* 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)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Advice from an "Amigo Pastor" on Serving in Guatemala


It has been awhile since I posted something that pat wrote.  I think there is a lot to learn here.   



Gabriel's Dad and his grandson
We met Gabriel and his family a number of years ago through a teacher from his area of Cerro Colorado, Esquintla.  We went originally to bring him a wheelchair.  We immediately fell in love with his whole family, and were a bit surprised to find out that his father was a pastor. (He had been working spraying weeds the first time we came!)

As we got to know the family and learn their story, our friendship grew.  Gabriel had been born with Spina Bifida, and, at the advice of the doctors in the hospital where he was born, never had surgery to correct the large bulge on his back where his spina cord protrudes from his spine.  At eleven years of age, we wondered if this could be corrected and arranged for him to see our friendly neurosurgeon in Guatemala City.

Since they lived quite a distance from the capital, we invited them to stay with us when they came for the appointment and got to know them even better.  During their time with us, Dad did a lot of talking with our guys about the goodness of God and his great love for them.  I got to know not only his story but his heart.

So, what happened when we visited them the other day did not come as a complete surprise.

After consulting with the doctor and receiving a referral to a national hospital where Gabriel could have the surgery, we met a number of road blocks in the process.  This did not seem to bother Gabriel's parents nearly as much as it did Dick and me.  They repeatedly told us, "en el tiempo de Dios" (in God's time).  They seemed willing to pursue the surgical option, but didn't feel the same urgency Dick and I did.  After some time, they decided they would leave Gabriel as he is and trust God to care for him. After talking with them the other day, we came to understand why.

As we were talking about the provision of God (as we often do with this family) Dad asked permission to share some thoughts with us.  Of course, we agreed.

He began by thanking us for caring about his son and their family.  He said he knew we wanted the best for them.  But, he suggested, maybe we did not understand God's best for their family.

He went on to say that while they appreciated all the effort and expense we incurred to bring them to the various doctors, Dad was thinking perhaps we could have used our time and money more wisely, helping someone who really needed it.  You see, though Gabriel had this huge ball of nerves on his back, he had adapted well to living with it.  He did not see himself as handicapped, and his parents agreed.

Dad went on to explain that they believed God had Gabriel born as he was for a purpose.  While modern medicine said that he needed to have the ball on his back removed, he was healthy and happy, and even able to crawl around and move his legs (he could have lost this ability with surgery).  They understand the risk he faces of meningitis if he injures the ball and bacterial enters his spinal fluid, this has not happened yet to Gabriel, now twelve, they didn't think it a big risk.

They choose to trust God that this will not happen in the future, or, if it does and he dies from meningitis, this is God's plan for him.  Dad reminded us that this world is temporary, and that really, we were created for heaven.  We would all go to eternity sooner or later, and if God chose to take Gabriel to heaven sooner, so be it.

While it would be easy to dismiss this conversation as ignorance and superstition on the part of Gabriel's folks, it was anything but.  As he spoke, both Dick and I felt the conviction of Gabriel's dad's utter dependence on God and his complete trust in Him.  This is an educated man who choose obedience to what he believes to be God's will over the cold hard facts of science.  How could we challenge what he believes is God's will for his child?

As Dick and I left that day, we reflected on his words.  We didn't in the least feel chastised or rejected by this admonitions to us.  Rather, we felt honored that he trusted us enough to share these thoughts with us.  We respect his great faith, and were encouraged in our own by his example.  We also came to understand more about the best way to minister in Guatemala, to a people whose life experiences and perspectives are so very different from our own.

What we realized gave us cause to pause and reflect on our approach.  As careful as we tried to be when we first suggested the option of surgery, clearly stating repeatedly that it was solely the parents' decision, we realized today how much of this process they had gone through, not because they believed it best, but out of friendship and respect for us.  Talking with Dad about this in retrospect, we realized that they didn't want to offend us by rejecting our offer of help.  While we wanted them to have the best medical options available, they believed all along that they had the best advice, from God himself.  But, until our relationship had grown to the point where it is now, they were hesitant to share this with us--they didn't want us to feel rejected by their refusal to pursue modern medicine.

So what did we learn from this?  In a nutshell, that the best available medical care may not be what is best for an individual situation. . .no treatment is without risks, and sometimes these risks are not worth it.  Where there is pain and suffering to be relieved, perhaps the risks are worth it, if there is no other way to give relief.  If the quality of life can be significantly improved, maybe it's worth taking the chance to pursue treatment.  But, where a family does not perceive there to be a problem with the condition (such as in Gabriel's case), maybe there isn't, and it just might be better to leave things alone.

I know this goes against every fiber of our US way of thinking, that if something is medically possible it should be done.  I'm not talking here about callously looking the other way in indifference to suffering.  But how much suffering can we cause by our insistence that our US way of handling disability and infirmity is the best?  Hard questions, and I'm not sure I know the answers.

In this instance, however, I have to confess I don't think I ever really stopped to ask God how to proceed (I can't speak for Dick here.).  For my part, I just assumed that because I saw a problem, Gabriel needed to see the doctor.  I put my trust in our neurosurgeon to know what is best. when I needed to be putting my trust in God and ask his specific direction.  Truly, there was no urgency here.  Looking back, the more I prayed for the doors to be opened for Gabriel to receive surgery, the more obstacles we encountered.  You think I might have at least considered the possibility that these "obstacles" were really God's way of protecting us from charging ahead with what was not his best for Gabriel.

I often pray that I will not lag behind the movement of God, but that I will also not rush ahead of him either.  I fear in this instance, I did rush--or at the very least proceeded in my own wisdom.  I'm not beating myself up over this failure, but am grateful for God putting a godly man in my path who could lovingly help me see where I am lacking.  I pray in the future I will seek God first and always.  I pray, too, that I will be more conscious of the undue influence I might be exerting in a situation where I do not mean to.  Life in a different culture is complicated, and after almost five years, I am just beginning to understand how much so.


Thank you Pat,
<><  Yours in Christ: Dick:  ><>

Saturday, December 6, 2014

November 2014

Dick Rutgers's photo.

Dick Rutgers's photo.Dick Rutgers's photo.Dick Rutgers's photo.
Dick Rutgers's photo.  

Dick Rutgers's photo.
Dick Rutgers's photo.
Another great day on the road with Fernando, Esben, and Elder. We repared wheelchairs gave out food and visited with friends.

Dick Rutgers's photo.
Dick Rutgers's photo.

Dick Rutgers's photo.

Fernando, Elder, Esvin and I are spending our last night on the road.pepper visiting a few families and fun Pablo with our friend Daryl Fulp the four of us headed cross-country over the mountains to give out our last wheelchair to florendaa little girl that my friends Rudy Varayi and his wife Anna are sponsoring. once again my boys did a marvelous job I hardly had to lift a finger to help.


Fernando Velasquez, Elder Gomez, Esven and I are finally back home from a wonderful four day road trip. I had planned on enrolling Fernando into school today only to find out that the sponsor that he has had for the past several years is no longer able to continue sponsoring him. There is no way that Fernando will be able to come up with a hundred dollars a month on his own so his dream of becoming a doctor may have to, at the very least be put on hold.
Dick Rutgers's photo.
Dick Rutgers's photo.    GOD IS SO GOOD! It is hard to believe that it was only only 24 hours ago that I posted on Facebook that Fernando Velasquez had lost his sponsor and that his dreams of studying to be a doctor looked bleak.
I just phoned Fernando and asked if he wanted to go and register for school first thing Monday morning. Two generous Facebook friends contacted me within an hour of each-other telling me that they would each pay half of his school expenses. Neater knowing that the other was offering the other half, and neater knowing that they were doing so as mother and daughter. (Coincidence) I think not. (Godincidence) for sure!


GOD IS SO GOOD!   It is hard to believe that it was only only 24 hours ago that I posted on Facebook that Fernando Velasquez had lost his sponsor and that his dreams of studying to be a doctor looked bleak. 
  I just phoned Fernando and asked if he wanted to go and register for school first thing Monday morning.  Two generous Facebook friends contacted me within an hour of each-other  telling me that they would each pay half of his school expenses.  Neater knowing that the other was offering the other half, and neater knowing that they were doing so as mother and daughter.  (Coincidence) I think not. (Godincidence)  for sure!  

Goodnight, <>< Yours in Christ Dick ><> 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

"Six Days On The Road"

"Six days on the road and I'm going to make it home tonight.". it has been a great six days with Bethel Ministries and hope Haven Canada. We have given out close 150 wheelchairs, built two houses, visited many families, and seen a number of people come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Carline came along with us and did a wonderful job of interpreting and of working on wheelchairs.  My only regret is that I missing the graduation of both Kevin and Cesar. I am very proud of them.  (Sorry Kevin I didn't have a picture of you when I posted this.)

Friday, October 24, 2014


When I first saw Daniel at today's wheelchair distribution I thought that he was a malnourished 4 year old. When his mother told me that he was 18 years old I was astonished. Daniel who is hydrofluoric (water on the brain) has a head that has to weigh close to 40 pounds but his fragile body can't weigh more than 15 pounds. Daniel's mother has never had enough money to take him to a doctor. Had she been able to see a doctor when he was a baby he would likely have had a shunt (drain) put into his head and could have lived a normal life. Living 18 years with this condition and no shunt is nothing less than a miracle, "a miracle of love". This loving mother and her precious son have a love for each other that is beyond description. 

Today when I first met Daniel I suggested getting him in to the malnutrition center at Hermano Pedro for a few months but I soon became aware that neither Daniel nor his loving mother would survive even a few days with out each other. 

  "Hope Haven Canada to the rescue." Ralph Turpstra and the gang from Hope Haven Canada offered to sponsor Daniel with the food he needs for at least one year. This will mean a lot to a mother who told me that her son eats quite well when the family has food. I don't know how much time Daniel has left here on earth but it does my hart good to know that he will no longer go to bed hungry. By the way you should have been there to hear his mother pray when we prayed together. 

"Thank you Jesus for another awesome day".

<>< Yours In Christ: Dick ><>

Monday, October 13, 2014

"To God be the glory!"

 I have just returned from a 6 day Bethel Ministries and Joni and Friends wheelchair distribution. Not only were 150 live improved when these people were professionally fitted with and given wheelchairs but more lives were completely transformed when over 50 people received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. "To God be the glory!"
Like<>< Yours in Christ ><>
................ Dick

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Battle with Want

I have just returned to Guatemala after spending 4 weeks in the USA.  I was seriously thinking about writing a journal about he culture shock of going back to the USA after not being there for over 2 years and spending the past 14 years here in Guatemala.   Then I came across the journal entry written by my good friend Daryl Fulp.  Daryl picked me up from the airport when I returned to Guatemala yesterday and although we did not talk about this he must have been reading my mind so instead of me being accused of copping and publishing Daryl's journal I am accusing him of copping my thoughts.  Thanks Daryl for doing all of the hard part for me.  

Daryl writes the following.


The Battle With Want


WeddingLast week I had the opportunity to fly to the States for a few days to be a part of my daughter, Teisha’s, wedding. It was a quick trip (I arrived in Dayton late Thursday evening and flew out again very early on Sunday) but it was a special one as Wanda and I were able to visit with friends and family, see two of our daughters we haven’t seen in a long time and finally meet our grandchildren (Tristan, age 3 and Allison, age 4 months). There is not much that we miss since moving to Guatemala, but family and friends are at the top of that very short list. It was so nice to finally hold my grandkids.

Our schedule was packed full with family and friends, US drivers license renewal and shopping. There are quite a few things that we cannot buy here or are cheaper in the States, so we took the opportunity to go to Walmart and Meijer and make some purchases. I was not prepared for what I found there.
Mms-in-Walmart-Candy-AisleWe do have Walmart in Guatemala now. They opened stores about two years ago, so we shop there once a month. However, the stores here do not have anywhere close to the selection of US Walmarts. I was literally overwhelmed by the choices and merchandise available. A trip down the candy and cookie aisle yielded 12 different kinds of Oreos and 9 kinds of M&M’s. And at one point I found myself in the men’s underwear section looking like a deer caught in headlights. I mean, I just wanted regular men’s underwear, not boxer briefs with a micro pore sweat dispersal system and Bluetooth capabilities. Everywhere Wanda and I turned we were met with an overwhelming number of choices.

In some parts of these stores I found myself getting disgusted. Do we really need so much stuff? It is ridiculous to have this many choices for basic products. But in other parts of the store my hypocrisy showed through. As I walked through the hardware section I found myself drooling and “needing” tools and gadgets that I did not know existed until that moment. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? The same thing happened when I walked through the electronics department and saw all the handy gadgets for my phone. After all, I really need it don’t I? It will make me faster, more efficient, better organized, blah, blah and blah.

WantAnd in the midst of one of those ponderings and justification sessions I caught myself. And it scared me. I could feel the demon of want worming its way into my heart and life…along with its constant companion, discontentment. There I was, a man who works daily with the poorest of the poor, finding my priorities shifted in just a couple of hours of shopping. I put down those luxury items a left the store as quickly as possible.

And this whole experience left me thinking. We often fail to realize that the majority of the US economy is built on marketing wants to people by convincing them they are needs. And the powers-that-be do it pretty well. That is why people with perfectly good iPhone 5’s have been lining up around the block to buy the iPhone 6. It is new, it is different and they are sure they NEED it. That is why shoes come in two million different styles. Yes, you have shoes, but you don’t have THOSE shoes. That is why every other month they come out with a new razor or toothbrush that is no better that the old ones. Because they know we will just have to try it. Over and over again the marketing industry plays us like a violin, and we keep pumping out the same tune. (Insert your own 80’s or 90’s tune to the following lyrics):

"I want it! I need it! I really have to have it!"

The economy in the States is dependent upon us buying what we don’t need. And this is to the point that if we were to stop buying luxuries and only bought needs the economy would completely collapse. And so, day after day we are faced with marketing and commercialism. Buy, buy, buy! Spend, spend, spend! And we do.
Gloria's House - copiaTwo days before standing in those department stores I stood in a very different place. I stood in the home of a poor Guatemalan family with dirt floors and a leaky roof. They have a child with cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder and I asked them a question:


That is a pretty wide-open question, especially when it is asked of a poor family by “wealthy Americans.” They could have mentioned so many things and I would have understood. A new roof, a concrete floor for their daughter’s wheelchair to roll on, beds, clothing, and more would have been acceptable responses to my question. But without hesitation the father responded, “We have everything we need except the medicine to control my daughter’s seizures.” (As he answered this there were three children playing happily in the corner with their homemade dolls.)
So, how on earth could I find myself two days later trying to justify gadgets and cell phone cases as needs? How could I find myself so quickly almost captured by that culture’s snares? The answer is painfully obvious: The marketers are good at what they do, and I am bad at keeping my eyes on God’s heart.

MaterialismPeople often ask us if we are scared to live in a culture like Guatemala with all its crime and violence. My answer is no. But living in America scares me to death, because I fear what it can do to my heart and priorities. I fear losing my soul in the American Dream and awakening (again) to discover it is a nightmare.
And so, my family and I continue to walk imperfectly this line of needs versus wants. I so desperately want to see, act and spend like Jesus. But the voices around me scream loudly in an attempt to drown out His voice, and those screams get a lot louder in the US.

So, to those of you who live in the States I extend my respect and prayers. I pray that you will walk the line much better than I and say no to the voices that scream. I pray that you will "spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed” (Isaiah 58:10a). And I pray that you will lose yourself within the heart of God instead of in the American Dream. That is the call of God that each of us shares.

Blessings and love from Guatemala!
Daryl, Wanda and the Crew

Thanks Daryl:   You said it exactly like I wanted to, but with a lot less work for me.  Bet while you were home you didn't have a niece who had artificial eyelashes glued in one hair at a time for $150 though.  The lady that put them in said that they would last for 2 weeks.  Not a bad deal considering that you can only keep a family alive for a few months for that amount.

<>< Yours in Christ: Dick ><>