* 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



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