* 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)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Journal, April 7-11, 2011

Thursday & Friday, April 7 & 8, 2011

For the past 2 days I have been helping out with a Hope Haven wheelchiar distribution in Antigua. During these 2 days we gave out around 30 children's wheelchairs. Most of these chairs were ones that were manufactured in Hope Haven's Antigua wheelchair factory. During this 2 day event many of the factory workers who are themselves in wheelchairs were active in seating those that came in to receive wheelchairs. It was good to see Guatemalan's with disabilities being helped by fellow Guatemalan's who also had disabilities. I am seeing this take place at Bethel Ministries wheelchiar shop in Chimaltenango as well and it is great to witness. It was not that many years ago that only a few of us (all Americans) did specialty seating but that is rapidly changing. Am I worried about working myself out of something to do by helping train these workers? Not as long as there is so much need here in Guatemala. Besides that I think that it should be the responsibility of every missionary to train nationals to take over where ever possible. I am praying that some of my boys can someday do the same in other facets of this ministry. I don't have to worry that I will run out of things to do though because the needs here in Guatemala are endless.

Pat Came along to the distribution on Friday and although see spent most of her time working on communication booklets with the kids she even managed to help work on a few wheelchairs.

Both Pat and I are continually amazed at the love that so many of the parents have for their children that they bring in for wheelchairs. Just today one of the mothers told us that she viewed her special needs child as a gift from God. It was not all that long ago that most Guatemalan parents looked at a child like the one pictured below as a curse from God. As I look back to when I first came to Guatemala 11 years ago I see a big change in not only the attitude of family members towards the disabled but also the attitude of the general public in general.
Yours in Christ: Dick

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Seems that my kids could not get enough Soccer today. First we went to San Lucas and watched a soccer game that 2 of my boys played in. Then later in the afternoon we rented a field and everyone played.

Ever since I move to Guatemala I have been without a TV but this afternoon I finally gave in and bought one. After all the rainy season will be here and some times it is hard to know what to do with a dozen teen age kids in a 3 room house. Besides that now that I have hearing aids I can always turn them off.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, April 10, 2011

On the way to church this morning the boys and I parked the car at Pat's house and then walked in to Church. Each weekend starting several weeks before Easter the streets of Antigua get so crowded with people that come to see the processions that even if you do manage to find a parking place in town it can often take you forever to get out of town so we thought that it would be wise to walk in to church.

A few of my Boys with Pat's puppies

After church we headed in to Chimaltenango and had lunch. After lunch Pat and I joined up with Daryl Fulp, his daughter Britney and her friend Kathlyn and headed off to Lake Atitlan.

Any one that read my last journal entry no doubt read the portion that Daryl wrote. You are then no doubt aware that that Daryl's recollection of what actually took place was far different than mine or anyone eases but being the kind person that I am I printed it anyway. Well once again Daryl has asked me to publish what he wrote about today. Although most of what he writes about Pat is completely true, what he wrote about me and especially my driving could not be further from the truth.


Road trips, Blood Stains, and Spewed Spaghetti.

Mostly fiction,

Written by Daryl Fulp

This is a special request for prayer from all our supporters and prayer partners. As I write this, I am currently in San Pedro Laguna with Dick Rutgers and Pat Duff, and these two are exhausting! It is difficult to be the only mature person in the group. It is like being responsible for toddlers!

Our group left this afternoon after church. As already stated, the team includes Dick, Pat, and myself along with my daughter Brittney and Kathlyn Beyer. The plan was to drive out to the region of Lake Atitlan and stay in a motel for the next two evenings, using it as a base while we deliver a wheelchair, repair another, and make a couple of deliveries in the area. It didn’t take long for me to determine that I was in trouble.

My fear began when Dick informed our group that he had driven carefully on our trip last week. But after reading my blog in which I complained about his heart-stopping driving technique he would no longer “hold back.” I immediately began to pray.

We stopped for a break at a gas station where Pat promptly fell out of Dick’s Land Cruiser. Dick immediately expressed his concern by asking, “You didn’t get any blood on my car, did you?” (Note: Dick asked me to clarify this story by letting you know that he did ask her if she was okay a split second before expressing his concerns about blood stains, although his concern for the car was expressed more loudly and with much greater emotion.) Dick was greatly relieved to learn that no skin was broken and, therefore, there was no blood.

Our journey through the mountains was an adventure in itself. The descent to the lake takes us through a section of road that Dick and Pat have dubbed “The small Intestines” because that is what the road looks like on the GPS. We traveled down the side of the mountain through a series of switchbacks involving sharp corners that left you wondering if we would meet a bus head-on.

We arrived in town and checked into our motel which is quite nice and only set us back by 100 Q (about $12.50) a night per room. We were hungry, so we walked to a local restaurant that overlooks the lake. The view was gorgeous, but the food was lousy. Dick and I both got the shrimp (at least that is what it was called on the menu). After trying it, we both decided that they must have been composed of crawdads from the lake combined with rubber from old tires. So, I ate the bread on the plate and ordered a cheeseburger. Dick chose to finish Pat’s spaghetti for her. (There was still a little left that she hadn’t managed to spew at me or splatter on me from across the table. Never sit across from Pat when she eats!)

Today was mainly just for fun as we traveled over and settle in, but there will be some actual ministry done. To be honest, life and ministry here can be difficult and draining, and sometimes we just need to laugh and have some fun. It is good to have friends with whom we all can do just that. My respect and love for these two have grown exponentially in the last few months, and I am privileged to call them my friends.

We are all getting ready to settle down and get some shut-eye. Another day awaits us and will arrive soon, and I will need to be ready to keep these two toddlers in line. Please pray for me!

Goodnight from Lake Atitlan!


Pat Duff has also been doing some writing. The following has been taken from her last 2 posts.


Kids and Camperos

Written by Pat Duff


I know we very often take some of the kids from the orphanage to Pollo Campero for lunch. I suppose some of you wonder why we so frequently spend our time and money on what appears to be nothing more than a fun outing.

Honestly, sometimes this feels like more of a hassle than it’s worth. We need to get not one but three signatures giving us permission to take kids outside the institution’s walls. Then we need to wait as the nurses change them and get them ready to go. For some we need to pack up bibs and bottles. Finally, there’s the challenge of navigating wheelchairs through the people on the sidewalks and over the cobblestone streets. So why do it?

The other day, Dick and I took Elmer and Ervin there for lunch, and I realized more profoundly than ever the benefits of these trips.

First, just getting the kids outside is good for them. Allowing them to chose what they would like to eat is a somewhat unique experience for children who live on a diet of institutional food. Both Ervin and Elmer knew EXACTLY what they did and did not want from the menu. The selection process, as well as the meal itself, provide numerous opportunities for communication experiences and practice in a natural, meaningful environment.

Just the type of food served here, food that is whole and recognizable (as opposed to the blended puree they often eat) makes the experience more inviting for them. Sitting at a table with others, eating together, is also a somewhat novel experience since it only happens when they go out.


Learning table manners, using silverware, and being a good lunch companion are also part of our goals for the kids. Both Ervin, who used to shove food into his mouth with both hands, and try to eat off everyone else’s plate, and Elmer, who would throw a screaming tantrum if he didn’t get his own way, have made a great deal of progress in this area as you can see from these pictures.




After lunch we usually try to take the kids into the play area at the restaurant. Suddenly, kids who are in wheelchairs become mobile, independently or with our help. Both Elmer and Ervin are experts at climbing on the equipment, and get a great deal of exercise doing this, though neither of them like to practice their walking skills during physical therapy sessions. It is so much fun for me to watch them as they challenge each other to try new things, which they would probably never attempt if an adult asked them to. On this trip, they created their own form of “follow the leader” which was quite amusing.

IMG_0268 IMG_0272

IMG_0271 IMG_0279

Both of these guys have learned to follow the direction that “It’s time to go,” without any fuss or bother. This is quite the accomplishment. A few years ago, Dick and I had Elmer and some others out to Camperos. I was responsible for Elmer, and Dick took great delight in my struggle to push Elmer back to the orphanage after play time. I suppose it was rather interesting to watch an inexperienced gringa try to push the wheelchair of a kid who was fighting it and screaming all the way. (Guess I’m lucky I didn’t get arrested, come to think of it.) Today when he was told it was time to go, Elmer crawled to his chair himself and helped me to get him in. Quite the change.

IMG_0267A few weeks ago both boys received new wheelchairs from a distribution held by Hope Haven Guatemala. These chairs are very easy for them to self-propel, and today they had much practice pushing themselves through the restaurant (which I would not want to try in a wheelchair) and through Central Park. They were in heaven with this freedom to go where they wanted to go.


The final benefit, though, may be the one with the most far-reaching impact. Eleven years ago, when Dick first took kids into the restaurant, they were refused service. Neither the restaurant staff nor the patrons wanted kids in wheelchairs disrupting their work and meals. Today, when we hit the door, the staff begins rearranging tables for us, and often customers offer to help or at least greet the kids. I was humbled one day when a lady walked over to me and handed me a note (in English) saying, “Thank-you. Today I saw God in your eyes.” Our outings benefit the community as well as the kids. Not only are the kids more accepted than ever before, but I believe many in Antigua know that we do what we do to bring glory to God. And to God be the glory. . .


Here is another journal that Pat just posted. Although the following took place nearly 2 weeks ago I still decided to post it.

A visit to Rony's family.

Written by Pat Duff

Dick looking at a picture of Rony
with his brothers, Herlindo & Dovan

On March 27 Dick came to pick me up to travel to visit Rony's family in Cerro Colorado. Dane Underwood, from Omaha, is visiting here, and came with us, along with five of Dick's boys.


Dane with some of Dick’s boys

We wanted to visit this family whose son, Rony, died a couple months ago from Muscular Dystrophy, and see how they were all doing. We were especially concerned about Herlindo, age 8, who Mom said had not been feeling well. While we recognized that this was Sunday, and we would not be able to manage both church and the visit, we also knew if we did not go today we would not make it out for a while. This was one of those times when we decided it was more important to BE the church than go to church. And we were off.

We had not told the family we were coming, so our arrival was somewhat of a surprise. Mom, baby, and Clara were off selling limones (limes), but we were able to visit with the Dad and the rest of the kids. Dad was quite concerned about Herlindo, saying he was not eating, sleeping, had fevers, and complained of muscle aches. A local doctor had diagnosed him as anemic and low in calcium. His parents were not so sure, though, that this was all that was ailing him. In front of him, Dad repeatedly expressed his fear that Herlindo was developing the same symptoms as Rony had at the same age. Each time he said this, you could see Herlindo "shrink" a little and become more withdrawn. Dick and I were concerned about the lethargy of this little one who usually is going a mile a minute. All he wanted to do was lie on Dick's lap.


We also discovered that both Devon and Claudia, two of the younger children, were covered in scabby spots. Dick said that a few years earlier, Claudia had had the same problem and it was from the contaminated water. Dad agreed that this was the case, but when we discussed solutions, I once again experienced cultures colliding.

Dad was focused on the need to dig a new well, because tree roots had grown into the current one and was contaminating the water. When we talked about using a water filter (they had been given one previously), Dad was convinced that this wouldn't do any good. . .a new well would be better. This family, like so many others we have visited recently, does not understand the importance of using pure water consistently. They may buy bottled water one day, and drink from the polluted well the next, not realizing that it only takes a teaspoonful of contaminated water to cause problems.

I was curious to see the condition of their water filter, and two of the kids and I began the search. We finally found it stuck between the pila (cement outdoor sink) and the house, and try as we could, we were not able to reach it. It was obvious, though, that the filter had not been used for a long time. Dick and I briefly discussed the possibility of giving them a new filter, but quickly reached the conclusion that, until they realize the value of pure water and ask for a filter, there was not point in giving another one that would not be used.

We also reminded Dad that antibiotics had helped Claudia when she had had these skin eruptions the last time, but he was opposed to using them this time. He was convinced that they were too strong, and when we reminded him of how they helped Claudia, he agreed she could take them, but only until the spots were gone, not for the full course of antibiotic treatment. Hearing this we decided to let their bodies fight the problem with their own resources.

If it sounds like I'm criticizing this father, I really don't mean to. I'm writing this more to reflect on the difference in our world views than to maintain that I know better than he does what his children need. It strikes me once again how "scientifically oriented" we Americans are, how we often trust science and technology more than our own guts or experiences, as Dad does. It also made me realize, once again, how American I am in my attitudes.

At one point, Dane said something along the lines of, "we need to do something if these parents are going to be irresponsible." That "brought me to my senses" in terms of what I was thinking and feeling. This family is really one of the most functional and loving ones we work with. Dad works hard in the sugar cane fields to provide for them. Mom clearly loves her children. They welcome us unconditionally into their hearts and homes each time we visit. They are NOT irresponsible, but they are Guatemalan. Their worldview and their way of addressing problems is different from ours.

I needed to be reminded of that. While I have learned not to push my values and ideas on the people I serve, I still look constantly for ways to convince them that my way is best. How can I make them understand that pure water and filters are necessary for the health of their children? How can I help them understand you need to take all the prescribed antibiotic? And I approach these issues from my American mindset, using my American logic to construct American arguments. And Dick reminded me, kids here often get well inspite of us. . .

I'm not suggesting that we never say anything and leave everything as we find it. If that were my belief, I shouldn't be here. But I am suggesting that, even in the so-called "secular" areas of our ministry, I need to speak the truth in love, and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. When directly addressing spiritual matters, it's so easy to remember to let God speak through me. Now I must learn that, even when it comes to matters of everyday living, I must listen for His voice and share as He leads, not relying so much on my own wisdom.

Did I say or do anything wrong in this situation? I really don't think so. I know how to be "politically correct" as a missionary by now. But that's not the issue. The issue is the attitude of my heart in sharing the truth, and, I have to confess, in this situation, my attitude left a little bit to be desired.

Forgive me, Father, and heal my heart. Help me to remember my first and only responsibility is to follow You and bring Your love to this family and all I meet. Help me get out of Your way.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Pat Needs a Nap

Written by Daryl Fulp

Today has been a weird day. Of course, that could be said of every day on spent with Dick and Pat, but today was strange because of our lack of activity.

DSCF6786We started off the day by walking down the street from our hotel to grab a quick bite of breakfast. Unlike last evening’s dinner, this meal was actually quite good with generous portions. Our entire group was able to chew the food. This is a noticeable improvement over last night’s shrimp which is being used to resurface the roads here in San Pedro Laguna.

DSCF6764After breakfast we headed across town to visit a school for children and teens with special needs called Centro Mayan Servicios Integral. This place is a wonderful school that provides a quality education and helps its student reach their full potential. While we were there we delivered a shipment of vitamins, sized up a little girl named Lucy for a wheelchair, and Dick adjusted the speed of Domingo’s wheelchair. It seems that Domingo had been discouraged because his buddy Manuel’s wheelchair was faster than his. He was quite pleased to find that he had far more juice than before and seemed ready to drag race.

In the afternoon we returned to the motel and gambled again as we tried to find a place to eat. The first restaurant we went to told us they had no soft drinks, water, or tea. When Pat asked him what they did have to drink we were told, “Beer!” We left in search of another restaurant. We did find another place and the food was decent and chewable.

DSCF6787The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing back at the hotel. We have determined that none of us are good at doing nothing. All of us have taken time to work on our blogs, and Dick and I disappeared into our room for a time of quiet reflection (we slept). By then we found that Pat was getting cranky because she hadn’t take the time she needed for quiet reflection like Dick and I had so we took a walk and got her some ice cream. That helped, but we hope to send her to her room soon before the sugar high wears off and the crankiness returns.

Tomorrow promises to be much fuller as we will be heading to San Lucas to deliver and fit a wheelchair for a little girl and to Godienes to make arrangements for an electric chair for a gentleman there. We will swing back by Safe Homes for Children and visit with Vicki Dalia. If all goes according to plan we hope to be home before dark.

Good night from San Pedro Laguna!


Here are a few more pictures of our day:


Thanks for your help Pat and Daryl.

Yours in Christ: Dick


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