Pastor to get a last salute, sendoff to San Antonio

Posted Online: June 14, 2013, 2:20 am
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By Leon Lagerstam,
MOLINE -- Bethel Wesley United Methodist Church will give a final salute to its pastor before she reports for mother duty in San Antonio, Texas, to care for her Afghanistan-wounded soldier son.

The Rev. Sonia Alvarado's last day at the church will be Sunday, June 23.

"I'll be on the road at 5 a.m. June 24, driving down to San Antonio," she said.

She'll be able to take it easy that Sunday, though.

"My old boss, the Rev. Jan Griffith, will preach," Rev. Alvarado said. Rev. Griffith serves as an assistant to the bishop. The 10 a.m. service will be followed by an enchilada, beans and rice dinner, and cake.

The public is invited, but people should call the church office at 309-764-0619 ahead of time to ensure enough food will be prepared, Rev. Alvarado said.

She will present her last sermon on Sunday, June 16, and will devote her Father's Day message to "the men of God," she said.

The strength of her son, Sgt. Luis Alvarado, who still is recovering from a Nov. 14, 2011, roadside bombing in Afghanistan, has inspired Rev. Alvarado, and her husband, the Rev. Julio Alvarado, to stay equally strong, she said.

"Sure, in the beginning, I was mad at God and questioned Him a lot about why this happened to my son," Rev. Sonia Alvarado said. "But through all this, we continued to see our son continue to fight, and my husband and I agreed that if our son has that much strength, we have to do the same or better."

The Revs. Alvarado had taken turns caring for their son, including her monthly commutes to Texas.

Rev. Julio, former associate pastor at Bethel Wesley and pastor at Silvis United Methodist Church, earlier had moved to San Antonio and rented a home there for the family.

Rev. Sonia Alvarado decided it was time for her to completely relocate "because Luis is in the process of going home, and having us both there will make his life and recovery better," she said. "People are sad to see me go but understand I have to be with my son."

The Alvarados also decided it would be best to keep their son in San Antonio because of the medical, VA and trauma center facilities there.

The "Home for Troops" organization also will build a new home for their son. "He's been accepted, and construction is expected to begin this summer," Rev. Sonia Alvarado said.

Her son also needed a new specialized vehicle that the VA gave a $19,000 grant to buy. The grant, however, would have left another $12,000 to $13,000 in out-of-pocket expenses, until Hero Street Veterans in Silvis and local Korean Veterans raised all but $10.06 toward the purchase, she said.

Rev. Alvarado recently returned from a three-day trip to New York to attend a ceremony recognizing her son for a national bravery award. The trip included Ground Zero tours, a Spider-Man Broadway show and a formal black-tie dinner, she said.

"Next year, I hope Luis will be well enough to be able to go," she said. She also hopes after her son fully recovers, the Alvarados all will return to Bethel Wesley and "celebrate with the people here."

"For me, it's been wonderful how the church has walked alongside us through these difficult times," Rev. Alvarado said. "My son's injuries drew us even closer together. This church has provided emotional, spiritual and financial help through it all. They've been amazing. I'm going to miss everyone a lot.

"We've done a good ministry here in this church, and I've told them that as long as they are here, everything will be OK, and the ministry will continue," she said.

Church members already have selected a new leader, the Rev. Florence Scott, who is relocating to Rock Island from a small town near Springfield, Rev. Alvarado said.

Someone was wondering, though, if the new pastor "will have the same passion for shoes I have," she said. "I always wore a different set of heels every Sunday, and I didn't wear a robe because everyone wanted to see what kind of shoes I had on."

She didn't know how many shoes she owns but said it took boxes and boxes for Army movers to pack and ship all of them, so she next will able to dig in her heels in San Antonio and help her son heal.


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1939 — 75 years ago: Delegates at the Illinois Conference of the Methodist Church in Springfield voted to raise the minimum pay of ministers so that every pastor would get at least $1,000 annually.
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