What about Bob?

An 8,000 mile journey of love through Latin America

By Elisabeth Román
What if your 73-old-grandparent told you that he was going to trek through Latin America, on foot, visiting 12 countries in 16 months? You would probably think grandpa has lost his mind or is off his medication.Yet that is exactly what Bob Hentzen, president and co-founder of the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA) set out to do just a few days after Christmas in 2009. CFCA is an international movement serving people of all faiths in 24 countries.

But why would anyone want to walk from Guatemala to Chile, much less someone in their 70s? It’s a question Hentzen is asked often and responds by saying, “I walk in gratitude for all the poor have taught me.  By walking with those living in poverty, we are saying, ‘you are not alone. We are listening to you and learning from you.’” For Hentzen, this a walk of love.

The walk which began in Guatemala, where he lives with wife Christina who has joined him in this incredible journey, will take the couple through El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and ends in Chile in April 2011. The hike is being called Walk2gether and will cover an estimated 8,000 miles (12,875 km) in Central and South America where CFCA sponsors children, youth and the aging. Sponsored members and their families, as well as sponsors and CFCA staff will join Hentzen at various points throughout the walk.

Hentzen is walking 20-25 miles per day in hiking boots hand-crafted by K’tocalza, a team of shoemakers made up of the fathers of CFCA sponsored children in Guatemala. The boots are made from rawhide leather with a vinyl sole and leather insole. The front of the boots is cut out to keep Bob from smashing his toes on steep mountain grades and to help circulate the air inside and prevent blisters.  K’toclaza began with a start-up loan from CFCA and today, the 28-member group makes more than 3,000 pairs of shoes a month for nearly 100,000 sponsored members and their families in Guatemala.  Hentzen hopes K’tocalza will garner fame from this historic walk and someday become synonymous with Timberland boots.

Solidarity walks have cropped up along the route, energizing and exciting CFDA communities. Their goal is to spread the news about the walk and help find sponsors for over 17,000 children, youth and aging along Hentzen’s route that are in need of sponsorship.

Hentzen is no stranger to the road. In 1996, he completed an eight-month walk covering more than 4,000 miles (6,437 km) from CFCA’s international headquarters in Kansas City, Kansas to Guatemala. Walking is a major part of CFCA sponsored families; they walk to work and school, to get food, water and firewood, often for long distances through rough terrain. Hentzen says that by walking with them it is more likely that he will be seen as an equal and friend.

You can follow Hentzen’s progress by visiting www.walk2gether.org, which is also a great opportunity to learn more about the countries where he will be walking, CFCA’s work, and how you can help. The walk is schedule to end in April 2011, several weeks after Bob’s 75th birthday.



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