Panama church supports community during pandemic
In this time of crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Nazarenes in Panama are responding to the multiple needs of their community by offering their time and effort. This has resulted in hundreds of benefited families and a growing church.
As the quarantine continued and the needs increased, Iglesia del Nazareno Río Abajo leaders were asking God to guide them to continue being His hands and feet in their community.
"God was miraculously opening different opportunities," said the church's pastor, Amable Polanco, who took over the leadership of the church early in the quarantine.
One of the opportunities that God gave the church was to serve as volunteers at Banco de Alimentos de Panamá – a local food bank — after the pandemic considerably reduced the food bank’s number of volunteers. The church sent volunteers every week. Several churches in the district joined, which started the Volunteer Project.
To date, more than 80 volunteers have donated 450 hours of service on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
"The testimony of our volunteers is so beautiful that we were invited as a church to represent Panama in a Latin American forum for Food Bank volunteering," Polanco said.
Polanco and other pastors on the district also mobilized to meet the food needs of many families in their churches. They found support in the Banco de Alimentos de Panamá, the Panamanian Chamber of Social Development (CAPADESO), friends, and church members. Together, they were able to provide food for more than 300 people each month.
The church has also been supporting parents and students who struggle to adapt to the new virtual study format. Many of them did not have access to the internet or a computer and printer, and it was difficult for them to use virtual platforms. The church set up space with free internet access, computers, and a printer for students. In addition, they have trained parents in the use of the platforms. About 46 students benefit each week from this project.
Service opportunities keep coming for Río Abajo, and they take advantage of each one of them. They support families diagnosed with COVID-19 by providing food and medicine as well as beds, snacks for children and adults, and counseling for parents, families, and couples. They even donate fresh fish, which Polanco refers to as "miraculous fishing." He said that on one occasion, he received about 800 pounds of fish that the church distributed in the neighborhood to hundreds of families.
“We began our pastoral service at the beginning of the pandemic, for which we wish to thank people who are of support and blessing for the ministry: Carlos de Gracia, pastor and friend in a thousand battles together; Banco de Alimentos de Panamá; COPADESO; Panamanian Franchises; Esteban and Dhariana, advisors and supporters of our church; a couple who only allowed me to mention as 'Jesus'; the Pasadena IDN; leaders of our local church, and brothers,” Polanco said.
Additionally, Polanco said the positive outcomes for the church are innumerable.
“It has brought unity, a compassionate lifestyle for members, growth in leadership, and even more growth for the church in the midst of the pandemic,” he said.