By Jerry Kupris, CFCA sponsor
Three years ago I brought my son, Michael, with me to Guatemala, it being my second trip and his first. I felt he needed to see other places and other peoples to put his young life into perspective. He was having trouble and was, frankly, heading toward disaster. He seemed to have no direction. His anti-authority attitude was becoming his downfall.
I did not know what the trip would do for him, but I did know that he was a sensitive and caring person, much unlike the bravado he constantly attempted to put forth. I felt that being in a country where he did not know the language but would get to know people for who they really were would allow his real persona to unfold.
And then he met Bob …
Here in this foreign land was a person who was at home with the people and also fully understood the American visitors who had come for various reasons. In telling the story of Guatemala and CFCA, Bob used music as his means of communication. His depth of sincerity and passion for his mission and for the people he served were evident to me, and to Michael. His talks and his music were winning over our hearts and our minds.
Shortly after one of our evening meetings, Michael stepped forward to admire Bobís guitar. After some small talk, Bob asked if he would like to play it. (Michael had just begun to teach himself to play guitar.) Mike replied that he was left-handed and Bob was right-handed. Bob said, “Take the guitar and restring it so you can play it.” Michael, who understood that a musician’s instrument is a very personal item, was at once touched by the offer.
Michael restrung the guitar and played deep into the night. He even composed a tune along the rhythms of Guatemalan music, which he played the evening before we returned to Guatemala City.
I noticed that Michael became attentive to vast differences between our culture and the Guatemalan culture. What pleased me was that he had an immediate, abiding respect for that cultural difference and learned of the real dignity of the indigenous people.
During our time in Guatemala, I could see a new Michael, a Michael who was always there but had been brought out more fully by his experience with new people, new places, new foods and environment, and most importantly, by his interaction with Bob Hentzen.
From that point on, Michael found a new interest in his studies, but most importantly, he developed a deeper love for music and things of a more aesthetical nature. His teachers also noticed a new maturity. His grades improved, and in his senior year, he won the lead in the school musical. As parents we were, of course, proud of him.
Michael is now in college majoring in music theory and composition. I have no doubt that his Guatemala experience played a great part in his new direction in life. I have no doubt that his honesty, directness and lack of prejudice were enhanced by the mission awareness trip.
God willing, Mike and I will return together to renew ourselves in a land that God has touched, in a land that has touched us.