August 5, 2021 | Panama City, Panama | Bella Vista Adventist Church and IAD News Staff

A small congregation of Seventh-day Adventists 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 Adventist Church, and featured a blood drive and free medical check-ups. Organized in January 2020, the small congregation grew out of a small group that then grew to 30 members and later to 50.

A young man donates blood during the Bella Vista Adventist Church’s organized health initiative which included a blood drive, free medical check-ups at the Andres Bello Park in Panama City, Panama, on Jul. 10, 2021. The initiative organized by the 54-member congregation saw dozens of people into their booth and is the first of many community-wide impact activities scheduled to make a difference in the financial district of the capital city. [Photo: Israel Gamas]

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 and allowing us to be valuable instruments in his hands,” said Yarlis González, personal ministries assistant director at Bella Vista Church and main organizer of the event.   “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 took part in donating blood and assisting throughout the initiative at the Andres Bello Park on Jul. 10, 2021. Donated blood west toward the Hospital del Niño and the National Cancer Institute.

Church members share information on the health seminars and workshops held online for community members. [Photo: Israel Gamas]

It wasn’t the first impact to the community that the members of the Bella Vista Adventist Church took part in, said Gonzalez, but one that they hope will catch on throughout the rest of the churches in the country.  “Genuine service will always be the key to earning the trust of many people, so we will continue in the mission reaching others and offering workshops to our new friends in the community who signed up to learn more,” said González.

Sarai Ramírez, who leads personal ministries at the church, shared that the congregation has always been united in finding activities that can 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,” said Ramírez. 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.” Church members have joined efforts to distribute safety kits with face masks, as well as distribute more than 480 missionary books on living in uncertain times. The congregation has also distributed food baskets to needy families in the community.

Group of church member volunteers from the Bella Vista Adventist Church pose for a photo during the community impact on Jul. 10, 2021. [Photo: Israel Gamas]

The small Bella Vista congregation dreams of having their own place of worship with enough space for a community center that can better impact the 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.

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