* 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)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Surgery in San Lucas

I know that I promised to write the next one but Pat keeps twisting my arm to print her stuff.   Actually that is not true but it is the best excuse that I can think of right now.  Besides that next week Pat leaves for the States for 3 weeks so I may have to do my own writing.



Pat writes the following.


Every year our friend, Dr. Will Bogel brings down a team of foot, ankle and orthopedic surgeons to work for a week at the missionary hospital in San Lucas Toliman on Lake Atilan.  Last year we took Alma, a young girl who lives near here, for the first of two surgeries on her feet.  This year, we referred six patients, and three of them were candidates for surgery.

Sue, a maternal health nurse from Washington State, was our main contact and became a good friend.  She was just one of 21 remarkable medicos who donated a week to serve our people.

So, the last week in February we spent a lot of time one the road!

First, on the Friday before the surgeries, we went to San Lucas to bring two patients up to the hospital for pre-surgery evaluations the following day. 

Alma went with us again, and was so very excited about being able to walk after this surgery.
Dick with Alma after her surgery in February, 2013

We also took Grevis, a little boy with dwarfism, whose legs are at odd angles, making it difficult for him to walk.

We had plans to meet a number of other patients, coming either from the coast or the Lake Atitlan area.  All of them made it except Karen, a darling little girl with spina bifida.  Dick had not been sure she was a good candidate for surgery, and we thought her parents had decided that they did not want to pursue this further.  I wish we had called! (More on this later.)

 After the evaluation, Alma was accepted for surgery without reservation.  Grevis, however, was deemed too high a risk after his mother said he had had bleeding problems when he had a tooth pulled.

Joaquin, it was decided, needed to grow a bit more before it would be advisable to operate on him.  Hans would be coming back later in the week for the first of two surgeries.  It was decided, however, that to operate on Nathaniel, who has spina bidifda and no feeling in his legs, would be only cosmetic, and not worth the risk any surgery involves. 

We headed back home Saturday night, and I got to spend a short time with my guys before heading back to the Lake on Sunday.  (I have to share how well my guys manage without me, due in no small part to the competence of Miguel and Tony as companion care givers.  With as much as I was gone this week, even Fidel admitted that he missed me.  Awwww!)

We had to have our patients at the hospital at 7 am Monday, and neither Dick nor I had the desire to leave home at 3:30 am to get there. 

Actually, I had planned on going up only on Saturday, so I could teach this week.  God seemed to have other ideas, though.  For a number of reasons, I strongly felt I should go back.  While my translation skills were needed, I have to be honest.  Alma really wanted me to be there with her, and, since her mom had suddenly died recently, I was happy to take my friend Patricia’s place.  Alma’s brother and sister-in-law would be with her, but they all said how I made them feel close to their mom again.  So I went.

Looking back, I had written last summer:

I’ve been wondering, lately, with the number of kids Dick is referring to Dr. Will as surgical candidates, if both he and I won’t be spending a week in February playing medical transport home from the hospital.

When we arrived at the hospital Monday morning, we were greeted by Karen, and her mom and dad.  They had not come Saturday because they did not have the money for bus fare, but had called the hospital Monday and were told, since she had already seen Dr. Will, they should bring her in and the staff would work her in if there were any cancellations.

As it turned out, there was an opening on Thursday, and Karen was scheduled. We decided to put the family up at our hotel, rather than sending them home to have them return only a day later. Alma’s brother and his sons were already staying with us (his wife would be staying at the hospital with Alma), so we had half the rooms in the small hotel filled. (Brian, a worker from the Nebaj area, seemed to have taken up the other rooms with patients he had brought to the clinic!)

Though we had a lot of people to juggle, these two families ended up blessing us more than we ever could have blessed them.

As we watched Alma with her brother’s family, we could see that, when her mom died and her dad disappeared, they took her in not out of obligation, but out of a deep love for her. It was so touching to watch them care for each other. And they did what they could to care for us—buying us "treats” a number of times during the week.


Karen’s mom and dad are equally amazing.  When we met them, Pastor Miguel, her dad, was leading a church in Cuidad Quetzal, one of the most dangerous areas of Guatemala City.  Now they were in Masagua, near the Pacific Coast.  Pastor had been asked to take over a church that had been through an upheaval and was on the verge of closing.  Watching them with their daughter, and watching both Pastor and his wife minister to any number of people, from the parents of other patients, to the lady who worked at our hotel, was humbling. 

Pastor Miguel talking with one of the parents of another patient, sharing with them the love of Jesus, in word and action.

They don’t serve as pastors, they live as pastors.  They have a remarkable way of meeting people where they are at, and yet always managing to remind them that Jesus is there with them, pursuing them, whether they realize it or not!  I learned so much watching them.

Monday Alma had her surgery, and was released from the hospital on Tuesday morning.  

Before we took her home, we gave her a chance to rest at the hotel, and decided to take the families on a boat ride on the Lake.  We had a great time, even if we were a little soaked by the end of the trip.

We dropped off Karen’s family back to the hotel, picked up Alma and her sister-in-law, and drove them home to Supongo, near Chimal.  We each slept at our respective houses Monday night, and Dick and I turned right around and went back to the Lake in the morning.  We wanted to be there Tuesday afternoon, when Hanz and his dad arrived for his surgery on Wednesday morning.
Of all the kids we encountered at the hospital, Hanz was be far the most timid.  Dick had met him twice before, and still, Hanz refused to talk to him.  Hanz’s dad, too, was pretty reserved.  We were a bit concerned that they were feeling sort of “forced” into the surgery, and I asked Dad if he was sure he wanted to go ahead with the operation.  I got the strongest “yes” I have received from anyone to this question.  (I later discovered that his wife was strongly opposed to the surgery, and that this has been a real struggle for him.)

Hanz’s surgery went well, and though he was in a considerable amount of pain he was discharged Thursday.  We were trying to figure out how to get him home, and still be around for Karen when we found out that she would not be having surgery.  When she arrived at the hospital Thursday morning, it was discovered that she was, for no apparent reason, running a 104 degree temperature.  Of course, this meant no surgery.  Though they were disappointed, her parents easily accepted this as part of God’s plan saying “next year.”  Dick, who had been questioning the wisdom of her being operated on all along, seemed to be relieved.

So, once again, we loaded up the car, heading this time to the coastal area to take both of these families home.  We dropped off Karen and her parents first, and were able to gift them with a water filter and pump for their well before we left. (Click here to read more about this.)

Though they didn’t live far from each other as the crow flies, we had to back track a way to take Hanz home.  (There are so many places here in Guatemala that are the proverbial, “You can’t get there from here,”  or at least not in any way approximating a direct route.) It was well after dark when we left his remote, isolated village and headed back, tired and hot, to Esquintla, where we hoped to spend the night.  

The one decent hotel we knew was full, and, in the dark, it was impossible to locate another hotel.  As we talked, Dick suggested we head down to Puerto San José to spend the night on the ocean.  After such an emotionally intense week, we were both ready for some down time.  

Dick writes,

The motel was nothing to brag about and had Pat not graciously offered to trade rooms with me I doubt if I could have stretched out without hitting my head on one wall with out touching my feet to the other.

Pat writes,  

Since I had never been to Monterrico, the popular tourist area on the Pacific, The next morning, Dick offered to take me there.  We found a beautiful hotel which allowed us to eat in the restaurant and spend a number of hours finishing up some computer work, while gazing at the Pacific Ocean.  After a pretty full week, it was exactly what I needed, and I returned home to my guys, refreshed and ready to face another week.


      Thanks again Pat !

<>< Yours in Christ: Dick ><>


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