* 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)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

More Wheelchiars Given Out.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hanging Out With Mat.

My Friend Mat Smeltzer came for a week's visit. This is not Mat's first visit. He has been to several of the camps that we have for people with disabilities that live here in Guatemala. This time Mat did not come for camp though but among other things he got to spend a lot of time at one of his other favorite places, Hermano Pedro Orphanage.

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.

Then He said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

Luke 9:48

Yours in Christ: Dick

Mat wrote the following.

I asked Dick if he would be willing to drive me to Tecpan to visit a young girl named, Estefani that I’ve been sponsoring for several years. I told him that it would be worth the trip, because her family is so special. He was very willing to do so, because he wanted to visit several other families in that area too. So that morning, I met him and Pat Duff at Hermano Pedro. Which by the way is an awesome way to start any morning. I love hanging out with those kids!

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

(Click on any photo to enlarge)

Written by Pat

(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)

Mirna with Amy DeYoung, from New Life School
and Amy’s dog, Boby

One of the things that I enjoy about being up at Santa Maria de Jesus is being able to serve as an “intermediary” between the needs in Santa Maria and some of the other ministries in the Antigua area. For a while now, Dick has been wanting to get a new, better fitting wheelchair up to Mirna, and with just a little prodding from me, (My back side still hurts. Dick) today we are doing just that.

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!)

Mirna in her (obviously) too small wheelchair

Anyway, fast forward to the present. About a year ago (November, 2010) Mirna developed a very deep and serious bedsore which has had her confined to bed for most of 2011. With the excellent care given her by her mom, and a lot of people praying for her, the sore has now healed to the point where she can once again sit in a wheelchair. Hence, our trip today.

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

Pat writes-

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 (“Prayers needed for Jorge.”) 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. . .


Dick writes-

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:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Psalm 139:13-16

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
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.

This precious little girl stole my hart the minute that I met her at a Hopehaven wheelchair distribution a few weeks ago. Granted Gema was born without arms and with only one leg but I had a great aunt who made a bigger deal about the wart on the end of her nose. I guess we all have something to complain about if we try hard enough but Gema seems to be to busy living life to worry about small things like a few missing limbs. She seems to be one of the most well adjusted self confident young ladies that I have met in a long time.

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!

Good night:
Yours in Christ: Dick