By Pastor Gerardo Guzmán
In the four Gospels (Matthew 14: 13-21, Mark 6: 30-44, Luke 9: 10-17, John 6: 1-15) we find the story that Jesus fed 5,000 men with five loaves and two fish, but actually there were more because women and children also ate. Jesus wanted the disciples, followers and the community to be part of this miraculous event.
The COVID-19 pandemic began more than a year ago and caused pain, suffering and great need in everyone, not only in this country, but also worldwide. But this pain, suffering and need have been harder for some more than others. El Dios Viviente UMC is composed mostly of first and second-generation immigrants from different countries, looking for a better life opportunity for themselves and their families, and to get the help they need is often complicated.
During the pandemic, this community has suffered a lot and has not had the same opportunities that other communities have had. For example, they have not received aid from the federal and state government, because they do not meet the requirements to receive it or simply do not qualify for aid such as Stimulus checks, food stamps and other assistance available.
The mission of El Dios Viviente UMC during the pandemic has been to accompany, seek and provide help to those most in need.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the church realized that not only was prayer necessary, but action was as well, remembering that they are a church of the people and are called to serve. Days after the pandemic began many people lost their jobs with no hope of being able to get them back soon. The source of income to be able to obtain the basic life necessities, such as food, was had lost for many families.
Knowing this need, Pastor Gerardo Guzmán invited his members of the congregation, who had the means, to buy extra food that they would share with those who did not have the financial resources to feed themselves. The response was wonderful. People bought extra food and shared not only among members of the congregation, but also with people in the surrounding community.
“For example, when we knew that a person or family in the community was sick with COVID-19, a basket or bag of food was taken to the door of their home. As the days and the COVID-19 progressed, the need for food increased, our ability to help was often very limited, phone calls were received frequently from people who needed our help,” Guzmán said.
On March 3, 2020 the church began distributing 14 bags of food to people in need. Soon after, it increased to 21 families. God began to perform the miracle and there were resources for 37, 90, 105, 180, 225 and 500. Currently 625 food boxes and 80 groceries are distributed per week to 750 families in total.
“All this has been, and continues to be, possible thanks to God, to the great volunteer team from our church and community members to the long hours of work and coordination,” Guzmán said. “Thanks to the sister churches of the SeaTac District, (Lake Washington UMC, Wallingford UMC Mercer Island UMC, Tibbetts UMC and Vashon UMC). We are grateful to the friendly organizations such as Jubileo, Iglesia Católica San Luis en Bellevue and others who have shared a bag of bread or a carton of eggs.
Guzmán said it would have been easier to refer or send people to food banks in the community to receive help, but church members knew that it was a good opportunity for us to accompany as they navigate this challenging time. Despite knowing the high risk of contracting the Covid-19 disease, and the great limitations of financial resources in our congregation, we launched ourselves to serve without losing faith and hope that something good could be done for the people.
Now, people see the church as a safe and hopeful place. At El Dios Viviente UMC, Guzmán said congregants have been blessed to serve people of all races and nations during the pandemic. All are welcome and the church is ready to serve them.
The words and notes of thanks from the people who have been benefited are countless. Here are some of the words we received: “Thanks for your help”, “God is good”, “keep going”, “what you are doing we will always remember”, “we are praying for you”, “God bless you’, “thank you for feeding us”, etc.
“To God be the Glory for helping us to be present in our community during this difficult time. Our prayer is that after you read this testimony you can also join and begin to help the people that most need it in your community,” Guzmán said. “The grace and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you!”
Written by Pastor Gerardo Guzmán, El Dios Viviente UMC
Translated by Rev. Cruz Edwin Santos
Edited by Kristen Caldwell