* 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)

Friday, January 25, 2013

We received more than we gave.

Once again I was getting ready to sit down and do some journaling, but before doing so I decided to check my e-mail.   In it was a link that was sent to me by my friends Chris and Donna Mooney of Bethel Ministries,  Although I did not accompany Chris and the teem on this particular trip I still felt led to print the following because I feel that it is a good example of how I am seeing God at work in this and other ministries that I have the privilege of being part of here in Guatemala. 

Yours in Christ:
Dick Rutgers    
2013 is off to a wonderful start. We are excited with the way things are shaping up, and would like to share the thoughts and memories of Evan, one of our first friends down for the year. Join us walking through a week in Reu, Guatemala!
Chris and Donna Mooney 

On January 11, my morning Bible study group left for a 1 week service / mission trip to Guatemala.  This group, made up of Leonard Hoekstra, Leon Vanden Bosch, Steve De Ruyter, Dennis De Jager, my brother Don, and me, has been meeting together every other Wednesday for nearly 20 years.  We teamed up with Bethel Ministries International, an organization started by missionaries Chris and Donna Mooney in Guatemala over 15 years ago.  Bethel ministers in several ways, including building homes, distributing food and wheelchairs.  They have an office and workshop in the city of Chimaltenango that employs about a dozen people, including several handicapped persons who recondition wheelchairs.  Work groups like ours are scheduled to come in every other week, and work in various parts of Guatemala with Chris and his staff.

Guatemala is a country in Central America right below Mexico.  It is an extremely poor nation because there is very little industry or jobs available, so many have not had the opportunity to get an education.  Approximately 60% of the people in Guatemala are Christians. It is a democracy where the mayors hold a lot of power.  The mayor’s wife runs the social services agency in the city and surrounding area.  Chris works with the mayors and the social workers to help Bethel find the poorest of the poor.  Bethel finds out who needs a home by having the social worker make a recommendation, and then they send out a staff member to make sure of the need.  The houses are built on a 14'10" X 24' slab of concrete that usually is formed and poured by Bethel staff.   A work group then comes in and builds the house.  This home is not what we would consider a home, it is more like our tool sheds.  It is made of galvanized steel panels that look similar to grain bin panels.  The house is 14'10" X 18 with a 6 foot covered porch that contains a wood burning cook stove.  The house has a metal door and 2 glass windows.  They are also equipped with a bunk bed that has a double bed on the bottom and 2 single bunks above. The materials for a house, including the concrete, the bed, and stove costs about $2400.

The wheelchair ministry works similar to the house ministry.  Bethel puts the word out to the social workers and other volunteers months before the chair distribution.  These volunteers then get applications filled out for people needing wheelchairs and gets them back to Bethel.  The people who are approved are then told the date, time, and location of the distribution.  

 The food bags Bethel distributes contain 50 pounds of dried food and vitamins.  Each bag has several small bags of food from "kids Against Hunger”.  


Our groups plan was to build 3 houses, distribute 50 wheelchairs, 15 bags of food, and 70 Bibles.  We each took an extra suitcase that JFA gave us, and filled it with kids clothes, small toys, and candy.

Day One.  We arrived in Guatemala City a little after noon, and were picked up at the airport by Chris and his son-in-law, Saul who is a native of Guatemala.  We had a 5 hour ride to our motel in Retalhuleu.  The accommodations were better than I expected-not fancy, but clean, with cool AC and cold showers!  There was a small restaurant on the grounds that served pretty good food.

Day Two.  Time to build a house!  We were met at the motel by Doris, a social worker that Chris has worked with for years.  Bethel comes to this area 4 times and year, and Doris is extremely caring and helpful.  She took us to the edge of a village, where we walked about 100 yards through the woods to a shack where Pedro, his wife, and 3 daughters, ages about 5 to 8, lived.  The living conditions were almost indescribable.  The shack was about 12 x 12.  The walls were made up of a few boards and some branches.  There were so many holes, I think you could have thrown a baseball through it.  The roof was tin, but was so rusty, there were many holes in it.  The floor was dirt, and because it was built on a down slope, when ever it rained, everything got wet.  There were no beds so the girls slept on 3 rotted 1 x !2’s that had some rags over them for padding.  The cement pad was about 15 feet away from the shack.  We built the house, the bunk beds and the stove.  It takes a little over 3 hours to put everything together using the rechargeable power tools that Bethel has.  Chris and Saul have built many of these, and because Steve and Leonard had also built them before, it went really fast. We were glad it went fast because it was really hot!   We brought in a food bag, some clothes for the girls, as well as some toys and candy.  Chris ministered to the family while we were building the house and found out that they loved the Lord.  He also found out that the girls did not attend school because they went with their Dad and Mom every day to pick coffee beans so they could eat.  The girls each made about 50 cents for a whole day's work.  Now the girls will be sponsored through Bethel so they can attend school.  Chris prayed with the family, and then Pedro thanked God, and then us. He told us (with Chris interpreting, of course) that he never dreamed he could have a home this nice.

After a quick lunch, we went on 2 home visits.  Doris first took us to a Grandma taking care of her 2 young grandsons,  the parents were both very sick with aids, and their sister had already died of aids.  The grandma had no income ( there is no social security or welfare in Guatemala).  We brought in a food bag, clothes, and some candy.  Our next stop was a Grandma and Grandpa taking care of their orphaned 12 year old handicapped granddaughter, and 18 year grandson.  The grandson was the only wage earner in the house, but the Wednesday before had fallen out a tree harvesting coconuts and badly broke his femur.  They do have a government hospital near there, but the grandparents had to come with the money to buy the plates and screws to fix the leg before they would do surgery.  They did surgery on Friday, and sent him home on Sunday with no antibiotics or painkillers and the Grandparents had no money left to buy them.  We took a quick offering and gave the money to Doris so she could help them out.

Day Three.  We built another house.  This was for a mom and her 2 children who were living with grandma.  We had to carry everything down a dirt path that was about ¼ of a mile long. There were a lot of people living in the area, and we drew a lot of spectators.  After the home was built, we again gave food, clothes, and candy and had prayer with the family.  Again, Chris spent a lot of time with the family while we were building the house, and found out they too were Christians and were so thankful to God and to us.  We then drove about 2 hours to our next city, Champerico, where we were to stay for the next 2 nights.
Day Four.  Wheelchair day!  One of Bethels staff had driven a truck to Champerico loaded with 56 wheelchairs.  The distribution site was the courtyard of a school that was not in use.  We unloaded the truck, and watched the people carry their crippled family members.  It was a moving sight.  Every person that was approved for a wheelchair was given a number, and after Chris presented the gospel, and led in prayer, we started fitting people for chairs.  We worked in teams, and did our best to find a chair that fit their body, and adjust it so they would be comfortable in it. 

After they had their chair, a social worker took a picture and filled out documents so Bethel could keep track of the people.  They then spent 15 to 30 minutes visiting with one of the 4 local pastors who were there.  They were given a Bible, and presented the gospel.  Gods Spirit was very present that day.  Of the 56 people who were given a chair, 29 were Christians, 6 rejected the gospel, and 21 gave their lives to the Lord!  The local pastors divided up the names of the new Christians so they could follow up and continue to work with them.


 We then drove about 30 miles to a very poor rural area.  We made 3 home visits, again giving out food, clothes, toys, and candy while Chris presented the gospel, and then had prayer together.  The kids in the area saw our van, and before we knew it, there were close to 50 people by us, and more on the way.  We gave out a bunch of toys and candy to the kids before we left. 

Day Five.  We made 4 more home visits.  The first one was unforgettable.  A family of 10, along with the dad's mom, her 42 year old handicapped son, and a great grandma, 13 in all, lived in a 16X16 shack.  The father was a fisherman, and worked hard to try to feed his family.  We could tell right away that this was a family of strong faith.  When we realized how many people lived there, and could see how poor they were, we brought in a second bag of food, and lots of clothes.  The father was so overwhelmed that he fell to his knees and started praising and thanking God.  After a few minutes he choked up, and his Mother continued.  We all went to our knees and joined them.  Even though we could not understand the words, we could understand that these are our brothers and sisters in the Lord.  It was an incredible moment, one I will never forget.


After 3 more home visits, we piled back in the van for the 2 hour trip back to Retalhuleu.  We met up with Doris again, and she took us to the site where we built our third house.  This one was for a mom and her 3 kids who where living in a wooden shack that was smaller then 10 X 10.  All that was in the house was a mattress and a fireplace for cooking.  The family and extended family were extremely grateful for the home, food and clothes.

Day Six.  We traveled through the mountains for a 6 hour drive to Chimaltenango.  There are a lot of small vegetable and coffee farms in the mountains, so it was a very interesting ride.  We had a chance to tour the headquarters and wheelchair workshop of Bethel Ministries and meet most of the staff.  It is an extremely well run and efficient organization whose goals are to spread the gospel and help the poor in Jesus name.

Day Seven.  Time to go home.  Up at 4 AM to get to the airport.  Everything went well, and we arrived back about 6 PM.  We gave thanks to the Lord for a safe trip.

This was an incredible experience.  I was shocked by how horrible their living conditions are, and how terribly poor they are.  When they pray “Give us this day, our daily bread” they really mean it.  They are totally dependent on the Lord.  I was amazed by how strong their faith in God is, and how content they are.  I was humbled by how incredibly grateful they were for the little we gave them.  

Our whole group felt like we received more than we gave, but it really was a blessing to have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus.      

 Evan Vanden Bosch


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