* 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)
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Hanging Out With Mat.
On one of the days that Mat was here we were joined by some friends that work at the Hope Haven wheelchiar factory over on the other side of Antigua and took 5 of the teen age girls for the orphanage out to lunch. This was a real treat for both us and the girls from the orphanage. Mat was especially pleased since he got to take Christina his favorite out to lunch. I am going to let Mat tell you about a visit to another little girl named Estefani. Mat has been sponsoring her for several years now.
Yours in Christ: Dick
Mat wrote the following.
Before we drove to Tecpan we stopped to get Dick’s new hearing aide. Pat said, “Now we can’t talk about him as much.” However. It didn’t hinder our ability in that area one bit. We had snacks and drinks in the truck. And we were ready for a long day of visiting many different families.
When we arrived at Estefani’s village some neighbors were staring at us, because no one knew we where coming. We walked up to her house and greeted her mother. In the middle of introducing Dick and Pat, Estefani saw me from her house and came running out to give me a big hug. Momma invited us in, so that we could visit with the rest of the family. Dick hit it right on the head when he said to Estefani‘s father, “ When I met you all, I could tell there is a lot of love between you. But you have even more than that. This house is filled with the love of Jesus.”
We had such a wonderful time visiting with Estefani’s family and eating lunch with them, we never made it to the other stops on our to-do-list.
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Marna gets a new wheelchair
(I know, but if you go to Pat's Blog you will see for yourself that turnabout is fair play. There is some stuff that she wrote that I didn't swipe so you may want to check it out. Dick)
and Amy’s dog, Boby
My connection with Mirna actually started the day I met Dick in 2007. Deb Reeg, Dave Penner and I had just visited Hermano Pedro for the first time and had taken some kids to lunch with Dick. When we returned, Dick asked if we wanted to go with him to visit a “traditional Mayan village” not far from Antigua. We jumped at the chance, and he took us to visit Mirna, to measure her for her first power chair.
That day was very humbling for me. We visited the family an unpainted cement block bedroom where Mirna was watching TV. It was my first time entering a home, and I was more than a little uncertain of how to act. It was especially uncomfortable for me, too, since I was the only one of the four of us who spoke much Spanish, and believe me, my Spanish wasn’t that good. (Just good enough so people expected that I would understand what they said, not good enough that I did understand!)
I was almost brought to tears by their poverty, though I’ve come to realize now that I live here, that this family does better than many we work with. I was more moved, though, by their obvious love and affection for Mirna, and the great care she was given. That was no small task for her mother who had 9 children, including Mirna with Cerebral Palsy, and three older children who were deaf.
We visited Mirna, and while Dick measured her for a chair, her mom sent one of her sisters out to get us juice and cookies. It was so hard to accept this simple gift of hospitality, since I was pretty sure they had spent more than a meal’s worth of quetzales to buy us this treat. God spoke to me in that moment, teaching me that real humility was gratefully accepting a gift from someone who could not afford to give it to you. I ate every bite and drank every drop, praying all the time that I wouldn’t get sick from eating “local” food. (I didn’t, but I was sooooo careful then! The people who trained me on “hygiene practices in a Third World country” would cringe if they followed me around now! And I’ve not gotten sick from food given me in villages, praise God, but I have from food eaten in so called good restaurants!)
We aren’t bringing her a power chair yet. Her arms and hands have deteriorated to the point where she cannot drive a hand operated chair, and will need some kind of head controlled model. Before investing the time in rigging that up, though, Dick wants to make sure that sitting in a chair will be possible for her without causing the bedsore to erupt again.
This chair, though, will give her the ability to move around her house more, sit at the table to eat with her family, and hopefully even get out into the community sometimes. Our goal is for her to be able to attend the afternoon girls’ Bible Study Amy DeYoung teaches once a week at the school.
To say Mirna was excited with her chair is an understatement. She beamed like a teenager with a new car. And, placing her in the chair, we all realized how contorted her arms and legs have become without therapy. We discussed it and I will be returning a couple times of week to do stretching exercises with her to see if we can get her into a better sitting position.
And once again I realized, the chair and the therapy are important for Mirna. What is more important, though, is her knowing that we care, and more importantly that God sees her in her need and isolation and has sent us to her. What a privilege. . .
Monday, April 2, 2012
Watching God At Work in My Kids
A few days ago, while we were up visiting Norman and Vicki Sutton in San Andres, we received a call from the Hernandez family in Cerro Colorado. Herlindo, the oldest son, had fallen on his bike and severely broke his arm. Could we get them to the clinic in Santa Lucia where we had taken his sister Estrella when she had broken her arm last year.
Ordinarily we would drop what we were doing to help this family. Though Mom can be fairly difficult, both Dick and I have a strong tie to the family. Their oldest son, Rony, had died about a year ago from Muscular Dystrophy. We had promised at the time that we would not “abandon” them as the children had feared because we no longer needed to check on Rony’s chair.
This time it was different, though. We were hours away from Antigua, which is a couple of hours from their home near the coast. This time the family would have to handle things on their own. We did tell them that we would call Carlos, the office manager for Bethel Ministry, and ask him to deposit funds in her account so she should take Herlindo to the clinic.
After numerous confusing and sometimes frustrating phone calls, it was determined that Herlindo would need surgery on his arm and needed to go to the National Hospital in Esquintla. Mom had told Dick that he would be released from the hospital today, so we planned on heading out to take him home.
As things often go with the communication here, we found out just shortly before we were to leave that he would not be released today. When Dick called I heard in his voice his indecision about whether or not we should still head down or wait till he would be released. We decided to go, since we could still try to visit him, and both of us wanted to see Jorge, a young man with spina bifida who lives in La Gomera.
Soon, Dick, Marcos, Miguel, and Esbin picked me up. This turned out to be exactly what we believe God wanted us to do.
We had been wanting to see Jorge since a friend, Daryl Fulp, had told us the doctors from a Faith in Practice team at Hermano Pedro had recommended amputating part of his foot. (To read more about this, click here to read ) We hoped to get done in time to visit Herlindo during the hospitals “generous” visiting hour of 1-2pm.
We visited with Jorge’s mom for a while, and got her thoughts and opinions on the surgery. This whole decision was breaking her heart, and she seemed encouraged by our visit. We then went over to the school a few blocks away to see Jorge.
When we entered the gate of the school, we saw Jorge surrounded by his classmates, listening to music on his phone. This is such a blessing to see, as many children in wheelchairs are pretty ostracized in the schools here
We obtained permission for Jorge to go to lunch with us, and soon were off to a local “comedor” (diner). We had hoped to visit with Jorge some during lunch, but the boys immediately commandeered their own table. It was great fun watching them, though, as they were typical teenage boys wolfing down food. This isn’t an opportunity Jorge gets very often, so that made it extra special.
After lunch we went back to Jorge’s house and finally approached the topic of the surgery. He was dead set against this, and even has threatened to harm himself if forced to go through with the surgery. We assured him of our love for him, no matter what his decision, but that we needed to make sure he understood what would happen if he didn’t have the surgery.
We then gently confronted his threat to self-harm, asking him to make a verbal contract that he would not harm himself and call one of us if he felt like it. He listened pretty intently, but would not make the commitment. During this time, Marcos, Esbin and Miguel had been quietly listening. But now, Miguel began talking. . .doing a better job than either Dick or I (or probably any professional counselor) could, encouraging Jorge to face the facts, and move forward. This sounds harsh, but Miguel did it in such a compassionate way that he really seemed to get through to Jorge. When Miguel was finished talking, I asked Jorge if he would like Miguel to come with when he went to the hospital for the surgery, and he immediately shook his head yes.
During the time Miguel was talking, I had been watching Esbin as tears filled his eyes. When we were done, I asked Esbin if he would like to pray for Jorge, and he agreed without hesitation. Now this may seem like no big deal, but, as Dick commented, a few years ago this young man was one of the most foul mouth kids around, and is still somewhat shy about praying aloud. But he did, and it was beautiful as we felt the Holy Spirit fall upon us as he interceded for Jorge and his family. I was moved to tears.
When we got back into the car, I told the three boys that I had never been more proud to be their friend than I was at this very moment. (Marcos had earlier “translated” my Spanish into “good” Spanish as we explained to a lady how she could get an examination at Hermano Pedro. Marcos’ English is not that good, but he does an excellent job of understanding what I am trying to say and conveys it efficiently and compassionately. He’s been with us enough that he knows the routine as well as I do.) Dick affirmed everything I had said and added a few compliments of his own.
As I write this, I realized that God had taught Dick and me how we did not need to take care of everything ourselves—but that we were to be the conduit that brought the people together who need ministry and can do ministry. It has been our belief all along that we are here to support the Guatemalans, not do things for them, and, watching the boys take over today (and knowing how well Carlos had taken care of Herlindo) confirmed that this is the direction our ministry is going. While we could not have orchestrated these events, our Father certainly did, and it’s amazing to reflect on it. After all, as I often tell people in the villages, we are only God’s workers. . .
I want to update you on 2 more of my boys. Any of you that have kept up with my journals over the past few years knows that Calin and Jason have been 2 of my biggest challenges. During the first few years Calin spent about as much time being kicked out of my house as he did in the house, and it was just a little over a year ago that we found Jason after he ran away from his home and disappeared for 2 months.
Calin and Jason are once again out of my house. I have not seen either of them in several days. Fact is they are no longer in the country. Am I worried about them? A little, but no more worried than the average parent who's son or daughter had gone to another country on a mission trip. This time they have gone with my blessing. That's right these 2 young men and several other Christian teens from Chimaltenango have gone to Nicaragua on a mission trip. They will be spending the next several days in Nicaragua sharing their faith in a number of churches and public schools. I will tell you all about their trip when they return in a few days. Better yet I will have them tell you about it!
I stand in awe of what I see God doing in the harts and lives of several of the teens that hang out at my house. To God be the glory!
Yours in Christ: Dick
Sunday, April 1, 2012
you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I'd even lived one day.
Granted having only one leg does make it hard for her to get around but thanks to a new manual wheelchair that we fitted her into her father no longer has to carry her down the narrow trail that leads form their home to the public school that is in her village. The desk that one of the workers at the Hopehaven factory retrofitted to her foot rest also makes it easier for her to do her school work. (Gema does all of her writing with her foot)
I could not help but think though that this independent 6 year old would be thrilled if she could have a second wheelchair that she could control on her own. This is where my friend Jack Craigs comes into play. Or I guess I should say came into play. A few years ago Jack who is a wheelchair technician came Guatemala to work with Bethel Ministries for a few days. When Jack came down he brought along a small kid's size power wheelchair that was in near new condition. I am not sure weather the previous owner had outgrown it or had passed away but Jack told us that he felt that God had told him that there was some special person that needed it here in Guatemala. How this beautiful chair managed to stay in our shop for all these years without being given out remains a mystery to me but somehow it managed to stay tucked away in a corner waiting for that perfect little girl that it was meant for. Last week Rob Rich, another wheelchair technician who came down from Canada to work with Bethel for a week and myself went to work on converting this power wheelchair into a foot controlled power wheelchair, and adjusting it so that it would be the perfect size for Gema, and a few days ago Rob, 2 of my boys (Fernando a and Bryan) and myself drove to a small village that is located between Xela and Huehuetenango to deliver Gema's power wheelchair to her. We had a bit of a time finding the place but finally arrived at the school a few hours before dark. We quickly discovered that the trail from the school to there home was to narrow to accommodate a power wheelchair but the people in the village promised that they would widen it and even pave it if necessary. Gena lives in a rather large house by Guatemalan standards and her yard is perfect for a power wheelchair so we decided to some how get it from the school to her home. This was not all that easy especially considering that it was now raining but with the use of an old wheelbarrow and some strong backs we managed to get the wheelchiar to her house without damaging it or our backs.
Rob and I then went to work on doing some final adjustments. Fernando served as interpret and Bryan was the camera man. As well as the 4 of us and Gema there had to be at least a dozen family members crowded into the room that we were working in. Within a half hour Gema was ready for a final fit and a driving lesson. Gena was a natural and in no time at all she was on her way out of the door and into her yard exploring a whole new world.
The family thanked us over and over again but we explained that even thought there were many ministries and people involved it getting this chair to the perfect person that it was meant to go to. We were only the delivery boys and the thanks was to go to God. I must admit though that it was so neat see how God had used so many ministries and individuals in getting Gena the 2 wheelchairs that He had chosen for her long before we ever met her. To God be the Glory!
Yours in Christ: Dick
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Hermano Pedro Orphanage
Yours in Christ: Dick
Hermano Pedro Orphanage
Entries from Students Journals
Today was the last day at the orphanage, and again, it was AMAZING. My team did grate and loved on the kids. Overall, the day we had to say goodbye couldn’t have gone more perfectly. Dick, the man we met Tuesday came and spoke to us tonight at our hotel and it was amazing to hear his story. He talked about the love that he saw us give to the kids at Hermano Pedro. He told us his story and how he started his mission in Guatemala. It was remarkable to hear him talk about how these little children are no different then us. How everyone is disabled in some way, these kids just happen to be visibly, physically disabled, and that God allowed it for a reason, “God don’t make junk,” he said. He explained the perfectness of how God made them, they were exactly how they were meant to be. I experienced first hand the astounding fact that for some reason, these children who don’t say anything at all, can say so much. The kids there have blessed me more than I could have ever blessed them and have literally changed my life. And I believe that that is their purpose, little humans that are put on this earth to show others a glimpse of the pure unconditional love of God.
The one thing that scared me the most was when Dick started to explain that if going to the orphanage didn’t leave you in tears, if those kids didn’t break your heart, then you didn’t let them really touch your heart. I was scared that I had missed it, that I had gone all four days and left with nothing, but later that night we went up stairs to worship, and much to my surprise, the tears started rolling. The song Hosanna started playing and I couldn’t compose myself. The words talked about God breaking my heart for what breaks his and showing me how to love like he loves me. I felt like, for the first time in my life, I could sing that song from experience. My heart was broken for these beautiful children and I had learned to unconditionally love them in spite of their imperfections just like God unconditionally loves me in spite of my own. This feeling is indescribable and I pray that I never forget how impacted I was from the little miracles at Hermano Pedro.
While at the orphanage I spent all my time with one little boy. He didn’t look at me in the eye much, but he clung to my hands and refused to let go. Destiny un-belted him from the chair he lives in and placed him in my lap. He did not say one word to me but I was overwhelmed with emotion while he put his fingers between mine and refused to let go even to be put back in his seat. I prayed for him the whole time I was there. Lifting him up to his heavenly father only increased the love I had for him. A few days after I went to the orphanage, Dick came in and talked to us saying, “We are all disabled.” That hit me hard. Just because that little boy’s disabilities are more visible than mine doesn’t make him any less of a beautiful creation of God. I cant wait to see him in heaven one day, where there is no more disabilities.
I went to the orphanage with the least amount of emotions I could possibly not contain and left it swimming in thoughts and feelings. I didn’t want to go in with expectations because I would only be horrified if they were worse or better than the expected. My emptiness turned into children that were normal except for their physical cages: there bodies. And all they wanted was love, and we could so easily give it if we only open ourselves to it. They taught me about humans, we are not bodies, we are what is on the inside. Outside circumstances can never diminish that inner value that we all possess. We are valuable; from those that where crowns to those that lie wasted and filthy on the street.
I had been praying for weeks to see a baby with a cleft pallet because I was born with one, but when my team was coming back they were talking about their time at Hermano Pedro and said that they were not allowed to see the babies. So I kept praying. I went on Friday and I was spending time with this little boy when we were asked to help throw a birthday party for everyone with birthdays in the month of February. We fed them cake. When I went back to the kids, my little boy was gone, so I went back and helped clean up the birthday party. While I was there my teacher asked me if I wanted to go see the babies and I almost cried. So we went in groups of 4 for 10 minutes and I was in the first group. Right off the bat I found a little girl named Rosalina that had the same exact cleft pallet that I had when I was born. This little girl held my finger so tight and smiled, I felt like we had such a connection. Her smile was beautiful even though she had a cleft pallet. I was singing to her and then I started crying so I had to leaver her there and step outside because I didn’t want her to see me cry. When I was done, my teacher introduced me to a mother and her baby, Lorenzo, who was having surgery on his cleft pallet on Sunday, so we prayed for him and the family. For a long time I had been wondering why; why me, why did I have to have a cleft pallet. Statistically I should not have one, but God had His own plan and I feel so relieved that that question is no longer in my mind. I know why.
I wasn’t nervous until we arrived. I heard loud moans and cries. My stomach dropped. I don’t usually think past my own life, familiar people, and the city I am in. Sometimes I trick myself into thinking that nothing else exists. I came to Hermano Pedro thinking I had experience. In reality I was as out of pace as anyone. People started praying with the kids, and the kids would laugh and smile. I looked around at all of the children sitting in their chairs who were not responding to me and it was frustrating in a way. I became angry. Why can’t they respond? This frustration soon changed to a sense of compassion. I felt a love for these children. I sat there holding a little girl’s hand playing music and singing to her. I looked to the sky. I was in a place of worship. We both sat there, glorifying God in two very different ways. I stared into her eyes knowing she was thinking and feeling something. She eventually squeezed my hand. I believe now that she was saying, “its OK. I am OK. Stay with me here.” Honestly, there is no way to articulate the affection in my heart. This feeling that hits me every time I think about this experience, if I try to tell people about it, they will never understand. I didn’t cry directly after I left. Later in the week I couldn’t hold in the tears as I reflected. All I can picture in my mind is beauty; God’s unique way of expressing His glory. I realize, there are so many people in this world; So many situations, so many stories, so many needs. Before my visit, these children would have never entered my mind. Now I think of them every day. God’s creation is so vast and unique, we can’t fathom. I am very appreciative to God that a barrier in my heart is now gone. I love the connection I was able to have. With no words, I felt the greatest love. A silent love, that speaks so loud in my heart.
Going into the orphanage, I didn’t really know what to expect. I was really nervous and I was just praying to connect with the people there. Once I got there I met a boy named Carlitos; he grabbed my hand and never let go. I spent my entire day with him and I fell in love with him. The craziest part is that he didn’t say one word to me the whole day, but I knew that when he smiled at me, he felt God’s love shining through me. The orphanage really made me appreciate my health but it also made my heart break. God really put it on my heart to do similar work back home. Hermano Pedro changed me, and I am so grateful.
The orphanage was an amazing experience that I will never forget. Seeing how much those kids just needed to be loved was heartbreaking, and just made me want to love them even more. I was extremely scared and did not know what to expect. I was afraid that I would not know what to do or how to love them, but I asked for God’s grace and He completely worked through me. Watching how Tessa and Destiny interacted with the kids helped show me what to do as well. I am incredibly grateful that I got to do that and I hope I impacted someone’s life whether they remember me or not.
Dear Tessa and Destiny, going into this trip I had a fear! It was a fear I didn’t think about much, but I was reminded of this fear before entering the orphanage. This fear was one day being the father of a disabled child. I didn’t know how I would be able to love a child like that and I didn’t think I could handle it. Going into the orphanage I did not know what to expect. Most of the children I tried to speak with or touch did not respond and my heart sunk wondering, “how do you share the love of God with someone who cannot speak, or have understanding of what you say?” But I know that God has a place for them in heaven. After a while, I got to sit with a child who could barely move and just laid in my lap. Every time I spoke or just touched him, he smiled with joy. My understanding of the disabled changed that day and my fears for my future child were left behind.
My experience at the orphanage was absolutely amazing, and no amount of words can fully describe how I felt and how it affected me. It was difficult to put myself out there in the beginning, but God just pulled at my heart and showed me that all these kids want is love. For me, all it took was one smile to fall in love with these kids. Just a simple smile from one of them would rip your heart out. I was fortunate enough to really bond and connect with a boy named Edgar. Edgar was an alcohol and drug baby. He would bang his head, and often chew his hand to the point of bleeding, but all he wanted was love. I learned that Edgar loved music and the sound of a maraca. When he would bob his head, I would rather think of it as dancing than a “disability” or a “problem.” This boy smiled and danced with me and held my hand for all of 4 hours and that’s all it took for me to fall in love and come back the next day. I was able to bond with some other kids as well such as, Lito. This boy also stole my heart. The orphanage was definitely a life changing experience and one of the best things I’ve ever done. Deciding to attend the orphanage was the best decision I made that week. It really showed me God’s working hand. He showed me how to love on these kids. I went into the orphanage hoping to make an impact on someone’s life when in reality they impacted me.
My experience at the orphanage was completely life changing. I was very nervous about feeling uncomfortable wile I was there, but I know that if I hadn’t gone, it would have been one of my biggest regrets. I am so glad I did it because it opened my eyes to the thing I feared. Showing love to people who are looked down on by society gave me this fulfilling feeling. I got to spend my day playing with Elmer and talking to Arianna. They are just the best kids and I’m proud to say I got to love on them. I definitely have a new perspective on showing love to people.
My trip to the orphanage was amazing. Right when I got there, Erwin rolled up to me, grabbed my hand, and put it on his wheel chair, meaning he wanted me to push him around. I spent all five hours with him and had an inspiring time. When I had to leave, he grabbed my hand and put it around his shoulders so I could give hug him, and I did. Surprisingly, it was tough saying goodbye because I didn’t think I could connect with a kid so fast. Overall, I am SO glad I went and don’t regret a single bit of it.
When I first heard that we were going to go to an orphanage in Guatemala I was so excited! As the day drew closer however, I was becoming more and more scared until the day arrived. Then I was terrified! I had never helped with special needs kids. I didn’t know what to expect or what I was getting into. As part of the drama, I went on the last day. People told me that the kids would break my heart. The night before I prayed that God would let me have the strength and know what to do. When we got there I was immediately heart broken for these kids. They were all sitting in the courtyard and immediately I saw Tessa and Destiny grab a child and start loving on them like crazy. Suddenly God totally took over and I played with a little boy named Denis. He wasn’t super responsive, but I sang to him and he moved like he was dancing. Then I went to celebrate the birthdays for the month of February, which was amazing. It was so cool to see so much joy on the faces of the people who were celebrating another year of life even with their condition. To finish off the day I had the privilege to go up and see the babies. I got to sing to them and pray for them, which was such an answered prayer. All in all, God showed me how to love unconditionally and answered all my prayers. I am so glad for what God did in this life.
Yours in Christ: Dick