Jan 14 2012

Guatemala trip displays ‘harmony amidst challenges’ of poverty

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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.

What a joy for Cristina and me to share this sacred time with 36 sponsors, their sponsored friends and families, and a great group of CFCA co-workers.

This New Year’s group of sponsors includes a good number of children and young people. They found a Guatemala in great need, but in the happy time of coffee harvest.

Students in Guatemala will be out of school until mid-January; coffee harvest involves the entire family.

[Related link: Read our story about families harvesting coffee in Guatemala.]

A new president, new congressional representatives and new mayors will take office on Jan. 15.

This is also the time of the “safra” ñ the burning, cutting and hauling of sugar cane. The air is filled with the distinct odor and falling ash of the cane. It is impressive to think that every stalk must be hand-cut by campesinos, darkened by the coastal sun and carbon, and cut and stacked. They are paid for by the ton. Read more

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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.” Read more

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Oct 20 2011

Bob’s notes: Sponsors ‘living on love’ in Guatemala trip

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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.

Our entire team in Guatemala is delighted to receive this fine group of sponsors and friends.

During the mission awareness trip, sponsors experienced the buildup to a presidential run-off election, scheduled for Nov. 6.

This promised to be an exciting trip, considering election frenzy, heavy rains, swollen rivers, damaged roads and major landslides. We often adjusted our itinerary according to weather and road conditions.

Naturally, we thanked our CFCA family for prayers along the way.

Due to abundant rains, Guatemala welcomed us with a green countryside and pleasant temperatures.

We took sponsors to the CFCA office that serves more than 6,000 families in Guatemala City.

Children, teens and staff had prepared a nice orientation to the CFCA presence in their areas.

Participating were Miguel Dario Tzarax, project coordinator; Maria del Carmen Santos, social worker; Mario, sponsored for 15 years; two groups of sponsored children and mothers groups (Mezquital and El Gallito); moving testimony of Monica Catalan, mother leader from El Gallito; and me (Bob) with a group of children and mothers.

All this week, we had to adjust our itinerary as the 72 highways of Guatemala were blocked from landslides and flooding.

We did make it out to San Lucas Toliman on Sunday. We felt rewarded by the welcome of our sponsored friends and families. Read more

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Feb 9 2011

‘I never felt so loved and appreciated in my life’: A sponsor’s trip to Costa Rica

Georgina Hartwell sent us this evaluation after she and her husband, Henry, went on a mission awareness trip to Costa Rica. While there they visited Steven, their sponsored friend. We are sharing this evaluation with their permission.

Steven's family

From left are Georgina; Steven, the Hartwells’ sponsored friend; Steven’s sister, Noelia; Steven’s mother, Jolane; and Henry.

Did you find that the orientation and information provided by the CFCA project staff during the trip adequately described the host country and CFCA’s work there?

Yes.

Would you recommend a CFCA mission awareness trip to others?

Yes.

Why or why not?

It was up close and personal. We saw our money at work.

Please describe your impressions of the trip and how the trip affected you personally.

I cried a lot. I never felt so loved and appreciated in my life (I’m 68). It was more than I expected. I guess I thought we would view much from afar. We did not. We were so very much “with the people.”

Also, on the trip we celebrated our 47th anniversary. The women of Desamparados surprised us with a beautiful, huge, delicious cake ñ enough to share with all!

Hartwells' anniversary cake

The Hartwells’ anniversary cake.

Any additional comments or suggestions?

The week was packed full of activities but I never felt pressured with a time schedule. Yes, there was a schedule but the staff and our wonderful driver, Carlos, always managed to be a bit flexible with a smile!

God bless all aspects and people of CFCA. With the five enclosed brochures you sent us, I will do my best to get five new sponsors.

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Feb 7 2011

Marriage traditions in Guatemala

Valentineís Day is coming soon, and in the spirit of love, affection and marriage, we thought we’d share with you some marriage customs in Guatemala.

Henry Orlando, 24, was sponsored through CFCA from 1996 to 2008, when he graduated as an agricultural technician. He married Silvia, on Nov. 27, 2010. In this interview, Henry describes the traditions before and during his marriage ceremony.

How did you get engaged?

Silvia and I were engaged for three and a half years. Around Christmas 2009, we decided to get married.

We fixed the date for ìla pedidaî (asking the bride’s parents for her hand in marriage). Our ìpedidaî took place April 1, 2010. Usually an engagement ring is given, but I did not have the means to do so since I am attending the university.

Guatemalan bridal party

Pictures of the bridal party after the wedding service.

All my family acted as ìtortulerosî ó people who intercede for the groom during the pedida. My mother cooked a turkey, chicken and baskets of bread for my wifeís family as a sign of my commitment.

There is always a feeling of anxiety or fear during the pedida because the brideís parents may be less than amicable or because they may not like the groom.

During the pedida a time is set aside for ìlos consejosî (advice). I received advice from my wife’s parents.

The custom is to get down on oneís knees in front of the older members of the brideís family and listen to them offer advice for a good marriage. I had to listen to the advice of eight people.

Generally, the tradition in Patz˙n is to have three such pedida ceremonies, but my wife is from a distant village, so we only had one.

Tell us about the wedding.

The wedding took place in Patz˙n on a Saturday. My wife and her family left early from their village to have breakfast at my auntís house. Typically, they are served tamales and French bread.

My wifeís family arrived in Patz˙n at 6 a.m. The wedding was at 11 a.m. Two buses transported about 150 people and my familyís guests. Approximately 300 people attended.

The ladies in my family dressed Silvia in my home. She walked to church with her family, I walked with my family, and there, the two families met.

Two children carrying pillows with the wedding rings enter first. Another child carries the ìarrasî ó 13 coins the groom offers the bride after the ring ceremony so God may give them abundance and well-being. The bride and groom enter next. Two children hold up the veil.

After we were married, the best man and matron of honor put over our shoulders a cord to symbolize our union as a couple.

A private lawyer married us at Silviaís house in a civil wedding one month before the religious wedding.

What does the bride wear? The bridegroom?
Continue reading

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Jan 24 2011

Sponsor describes ‘God story’ behind latest sponsorship

We recently offered readers an opportunity to receive a free 2011 desk calendar if they blogged about us or entered our daily comment drawing by posting a blog comment. That opportunity is now closed, but we received many wonderful responses. This blog submission from Cheri Duchrow particularly moved us.

I started sponsoring children in 2003. I thought it was a good thing to help someone else and it would be good for my daughter.

Cheri Duchrow

Cheri Duchrow

Little did I know how these children would move the Holy Spirit in me. For almost two years, I had good intentions of writing but somehow did not make room in my schedule to do so.

Slowly but surely the Lord kept calling me to grow in relationship with Him and His people.

I heard speakers reflect on Exodus 16 where the Lord provides manna for His people and we are to only gather what we need. God honors radical risk-taking acts of faith evident in many biblical stories.

He led me to speak about child sponsorship, advocate letter writing and honor the relationships He had given me through these individuals, my extended family members.

I have witnessed many God moments at a sponsorship table. My latest child sponsorship has its own God story.

Joshiammal

Joshiammal, Cheri’s sponsored child

Florence

Florence, Cheri’s sponsored child in Mathare

I had read about others’ experiences in many countries where people make a living in city dumps and live in the slums. These break into the silence of my soul, and I cannot shut out the images.

One trip focused on Kenya and the Mathare slums. Even though I sponsored several individuals, I thought surely I could press myself and sponsor one more. When I called there weren’t any individuals available there.

Though I thought about Mathare on occasion, I let it slip into the background and the business of life took over.

Several months later I received one of CFCA’s informative magazines outlining several success stories. One talked about a program for the children in the Mathare area.

This was God shouting through the darkness, reminding me of the work He needed to do through me. I made a note to call CFCA to check into sponsoring there.

Another week went by. On a Sunday night I went to CFCA’s website, which had started to put pictures of the individuals needing to be sponsored.

I thought I would see whether any individuals from Kenya lived near Mathare. I thought maybe a girl or boy about 9 or 10 would be nice.

Then there was her photo. It wasn’t the photo that caught my eye but her name – Florence.

Continue reading

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Dec 22 2010

Advent reflection: Share the good news of holy families

Larry LivingstonEvery Wednesday during the Advent-Christmas season, we will post a reflection from Larry Livingston, CFCA church relations director. We hope these reflections help you on your own journey through Advent.

ì…let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body.î (Colossians 3:15)

A poor young couple is expecting their first child. The authorities tell them to leave their home and travel to an unfamiliar, far-off village.

When they arrive they can find no decent housing and are forced to settle into a ramshackle outbuilding.†There, with animals milling about and nothing but straw to insulate them from the chill of night, the young mother gives birth …

You know the rest of the story. It is a tale we have grown to cherish at this time of year.†It comforts us to hear it over and over again as we connect once more to Christmases past and the manger scenes of our childhood homes and churches.

It is the story of the Holy Family.

But it is also the story of other families, hundreds of thousands of them the world over.†They too are powerless against the whims of government. They too must rely on whatever shelter they can find for the sake of their children. They too struggle against displacement and weather and challenges most of us will never know.

And they, too, are holy.

Yamini and her family

Pictured is the family of Yamini, right, a sponsored child in Hyderabad, India.

At CFCA we call our sponsorship program Hope for a Family. We didnít choose that name just because we liked it, but because it reflects two important truths we have learned over the years from sponsored persons.

The first is that hope liberates people to dream and inspires them to work hard to make their dreams come true.

The second is that the best place for hope to thrive is within the family.

This is good news and we want to share it.†Like the Gospel writers who shared the wondrous accounts of Christís birth, we want to let people know that God dwells among the poor and the marginalized of this world.

And, again like the Gospel writers, we want to invite those who hear us to become part of an amazing story.

Ultimately, the story of the Holy Family is one of perseverance in the face of great challenges.

It is a story of love between husband and wife, parent and child. It is a story of trust in Godís goodness, and reliance on the kindness of other people.

And it is a story with a happy ending despite the harshness of the journey.

The CFCA community celebrates this story. It is our story as well.

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