* 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)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Last Week We Laughed. This Week We Cried."

(Click on any picture to enlarge.)

Out of all of the people that we give wheelchairs to I think that those with muscular dystrophy tare at my hart strings the most.  Most of them are healthy until they reach about 8 years old and then they start loosing strength in their arms and legs.  By the time they are about ten or eleven they are usually confined to a wheelchair and shortly within a few years they no longer have enough strength in their hands and arms to propel themselves.  I met the boy pictured above at Bethel's wheelchair shop a few days ago.  Only a few days prior I had returned a wheelchair to the shop that had belonged to a young man that had just died from Muscular dystrophy.  His widowed mother told me that he was her fourth son who had died from muscular dystrophy.  He was twenty five years old and had lived the longest of the four of her sons that had inherited this terrible disease.  The others were twenty two, twenty three and twenty four years old when they had died.  Mother sounded strong when she called and asked me to come an pick up his wheelchair.  When I arrived at her home mom appeared to be doing OK.  She said that she would feel good knowing that some one else would be able to benefit from it, and shared that it had been such a benefit to her son. She felt that being able to get out and go places with his chin controlled wheelchair helped keep her son stay alive as long as he did.  We visited for quite some time and mom said that she took comfort in knowing that her son was a Christian but she broke down in my arms as I was about to leave.  I am sure that she was also thinking of the other three sons that she lost as well as her husband who had died an alcoholic.  She said that having four sons with the same disease had been so hard on him that he took to drinking.  As I left I assured mom that we would find someone else that would benefit from her son's wheelchair.  A few days later when I met the boy pictured above I wished that I could have given it to him but the chair is in need of new batteries and we have none.  I did promise him that as soon as we get some we will call him back into the shop and get him into this power chair or one like it since he does not have the strength in his hands to operate the manual chair that he was given.


Last Wednesdayday I was at a Hope Haven Wheelchair distribution at their wheelchair factory in Chenico and met  the boy pictured here  who also has muscular dystrophy.  He still had some hand use but even though he is only eight years old he can no longer walk.  We gave him a manual wheelchair but I am afraid that it will not be long before he no longer will have enough strength in his arms to move around on his own.  His parents realize that his condition will worsen, so I promised them that when the day comes we will provide there son with a power wheelchair.  Both dad and mom kept asking why a boy who seemed so healthy only a year ago had to be confined to a wheelchair when  he was so young.  I must admit that I had some of the same questions that they did as I cooked back the tears.  I couldn't help but remember what I herd my friend Darrel tell one of his daughters the first time that he took her through Hermano Pedro orphanage.  "Go ahead and cry over them but then get back to work."  Yes there are times that it would be far easier to just turn our backs and walk away than it is to do what we can to help in some small way.  I know some times we feel that we can do nothing, and you know what? We are right, but that is right where God wants us because it is then that we are reminded that His strength is made perfect in weakness.  I guess that is why just two days later I found myself back at Hope Haven's wheelchair factory working on converting one  of the manual wheelchairs that they make into a power wheelchair.  
Gustavo helping cut away some unneeded parts.

We broke away for a few hours to seat five kids who came in from the coast to receive manual wheelchairs but by mid afternoon we had finished our experimental Hope Haven Power chair.  I came up with the idea of putting a Hope Haven kids chair seating system on an adult power chair a few months ago and the first one turned out to be such a success that I decided to build a second.  With the help of Gustavo and Larry we did some refinements and this one turned out even better than the first.  Fact is I think that we are going to do this with more of the power chairs because Hope Haven has a big list of kids that are in need of power chairs but they do not have any.  However they have some used adult power chairs that are built for Americans that are to big for even the largest Guatemalan. This should be a win win situation. A fantastic seating system on a durable chaise.

One of the kids that came in for a manual wheelchair today  was a boy who looked to be around 14 years old.  I thought it rather odd that only his two sisters who were near his age accompanied him.  They told us that their brother had fallen out of the back of a truck when he was nine years old and that he had suffered a lot of brain damage.  They said that even though he can be fed and seems to make eye contact they see no sign of any response from him.  Even though this young man shows no response to his sisters the love that they have for him is unbelievable.  I have never seen to girls that are more devoted to any one.  Weather they were feeding him or changing him they treated him with sincere love.  His poor body was so twisted and rigid that I could do little more for him than leave him a a lying position and and put him on some of the best air cushions made to help prevent bed sores.  His two sisters seemed delighted and thanked me over and over again.


It was not until we were loading him into to the old dilapidated ambulance that had brought him to us that the social worker that had accompanied him and some of the others that had come for wheelchairs, told us that the parents of these three kids had died and they were living on there own. Wow! Talk about dedication on the part of these two girls.  Even though they live nearly two hours away I am going to try to follow up on them to see if they need a sponsor for food or schooling.  If anyone is interested in helping them out financially please let me know.  Click here for my e-mail.

While I am looking for sponsors I am also going to put out a plea for another family that I met a few weeks ago.  I don't know if it made the news where you live, but about two weeks ago an overloaded bus traveling here from San Marten which is about a half hour from here lost it brakes and plunged over a six hundred foot cliff killing forty six of it's 90 passengers.  Alex who is one of my boys had been on that buss a day earlier.  Fortunately he had not been on it the day of the accident but a good friend and others that he knew were not as fortunate.  Alex's friend died instantly and the friends father is still in serious condition.

The following day Alex, a few of my other boys and myself drove to San Martin to pay our respects to this family and attend the funeral of this twenty three year old husband and father of two.  It was almost impossible to drive through this small town because of all of the funeral processions that were taking place.

When we arrived at the home we were amazed at all of the people that had come to pay there respect.  Many of them stayed only a short time though because that had other homes of friends and relatives who had died in this crash, to visit. We were soon asked to come into the small house that was nothing more than corn stalk walls and a leaky tin roof.  We offered the family some food that we had brought and they gratefully excepted it.  The family now consisted of the 21 year old widow of the man that had died,  her two children, her mom whose husband is still in critical condition and her grandmother.  The two bread winners of the family were now either dead or likely never again able to work.

The funeral procession consisted of my car which carried the widow, her mother, grandmother, and about eight to ten other people, a few pickup trucks and a large number of tuke-tukes (the small three wheel motor cycle style taxis that are found in almost every town in Guatemala.  The young man that died had been a tuke-tuke driver and judging by the number of tuke-tukes that came out in the heavy rain to give the mourners free rides to he cemetery, this young man was highly respected in his community.  When we arrives at the cemetery which was all above ground vaults we had to make our way through other funerals  that were going on.  The scene was morbid to say the least.  Here in Guatemala you do not have the luxury of staying buried for the rest of your life.  In most cases you are promised a place to stay for a minimum of ten years then if your burial plot or vault is needed your body is exhumed and your remains are put in a plastic garbage bag and your relatives can either take them home or they will be dumped on the garbage pile with countless others.  Usually this is done before the funeral party arrives but today it was stand in line and wait your turn and nothing was done to keep what was going on from the sight of those attending the funerals.  I will not go into great detail other than to say that it made any Alfred Hitchcock movie look like a cartoon.

If you are still with me I am asking for a sponsor for this family.  The kids are still much to young for school but they and the three ladies do need food.  I am praying for $50 per month to help keep them from starving, so once again if you can do anything to help here is my e-mail address. Click here for my e-mail.

Sorry that this week's journal was not a bit more cheery but remember that you can make it a lot brighter by helping one of these families.  Sorry if this one sounded a bit like a plea for money.  Then again if it helps keep these people alive, maybe I'm not all that sorry.


<>< Yours in Christ: Dick ><>


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