* 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)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Last Week We Laughed. This Week We Cried."

(Click on any picture to enlarge.)

Out of all of the people that we give wheelchairs to I think that those with muscular dystrophy tare at my hart strings the most.  Most of them are healthy until they reach about 8 years old and then they start loosing strength in their arms and legs.  By the time they are about ten or eleven they are usually confined to a wheelchair and shortly within a few years they no longer have enough strength in their hands and arms to propel themselves.  I met the boy pictured above at Bethel's wheelchair shop a few days ago.  Only a few days prior I had returned a wheelchair to the shop that had belonged to a young man that had just died from Muscular dystrophy.  His widowed mother told me that he was her fourth son who had died from muscular dystrophy.  He was twenty five years old and had lived the longest of the four of her sons that had inherited this terrible disease.  The others were twenty two, twenty three and twenty four years old when they had died.  Mother sounded strong when she called and asked me to come an pick up his wheelchair.  When I arrived at her home mom appeared to be doing OK.  She said that she would feel good knowing that some one else would be able to benefit from it, and shared that it had been such a benefit to her son. She felt that being able to get out and go places with his chin controlled wheelchair helped keep her son stay alive as long as he did.  We visited for quite some time and mom said that she took comfort in knowing that her son was a Christian but she broke down in my arms as I was about to leave.  I am sure that she was also thinking of the other three sons that she lost as well as her husband who had died an alcoholic.  She said that having four sons with the same disease had been so hard on him that he took to drinking.  As I left I assured mom that we would find someone else that would benefit from her son's wheelchair.  A few days later when I met the boy pictured above I wished that I could have given it to him but the chair is in need of new batteries and we have none.  I did promise him that as soon as we get some we will call him back into the shop and get him into this power chair or one like it since he does not have the strength in his hands to operate the manual chair that he was given.


Last Wednesdayday I was at a Hope Haven Wheelchair distribution at their wheelchair factory in Chenico and met  the boy pictured here  who also has muscular dystrophy.  He still had some hand use but even though he is only eight years old he can no longer walk.  We gave him a manual wheelchair but I am afraid that it will not be long before he no longer will have enough strength in his arms to move around on his own.  His parents realize that his condition will worsen, so I promised them that when the day comes we will provide there son with a power wheelchair.  Both dad and mom kept asking why a boy who seemed so healthy only a year ago had to be confined to a wheelchair when  he was so young.  I must admit that I had some of the same questions that they did as I cooked back the tears.  I couldn't help but remember what I herd my friend Darrel tell one of his daughters the first time that he took her through Hermano Pedro orphanage.  "Go ahead and cry over them but then get back to work."  Yes there are times that it would be far easier to just turn our backs and walk away than it is to do what we can to help in some small way.  I know some times we feel that we can do nothing, and you know what? We are right, but that is right where God wants us because it is then that we are reminded that His strength is made perfect in weakness.  I guess that is why just two days later I found myself back at Hope Haven's wheelchair factory working on converting one  of the manual wheelchairs that they make into a power wheelchair.  
Gustavo helping cut away some unneeded parts.

We broke away for a few hours to seat five kids who came in from the coast to receive manual wheelchairs but by mid afternoon we had finished our experimental Hope Haven Power chair.  I came up with the idea of putting a Hope Haven kids chair seating system on an adult power chair a few months ago and the first one turned out to be such a success that I decided to build a second.  With the help of Gustavo and Larry we did some refinements and this one turned out even better than the first.  Fact is I think that we are going to do this with more of the power chairs because Hope Haven has a big list of kids that are in need of power chairs but they do not have any.  However they have some used adult power chairs that are built for Americans that are to big for even the largest Guatemalan. This should be a win win situation. A fantastic seating system on a durable chaise.

One of the kids that came in for a manual wheelchair today  was a boy who looked to be around 14 years old.  I thought it rather odd that only his two sisters who were near his age accompanied him.  They told us that their brother had fallen out of the back of a truck when he was nine years old and that he had suffered a lot of brain damage.  They said that even though he can be fed and seems to make eye contact they see no sign of any response from him.  Even though this young man shows no response to his sisters the love that they have for him is unbelievable.  I have never seen to girls that are more devoted to any one.  Weather they were feeding him or changing him they treated him with sincere love.  His poor body was so twisted and rigid that I could do little more for him than leave him a a lying position and and put him on some of the best air cushions made to help prevent bed sores.  His two sisters seemed delighted and thanked me over and over again.


It was not until we were loading him into to the old dilapidated ambulance that had brought him to us that the social worker that had accompanied him and some of the others that had come for wheelchairs, told us that the parents of these three kids had died and they were living on there own. Wow! Talk about dedication on the part of these two girls.  Even though they live nearly two hours away I am going to try to follow up on them to see if they need a sponsor for food or schooling.  If anyone is interested in helping them out financially please let me know.  Click here for my e-mail.

While I am looking for sponsors I am also going to put out a plea for another family that I met a few weeks ago.  I don't know if it made the news where you live, but about two weeks ago an overloaded bus traveling here from San Marten which is about a half hour from here lost it brakes and plunged over a six hundred foot cliff killing forty six of it's 90 passengers.  Alex who is one of my boys had been on that buss a day earlier.  Fortunately he had not been on it the day of the accident but a good friend and others that he knew were not as fortunate.  Alex's friend died instantly and the friends father is still in serious condition.

The following day Alex, a few of my other boys and myself drove to San Martin to pay our respects to this family and attend the funeral of this twenty three year old husband and father of two.  It was almost impossible to drive through this small town because of all of the funeral processions that were taking place.

When we arrived at the home we were amazed at all of the people that had come to pay there respect.  Many of them stayed only a short time though because that had other homes of friends and relatives who had died in this crash, to visit. We were soon asked to come into the small house that was nothing more than corn stalk walls and a leaky tin roof.  We offered the family some food that we had brought and they gratefully excepted it.  The family now consisted of the 21 year old widow of the man that had died,  her two children, her mom whose husband is still in critical condition and her grandmother.  The two bread winners of the family were now either dead or likely never again able to work.

The funeral procession consisted of my car which carried the widow, her mother, grandmother, and about eight to ten other people, a few pickup trucks and a large number of tuke-tukes (the small three wheel motor cycle style taxis that are found in almost every town in Guatemala.  The young man that died had been a tuke-tuke driver and judging by the number of tuke-tukes that came out in the heavy rain to give the mourners free rides to he cemetery, this young man was highly respected in his community.  When we arrives at the cemetery which was all above ground vaults we had to make our way through other funerals  that were going on.  The scene was morbid to say the least.  Here in Guatemala you do not have the luxury of staying buried for the rest of your life.  In most cases you are promised a place to stay for a minimum of ten years then if your burial plot or vault is needed your body is exhumed and your remains are put in a plastic garbage bag and your relatives can either take them home or they will be dumped on the garbage pile with countless others.  Usually this is done before the funeral party arrives but today it was stand in line and wait your turn and nothing was done to keep what was going on from the sight of those attending the funerals.  I will not go into great detail other than to say that it made any Alfred Hitchcock movie look like a cartoon.

If you are still with me I am asking for a sponsor for this family.  The kids are still much to young for school but they and the three ladies do need food.  I am praying for $50 per month to help keep them from starving, so once again if you can do anything to help here is my e-mail address. Click here for my e-mail.

Sorry that this week's journal was not a bit more cheery but remember that you can make it a lot brighter by helping one of these families.  Sorry if this one sounded a bit like a plea for money.  Then again if it helps keep these people alive, maybe I'm not all that sorry.


<>< Yours in Christ: Dick ><>

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Her's, Mine and Someone Elses

Pat and I often kid each other about our friendship being somewhat like a friendly divorce.

-Pat gets the kids during the week and I get them on the weekends.

-We each take credit for all of there good traits and claim that the other one is to blame for the bad ones.

-When ever one of the boys ask for money Pat tells them to talk to me and I tell them to talk to Pat.

-None of them look like either of us but most are closer to Pat's height than mine.

-Academic wise most of them take after me, but Pat is working on that. (She hired a teacher to come in and work with them.)

-They are all strong willed and always right.  The vote is still out on that one.  (No you can not vote for 2 candidates)

One thing for certain though we both love them and could not be prouder of them even though they can drive us crazy at times.

I have been praying for years about what the boys in my home would do once they got older.  For at least six of them God has answered that prayer through the new group home that Pat has started.  Granted for now only Miguel is working full time for Pat but Cessar and Fernando are living there 5 days a week and are attending School in Antigua.  Esbin, Marcos and Kevin are working for Pat on the weekends and who know what will happen once more people move into Pat's home.

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Pat  added a few comments to what I just published and even though what I wrote was truthful and absolutely correct I will publish what she wrote solely for your amusement.

A Friendly Divorce???--From the Marriage that Never Was!


For all of you who continue to wonder what, exactly, is my relationship with Dick Rutger's, I thought you might enjoy reading his (tongue in cheek) take on it.

In his journal today, Dick wrote:

Pat and I often kid each other about our friendship being somewhat like a friendly divorce. (Only a confirmed bachelor would joke about a friendly divorce---Pat) (At least in a divorce you don't have to  invite all of your relatives and get all dressed up.  Dick)

-Pat gets the kids during the week and I get them on the weekends.  (Except like some dads, he only takes some of the kids.    I still haven't gotten him into taking Fidel so I have have the weekends alone--Pat)  (Not until she takes the ones that hang out here all week. Dick)

-We each take credit for all of there good traits and and claim that the other is to blame for the bad ones.  (Now wait a minute--it surely wasn't me who taught them to leave the toilet seat up--Pat)  (At least you have a toilet seat.   Dick)

-When ever one of the boys ask for money Pat tells them to ask talk to me and I tell them to talk to Pat.  (I think the try to get $$$ out of both of us, myself--Pat)  (This is a sure sight that we are not married.  We both agree on something! Dick)

-None of them look like either of us but most are closer to Pat's height than mine.  (Come on, they all have my brown eyes and what used to be brown hair--Pat)  (Come to think of it they all resemble me to,  2 eyes, 2 ears, one nose and one mouth.  Dick)

-Academic wise most of them take after me, but Pat is working on that. (She hired a teacher to come in and work with them.)  (Now if I can find a Spanish tutor for Dick--Pat)  (You just have to give me a little more time and I will be able to understand everyone in Guatemala.  I already have most of my neighborhood speaking English.  Dick)

-They are all strong willed and always right.  The vote is still out on that one.  (No you can not vote for 2 candidates)  (This is an easy one--Dick is stubborn and I'm persistent.  And I'm right about this one!--Pat)  (See what I mean? Dick)

One thing for certain though we bouth love them and could not be prouder of them even though they can drive us crazy at times.  (Okay, on this one I actually agree with Dick.  He's right for once!--Pat)  (I think that Pat meant to say as usual.  Dick)
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You probably knew that I was leading up to this but why write my own Journals when Pat has already done such an eloquent job.   (Besides that I wrote the last one all by myself.)

Casa de Esperanza Update

With Fidel moving in permanently, a lot of things have changed, including an increased staff.  I never thought of myself as managing a staff, and I'm not sure I'm very good at it, but I'm trying.  We are all learning together.

Fernando and Cesar are working hard to finish up the school year.  It's been quite an adjustment and a bit of a struggle for them to adjust to going to school here in Antigua.

Fernando's grades have picked up greatly, in large part due to a kind "heart to heart" we had with the director of his school.  Carlos has had a bit impact on Fernando, and it's worth all the tuition it costs just to have him in Fernando's life.

Cesar is still struggling with math, but hanging in there, thanks to Profe. Julio.  Profe comes three afternoons a week to provide private tutoring in math, and so much more.  I love to listen in on their sessions (they work in the dining room while I am cooking dinner in the kitchen)--Profe has become more of a mentor than a tutor, and I'm grateful for his positive influence on Cesar's future.  Since Cesar hopes to teach one day, Profe has a lot of insights to share with him beyond academics.  Profe also is Fernando's computer teacher, so we are twice blessed with him.

I knew sooner or later it would happen.  With so many walls made out of glass, I knew sooner or later we'd break one.  I had expected it to be with a forbidden soccer ball, but Fidel took the honors.  His work table was in front of the window, and he accidentally pushed his chair forward and into the window.

Is it my imagination, or does he look just a little bit proud of himself?

People keep asking how Fidel has adjusted to living in the house.  

Well, it seems like he's always been here.  It's a little different for him, though, to realize that he's part of the family now, and not an "honored guest."  He's learning the meaning of "you get what you get and you don't throw a fit."  Not that he would throw a fit when he doesn't get his way, but he can sure throw a pout.  He gets over it quickly.  He's learning what it means to be a PART of a family, not the center of the family.  It's hard, sometimes, but he still says he loves being here.

He's enjoying make some of his own decisions--like wanting to grow a goatee. He says he wants one like Brian (a volunteer serving at the house for two months).  

Only thing is, I think Brian has more of a beard to work with.

Fidel is still taking computer classes, but right now they are on hold.  He has a flat tire on his wheelchair which Dick has not been able to get over to fix, so traveling on the street is pretty much out of the question.

There are no replacement tires in the shop, so we're praying Dick can fix this one.  Fidel does have a manual wheelchair, but refuses to use it. Please pray we get this fixed soon, before he ruins the tire. I have debated and debated with myself whether to take away the power chair until it's fixed, but, eventually we will be able to find a tire--even if I have to bring it back from the States.  I think this might be a good time to help him learn about natural consequences.  It will kill him (and the rest of us) if he has to go without his power chair, but he also needs to learn what a huge blessing it is to have one and how to better care for it.  And to take wise counsel.

It seems like we've had a whole bunch of birthdays recently.  We always are looking for a reason to have a party here--especially when it includes cake and ice cream.

Fidel's birthday was the end of June, and we celebrated in style.

Then, there were Sonya, Henry, and my birthdays the beginning of August.

Finally Fernando's the end of August.

When I get back in October, it will be time to celebrate Cesar and Miguel's birthdays.  They have asked for a "family" trip to the beach, and want to included the guys in the house and their mom.  Dick and I are trying to figure out how to make this happen.

A final, unexpected blessing of Casa de Esperanza is that we have been able to welcome visitors in wheelchairs, whether to watch a movie, work on the computer, or have lunch with us.  Again, God knew this would happen before we did, but it's really nice to be able to bring some of the kids from Hermano Pedro into a family environment, even if only for a few hours a week.

God also had plans to help a family with a child with Cerebral Palsy through our house.  Flor and her husband Henry have two sons, Carlos and Jose.  Carlos is 9 and has CP.  Jose is healthy.  Shortly before I began looking for a housekeeper, Henry lost his job.  Flor had been looking for work, but needed to work around when Carlos was in a day care program.  And when there was no daycare, she needed the flexibility to care for him.

Though Nineth, the Bethel teacher at Hermano Pedro, I met Flor and immediately fell in love with her.  She only works mornings for us, when Carlos is in daycare, and when the need arises, we can give her the flexibility she needs to care for him.  When there is no daycare, she still comes to work, he just comes with her!  He has become the little brother of the family, and has, like the rest of the boys, developed an addiction to the computer.  She fits in with the boys like a big sister, and they give her as much grief as they do each other.

              Carlitos, our hermanito (little brother)

This has been a win-win for both of us, but I think more of a blessing for me than for anyone else.  It's nice to have another woman in the house, and she keeps house better than I ever did.  I can be gone from the house and know that she will make sure things don't become a frat house while I'm gone.  I love how God had this all figured out! 


Pat's Staff

Pat Duff (a.k.a. Guatemala Grandma)

Pat Duff has been a follower of Jesus Christ for over 40 years, has been involved in ministry with children,youth and adults in a variety of churches in the United States before moving to Guatemala.  She also had 30+ years working with children and adults with mild through severe disabilities, including autism, in both public schools and private institutions.  She holds a Bachelors Degree in Special Education from the University of Illinois, and a Masters Degree in Special Education from Creighton University.

Pat has also had previous mission experience, having lived and taught for two years in the early ‘70’s among the Lakota people on the Rosebud Reservation.  She has made multiple short term mission trips to Latin America, including Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala.  

Personally, Pat has four amazing children, a wonderful daughter-in-law and two precious grandsons.

Pat serves as the Director of Causa de Esperanza Guatemala, and oversees the day to day operation of the community home, Casa de Esperanza.  She also works along side other ministries in the Antigua area which serve children with disabilities.

Miguel Sirin

Miguel Sirin is our only full-time employee.  He works Monday through Friday as a  resident companion care-giver to Fidel.  Our relationship with Miguel began almost six years ago, when he was working all day in a bicycle repair shop (earning about 25 quetzales, or $3 a week) and paying for his own schooling at night.  Miguel continues to study on Saturdays, and is giving most of his salary to his parents to help them put water and electricity on some land they have purchased.  Their hope is to have their own home someday.  (Miguel is the brother of Cesar, one of our student residents.)  This picture makes it look like Miguel is a very serious person, but that couldn't be farther from the truth.  I have never laughed so hard in my life as I have since he has come to live with us. 

" Hay Pat I found a better picture of Miguel.

(I took this one about a year ago. Dick)
     Now this is the real Miguel.  

Brian Taylor

Brian Taylor is a volunteer companion caregiver for Fidel who is working with us for two months while he discerns where God might be leading him next.  Brian has worked as a caregiver in the States, and also served as a volunteer with Pat at New Life School in Santa Maria de Jesus.  He helps Miguel when Fidel's needs that require more than one assistant, such as bathing, and also gives Miguel a break in the evenings so he can study and rest.  

Esbin and Marcos

 Esbin (above) and Marcos (Right) are weekend companion caregivers for Fidel.  Both are in Basico at a school in Chimaltenango and come to us after school on Friday and work through Sunday morning.  While younger than our other caregivers, they are a great team and work well together.  They both have had to learn to work to survive.  A number of years ago, Esbin and his brother and two sisters were abandoned by their mother (who still lives near them in Chimal).  Marcos's mom and dad took the kids in.  Within a year, both mom and dad had died, and now the family is headed by 26 year old Victor, who is working hard to keep the family together while getting an education himself.  For this family, work has meant survival.  We are happy to be able to employ these two responsible young men.


Kevin is a young man from Chimaltenango, and one of Dick's kids (as are Miguel, Cesar, Fernando, Esbin, and Marcos).  He is studying to be a dental hygienist here in Antigua.  He is Fidel's companion caregiver on Sundays.  When we first found the house, it was Kevin who could not wait to tell Fidel the good news.  It is wonderful that he is now part of it.

Flor de los Angeles Ordoñez de Ramirez

Flor is our housekeeper, cook, and Pat's general assistant and the keeper of Pat's sanity.  While originally hired to help with household duties, Flor has become an integral part of our ministry, and we don't know what we would do without her!  While only 26 years old herself, Flor has a way of managing the boys (when needed) while maintaining a good relationship with them.  She is the "big sister" in our family.

Flor is married and has two sons, Carlos and Jose.  Carlos has Cerebral Palsy, and Flor's experience as the parent of a child with disabilities in Guatemala has been invaluable to us as we move forward with our community home.  She and her husband Henri are strong advocates for Carlos in all areas of life, but especially in terms of education.  

So, here's our crew.  God has been good to us in the people he has brought together for this work.  May we be faithful to serve him well.

Thanks Pat:

As you can see God is really blessing Pat's new home and several of my Boys are reaping many of the benefits of that blessing.

<><Yours in Christ: Dick ><>

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Satisfying Day

(Click on any picture to enlarge)......
I did not think that Osmin (that is how he claims it is spelled) was going to make it when he came into Hermano Pedro about a month ago.  Although he is 18 years old I doubt that he weighed much more than 50 pounds. He was unable to eat anything and could only be fed through a feeding tube that was insured into his nostril and ran to his stomach, but then I start talking to him about the possibility of him being able to get out of the bed that he was confined to day and night and even being able to drive a power wheelchair  around on his own.   This gave him some thing to hope for and I honestly believe thinking about getting a Power wheelchair kept him alive.  With help from Alturo and Gustavo, two of the workers at Bethel Ministries we manged to set up a power wheelchair that laid flat like a bed. Hope Haven Guatemala provided some specialty cushions that would keep Osmin from getting bed sores.  It took me a bit of time to get the controller set up to where Osmin could use it as he has very  limited movement in his hands and his has no movement in the rest of his body.   He can only bend a few degrees at the hips but the chair has a power tilt that he can control which allows him to bend at a slight angle so that he can see where he is going.   Osman had no problem controlling the tilt or driving the chair and within a few minutes after getting it set up we took a tour of the entire orphanage.  Osmin asked me to thank everyone that was involved in getting him this wheelchair.   Most of all Osmin is giving thanks to God.

Osman and kids like these two little girls that I had the privilege of fitting into new wheelchairs  today make it all worth it.


<><  Yours in Christ: Dick  ><>

Dick Rutgers

502 5379 9451  (Guatemala Cell phone)

360 312 7720  (USA # Relays free to Guatemala)

dick@dickrutgers.com  (e-mail) 

http://dickrutgers.com  (web page)