Salvation Stories

New Country, New Spiritual Family

Immigrating to New York City from Honduras, Zoila finds a home by volunteering to feed the hungry

When Zoila Alvarez arrived in New York City from her native Honduras in 1989, she only knew a few family members who were already here, but she found a second family when The Salvation Army’s Manhattan Citadel Corps welcomed her with open arms.

“I began attending a Catholic church here in Manhattan, but a friend invited me to The Salvation Army,” Zoila says, “so I went.” Zoila was immediately impressed by the members’ love for one another.

“The fact that [the soldiers] were so committed to community work impressed me, so I got involved,” she says. “It makes me feel good and very happy to help in the soup kitchen, and I really enjoy the religious services.”

Zoila began volunteering much of her time at the corps, and she was faithful in her attendance to Sunday services, so someone approached her about becoming a soldier in The Salvation Army. “I decided to try it to see what could come of it,” she says.

She was enrolled as a soldier and proudly wears her uniform to Sunday services, Women’s Ministries and Community Care Ministries. In addition to the outreach and worship, Zoila is gratified for the prayer support she and others regularly receive in the corps. “My brother was very sick and near death two years ago,” Zoila explains. “We thought he was about to breathe his last. But the corps family began praying and he continues to improve!”

When a friend of hers became ill, members of the corps often came by to nurse, feed and pray with her. “And she isn’t even a member of our church!” Zoila says in amazement. “That tells you how much we love one another as Christ loves us.” Care for others in need is very important to her.

Zoila believes the timing of her arrival in the United States and her introduction to The Salvation Army was definitely part of God’s plan for her. Back in 1989, she was struggling with her faith despite being raised Catholic in Honduras. “I still felt something was missing in my life. My character and personality was not healthy. I felt something empty in my heart for a long time.”

Though she acknowledges she always believed in God, she found it difficult to resolve her doubts about faith. “But with God’s marvelous work, He changed me and He’s still working in me.”

Her transformation into a new creation in Christ made a huge impression on her family. Her husband began to wonder how the Lord could help him, and he eventually began to attend the corps with Zoila. Today, her husband and son are also members of the corps. “My husband saw how I happy I was at The Salvation Army, and how loving the people are here. Something clicked in his mind and he realized he needed what I had found. My husband and I are on a much better path, now that we’ve both given our hearts to Jesus.”

Zoila thinks God is calling her to take care of her corps family, to grow in her faith and knowledge of Christ and to be ready for worship every Sunday. “The fact that God works in my life and the people that I love are surrounding me enables me to see the love He provides, every day and every moment!”  

Major Frank Duracher is the Assistant Editor, The Salvation Army, USA National Publications

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