A small Seventh-day Adventist congregation in Panama recently launched a community-wide impact initiative across the financial district of Panama City, a metropolitan area still dealing with the challenges brought on by the pandemic.
The activity, coined as ‘Be a Hero, Save Lives,’ was organized by the Bella Vista Seventh-day Adventist Church and featured a blood drive and free medical check-ups. The small congregation, organized in January 2020, grew out of small group meetings. It grew to 30 members and later to 50.
Dozens of persons in the community were assisted at a time when preventive health care can make a difference in their lives, organizers said. Onlookers learned about the eight natural remedies of the I Want to Live Healthy initiative and were invited to join virtual workshops on nutrition, diabetes, weight management, and more.
“What seemed like a challenge to members ended up being a great opportunity to see God act powerfully in this project of saving lives in the community. It is allowing us to be valuable instruments in his hands,” Yarlis González, personal ministries assistant director at Bella Vista church and main organizer of the event, said. “This [activity] allowed us to testify of God’s love and mercy in a practical way by sharing wellness and hope with our neighbors.”
More than half of the 54-member congregation donated blood and assisted throughout the initiative at the Andres Bello Park on July 10, 2021. Donated blood went to the Hospital del Niño and the National Oncological Institute.
It wasn’t the first impact on the community that the members of the Bella Vista Adventist church took part in, Gonzalez said, but one that they hope will catch on among the rest of the churches in the country. “Earnest service will always be the key to earning the trust of many people, so we will continue in the mission of reaching others and offering workshops to our new friends in the community who signed up to learn more,” González said.
Sarai Ramírez, who leads personal ministries at the Bella Vista church, shared that the congregation has always been united in finding activities to connect them to the community and help those in need.
“Since we were a small group, we had tried to get a permit to run a health expo, and it had not been possible until now,” Ramírez said. Each year since 2015, the small group has been offering seminars on finances and vegetarian cooking classes. “The pandemic drove us to reinvent ourselves, and we haven’t stopped,” she added. Church members have joined efforts to distribute safety kits with face masks. Members also distributed more than 480 missionary books on living in uncertain times. The congregation has also distributed food baskets to needy families in the community.
The small Bella Vista congregation dreams of having its own place of worship with enough space for a community center that can better impact the local community of nearly 30,000 people. Plans are to hold a second donation drive with more of the community participating, organizers said.
Yarlis González contributed to this report.