* 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 24, 2008

Journal December 21-25

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Well things are finally back to normal. That is if you can call a 24 by 22 foot house that seldom has anything less then a dozen kids in it normal. I totally enjoyed all of the groups of volunteers that have been here the past few months but all of the activities that went on kept me away from home way too much. I have decided to spend a good deal of the Christmas holidays doing stuff with my kids. Nothing special just mostly hanging out with them and letting them come along with me when I do go places. When they are allowed to be part of what I am doing they love it. There are of coarse times when I can not include them but I feel that the future of Guatemala lies in their hands and they will be the ones that will be able to impact there generation a lot more than those of us who were not born and raised here.

Today we went to church, then out to lunch, and then up to the cross that over looks Antigua. There are a lot of trails up there and it is a great place for kids that have had to sit still in church for a few hours to go and burn off some energy. The nice thing is there is also a road that runs to the top of the hill so I always make myself designated driver and meet the crew at the top of the hill. After that we headed for home and just hung around there. Kids kept showing up all day, picking out the shoes that they wanted for Christmas from several large boxes that friends from the States have brought down throughout the year. Even though every one of the kids knows exactly what they are getting for Christmas they insisted that all of pairs of shoes get individually wrapped and put under my tree. Abner and Alex offered to do all of the wrapping but I don’t think that they realized what a big job that would be but fortunately they talked some of the older girls into coming over and helping out as well. Funny thing, even though the kids know exactly what they are getting for Christmas they are still shaking their gifts and trying to poke little holes in the wrapping so that they can have a peek at their new shoes. Tonight my house looks more like a dormitory than a house. I think that the kids are worried that their gifts will disappear if they do not sleep near my tree and guard them.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Monday, December 22, 2008

After the kids and I made breakfast four of us headed to Hermano Pedro. Even though far more than three kids wanted to come along with me I only took three of them. Since the first three that asked to come along were three of my more energetic ones (Nice way of saying hard to control) I figured that three kids would be plenty.

When we got to Hermano Pedro we discovered a long line of people that were waiting to get inside. Every year they hand out gifts to families that are in need. It was still a good two hours before they were going to start letting people come in to receive their presents but the line up was already over a block long. Fortunately the priest that was guarding the door knows me so he let the boys and myself come inside. Benjamin, my friend from Canada, offered to help us take some of the kids out to lunch, but since most of the kids that remain at the orphanage during the Christmas season are some of the more severe ones, and two of the three boys that had come along with me were not my usuals, and the third was Abner. I decided not to have them be responsible for feeding any of the kids. We still went to lunch though and Benjamin and I each took one of the adults that stay at Hermano Pedro along to lunch. I did a bit of visiting with the kids after lunch and even managed to get up to the malnutrition ward for a bit.
Lionel is doing great and they seem to have his seizures under control. I am going to try to have a meeting with the staff of Hermano Pedro in a few days to see if he can continue to stay there until his parents feel that they can care for him at home. It must be so hard for them. They would love to have him at home with them but realize that his chances of surviving there would not be good. Hopefully in a year or two that will change. Alex is still up in the malnutrition ward and seems to be doing a bit better. He is still very week though and certainly needs our prayers. Just today I was told that three of the kids that returned to their homes in the past few months have died. Two of those three kids were in great shape when they went back to their homes. It is so hard to know what is best. I would hate to see these kids stay in the orphanages for life, but in some cases their families simply cannot give them the care that they need.

At around 2 PM I decided that it was time to get my three boys out of the orphanage before we got kicked out. They were not doing any thing bad but it was not hard to see that yesterday’s hike up to the cross had not burned up enough of their excess energy. By 3 PM we had picked up another 6 kids from home and were on our way to the hot springs for a swim. Normally If I saw 30 drunk Guatemalan men having a party at the hot springs I would turn tale and run but I figured that if we did leave, that dealing with 9 kids that I had promised to take swimming would not be much safer so I chose swimming. Things went all right but it would have been far more relaxing had the drunks not been there. Fact is one of the men who had previously asked me if I wanted to fight him became my friend after I grabbed hold of him and pulled him to the edge of the pool when he was going under for the third time.

It may not look like it, but my new friend on the right is the only one in this picture that has been drinking.

On the way home we stopped off for hamburgers and now some of the kids are playing on the computers while others are guarding the Christmas tree. I promised a few of them that I would play a game with them where we see who can be the first to tell me the English word for pictures that I show them in a book, so I better close for now. We have tried the game in reverse, where they would point at the pictures and I would try to say the name in English but we all unanimously decided that it would be far easier for my entire neighborhood to learn English than for me to learn Spanish.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Today the kids and I gathered up all of the toys, tooth brushes, shoes, stuffed animals, what ever else we had in the house, bought some groceries, and headed out to visit some of the families that we know that will not be giving each other gifts for Christmas. Before heading out we picked up Benjamin and Mary Margaret from Antigua. When I called them they were both excited to come along with us but after the teasing that they got from my boys I am not so sure. I think that some of my boys have found their calling in life, but I am not sure what the need is here in Guatemala for "Meet a Mate" services.

We all had a good time though and it was great for my kids to be able to give gifts to people who had far less than they have. Many of the kids that received the remainder of the shoes that we handed out would not have been allowed back into school in January with out them.

I am not sure where the day went but it is getting late and I am down to a reasonable number of overnight guests so I think that I am going to call it a day.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, December 24, 2008, 8:43 AM

I woke up to the smell of breakfast cooking. Fernando and Esben had decided to make breakfast. I must admit they did an excellent job of it to. We had pancakes and eggs and unlike when some of the other kids try their hand at cooking, most of what they made ended up on our plates rather than on the floor and ceiling. Some of the other kids are now sweeping the house and doing the dishes while I get caught up on my journal. Tonight I plan on going over to the neighbors to celebrate Christmas eve so I think that the kids and I will go pick up a cake and some fire works for the party.

7:10 PM

I ended up going all the way to Antigua for the cake. Not simply because I am Dutch and cakes are about a dollar cheaper there, but because I got a phone call from a lady that wanted to see the orphanage. Calin and Esben came along and played with the kids while we were there. We did not stay very long because I knew that my alley would be swarming with kids that would be eagerly waiting to open their Christmas presents. I had told them that we were not gong to open them until 6 PM but having once been a kid myself I knew that they would be there early. Back when I was a kid we always opened our presents one person at a time so that everyone else could see what the other person had received. At 5:59 I announced that we were going to do that tonight. At 6:01 I discovered that any of my kids that had know any English had mysteriously lost any comprehension of it and all of the gifts had been opened. I am now catching my breath for round #2. In a few minutes I will go over and wish some of my neighbors a Merry Christmas. The number of homes that I visit will be regulated by the amount of food that my stomach can hold because none of my neighbors will allow me to leave until I have eaten some fof the food that they have prepared for anyone who happens to stop by. After that I plan on going over to Abner and Fernando's uncle and aunts house for supper. I hope that they do not expect me to eat to much. This is always followed by a bonfire and fireworks out in the alley. I am not sure that it will be quite as exciting as last year because the neighbors that have always put a Christmas tree on top of their house didn't do that this year. I guess they were afraid that Etiline would once again throw a sparkler on top of their roof and burn the tree up. At midnight everyone in town lights of what ever fireworks they have left and then everyone starts hugging each other and wishing them a merry Christmas. After that it is more food and then more fire works. I am writing all of this ahead of time because if I head back to my house anytime before 2 AM, and try to do some journaling before heading off to bed I will be considered the neighborhood party pooper. Anyway it is time to go and find my earplugs and then go out and join the neighbors.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, December 25, 2008


I did not get up all that early this morning due to the fact that I did not get to bed until 2 AM. Even at that I still hold the title of neighborhood party pooper. Going to bed earlier than most of your neighbors has other disadvantages as well. One of them is discovering at 3:00 AM that your neighbors still have a good supply of fire works left. For some reason a string of fire crackers landing on your roof while you are sleeping seems to get your attention no matter how tired you are. I did manage to drift off to sleep once I calmed down and stopped shaking though. (That must have been about 2 hours later) When my door bell rang at around 7:00 AM Cesar and Keven had a hard time understanding why I did not invite them in or why I did not respond all that enthusiastically to their, "Merry Christmas". I sure hope that neither of them knows the Spanish interpretation to "Baa-humbug".

After a bit more sleep I got more into the spirit of Christmas and opened up the house to the kids. Most of them were not all that energetic either because they had stayed up even longer than I had. At around noon I went to Chris and Donna's house for a wonderful Christmas dinner. My kids were not all that thrilled about having me leave for a few hours but I promised them that I would take them somewhere later this evening. Once I got to Chris and Donna's house it felt a lot like home. They have about as many grand kids as I have street kids, the only difference being most of theirs have faded skin and blond hair. We had a great time together and the food was delicious. Chris, Donna, Benjamen, and Cindy will be leaving for the States tomorrow and plan on being there for over five weeks. They seldom find the time to take a vacation so I hope that they really enjoy themselves.

Even though I was anything but hungry tonight I took 10 of my kids out for supper. Camperos was closed for Christmas but fortunately our second favorite gourmet restaurant was open. I don't know what we would have done if Burger King had been closed. Three of my older boys were going to boycott going when they discovered that I had invited Etiline along, but hunger got the best of them and they jumped into my car just as we were pulling out of the alley. They chose to eat at a separate table though but once everyone had finished eating and started playing around on the playground equipment they forgot about being to grownup to be with the littler kids and joined right in.

Well it is nearly midnight and the festivities of Christmas are just about over. Neat thing is the true gift of Christmas is with us 365 days a year. Looking at everything that is going on in this world now days I can not imagine what it would be like to be without the gift of Jesus Christ. Have a marry CHRISTmas for ever and ever.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Journal December 12-20

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Friday December 12 - somewhere around Tuesday December 16, 2008

You guessed it. I somehow managed to get five days behind on my journaling so once again you are going to get a condensed account of what has been taking place during the past several days.

A lot!

OK I will try to go into a bit more detail and will keep this as accurate as possible but since so much has taken place you will have to forgive me if I get the order of events and exact days that they took place wrong.

Due to snow storms in Texas. It took a day or 2 before everyone that was involved in the four days of wheelchair distributions arrived here in Guatemala and even longer for some of their clothing and supplies to arrive but fortunately the gift shop that is located in the hotel that we are staying in had a lot of deodorant on hand so none of us had to room by ourselves. Even though this was primarily a Joni and friends wheelchair distribution I counted at least nine other ministries that took part. I would love to mention all of their names and the names of all the people that took part in this outreach but fear that I would accidentally leave a few of them out. All I can say is that when Christians unite with the common goal of sharing the love of Jesus Christ a lot can be accomplished. It is not often that you get the opportunity to work along side of such a verity of people and I loved it. Some of the people on our team were wealthy businessmen from the USA. Others were people who wondered where their next meal was coming from. My interpreter was an x-gang member who had spent the better part of his life in jail. He and some other x-gang members spent all four days with us not only interpreting but also helping fit the wheelchairs. I never thought that anything could bring more tears to my eyes than seeing some of the suffering that those that we gave wheelchairs to were going through, but watching these once hardened criminals cry and pray over them was simply awesome. These men are sold out to God. Life is not easy for them or their families though. Most of them are covered with tattoos that they received wile they were in their gangs, so even though God has changed their lives no one will give them jobs.
All of the X-gang members loved helping
out with the wheelchair distribution.

They are also targets for other gangs and they had to be very careful when we went out to other parts of the city to do wheelchair distributions. Funny thing though many of them reminded me of my kids at home. Much like Calin and some of the other kids that hang out at my house these men just want to be recognized as human beings. It amazed me how much a pat on the back or a thank you meant to them. I think that many of these grown men never got that at home and that is why they turned to the gangs. For most of these men the gangs were the only family that they knew. Now that they were part of a new family, the family of Christ, I felt honored to call them my brothers. Fact is they are going to contact me in a few weeks so that they can come to Antigua and help me take some of the orphanage kids out to lunch.

This is one of the houses that was built this week.

Actually during the past few days there were a number of things going on at once. Chris for the most part spent his time with a group of men that had come here to build two houses in a village not far from Chimaltenango, while I spent most of my time in Guatemala City with the wheelchairs distribution teem. Actually Chris some how managed to be both places at once. This is a feat that am finding a bit more difficult to do at my age. All of us stayed busy though and even though I would not have missed the past four or five days for the world I will be glad to get back to Chimaltenango and spend some time with the kids. I have spent only one night at home in the past ten days and my kids are not all that happy about it.

I could write volumes about the marvelous ways that we saw God working in the past few days but I simply do not have the time so I hope that these pictures will at least tell part of the story.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Being born with no legs
and only one hand
has not slowed this
two year old down.

Receiving a walker as well as a wheelchair made for one satisfied customer.



Receiving early
Christmas presents

This single mother of three children has a large tumor. She will likely die soon unless we can find help for her. Her 15 year old daughter is trying to make enough money to keep the family alive.

The 26 year old girl in this picture has a body that is so twisted that I decided to fit her in a few weeks. It will likely take a full day to get her seated properly.

All of the people that came in to the distributions were visited with, prayed for, and given the opportunity to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008, 8:56 PM

The past few days have been great but it sure feels good to be back at home. When I got home last night the kids quickly started showing up. I am not sure just how many there were, partly because I was to tiered to count but mainly because it was after dark and I had no electricity. I had water though, so two out of three wasn't all that bad. Even though I was able to run an extension cord over to my house from the neighbors, Having no lights gave me a good excuse to load all of the kids into my car and head off to burger king for supper. Since I had been gone so long the kids were anything but quiet. I loved it though.

Today I knew that things were really back to normal when the soccer game that tool place out in my yard produced two broken windows. I managed to get into town and pay a few bills. I made sure that my electric bill was the first one that got payed. The electric company told me that my lights should be back on by tomorrow morning. I am not holding my breath though. They seem to be much faster at disconnecting things around here then they are at reconnecting them.

At last count there were 15 people in my house that is roughly 10 less than an hour ago. Everyone found out that several of my friends have brought school shoes for the kids so they are coming in and picking out which ones they want for Christmas. I will not let them take them home yet but am allowing each of them to tape their names to the bottom of the pare that they want.

It looks like five of the kids are staying so I guess I better go and heat up some water so that they can take showers. A shower is mandatory for any kid that stays here over night. It helps cut down on unwanted critters.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Thursday, December 18, 2008

This morning Keven, one of the five kids that stayed over last night showed me a sore that he had gotten on his foot while I was gone last week. At first he did not want to tell me how he got it but then he told me that he and another kid had gotten into a bit of mischief by throwing water balloons at people that were walking by.
Evidently one of these people did not think to highly of what they thought was fun, and he pulled a gun out and shot at Keven. Fortunately the bullet only grazed Keven's foot but it gave him quite a scare.

around 10 AM 5 of the kids and myself headed to the coast for a birthday party that Ronny's family was having for him. He turned 15 today. Since Ronny had not been able to attend camp this year I had promised him and his brother Arlando, that they could come over for a few days so after the birthday party they came home with us. Fernando offered to sleep near Ronny because he often wakes up at night and asks to be repositioned. As rapidly as Ronny has been loosing strength I can not help but wonder how many more birthday's he will be celebrating. Calin is also staying here tonight. It is actually easier having all four of them stay because they all get along marvelously and Fernando and Calin watch over Ronny like a mother hen.

I had to send Esben and Elder home early tonight because they were acting up. Three weeks ago they returned to live with their mother who had originally deserted them. Marco's mom had adopted them, but she died a little over a year ago and it was difficult for Marco's older brother to take care of them and his own brothers and sisters. After I sent them home I was told that they are once again living with Marcos and his Brother. I guess their mother once again decided that she didn't want them. After hearing that I can't say that I blame them for acting up.

.. . . . .. . . . . .. . .Elder

Well it is getting late and I thing that the kids that are still here have wound down enough that they will soon go to sleep, so I thing that I will do the same.


Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, December 19, 2008, 10:09 PM

The night went fairly well but Fernando who was sleeping next to Ronny did not wake up nearly as easy as I did so I ended up getting up several times during the night. Not only is Ronny unable to role over on his own but he can no longer move his arm more than a few inches. He is still able to drive his power wheelchair but if his head happens to fall forward or to the side he can not lift it back up on his own. At least he seem to be enjoying himself because he even asked if he could stay a few more days. I still plan on bringing him home tomorow though.

Today we spent a good part of the day just hanging around the house. Fernando and Arlindo made breakfast while Abner and Calin put up the Christmas tree. At around 2PM Several of my regulars, Ronny, Arlindo, and myself went down to the mall to see a movie. This was a first for Ronny and Arlindo and they really enjoyed it. I think that I have spoiled them rotten the past few days but they don't get spoiled all that often. After seeing the movie and then getting something to eat. We took my car to the upholstery shop to pick up the drivers seat that I had left there in the morning. Had it not been for the honesty of the man that ran the upholstery shop, my $20 upholstery job may have cost me a lot more in time and money. I had accidentally left some very important paper work stuck between the springs under the seat. Had the man that found it decided to he could have sold them for a fare amount of money. I seldom loose things but these past two weeks have been a bad ones. First my Passport, now my Guatemalan Identification papers. Thankfully I found my passport, got my identification papers back, and even found my cell phone that I had lost. Oh, I didn't mention loosing the phone. It evidently fell out of my pocket at the movie theater. Fortunately Madagascar II is a rather noisy movie so who ever sat in the row that we were in during the next two showings failed to hear it ring so it remained on the floor under the seat where is was sitting for several hours.

Tonight Alex, and Windy's mom came over to my house. her kids have already gone through the two large boxes of shoes that I have and picked out the school shoes that they want me to give them at Christmas. This family has very little ,but tonight mom was not looking for help fer her family but for a family that lives next door to them, whom I had never met before. Alex's mom told me that her neighbors are a widow and her five children. Two of the boys that come along with her but the others were to shy to come. The two boys hat were with her were also quite shy and very dirty. One was waring a pare of shoes but I was told the other one was bare foot. His feet were very dirty so we washed them before he tried on any of the shoes. When I told him that he could keep them he lit up brighter than the Christmas tree that my kids put up earlier today. Alex's mom told me that he had not owned a pare of shoos for as long as she could remember. Alex's mom told me that one of the little girls needed a pare as well, so I gave her a pare to take home to her. By the looks of the two boys that were here here I think that this family may be in need of a lot more than just a few pare of shoes.

Well, Fernando, Ronny, and Arlindo are fast asleep on the two soffas in the living room. Abner is in a mattress that is on the floor of my bedroom and I am ready to head to bed so I will say, "Goodnight".

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, December 20, 2008, 9:01 PM

I don't know exactly what happened during the night but at around 2 AM I heard Ronny calling from the other room. He told me that he had to use the bathroom so I got up and carried him there and back. When I turned on the light to put him back on the sofa I discovered that Abner who was originally sleeping on the floor of my room was on the other sofa where Fernando and Arlindo were originally sleeping. The two of them had evidently traded places with Abner with out my knowledge. I really didn't care but I found that Fernando had pulled all of the blankets off from Arlindo and the poor kid was lying there shivering. I managed to find some more blankets and get him covered up but he evidently got cold again because I woke up at around 5 AM to discovered that I had company in my bed. Little Arlindo had evidently decided that he liked my bed better than the mattress on the floor. He was actually lying very still and I doubt that I would have even noticed that he was there had it not been for the amount of soda that I allowed him to drink when he was at the movies yesterday. Talk about a scare. Not only did I think that I was getting old and forgetful but for a minute there I was afraid that I was also starting to loose control of my bladder. Thankfully my electricity is back on because I hate cold showers at five o'clock in the morning.

This morning we headed out at about 10 AM. The past few days were not quite as restful as I had anticipated but if you could have seen how much fun the kids had you would know that it was worth it. I can always take a few days off some other time but I have a feeling that Ronny will not be around long enough to have too may more fun filled days. Please pray for the other six kids in his family as well. Each of the for girls have a fifty fifty chance of being carriers of muscular dystrophy and Arlindo and his baby brother have a fifty fifty chance of having it. If Arlindo has muscular dystrophy it will likely show up in the next year or two.

Yours in Christ: Dick