* 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)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Guatemala Style

It is nearly a week after Christmas and I have not had the opportunity to write anything about what went on Christmas eve or Christmas day. Fortunately I have a few friends who do not complain (at least not in front of me) when I steal something from their journals. At least I had the courtesy not to steel everything that they wrote. If you would like to read Pat or Daryl's complete journals just click on their names.


Pat wrote,

When church was over, we made a quick stop at my house to pick up tamales, ponche (a Christmas punch loaded with pieces of fruit), and cookies and headed up to Dick’s house in Chimaltenango to meet a bunch of his kids who had had to work late.

With Esbin’s help, Dick played Santa.
(Maybe now that Christmas is over, he’ll cut his hair and trim his beard?)

( Pat already had a hard enough time recognizing me. This was the first time that she ever saw me in something besides blue jeans. I couldn't believe that those old bell bottoms that I kept from my high school days still fit me.)

Dave Black, a friend from Canada, joined us for the evening
(though I think he came mostly hoping to get some chocolate peanut clusters!)

About ten o’clock, Dick brought Dave and me back to Antigua where I joined the Hernandez family for their traditional dinner of tamales at midnight. (And to think that I used to groan about having to attend an eleven o’clock Christmas Eve service at home. Of course, no snow makes traveling much easier here!)


Now on to what Daryl wrote about Christmas day.

At around 9:30 am, Dick Rutgers, Pat Duff and Dave Black showed up with four of the kids from Hermano Pedro. Dick had checked out Louis Andres, Julio, Carlitos and Leonel to spend the day with us. This was, by far, the high point of our Christmas! To see these kids celebrate Christmas in a real home and receive presents along with a home cooked meal made our entire move to Guatemala worthwhile. Several times I found myself overwhelmed with emotion as I looked around our home and saw the smiles on the kids faces.

We opened presents and enjoyed a wonderful meal prepared by Wanda. Somehow we were able to move the furniture in our living room and put two large tables together and fit everyone around them. Everyone enjoyed the food. Brittney was even able to get Leonel, who will not eat and is on a feeding tube, to eat six good bites of cheddar mashed potatoes.

The afternoon was spent playing and, all too soon, it was time to take the kids back to HP. Once again, I was overcome with emotions. This time it was because I looked around and realized how many more children there were who spent the day in the wards. I have a dream of seeing more and more families who live here and work in HP open their homes to the children and adults who reside there for Christmas each year. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if some day every ward was empty and the nurses could take the day off?


"Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies."
Hebrews 13:1-3

Thank you Pat and Daryl you made this week's journaling rather easy for me. Now if only I convince the 2 of you to use Mac. computers so that you could do the fancy pictures for me.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, December 25, 2011

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
Matthew 25:40

My good friend David Black is once again back in Guatemala for a few months so this week he has joined Fernando, Bryan and me for a 3 day road trip. Actually we planned on staying away for only 2 days but no one was ready go get back home so we are staying an extra night.

David promised that If I kept my eyes on the road instead of doing my journaling while I was driving that he would journal for me. Dave has always been a bit of a sissy whenever he rode with me.

On the road again with Dick

Written by David Black
(Photos by Dick)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Back in Guate again, and who should call and ask if I was up for a road trip to check on some boys with motorized chairs living around Lake Atitlan - my good friend Dick. (I had to check his new ride,also )

Pastor Efraim in San Pablo had mentioned to me about a boy needing a wheelchair there, so we decided to make a 2 day trip out of it. After taking a chicken bus from Antigua ( I forgot how much fun they can be ), I met Dick, Fernando, and Brian, at Pollo Camperos in Chimal., and off we went.

Dick said we might as well check on 2 or 3 boys on the way to Santiago, so our 1st stop was at Nari's His chair was working well, so off we went.

Our next stop was to visit Stephen, who lives in the new village of Chukmuk, which was built to replace Panabaj ( destroyed by a mudslide during Hurricane Stan). Stephen,s chair was apparently dying. Dick checked the batteries and charger, and determined the family was not charging the chair long enough.

Our next stop was at the home of Stephen,s brother, Sebastian. Both have muscular dystrophy. His chair would work okay until he went up steeper hills, where it would quit for half an hour, then re-start. His teacher was worried for his safety, so she did not wish him to come to school and have an accident. Understandably so. After checking his batteries,we found some loose connections, and screws, which after tightening, seemed to fix the problem. Sebastian talks very well, and speaks English pretty good too.We had met Sebastian at a school on the edge of Santiago, where Argetina,s daughter Andreas taught.

Andreas then led us to Argentina,s for a late lunch of soup and tortillas. What a nice lady.

Andreas then took us to see Juan, an 11 yr. old who needs a motorized wheel chair. What a sweet, smart boy. Dick believes he is similar to Nari, and Manuel (who lives in San Juan), and wonders if chemicals sprayed on plants or something in the lake water could be causing their handicaps. Dick assessed Juan, and believes he will have no problem operating a motorized chair. His family will have to build a ramp though, for him to get up the hill from his house (no small feat). This is also where Dick did his Santa Claus impersonation for the local street kids - who loved it!

Lastly, we visited Alex, down near the lake, in Santiago, whose chair was working okay. When we came back to the Landcruiser, low and behold, there was Dick,s old Landcuiser, parked across the road, still looking pretty good. Dick called Norm and Vicki who bought his old one, and informed them they owed him Q500 to pay the parking attendant (Actually it was only only Q10 we just wanted to give Norm a good scare). We hope to see them manana, as they will be following us around the lake.

Meeting those boys, driving around the lake, and hanging around Dick and his boys, sure has a way of humbling oneself.

As I have said before, thanks for another crappy day in Guate, Dick. I am pretty sure, God put you here for a reason.


Thurs., December 22, 2011

After breakfast in San Pedro, we decide to go and see Pastor Efraim in San Pablo, as Norm and Vicki ( The couple who bought Dick’s old Land cruiser ) are on their way there. Efraim introduces us to 4 children who have lost both their parents to Aids, and are living apart with both grandparents. They have a piece of land and would like to build a home there, and live together with the children, as one family. We told them we could not promise anything, but will pray that someone can help them build a home.

A little girl, Lucia, whom Efraim had wanted us to measure for a wheelchair, is actually at the school in San Juan where we are headed. Just as we are heading out, Norm and Vicki roll into town with their 2 children, Ryan and Heather. We have a nice chat with them on a downtown San Pablo street corner. They work at an orphanage north of Quiche, and are taking Ryan and Heather on a bit of a vacation around Guatemala.

Off to San Juan we go to see Albert and his wife at their school for handicapped kids. They also provide physical and speech therapy, and are doing wonderful work there. This was another God incidence, as when we arrived there, Manuel was there with a none-charging wheelchair. Manuel depends on his chair for day-to-day living, and after some troubleshooting; Dick finds a burnt-off wire near one of the fuses near the batteries. Fortunately, a quick fix. After lunch, Albert graciously gives Dick a computer (for Dick’s boys at his home). The Dutch embassy gave Albert 5 or 6 computers, as they replace them every 5 years. Another wonderful couple doing great work here.

We decide to return to Santiago, and spend the night at the Hotel Tiosh Abaj near the lake which has a swimming pool. It costs a little more, but is well worth it to throw Fernando and Brian into the pool!

Returning from dinner, we stop at a tienda to buy some aqua pura, and a little girl reaches up and touches Dick's hairy arm. Dick thinks she said: I touched Santa!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Returning to Chimaltenango we stop at Dr. Will’s near San Lucas Toliman as Dick wants to show him some pictures of a young girl possibly needing surgery. Dr Will is actually in Chimal when we arrive, so his wife, Diane, gives us a tour of their place. It is a beautiful place on a hill overlooking Lago Atitlan. They run a Christian primary grade school, and also a shelter for single moms and their children. Another amazing couple.

We drop the boys off in Chimal, and Dick graciously drives me to Antigua, where we stop at Pat’s home to visit. Pat has been baking all week, so Dick and I offer to sample her baking. After 2 or 3 of her peanut cluster things, she puts the lid on them and we get some white chocolate ball things. All I can say is : Keep up the good work, Pat!

I head off to my room, while Dick walks with Pat to the bodegona to go SHOPPING!

THANK YOU Dick, Fernando, and Brian, for a great 3 days.
What a Christmas present!

Thanks David,
Yours in Christ: Dick

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I survived a week on the road with 3 teen agers.

(Click on any photo to enlarge)

Last week Cesar, Kevin, Miguel and I went up to Plya Grande to see some of our students, their families and our teacher. I meant to write about the trip as soon as I got back home but after spending 7 days on the road with 3 teen age boys I needed another 7 days just to rest up from the trip. Not only did we visit a half dozen of our sponsored kids and their teacher who live about 14 hours from Chimaltenango but we also stopped off and visited several people along the way.

One of our first stops was at an orphanage in Guatemala City where a number of kids that come to camp live. My boys had made friends with several of these kids last month at camp and they asked if we could stop by and visit them. Our visit was a rather short one but a good one.

"Don't worry it is only a wig."

Our first night was spend in Cobon after nearly ad day of riding in the car with Cesar, Kevin and Miguel I was ready for a rest. Fact is I made sure that my motel room was several doors down from theirs. Don't take me wrong I love these kids like they are my own but haven't you ever needed some time away from your kids? Especially if you have one like Miguel. Miguel works 8 to 10 hours a day and goes to school at nights so he has little time to let lose and have fun. I think that in the past 7 days he has done his best at trying to make up for time that he lost at just being a fun loving crazy kid. He has spent 95% of this trip being totally crazy. Fact is he has been so bizarre at times that it has almost driven me crazy. Why do I put up with it becasuse Miguel is one of the most sensitive God fearing boys that I have ever had the privilege of meeting and when he really needs to be serious he can be. I am still praying that we can get 10 % serious and only 90% crazy out of him the next time that he comes along with me, but I will invite him again in a hart beet.

Only near the end of the trip did I discover that on the nights that I did not have devotions and prayer with the boys Miguel did. On our second day out when we stopped off to replace a broken wheelchair at the home of an extremely poor family, Who do you think offered to pray for the family?

Fact is I am very proud of all 3 of these boys. One evening when they met some tourists from Israel that claimed to be atheists all 3 of my boys let them know how they felt about their Lord and Savior. Each and every day they demonstrated the love of Christ to those that we came in contact with. Was I tired after the trip? You bet I was! Would I do it again. You bet! Fact is I am writing this from a hotel room in San Pedro. We are here repairing a few broken power wheelchairs and checking on a boy that is in need of one. This time I only have 2 of my boys with me but those of you that know what Fernando and Bryan can be like when they are together know that one day with them can feel like 2 weeks with Miguel.

Oh well,

I guess I

can't expect them

to be as mature as me.

Here is an update on the kids that we visited up above Plia Grandi

Flipe, Mayra, Mario, Miceala and Onias are all doing great.

12 year old Felipe is a happy boy who loves the schooling that he receives from our teacher Blanca who comes to his home several times a week to school him.. He walks with some difficulty and talks only a little. His mother told me that there is no way that he would be accepted at the public school.

12 year old Mario can say only a few words and walks only with the use of a walker or crutches. He does well with his schooling. Like all of the other kids Blanca teaches him at his home as well.

Miceala and her siblings are very shy around strangers, but she took hold of my hand and smiled when I arrived. It took her a while to warm up to her teacher but now they are the best of friends. Miceala's mother seems to be taking a lot more interest in Miceala. This is a real answer to prayer as a few years ago only her Grandmother cared for her. I looked at some of her school work and she is doing very well.

Some of Miceala's brothers and sisters in the doorway of their home.

8 year old Mayra is the apple of her father's eye. Mom is a bit quieter when we are there but seems to love her daughter as well. Although Mayra does not talk much she is very bright. At times she rater play than study but Mayra's parents promised that they will keep the other children away when she is studying. We are working on getting her into Hermano Pedro to be fitted for some braces and then we will give her a walker.

Onias who is now 20 has decided that he no longer wishes to continue his normal schooling with Blanca, but his mother is going to continue to work with him at home.

The long hair is not his.
(That wig really gets around)

This was my first opportunity to meet Blanca, our teacher in person. She seems to have a real love for the kids and they and their parents have nothing but good things to say about her.

While we were visiting with Filipe we were approached by Maria's mother. Eight year old Maria who Maria has downs syndrome has never been schooled. Mom would love to have her daughter schooled and Blanca would very much like to work with her. We are praying for a sponsor so that we can get her schooled.

Wow! God answered that prayer really fast. We now have a sponsor for 8 year old Maria. (We have more kids waiting though)

Well it is getting late so I am going to head off to bed. Wish that I had put the Boys a few more rooms down from me though. I can still hear them even though I turned my hearing aids off.

Goodnight and Merry Christmas,
Yours in Christ: Dick and the kids.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pat To The Rescue

Tomorrow should be the last day of a week long road trip that 3 of my boys and I have been on. I planned on journaling about it this evening but then discovered that Pat had written about an outing that a few of us went on a few days before the boys and I headed out to Plya Grandy, so I have decided to procrastinate for a few more days and and post Pat's journal instead. Thanks to Pat I can kick back and enjoy my last night on the road.


Visiting Families in Tecpan

Written by Pat

I left Antigua early this morning to take the bus up to Chimaltenango where I was meeting Dick, the boys, and Liz, a volunteer down to help with camp. After a quick breakfast at Camperos, we headed to the Bethel shop to pack food bags we would be taking to six families living outside of Tecpan.

This area is one of the most beautiful in Guatemala, and if I were to move to a village area, I think this one would be it. (Dick reminds me, though, the people in this area are still not too fond of us gringos, but I do love the area and the people I know there. The problem for me is, I often forget that I’m a gringo.)


When we arrived, we discovered that Maria Son was not at home, but was a few miles away at her parents. Maria was Bethel’s first contact in this aldea, and this young widow with four children is one of my favorite Guatemalan women. We visited for a while with Maria’s sister, Josefina, and her family, though.

DSC01046Josefina’s oldest daughter (I think named Gloria) has not been in school the past few years since the family could not afford to send all the children to school. As in many areas, the families choose to educate the boys, sometimes at the expense of an older daughter. This girl is somewhat fearful of returning to school since she is about 14 years old and only in the second grade. She really wants to at least learn to read well though, and we promised to try to find her a sponsor. School in this area is relatively inexpensive, so, if you would like to help sponsor Gloria for $25 a month so she can return to school and learn to read, please email me (Pat) and I’ll give you further information.


Gloria spends hours every day weaving “huipils,” the blouses worn by Mayan women, and often purchased by tourists. She will spend a month working on one blouse, and will learn less than $100 for the finished product. This money goes to help feed her parents and her five brothers and sisters.

We were shortly off up the hill through a corn field, to visit another family in this immediate area. Magdelena lives here with her four children part of the year in a metal house built by Bethel ministries. Her oldest daughter, Rosa, works in Chimaltenango, and when school is in session, they live there so the young children can attend school, and Rosa can work and still care for her mother. Mom is bed-ridden, and we are currently trying to get some medical tests done to see what her problem is. (This is one of the things we do with our medical fund.)

DSC01067 crop

Silvia, Magdelena’s daughter, is blind, and spends her days sitting in the house, basically vegetating. She has a “Presenter,” a hand-crank and solar powered audio Bible, she loves to listen to. She also loves Christian music, and has been wanting a CD player for a long time now. Through Liz’s generosity, Silvia now has one and can listen to music to her heart’s content.


Adelina, the youngest daughter in the family, just graduated from sixth grade and will be beginning “Basico” (jr. high) through the kindness of a sponsor. If you are at all interesting in sponsoring a child like Adelina for the upcoming school year, which begins in January, please email me (Pat) for information.

DSC01071Adelina carrying a bag of groceries on her head,which I could not lift with both hands. Even Dick’s boys complained about how heavy the bags were, and she carried it without a word.

DSC01075We set off down the trail to the next family. This family only receives food periodically. There is a father in the family, but they obviously are very poor and need help. Mom and the 19 year old daughter earn money weaving. We’re not quite sure what dad does, if anything, and don’t ask too many questions. Dad does not like “gringos” coming on his property. Unfortunately, we need to pass through their land to get to the next two widows we would be visiting. Today, dad was not at home, and we had a chance to visit with the family before moving on.


Our next stop was Samuel’s family. Samuel’s mom is yet another widow with five children. Not that long ago, Samuel was not in school because he was working in the fields to earn about $10 a week to feed his family. While the younger children were going to school on sponsorships, and even though one was available for Samuel, his mother could not afford to give up this small income for food. Hearing this, his sponsor increased their donation by $40 a month and now Samuel is in school and loving it. An added benefit is that he can still work the fields during vacations and weekends. We didn’t get to see him today, since he was out working, but had a wonderful time visiting with his mother, grandmother and siblings.

Our last stop was at the home of Maria José. She is an extremely frail widow with eight children who live in a two room adobe house. We were invited in today, and were astounded by the poverty in which they live. One room is a kitchen of sorts, with no more than a fire pit and some crude shelves. The other room had a single bed. We asked where the children sleep, and were told on the bumpy dirt floor—without blankets.

This time of year it gets cold at night, and both Dick and I felt our hearts break at the thought of these children sleeping huddled together to keep warm on a floor so uneven I had a hard time walking on it. And this woman has never asked us for anything. She has only recently begun receiving food assistance after her family was discovered almost by accident.

I have a few donated quilts left, and between them and the blankets the camp volunteers graciously left, these children will at least have warm covers this Christmas.


As we were getting ready to leave, Wilmer, one of Maria Son’s sons ran up to us from the field where he had been working, excited that his mother had come home to see us. So once again we were trekking up the steep path for a visit.


When we got there, Maria brought out a children’s huipil she had been saving for me. She’d thought I had a granddaughter and that I might like it for her. Unfortunately, no granddaughters, but the huipil was so beautiful I could not turn it down. It will be a beautiful wall hanging, and I might even get it framed. The only problem was that when I went to pay Maria for it, she only wanted to accept a third of what the weaving was worth. It took a while talking to her about the fact that while I appreciated her friendship, it would not feed her children. Finally she accepted a bit more, but still gave it to me for far less than she could have sold it in the markets.


When it was time to go, the crowd of children and adults following us had grown shockingly. Dick would have to turn the car around to get out from where we had parked, and we were not quite sure how to keep all the kids safe as he did so. I think Dick wanted to strangle me when I suggested he let all the kids ride in the truck as he turned around, but it would keep them out from behind the back wheels. Dick reluctantly agree, and we discovered you could easily (?) fit more than 20 Guatemalan children into a Land Cruiser.


I know I’ve written a lot about this one trip, but this area is very dear to my heart, and each family here has a wonderful story to tell. At times people challenge me as to why I am Guatemala while there is so much need in the US. These stories explain why. . .not just the poverty I see here, but what I don’t find here. I seldom see hopelessness, entitlement, anger, or any of the other things I have been taught are the side-effects of poverty. Each visit I learn more from my friends living here about living life to the full.

These families have a joy that only comes from their firm faith in Jesus, and their strong sense of community. While we took food to six families, there are probably sixty more who are in just as much need who we pass on the way into the aldea. There is no jealousy or resentment shown by those who are also in need. They often tell us of needs of other families in the area, but seldom their own.

They welcome us as long lost friends, and it fills my heart to bursting when children whose names I cannot even remember come running up to my shouting, “Paty, you’ve come back.



Thanks Pat.

Yours in Christ: Dick