Flor Chamorro served her local community in Ecuador, the country of her birth, years before she ever stepped into a Salvation Army church.
“Our church members would go door– to–door and ask people to donate clothing, blankets, or even old awnings,” says Flor. “We sewed the garments and turned them into mosquito nets. This was part of our Tuesday ministry; we went to women’s jails in the area to bring the prisoners food, share the Gospel, and give them the mosquito nets so they could sleep better. There were a lot of insects and pests in the jails.”
In 2011, Flor immigrated to the United States to be with her family in Queens, N.Y. Her husband, who had arrived in the U.S. before she did, had already established himself at a local church. But Flor felt that her husband’s church was too far to walk to, especially when the cold New York winters would come.
While out shopping with her daughter, Flor came across The Salvation Army Queens Temple Corps, only a few blocks away from her home. The next day, Flor and her husband visited the church for the first time. The corps officer at the time, Major Antonio Rosamilia, welcomed them at the door; Flor asked him if he was the pastor.
“I’m only a servant of God,” Rosamilia replied.
“His words really impacted me,” says Flor. “Even though it was our first time here, we were immediately greeted with love and warmth. It felt like I was in a second home.”
Queens Temple reminded Flor of ministry in Ecuador. She started coming to the church for Sunday worship and to help any way she could. After five years of volunteering and becoming a Salvation Army soldier, she was offered a paid position to oversee the corps kitchen and food preparations for the community. Flor immediately recalled a dream that she had before she came to the U.S. In her dream, she was cutting onions, peppers, and tomatoes on a large table.
“It was more food than I had ever prepared in my life. That was God showing me a glimpse of my future,” she says.
Flor also connects with the immigrants who receive help from Queens Temple, especially Ecuadorian families like hers. They tell her that Ecuador is going through some of its most difficult times.
“I’ve met people who were very well off in Ecuador. They had education, homes, and good jobs, but they leave out of fear,” explains Flor. “Ecuador has organized crime now. Little businesses must pay for ‘protection,’ and if they don’t pay, the business owners are killed on the spot. Now it’s even happening in people’s homes. Criminals don’t break in; they let themselves in and take everything from you. It’s like the mafia.”
Flor says that though she is grateful and feels blessed for the opportunity to earn while serving, the real reward is knowing that the work that The Salvation Army does comes from a place of love.
“If we say that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves, we need to love what we do for them and what we give to them. If I give someone a pair of shoes, they can’t be shoes that I wouldn’t want to wear myself,” says Flor. “I never want to eat a badly cooked meal, so why would I share a plate that I wouldn’t also eat? It’s a blessing to hear that someone enjoyed the food I made.”
When the Queens Temple gets new volunteers, Flor tells them that the church is their second home too. She hopes that they feel as she did the first day when she came to the church.
“I say, love this place and take care of it, because everything here is yours,” says Flor. “If you keep that mindset, the work you need to do here in your new home will get done and it will be excellent in the eyes of God.”
“If you are alone and you know that the corps needs 20 bags of food to give out, don’t wait for someone to remind you of this. Start packing the bags yourself. If no one is around to sweep the floor, sweep it yourself. If you see that no one has gone into the chapel to pray, go pray yourself,” says Flor.
“When you truly love what you do, you will do it without anyone asking.”