* 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)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Journal October 8-15

* * * * * * * * * * * CLICK ON ANY OF THE PHOTOS TO ENLARGE. * * * * * * *

Monday, October 8, 2007

Calin and Abner accompanied me to Hermano Pedro this morning. When we got there a group of 7 Americans was already waiting for us. I had promised them that I would show them around the orphanage and get them involved is helping out with the kids. Actually I didn’t have to do much because this was one of the most enthusiastic groups that I have taken through the orphanage in a long time. The fact is we stopped the tour at about the half way point when we discovered that the kids were in the pool this morning. With in a few minutes eight of us had joined the therapists who were already in the pool with some of the kids. Soon 8 more kids were added and we spent the next hour having a fun time with them. After getting out of the pool and finishing our tour we took 8 of the residence to lunch. Today I was finally able to keep my promise to the teen age girls who had been eagerly waiting to go along to lunch for quite some time now. Today’s group was great with the girls and everyone had a lot of fun.

This afternoon the group spent more time with several of the kids while I repaired a few wheelchairs and had a meeting with social work concerning the kids, teens, and adults that we want to invite to camp this year. We are praying that they give the green light to all of those that we want to invite and should have their answer within a few days. After the group help feed the orphanage kids their supper I took them back to where they are staying in Guatemala City. Since it was almost 7PM Calin, Abner, and I stopped off for a bite to eat before heading home. I think some of the neighborhood kids gave up on waiting for us because I only had another 5 to feed after getting home.

As far as I can tell all of the kids have now gone home but I never can be quite sure. Sunday morning I woke up and found Abner sitting in my living room. First he told me that he had fallen asleep under a blanket on a chair by the computer but later he told me that he had showed up at my place a little before I woke up. I am still not sure what the truth is.

Either way kids or no kids I am heading off for bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, October 9, 2007, 8:24 PM

Today for the second day in a row I watched a team of 8 dedicated individuals help transform at least a few days of boredom into a memorable experience for a number of children. If everyone that came to Hermano Pedro or any other place where they wanted to serve, with as much unselfish Christina love that this group did the world would soon be a much better place. I have found that children, especially handicapped children are a pretty good judge of people. The children at Hermano Pedro Gave each member of this team top scores. Seldom have I seen the kids have as much fun as they had at Camperos and even getting thrown up on, or peed on did not seem to discourage any of today’s volunteers. I was glad though that Guadalupe one of the men at the orphanage had an extra shirt for me to change into after Andrais decided to share his half digested lunch with me.

Rule # 177 – Never hold a kid over your head if he has just eaten.

Not only did we take 9 of the orphanage kids to lunch today but we also found the time to visit the School in Santa Maria Dejesus, Stop in at the YWAM coffee house, visit the wheelchairs shop, and have a pizza feed at my house. I lost count of the people that showed up but all 10 large pizzas seemed to vanish into thin air. My friends from the USA had a great time with my neighborhood kids as well. Poor Kimberly, she offered to sweep and mop my house after everyone else went home. I don’t think that we fed 4000 but it looked like she gathered up about 12 baskets of pizza crumbs from my floor.

Since I am planning on heading out on the road again on Thursday I may take at least part of the day off tomorrow but have not fully decided yet. At any rate I am going to kick back for a while now so I will once again say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, October 10, 2007, 9:20 PM

Last night shortly before going to bed I got a phone call from Paul. He had originally planned to start tomorrow on taking a small team of people in to build the bathroom for the family that he and I had visited last week, but had changed his mind. He had heard from a few different people that this may not be a safe place to go and didn’t want to go in with a team unless he knew that it would be safe for them. Chris and Donna were out of town recruiting for camp so I got hold of Gordon (Donna’s dad) so he and I decided to go in and check things out. We both know people that live in that area and knew that they would truthfully tell us if this was a safe place for Americans to go into.

Jorge, a friend who hauls wheelchairs to distributions, in his truck, also accompanied us. Just a few weeks ago Jorge’s helper had been killed when he was struck by a truck while crossing the street. Jorge and Chris had gone to visit his 24 year old widow and their 4 children and what they found broke their harts. She and her 4 children are living in a one room dirt brick structure that only has room for one bed that the entire family sleeps on. They had no food and lived in absolute poverty. Now with her husband gone they would be even worse off if that is possible. Today Jorge, Gordon, and I went in to see if there was enough room on there tiny section of land to set up a steal prefab house. When we first arrived the family seemed like they were frightened of us and were extremely shy. Usually I never take out my camera with out asking first because many people are even more frightened of it then they are of seeing white people. Today however I decided to take that chance because we really needed pictures if we were going to try and find any help for this family.

To my surprise my camera was the big ice breaker in making friends with this family and several others that had gathered around.
All it took was showing 2 of the children a digital picture that I took of them and almost everyone’s shyness rapidly disappeared. Soon all of the children wanted me to take pictures of them and before long most of the adults even got over their shyness and let me take their picture.

Several kids took me inside of the home where the mother and her 4 children lived and it was even smaller than I had imagined. There is a lot more that I can tell you about this family and some of the hardships that they have seen both recently and during the war but Chris has written a more detailed story about them so I am posting it here.
Please remember though to pray for this family. Here in Guatemala people don’t go on welfare, unless someone helps they starve.

From time to time, we’re faced with situations that are not always pleasant. We are reminded that life can give us some strong blows. The story I’d like to tell you about has to do with a man that passed away a month ago. His name was Rigoberto. I had gotten up early in the morning to take some friends to the airport. While we were still loading up their luggage at 3:00 in the morning I received a phone call from Jorge, a member of our church, saying that his helper had just been run over in a hit and run accident on the highway here in Chimaltenango and that he had died. We quickly went out onto the highway to be with Jorge, and comfort him.
Rigoberto has left a wife and 4 young children behind. I was so saddened to hear the story of this man’s young life. It seemed that it had been filled with one hardship after another. During the civil war in Guatemala his parents were killed when he was just 6 months old. He and his younger sister went up into the mountains to live with their grandmother. Another sister stayed behind to live with others. When he was 8, he and his sister came out of the mountains with their clothes tied in a bundle on their backs to tell the older sister that their grandmother had passed away and they had no place to go. So at the age of 8, Rigoberto began working to support himself and his sister. When he was older he found the love of his life, Maria. They married and had 4 precious children. They served the Lord together.
Soon after the accident, Jorge and I went to visit the widow to take her some food and see how they are doing. When we got there with the food, Maria began to cry. She is a very timid woman, but is trusting the Lord for the care of her children. As I walked into their little 8x10 house, I saw that there was hardly anything in it but one bed that they all sleep in. They were very poor before her husband died, and now they are devastated. Rigoberto worked very hard, but with little education and no hope for a good job, they were barely getting by. The metal roof of the house is filled with holes and when it rains it just pours in onto the dirt floor. The little plot of land where they live is theirs, and we hope to be able to erect one of these new prefabricated homes for them. Wouldn't it be wonderful for each of them to have a bed! This is a family that would be great to help. The bible says if we help the widow, that is what pure religion is all about.

This family is just one of many that need help with a home. The prefabricated homes have already been donated by Gulf Coast Supply and Mfg. Inc. and 6 are in a ship on their way here now! What we need help with is funds to be donated to pour concrete slabs. Please, pray about it.

Thank you so much for your continuous prayer and support. We need it!

With love, Chris and Donna Mooney


After saying good bye we headed to where we want to build the bathroom for Maria’s Grandmother and her family. When we arrived at their aldea we stopped of at the home of Celco. Celso is a man that has come to many of our camps. Since we know him well and he has lived here all of his life we knew that he could tell us how safe things were in this area. Celso told us that there had been several murders back in January but they were all gang related and nothing had happened in several months. He said that the villagers were still a bit fearful at night but life was pretty much back to normal. He saw no problem with coming in to work as long as we always left before dark. We always try to make that a practice here in Guatemala anyway. I gave Paul a phone call and he agreed to come in on Monday and start the project. Before leaving we stopped off at where Grandma lives and were delighted to see that several of her grandchildren had cleared off the spot where the bathroom was going to be built. They had also dug a large hole for the sewage. Having there own bathroom seems to mean a lot to them.

After returning to Chemaltenango and dropping off Jorge and Gordon I decided to treat my self to dinner. No not hot dogs with the kids but a good dinner in one of my favorate restaurants in Chemaltenango. It is not often that I splurge and spend $9 on dinner here in Guatemala but tonight I did.
I still made hot dogs for the kids when I got home but did so on a full stomach. It was a good thing that I had already eaten or the 24 hotdogs that I had made would not have been enough.

I let the kids stay later than usual this evening because tomorrow I am planning on heading to Rabinal. Carlos is planning on coming along with me and for a change I am not taking any of the kids. They don’t seem to mind to much though because I told them that we were going to be doing a lot of walking on this trip. I also promised that as soon as report cards came out I was going to take everyone who did not receive a red mark to the water slides.

All of the kid except Calin have now gone home. He is fast asleep on the floor. I think that I will quickly claim the bed before he wakes up and decides to take it.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, October 11, 2007, 8:15 PM

After a 5 hour drive down dirt roads we are finally in Rabinal. I had warned Carlos that we would not be staying in a 5 star hotel but by the look on his face when we got here I don’t think that he was expecting a -5. I must be getting use to the $8 per night hotels because it doesn’t look all that bad to me. Granted the light from my neighbor’s room that shines over the wall that does not quite reach the ceiling and the fact that I can hear every word that they are saying may get a bit annoying by around midnight., but the people that run this place seem friendly. When I mentioned to them that I did not have running water they quickly offered me another room. It didn’t have running water either but I guess that it is the thought that counts. They told me though to be patient because lately the water has been coming back on at around 9:30. Mean while you are going to have to put up with even more spelling mistakes than usual. Myy fingersss aree dirrty and they keeep sticking toooo the keys… Anyway I have been in motels that have been far worse. I don’t think that Carlos has, but then there is always tomorrow night. I just love taking people along on these trips. It is great to see them broaden their horizons.

We met with Julia and her husband this evening. We had originally intended on doing camp recruitment tomorrow and then hiking in to where Andrais lives on Saturday but Julia’s husband has a meeting on Saturday so we have decided to try to make it in to Andrais/s house tomorrow. We may take in some worm medicine but this first trip in is going to primarily be to assess what the needs are. From what I am hearing they are overwhelming.

Well we are planning on getting an early start in the morning so I am going to see if I can reach over the wall and turn down my neighbors TV and get some sleep.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, October 12, 2007

After breakfast Carlos and I picked up Julia and her husband Luis. They are the ones that originally hiked in to where Antonio lives and brought him out to us a little over a year ago. Antonio, who weighed 21 pounds and was 10 years old at that time, was starving to death. After several months in the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro his father was able to take Antonio back home. In the time he was at Hermano Pedro Antonio gained a lot of weight but he still had some health issues. Today Julia and Luis were going to hike us in to where he lived so that we could see first hand how he and his family were doing. We also wanted to see if there was anything else that we could do to help the 1200 people that are scattered throughout the mountains in this area. After about an hour’s into the mountains my 4 wheel drive would go no more. Even a Land Cruiser has it’s limits and even though I have crossed many rivers with it the Volkswagen size boulders in this particular river and the 1000 foot clime up a foot wide trail on the other side of the river was more than it could handle. After parking my car we were met by the 2 men who would guide us into where Antonio lived. I immediately recognized one of the men as the head man from this area. He had brought Antonio out to Rabinal the day that Chris and I had brought him to the hospital. Even though Antonio only weighed 21 pounds I could not help but wonder how any one could carry him down this mountain side. The 3 hour hike, or perhaps I should say climb proved to be just about all we could handle. Some of the places were so steep and muddy that it seemed you would slide back 2 feet for every one that you attempted to climb. Even though it was raining the view on the 3 hour hike going in was breathtaking. My GPS later confirmed the fact that it was indeed mountainous. We not only gained 1000 feet in elivation along the way but did so several times. As soon as we would crest one mountain we would have to descend into a valley and then ascend another.

None of the people in this area live close together. Their houses are scattered throughout the mountains. We met very few people along the way. Our guide told us that as far as he know I was the first white person that they had ever met but I think that it was Carlos’s new orange hat that frightened them. I had warned Carlos, who generally wears sandals, that we would be doing some hiking but the smooth soled cowboy boots that he wore were not much better. The guides that we were with were very courteous though and didn’t seem to mind pulling him out of the brush when he fell off from the trail. Carlos has a lot of eremitism and the climb was almost more than he could take but he was very good about it and said that he would not have missed it for the world. Finally our guide pointed at a cement building that was bout a half mile up the hill. He told us that it was a school and that Antonio’s family lived only 15 minutes beyond it. I think that theirs was the closest home to the school. It was hard to believe that there was a school way up here. Harder yet to believe was the fact that the people had carried in each and every cement block that the school was built from. Harder yet to imagine was that there were 1200 people living in the region. We had not spotted more than a half dozen houses on our 3 hour hike in. The only other building that we saw that was not made out of mud brick was a cement building that measured about 15 by 15 feet. We were told that it was the a new clinic. Up until about a year and a half ago these people had no medical help whatsoever. The 2 men who guided us in were instrumental in convincing the people to build this small building and then convincing the Guatemalan government to send in 2 nurses once a month. They told us that the nurses usually brought in very little in the way of medicine but at least it was a start. A short time later we reached the home of Andrais. I have seen severe poverty over the years but this had to be one of the most severe cases that I had ever seen.

Andrais, his mother, and six other children were huddled in a small dirt house that most American farmers would be ashamed to keep their pigs in. Even though it was raining and we were at 4500 feet some of the children were naked and most of the others had no shirts or shoes. Andrais was the only one that was fully clothed. Mother explained that he had a fever and she had put most of the clothing that the family owned on him to keep him warm. He was not back down to weighing 21 pounds like he did when we brought him in to the hospital but at least half of the weight that he had gained while he was in malnutrition was gone. Carlos quickly handed out some groceries that we had brought the family but we knew that with in a few days everything would once again be gone. Andrais’ mother told us that he had done fairly well when they first took him home from malnutrition but after running out of the medicine that the hospital gave him for his asthma he had started going down hill again. She said that the father was working in a village several hours away but should be back in about a week. She promised us that she would talk to him about getting Andrias back into Hermano Pedro again. We did not go into detail about weather they would want him to stay there on a long term bases or only until he regains his strength. Some of these decisions are very difficult for these parents. Moat of them dearly love their children but they are to poor to care for them properly. I know that it is easy to get judgmental and point fingers at the parents of these extremely large families but the fact remains these children are real and they need help. I plan on at least getting the ball rolling so that if Andrias’ family decides to brings him back to the hospital, the hospital will be ready to admit him. Unlike a few other families that we have worked with this family waited until Andrais was in fairly good health and the hospital actually went along with their decision to take him home.
Tomorrow I plan on stopping off at the home of Jose. Against the doctors wishes his parents removed him from the hospital while he was still verry sick. If they ever decide that they want him back into the hospital I have a fear that the hospital will not accept him back. Please pray for these families. They don’t always make what we think are the right choices but then again we have not walked in their moccasins.

We stayed about an hour at Andrais’ house but then it started to rain hard again and we knew that if we waited to long it would be impossible to walk down the steep mountain trails.

With the help of our 2 guides Carlos had made it but the rain was doing nothing for his already sore knees and legs. The 2 men that had led us up the trail tried to find a horse or burro to bring Carlos at least part of the way down the mountain but they told us that the only horse that could be found was in worse shape than Carlos. It was decided that we would take a different trail back. Although this one was much longer it was not as steep and would be easier to walk. This one still had some steep places but unlike the one that we came in on it did not feel like you would fall 1000 feet if you happened to loose your footing. Fortunately the heavy rain let up after about 15 minutes and even though we were soaked no one got chilled. I was grateful though for a wool sweater that I had almost left back at the car. Even though this trail was longer we made it back to the car in less time then it took s to get to Andrais’ house. After driving back to Rabinal and dropping of Julia and Luis Carlos and I found a different motel and got into dry clothing. This motel was not much of an improvement but it did have running water and warm showers. The door to my room was warped and although I could open it from the outside by kicking it I had to yell at Carlos who was in the room next door to come and kick it open for me when ever I wanted to get out of it. I kept hoping that if there were a fire during the night I would be able to figure out some way to get the door open. I could not help but thinking how good I had it though. At least I had a room with a door and dry clothing to put on, and if I could get the door open I would also soon be eating a warm meal.

After we got cleaned up we drove back to where Julia and Luis live. We had invited them and their 2 children to join us for supper. We had also invited someone else. Ludwig a 8 year old boy who lived in a neighboring town HAPPENED to call me on my cell phone yesterday. He used to be in the malnutrition ward at Hermano Pedro and after he returned home we helped get him into school. I had visited him about a month ago when Ashley Vander hook and a friend were here. At that time I had promise that I would comeback during camp recruitment and take him and his family to a Camperos in a town about a half hour from his. He had loved coming along to Camperos back when he was at Hermano Pedro. I had forgotten all about my promise until I pulled into Rabinal yesterday. How Ludwig had picked that time and hour to call me I don’t know but since I HAPPENED to be in the neighboring town and HAPPENED to have his invitation for camp with me I decided that it would work out great to take him out to eat. The fact that Ludwig was already repeating the word Camperos over the phone when I put it to my ear also helped in giving me the idea of inviting him, and since he had just had his birthday a few days ago why not call it a birthday party. Soon Ludwig, his mother, and sister had joined the 6 of us and we were on our way to Camperos. Since there were 9 of us in my car I had to leave Ludwig’s wheelchair behind but he did not seem to mind being carried.

After a great supper with great friends we are finaly back at our motel. I managed to get my door kicked shut and hopefully Carlos is not to stiff and sore in the morning to kick it open for me. At least no one is going to get into my room tonight with out me hearing them.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, October 13, 2007, 11:14 PM

We got going a bit later then usual this morning. Carlos was quite sore but able to move and even able to get my door open for me. After having breakfast at Julia and Louis’s home Julia joined Carlos and me and we went out and did more camp recruiting. Luis did not join us today because it was his father’s birthday. Before leaving to his father’s house Luis showed us pictures of several children who he hopes we can help with getting into Hermano Pedro or other hospitals for much needed surgery. The needs ranged from Cleft pellet to severely deformed leg’s. All Carlos and I could do was promis that we would talk to the people at Hermano Pedro and get the word out to a few other organizations that we know of.

Carlos went along into the homes that we could drive to but decided to leave today’s walking to Julia and myself. Most of the places that we did have to walk in to were not all that far. One took us a little over an hour round trip but compared to yesterdays mountain climbing experience it was a walk in the park. Most of the people in the area that we visited today are very shy and many of them didn’t even return a friendly hello. This was not the case with the families that we knew though. Now that we haves visited most of these people several times they all expect you to stay for hours. We stayed and visited most of the homes for quite a while but would then have to explain that there were other families that we wanted to see today and move on.

One visit that almost didn’t take place was a visit to the family of Jose. I know that we were going to pass right by his place but this family was not on our list of campers so why stop. Besides that what was there to say to a family that took their son from the hospital against doctors orders knowing that he could die. As we neared their home Julia asked me if I was going to stop. Just last night as we were eating dinner she had received a phone call that José had experience a very bad seizure. I told Julia that I would stop if she wanted me to but I could not give the family much hope. The social workers at Hermano Pedro had already met with me and told me that since his father had taken Jose home against the doctors wishes the would likely never accept him back there. I told Julia that if she wanted to stop there I would but there was nothing more that I could do. She told me that she felt the same and perhaps we should not stop. I guess my hands weren’t listening to the conversation though because when I reached the dirt trail that led to their house I found them turning the staring wheel up the trail. We found our selves parking the car and walking in to where he lived. Carlos who had agreed with us that we were right in not going to see this family also joined us. Jose’s father and mother were both sitting on the porch of their dirt floor sod home. The mother was holding their tiny 4 year old son in her arms. As the spoke their love for their son became very evident. Jose’s father explained to us how hard it was to leave their only child who they fear was dying at a hospital that was a days buss ride from where they lived. He also shared that the day he had come into Hermano Pedro to visit his son he discovered that they owed the hospital more money than he had ever seen. Granted it was just a token amount of what the child’s actual expenses was, but to this father it could just as well had been a million dollars. He also told us that when he saw his son he was running a high fever and didn’t look any better then he did when they had left hem there several months before. He felt that the hospital had done all that they could do to keep his son alive but also felt that his son was dying. He and his wife made a decision to take tier son home so that he could be with a family who truly loved him. They were praying that their son would live but felt that his future was truly in God’s hands. I thought to myself who were we to disagree with that. Before I could speak Carlos spoke. I could not catch most of what he was saying but could here from the tone in his voice and see from the tears in his eyes that he was speaking from his hart. While he was speaking Julia got up and walked away wiping tears from her eyes. When he had finished I asked him to interpret word for word what I had to say to the family. When I had finished Carlos looked at me and said. “Now they have heard the same thing from both of us.” The family now knows that we are there for them as friends and are in full support of what ever decision they make concerning a son that they truly love. Who are we to say what is right or wrong until we have walked in their moccasins.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, October 14, 2007, 10:32 PM

Genesis 2:3

And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.

Today we were unable to find a church to attend but we rested and reflected on some of the ways that we saw God working this past week. We also witnessed some of his creation when we took a drive to Champey. Carlos had never been there before and he awe stricken by its beauty. The motel that we stayed at last night was a bit higher priced than the 8 dollar ones that we have been staying at but since we are now through recruiting and now vacationing we figured that spending $20 per room would be OK. Fact is we liked this place so much that we came back tonight. During supper we met the manager who became so interested in the wheelchair ministry that he has invited us to breakfast in the morning. He has already told me that if we ever need a comfortable place for our distribution teems to stay at he will give us a great rate. His wife wants to meat with us as well because she wants us to meat a little girl who is in need of a wheelchair. I know we had fully intended an taking it easy for the next few days but who says that you can’t mix business with pleasure, Especially when what you do is such a pleasure. Any way I am going to cut this one short and say goodnight.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, October 15, 2007, 10:09 PM

I am finally back home and camp recruitment is officially over for the year. This morning we drove in about 45 minutes from the main road to visit Kenneth and his family. Kenneth is an 8 year old boy who received a wheelchair from us about 3 years ago. We went in to see him a few months later because we felt that he could perhaps learn to use a walker. Today we were surprised to see him not only using the walker that we gave him but he is now able to take a few steps on his own. In fact when I sat down on a chair near him he let go of the walker and gave me a big hug thanking me for having given him the walker. I was surprised that he still remembered me from several years ago.

Once we left his place we headed for home. We had intended on taking paved roads and going through Guatemala City on our way home but Julia had left some key sin my car so we headed back through Rabinal. A few days ago when we had driven from Chemaltenango to Rabinal we had encountered a section of road that was so muddy that I scarcely made it through with my Toyota. We discovered today that a few minutes after we had gotten through some vehicles had gotten stuck and the road remained blocked until yesterday. Never again will I complain about any of the hotels that we stay in considering that we could have spent several days sleeping in my car.

Both Carlos and I had a good time while we were on the road but it is good to be able to stay home for a while. When I told the kids, who had quickly filled my house, that I would now be home more they all cheered.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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