To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the country of Paraguay immediately imposed a strict lockdown and managed to keep their cases low. Unfortunately, this put limitations and restrictions on people’s ability to work, worsening the situation for those already living day-to-day and experiencing food insecurity.
Diaconia, Global Aid Network (GAiN)’s Paraguayan partner, was unable to run trust groups due to a ban on public gatherings. Because of strict curfews and other restrictions, many of their clients’ businesses were impacted.
To help alleviate the stress of food insecurity for their clients’ families and others, Diaconia teamed up with Jesus Responde to run soup kitchens in multiple different communities. There are currently 49 active soup kitchens, reaching over 8,500 people.
Gloria Q., an employee of Diaconia, shared the impact that the soup kitchens are having in the communities, as well as the hearts and sacrifice of the women who are serving.
“I have had the opportunity and great pleasure of being able to spend a morning with several [Diaconia] clients who are running one of the soup kitchens. Having someone visit from the organization brings so much joy to the community and they are always very thankful for the both the material and moral support that they receive from Diaconia.
The women commented happily about their day-to-day experiences cooking for so many people in need. They are in a large squatter village and can’t serve every person but are very thankful to be able to reach so many families.
As they showed me their cooking space, I noticed that they had all of their utensils sanitized and clean and several families had brought firewood so that it would be enough when it came time to cook.
While their cooking space is a bit precarious, the women are not discouraged thanks to their positive attitudes and enthusiasm. They have notebooks where they record the quantity of people that attend every day and a small bank for those who wanted to contribute even the smallest coins to purchase meat for the next day.
Many of them work in recycling and have found themselves out of work temporarily.
Miriam, who is a Diaconía client, and Rosa, who is the owner of the house where they cook, are both Christians and are very grateful for the opportunity to share what God is doing in that place.
Every day, they ask the people attending to form a line where they will retrieve their food and, before serving, they share a Bible verse and pray for the needs that they express at that time.
Now, they don’t even have to ask for prayer requests, the people they serve make sure to remind them that it’s time to pray and most of all they look forward to the time of prayer before the food is served.
Rosa even commented that some people have shown up to leave a small piece of paper that has their prayer requests on the days that the soup kitchen doesn’t serve meals.
These women expressed how God works to not only provide supplies and materials, but also works spiritually and how he can change perspectives and mindsets when families hear His Word. Some, maybe only a few, but not any less important, are conscious that if they have even something small to eat at home, they don’t attend the soup kitchen so that those who need it most are able to eat, despite not having enough for themselves.
Some days, they play games and sing Christian songs with the children that come. If they show up early and the food isn’t ready yet, they take advantage of the time to have some fun with the younger kids. And then, after the meal, they go home even more joyful.
After spending a wonderful morning with the women of this soup kitchen, we had a time of prayer—thanking God for His mercy, asking Him to keep transforming hearts through this activity, and for taking care of each person who is exposed daily to COVID-19.
This was such a beautiful experience for me and filled me with such a feeling of satisfaction and, more importantly, joy. I thank God for each one of the women working in the soup kitchens that each and every day are willing and ready to serve their community without expecting anything in return.”