* 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)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Journal, October 25-27, 2010

 Monday, October 25, 2010

At 4:30 Am Fernando, Bryan, Arlindo (Ronny's little brother), and I were in the pick up truck heading back to the coast to pick up Ronny and his parents.  The national hospital had refused to admit Ronny, who was suffering from pneumonia into the hospital on Saturday but expected us to be at their door at 7:00 Am this morning so that they could run more tests.  Since Ronny lives 2 hours from me and the hospital is over an hour from their house this was not going to happen but I was hoping that the hospital would still let us in even if we were over an hour late.  Ronny's condition had worsened over the week end and I was not happy that the hospital had refused to admit him after spending a good part of the day there on Saturday.  I must admit I was a bit worried about what I would say to them If they refused to admit him or worse yet even see him today.

Today after about an hour and a half wait in the hall way of the emergency room a lady came up to us and told us that since we were late we would have to come back on Tuesday.  I tried to explain that I had to come in all the way from Chimaltenango and that I would have to get up in the middle of the night in order to get him there on time but she did not seem to be impressed.  Looking across the hall I spotted a nurse that seemed to be listening in on our conversation.  I motioned to her to come over and at least look at Ronny who was nearly unconscious and  lying in my arms.  With the help of Fernando and Ronny's parents we asked why we needed an appointment if this was an emergency room.  She looked down at Ronny and then told us to wait until she returned.  It seemed like hours before we saw her again but when she finally returned she  told us that they had decided to admit Ronny into the hospital.  I got up and followed her into a room that had about 10 other patients in it.  When I looked around I began to wonder why I was trying so hard to get him admitted into this hospital.  All of the patients were lying on old gurneys that were beyond description.  Not only were they falling apart and rusty but they looked like they had not been cleaned in years.  There was one that was not being used and I was asked to put Ronny on it.  There was no pad or mattress on it, only an old bed sheet that was absolutely filthy.  I thought about taking it off from the gurney before placing Ronny on it but the metal deck of the gurney was even filthier than the bed sheet.  I  brushed  several blood stained cotton balls off from the sheet and on to the floor before placing Ronny on it though.  Ronny was scarcely conscious but the still deck of the non padded gurney was more than his frail body could tolerate.

He looked up at me and said "No Good"  I asked him if he wanted me to hold him and he said "Yes".  I climbed onto the Gurney and placed Ronny into my arms and held him for the next few hours while the doctors and nurses  connected IV tubes and oxygen hoses to Ronny.  I think a few of them told me that I had to lye him back down on the steel deck but I managed to loose what little knowledge of the Spanish language that I ever had and paid them no mind.  It took over 5 hours but they finally admitted Ronny into a ward that had actual beds in it.  It was still nothing to write home about but Ronny's bed did have a mattress on it and the sheets actually looked like some one had tried to wash them.

Fernando and Bryan had stuck it out with us in the emergency room for the first hour or so but after a nurse told them that this was not a good place for children to be because there were so many germs they waited out side of the hospital in the hot sun for over 4 hours.  When I finally walked out of the hospital I told  them that I was sorry that they had to wait so long.  They  looked up at me  and said that they would have waited forever if they thought that it would help keep Ronny alive.  I was tired and really wanting to get home but after bringing Ronny's father and brother and sister home (Mom is spending the night at the hospital with Ronny)  I asked them if they wanted to stop off at the motel where Cesar, Kevin, Arlando and I had stayed and go for a swim before heading home.  They said yes so for the next hour and a half we swam.  They tried to get me to stay there over night but I told them that I really wanted to get home and see the other kids because I missed them. 
When I got home tonight I was exhausted but all 14 kids that were there pitched in and made supper and I didn't have to lift a finger.

Just before heading off to bed I received a phone call from Ronny's dad.  He had just received a call from one of the doctors at the hospital.  Ronny had lost consciousness and the doctor felt that Ronny's dad should get back to the hospital as soon as possible. Ronny's dad is going to try to talk a man that has a car and lives in his village to trust him for the money until I get back there and drive him back to the hospital tonight.

I am praying that unlike their older brother Ronny, 8 year old Arlindo and 2 year old Duvon do not have Muscular dystrophy.  There is a 50% chance that they do.  Ronny's was discovered when he was 9 years old.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

 "Let us be the ones who say we do not accept that a child dies every three seconds simply because he does not have the drugs you and I have. Let us be the ones to say we are not satisfied that your place of birth determines your right to life. Let us be outraged, let us be loud, let us be bold."

La Gomera Clinic.  (Oct. 27, part 1)  

Written by Pat

Dick with the Reyes family
Back Row:  Mama (Norma), Blanca (21), Dick (Really old)
Middle Row:  David (10),
Armando (13), Idania (15), Carmon (17), Alex  (8)
Front Row:  Evelyn (Blanca's daughter, age 2), Carmen (8)

Monday Dick had gone to Ronny's home to take him back to the National Hospital in Esquintla.  Ronny, a 16 year old with Muscular Dystrophy, had been admitted to the hospital with pneumonia, and was seriously ill. Tuesday night Dick and I decided to head down to the coast to be nearer to the family and see Ronny at the hospital on Wednesday.

The hotel in Santa Lucia where we usually stay was full, so we drove on to one nearer the coast.  This place was beautiful, air conditioned, and practically empty!  After dinner we even had time for a swim, and the night seemed almost like a mini-vacation.  I didn't realize how much I needed a bit of a get-away.  Even as I was enjoying this respite, though, it seemed God was preparing me for what we would face the next day.

Wednesday morning we started out at the clinic in La Gomera.  Dr. Jose, an excellent doctor from Cuba, greeted us like long lost friends.  What he manages to do in this under-equipped clinic continues to amaze me.  I also finally got to meet Sra. Flori de Vasquez, the wife of the mayor of La Gomera, who helps operate the clinic.  She assists Bethel ministries in getting food to some of the families who live in their area.

While we were there, a young man who works in the community of La Terreno approached us to ask for help for a family seriously in need of food.  When we were introduced to this family, I could not believe the level of malnutrition suffered by each of the eight children.  I have never before seen an entire family malnourished, and this family's need was intense. If the community workers had not brought them to our attention, however, they would have just faded in to the many others waiting to see the doctor.

Carmon age 17
The amazing thing to me, though, was how friendly and receptive these kids were.  For the life of me, I can't imagine how they had managed to find the energy to walk the 6 km from their home to the clinic, but they had.  They sure enjoyed taking pictures and seeing them on Dick's camera.

I was also introduced by Flori to a young mom who has two children, ages 1 and 3, who are currently in the National Hospital suffering from malnutrition.  She seemed to be nothing more than a child herself.  So much need. . . I know I can't help every hungry person in Guatemala, but I also feel a strong conviction to try to help those who God puts in my path each day. 

After checking with Sra. Flori about two other families receiving help from Bethel Ministries through the clinic, we reluctantly left so that we could get to Esquintla in time to see Ronny. Our new friends followed us to the door to say good-bye as we left.  How I wish I could have promised these families help before we left for Esquintla. All we could do is tell them we would do our best to find them sponsors. After sending out an email appeal, I am happy to be able to say that we have help for these families, and possibly a few more in need of food for the next year.



A visit to the national Hospital  (Oct. 27, Part 2)

Written by Pat

After leaving the clinic, we headed on to Ronny's house to spend some time with Dad and the six other children.  This family is so special to me--I've known them for years, and am especially attached to the girls in this family.  They are really struggling with Ronny being so sick and in a hospital far from home.  They seem to understand, though no one spoke it, that there's a good possibility that Ronny is dying and they will not see their brother again.

It is a privilege to be invited into these most intimate moments in the life of this family.  It also is somewhat overwhelming.  What do you say to a four year old who wants to know where her brother is, and why her mom is not at home?  What do you say to a fifteen year old who has been one of the primary caretakers for her older brother who is now so ill?  I guess you don't really say anything.  There is nothing to say.  We can just be with them as they walk through this difficult time.  We can just let them know that we care, because God cares.  But sometimes it's hard. . . really hard. . . to stand beside someone you love and know you are totally helpless to take away their pain.  But, just as I know how hard this is, I know that this is what we are called to do, and so we do it.


After visiting with the family, we left for the hospital taking Jessica, the oldest daughter with us. She was going to be a companion for mom and grandma as they took turns sitting with Ronny.  What an extreme responsibility for one so young.

We got the the hospital at about 2:30.  Unfortunately, the one hour patients are allowed visitors ended at 2 PM.  Both Ronny's mom and I asked the receptionist for permission for us  to spend 5 minutes with Rony.  I have to admit that this lady lived up to to every story of indifference and rigidity I had heard about those who work in the National Hospitals in Guatemala.  Mom looked at Dick, and said Ronny really wanted to see him, and she thought maybe if Ronny could see Dick he would get better.  I thought my heart would break when she said this, and I know Dick's heart did break.  We knew we had to keep trying to get in.

We were fortunate, however, to have a nurse supervising the men's ward who had compassion on this mom whose son was dying and just wanted us to see him.  We also encountered a merciful guard to let us up to see Ronny, though we didn't have proper permission.  So we got to spend some time with Ronny. . . and this time was so bittersweet.  Ronny, who had not opened his eyes in almost 2 days, forced his eyes open when he heard Dick's voice.  Both Dick and I "lost it" when this happened.  I don't know what broke me more, seeing Ronny struggle so hard to see this man he loves, or watching Dick once more say good-bye to a child he has known and loved for years.  I knew the grief I was feeling paled in comparison to his anguish.  I thought my heart would break when I heard Dick quietly and confidently tell Ronny he would see him again. . . knowing Dick was talking about their reunion one day in heaven.

We tried to hold to our word of five minutes with Ronny, but leaving was very hard.  Both Mom and we sobbed as we said good-bye. . . and we thanked her for inviting us into this delicate time in the life of her family. 

I fought tears the entire drive back to Antigua.  I couldn't quite put my finger on what I was feeling--guess I was just overwhelmed at all I had experienced in one day.  And I struggled with feeling guilty, because this really wasn't about me.  I had started out the day asking God to lead my steps where He wanted me to be today. . . and now I was complaining to Him about where He had led me. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Journal October 16-24, 2010

It is remarkable what a difference 5 weeks can make.  On September 13 (link) I was at a wheelchair distribution down near the coast holding a little girl in my arms wondering if she would survive a 3 hour car ride to the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro.  Just 5 weeks later that little girl has gone from starving to thriving.  I wish to thank all of those involved.  Had it not been for Hope Haven international we would never have found Jessica in the first place.  Thanks to  Ammy and Maria's  willingness to take over I could walk out in the middle of a wheelchair distribution to  take Jessica and her mother to Hermano Pedro.  Thanks to  a generous sponsors, Jessica and her family are now receiving  food on a monthly bases.  Thanks to more sponsors and Bethel Ministries it looks like we will soon be going in and building a home for Jessica and her family.  Thanks to Hermano Pedro, Jessica is regaining her health.  Thanks to my good friend Pat Duff a trust and friendship has been established with Jessica's Mom that has made this all possible.  The list could go on and on.  I am thankful that so many organizations and people were willing to work together to make this possible.  Most of all I want to thank God because I know that with out His leading none of this would have happened.   To God be the glory!!

3 of my boys saying goodbye to Jose.

After nearly 2 years Jose will be leaving the malnutrition ward
of Hermano Pedro and returning home to his family.

 Saturday, October 16, 2010

Since I have been gone so much lately I have once again decided to spend very little time writing in my journal and a lot of time with  the Orphanage kids and the kids that hang out at my house.  Thankfully Pat has spent a good deal of her time with us and has still found some time to write so once again a good part of this week's journal was written by her.

Dick wrote

Guess what my boys and I did most of the day today? (Saturday)


# 1 teem for the 3rd year in a row.

I have never been a big sports fan but seeing what soccer does for boys like mine who for the most part have no structure or guidelines in their homes,  I have now become a big fan.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday & Sunday, October 16-17, 2010

Pat wrote 

Hair Weaves in the Park

This weekend was pretty calm, especially when compared to last week.  Saturday passed very quickly, with me doing housework and paperwork.  Had wanted to get to see the kids at the orphanage, but time just got away.  I continue to be amazed at how much time is required just to take care of the things required in daily life.  I would SOOOOO much rather be with the kids, but I guess I still live in the real world.

Sunday, after church, I ate lunch with Dick and the kids at Camperos.  I continue to be amazed at how willing the kids are to let an old gringa tag along with them.  While we were waiting for Dick to move the car, the kids and I watched a street mime entertaining right outside the restaurant.  While not the most impressive performance I've ever seen, it was fun to watch how he engaged the audience.

On the way to Hermano Pedro after lunch, the kids wanted to get woven yarn braided into their hair, so we spent some time in Central park. I was a bit surprised at these macho boys wanting a "hair weave" but they seemed to have fun.  A bonus was that it was a woman from our church to was doing the weaving.

Today I  spent time just holding and playing with the kids.  They love to do "trabajo" (work) but sometimes I feel so busy shuffling activities that I don't feel like I have much meaningful contact with them personally.  Today was good for my soul!

On the way back to the car, the boys dared us (Dick and me) to get "hair weaves" also.  Dick couldn't resist the challenge and decided to get two put in is beard!  Not to be outdone, I did get one in my hair.  If you ask me, Dick looked like he had two worms crawling out of his mouth, but the kids seemed to have fun and that's what counts. 

In all, it was a good weekend that passed way too fast (don't they all?)! 

I don't want Pat to feel left out  so I am adding her picture as well.

I guess if the man with the worms coming out of his mouth doesn't scare the kids half to death the lady with the pink snake coming out her head won't do much more harm.


Monday, October 18, 2010 

Pat wrote.

Dick brought in two of the boys, so, with Anita, we were able to take 5 kids to lunch.  It's always amazing to me to see the kids outside the orphanage.  I've never worked much with Beverly, though she almost always reaches out and "calls" to me when I walk by her chair or crib.  Today, she was my lunch partner, and we had a great time.  She totally surprised me when I discovered she could finger feed herself (the nurses had said she needed very tiny bits of food only), and even grabbed a french fry from my plate!  I was speechless when her ice cream came and she could eat it herself with a spoon.  There is so much more to these kids than I realize, and I am thrilled every time they surprise me with their hidden skills.

After lunch we played in the park for a while, and I think they all had a pretty good time.  The fountain is always a favorite stop, and the wetter the kids can get us by splashing us, the better they like it.  Today was a pretty good day for them, and I was grateful that Antigua is warm during the day!

When we got back, the kids who had not gone really wanted to work, so we did.  There are a couple of new volunteers who really are into doing activities with the kids, and though I miss working directly with the kids, I enjoy helping them find activities the kids can do.  And there was so much less calling "Patty" today, that I actually got to start taking pictures of activities so I can make a choice board for the kids.  I think this might be progress. . .

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pat wrote

A visit from Jessica's family

The mom, sister and brother of Jessica Vanessa (our little one in malnutrition) came down to visit her today.  Dick has found someone willing to provide food for this family on a monthly basis, and so we needed to open a bank account for her.  I really am getting to love this mom, and we got to spend quite a bit of time together today.

You'd think opening an account would be a simple matter, but, it sometimes seems that nothing is simple here.  We did take her to the bank I use, and they were willing to open an account for her, but there was a snag in that she has neither electricity or water in her house, and so had no way to prove her address.  So, because Bethel Ministries would be depositing into this account, they agreed to accept their phone bill as proof of their address.

The only snag was that Bethel's shop is in Chimaltenango, a twenty-five minute drive from Antigua.  Since Dick still doesn't have his Land Cruiser back, we all piled into the pick-up (yes, the kids rode in the back. . .illegal but commonplace in Guatemala.  We talked with Carlos in the shop, got the needed papers, and actually tried to open an account at a bank in Chimal.  We had NO luck with this, and decided we needed lunch, so we went to (where else) Campero's. 


Hector, Jessica's brother, seems to have fallen in love with Dick.  His dad died about a year ago, and it seemed he really enjoyed getting attention from a guy.  It didn't seem like Dick minded too much either.  Blanca, Jessica's sister, is a beautiful young woman, who absolutely adores her little sister and helps care for her.  These were two of the most well behaved kids I've ever eaten lunch with.  I'm sure that the chicken they had was more food than they usually have to eat in an entire day. . . and they each took a piece to save for later.  It was a good reminder of just how well off I have it, and it was a pleasure to watch them enjoy their meal.

After lunch, we went back to Antigua, and, thankfully, the bank there opened an account for her.  So, all things considered, it only took about 4 hours to open one bank account.  But we did it!  I was rather satisfied with my ability to navigate this system without help, and feel like I'm starting to acclimate to the way things are done here.  Jessica's mom only had to help me out with understanding the bank officer one or two times.  (No, she doesn't speak English, but is very good at explaining things in a way I, or any three year old with equivalent language skills, can understand.) 


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pat wrote,

Tonight Dick invited me to go to the circus with him and his neighborhood kids who had received good grades.  I wasn't too sure what to expect, since I've never been to a Guatemalan circus and had heard that they were nothing to write home about.  Obviously, since I'm writing about it, it was as good as Dick had promised it would be.  So, 12 kids and two adults watched aerialists, clowns, trained horses, a magician, and even a nine tigers with their trainer and ate chocobananas.  The animals were all healthy and well cared for, and the tiger act was amazing.  I'm not sure I've ever seen tigers as big as a couple of these were!  I think this has been one of the most enjoyable things I've done since moving to Guatemala.  Thanks, Dick and kids, for letting me tag along. Thanks, Dick, for the pictures from the circus.

The "good grades" crew

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Written by Dick
 On The Road Again

This morning Cesar, Kevin and I Headed out toward Xela  to finish up on the last of the camp recruiting for the year.  Chris and Donna usually do this area but this year they have so much going on that they were unable to do it, so Jeorge and his 2 sons or doing part of it while 2 of my boys and I do the other half.


One of our visits was to the home of Erica.  Erica who has a rare skin disease contacted us earlier this week saying that she was running low on the medicine that we provide so today we brought her some along with her invitation to camp.

We also paid a visit to Christopher.  Christopher has a power wheelchair that he use to drive to school but due to the steep narrow trail that leads to his home he has to keep it at a home that is located about a quarter mile from his house.  Unfortunately no that Christopher is getting bigger his mom can no longer carry him  down the trail to where his wheelchair is kept.  So Christopher no longer attends a regular school and only leaves home on rare occasions like camp.  We have found a teacher that comes to his home and teaches him a few times a week but he still misses going out to school and seeing his friends.

After seeing a few more campers we headed for our hotel and called it a day.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dick wrote, 

This morning we shifted gears a bit and headed over to the orphanage in Xela.  Befoer heading out on Thursday we stopped off at Bethel's wheelchair shop in Chimeltenago and picked up a power wheelchair that Alturo has been putting together for Javiar, a boy that lives at Xela orphanage.  To say that Javiar was thrilled with his new power wheelchair would be an understatement.

Click here to see video,
or go to bottom of this weeks journal.


The rest of our day was spent repairing more wheelchairs and visiting with the kids.

We had intended on heading for home this afternoon but yesterday I received a call from Ronny's father.  Ronny who lives near the coast has muscular dystrophy.  Ronny's dad told me that for the past several days Ronny has been very sick and that there was no way that the family could get him in to see a doctor.  Even if they had the money to see a doctor they would have to walk a long way and then catch a number of different chicken buses just to get to a doctor.  This  would take several hours and considering how hot it is near the coast there would be no way that Ronny could tolerate the trip.  That is why we are now in a Motel in Mazatenango.  Tomorrow morning we plan on driving the rest of the way to Ronny's home.

Yours in Christ:  Dick

Saturday, October 23, 2010

When we arrived at Ronny's house this morning we were told that both parents were out picking some lemons that they were going to try sell so that they could buy some medicine for Ronny.  Ronny was sitting in his wheelchair but he did not look well.  His breathing was labored and he appeared to have pneumonia.  Ronny's older sister was preparing the meal for the day and asked if we wanted to stay for lunch.  Even though we were hungry we politely declined.  Neither the boys or myself have acquired a taste for iguana.  With in about a half hour Ronny's parents and the rest of the children returned home. After a short discussion it was decided that Ronny's health was more important than lunch and the iguana was put on hold.  Soon my 2 boys, Ronny, his mother and father, and 2 brothers were in the pickup truck and on our way to Santa Lucia to try and find a doctor. 

When we got there we located a Guatemalan lady who was not a doctor but she seemed to have a lot of medical knowledge.  She confirmed my suspicions that Ronny indeed had pneumonia and said that he should be in a hospital.  I really did not want to take him to the National hospital but after trying several other options that did not pan out, a few hours later we found ourselves in Esquentla at the door of the National  hospital.  I must admit the doctor that Ronny had seemed quite knowledgeable and ran a lot of tests.  The National hospitals leave a lot to be desired though. While we were there a lady who had been shot died in the bed right next to Ronny.  At about 7PM the doctor told us that he was going to prescribe some medicine and send Ronny back home.  Normally I would have argued this decision but knowing the lack of care patients get in most national hospitals I felt that he was better off at home.  The doctor does want to see him again on Monday.  

The  hour and a half ride back to Ronny's house was uneventful.  We did a lot of praying though because this is not a road that should be traveled after dark.  Just a few months ago I encountered some armed bandits on this road.  


It is now 10 PM and the 3 boys and myself are safely in a motel here in Santa Lucia.  Yes 3 boys. I somehow let my 2 boys talk me into letting Ronny's little brother Arlindo come along with us for a few days.  I plan on bringing him back home on Monday when I return to take Ronny back to the doctor.

Sunday, October 25, 2010


 It is Sunday Morning,  the boys and I went for a swim at the motel we are staying at.  I am now trying to convince them to play on their own so that I can get this journal out but they keep telling me that  they want me to join in on the fun.  I think that sounds like a good Idea so that is going to be it for this week's journaling.


Have a good weekend,

 Yours in Christ:  Dick