By Erica Braker, marketing manager and Rise and Dream tour manager
Bob and a CFCA sponsor talking outside St. Francis College before the screening
The world recently lost a legend, a visionary, a “rock star” as some called Bob Hentzen.
I first learned via Facebook that Bob had passed away suddenly in Guatemala. It was about 6:15 a.m. and my alarm had just gone off. My eyes were still fuzzy from trying to wake up, but I saw a lovely picture of Bob on CFCA’s Facebook page.
As I read the post, I honestly thought the page had been hacked. I was just with Bob on the Rise and Dream film tour the week before; it couldn’t have been true. I ran to check my work email and there was a message from our CEO confirming my fear.
The Rise and Dream tour was my first interaction with Bob. Being new to CFCA and since Bob lived in Guatemala, our paths hadn’t crossed much. But after 14 days with Bob in Kansas City and New York, I got a firsthand understanding of why people believed Bob was so special.
At Mary’s Nativity – St. Ann Parish in Flushing, N.Y., one of our tour stops, Bob shared the story of a child he personally sponsored and her family in the Philippines. The parents have eight children, but when asked how many are in their family they say 12. They consider Bob and his wife, Cristina, as part of their family.
At each screening in New York I saw people waiting patiently to just say “Hi” or shake Bob’s hand because they knew it was a rarity to see Bob on U.S. soil, as he spent most of his time visiting families CFCA serves overseas.
He was a real star.
Gina, a student at St. John’s University, came to the screening and had dinner with us at Monties, the school cafeteria on campus. When I told her the news of Bob’s passing she wrote to me: “I already loved him, even though I had just met him! He was such a light.”
At St. Francis College, one of the CFCA volunteers, Jennifer, mentioned to Bob that she had traveled on an awareness trip with him to the Philippines. He gave her a very serious look and said, “I know.” She couldn’t believe he remembered her out of the hundreds of thousands of people he has met.
In CFCA circles, Bob is famous for his 4,000-mile walk in 1996 from CFCA headquarters in Kansas City, Kan., to Antigua, Guatemala. Thirteen years later, Bob set out on a walk from San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala, to the Valparaiso, Chile, a nearly 8,000-mile trek spanning 18 months. On that journey he walked through countries where 182,000 sponsored friends and their families live, and he met many of them along the way.
Over the two weeks I spent with Bob I heard people ask him, “Where are you going next? Will you walk in India? In Africa?”
His answer was always the same: “We are going to walk to get closer and closer to our families.”
When Bob talked, people listened. He was an inspiration, a motivator and a visionary. He made everyone he talked with feel like the most important person in the world.
In all the songs sung, jokes told and wisdom shared, I will always remember a quote Bob shared from one of his heroes, Mahatma Gandhi: “A small body of determined spirits, fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission, can alter the course of history.”
CFCA will live on and honor Bob’s memory. We will continue to be a small body of determined spirits to walk with the poor and marginalized of the world and help them break the bonds of poverty.
I invite you to join us by becoming a sponsor or donating to the CFCA Scholarship Fund in Bob’s memory today!