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More on El Salvador from Reverend Larry Walton

[Reverend Larry Walton, the rector of St. Mary’s before Peter Chase, sent this email to John and Anne Turtle in response to a question about his work in El Salvador in the 1990s. We are sharing it here with permission from Reverend Walton. – Editor]

Dear John and Anne,

Yes, our time in El Salvador was as participants in the Episcopal Church’s Volunteers for Mission Program. When we retired from St. Mary’s in the summer of 1991, we went to live in the capital, San Salvador. Joan served on the diocesan staff of the Iglesia Anglicana de El Salvador, and I was installed for two years as priest-in-charge of Santa María Virgen. Thus it was that a number of people at St. Mary’s were interested in developing a sister-parish relationship with that congregation. Peter Chase was kind enough, courageous and helpful enough to promote a visit to El Salvador in 1994, and Joan and I accompanied that group.

Our recent correspondence sent me to the St. Mary’s website and to the El Salvador blog. I am given credit there for engineering the purchase of the land on which the new Santa Maria Vírgen will be built, if all goes as planned. I should get no credit; that had already happened when we got there. Of course, I knew at the time the source of the money, but by 2008, I could not remember what it was. So I wrote to Bishop Barahona to inquire. Yesterday he e-mailed me to remind me that it was UTO money (US$50,000) that afforded that purchase.

He adds, “Thanks be to God, in the next few weeks we shall begin construction of what we have decided to call ‘the First National Anglican Sanctuary of Most Holy Mary, Mother of the Oppressed.’ …The money is not sufficient, but we have confidence that we shall have help from other friends. We are interested in buying additional land for a school, and I am sure we shall find those that will help us.” (My translation)

The real fruit from our two years in El Salvador came from Joan’s work in education. The country’s 12-year civil war ended in 1992, leaving among many devastations, a decimated educational system. Joan found money (principally from Trinity, Montclair, N.J.) and founded eight pre-schools, four of which died when the foreign funds ran out, but the others survived–and prospered. Bishop Barahona describes their current growth rather fully. Best I not append that here, but will be glad to pass it on in whatever way you suggest – to you, to the parish, if that’s appropriate, or however.

Joan also did psychological consulting in two public schools and, in addition, produced a study of the effects of war in children, which was subsequently published.

We are very happy about your continued interest in the companionship with Santa María Virgen – yours and the parish’s. Thanks so much for keeping in touch with us.

Larry

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