Oct 25 2010

Walk2gether brings out hope on the highway

Eddie Watson, a member of the CFCA communications department, joined Walk2gether in Ecuador. Hereís his perspective on how the walk shows hope in action, especially among those living in poverty.

ìÖtribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappointÖî ó Romans 5:3

Eddie Watson, from CFCA communications department

Eddie Watson, a member of the CFCA communications department, joins Walk2gether in Ecuador.

At CFCA we talk about hope a lot. Itís in the name of our sponsorship program: Hope for a Family.

It appears in many of our publications, and itís posted throughout our headquarters in Kansas City, Kan. Itís at the heart of what this organization is all about.

But have you ever actually witnessed hope?

I hadnít until I visited Ecuador and walked with Bob and CFCA families on Walk2gether.

Hope was everywhere. Right now, somewhere in Peru, hope is walking along the right edge of a highway in the middle of a desert. Cars are whistling right on by.

In fact, there is a hope trail that stretches from Guatemala south more than 5,000 miles to Peru.

I read the scripture passage cited above on my flight home to the U.S. It jumped off the page at me, and I thought it illustrated what I experienced on Walk2gether and what the walk is really all about.

The families CFCA serves face tribulations every day, challenges far more intense than walking the 21 or more miles a day on the walk. CFCA serves families who walk several miles every day just to get water.

No, walking wasnít challenging for the beautiful people who met us as we passed through their communities.

What was challenging for many of them was walking the distance in flip flops or school dress shoes, because it was all they had.

But they didnít complain. They had far more character achieved through lives in the rural mountains of the Andes; character developed working for $7 a day on someone elseís land; character achieved by having to work 12-hour days to feed your three kids and send them to school, to give them a better future.

Borja Homero

Borja Homero, the father of a sponsored child from Mira.

Two sponsored children participate in Walk2gether.

I was walking in a rain shower with Bob early one morning, feeling bad for all the families with us getting drenched.

I began thinking about all the money I spent on the gear keeping me warm and dry: $140 Gortex-lined boots, a $40 fleece jacket, a $50 rain jacket.

We came to a resting point, and we lined up to greet the families and thank them for joining us. I wish you could have seen their faces.

They were so excited to meet Bob and so proud to walk for the organization. Nothing was going to stand in their way. This was one way they could give back.

As much as Bob is walking to show CFCAís love, these families are walking to say ìthank you.î They are thrilled to be on the journey.

I saw the hope in their eyes.

Their hope makes my food taste different. It makes my showers shorter, my ìI love youísî better, and makes me want to jump out of the bed in the morning.

The hope I saw makes me want to give my best.

Bob says this is what the walk and CFCA are all about. He says we should ìbe at our best for the poor because they deserve it.î

It started making more sense to me how a 74-year-old man can dream of walking 8,000 miles with these families. He sees hope.

I was privileged to see it. The worldwide CFCA community is beginning to see it, too, as we spread our message to more and more people.

My dream is for everyone to see it.

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Oct 7 2010

ëMagic belt’ makes Ecuador walkerís pain disappear

Bill Hansen, accounting manager at CFCA in Kansas City, joined Bob and the walkers in Ecuador during Aug. 15-21. An avid runner, Bill had every intention of completing the route without incident, but had a surprising setback at the end of the week.

Bob Hentzen and Bill Hansen

Bob Hentzen, left, and Bill Hansen, center, continue along Walk2gether with their “magic belts.”

I joined the walk in Quito. Just outside Quito, we crossed the equator and had about a 6-to-7-mile uphill walk.

The terrain got steeper as we approached the top. On the other side of the mountains, we saw trees and mountains. It reminded me a lot of the Missouri Ozarks.

For the next two days, we walked through the Andes and fortunately, it was all downhill.

We saw cows. I donít know how they would get on top of these mountains, grazing, or how they would get down, but it reminded me a lot of Switzerland.

For two days, we didnít see any houses or any people. We saw traffic, of course.

When we arrived at the bottom of that mountain range, we entered the Ecuadorian rain forest. I saw a lot of palm trees, banana trees and coffee plants.

Thatís when we started seeing people. We saw poverty, too. We were walking seven 5K segments, or about 21 miles a day.

On Friday, we came to a community called Porto de Quito where we started walking uphill into the Ecuadorian pineapple growing range. Thatís when I had the experience with my back.

Iíve been running for about five years and I have never had any problem with my back. Everyone told me to watch out for blisters.

I was watching my feet, wiping them off, putting lotion on them, changing socks and I had no problems at all. I was in good shape and feeling good.

When I first felt the pain in my back, I thought I could walk it off. Sometimes when youíre running, you get a cramp in your muscle.

You run through it and it goes away. But this wasnít going away. By noon on Friday, my back had had it.

Magic belts

During a rest period, I was waiting in the van, discouraged and very depressed.

When I started planning my participation in the walk last February, it never dawned on me that I wouldnít be able to do the whole week. My back has never bothered me.

I prayed and told God how I felt.

ìWhy did you bring me this far just to stop it here?î I asked.

Bob came out of the camper to start the walk again. I knew at that point I wouldnít be able to go any farther.

Before I could say anything, Bob came up to me and asked, ìHow are you feeling?î

ìMy backís had it,î I said. ìIím really, really sorry.î

ìWait a minute,î Bob said.

He went into his camper. That was really strange because when Bob gets out of his camper to go again, he doesnít stop for anything. I knew something was up.

He brought out this back belt with two straps that go around your shoulders and an elastic band that goes around your midsection.

You tighten the elastic band around your midsection and it feels like somebody is pushing up on the small of your back.

The minute I put it on, it was instant relief. I didnít feel the pain at all. It completely went away.

We started walking, and I thought, ìWow! This is great.î It was the key.

I walked all day Friday and all day Saturday. I wore the belt both days and had no problems whatsoever. I would not have been able to finish the walk without that belt.

Some people call it the ìmagic belt.î It really is a magic belt. I was able to finish the whole week. It was an answer to prayer.

Bob Hentzen comments:

I believe the magic part of the belt is the fact that it was given to me as a gift in love and concern by our CFCA co-workers in Ocotepeque, Honduras.

Experience has taught me that on these daily long treks, one’s back can suffer from the constant muscular effort made in the same direction.

I have found two solutions: change one’s stride on a regular basis, and use some kind of support for the lower back. This is what I believe helped Peter (Ndungo, Nairobi, Kenya, project coordinator) and Bill.

It also helped Maria Mejias from Venezuela, and presently it is being used by Don Juan, a 61-year-old walker from Peru.

There are two belts. One I use, and the other magically finds its way to whoever needs it.

Greetings to all.

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Aug 18 2010

Kenyan project coordinator joins Walk2gether in Ecuador

Peter Ndungo during Walk2getherPeter Ndungo is the general coordinator for CFCA projects in Kenya. He spent a week walking through northern Ecuador and reflects on his Walk2gether experience.

I have always aspired to work with the less privileged in society. I get a lot of inspiration from working with the beneficiaries and staff members.

I was very much excited to be coming on the walk. I always look forward to learning something new. In each and every project there are good practices, and I was able to learn so many new things to take back to Nairobi to make our project stronger.

It is so beautiful in Ecuador, and walking with these people and seeing how they live was a great experience for me. I grew up in a small village in Kenya and helped my father with our coffee plants from a very young age. We would wake up early to harvest coffee. I know the challenges that families living in the farming communities in Ecuador face.

There is so much potential in these families. It was a big lesson for me to see their energy and see how important they are in this movement. The sponsored members and their families helped us get through the miles by walking with us. It showed me how interdependent our mission is and that our community is growing even stronger each day with this walk.

On the walk, I started out well, but along the way things got very tough. I was only able to make it 20 kilometers out of the 35 kilometers my first day. It is a lesson, though, to see the families that came out to walk with us cover these distances, and we should not take their strength for granted.

It is an inspiration that these families are able to overcome so much. We just need to help them along their path. It is not easy work helping these families, and the walk is a symbol of this effort.

The walk is very challenging. We have to cover long distances. The pain in our legs and muscles can be translated to the pain these families experience. But like them, we just have to keep going and keep walking with them.

One of my favorite parts of the walk was interacting with the families. Singing and dancing is very integrated into society in Africa. Many of the youth walking with us were shy at first, but they were very eager to learn from me when I started a song or dance. And when you are having fun, the kilometers go by much faster.

Getting to spend time with Bob Hentzen (CFCA president and co-founder) on the walk was also a great experience. Bob is superhuman. Every time you are around Bob you get inspiration. When you see somebody that age (74) walking all that distance, and here I am a young energetic person who couldnít walk the whole way for just one week. He is a great example of how we can focus our energy.

CFCAís invitation for us to join the walk to help our brothers and sisters in South America is a good message. It was amazing to learn from one another and spend time with the people who have been on this journey.

People around the world need to know there are many people struggling and in need of help. I am proud to have been a part of this walk and to help spread the message that there is hope for these families.

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Dec 29 2009

Let’s all go for a Walk2gether

CFCA staff in Kansas City walk around the warehouse.CFCA staff members in Kansas City took a symbolic walk of solidarity on Dec. 29, the same day that the 8,000-mile Walk2gether started in Guatemala.

Approximately 60 employees met in the community room at 9 a.m. to hear a report about the launch of Walk2gether, pray for the safety of the walkers and then make a short walk of solidarity.

Because a pre-Christmas blizzard left high snow drifts and dangerous ice on sidewalks, the walk was held inside instead of outdoors as originally planned. The Kansas City walkers followed a mile-long route marked by yellow boot prints inside the warehouse that is part of the CFCA headquarters.

The walk in Kansas City occurred at about the time the Guatemala walkers, led by CFCA President Bob Hentzen, were scheduled to make their first stop for breakfast. They began at about 4 a.m. and were due to walk 24 miles on the first day of the journey.

Other CFCA projects and employees held their own symbolic events for the Walk2gether kick-off.

At the Monrovia project in Liberia, staff and sponsored members spent the day volunteering at community hospitals.

In Ecuador, the Guayaquil project hosted solidarity walks 10 kilometers in length in areas where they have sponsored members.

The Bluefields subprojects in the northeast corner of Nicaragua will have a night vigil, where families, sponsored members and staff will join together in prayer. Throughout the duration of the walk, they will hold morning prayers and ask God to give both physical and spiritual strength to the walkers and to all of the families who will accompany them on this journey.

One employee, Jerry Gladbach of the Child Services department in Kansas City, made his own show of support for Walk2gether. He strapped cleats onto winter boots and walked 1-1/2 miles to work over snow and ice.

“I’m trying to be in solidarity with the walkers,” Gladbach said.

During the community meeting in Kansas City, CEO Paco Wertin led a prayer of blessing for the walk and its participants.

“Bob’s walk of unity unites all cultures, genders and creeds,” Wertin said. “It’s a way that helps us hear the cry of those living in poverty. He is carrying a message that you are not alone. Because they walk, we walk.”

Visit Walk2gether.org to learn more about why Bob is walking.

You can also send messages of support and encouragement that Bob will share with the families of sponsored members and the CFCA staff in the communities he visits.

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Dec 23 2009

Walk2gether begins in one week

The walking begins in one week!

On Dec. 29, CFCA President Bob Hentzen will embark on Walk2gether, an 8,000-mile, 16-month journey through 12 countries in Latin America.

CFCA staff and BobExcitement and anticipation are building as families and CFCA staff in Guatemala prepare to bid Bob and his fellow travelers “Buen Viaje.” More than 65 sponsors participating in the mission awareness trip will also be on hand for the launch.

Meanwhile, CFCA staff in Kansas gave Bob an official send-off when he visited the headquarters in late November. Read more here.

Check out the new Walk2gether website, where you can follow Bob on an interactive map, and explore links to his electronic journals and to videos, slideshows and stories about the realities, people and activities in the countries he visits. You can also send messages of support and encouragement that Bob will share with the families of sponsored members and the CFCA staff in the communities he visits.

Walk2gether is a way to help counterbalance the isolation of people living in poverty, and show them that someone cares. The walk will help build community and strengthen the bonds of unity between CFCA’s sponsored members, sponsors and staff. It will also symbolize and promote the unity of countries, races, languages, genders and creeds. Visit Walk2gether.org to learn more.

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Oct 23 2009

A Simple Translation

By Chris Palmer, Project specialist for International Programs Department

Each day, Augusto wakes up in his small and unassuming home on the outskirts of Guayaquil, Ecuador. He gets ready for work by starting up his computer for a full day of CFCA letter translations. With more than 2,300 sponsored children and aging members in the Guayaquil project, one can imagine that there are plenty of translations to do in a given year.

Augusto is a simple man with dark, black hair, and his inviting demeanor is calm and genuine as he speaks with passion and wit. He has been translating letters and other documents for CFCA since 1995.

ìIt is important to have a quality translation to accompany the original letter, whether it is from a sponsor in the U.S. to a child here in Guayaquil or a child from here to a sponsor,î he said.

AugustoIn a given day, Augusto is able to translate on average eight full letters from Spanish to English, only stopping for a lunch break in the afternoon.

ìSometimes I can do more depending on the length of the letter; however, there are a few cases in which children write three- to four-page letters that will in turn take me longer to translate,” he said. “In these instances, I am only able to get four or five done per day. There is one girl in particular from the Mira subproject who I think is slowly trying to write a novel to her sponsor, letter by letter.î

Although taxing at times, Augusto keeps a positive perspective on his important duty and role in the journey of a CFCA letter.

In 1979, Augusto was serving in the Ecuadorian Air Force when, during a “red alert” situation with a neighboring country, he found himself rushing back to the airbase with three other comrades. On the way back they suffered a severe car accident.

ìRight away, I knew I lost the mobility of my legs,î he said.

It was discovered shortly after that Augusto had severed his spinal cord in the accident and would require the assistance of a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Augusto was transferred between military hospitals in Ecuador until, with permission from the minister of defense, he was sent for treatment and rehabilitation to a specialized hospital in Houston, Texas. Even though there were others in the hospital who spoke Spanish, the majority of conversation in the hospital was in English. During his twoñyear rehabilitation stay, a professor came to the hospital to give English lessons to those interested.

It was through immersion in the English language that Augusto slowly turned a positive light on his time in Houston. More than 10 years after his return to Ecuador, Augusto was asked to by a director of a local school to assist in the translations of letters for a sponsorship program called CFCA. Little did Augusto know at the time, but this part-time job would eventually become his full-time vocation.

ìThis is an activity that I do with much care and dedication because it has filled many spaces in my own life,” he said. “In countless ways, this position is therapeutic because it gives me the opportunity to be utilized for the benefit of others. It also keeps me busy while allowing me to pay my daily expenses, as my translation fees are my only source of income.î

The impact of CFCAís program not only affects the lives of those who are sponsored, but the ripples and reverberations continue to affect those in proximity to it. By employing local translators, CFCA exposes the hope and potential of the poor to others in the community.

A translation may seem like a simple act, but this behind-the-scenes service is doing a lot more than transforming one language into another. After meeting Augusto, one can clearly see that the work he does for CFCA brings him much freedom, despite the physical limitations of his disability.

ìIt is through the letters I am able to become acquainted with the customs of each region,” he said. “If you ask me to describe Mira (a town located up in the highlands of Ecuador) I feel as if I am able to picture the landscape and its surroundings in my mind.

“When I translate the letters from the U.S. or other countries, I am able to get a unique description of each of those places also. Although I am unable to travel due to my condition, it is through these letters that enable me to travel all over the world. Each letter is a new journey for me.î

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Aug 11 2009

August isn’t back-to-school month for everyone

As U.S. students prepare for the onset of school, students in other countries have already taken mid-terms.

That’s right. For students in many countries where CFCA works, school does not start in August or September.

The school year in Central America started in January or February. Those lucky children are only two months away from the end of school. Schoolchildren in India and the Philippines are already into their third month of the school year. And students in Kenyaówell, they follow the British system and attend school all year, with long breaks at the end of each quarter.

Find the school calendar for your friend on the graph below.

School calendar

Related links
Time for school

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