Wrightstown, New Jersey
IF NOT DEALT WITH PROPERLY, depression can drastically affect a person’s daily life and make him unproductive. To help Church Of Christ members avoid falling into such a condition, especially with regard to their service to God, the Church Administration constantly teaches them God’s words to guide them on how to deal with difficult situations so that they will not be overcome by miseries and problems.
On January 23, 2021, in a worship service he officiated, the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, cited Apostle Paul as worthy of imitation. He noted that the apostle experienced times of extreme deprivation of the most basic earthly comforts as well as times of great abundance in life before his conversion and eventual ministry to the Gentiles. Yet, he learned the secret to real peace and contentment in every situation.
This was also what the Executive Minister encouraged the brethren to find by means of having an abiding trust in the Almighty God and in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to victoriously uphold their divine calling and election.
From the host site, the Central Temple in Quezon City, Philippines, brethren of four local congregations commemorating their milestone anniversaries joined the worship service from their respective houses of worship through videoconferencing. During the occasion, 28 new ministers of the gospel were ordained.
Templo Central, Quezon City
Written by Maniel Angeline Soriano
When a regular ministerial worker in the Church Of Christ is ordained, he receives from God the duty of a minister of the gospel. Brother Ronnel Anino, one of the ordainees who is currently working in one of the departments in the Central Office, firmly believes that this important occasion in his life is a manifestation of God’s love and mercy on him and his family. “We will always give thanks and praises to Him for this wonderful blessing. The biblical lessons I received will serve as my inspiration to perform my duties, to love the Church, and to take care of the brethren’s spiritual well-being,” he said.
For the families of the ordainees, it is also a great blessing to witness their loved ones receiving the laying on of hands from the Executive Minister. However, because of the pandemic, travel has been limited due to the restrictions placed by the government. This situation has kept many away from their loved ones.
Fortunately for Brother Sixto and Sister Ailyn Anino, Brother Ronnel’s parents, although they are hundreds of kilometers away from their son, they were still able to witness the momentous occasion in their son’s life. On that blessed day, they were among those who attended the worship service led by the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo Manalo. “Even though we were far from the host site, we still felt the love of God because what matters most is that we still got the chance to attend the worship service via livestreaming. We received the words of God that truly have inspired us to be steadfast in our faith,” Brother Sixto said.
Sister Ailyn expressed, “Through videoconferencing, I and my husband witnessed our son’s receiving the laying on of hands from Brother Eduardo Manalo to become a full-fledged minister in the Church Of Christ.”
Both parents are thankful to the Church Administration for using modern technology, so that the words of God would continuously reach various parts of the world, even remote places.
Brother Sixto is currently assigned in Surigao del Norte as an assistant foreman in the Iglesia Ni Cristo Engineering & Construction Department. At the same time, he is a deacon while Sister Ailyn is a deaconess in the Local Congregation of Patiño, Surigao del Norte Ecclesiastical District.
Having learned from the preaching of the Executive Minister, Brother Sixto further said, “With everything that is happening in the world, attending the worship services is truly vital. It is here where we receive God’s teachings and where our faith is strengthened. No matter what situation we may be in, even if we have many problems, we will continue serving God because He will not forsake us.”
Batangas City, Batangas
Written by Cristina Allysa Panza
Brother Angel del Rosario, a deacon, one day received a sad news: that his right foot might be amputated due to infection. “I was so scared to the point that I could hardly sleep. I was afraid I could no longer do the things I needed to do,” he recalled.
His son, Brother Arjay, a choir member, secretary, and Children’s Worship Service teacher, had a hard time accepting what could happen when he first heard the news. Being away from his mother, who works overseas, and two other brothers, who are fulfilling their ministerial functions, Brother Arjay had to be strong for his father.
But dealing with the situation was never easy. “At that very moment, I felt so sad. My head was full of negative thoughts,” he said. “Just imagining that my father would lose one foot would be devastating for him.”
Adding to his worries was the cost of the amputation. “Due to the pandemic, my mother was laid off from work, but can’t return to the Philippines immediately. Our resources had become more limited,” he said.
However, understanding his right to call upon God, Brother Arjay continued with his devotional prayers. He never forsook his Church obligations despite the difficult circumstances. “I still fulfilled my duties because I believed that it was the right thing to do: to attend worship services,” he said.
Even in the face of hopelessness, he and his father never forgot to ask God for help and guidance: “My father was regularly anointed with oil before we went to the hospital for check-ups.”
After several tests, they saw how God miraculously answered their prayers. “The doctor said that my father no longer needed an amputation. Instead, he would just undergo another procedure that was a better option to treat his condition,” Brother Arjay said.
“God heard our prayers, and that made me feel stronger. I have always known how important attending the worship service is and it is where I gain strength,” Brother Angel said. The worries he and his son felt never hindered them from doing what truly pleases God—worshiping Him no matter what. “We will never exchange our divine election for anything in this world. We will forever be thankful to our Father for all the blessings and even the trials He had given us. We learned to be at peace as long as we trust in Him that He will deliver us from any harm,” he added.
Brother Arjay, on his part, all the more fixed his hope on the Lord God: “One cannot find the solution to his problem if he is looking in the wrong places. I know that God is the only One Who can help me. So, instead of seeking comfort online or indulging in vices, I chose to devote my time to worshiping Him and fulfilling the duties He entrusted to me.”
North Hollywood, California
Written by Eva Basallaje
With the surging Covid-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations in Los Angeles County in California, many people have been struggling to cope with the situation.
Sister Shiela Paras, an assistant choir leader and Buklod officer, was among those who experienced firsthand the impact of the pandemic.
“In December 2020, just a day after the Children’s Worship Service (CWS) Year-end Thanksgiving, my husband [Brother Edgar] started exhibiting flu-like symptoms. He works in a health facility, which recently had an outbreak,” Sister Shiela said.
Three days after, it was confirmed that Brother Edgar had contracted the virus. The worries of their family became greater because she and her two children, Sister Nicole and Brother Seth, also displayed varying severities. “A couple of days after my husband’s test result came out, my two children and I were tested for Covid-19 and the results all came back as positive,” she recalled.
“Edgar’s symptoms were the worst among all of us,” she said. “His fever kept returning for more than a week. And he had headache, cough, loss of taste and sense of smell, shortness of breath, and fatigue.”
He was then isolated in a hotel, while Sister Shiela and her two children stayed at home for isolation. She stayed in her bedroom, Sister Nicole in her own bedroom, and Brother Seth in the living room. “I had all of those symptoms, too, except for the headache. But my fever only lasted for two or three days. Seth only had mild cough and Nicole didn’t have any symptoms at all.”
Since the stay-at-home order started, the family held the household worship services to God in their living room and after that they would take their family picture. It was always a happy affair according to her. However, when they all contracted the virus, “It was the first time we had to worship God in separate locations, but still connected together through videoconferencing. I was used to being in the living room sitting next to my family and now, we are all alone in our own rooms of isolation,” said Sister Shiela.
That event in their lives hit her the most. “I realized how it is very easy to have our lives changed by this disease,” she said. Despite this, she is still hopeful and thankful. “I know in my heart that we can and we will get through it. I believe in the power of prayer that God’s faithful servants do. Though we could not be together in one room, we would be on videoconference to also do our household devotional prayer every night,” she added.
Through the grace of the Almighty God, the Paras household fully recovered from the disease in time to attend the livestreaming worship service officiated by the Executive Minister.
The lesson taught has indeed inspired their entire family to continue to face and overcome their situation wrought by the pandemic: “There is nothing we encounter in this life that is more powerful than God’s love. He will not leave us because we belong to the true Church. Also, our beloved leader is always doing his best to lead us towards the perfection of our faith in order to attain salvation.”
Wrightstown, New Jersey
Written by Fernan Dungca
As an 80-year-old living in the US, the country with the most number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the world as of this writing, Brother Angel Avila faces the danger of contracting the virus everyday.
Having been used to go outside his house freely to do his daily errands and other physical activities, he has done quite an adjustment to his routine due to the sudden changes. “Since the pandemic began, all of a sudden we had to stay at home and did not know what to do. Sometimes I feel depressed because I can’t do anything,” he said. Knowing the dreadful effects of the spreading disease, Brother Angel couldn’t help feeling sad, confused, and scared. “I knew at least ten friends and relatives that passed away,” he said.
But through God’s guidance, one thing is certain for Brother Angel despite the uncertainties. He will continue to worship God and fulfill his duty as a head deacon. He said, “Aging comes with many challenges.” Traveling to the house of worship is one of them. “I drive for 55 minutes to the chapel each way. I have a hard time driving at night because I cannot see the road well, and the incoming headlights from the cars blind me.”
Although Brother Angel uses a cane while walking as he is confronted with physical ailments and other health conditions, he shows no sign of slowing down in his services to God. He puts his faith in the One Who created him. He firmly believes that God will make him stronger spiritually and physically.
Through prayers, God continues to bless him with life and strength that he uses in performing his sacred tasks. “What keeps me going are the true faith that we have and my God-given duty. That’s what motivates me to go on and not be discouraged by diseases,” he expressed.
In sickness and in health, Brother Angel learned to appreciate more every opportunity that he is able to attend congregational worship services, where he feels at peace the most. “Life may be hard. But the lessons taught to us during worship services are very inspiring and they encourage us to continue on. During the worship services, we receive the power of the Holy Spirit that strengthens our conviction not to be hindered by any of life’s challenges,” he said.
Written by Gemma Stirba
When things are going great in life, it is easy for anyone to be complacent. Many forget that God is the One Who is making all things well for them. On the other hand, when life is a struggle, there are those who think that they can find the solution to their problems on their own. So, they distance themselves instead of drawing closer to the One Who can easily make all things well for them.
But just like the conviction of Apostle Paul, Brother Joshua Stirba has learned to find true happiness whatever his situation in life is, especially when dealing with his lifelong struggle with clinical depression and anxiety.
“It first began when I was about seven years old,” he recalled. He distinctly remembered one cold, miserable, rainy morning that he did not want to get up early to go to a place he did not want to go to because he was anxious of what awaits him there. “I then came to a stark realization that it was my first panic attack and I was going to struggle like this my whole life.”
At such a young age, he changed so much on that day. “I did not understand what was happening to me and I did not know how to articulate this so others could understand me,” he said. “I was misunderstood and looked down upon by many. I withdrew into my only comfort—silence—and for the next two decades I was emotionally deadened.”
According to him, depression is a dark, invisible, and insidious thing. “It robs me of my strength and lashes out weights to my mind,” he described. But as a true Christian, Brother Joshua has learned to overcome this situation through performing his sacred duties as an organist and a choir member.
“One of the few things that is always constant throughout my ordeal were my God-given duties and how I took solace in it,” he said. The pain of life was not hidden or sugar-coated, but singing hymns of praises to God during worship services definitely made it more bearable for Brother Joshua.
“I cannot count how many times I was motivated by a hymn, inspired by the lyrics, or moved by the chords. It gave me enough strength to move on and to take that next step and to survive to the next day. I always wanted to feel that moment of peace and completeness again and again because of God’s power. It is during the worship services I feel the closest and most connected to Him,” he further shared.
Life always has its ups and downs but Brother Joshua strives to make his relationship with God on a steady growth and progress. “It was God’s mercy and compassion that got me through those years. And that’s what will also help me through in the years to come,” he said.
Through fervent prayers, Brother Joshua sees the light in the middle of his darkest moments and it allows him to always approach God and put his trust in all that He can do for him.