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Los Amigos Episcopales (LAE) hosted a whirlwind tour of the Diocese of Ohio for the Rt. Rev. David Alvarado, Bishop of the Episcopal Anglican Church of El Salvador, when he visited in October 2017. LAE is a 501(c)3 nonprofit peace and justice organization in the Diocese of Ohio which has supported the vocational, educational, social, and humanitarian programs of the Church in El Salvador for more than 25 years. Bishop Alvarado was met at the airport by several members who knew him from their own earlier visits to El Salvador. They spirited him off to a delicious dinner and meeting at the home of member Lydia Caraballo. After dinner, the Bishop gave a video presentation showing his vision and mission for the schools in the diocese as well as descriptions of the needs for each of the four schools. He said the Diocese of El Salvador is small and young. The Diocese will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. It has 18 churches with 3,000 members. He emphasized how vitally important the work of groups such as LAE is in his country— especially for the schools. Saturday evening found Bishop Alvarado greeting those who were attending the LAE Soup Supper fundraiser as well as those who had come for the 5:30 p.m. worship service at St. Thomas, Berea. After enjoying several kinds of soups and desserts, he spoke about the Church in El Salvador. Presently, the Church develops its ministry in three main areas: evangelization, education, and justice. He showed videos of the schools and discussed the challenges the churches face in his country. He also gave each attendee colored drawings that the Salvadoran children had made in thanksgiving for the support of their schools.On Sunday morning, many enthusiastic parishioners welcomed Bishop Alvarado to St. Hubert’s, Kirtland Hills with a sign in Spanish (made by the Sunday School children). It was a warm, sunny day so the service was held outside. Spanish hymns were sung and the Bishop preached and celebrated the Eucharist. Parishioner Gloria Gibbons, whose family was in the diplomatic corps of Panama, translated for him. The parishioners were impressed with his love for his country and his mission of peace, justice, and education. A highlight of Bishop Alvarado’s time in Ohio was a tour of Bellwether Farm led by our Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, on that beautiful Sunday afternoon. Bishop Hollingsworth shared his vision for the camp, retreat, and education center which features a working, sustainable farm and teaching kitchen. About a dozen members of Los Amigos, led by LAE President Gretchen Tucker, accompanied the two bishops around the grounds while appreciating the sustainable design elements and optimal use of the natural attributes of the site. Bellwether was of special interest to Bishop Alvarado as his diocese has had a practical and sustainable agricultural and training program for 18 years. (In addition, the Diocese of El Salvador has a forestry program that harvests trees for construction lumber.) Monday began with a visit to the Montessori Children’s School in Westlake, since presently two of the church schools in El Salvador are now using the Montessori educational method. After lunch in Ohio City, a small group of members took Bishop Alvarado to historic St. John’s, Cleveland to tour the beautiful old church building and view the 200th Anniversary Historical Timeline banners. While he enjoyed seeing the Diocese of Ohio's history and pictures, he was especially happy to see LAE and the Diocese of El Salvador represented several times on the banners. Then we were off to St Luke’s, Cleveland to learn of their community outreach programs that consisted of a food pantry, a clothing closet, and free Wednesday night dinners. Monday night, Bishop Alvarado attended a potluck dinner and meeting at St. Paul’s, Cleveland Heights that was sponsored by their Global Missions Action Group (GMAG) and Third World Books (TWB). GMAG has supported the schools and the work of the Diocese of El Salvador for many years. TWB has been involved with LAE for many years and has generously matched half the cost of sending children’s Bibles and books. Bishop Alvarado was delighted to be able to carry an extra suitcase of books back with him the following day. Tuesday morning began with a delicious brunch of Spanish and American food at the home of Charlotte Rodriguez, a member who had lived for many years in Argentina. This meeting was our final opportunity to share ideas, ask questions, and give mutual thanks for our time together. While education is only one area of ministry of the Church in El Salvador, the Bishop stressed the importance of LAE in supporting the schools in a country suffering from natural disasters, poverty, and organized crime. The schools provide a safe haven for the children: the support of LAE is a reminder that they are not alone and have not been forgotten. We deeply appreciate those who accompanied and hosted Bishop Alvarado during his time with us. Also, we offer special thanks to the many interpreters who smoothed communication for all. We welcome more parishes and individuals to join in this demanding – but very rewarding – work. We usually meet at St. Matthew’s, Brecksville on the second Friday of the month at 6:30 p.m. See our website for more information: www.losamigosepiscopales.org.
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