Dec 9 2011

Bob’s notes: ‘Invited into Archana’s family’ in India

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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.

This account was split into two parts. Read the first part with Annamary’s testimony here.

Inspiring testimonies from sponsored Indian youth:

Minu: “Tears come into my eyes today when I recall how my parents left me with relatives as they searched for work in the northern part of India. It is no less than a divine intervention that sponsorship came. I fear my father may have abandoned us. However, my sponsorship continues, and this has been my greatest consoler and mentor. If I say sponsorship has been my rock, my parent, it won’t be an exaggeration. I am filled with gratitude and awe. I wish to give back to my society as a mark of appreciation for this CFCA program.”

Pinky: “We live in a remote area where there is no good education facility. Before sponsorship, I was like a frog in a well, knowing nothing of the outside world. The CFCA help became a light which removed the darkness of ignorance within me and filled my life with the brightness of knowledge. I have been studying in a well-developed educational institution of the Bhagalpur Diocese for 12 years. On behalf of all sponsored children, I promise you we will fulfill our dreams to be successful and help other children.”

Sanju: “Sponsorship became the beginning of a brighter life for us, driving away all sorts of darkness, evil, misery and worry in our life. It led me to a world of education and awareness. What CFCA has offered me is something unthinkable: courage, love, hope. I wish to become a doctor, so that I too can help the poor. What we receive has meaning and fruit only if it is shared with others.

“Today, my family is no longer what it used to be. They sweated a lot; they were cheated; they were put into hardship for lack of opportunities and awareness. For these and many more blessings, I thank God, my sponsors and CFCA.”

Journey begins

The Railroad Station at Howrah has a tremendous pulsating life 24/7. Its basic humanity brings back fond memories of the first trip I made here with Jerry Tolle in the early days of CFCA.

Jerry and I arrived by rail and lugged our things across the impressive Howrah Bridge on foot in search of a place to stay. The next morning we had the privilege of visiting with Mother Teresa and her Sisters.

We attended Holy Mass in the chapel where Mother Teresa is buried. This experience and the visit to the Orphanage and the Home for the Dying are of high impact on our sponsors.

The night train to Bhagalpur was a good experience. Jake, my son, and I took the top bunks and deferred to sponsors for lower and more accessible quarters. Observing the pushing and chaos in the “chair cars” made me grateful for our four-person cabin next to the hole-in-the-floor toilet.

We stepped down from the train at Bhagalpur Station about 6:30 a.m. Sponsored children, religious Sisters of the Holy Family and CFCA staff members welcomed us.

A hearty breakfast followed at the chancery office. With spicy chicken and fish, it seemed more like lunch, but all the same nutritious and welcome.

A short ride to cross the impressive Ganges River prepared us for the 2.5-hour trip through a CFCA community serving rural villages.

Roads are quite narrow and rough. Even more challenging is the “thread-the-needle-style” driving and constant leaning on the horns.

We met a large gathering of sponsored friends and their families after lunch, and then visits to individual homes. We then had a “supper and night halt” in another village. Sponsors are traveling in groups of two or three to visit the maximum number of CFCA communities and homes.

We headed back well after dark to our convent basecamp in the Indian countryside. We traveled over broken roads, but under a friendly full moon.

The next day in two villages, both native Sandali, we had the privilege of visiting more than 20 homes of sponsored friends and their families. In each home, the sponsored child or youth spoke of sponsors by name.

The sponsors’ visit called for major celebrations, prayer dances, welcome songs and personal testimonies. Some families walked over 15 km (more than 9 miles) to spend this time with us.

As I’m invited to participate, I find music and song can play an important part in communicating with people all over the world.

Our CFCA mothers and youth sang and chanted slogans as we trekked over dirt roads, broken asphalt and the narrow principal road to our destination at the Holy Family High School grounds.

The priest had personally decorated the large, colorful stage. Giant posters of Walk2gether scenes helped set the tone. The weather even in the afternoon stayed around 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

The attentive presence of many religious leaders for the Diocese of Bhagalpur speaks well of our official relationships and current processes. The CFCA identity is clear and respected.

An estimated 3,500 people gathered for our walk and mothers group conference ó and this in a very rural area.

All performers had practiced long and hard for this major show of the year. We heard dramatic personal testimonies, vocal and classical numbers. The keynote address about the right to education and the situation of girls and women highlighted the show.

To round things off nicely, everyone was offered a nutritious meal prepared by local mothers.

Hearty congratulations to Coordinator Selvaraj for vision, detailed logistics and sharp translations from Sandali to English.

Warangal

It’s hard to believe what we can pack into a single day. We spent over eight hours on the road.

We visited six sponsored friends and their families in their homes, met with three mothers groups, visited the tomb of Fr. Francis Thumma and shared cultural numbers with parents, children, co-workers and the parish priest.

I was thrilled to visit our sponsored child Archana in her village and home. Hers is a Hindu community in the Andra Pradesh countryside.

Our visit started with a gathering of sponsored friends and their families in an outdoor setting. We celebrated regional dances, some of them featuring tribal traditions. Children, scholars and mothers took part in a fine program.

We were honored to visit Archana’s home. We were treated to a homemade lunch, shared with grandparents, mom and dad, immediate family and neighborhood children.

I feel truly honored to be invited into this family.

Please know of our thanks and love for each of you.

Bob Hentzen
India
Nov. 22, 2011

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