CFCA co-founder leads concert-goers on
by Jill Ragar Esfeld
Special to The Leaven
Music was the mode of transportation.
Shine a Light, a benefit concert hosted by Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA), lit up Shawnee’s Theatre in the Park with singing, dancing and storytelling for an audience topping 500.
CFCA is a lay-Catholic-run international nonprofit based in Kansas City, Kan.
The concert was a celebration of the organization’s 30-year history and of president and co-founder Bob Hentzen’s walk from Guatemala to Chile to show solidarity with those living in poverty.
Hentzen led off the evening’s entertainment with stories of his incredible journey and songs he learned along the way.
His delivery was so colorful and alive with detail that audience members felt as if they were walking across Latin America with him and getting to know the poor, but joyful, families he met along his way.
“Music is another language that we use to explain deep feelings, approaching the mystery of life,” explained Paul Pearce, CFCA director of global strategy. “Music has always been a part of CFCA.”
Pearce, who performed with Hentzen, said the songs they shared were the same ones they often perform at makeshift concerts in the shanty towns and mountain villages that are home to children sponsored through CFCA.
“We do these tours in all the dumps of the world,” said Hentzen. “The whole concept of my gig is to take people on this exciting journey into the lives of those who are living in poverty.”
That journey continued with performances from Barclay Martin Ensemble and Nate Gawron (of The Wilders); the World Percussion Ensemble of Kansas City Academy; the El Grupo Atotonilco dance company; and the Sampaguita Choir from the Filipino Cultural Center.
Martin, who has traveled with CFCA to Mexico and the Philippines, performed songs inspired by those experiences.
Along with Zena West, a 13-year CFCA sponsor, Martin shared stories of his experience as a sponsor and the very personal relationship that often develops between sponsors and the children they help.
The dismal view of the poor often presented by the news media was replaced with hope and a clear way to take action
“There’s another side of the story,” explained Pearce. “And it involves the human potential and the human spirit that is alive and well in these communities.”
“One of the goals of the concert was just to kind of share this good news that it doesn’t have to be depressing,” said Loretta Kline, director of communications. “We can do something and we can make a difference.”
Larry Livingston, director of church relations and a member of Good Shepherd Parish in Shawnee, said the concert was also a way to thank the local community for its support.
“We’re just very grateful to Kansas City and to the Catholic community in particular,” he said. “We just wanted to celebrate with them.”
Most of CFCA’s sponsorships come from Catholic parishes throughout the country, but local support has always been a vital part of its success.
“Archbishop Naumann sponsors a seminarian through our organization,” said Livingston. “And he’s been very generous in lending his endorsement to CFCA.”
The mission of the organization flows from Catholic social teachings, observed Francis “Paco” Wertin, CEO, from his very first days at CFCA.
“You could just feel the love pulsing through the [headquarters] building,” he said. “[CFCA sponsorship creates relationships that lead to these human connections that can heal our world.”
Pearce had a similar experience when he came on board with CFCA.
“After I began traveling and working for CFCA in these communities overseas,” he said, “all of the sudden the Gospel became not a story of 2,000 years ago, but current-day information.
“Those widows, those children that Jesus talked about,” he added, “they’re out there, they’re still there.”