Bob Hentzen, founder of the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, died Oct. 8, 2103 at 77. In 1981 Bob, along with family and friends, created the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging. Bob loved the poor with relentless affection (props to Rich Mullins).
Bob had served in Guatemala during his years as a Christian Brother. In 1991 he walked the 4,000 miles from CFCA headquarters in Kansas City to San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala where he established CFCA Latin American headquarters and his home. Currently 300,000 people in 21 countries are helped by CFCA. The cumulative numbers over the years are, of course, much higher.
My testimony begins in 1994, my first year in the Franciscan Missions in Patzún. Among the things that I saw was a well-respected CFCA program that helped 500 or more in the municipio of Patzún. At the time $20 a month provided a child with food and money to attend school. In Patzún CFCA was housed in a little building on the San Bernardino campus, not 100 paces from Padre Justi’s modest home.
The next year I was told that the CFCA program in Patzún was corrupt. The unwelcome news came from a Peace Corps volunteer and was corroborated by another long time, trusted NGO volunteer who lived in Patzún. I sat down for a very serious discussion with Madre Carmen who was Superiora of what was at the time a single Franciscan community that served Clinica Corpus Cristi (now a hospital), the Hogar (orphanage), the nutrition programs and San Bernardino. Madre Carmen agreed that the local CFCA program was corrupt, believing that only about $8 a month was spent on each CFCA sponsored child. I asked Madre Carmen’s permission to share this with CFCA. Remember that the 36-year war was still ongoing and people were being killed for a lot less than identifying the embezzlement of thousands of dollars each month. When I expressed my concern for her personal safety Madre Carmen smiled that beautiful smile that God gave to her and said, “Don’t worry about me. When I am gone someone will take my place.”
When I returned to America I phoned CFCA Headquarters, indicating that I had reason to believe that the program in Patzún was corrupt. The person who spoke with me told me that the charges were serious and should be brought to the attention of the founder, Bob Hentzen. She gave his email address to me. Bob quickly replied to a message from me, promising to investigate. The investigation was completed ahead of my next visit to Guatemala and he invited me, and my whole group, to be his guests in San Lucas Tolimán.
When my group and I arrived in San Lucas I was ushered into a meeting with the local head of CFCA, the Latin American head of CFCA, the database director (Paul Pearce), and with Bob. The meeting was short. “Phil, you were right. The program in Patzún was corrupt. We realized that our accounting procedures made it possible in Patzún and left us vulnerable globally. The administrator of the program was fired and our procedures have been changed. We are prepared to refund all the money contributed by people in your group.”
I was completely satisfied. My wife and I began our long running sponsorship of one of the orphans and CFCA zoomed to my A list of philanthropic organizations. Bob, and the database director, Paul Pearce who turned out to be Bob’s nephew, hosted me and my groups more than once over the years.
Bob Hentzen, a role model, shined God’s light into difficult places in the world. He was always there for me. He showed my mission groups it is possible to help the poor change the material circumstances of their lives while experiencing the joy of living out God’s will.
I miss Bob a lot, realizing that in my mission work I have been leaning on his strength, vision and accomplishment for nearly two full decades. He most certainly earned the blessing of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception – Paz y Bien.