IN LINE WITH the recent theme of all the activities in the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ)—“God’s Elect Strive To Live In Holiness”—the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, delivered a lesson focused on encouraging the brethren to conduct their lives in a way that pleases the Lord God as they live in these unusual and difficult times.
This happened during his pastoral visitation to the Local Congregation of Concepcion, Ecclesiastical District of Metro Manila East on August 5, 2022 during which he officiated their worship service.
On the same occasion, 30 regular ministerial workers were ordained by the Executive Minister, bringing the total number of new ministers added to the Church during the Covid-19 pandemic to 385.
Brother Gerino S. Lalata, district supervising minister of Metro Manila East Ecclesiastical District, led the opening prayer. Following the homily, Brother Romer D. Galang led the prayer, while Brother Bienvenido C. Santiago administered the oath-taking of the candidates for ordination. Brother Arnel R. Canicosa led the prayer after the laying on of hands.
Before delivering his Bible-based sermon, Brother Eduardo Manalo greeted the Ecclesiastical District of Bulacan, which was celebrating its 90th anniversary; as well as the 12 local congregations in the Philippines and 19 local congregations, extensions, and group worship services outside the country that were commemorating their respective milestone anniversaries.
The Church’s beloved leader exhorted the brethren present at the worship service to exemplify moral integrity, moral courage, and godly character. He pointed out that by doing so, they are assured by God of having a joyful end—salvation. He added that even in this life, they will receive God’s blessings if they rely on Him for help and guidance as they fulfill all their sacred duties to Him and live a life that is pleasing in His sight.
‘The Lord is my strength and refuge’
Written by Kimberlyn dela Cruz
“‘How are you, sister?’ I heard these words and it didn’t sink in right away who approached and asked me,” Sister Paula Mendoza, a District Multimedia member registered in the Local Congregation of Concepcion, recalled. She had just joined the brethren in their congregation’s conference room after the pastoral visitation to ask the Executive Minister for a prayer. She was in her wheelchair, due to her illness.
“This illness started in 2007. At first, the doctors could not figure out what was wrong with me,” she explained. Her entire world was altered in an instant when she suffered her sickness’ first serious attack. She was a choir member at the time, and it broke her heart that she would no longer be able to perform her duty after she became bedridden.
“My condition improved a little for a while, and I was able to walk on crutches,” she continued. After nine months, she was able to return to being a choir member. She thought that was the end of her arduous ordeal, even though her doctor warned her that her illness could recur.
Sister Paula was married to Brother Mark when she turned 30, and eventually they had a child. She was also able to perform other Church duties, such as in the local secretariat and in the Christian Family Organizations. But then, she started having problems with her vision. In 2019, her lower body deteriorated and soon lost its strength. So, she had to be straddled in a wheelchair.
Her illness was exacerbated by the pandemic. Being confined to their home for an extended period of time was hard for her. She became paralyzed again and even lost her sight for some time. They were not able to go to the hospital right away for fear of contracting the deadly virus. “It was too late for me. My vision was already compromised. The doctor said that if we could have gone earlier, they would have been able to save my eyesight,” she relayed. Her disease had spread throughout her body.
“My son would tell me, ‘Mom, I hope you get well soon.’ I would assure him that I would. But deep inside me, that hurt so much because I don’t know if I’ll ever get better,” she sadly imparted. “I always pray to God to give me another opportunity to be with my family, to be with my son, to fulfill my Church duties just like before.”
Still, she finds the “silver lining” in the “dark clouds” before her. “My husband and I grew closer. This test in our life is extremely difficult, but I feel we are even happier,” she shared. “I was even recruited to be a District Multimedia member, and I accepted the duty even in my condition. I want to be a part of the Church’s activities in any way I can.”
When she learned that there would be a pastoral visitation in their congregation, she was filled with yearning that she had to be there. She prayed earnestly for enough strength. She was bedridden, so they had to prepare a customized wheelchair to carry her, but she did not mind.
She paid close attention to the preaching of the Executive Minister. “I know I am not exempt from God’s expectations from His people, even if I am bedridden. Brother Eduardo taught us that we can receive God’s grace when we live in holiness. So, I believe that this is a test for me to see if I can still find a way to live according to His laws and to serve Him in a way that He will be pleased,” she recounted.
It was Brother Eduardo Manalo who asked her in the conference room how she was. He approached Sister Paula, who had no idea who was coming to her. She then realized that it was the Church’s beloved leader. “He asked me what my sickness is. I replied, ‘Neuromyelitis optica po, it’s an autoimmune disease po,” She recounted. “He caressed my head, as a father would to his child. A rush of joy filled my heart.”
After the prayer, Brother Eduardo stayed to take pictures with them. “Brother Eduardo approached me again and told me to continue praying, to always ask for anointing of oil,” Sister Paula joyfully shared.
That moment was etched in her mind. It was also then that she was able to be with her fellow Church officers once again after a long time.
What she realized, too, after that experience, was that she had gone through so much difficulty and, so, she believes that she can take anything that comes her way.
(Sadly, Sister Paula Mendoza, the subject of this interview, passed away on August 19, just 14 days after meeting the Executive Minister during the pastoral visit to their local congregation. Throughout the interview, she reiterated her conviction that the Lord God was her refuge and source of her strength regardless of her circumstances. In her final moments as she lay bed-ridden, she repeatedly uttered, “Father,” her husband recalls. She even reassured her husband and son at that time, saying, “I’m okay.”)
Blessings greater than one can imagine
Written by Ariel Moline
When life takes unexpected turns or doesn’t meet their expectations, there are those who question or harbor doubt in God, and there are those who all the more cling to Him and hope for His help when faced with hardships. The Iglesia Ni Cristo faithful, such as Sister Criselle P. Cahayag, a member for more than 30 years now, always opt for the latter.
Sister Criselle has had her share of trials. “Before joining the Church Of Christ, I lived paycheck to paycheck and was unsure of where I was going,” she said. After being brought up in a devout Catholic household and not having a strong connection with God, she searched other religions, longing to, at last, establish a relationship with Him. Eventually, she accepted an invitation to attend a Bible study in the Church Of Christ, where she found what she had been missing.
Expressing her conviction, she said, “God was guiding me through my wandering. He was just waiting for me to turn at that right corner to finally direct me to that right path that I didn’t know I needed. With God’s grace, I was baptized in the Church Of Christ two years after I was introduced.” After becoming a member of the Church, she knew life would still present its challenges, but believed that God would guide her through it in the same way that He guided her to His Church.
Trials continued for Sister Criselle after joining the Church: “There was one year I went through the loss of my father and my spouse suffered a mountain bike accident,” said Sister Criselle. Furthermore, she recalls, “We lost our jobs and we lost our first child.” But it remained her faith that: “We were being tested like gold over and over.” Inspired by the constant reminders of the Church Administration, Sister Criselle continued holding on to her complete trust in God in such circumstances. She said, “That’s what I continue doing even now.” She adds, “God has shown me time and time again how much He cares for me. Through devotional prayers, I will always trust in Him.” Moreover, she continued performing her duties as a choir member and a Buklod officer, firmly believing that He would continue guiding her. She said, “Even in the performance of my duties, I will always trust in His process.”
God’s blessings extended to her family. She received far greater blessings than she ever could imagine: “In January 2021, 30 years from when I was first introduced to the Church, my mother, Sister Cristeta Labson, was finally baptized. Once again, through prayers, and my trust in God, all this happened.”
Pamumuhay ayon sa kabanalan
Distrito ng Bulacan
Sinulat ni Alena Molit
Sa patuloy na pag-unlad at paglago ng gawain ng Iglesia Ni Cristo sa Bulacan, mula sa isang distrito, ang Iglesia ay mayroon nang limang distrito eklesiastiko sa lalawigang ito sa Pilipinas. Ang mga ito’y ang Bulacan, na ang sentro ay ang Lokal ng Baliwag; Bulacan North, ang sentro ay ang San Miguel; Bulacan South, ang sentro ay ang Meycauayan; Bulacan West, ang sentro ay ang Malolos; at ang Bulacan East, ang sentro ay ang Area H.
Ang patuloy na pagtatagumpay ng Iglesia bilang katuparan ng mga hula ng Diyos sa Biblia ay naghahayag na ito ang sa Diyos. Katunayan naman ito na walang ibang mga taong pinakamapapalad sa buong mundo kundi ang mga kaanib sa Iglesia Ni Cristo. Ito ang binigyang-diin ng Tagapamahalang Pangkalahatan, ang Kapatid na Eduardo Manalo, sa pagsambang kaniyang pinangasiwaan noong Agosto 5, 2022. Kabilang ang Distrito ng Bulacan, na nagdiriwang ng ika-90 anibersaryo, sa mga dumalo sa banal na pagtitipon na iyon sa pamamagitan ng livestreaming.
Sa kaniyang pagtuturo ay niliwanag ng Namamahala na bilang mga hinirang ng Diyos ay dapat silang patuloy na nagagabayan ng Kaniyang mga salita upang manatili silang mapalad at makatiyak ng kaligtasan.
Ibinahagi ni Kapatid na Ruben Derit Jr. ang kaniyang karanasan kung paanong ang mga aral ng Panginoong Diyos ang naging gabay niya sa kaniyang pamumuhay. “Noong dinudoktrinahan pa lang ako, mabigat ang pag-uusig sa amin. ‘Yung mga kapitbahay namin dati, inuusig kami na may kasamang pangungutya. Nasasabi ko sa aking sarili, ‘Kaya siguro ganoon sila ay dahil hindi nila matanggap ang katotohanan.’ Pero iyon din ang nagpalakas ng loob ko—ang itinuro sa amin sa doktrina, na ganoon talaga ang mararanasan ng mga na kay Cristo. Si Cristo nga na Panginoon ay inusig, gaano pa tayo na mga lingkod Niya?”
Lalong naging determinado si Kapatid na Ruben na magpatuloy sa pag-anib. Sa tulong ng Diyos ay naging kaanib siya ng Iglesia at naging maytungkulin pa na nakasaksi kung paano pinagpala ng Panginoong Diyos ang distritong ito.
Lumago ang distrito bunga ng puspusang pagpapalaganap ng mga salita ng Diyos, sa pakikipagkaisa ng mga kapatid sa Pamamahala ng Iglesia. “Maraming naging bunga kung kaya nakapagtatag pa ang ilang mga lokal ng mga extension. … Parami nang parami ang bilang ng mga umaanib. Habang tumatakbo ang panahon, lumalago ang distrito.”
“Ang inilunsad na paksang-diwa para sa taong ito na ‘Ang Nasa Kahalalan ay Namumuhay sa Kabanalan’ ay angkop na angkop sa panahon ngayon, lalo na at matindi ang kahirapan, mabigat ang pagdadala ng buhay,” ani Kapatid na Ruben. Ang itinuturo ng Namamahala ay kung ano ang makabubuti sa mga kaanib ng Iglesia. Dapat ay magpakabanal sapagkat iyon ang hinahanap ng Panginoong Diyos—maging banal upang makapagbigay-kaluwalhatian sa Kaniya.”
Katatagan sa kabila ng katandaan
Sinulat ni Karl Santos
“‘Mahalin ninyo ang Iglesia. Magpakabait kayo, magpakatatag kayo,’ iyon ang lagi niyang sinasabi sa mga kapatid,” pahayag ni Kapatid na Azucena Julian Ramos tungkol sa kaniyang hindi malimutang pahayag ng Kapatid na Felix Y. Manalo, ang Sugo ng Diyos sa mga huling araw, sa kaniyang pangangasiwa ng pagsamba. Si Kapatid na Azucena ay 82 taong gulang na ngayon at maytungkulin sa Pananalapi sa Lokal ng Cardona, Distrito Eklesiastiko ng Rizal East.
Tandang-tanda pa niya ang dinanas ng mga kapatid noong nagsisimula pa lamang ang Iglesia sa bayan ng Cardona. “Doon kami sumasamba sa Kuhala [maliit na sitio sa Cardona] sa ilalim ng puno ng mangga. Kasi panahon ng Hapon noon. Mahigpit sila, hinuhuli kami, kaya patago ang aming pagsamba,” pag-aalaala ni Kapatid na Azucena. Sa gitna ng mga pagsubok, sabi niya, “Ang pananalangin sa Diyos ang aming naging sandigan.” Wika pa niya, “patuloy kaming nagpakatapat sa aming tungkulin,” at iyon ay sa kabila ng mga pag-uusig at kahirapan na kanilang nasagupa.
Kaya naman hindi sila binigo ng Diyos sa kanilang panalangin. Ngayon, sa taong ito, sumapit ang kanilang lokal sa ika-90 anibersaryo ng pagkakatatag nito. At sa kanilang paggunita ng mahalagang okasyong ito ay nakatanggap sila ng malaking biyayang espirituwal. Sa pamamagitan ng livestreaming, sila ay nakadalo sa pagsambang pinangasiwan ng Kapatid na Eduardo Manalo, ang Tagapamahalang Pangkalahatan ng Iglesia Ni Cristo.
Kaya naman lubos na ipinagpapasalamat ito ni Kapatid na Azucena sa Panginoong Diyos. Aniya, “Salamat sa Ama at kami’y nananatili sa aming pagka-Iglesia Ni Cristo sa kabila ng marami naming dinanas.” Damang-dama niya sa pagtuturo ang marubdob na hangarin ng Pamamahala, na siya ring hangarin ng Sugo, na ang mga kapatid ay maging matatag sa gitna ng mga pagsubok. “Hindi ko malilimutan ‘yung sinabi ng Kapatid na Eduardo Manalo na kapag may problema o anumang suliranin, magyuko ka ng ulo at ika’y manalangin sa Ama,” patuloy na pahayag ni Kapatid na Azucena.
Katulad ng Lokal ng Cardona, tumatanda man si Kapatid na Azucena subalit nananatiling matatag ang kaniyang pananampalaya sa Diyos at sa Kaniyang magagawa. Sa natitira pang panahon sa kaniyang buhay ay ganito ang ipinapanalangin niya sa Ama para sa buo niyang sambahayan: “Lagi kong ipinapanalangin na pahiramin pa kami ng buhay upang patuloy na makapaglingkod sa Kaniya. At anuman ang aming gagawin, maging ayon nawa sa Kaniyang kalooban. Ingatan Niya kami na makapanatiling nagtatapat, naitataguyod ang tungkulin, at naitataguyod ang aming kahalalan hanggang sa wakas ng aming buhay.”