“Desperate cries for help came from various directions. We had to fight off panic as it was dark and the floodwaters rose rapidly,” recalled Marcelina Pambid, a member of the Church Of Christ and resident of Ilagan, Isabela, one of the places gravely affected by the massive flood that submerged Cagayan Valley in November 2020.
Government authorities consider it as the worst flooding to hit Isabela, Luzon, Philippines in half a century. Besides Ilagan, the provincial capital, the towns of Cabagan, Delfin Albano, Divilacan, Maconacon, San Pablo, Sta. Maria, Sto. Tomas, and Tumauini were among the worst hit.
“It was the worst flood that I could remember. On the second day of the flood (Friday), the water was already so deep that it reached the eaves of our roof. There we remained trapped until Sunday when the water subsided,” said Nicanor Calatayud, a deacon from the Local Congregation of Marana, which is located in one of the areas worst hit by the flood.
Residents in other towns had similar experiences as the one described by Sister Marcelina and Brother Nicanor. To survive, they had to clamber up the roofs of their houses and there stay until rescue arrived.
“The water rose so fast that we only had time to grab the things most important to us. In the darkness of the night, we had to huddle to ward off the biting cold,” Santiago Zilabbo, a newly baptized member, narrated.
To help the brethren deal with the stress and trauma caused by massive flooding and address its impact on their lives, the Church Administration has enjoined, and continues to enjoin, the ministers to provide counseling to them through the words of God, especially during worship services.
The brethren received added guidance in coping with their harrowing experience when the INC-SFM Counseling Center facilitated a district-wide counseling activity in the Ecclesiastical District of Isabela East on January 26, 2021. The district consists of 56 local congregations and 22 extensions.
“When we learned that the Executive Minister was sending a team to our district to facilitate a counseling seminar, I was overjoyed. It means a lot to us that we are constantly in his mind. During the seminar, the speakers shared with us techniques how to combat depression and stress,” shared Brother Nicanor.
“Across the district, we gathered the brethren affected by the recent flooding for the stress-debriefing and counseling seminar,” Brother Gil Caberto, the district supervising minister, said.
According to him, the house of worship of the Local Congregation of Ilagan City served as the host site to which 33 remote sites were linked.
Based at the Iglesia Ni Cristo School for Ministers in Quezon City, Philippines, the INC-SFM Counseling Center employs counseling methods proven to be effective. More than that, it puts a premium on the words of God.
“Although staff of the INC-SFM Counseling Center, led by Brother Armando Ernie, uses time-tested methods or techniques to teach the brethren how to deal with or cope with stress, the highlight of the gathering was the biblical counseling,” Brother Ryan de Jesus, one of the counselors who facilitated the activity, explained. “This is in line with what Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the Executive Minister of the Church Of Christ, wants—that the brethren put their hope and trust in the power and faithfulness of God.”
The day after the live-streamed lecture-seminar, local congregations were visited by the counselors and ministers to carry out face-to-face counseling.
In all, about 2,000 brethren benefited from the stress-debriefing and counseling seminar, which they said brought comfort and solace to them.
“I feel how much the activity positively impacts the brethren. It not only taught them how to successfully deal with stress but also reminded them that whatever happens, they are never hopeless because they have God,” attested Brother Leonardo Santiago, resident minister of the Local Congregation of Ilagan City.
“This is a blessing from God and we thank Him for using the Church Administration to care for the brethren,” Brother Caberto expressed. “Our district may be far from the Central Office of the Church but we do feel how Brother Eduardo V. Manalo loves and cares for us. The ministers and ministerial workers in our district promise to continue to unite with him in taking care of the brethren.”