* 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)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Jornal, July 20-25 ,2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pat Duff has once again offered to let me post her journals from the days that she accompanied me so a good part of this weeks journals were written by her.

Navigating the Clinics

Written by Pat

.........................Maria with her father and mother

When I got to Hermano Pedro today, Dick asked if I would help Maria, a young widow with four children, work her way through the clinic process. I'd only done this once before, but that was one more time than Maria had. Her mother and father had come with her from Comalapa, a small aldea (village) about an hour and a half drive from Antigua. I was particularly happy to help Maria, since the Josiah Foundation has taken a special interest in this family over the past few years.

I didn't know much what to expect from the clinic, except long lines and lots of waiting. I wasn't disappointed. First Maria had waited for the doctor, then for an ultrasound. I joined her when she was waiting for the doctor a second time. This time I went in with her to make sure everyone knew what was going on. Dick had asked me to do this, but why he thought I'd understand with my limited Spanish was beyond me.

I soon learned why I was there. The doctor spoke quickly, giving much information in about one minute. Maria sat there smiling and nodding her head. When I asked her if she understood, I received a "deer in the headlights" look. So I began asking questions, and you could see on Maria's face that things were becoming clearer to her. We also needed this information for a sponsor from the States who has offered to help pay for her surgery. So I learned why I was there--because I was not afraid to look stupid by admitting I didn't understand what was going on. Of course, I've had years of practice at this!

We stopped at a secretary's desk, and she wrote down some information in a ledger, and we were sent to another secretary's office. Here there was a 30+ minute wait, to get a piece of paper to take to the office of a third secretary, this time on the second floor. (For the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to get to the second floor, and then I realized there were clinics up by the malnutrition ward.) This time we received an appointment to see a surgeon--Sept. 12th!

I asked Maria if she would be able to wait this long, as she's been in a lot of pain. She replied that really wasn't a long time at all to wait for a doctor. So she'll come back down then, and hopefully receive surgery the following week.

It never ceases to amaze me the patience of the Guatemalan people, and their good manners, while waiting so long. Dick got stir crazy after about 5 minutes and went to take one of the boys back to Chimaltenango for school. I on the other hand am known to be much more patient- -it took me a full 15 minutes before I wanted to start banging my head on the wall!


(The somewhat true confessions that Pat wrote after her conscience and my badgering finally got to her.)

To avoid losing Dick's friendship (and to avoid being bugged about this for the rest of my life), I want to make clearer what I wrote yesterday. The added material is in red.

It never ceases to amaze me the patience of the Guatemalan people, and their good manners, while waiting so long. Dick got stir crazy after about 5 minutes of waiting in his third line of the day, after having been "at" this for three and a half hours before I arrived at the hospital, and went to take one of the boys back to Chimaltenango for school. I on the other hand am known to be much more patient--it took me a full 15 minutes before I wanted to start banging my head on the wall!

I would NEVER want to imply that Dick was impatient. Those of you who know him know that his patience is exceeded only by his total truthfulness with never an exaggeration. And his love of standing in lines is exceeded only by his love of shopping.

There, now Dick. Is that better?

Apology accepted, As long as I am still allowed to get even!

So why do we do this? Picture a young woman, who until only a few years ago spoke no Spanish but only Katchical (one of the 26 Mayan dialects in Guatemala). A woman who seldom has gone outside of her aldea, and never had been to the city. Picture her coping with a large hospital, multiple secretaries, unfamiliar doctors, and the fear of having to have surgery. Can you imagine what it would be like to go through this alone? A couple years ago it became clear to me what was a distinctive part of how Bethel Ministries offers medical care.

Most mission organizations tell folks they will pay for medical care if the person can figure out how to get themselves to the city and the hospital, and then navigate the "system of care" of that particular hospital. And we wonder why these folks don't take advantage of this generous offer. It would be like me going to the moon to get medical care from a martian--the environment of a city and large hospital is just that unfamiliar to these people from villages. (I need to point out, however, that most of us from big cities wouldn't survive 3 days if we had to live in a small aldea on our own!)

Bethel is different, though, thanks in large part to Dick Rutgers who picks up or meets many of these families at the bus, and walks them through the clinic process. I am grateful that I can be part of this important ministry to the sick and injured. To many this might seem like a waste of our time, but without this individual attention I believe many would not receive the care they need. It kind of reminds me of the Good Samaritan who didn't hand the injured man some money and tell him where he could get help. He engaged with him and brought him to where he could receive care. A good reminder to all of us that we are called to invest personally in those we seek to help.

Pictures from January, 2009, the first time I was with a family in the clinics.

Unfortunately, Lisvi died shortly after these pictures were taken.


Wednesday, July, 21, 2010

Written by Pat

Dick called this morning to say he'd be taking a power chair up to Luis in Santa Maria de Jesus, and wanted to know if I'd like to ride along. This very traditional Mayan village was my first introduction to the "real" Guatemala when Dick took me there four years ago. I was anxious to go back and see it again, so of course I agreed.

I did get to spend some time at Hermano Pedro while waiting for Dick to get into town.

Ervin and I worked together on a number of tasks, and, though at times he wanted to do things his own way, he was pretty willing to follow directions if I was firm with him. One of the greatest compliments I've received I got yesterday from a retired nurse volunteering at the orphanage when she said, "I've never seen him (Ervin) so engaged in anything before!" That's exactly my hope in being here and the confirmation was great to receive.

Dick arrived and we were soon on our way. This chair was for Luis, a young man who attends a private special school (New Life School) in Santa Maria de Jesus run by two Americans. Judy is a nurse, and Amy is an occupational therapist, and together they have managed to build an amazing three story building in which many kids who would not otherwise be in school receive a quality education. I finally got to meet Judy yesterday, and hope that I'll be able to work with them a bit in their school.

Luis has difficulty propelling himself in a regular wheelchair so Dick wanted to give him more mobility with this power chair. In addition, Luis, is kind of an "underdog" among the children at the school, and we're hoping having this chair will improve his status with his classmates. The power chair will remain at school, since Luis lives a number of blocks away, over some very rough terrain. His younger brother has to push him to school each morning, before he himself heads off to another school.

After many adjustments and refinements, Dick decided it was time to give Luis a "test run" in his chair. We all had a blast as he learned to maneuver the chair around the school. His best teacher was not one of us "professionals" though, but the school custodian, who seems to have a great relationship with him. This man was able to direct and encourage Luis in a way none of us "gringos" could. Both he and Luis enjoyed themselves immensely.

. . . . . . . . . First attempts at "driving"

Getting the hang of it! . . . . . . . . .

I was truly humbled by this man when I spoke to him later. I thanked him for helping Luis, and told him he worked very well with him. He responded, without hesitation, "These children are a gift from God to me." I almost burst into tears right there. To truly understand the significance of this statement, you need to know the history of this school. When Judy and Amy came here a number of years ago, kids with disabilities were totally shunned in this village, and were primarily thought of as a curse upon their family. To hear this indigenous man from the same village describe them as a "Gift from God" is truly a work of God in this community. Dick reminded me on the way home that our titles and our accomplishments don't really mean much. When God wants to use someone for His purpose, he will pick the best person for the job--and often this is the most willing rather than the best qualified. Our new friend demonstrated that for us today.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It was one of those Days.

Written by Dick

"We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking
only to learn that it is God shaking them."

Yesterday I received a phone call from Abner telling me that is 5 year old nephew Dennis had been running high fevers for several days and that he was now having nose bleeds that lasted for hours. His mother had taken him in to the national hospital but after taking a quick look a him the doctor said that he had no idea what was wrong with Dennis and sent him home. It was to late in the day for me to set up an appointment with a doctor but first thing this morning I drove the family down to Antigua to see a doctor. Abner and a few more of my older boys road along to serve as interpreters. Thanks to an understanding staff and a phone call that I made last night we did not have to wait in line for several hours before seeing a doctor. The doctor gave Denis some medicine and set up an appointment with a specialist. I even managed to get everyone back to Chimaltenango so that the boys got to school on time. My older boys have school in the afternoon. Did I mention that all 8 of us were in a borrowed pick up truck? My car is once again in the shop. (More about that later)

After dropping everyone off I quickly headed over to an orphanage in Paramos, a town that is located about a half hour from here. I had promised the people at this orphanage that I would bring them some special cushions for a young man that they had there who had been paralyzed for life from a gun shot wound. After giving him the cushions and a short visit I got on the phone to call my friend Mark. I had promised him that I would go along with him to see a lady that he had met who needed a wheelchair. I had also promised Byron that I would sign him out of the orphanage and take him out to lunch but I had all ready missed that one by an hour. When I got on the phone to Mark he told me that he had a tight schedule as well but if I could make it to Antigua in a half hour he would take me to where this lady lived. No sweat,! Antigua is only 15 minutes drive from where I was. I hung up the phone jumped into the borrowed pickup and turned the key. The engine turned over but it refused to start. A half hour later I phoned Mark and told him that I would not be able to keep my appointment with him because I had not moved from the spot where I had called him from earlier. At this point I was on the verge of having a pity party for my self but couldn't think of any one who would want to attend. I also thought about leaving the pick up truck parked at this orphanage, and walking a few miles to a road where the buss would come by. (I knew the bus passed by on that road because I road that buss yesterday when I was forced to leave my Land cruiser with a Mechanic in Antigua because it was having problems.) Instead of walking I made a phone call to Jorge. He had used this truck only a day earlier so perhaps he had run into a similar problem and could tell me what to do. He asked me if I had accidentally bumped the hidden switch that keeps the truck from starting if you don't want it to be stolen. 10 seconds later I was on my way to Antigua. It was far to late to take Byron out to lunch and I had already missed my appointment with Mark but at least I had time to go to the orphanage and just visit with Byron and some of the other kids. About 10 minutes down the road my cell phone rings. It was the Mechanic from the shop where I had left my car yesterday. I could not understand everything that he said but did understand the part about him thinking that my engine was shot. How could that be? I had that engine rebuilt only 60,000 miles ago. Then again it was a Guatemalan rebuild even though the Toyota shop did charged me American prices for the lousy job that they did on it. I had to also remember that driving 60,000 miles on the type of roads that I drive here in Guatemala is like driving 260,000 miles in the States. Never the less I told the mechanic not to do anything until I got there and talked to him. I was only about 5 minutes away from his shop. Or was I? That is when I glanced down at the temperature gauge of the pick up that I was driving. It was nearly in the red. Was it working properly? I wasn't sure because none of the other gauges were. Ever since I could remember all of the idiot lights in this truck stayed on all of the time. To my recollection the only lights that didn't come on were the directional signals, but this was a gauge and it had been one of the few things that had been working properly so I figured that I better pull over and see if I was low on water. Sure enough the truck needed water. Fortunately there was river near by and with all of the garbage that was floating in it I had no problem grabbing a plastic bottle that was floating in the river. The only problem was this river looked so contaminated that I was not sure if I wanted to put anything from it into the radiator of the pickup. A man who was taking gravel out of the river with a shovel assured me that I did not. He offered to get some water for me from his house and soon returned with a five gallon container of clean water. When we poured it into the radiator I quickly discovered why I had run out of water. A fairly good size stream of water was running out of a hole that was in the radiator. I phoned my friend Howie who lives in Antigua and he came out to tow me in to the shop where my Land Cruiser was. Why not give this Mechanic more work? Perhaps he would give me a fleet discount.About an hour later I was driving down the road in my not so healthy Land Cruiser trying to decide what to do about the problem that seems to heal itself once the engine warms up. Oh well I have a few days to decide. That is when the mechanic will have the new radiator installed in the borrowed pickup.

Before heading home and making beans and rice for the kids. (Which, by the way, turned out to be a disaster that I couldn't even get the neighborhood dogs to eat) I stopped off at a small restaurant in Antigua to have a bite to eat and to feel sorry for myself for a bit. That is when I thought about the wheelchair that was in my car. I wasn't in the best of moods but if I didn't get it delivered today I would just have to do it tomorrow and not knowing the reliability of my car that could be a real inconvenience. I picked up the phone and called Mark. Mark told me that he and his wife Dale were not far away and that they had time to take me to where this lady lived.

If I ever grumble again or the thought even crosses my mind that I am not having a good day, please give me a good swift kick or at least remind me to look at these pictures.This is Dora, the lady that we gave a wheelchair to today. She Is grateful for it because she has bone cancer and lying in her make shift shelter month after month gets a bit tiresome for her.There is a homeless shelter about a block away and she told us that now that she has a wheelchair to get there in she may go there to sleep on the nights that it rains since her shelter leeks like a sieve.

When Dora thanked us for the wheelchair we told her to thank God not us because that was why we were there. She then lifted her eyes towards heaven and did just that.

Thank you Lord!

It has been a beautiful day!

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, June 23, 2010

Today I spent a good part of my day at the orphanage. My Friends Dave and Lue Black are once again in Guatemala. During their 2 week visit they and their daughter who is here with them, are planning on spending most of their time doing medical work in a small town that is located about 2 hours from here so it is doubtful that I will see much of them. Today we spent most of the day together though and had a great time visiting and taking some of the orphanage kids out to lunch.

This evening I brought a few of my kids to youth group in Antigua and then joined the Blacks and Pat for supper. Dave and his wife co sponsor Cesar's schooling along with Pat. So it was neat for them to be able to visit with Cesar before going out to eat.

Another exciting thing that happened this week is that Priscilla the little girl that we found up in Rio Dulci a few months ago came in for her cleft pallet surgery. Unfortunately she has other complications that prevented her from having surgery on her cleft pallet but a lot of other positive things came out of it. The doctors feel that it is best to wait a year or 2 before doing surgery on her cleft pallet but they did make a a removable plate for the roof of her mouth that will greatly benefit her when she eats. It looks like she will also be getting surgery done to correct her club foot and there is a possibility of some needed dental work and a few other things.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, July 24, 2010

It is the week end so I am going to keep this one short.
This morning the kids and I went San Lucas and watched Cesar, Abner, and Marcos play Soccer. The teem that they are on is so far undefeated. San Lucas has a nice soccer field but it does seem a bit odd that the town tree is located on it. It makes for some rather interesting plays when you pass the ball around the back side of it or bounce the ball off from it.

The rest my day was spent working on my car. I am glad that I did not take the mechanics word for it when he told me that my engine was shot because after doing a lot of testing I discovered that the problem was a bad glow plug relay. $25 is going to be a lot easier for me to shell out than $2500.

Well that's about it for now.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, July 25, 2010

It is still the week end so this one is going to be short and to the point as well.


Fed kids


Fed kids



Fed kids


Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Journal, July 13-18, 2010

(Click on any picture to enlarge)

The past few days have once again slipped by without me doing any journaling. I am thankful though that I have a camera and even more thankful that I have friends who don't seem to mind when I copy and post their journal entries. Here then is some of mine and a lot of theirs.

I spent a good part of Wednesday and Thursday seating kids that came into Hope Haven's wheelchair factory for new wheelchairs.

Ryan and Melissa were still here on Wednesday
so Ryan helped seat wheelchairs.
Wednesday, July 17, 2010

Even though I only spent a small part of my day with Pat today I have decided to post her journal entry becasuse I feel that it has a lot of insight in it. Thanks Pat, for giving us all a lot to think about.

Pat writes the following

Learning to be a Human BEING

Today was such an ordinary day, I couldn’t quite think of what I was going to journal about. Really “accomplished” nothing today, except spending time with the kids at Hermano Pedro. And as I prayed about this, I realize how I’m still striving to DO rather than surrendering to BEING. Can this possibly be God’s will for my life, just being? Can it really be this simple?

I’m beginning to realize that though I may not be able to show tangible events as “proof” of my service, that much is happening inside of me, and hopefully inside of those I touch each day. I really struggled over whether or not to go to language school in Costa Rica, to become more “equipped” to serve here, but understand now that this initial time is part of my equipping.

Each day I learn more about being a “missionary” from Dick and Chris and Donna and others who have served here for years. I’m grateful they share their wisdom with me, and know I am a better person because of their friendship. (“Missionary” is in quotes, because I’m still trying to figure out what that means. How is what I am doing here different from what I was called to do at Westside? As Dick pointed out to me today, aren’t we all called to share and be Jesus to each other, no matter where we live?)

Amber, a volunteer from the States, holding Patita

As I held Patita (little Paty) at the orphanage today, she taught me much about just being Jesus to another. Paty is one of the most significantly involved kids I’ve met. She cannot even eat orally, and is fed through a stomach tube. Today when I came in, she was crying, and there was no way I could just walk by her crib and not stop to spend time with her. As soon as I lowered the side of her bed, her crying stopped. It seemed as though she reached out for me with her eyes, though she was unable to with her hands. She has very limited movement, though today she did smile and reach for my face as I held her (which reduced me to tears).

I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so strongly the call to let my hands and arms be the hands and arms of Jesus. As I prayed over her, I saw her face and body relax. Did she understand my words? Probably not. But I believe she experienced the touch of the Holy Spirit in her spirit. I’m learning that I’m not called just to minister to physical, intellectual, and emotional needs of the kids, but also to their spiritual needs. I really don’t think that there is such a thing as being “spiritually handicapped” unless it is something we do to ourselves by clinging to our intellect and abilities, rather than just yielding to the touch of God. I find myself almost automatically starting to pray over each child as I say “hello” or wish them “good night.” They are teaching me much about inviting Jesus into all my encounters.
I also profoundly experience the truth of Jesus’ words, “whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.” Today as I held and “fed” Paty, I had the strong impression that in some way I was holding Jesus as I never had before. She was being Jesus to me as much as I was being Jesus to her. I was once again overwhelmed and humbled by the privilege of serving Him in the kids. He is “blessing my socks off” each day that I’m here.

Folks sometimes ask me what I think God’s “purpose” is, in allowing these children to be so limited in the things we think are important. Each day I see more clearly that their “ministry” is to show me (and any who will take the time to see and hear them) what REALLY is important. They teach me each day what it REALLY means to be a human being (vs. a human “doing”), and I sometimes wonder if God created each of them only to help me grow into the person He created me to be. Their very existence brings glory to the One who made them. I’m trying to follow their example in bringing Him glory more by who I AM than by what I DO.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Written by Pat

Visiting With Old Frie
Today I went with Dick to visit the Hernandez family near Santa Lucia. This is a family I’ve known for at least the last 2 years, when I was with a team from Westside who painted their house. I’ve visited them a number of times since then, and was excited to see them.

Their oldest son, Ronny, has Muscular Dystrophy. He is barely able to move on his own, and uses an electric wheelchair which had broken down once again. So Dick, Marcos (one of Dick’s “kids”) and I set off with spare parts.

The trip down was pretty uneventful, and it seemed like in no time at all we were at their home. (Really, I think it took about 2½ hours, but with the trips we’ve made lately, that’s not long.) The kids were home when we arrive, and they quickly called their parents who were working in the field nearby.

I’m always so excited to see the girls in this family. They have become very special to me, and I had time to visit with each of them. Estellita is having some trouble in school, and we talked quite a bit about how hard school has been for her. Talking to her mom, it’s the same story I heard many times in the States—she does her work, but does not hand it in. I think there’s a lot more going on here, though, as she was hesitant to show me any of her work, while the other two girls could not wait to do so. She also says she’s afraid of the teacher because she yells at her. I hope to spend more time with this little one, to see if I can figure out what’s really going on here. She just sat in my lap and cried as we talked about this. Please pray for her tender heart.

I brought some gifts for the kids. A young friend in the States, Terryn, had sent down some Barbie dolls for me to give to kids here. Since there were three of them (with wardrobes), I thought these three girls were the perfect recipients. I was especially pleased to see that Yessica, the oldest at 14, was excited to receive a doll. It seems like every time we’re here, she’s working and caring for the younger children. Today was no exception, as she was busy making tortillas while the rest of us visited.

Claudia, the youngest girl, has grown up quite a bit since I saw her last. I don’t think she hardly put down the Care Bear I brought her. She looks much healthier now than she did even a year ago.

Herlindo, the “middle” son, is quite the character. He’s sharp as a tack, but has a definite mind of his own.

I really got a kick out of Dovan, the baby, who at age two also knows how to assert himself! I’d brought him a small ball, and if anyone touched it, he’d scream bloody murder! He did play futbol (soccer) with Dick for a while, though.

Dick and Marcos managed to repair Ronny's chair by replacing the wheel bearings. This was the real purpose of our trip, but, as Dick says, you can’t just make a quick stop at this home. This is a family who loves to visit and is always so gracious to us when we do. To thank Dick and Marcos for fixing the chair, Momma gave them each sacks of limes to take home.

After the repairs were done, Dick took and printed some pictures for the family. I’m always amazed at what a big deal this is. These pictures I took of him doing this show just how much the family enjoyed this activity.

Soon it was time to go, as Dick needed to get back to Chimaltenango to take his teenagers to youth group this evening. We took a different road back, and discovered that it was covered in water in many places. This is dangerously deceptive, as what seems like a shallow puddle can turn out to be a 2 foot deep pothole filled with water.

The Land Cruiser did an admirable job handling this road, even if it was unable to pull the bus we passed out of its “sink hole.” It’s nice to know there are some things even a Land Cruiser can’t handle! It did manage, however, to get us all home safe and sound.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Written by Dick

This morning a number of the kids and myself went to San Lucas and watched some of my older kids play soccer.

After the game 6 of the boys went with me to the village where Maria lives.

My boys and some of the village kids quickly got another soccer game going. This one was not played on a manicured field but the kids still had a great time.

This soccer field
even had a water hazard.

It was a good thing I took a head count when I left home. Otherwise I may not have noticed that there were about a dozen extra kids in and on my car when it was time to leave.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Only 3 kids came along with me to church this morning. That is an all time low but some were sick, others were grounded and a few went to another church with some friends.

After church pat joined us for some Pizza then we bought 2 cakes and headed over to Olga's house for a Birthday party. Olga turned 15 today and here in Guatemala that is usually a big event in a girls life. Often times the Girls family throws a party that resembles a wedding except there is no groom. Were it not for the cakes and 2 small gifts that Pat and I brought Olga would not have had a party at all though. Olga her sister and 2 brothers live in a house with 4 other relatives the oldest of which is 23 years old. Her mother lives less than a mile away but wants nothing to do with Olga or her other 3 children. Olga's aunt and uncle originally took her and here sister and brothers in a few years ago but uncle died shortly after in a drowning accident and her aunt got sick and died shortly after that. Her cousin Victor who is 23 is doing the best he can to hold the family together but he has to work long hours and receives little pay so it is difficult to put food on the table yet alone think about having a birthday party. Earlier this morning when I asked Victor if we could bring over a cake and have a party for Olga he seemed thrilled.

In traditional Guatemalan fashion Olga got her face shoved into one of the cakes after blowing out the candles. I used to think that getting a spanking on your birthday was bad but this one takes the cake.

Even though we felt privileged to be part of this celebration Olga and her entire family thanked us over and over again for coming.

I had a big crew for supper tonight and even though I had run out of hamburger the entire crew voted for spaghetti. It's not that my spaghetti is all that good it is just that the only other choice was corn flakes. I must admit though I still prefer hamburger in my spaghetti better than chopped up hot-dogs.

Well it is getting late so I think that I will take a few Tums and then head off to bed.

Yours in Christ: Dick