* 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)

Friday, October 26, 2012

HueHue Again

Pat is back from the USA and the boys and I are glad to have her back.  She is spending this week with 3 of the boys and myself.  I scratched my brain trying to think of a way to let her know how happy I was to see her again and finally decided that one of the nicest things that I could do for her would be to let her do all of this week's journaling.   I know that it was a big sacrifice on my part but it was the least that I could do.


Pat Writes,

It seemed like I had no sooner unpacked from my trip to the States than I was packing again. This time it was to go to Huehuetenango, in the mountains in northern Guatemala. We work with a number of families there, as well as a local pastor and a community center, so we try to visit them at least every few months.

Dick and three of the boys, Cesar, Elder and Kevin came to Mari’s for breakfast on Tuesday morning and then we were off. We planned to drive only as far as Xela the first day, since we had a few stops to make on the way.

We stopped first at the home of Oscar, who Dick had given a power chair a few weeks ago. Because his muscles are so spastic, he needed footcups to stabilize his legs so he could steer the wheelchair properly. Fitting these was quite the feat for Dick and the boys. Oscar is very particular about how he likes to sit—you could say even stubborn. His preferred way of sitting is actually making his condition worse, though his doting parents will not make him do anything he doesn’t want to. It was quite a challenge for Dick to seat him properly a few weeks ago, but one of his brothers who has a better understanding of what Oscar really needs was there to help that time. Today we were not so fortunate.

Dick gently but firmly held his ground on the important things, though he graciously changed a few of the minor things to make Oscar happier. This seemed to work out to be a fairly good compromise. I hope, though, that he will use the correctly fitted power chair, and not prefer to sit in the old chair he has been using. This is one of those time when we need to do what we can, and wait and see for the rest.


We then drove on to Xela where we would be spending the night, and met Teresa, the mother of Pedro, and we followed her to their home. Dick had also given Pedro a wheelchair at a distribution recently, but he still needed footcups also, to sit properly. Once again, the boys pretty much took over and did the lion’s share of the work under Dick’s careful guidance. It is amazing to me how adept these boys have become, not just in the mechanic-ing, but in the personal aspect for fitting chairs. Dick has trained them well and the training is paying off.

We then headed out to find a hotel, since the one we usually stay at was booked full for the night. We found a very nice one, had a quick supper, and settled in for the night. Tomorrow we head to Huehuetenango.


 Pat writes more,

Wednesday started fairly early for us, as we had a lot of ground to cover before we would get to Huehuetenango this evening.

First we went to see Erica, and take her the medication she so desperately needs for a chronic skin condition she has. A wonderful donor in the US makes sure she never runs out, and it was time to visit her to bring more, since this medication can only be bought in the US and must be packed in to her house.

The hike up to Erica’s can challenge me a bit (though Dick tells me it’s no where near as tough as it used to be before they extended the road to the bottom of the trail leading up to her house.) If I pace myself and use a walking stick though, I can make it without too much trouble (I can even walk and talk at the same time, though I think Dick enjoys having a good reason to tell me to keep quiet, pretending it’s to help me conserve oxygen!) I love this girl and her family, and any effort is worth it to visit them.

Our next visit was to Christopher and his family. I took him some writing instruments and adaptive pencil holders to help make it easier for him to do his schoolwork. I couldn’t believe how excited he was to receive these simple gifts. He didn’t put down the pencil holder the entire time we were there. Small things mean so much when you have so little.
Somehow Christopher had not received his invitation to the camp which Hope Haven Ministries and Bethel Ministries International co-host in November for folks in wheelchairs. He lit up significantly when we told him he was invited. His mother, though, looked a little saddened. She then told me she had talked with Christopher earlier, saying perhaps it was good that he wasn’t invited this year, because they could not afford the cost of the transportation necessary to get to Chimaltenango for the camp. We talked a bit and she thought she could manage to pay the passage one way, and I agreed to give her the funds needed to get home.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t do this, but Christopher leads such an isolated life. Even though he has a power wheelchair he can use to go to town, his mother must carry him down the steep trail to where his wheelchair is stored. He does not go out to school, receiving tutoring at home. This yearly trip to camp is the only time he really gets to see anything beyond his small village, often staying in his home for weeks at a time. This is not just a camp for Christopher, but a link to the outside world which he desperately needs.

On our way down from Christopher’s village, we stopped in to see a family with two sons who have Muscular Dystrophy. We had no real reason to stop, except to encourage this family who will eventually lose both Wilmer and Miguel to this disease. We were pleasantly surprised, however, to see both boys sitting in the yard in their wheelchairs, actually looking better than they had when we’ve seen them in the past. The only thing we can attribute this to is the vitamins we have been bringing them. I’ve never been very convinced that kids in the US who eat a healthy diet need vitamin supplements. However, here where most kids never get enough to eat, vitamins are nothing short of a “miracle drug.” We see this time and again with the growth patterns of able-bodied kids here, and even more so with kids with medical problems like these boys. It was encouraging to see them doing so well.

After the Elder helped Dick fix the brakes on Miguel’s chair, we were again off to our last stop of the day. Gema is a beautiful and lively little girl who has every reason in the world to be glum, but thoroughly enjoys life. When Dick walked into the yard, he found Gema bouncing along chasing her two pet rabbits. This is not anything extraordinary, except Gema has no hands and only one foot on a shortened leg, which she uses for EVERYTHING. This little darling can feed herself, write, draw, and even play catch without assistance. I think we stop here not to encourage her family, but for her to give us a lift. We were excited to be able to invite her to the Hope Haven-Bethel Ministries camp in Chimaltenango next month. Her mother didn’t hesitate a second before saying they’d be there.

In reality, we didn’t travel that many miles today. If we had driven straight through we could have made the trip from Xela to Huehue in less than two hours.  Instead we took the whole day to go this distance. We didn’t give away much tangible stuff, but that’s not what’s important to us. We did give away part of our hearts to each of the families whom we visited. That’s why we’re here—for we minister to people, not projects. Yep, it takes more time, and our hearts bear a heavier burden this way, but we are doubly blessed by the people we meet along the way.


All I can say is that it was great day and I could not have picked 4 better people to share it with.

Yours in Christ: Dick

I Just wanted to let you know that Pat has posted several new journal entries that are really great.  Instead of swiping them form her and posting them myself I will give you the link to her journal so that you can go directly to her site to view them.      http://www.pat2gt.blogspot.com/  or you can just CLICK HERE.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012


(Click on any picture to enlarge.)

This Picture of Oscar was taken at noon today. 
22 years old Oscar has never been able to move even a few feet on his own.

 By 4 PM Oscar was driving his new head controlled 
power wheel chair all around his house. 


Please take the time to watch this short video.

Do you see why we love what we do so much?

Yours in Christ: Dick

Friday, October 12, 2012

Still on the road

Once again just as I sit down to do some journaling, I check my e-mail and find  that some one else has beaten me to the punch.  Who ever said that procrastination was a bad thing simply did not have as much patience as I do.  Thanks for coming to my rescue Deb!


Deb wrote,

Hi Everyone,

We are sitting at the airport with a delay in our departure. Ours days have been busy and I have been too tired to put words to paper each night, falling asleep as I tried. We have also had very poor availability of internet service this year, further complicating communications. But following a very rough start our trip has been very good indeed and we have been blessed beyond our imaginings. I’m hard pressed to decide exactly what has been the best part of the trip.

Our purpose for this trip was the teaching part and the reception to the teaching far exceeded my expectations. Chris Mooney, who heads up Bethel Ministries told me he made one mistake in planning this trip; he should have made provision to video tape the teaching sessions so the training would be available elsewhere. My interpreter for the classroom teaching sessions is an occupational therapist and understands English well. She did a great job of conveying a great deal of material as well as helping me field the many questions that came up along the way.

While we struggle with our attitudes about people with disabilities in the United States, this is even more of a concern in many developing nations. I was given the opportunity to share openly with those we were working with, my beliefs about our Biblical mandate to love, serve, and value all people, regardless of their abilities, contributions, or accomplishments. God loves each one as if they were the only child He has. We are called to love in this same way.

Chris and I had an opportunity to talk about future possibilities to expand the training we started here this past week. We are both excited about the plans God has for us and we wait with expectation for His guidance as we dream about what that might look like. We also are excited to see just what might become of the seeds we planted during this trip.

Along with classroom teaching we also put our students to work in the orphanage for a few hours each morning, making repairs to many chairs and also the necessary adjustments to accommodate the growth in the children since we were last here in Quetzaltanango (Xela is the Mayan name of this city). Several of the children we worked with, are now old friends, having seen them over the past 3 years. One little girl named Karen received a new wheelchair this year through the support of some of you back home. As I evaluated her we were told that she is able to stand and take a few steps, but her left foot has a significant deformity we call a “club foot” in the USA. Our friend Dick Rutgers told us about a doctor a few hours away who is hosting a medical brigade soon, with the purpose of doing foot and ankle surgeries while they are here. It so happens that they still have space for a few more patients. We talked to the therapist at the orphanage and called Dr. Will to set up a time for Karen to be evaluated next week. If her X-rays confirm what we believe to be her problem, it is possible that with rehabilitation, she will be able to walk in the future. Please pray for Karen and her doctors, as well as the orphanage personnel that everything will fall into place for her to have this life changing surgery. 

I was also able to check up on one of my favorite people at the orphanage. I know I shouldn’t have favorites, but Gaudy captured my heart the first time we met. While she is severely disabled both cognitively and physically, she has an infectious smile and laughs freely when given even a smallest amount of love and attention. While she continues to be very difficult to manage physically, her wheelchair is in good shape, and needed only a few minor adjustments and a new chest harness. It was such a joy to see her healthy and happy. One of my students actually completed the necessary adjustments for Gaudy and fell in love with her as well.

When I last wrote I told you all about some of our home visits we had made and this work continued on Sunday and Monday. Picking up from where I left off in my last email, on Saturday afternoon we took a boat ride across Lake Atitlan to deliver a wheelchair to a young boy in the village of Tzununa on the edge of the lake. The road into the village is quite dangerous, so we opted for the boat ride. We found Jochiem and his family at home and were able to deliver the wheelchair to him. We also discovered that he is able to take a few steps pushing the wheelchair. Dick will return here in the next month or so to bring back a walker for him to try to use around the flat area of his village where his home is.

This family is extremely poor. Jochiem was wearing the only shoes his family seems to have and as you will see in the picture, they are way past the worn out stage. Dick will also bring back some food to this family and maybe some shoes as well. Funding for all the needs we find is always in too short a supply, but we will trust that God will supply what is needed through his people.

We met a very exceptional young man on Sunday. For those of you who have been to Santiago Atitlan, he lives behind the market on the right as you go down to the boat docks. He is well known to Dick who has provided him with a power wheelchair through Bethel Ministries and we stopped in to see how he was doing. He is now 18 years old and has grown, needing some changes to his wheelchair. That will be accomplished on Dick’s next trip here in a few months. Alex shared with us that he is writing a book about his life entitled “Looking for the Answers”. I wish I could have had enough time to talk in detail about the questions he is asking and the answers he has found. He has 41 pages written so far, typed out with only his index finger of his right hand. Due to the cerebral palsy, this is the only finger he has enough control of to hit the right key. His speech is also very garbled and difficult to understand. When Dick returns, he hopes to bring some software that is compatible with the old computer the family has that will speed up Alex’s typing so he can write more. He has also written some papers on physics and other science topics.  I hope someday that I will be able to read Alex’s book.

For those of you who have heard the story of the mudslide in Santiago several years ago, you will be pleased to know that many of those families who were displaced by the slide are now relocated in a nice settlement on safe ground. A foundation from the United States has built a complex of more than 600 homes and new schools where these families are now living in improved conditions and on stable ground. We visited Stephen and his family there as we had heard that his power wheelchair needed repairs. As it turns out, the noise in the chair was not in the motor, just in the plastic housing that had been jarred loose due to the rough terrain he travels each day to school. We had a great visit here with many of the neighborhood children coming out to see what we were up to. We also were able to supply Stephen’s family with some food.

As I sit here at the airport, I can’t help but be a bit sad that my time down here is once again at an end. I always seem to leave part of my heart in this beautiful land when I leave. But I look forward with great hope to what will be possible in the future and pray that part of God’s plan is for me to return again soon.


Thank you Debbie.

I do promise that one of these days I will get back to doing my own journaling.  Then again Pat is due back from the States in about a week and I am sure she is anxious to do some writing.  Doing the pictures is much easier for me becasue I do not have to spell anything.

Good night,
Yours in Christ: Dick

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Visiting Homes and Orphanages.

It has once again been far to long since I have done any journaling and Pat is in the USA for about a month so I have not been able to steal anything from any of her journals, so it  almost came to the point that I would once again have to write something on my own, almost but not quite.  Once again some one has come to my rescue.  Dennis and Debbie Hills have joined up with Chris, Saul, Jorge and myself for a week on the road and Debbie has Graciously offered to do some journaling.  Actually I had to do a bit of begging but I am used of doing that with Pat as well. 

The following is an account of what Debbie wrote.  Bear in mind that both her and her husband Dennis have mothers in their eighties who do a lot of worrying about them so Debbie intentionally left out the parts about the police the soldiers, the gun fire and the burning of trucks.  Lets just say that so far it has been a marvelous but not uneventful few days. 


Debbie writes,

Hi Everyone,

We arrived about 15 minutes early in Guatemala City on Wednesday afternoon. Our plan was to head straight to Chimaltenango, the home of Bethel Ministries, our host for the week. The trip that usually takes an hour or a little more took us about 2 1/2 hours due to a massive accident on the main road. As traffic was backed up for literally miles, our friend, Dick, who had picked us up knew a back way around the traffic jam. It’s always an adventure when you travel with Dick in his Land Cruiser.  (What Debbie is trying to say is that I was so careful to avoid all of the pot holes and drove so slow that both her and Dennis were able to enjoy the scenery and even catch up on some sleep.) He takes its 4 wheel drive capabilities seriously!  (Actually I can make it to Chimaltenango on that back road in less than an hour but Debbie and Dennis get nervous when I drive fast so I had to keep my speed down to less than 70 miles an hour on the curvy dirt road.)  When we finally arrived in Chimal, we went directly to the wheelchair work shop to prepare for our trip to Quetzaltenango early the next morning. Our plan was to load everything into the van and the Land Cruiser and head out at daybreak for the 3 hour trip. 

On Thursday morning we heard that there might be a demonstration by the farmers on the road we would be traveling that could hold up traffic, but we set out hoping for the best.  The van that Jorge and Saul were in was a few minutes ahead of those of us in the Land Cruiser but we expected to catch up to them along the way. (The only reason that the van was ahead of us was that I had to turn around and go back home to pick up my hearing aids.  I am not all that hard of hearing but I knew that Debbie and Dennis would be whispering about me to Chris.)

A bit after we passed the halfway point, traffic came to a standstill. The demonstration was being held. We waited, hoping that by noon the road would be cleared. That did not happen. We had to cancel the day’s planned work at the orphanage but decided to wait, hoping to get there later in the afternoon. By about 4:00 we got word from Saul and Jorge who were bit further ahead that the demonstration was right in front of them and all indications were that the road would not be cleared for several more hours. (Debbie failed to mention that the smoke from the burring trucks and all of the gunfire that we heard less than a mile away was also a good motivator to turn around.)  We turned around crossing a fairly high median, but the land Cruiser performed exceptionally well, getting up and over with no trouble at all. We looked for a motel and found one just about a half hour back down the mountain. We were thanking God that He kept us safe and provided for all our needs. We found out later that 3 people were killed in the demonstration and we were again thankful that we were a safe distance away from it but saddened to hear of the deaths. (On a serious note, I also sympathize with the families who lost loved ones over a demonstration that was meant to be nothing more than a protest against rising electricity prices.)

On Friday we started out very early, about 5 AM, That’s 3 AM back home!  (Wow Debbie you had all day to sleep yesterday while we were parked out on the highway.) to be sure to get past the trouble spot before the crowds could gather, if they decided to demonstrate again. The sunrise was spectacular as we made our way through the mountains, up to nearly 10,000 feet of elevation. The pinks and blues were beautiful above the fog that was covering the valleys below. God certainly outdid Himself when he created this part of the world. We arrived in Xela early, checked into our hotel and got some breakfast then headed to the orphanage to unload the van.

The first order of the day was to start teaching the therapists and maintenance men from there about wheelchair fitting and repairs. We also had a group of physical therapy students with us for the day. The second half of the morning was spent beginning to make repairs to the wheelchairs the children already had and to evaluate for new chairs we would be giving out. The therapist and mechanics worked with us continuing the training with some hands on experience. We will continue with all of this on Monday and Tuesday.

We spent the afternoon making 2 home visits to children and their families who had received wheelchairs a few years ago. We were able to make adjustments to one chair and for our second child we fitted him in into a new wheelchair. The therapists who work with these two children went with us and we were able to do some teaching with them as well. They were so excited by what they were learning that they called their boss to ask if they could join us for the training at the orphanage next week. It is so exciting to see the interest and excitement in the therapists when they are given the opportunity to learn, but the best part was we were able to share with them from a spiritual perspective. We were able to share our hearts and the passion God has given us to serve these children with disabilities. We were also able to share God’s love with the children and their families.
Deb and the others did such a good job of seating 
that I got to sit back and hold the kids.

Saturday found us headed for Santiago Atitlan, our favorite spot on the lake. We passed through a number of small and larger Mayan communities along the lake and stopped in to visit some more people who had received wheelchairs in the past to see if they needed repairs. Our first stop was to visit Kata, a nineteen year old young woman who received a chair several months ago. Her chair was in fine shape needing no repairs, but the visit was priceless. What a gentle spirit and a life changed by the gift of a wheelchair. She will graduate from accounting school in a few weeks and will be able to make a living through this education, made possible in part because she had the wheelchair. She is also skilled at embroidery and showed us the Mayan blouse she is making for her graduation.
This time it was Debbie's turn to hold kids.

We also visited Michael and his family in another small town along the lake. He is three years old and received a wheelchair some time ago. We visited with the hope that I might be able to offer the family some therapy suggestions that might help him get stronger and maybe someday walk. We were not disappointed. Although he was shy at first, he came to me and we did some “play” based therapy for a few minutes. He began taking more weight on his legs as we worked and played and with help could take a few steps. We took measurements for a walker for him and hopefully, back in Chimal, we will find one that is appropriate for him. On another trip, someone from the ministry down here will be able to return and bring it to them.

We are thanking God for all the opportunities we have been given the last few days to show love of Jesus to these precious people, young and old alike. We are blessed beyond measure in the doing of this work.

I’ll try to write a bit more in a few days. As always the time down here goes way too fast. Please continue to pray for us and the ministry down here. There is so much to be done.


I know that I Gave Debbie and Dennis a bit of a ribbing but I miss Pat and picking on them takes my mind off from not having her around to pick on.  I have to say though that Dennis and Deb are 2 wonderful Christian people who take anything (Even Putting Up With Me) in their stride. .  Fact is the whole teem is great.  Just like Dennis and Debbie; Chris, Saul and Jorge have been great to travel with and have a real passion to share the love of Jesus with everyone that we come in contact with.  I count it a real privilege to serve along side of these dedicated brothers and sisters in Christ!

Yours in Christ: Dick