House of Deputies

El Salvador ERD 2006In 2006, I had been the Episcopal Relief & development diocesan coordinator for the Diocese of Florida for about five years. Episcopal Relief & Development put together a mission trip for diocesan coordinators to go to El Salvador to learn about the work of Episcopal Relief & Development and to help with the building of the last of five villages. In early 2001, two major earthquakes in El Salvador and 10,000 aftershocks left an estimated 1.5 million people homeless. Following the 2001 earthquakes, Episcopal Relief & Development partnered with the Episcopal Diocese of El Salvador to rebuild devastated communities. This plan included the building of five different villages. Each village consisted of 30-35 homes, a church, a school, a medical clinic as well as the infrastructure.

Several of us making this mission trip were transported by the Diocese of El Salvador to the site of the fifth village under construction. My job was to haul dirt in a wheelbarrow and put it in the flooring areas of the new homes before the concrete was poured. I remember it being very hot and that I hadn’t done manual labor of this intensity for quite some time. While at the site we also helped with the replanting of the new villages local garden which was used for their food supply. I began to realize the significance of this work of Episcopal Relief & Development when we had a chance to visit one of the four other villages that had been occupied. I conversed with the local families in my broken Spanish (really more Italian) about the difference that this housing had meant in their lives. They told me it was not only the shelter but also that their children were in the local school, and their healthcare was taken care of by the local medical clinic and they as a family could attend the local church on Sundays where they could thank God for what they had been given. I visited the school where the children showed me the lessons they were learning and the impact it was making on their lives was evident. From homeless to prosperous, all through the work of Episcopal Relief & Development and the generous donors who make this ministry possible.

In 2010 Episcopal Relief & Development held its annual network meeting in Belize. On that trip, I saw the effects of the micro-credit loan program that allowed the local people not only to pull themselves out of poverty but also to establish pride and a sense of accomplishment in the work they were doing to support themselves and their families. One of the recipients of funds from the micro-credit loan program was Julia Gonzalez, a single mother of two boys. One of the projects Julia worked on was a greenhouse on her farm where she grew the largest and most healthy bell peppers that I had ever seen. Because of her hard work and dedication, Julia received the Belize Outstanding Female Farmer of the Year Award. Other recipients of the micro-credit loans were Lorie Wallace who operated a successful gift shop at the Mayan Altun Ha archaeological site. Then there is Alan Jones, who used his loan to purchase stock such as wood, glue, sandpaper of different grades, and other tools needed to operate his wood carving business. There were several others that we visited, all equally successful because of the loan assistance they received from Episcopal Relief & Development.

My experiences in seeing firsthand the productive, Christ-filled ministry of Episcopal Relief & Development convinced me to stay on as a diocesan coordinator and promote the work of Episcopal Relief & Development. As an Episcopalian and member of the House of Deputies I am so proud of the outreach ministry our church does through Episcopal Relief & Development and I ask my fellow deputies to make this special 75th Anniversary campaign a success by donating to the ongoing work of Episcopal Relief & Development between now and the time we meet in Salt Lake City for General Convention.