* GUATEMALA * * * * * * * * Dick Rutgers *

An ongoing journal of life as a Missionary in Guatemala. It will make you laugh and cry at the same time.

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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, January 27, 2011

Days of Joy

 Written by Pat

If this quote from Pierre Tielhard de Chardin is true (and I think it may be) than I have been in the presence of God a number of times in the past 48 hours.

The Nurses and the Kids
Yesterday, (Tuesday) after going to the dentist (not an all together joyful experience), Dick and I decided to stop by Hermano Pedro to see the kids.  He'd also agreed to show a group of visiting college students around the orphanage.  It was at the end of the tour that we were surprised by joy.

We had been in the malnutrition area, and were walking down the ramp to the children's area, when we heard hooting and whooping and laughing as we had never heard it before in the orphanage.  We couldn't imagine what was going on.  As we walked a little farther down, we saw all of the nurses in the courtyard, holding and playing with the children--and having the time of their lives (both the kids and the nurses, though I'm not sure the nurses weren't enjoying it more!).  We could hardly believe our eyes. . .as Dick put it, "This is an answer to 10 years of prayer." 

Once in a while the nurses will stop from their routine to love or or play with a child.  But to see them ALL engaged with the children, to see the spontaneity of their enjoyment of the kids and each other, was an experience beyond words (though both Dick and I were moved to tears.  The kids with us probably couldn't figure out what was wrong with us.).  I believe it really was a movement of the Holy Spirit, in answer to prayer. 

Amalia with Manuelito

I'm not exaggerating when I say it felt like a "holy moment" and I could sense Jesus in our midst, laughing with us.  When I went over and hugged the head nurse, and told her how great this was, she said, "We need to do this more!" At this I did burst into tears.

I don't know that I can describe it any better than these pictures do, so I'll let them speak for me.  I was so grateful, though, that God let me share this moment with them.

Dalila and Delmi


Thank you Pat.  You did a far better job of sharing what took place the past few days than I could have ever done.

Yours in Christ, Dick

Saturday, January 22, 2011

School and other things

A few happy kids with their new school supplies

The schools here are once again starting up for the year so things have been a bit hectic. It seems that all of my kids plus around 80 that we have sponsors for all need shoes, books and uniforms at the same time.  We have lost some of last years sponsors and have some new ones that we are matching up with those the kids that need sponsors.  The back packs and shoes that many of you have supplied  us with have been a real blessing.  We are praising God for the sponsors that we have but there are still lots of kids who we know who will not be able to attend school this year. 

Some of the kids receiving shoes and backpacks.

My friend David helping Josey put on a new pare of shoes.

A few of the kids showing me their school work.

Not all of the kids that we know will be able to attend school this year.

Yours in Christ: Dick

 Jason is missing. 

Fourteen year old Jason does not hang out at my house as much as most of the other kids but we usually see him every few days.   Tonight his parents came over to my house and asked if we had seen him lately.  They told us that he got in an argument with them because they had to enroll him in a different school due to lack of money.  That was a week ago and they have not seen him since.  Jason is no angle and has been known to run with some pretty bad friends, but we are all worried because no one from his family nor any of my kids has seen him or heard anything about him from any one.  Several of my kids are pretty street smart and even though they do not hang out with any of the kids that are in gangs they do know what is going on and none of them has any idea where Jason is.  

On December 26 Jason and his little brother Frankey came along with us to church.

Please pray that we find Jason and that he is all right.

January 20 update

It has now been 2 weeks since Jason disappeared.  I talked with his mother and she told me that they have heard noting.  None of his fried have seen him and the Police will do nothing because Jason left the house on his own.  It does not seem to matter with the police that Jason is only 14 years old and that he has not been seen by anyone in over 10 days.

Please keep praying that Jason is alright.

 January 26 update

It has now been 2 week since anyone has seen Jason.

Today we spoke with Jason's mom. We asked her if there was anything that we could do.

She said,   "Keep praying."
Yours in Christ: Dick

Julio and some of the others

Doctor Jose examines the infected foot of Julio's brother.

Tonight Benjamin and I are sitting in a motel room near LaGomara.  We just brought Julio's mom home from a 2 day visit that she had with her son who is in the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro.  Mom loves Julio who has CP but her other 5 kids and her 4 grandchildren keep here far to busy to be able to care for him or them properly.  The fact that both her husband and the father of her Grandchildren are alcoholics worsens the situation.   We are helping out with food each month but this family is barely making it.  Fact is I have brought Julio in to the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro twice in the past 3 years. The first time he was 9 years old and weighted 14 pounds.  After about a 6 month stay at Hermano Pedro Julio was able to return to his family weighing over 30 pounds.  Unfortunately there were just to many mouths to feed and Julio started loosing weight again.  I had to stand by and watch him starve until his weight once again fell below 20 pounds and only then was I once again able to get him admitted into the malnutrition ward of Hermano Pedro.  That was 12 months ago.  Julio has once again gained back a lot of weight so they can no longer keep him in the Malnutrition ward.  After a series of meeting the staff of Hermano Pedro has agreed to allow Julio to move into one of the other wards of Hermano Pedro on a full time bases.  For the past 2 days the orphanage staff as well as Pat and myself have been trying to convince mom that this would be a wise decision.   
I am a strong advocate for keeping these kids in their homes whenever possible.  That is why we are trying to find sponsors for schooling for  so many and why when necessary we are bringing in food and clothing.  Unfortunately in the past 2 weeks I have run across 4 cases where I think the child would die or be in great physical danger if  they were not placed in a different environment.  In all but Julio's case the parents wholeheartedly agree.  I am pleased to say that Father Jose who is the head of Hermano Pedro and his entire staff have been nothing but cooperative and even now while I am out on the road it looks like they are going to admit one little girl that Pat and I brought to their attention.  

Today I was asked if I could help find an orphanage for  the disabled young lady that is pictured here to live in.  The health of both of her grandparents is very poor so they can no longer care for her.

I must admit that some times it gets a bit overwhelming and I even wonder if we are making any difference at all but then I am reminded that it is not our work, it is God's.  I doubt that Jesus sat there and annualized each and every individual case when He fed the 5000.  He simply saw that they were hungry and he did something about it.  He has told us to do the same. (John 17:21)  If each one of us were willing to reach out to just one of these children it would make a tremendous difference.  Are you doing what you can to show the love of Christ to at least one of these little ones?

Yours in Christ: Dick

I know that I have been posting more of what Pat has written lately than my own writing but I hope that you take the time to read the following.  

Pat wrote

After my dentist appointment I thought I’d take advantage of being in a modern mall and look around for a while.  The number of stores was overwhelming.  Their prices are even more surprising, comparable to one of the classier chains in the US (a.k.a. those stores in which I can’t afford to shop).  The window shopping was enjoyable, but I couldn’t help but wonder at the fact that Guatemala must have enough rich people to keep these stores going.  That, contrasted with the poverty I see everyday, astounds me.  I see the very poor all the time, and really would like to meet at least one of these wealthy folks, but I guess they don’t run in the same circles I do.

It would be very easy to blame the rich in this country for not helping those in poverty.  On the other hand, even in the States we have very wealthy people who do very little (compared to their net worth) to help those in need.  It all has to do with how we view our resources and our responsibility to the poor.  Are our assets ours to do with as we please?  Or are they entrusted to us by God, to be used for His purposes?  Are the poor without funds because they are somehow morally inferior or lazy?  Or are they facing overwhelming difficulties just trying to survive.

I know many believe that wealth is the result of hard work.  And to some extent that’s true.  Other’s believe it is the outcome of high levels of skill and intelligence.  That also has some validity.  But I have to be honest.  I see people here working harder than I have ever had to work in my entire life, who earn less than $6 a day.  I see the nurses who work at Hermano Pedro, with skills I surely don’t have, making a whopping $12 a day, but working 12 hours to do so.  Then, I look at the mothers of families, especially the single women I’ve met, who both work harder than I do and have skills I don’t possess (I don’t think I could yet survive without running water and electricity, or having to cook each day over an open fire) who earn nothing a day for their efforts, and have to depend on others for their very survival.

Dick has often said that if each person in the world who claimed to be Christian would take on the responsibility for feeding just one starving child, there would be no starving children.  Today I couldn’t help but think that if each person affluent enough to be shopping in the Oakland Mall in Guatemala City, would take responsibility for one starving family, it would put a pretty good dent in the problem.

A fairly "typical" house in many villages
I have been challenged in the past as to why, when there are so many needy people in the US I feel such a passion for the people living in Third World countries (or as one book on missions calls them, the Majority World).  I know there are those hurting in the States, especially from the time I worked on the Benevolence Team at the church.  But in 5 years being responsible for that ministry, I don’t think I ever met anyone who was subsisting on a regular diet of tortillas and coffee.  I don’t think I ever met someone, even among the homeless, who had gone over a week without eating anything, and had only dirty water to fill their stomach.  I had never met a mother who fed her child dirt just to quiet their hunger pangs.

These situations are common-place here in Guate.  I only have to walk a short distance up the hill on the north side of the city to find people in this condition.  I can walk to the city dump (about 4 blocks from my house) and find children rummaging through the garbage hoping to find something to eat or something to sell for a few quetzales. 

Do I believe everyone should drop what they’re doing and rush to Guatemala?  Of course not.  Do I believe I can even put a dent in the overall crisis of poverty?  How absurd.  But I do believe I am called to respond to the need God puts in front of me each day, seeking His direction as to how best to act.  Just throwing money at a problem has proven ineffective.  While not the whole solution, funding is part of the answer.  But I believe I need to go beyond cash and into relationship.  Can I change the lives of these hurting people forever?  In a materials sense, no way. 

But I can share with them that I believe God has put them in my path for me to help, because He knows their need and their pain.  This truth can change their hearts.  Can I share this truth without tangible help coming their way?  I think those words ring hollow. 

While I cannot feed every poor person I meet every day, I can often help them fill their stomachs for the present moment.  When this basic need is satisfied, then maybe I’ve earned the right to share with them about the God who cares. . .because, at least for the moment, they have experienced His care. 

Is it painful to encounter overwhelming need almost every day?  It’s much less painful for me to encounter it than it is for those who live in it every moment of their lives. 

So what do I do with this pain?  I take it to Jesus, and I’m bringing it to you.  I’m asking you to consider what suffering person are you aware of today.  Don’t ignore their pain, but share it.  Then ask God what, if anything, He’s have you do with it.

You may not have much, but if you’re reading this on your own computer, you’re already in the group of those who “have much.”  Share what you do have.  It’s well worth it!\

Is it possible to make a difference?  I think Jessica and her family think so.  We may not be able to help every starving child, but I think her life has been changed.

Jessica on admission, Sept. 14, 2010
Jessica and her mom, Dec. 8, 2010

(Note to readers:  This isn’t what I set out to write, but as I began to write about the mall, these words just seemed to come.  Forgive me if I’ve come off preachy.  I’m learning that part of my role here is to help others see this country and its needs as I’ve experienced it.  I’m afraid I’m not very skilled at that yet.)

Pat has written some other great journals that I have not stolen form her.  If you would like to you see them click HERE.

Yours in Christ: Dick

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pat to the Rescue

How does Pat do that?

Lately every time I try to journal I discover that Pat has beat me to the punch.  Knowing how much I like to stay up late at night writing for hours and then correcting my spelling for what seems like days I think that it is a bit selfish of her but I am learning to live with it.  


Actually after several years of doing most of my own journaling this has been a blessing that I can not describe.  I do plan on taking my turn again soon but for now all I can say is, "Thank you Pat!" I appreciate what you do and I admire the loving and unselfish way that you minister to all of those around you.

Yours in Christ: Dick 


Written by Pat 

Notice, I am starting to get so lazy that I didn't even add any fancy frames to the pictures. (Dick) 
Taken by Bayron.  He still is facinated with our cameras!

After we arrived in Santa Rosa on Wednesday, we ate a quick lunch at Camperos (where else) and went to see Bayron and his family. We wanted to check to see if his Grandma had been able to find a teacher to tutor him, and we also wanted to talk with her about the possibility of building them a house.

There were even more people at the house than usual when we arrived, and Grandma explained that her sister-in-law had recently died, and she was watching their four children for her brother who was working picking coffee. After a few minutes, we figured out that the lady who had died of cancer was the mother of Oliver, another child we had been planning on visiting. We had no idea that these two families were related.  Her brother and his children would be moving in with her as soon as they could afford to buy some "lamina" (corregated metal) to use to build on to their make-shift house.

Dick began discussing the possibility of a new house with Grandma, and she almost could not believe what she was hearing.  We were glad to find out the she was buying the land (for about Q300/mo.--roughly $40 US) and had been able to keep up on the payments.  Much of there current house is constructed of borrowed materials, which would need to be returned to their owner shortly.  Though we didn't know exactly when the house would be built, we couldn't help but marvel at God's timing in our visit.  Anxious to be able to tell Grandma more specific details, Dick called Chris Mooney at Bethel.  Chris, without much hesitation, decided that the construction would be done in February, with the help of one of the teams scheduled to come down then. 

When we told Grandma this, her response was, "I'm going to die of happiness."  A remarkable statement from a lady who has endured so much for the sake of her family.

The past few times we had been here, we had taken Bayron, and then his brother Edgar, to stay with us at our hotel where they could swim.  They were eager to come with us right now, but we explained we had other families to see, and would return for them tomorrow afternoon.


When we returned Thursday afternoon to pick up the kids, the two we had somehow had grown to four.  The boys had invited Vanessa, their cousin, to come with us, and Oliver's dad asked if he could come.  (Oliver is a little guy who uses crutches to walk, though they hardly slow him down.  See the video of him playing soccer with the kids.)  I think both Dick and I were waiting for the other to say, "too much," but we were both pretty much soft touches today, and agreed to let the extra kids come.  We did, however, draw the line at Caterina, a five year old, joining us.

Video to be posted here when my internet is faster!

We spent the next 24 hours playing, watching TV, using the computer, swimming (though it was way too cold), eating, and talking, and wrestling (with Dick, not me!). A small amount of time was also alloted to sleeping. Once again, I lucked out with having a girl as a roommate. She went to sleep by 10. I think the three boys kept Dick up much later, or so it appeared from his somewhat weary look in the morning. (Fernando and Cesar had retreated to their own room for the night.)

The kids braved the cold water and air to swim

Dick wrestling with two of the boys.
And he wonders why he has sore ribs. . .

The hotel playground was put to good use!

People who have not been here sometimes wonder at the value of these "social" outtings with the kids.  The value is two-fold.  The benefit of the kids receiving undivided adult attention, even for a short time, cannot be overlooked.  Though their families love them dearly, so much of the adult energy is invested in just keeping the family going, that seldom is their time for fun with the grown-ups.  I think, too, these adventures strengthen our relationships not just with the kids we take, but with their communities as well.  In many of these areas, gringos are still viewed with suspicion, and seeing us leave and return with the children helps build trust. 

These times with the kids are good for us, too, though I have to admit they sometimes make me wonder at what I am missing with my own grandsons in the States.  (My grandsons, though, are well loved and cared for by extended family was well as their parents, and I'm probably missing out on more than they are!)  

Honestly, it think if it were not for these times spent with the kids, I would find myself missing Zach and Nate even more.  These people are becoming an extension of my family.

After a somewhat chaotic breakfast Friday morning (these kids are not used to getting to choose what they will eat, and have a hard time sticking with their decision after they have made it!) we headed to town to buy school shoes.  This "ministry of shoes" is old hat to Dick, but somewhat new to me. 

Kids here are not allowed to attend school unless they have black shoes (among many other requirements), and the shoes the four kids we had with us were not going to work.  Just the night before, Dick had received an email, telling him someone was sending a donation to use as he saw fit.  He saw fit, today, to buy all four kids shoes. We managed to find good deals in a local shoe store, and all the kids left with new school shoes.  A small thing, perhaps, but reinforcement to me that our God cares about the details of life.


We were not done with our work here, however.  We still needed to visit with the teacher Grandma had found to tutor Bayron at home this year. (He is not allowed to attend the local school because he is deaf.)  We had discussed the possibility of Bayron attending the school where this teacher taught during the day, but the cost proved to be prohibitive.  So we were hopeful that Sra. Anna would travel to work with Bayron at home.

As soon as we met Ana, she asked me if we were Christians.  When I answered, "yes," she said she had been praying that God would bring other believers into her life and work.  She agreed to work with Bayron individually, though the cost of this tutoring proved to be somewhat higher than we had hoped.  Ana already lives a long way from her school, and Bayron's house is in the opposite direction from her home.  The cost of her transportation would also have to be factored in.  Usually when she works one-to-one with students Ana charges significantly more than we are able to pay her (she's actually a special ed. teacher with experience with deaf children), but was willing to work with Bayron at a reduced rate.  While this was not the perfect solution, it will at least provide him with some regular instruction, and a chance to actually advance in school.

After taking Grandma back home, it was time to say good-bye.  Leaving this family is like leaving old friends.  Though we don't have much in common it terms of our backgrounds, or even life-styles, we do share a love of God and a love of these kids that binds our hearts firmly together.  We both look forward to our return.