June 16, 2016

In Panama, Hundreds Flock to Park for Adventist Soup

Inter-American Division

She saw homeless children.

She saw troubled young people.

She saw the forgotten elderly.

But how could Fulbia Castrellón bring hope to the lives of those people she passed in the run-down community park in Panama City, Panama?

Her idea was simple: soup.

That was the spark that drew the interest of women’s ministry leaders across the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Panama’s capital. Today, nearly six months later, hundreds of church members are taking part in this new ministry called Soup of Hope. The ministry feeds more than 300 people every Sunday at the Parque La Concepción. More than 350 people were baptized in the first four months.

“We have church members who donate food or donate funds to purchase the soup ingredients we need and give of their time to this beautiful project,” Castrellón said. “I feel extremely happy to work with people who truly love Jesus and dedicate their energies to this ongoing program.”

Each church takes turns preparing, cooking and feeding people at the park.

“We have neighbors from the surrounding homes who come to volunteer and help us with the cooking and serving too,” Castrellón said.

The program has been running every week since January. People in the park can grab a cup of soup and a box of rice and bread. They hear spiritual messages, sing hymns, listen to Bible readings, and pray with church members.

Local authorities have taken notice and praised the church for bringing hope to the young and the old.

“A million thanks to you for what you’re doing so the young people can lean on the Word of God and can become good men in the future to move the community forward,” police officer L. Amaranto, who organizes activities for troubled young at the park, said at a recent soup event.

The program was so successful during the first two months that church leaders held a special Sunday in March that offered free medical screenings, dental work, psychological assistance, and piñatas for children. More than 700 people participated in the event.

“This has created a joyful attitude in the park because there is a sense of community,” said Rosalinda De Gracia, women’s ministries director for the Adventist Church in Panama. “You can see so many people from the surrounding area coming out to help those in need and the smiles in all around.”

In addition to the weekly Soup of Hope program, Castrellón, who heads the women’s ministries at the Metropolitan Conference in Panama City, is looking for ways to reach 200 local children who roam the streets as orphans or because their parents are at work all day. The plan is to work together with community leaders and local authorities to assess the home life of the children and implement a program where they can be schooled at nearby Adventist churches.

Castrellón marveled at how Soup of Hope came together.

“I’m so thankful that God inspires and uses us to be productive so that we can lift those around us who are in need,” she said.