and had agreed to squeeze Ruben into his already full schedule. Another little problem was that RENAP where the birth certificate was at was not open on Saturday or Sunday. Don't take me wrong I like Rabinal but 3 trips in 2 weeks is a bit much. I made a quick phone call to Julia my friend in Rabinal and she agreed to go in to RENAP and get the birth certificate for us. She would have to hurry though because it was nearly 3:00 and RENAP closes at 4:00 PM. Social work agreed to let Father and Rubin stay at Casa De-fay until Monday and if they had the birth certificate by then he could then move into Hermano Pedro on Monday. One little catch though I would have to be the one to go and get the Birth Certificate. Not exactly my idea of a restful week end but if it meant getting Ruben into the orphanage I was willing to do it. Suddenly one of the social workers came up with a brain storm. if the RENAP in Rabinal had record of Ruben's birth certificate on their computer why would it not be on the computer at the Antigua RENAP that was located across town. It was now 3:30 PM. We had a half hour. At 3:10 we arrive at RENAP there is a line up of about 6 people but it moves quite fast and we see some one at 3:15. The man at the computer immediately finds the right file and prints it up. We are told that we must pay 11 Q or roughly $1.40. No problem, I would rather pay $100 then have to spend the week end going back and forth to Rabinal again. Problem! the 11 Q had to be paid at a bank that was several blocks away. Evidently they can not trust government workers with big amounts of money like $1.40. It is now 3:22 PM and the guard at the door reminds Pat and Me that he will be locking the door at 4:00 PM. We decide to go on foot. If one of us does not have a hart attack we should be able to make it. I do not know what time it was when we arrived at the bank because we were both to exhausted to look at our watches. What we did look at though was the long line of people in front of us. there was no way that we could pay the 11 Q and make it back to RENAP by 4:00 PM but we decide that we just as well pay for the paper work since we were there anyway. At 4:08 we finally get our receipt. I thought about taking a leisurely walk back with Pat but that just maybe they would stay open a little longer for us. Besides that if I did not die from a hart attack on the way to the bank perhaps I was in better shape than I thought so I grabbed the paper from Pat and told her to take her time. There was no way that I could do CPR on Pat as tired as I was and as much as I put Pat through today I doubt that she would even attempt to do it on me if she were with me. As I rounded the corner I could see that the door to RENAP was locked and what seemed to be the last of the workers were heading for home. I headed to my car where I assumed Rubin and his father would be waiting for me but they were not there. I walked back to RENAP and noticed a doorbell next to the door. Even though everything appeared to be locked up tight I figured that it would not hurt to try it. Less than a minute later the same Guard that had told us that they closed at 4:00 PM opened the door and pointed to Ruben and his Father who were patently sitting there waiting for me. By the time Pat arrived we had Rubin's birth certificate in hand.

Rubin and his father are spending the weekend in Casa De-Fay. Pat is doing laundry and resting up at her house. I thought about resting up today but instead I ended up writing this long winded journal.

Faith can move mountains,
but don't be surprised if God hands you a shovel.

Matthew 6:34

The Message

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Yours in Christ: Dick