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June 30, 2010
Walking with the poor
By Richard Swan
What is the most you have walked in a day? Could you walk that many miles every day? Could you walk each day from 4 a.m. to 5 p.m.?
Most of us couldn’t or wouldn’t do such a thing, but that is exactly what 74-year-old Bob Hentzen is doing right now. Hentzen is one of the co-founders of Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA), a Catholic lay organization serving people of all faiths.
In late December, the U.S. native began an 8,000-mile journey from his home in Guatemala to walk through 12 Latin American countries over a 16-month period. This pilgrimage, called Walk2gether, is an effort to “help counterbalance the isolation of the people living in poverty and to show that someone cares.”
“Walking is a simple way to tell the poor that I love them,” Hentzen said. “To be closer to them and let them know my admiration and gratitude for their faith, their trust and their hope.”
Through CFCA, my family sponsors five children in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Kenya. Together with two good friends from Denver and other sponsors, my wife and I were blessed to walk a small part of this pilgrimage of love and faith in March with Bob in Costa Rica. He averages 25 miles a day, by far the most we have ever walked. I could not walk that much every day, yet for many people in the developing countries served by CFCA, walking is a daily routine for such necessities as firewood and water.
We began walking in the dark along a busy highway at 4 a.m. Any feelings of sleep deprivation, fatigue, dehydration, aches and pain were quickly forgotten as we walked through communities that came out to greet and thank us. Often overwhelmed by my emotions, I saw real hope, faith, love and dignity in so many faces. We were all one community—one body of Christ on that walk.
Hentzen has done this before. In 1996 he walked from CFCA’s headquarters in Kansas City to San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala, to raise awareness of the poor. Since then, CFCA has expanded to 23 countries with more than 300,000 children and aging friends now being sponsored by both young and old, rich and poor. There are 2,000-plus sponsors in Colorado alone.
As parishioners at Church of the Risen Christ in southeast Denver, with the overwhelming support of our pastor, Msgr. Ken Leone, and youth director, Adrian Quintero, we have seen sponsorship expand to more than 300. We have watched older parishioners sponsor aging persons who need financial assistance. Teens have sponsored small children or other teens. Currently, 34 Risen Christ teen and adult parishioners are building two homes in Guatemala and working on other service projects in an area hard hit by Tropical Storm Agatha.
It has been a joy to watch young families sponsor as a way to show their children the value of giving and developing a relationship with less fortunate children. Last year, CFCA expressed its appreciation for the extensive support of our parish with its annual Pilgrimage of Faith Award. It was the first time a parish won the award.
Other parishes in Denver have accepted the invitation of sponsorship. We recently witnessed the outpouring of love in a “poor” parish with 18 new sponsorships. At another parish, the pastor was the first to sign up.
Belonging to the CFCA family has brought us much joy. Our sponsored children know they are loved by us and we are blessed with their letters, photos and prayers. We are proud to volunteer for an organization that consistently gets top ratings from Charity Navigator, the Better Business Bureau and the American Philanthropic Association.
We trust CFCA with our financial contributions since more than 94 cents of every dollar we send goes directly to help the children and their families. For a dollar a day, sponsors provide food, clothing, health care and educational assistance.
The organization also requires sponsored families to follow strict guidelines. A CFCA sponsorship produces self-sufficiency and often leads to grateful sponsored children working for CFCA when they become adults. The organization doesn’t see poverty, it sees potential!
Richard Swan is a parishioner at Risen Christ Parish in Denver.
Christian Foundation for Children and Aging
Learn more about CFCA
Online: www.cfcausa.org or www.walkwiththepoor.org
Follow: Bob Hentzen’s walk at www.walk2gether.org
CFCA presentations: call 303-941-3626 or e-mail email@example.com for a presentation to your group