Sep 6 2011

Bob’s notes: ‘We consider Guatemala very sacred ground’

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“Bob’s notes” are reports from CFCA President Bob Hentzen, who regularly accompanies mission awareness trip participants. You can see Bobís full update on his Facebook page.

It’s great to be in touch from Guatemala, this very special place ó with this very special group of sponsors, families and fellow workers.

Guatemala welcomes our mission awareness trip with a green countryside and spring-like temperatures.

Google tells us the ancient Nahuatl word Quauhtlemallan means “place of many trees.”

Guatemala’s volcanic soil is very fertile. Our projects and families across Guatemala are in the process of planting 1,000,000 trees. We consider this very sacred ground.

The pictures in this report are offered by Ricardo Ajpuac, as always with his big smile. Mil gracias, Ricardo.

At this time, CFCA has the privilege of working with more than 89,000 children, youth, and aging in Guatemala.

Current situation in Guatemala

  • A country divided politically. We have less than a month before general elections (President, Representatives, Mayors).
  • This group of sponsors may also experience public manifestations and the blockage of highways by teachers and medical personnel, as these groups try to call attention to their needs and demands. (Note: This did happen on our last day in Guatemala. With all major highways blocked, we had to take a circuitous route to Antigua and Guatemala City.)

First day

All staff members were there to greet the sponsors and help out.

Mothers and children had prepared beautiful and meaningful cultural numbers, blending Mayan and Garifuna dances.

Their dramatization of the festival of San Pedro Ayampuc (La Virgen de La Candelaria) included dances and native dishes.

DoÒa Rafaela, sponsored elderly, gave a moving testimony. Lots of sharing and pictures filled out a delightful, significant first afternoon of this trip.

During the sponsors’ first night in Guatemala, we had just a touch of Tropical Storm Harvey on its way across Belize and into Mexico.

On the way out of Guatemala City our group stopped for 30 minutes at La Plaza Central de la ConstituciÛn (Central Constitution Plaza).

This group was especially interested in our Cathedral. Built from 1782-1815, the Cathedral is named in honor of the Virgin of the Assumption, whose feast day is celebrated Aug. 15.

I appreciate the way CFCA teams in Guatemala offer immediate immersion into the reality of our families. Our stop in Parramos was just that.

Children, aging, mothers and staff were waiting for us at the local CFCA center. It serves 1,750 children, 49 aging friends and 91 scholars in the towns and surrounding villages of Parramos and San Andres Itzapa.

Cristina and I came to know and love the campesino people of this area in the mid-1980s, when Father Adan Francisco Garcia was pastor of Parramos and San Andres Itzapa.

Working hand in hand with “Padre Pancho” were Madre Marina and her fledgling group of indigenous sisters.

During Walk2gether, I received solidarity and encouragement from Lito, one of the principal community leaders in Parramos. I had hoped to see Lito this morning.

However, one of his neighbors, a fellow campesino, informed me that Lito had been recently killed in a well-digging accident. I ask prayers for his eternal rest, as well as for his hard-working family.

Next morning

The Hermano Pedro team led a morning reflection, followed by breakfast at the CFCA Regional Center.

We have around 14,000 children, youth and aging sponsored at the mission parish of San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala.

Our dedicated Hermano Pedro staff puts together this day of reunion and celebration at the Shalem Center in nearby Cerro de Oro.

Despite the rains and poor road conditions, all the sponsored children arrived in good time to enjoy the day.

You can imagine how high the emotions run on this beautiful coming together of God’s people. Sponsorships of 8, 10 and 16 years speak of great love and fidelity.

Enthusiastic sponsored friends, their families and the local Comalapa team welcomed our travelers. There were many emotional moments and expressions of profound gratitude for the CFCA program.

The mother leaders were creative and joyful in the cultural numbers they presented.

These included several fun numbers and a dramatization of “La Quema del Diablo,” “The Burning of the Devil,” a folk tradition with elaborate costumes and fireworks.

Staff reports that 99 percent of our sponsored friends in Comalapa are indigenous.

The native language in this area (Kaqchiquel) is spoken about as often as Spanish by the majority of our sponsored friends.

Poverty manifests itself on a large scale, as it is difficult to find steady work. The majority of inhabitants seasonally work the land, mostly on land owned by large landowners. (Those large planatations owned by single owners are called fincas.)

A small minority of families work their own tiny parcels.

CFCA’s Hope for a Family program is not some illusion. It is real and it works. From some dark and avaricious part of our human nature must come the tendency to gather in, to hoard, to control, seldom calculating the human cost.

This becomes evident in many countries where an extremely small percentage of the people own an exaggerated portion of productive land.

Most of those living in poverty, i.e, the families of our preference, work hard their entire life and finish with about the same amount of material goods or less than they started with.

In Guatemala, experts in the social field say 22 extended families hold title to 58 percent of the land. Two families own most of the vast sugar cane production.

About 700,000 strive to stay alive in extreme poverty, trying to make it on about $1 per day, just to feed themselves and their families.

This puts Guatemala as No. 1 in malnutrition in Latin America and No. 4 in the world

This lack of nourishment penetrates to the mind and spirit. It can rust the soul, drain energies and kill potential.

For a family locked into these economic circumstances, the world can seem like a huge monster ready to strike and devour.

CFCA strives to breathe life and hope into this picture. We strive to offer families the opportunity to own more of their own future.

By the grace of God, the first 30 years of CFCA have been a great preparation for offering hope for our member families.

To become good facilitators of this liberating process, all of us at CFCA must continually renew and purify our own mentality.

Once we humbly acknowledge our true calling and prepare ourselves for rough terrain, we can dare stand confidently before a group of God’s humble people and invite them to trust us, to trust one another, to launch into a future of hope and adventure.

This is a real challenge. Some “helpers” explain they don’t give a man a fish, but teach him to fish.

Apparently, they haven’t gotten to the point of asking whether he wants to fish or something even more basic: Can our taught fisherman survive the AK-47 or the M16 of the owner of the land along the river?

At CFCA we feel called. We are excited about the adventure of walking among God’s struggling people and among people of good will who sincerely appreciate and join their walk out of poverty.

We feel invigorated by the deep feeling of sisterhood and brotherhood implied in sharing danger for the sake of new life.

Offering this adventure in a humble, balanced and non-violent way will bring brave and visionary people to our side. I can’t prove this, but I’ll bet this can keep us young.

Our prayers and solidarity go with all those affected by Hurricane Irene along the East Coast. I also leave tomorrow for Bolivia to begin with another mission awareness trip.

Please know of our love and prayers.

Bob H.
Aug. 20-27, 2011

0 thoughts on “Bob’s notes: ‘We consider Guatemala very sacred ground’”

  1. Thank you for sharing your notes, Bob. For the few minutes I read them, I was transported back to Guatemala myself. Even though I can’t be there physically, I am with all of the people we met, and the CFCA staff, in spirit and i prayer!

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