In the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Nazarenes in Panama are responding to the many needs in the community by giving their time and efforts. As a result, hundreds of families have benefited, and the church is growing.

As the quarantine continued and the needs increased, the Rio Abajo Church of the Nazarene asked God to guide them in order to continue serving as His hands and feet in their community. “God was opening different opportunities in a miraculous way,” said the pastor of the church, Amable Polanco, who assumed the role at the beginning of the quarantine.

One of the opportunities God gave the church was to serve as volunteers in at the local food bank, which had seen a considerable reduction in the number of volunteers during the pandemic. The church sent volunteers every week, which encouraged other churches in the district to join. That was the beginning of the Volunteering Project, started by Pastor Carlos de Gracia from the Bread of Life Church of the Nazarene and Pastor Polanco.

To date, more than 80 volunteers have donated some 450 hours of service on their assigned days of Tuesday and Thursday. “The testimony of our volunteers is so wonderful that we were invited as a church to represent Panama in a Latin American forum for food bank volunteers,” Pastor Polanco said.

The two pastors also mobilized resources in order to meet the needs for food for many families within the churches. They were able to utilize many sources, including the food bank, CAPADESO (a Panamanian governmental agency), friends, and other church members. By combining these resources, they have been able to share food with more than 300 people every month.

The church is also helping parents and students who have struggled to adapt to the new format of virtual education. Many do not have internet access, computers or printers at home, and have difficulty navigating the virtual platforms. The church has set up a room in the building with free internet access, computers and printers for students, and has offered training for parents on the various educational platforms. Some 46 students have benefited every week from this project.

The opportunities for service keep coming for the church, and they take advantage of every one of them. The church has helped families with COVID-19 get food and medicine, donated beds, donated snacks for children and adults, and counseled parents, families and couples. They were even able to donate fresh fish, which the pastor called “the miraculous catch.” On that occasion, they received a donation of about 800 pounds of fish, which they shared in the neighborhood in order to benefit hundreds of families.

“We began serving as pastors right at the beginning of the pandemic, and for that reason we would like to thank those who have been a great help and blessing in the ministry: Carlos de Gracia, pastor and friend in the thousands of battles we’ve faced together; the food bank; COPADESO; Panamanian Franchises; Esteban and Dhariana, advisors and helpers of our church; a couple who will only allow me to mention them as “Jesus;” the Pasadena Church of the Nazarene; and the leaders and members of our local church,” Polanco said.

He added that the results for the church have been innumerable. These efforts have brought unity, a compassionate lifestyle for the members, growth in the leadership, and even more growth for the church in the midst of the pandemic.

Source: Pastor Amable Polanco, Rio Abajo Church of the Nazarene, Panama.