* 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
Name:
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)

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.  
Dick

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:

WHAT DO YOU NEED?

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.

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

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Last Hurrah

A Last Hurrah Before Leaving—to VISIT the USIMG_1472Pat wrote this one.


No, I’m not leaving Guatemala for good.  Only to come and see my kids/grandkids/brother/sister and visit with those of you who so graciously support us through your prayers and donations.  
But this trip will be different.  Dick Rutgers is going to the States this Thursday and will be joining me in Omaha from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1, to help fill you all in on the work God is doing in Guatemala.
(For those of you who like to jump to conclusions, no big announcements are planned—except those that pertain to our common ministry.  Sorry to disappoint you romantic hearts among our readers!)

IMG_1508

Dick had a few chairs which needed to go to the Escuintla region, and since there are no regular classes at the school this week, I decided to go with so he had an interpreter.  I’d not seen these families in quite some time. Since teaching in Santa Maria, I don’t get to travel near as often as I used to, so the timing was perfect.








Paty
IMG_1465

Our first stop was to see Paty, a 31 year old woman with cerebral palsy who I have known for three years.  Paty was laying in a beat up lounge chair when we found her, and Dick fitted her with a therapeutic chair which will recline to help position her properly when she is fed.  (Click here to read about our first meeting.)

A few weeks ago, Dick had visited and discovered that the cylinders which allowed the chair to recline had rusted up, not surprising in this area of high heat and humidity.  We brought new ones with us today to replace them.

When we arrived, we found Paty in her hammock, where she has spent most of her time since her chair has been out of commission.  It sounds pretty comfortable when you first think about it. . .lying in a hammock all day.  But imagine that the only thing you can look at for 12+ hours daily is the rusted metal ceiling above you.  Not so much fun. . .

Paty, who cannot move much on her own, was so excited to see us that she started bouncing up and down (as much as she could) in the hammock.  She has missed her chair greatly.
IMG_1451
Dick had been saying on the way down that he would have liked to bring one of the guys along with us to help with mechanic-ing in the heat, but they all had school.  Well, Paty’s seven year old brother, Leonel, jumped right in to help, as did her dad.




IMG_1456


We faced a few challenges, as one of the new cylinders had frozen up, too.  But, with some machine oil the family had on hand to maintain her chair and some great team work on the part of the guys, coupled with a little bit of brute force on Dick’s part, they were able to get the cylinder moving once again.




The smile on her face and in her eyes confirmed for us that this trip had been a good idea.  Another month in her hammock would have been a strain on both Paty and her loving family.

IMG_1462Paty’s selfie

While I was there, I showed Paty pictures of the guys living in Casa de Esperanza and some of my family.  She began tentatively pointing to the camera, and I asked her if she wanted to take some pictures with my iPhone.  She managed a few selfies, and even some of her family.  She was so excited.  I really need to take her a communication book when we get back.  

IMG_1491

We invited Leonel to come with us to help with the other chairs we needed to take care of in Texcuaco, and he jumped at the chance to earn 10 quetzales.


Cousins

Our next stop was to visit two brothers with Muscular Dystrophy who live in Paty’s community.  One is in a powerchair, and the other is using an electric scooter, since he refuses to even consider a chair.  His scooter had been in the shop for a couple of weeks, and out of commission for more weeks than that, so Dick wanted to get it to him before leaving for a month.
IMG_1485


This young man (whose name I can’t remember for the life of me!) was beyond excited to get his chair back.  This is one of the few times Dick has ever seen him smile, and man was he!  He took off visiting neighbors as soon as he got in the scooter.  He had not really been able to leave his house for many weeks, and was so thrilled to do so. 

IMG_1487


We left shortly, but not before promising to return in October to bring a new controller for his brother’s chair, since his had been malfunctioning intermittently.


We went on to visit their cousin Yelsin, who had been in a loaner chair for a few weeks, since his chair also had been in the shop.  He, too, has Muscular Dystrophy.  The mothers of all three of these young men are sister, and, as is so typical with MD, their sons have been affected by the gene they carry for the disease.
IMG_1494


Yelsin was happy to keep the loaner chair, and Dick was happy not to have to switch out the batteries in the heat and the humidity, so we left him with the chair he had, and took the other back with us to give to someone else, probably another young man with MD.  





We see too many of these cases here in Guatemala, often clustered in families and small communities, and I have to admit it is pretty heartbreaking.  The power chairs, however, give them their last bit of mobility as their condition worsens.  Though none of these three guys are in school (the school won’t let them go anymore since they can no longer hold a pencil or write), the fact that they can get out of their homes and move about their small community independently means the world to them.  This freedom greatly enhances their quality of life for how many more years each of them will live (most boys with MD die before their early 20’s), and the effort it takes to get and maintain these chairs is well worth it.


Marvin

Our last stop of the day I think was my favorite.  While I loved seeing Paty, she was pretty much the same as always.

IMG_1512

Marvin, however, was a joy to behold, seeing him active and thoroughly engaged in our conversations!  Each time we see him he has made so much progress, with only the “therapy” of the love and attention of his family.  They are very special to us.

IMG_0233

We met Marvin a about three years ago, when we were giving a chair to a girl in his community, and his mother came and asked if we had one for her son.  Crossing the road, we found a family which was literally starving, and a young boy with cerebral palsy.  Marvin was so scared of us, Dick could hardly measure him for a chair, and even when we brought one to him a few weeks later, he screamed the whole time we were seating him.

In the intervening years, we have helped find sponsors for the boys to continue their schooling, and Hope for Home Ministries has been providing monthly food baskets which Dick takes down when he visits them.  

The health of this very poor family has substantially improved, though we still have some concerns about how skinny the middle son is.  We will probably take parasite medications to them again the next time we visit.

IMG_1498

Marvin’s Hope Haven chair had been broken, and once again he was confined to sitting on someone’s lap or lying in a hammock.  When he saw us coming, Marvin just about jumped out of his mother’s arms with excitement.  He knew our presence meant a new wheelchair.


Marvin is no longer afraid of us, now smiling and blowing us kisses.  He reaches out to us spontaneously, and is making more and more effort to communicate verbally.  He understands everything that is said around him, as evidenced by his strong “yah” when I asked his mom if he could see well enough to do some simple activities. (He has one severely crossed eye.  I talked with Dad about the availability of surgery at Hermano Pedro in Antigua which could correct this, and he is considering it.)  This little guy has truly become our friend, and we stand amazed at how is is progressing, with only the therapy of a loving family.

IMG_1534

His three brothers continue their schooling, though each is struggling in some subject areas.  It is amazing, given the poverty in which they live, how important their education is to them and their family.  

They would not still be in school, if not for their sponsors.  Your donations are making a huge difference, not just in their lives today, but in their futures.  In a country where most young men go after whatever jobs are available, these three have goals, and a plan for pursuing them.
  
Carlos, the eldest, will finish Third Basico next month, and wants to continue his education in agronomy—a very marketable skill in this area which grows sugar cane.  José, the middle son, would like to be a mechanic.  Antonio, the youngest, just wants to make it through school at this point, but his pretty young yet—only in fifth grade.  These are great kids, and they and their family wanted to make sure their sponsors knew how grateful they are for your help.

IMG_1516José jumped right in to help switch the chest strap from the old chair to the new one.  He does have a talent for using tools.

While you might not be sponsoring these boys, please know that every family we visit asks us to thank their sponsors for the help they receive.  And, Dick and I sincerely thank you for allowing us to be the channel of your help to them.  There are so many times we need to turn away folks asking for help.  It blesses us and encourages us in our ministry to be able to help those you permit us to.
Pat

Thanks again Pat,

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Chicos de Chimal

I am in the States for a month but Pat has been doing a lot of journaling.  Here is one of her recent posts.  Dick

 Pat writes the following.

A lot has been going on with the kids up in Chimaltenango who have made Dick's home their second home.  I don't get to see them all that often, but they hold a special place in my heart.  I have had a chance to watch a couple of the games which the team Cesar is coaching has played, and have to admit I love watching Elder especially.  He's always held his own playing with the big guys and shines now that he's on a team with younger kids.


School this year has been difficult for a lot of the guys.  Looking at their textbooks, I can understand why, especially in math and science.  What they are studying is more complicated than what I can understand or help them with, but they are plugging away for the most part.

Carlin has returned to Chimaltenango this semester, due to family situations.  He is finishing out the year at a school up there, but the change in the curriculum has been quite difficult for him, not to mention how costly this move has been.  Pray as he considers what he will do next year.

Kevin is now living with us, at least during the week, as he does his practicuum as a dental assistant at the Health Center here in Antigua.  He doesn't get done with work many days til it's too late to take the bus back to Chimaltenango, and so he's staying with us and helping with Fidel in the evenings.  He's very proud of his studies and his career choice, and we are, too.

Fernando has been struggling since the death of his grandmother.  While he is trudging on, I know it's not easy for him, and he's now pretty much on his own as his momma is in the US.  He's not sure if he wants to continue school past Third Basico, and has talked about coming to work for me.  Pray for him and for us as these decisions are being made.  He has a lot of potential, but right now I think he needs to be part of a family more than anything.



Tony has accepted a job working at an orphanage in Parramos, so we are having a few staff adjustments.  Marcos and Ebner David are filling in on weekends, and are a great help. 

Marcos is considering studying in Jocotenango if he can get into that school, and wants to live with us starting in January. 



Finally, there's Cesar.


He is really coming into his own.  He is completing his career education in teaching PE, and will be, God willing, going on to the University in January. He will be the first of "our" kids to do so.  I admire his determination and his commitment to his education.  School is not easy for him, but he makes up for it in diligence and hard work.

Recently he presented his final project for his promotion, and he invited Dick and me to attend.  I don't think we could have been prouder if he was our own son, and I know I teared up more than once during the presentation.  He looked awfully handsome in his suit and tie, too.






Just yesterday he completed one of  his final requirements for promotion, and it was a tough one.  To pass his swimming requirement, he had to swim across Lake Atitlan!  Swimming is not his strong suit, and both Dick and I were very concerned that he would not be able to make it the whole way.  We were more concerned that he would push himself too far, and would have problems before one of the kayaks accompanying the swimmers could get to him.  We've been doing a lot of praying about this one.


I am happy to say that we worried for nothing.  While I'm sure it was very hard for him, he succeeded without incident.  He's really proud of this accomplishment, and we are too.  What I am most proud of, however, is his conviction of  where he received the power to do this.  He posted on his facebook page:


I thank God for giving me this experience and the ability to do what I set out to do.  Thank God for giving me the opportunity to cross the lake.  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!"

Monday, August 25, 2014

Rudy's Reflections

This past month I have had the privilege of spending a lot of time on the the road with some of my boys and Rudy Van Ry.   I asked Rudy if he would be willing to write some of his thoughts in my journal and the following is what he came up with.



My name is Rudy Van Ry, and I've been on the road with Dick here in Guatemala for approx. 10 days. I remembered hearing Dick talk about this place at my church, Nooksack Valley Reformed, about 2 years ago and it stuck with me. I was able to get his email and I just sent him a random email asking if he could use a hand down in Guatemala. Well, one email led to another which led to another, tell finally I was in contact with him and many others who could use a hand.















I came here with my wife, Anna Van Ry. She would come for 10 days and I would stay for the remainder of the month. We didn't really know what to expect coming down here. All we knew was that we would keep an open mind and trust in the path that God has set for us.

If I could describe my experience here in one word, I would use: Heavy. I've traveled throughout some third world countries before and “seen” poverty, but never really close up and certainly not interacted with it. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive at first, and a little uncomfortable. I've never done anything like this before. I've always just been a tourist and a simple bystander. I have to hand it to Dick here. The relationships that he has been able to build here, especially as a non spanish speaking gringo, is an absolute wonder to behold.

While on the road, Dick and I got into a conversation about his ministry here. He told me that he often asks himself the question, “what is my ministry here?” I couldn't really give him and answer at first. I had only been here about three weeks to his thirteen years. I was a noob with no real input and insight. However, it only took a few house visits for me to revisit this topic with him. I told him, which he agreed with, was, for a person like him to go out into this country, where many Guatemalans are skeptical of gringos, and deliver help, compassion, and the good word is priceless to the God's work.







The wheelchair distributions are wonderful, and heavily needed. But there are so many families and people out here without the means to leave their house to get a chair. They have no money, barley any food, and are struggling just to survive the day. I've been blown away by all of the many relationships that have been built between Dick and the people of Guatemala. Showing them that someone actually cares about them has given hope to many.










I didn't want to talk about each and every family or child that we visited together. I could write pages and pages of sad stories, each one more sad than the previous. All I can say is that the children we visited are beautiful. But they hurt, their families hurt, and life is hard. Yet the look on their faces when Dick arrives is that of hope, excitement, and benevolence. The humanity of it all has been imbedded in my mind. The simple gesture of giving food, vitamins, and fixing chairs means the world to these people.




Again, my experience with Dick has been heavy. My personal output on life, humanity, charity, and spirituality have been renewed. The work that Dick and accompanying organizations have been doing here has been crucial to the survival of many people. Its been an experience I wont soon forget.




Rudy Van Ry

Thank you Rudy,  I hope that we will see both you and Anna back here soon.  May God continue to use you in ways that glorifies Him.  My prayer is that you will continue to let Him have full control of your life.  "A life in Him is a life fulfilled." 

<>< Yours in Christ: Dick ><>