CHURCH OF CHRIST members, right before receiving baptism, took an oath to fulfill all of God’s commandments. Thus, even in the face of problems and difficulties, they make every effort to uphold God’s teachings in their lives in order to remain in their divine calling. This uncompromising commitment to fulfill all that they have sworn to fulfill before God was among the truths that Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the Executive Minister, reminded the brethren about in his Bible-based homily during the worship service he officiated at on November 20, 2021.
On the said occasion, brethren from one ecclesiastical district and 25 local congregations in various parts of the world celebrating their respective milestone anniversaries, including those from six congregations whose houses of worship were dedicated to God, were connected through videoconferencing. With their faith continuously fortified, the following brethren have exemplified devotion to being one with the Church Administration in giving glory to God by tirelessly obeying His commands and fulfilling their sacred duties.
By Edralyn Benoya
“We, as a family, are just ordinary citizens in the eyes of many people,” said 73-year-old Sister Cecilia Bautista, “but, be that as it may, God has granted our prayers.” As the Benguet Ecclesiastical District, where she belongs, reaches its 65 years of establishment, Sister Cecilia feels blessed to witness how God’s promises are being fulfilled in their district and in His nation in these last days.
Sister Cecilia has been a choir member for 58 years and a choir leader for 31 years now. Her husband, Brother Miguel Bautista Sr., 80 years old, has been a head deacon for 43 years now. The couple, who are both from the Local Congregation of Atok Gold, is blessed with six children, two of whom are ministers of the gospel.
“Although we are not exempt from facing troubles and tribulations as we are still in this world, I can say that our life is filled with happiness and contentment,” Sister Cecilia said. According to the couple, the only treasure they can pass on to their children and to their grandchildren is their firm faith in God, which is priceless. “All my children hold offices in the Church. We are blessed with so many things by God Who helps us throughout the years of our life.”
The Bautista family considers such blessings as a concrete testament that God never forgets His faithful children who are loyal in serving Him and who actively fulfill what He expects of them. Reflecting on the lesson taught by Brother Eduardo Manalo on the worship service, she recounted, “As it was emphasized to us, if we earnestly seek God, our life will be blessed.”
By Corinne Rhea Betsayda
When the Church Of Christ began in the Republic of Ireland 20 years ago, the brethren had to travel to the capital city of Dublin to attend worship services and other Church activities in a rented hall. They would reach the venue in two to three hours, depending on how far away they lived.
Having been there all those years, Sister Meryl Joy Ocampo witnessed the remarkable growth of the Church despite hardships. When she first arrived there as a teenager, together with her family, she frequently experienced loneliness. “I experienced culture shock seeing other people’s casual lifestyles, strong drinking traditions, and religious skepticism,” she recalled. However, none of these hindered her from upholding the Christian way of life and actively serving God.
“Even though many people here don’t see religion as important or it doesn’t take much part in their lives, I did not allow myself to be swayed by them,” Sister Meryl Joy said. Because of her dedication to the worship services, there never was a time when she forsook it. Sister Meryl Joy is now a choir leader in the Local Congregation of Dublin South.
Bearing witness to how the Church Of Christ in Dublin has grown into seven local congregations and one group worship service (GWS), Sister Meryl Joy sees it as a manifestation of God’s love for the Church in this part of the world. “Just like what Brother Eduardo V. Manalo said,” she reflected, “the Church Of Christ will just continue being strong and keep being victorious because God will never forsake us.”
By Jaira Angela Lim
Almost 300 kilometers away from Mexico’s capital, Mexico City, the small city of Tlaxiaco is located in the south of the Mixteca Region in the state of Oaxaca. Since 2001, when the Church Of Christ was established in this Mexican city, the membership has continued growing through the instrumentality of the brethren who have been actively sharing their faith with many people.
Among the Church members there who tirelessly help in the intensive propagation of the gospel is Sister Anatolia Cuevas, a 67-year-old choir member and one of the pioneering Mexican brethren in the Local Congregation of Tlaxiaco, Mexico, Ecclesiastical District of Latin America. Together with the other brethren, she accompanies the ministers in going to the communities, doing house-to-house visits to invite families to attend the worship services and evangelical missions.
Sister Anatolia greatly values the importance of fulfilling God’s command of sharing the truth with her fellowmen by enthusiastically doing her part in this holy endeavor. That is why when the opportunity came that the congregation needed another place to conduct Bible studies on doctrines, she offered a portion of her house to be used for that purpose. “My decision was moved by my love for my fellowmen. It is for the sake of their salvation. I want them to know more about the Church Of Christ and become part of it,” she explained.
As a Church officer, Sister Anatolia strives to be a good example of complete obedience to the words of God, as what the Executive Minister taught in the worship service. She shared, “Even though I experience many difficulties and problems in life, I do not give up. I need to be strong and encourage the brethren so they, too, can overcome their struggles without forsaking their duties and the activities in the Church.”
By Jorge Ulises Esquivel
“It was a very special day because not only were we commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Managua Congregation but the Executive Minister also led us in a worship service and taught us the words of God,” said Brother Jorge Sanchez Osorno.
Brother Jorge, a Nicaraguan national, and his family, were among the first fruits of the brethren’s efforts in propagating the faith after the Church Of Christ reached Nicaragua, a country in Central America, 20 years ago. From then on, he has upheld the true Christian faith even when trials come one after another. Six months ago, his family went through a trial. “My mother, who is 72 years old, was infected with Covid-19 and her condition was very serious. It was difficult to obtain medical treatment for her that time because the hospitals were at full capacity of infected people, that is why we had to treat her illness at home with the help of a doctor.”
In spite of what happened, Brother Jorge’s mother never stopped attending the worship services through video streaming. “Even when my mother was using a medical oxygen tank because she had difficulty breathing, she never missed a worship service. We firmly believed that our faith in God was the only way for us to feel the strength to continue fighting against that difficult test,” he said. With God’s grace, his mother gradually recovered from the sickness.
Looking back, Brother Jorge and his family would not be able to overcome the test if it were not through the help of God. As what he learned from the preaching of the Executive Minister, he declared, “God ensured His people that He will not forsake them as long as they seek Him earnestly through prayers.”
By Ayana Ishii
As a caregiver in Japan, Sister Charlene Sapon helps provide personal care to her patients in a nursing home. Although she went there primarily to earn for a better living, she does not allow herself to be influenced into investing so much time and effort on the things of this world.
“Being a member of the Church, it is very clear to me and I am certain of what my priorities in life are—attending the worship services and fulfilling my responsibilities as a Church officer,” said Sister Charlene, a secretariat officer in the Local Congregation of Fukuoka, Ecclesiastical District of Nagoya, Japan. When challenges arise, she holds on to God because it is her firm faith that He will not abandon her for as long as she fully places her trust in His power.
In January 2020, while being away from her loved ones because of her job, she learned that her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. “Her condition was getting worse and it was causing complications in her body,” she said. It was even more difficult for Sister Charlene because she could not go home and give the necessary care that her mother needed due to travel restrictions during that time.
Sister Charlene had the chance to visit her mother in the Philippines in August 2021. After two days of being reunited, her mother passed away. While still grieving from her loss, almost a week after, Sister Charlene tested positive for Covid-19. “When pain and trials come one after another, I pray to our Almighty God that may He give me and my family enough strength to surpass all the pain that we are all experiencing. I pray that He holds us tight, so that we will not be departed from Him.”
With God’s mercy, Sister Charlene recovered. Now, she is gradually moving on with her life, believing that everything that happened was a test of faith. Grateful to God for helping her overcome them, she continuously performs her God-given duties with a joyful heart, always inspired to go on.
By Portia Begaso and Reinadel Blancaver
“It was very traumatic,” said Brother Joelan Guzman, a fisherman from Estancia, Iloilo North, referring to Typhoon Yolanda (International Name: Haiyan) that devastated the Visayas region in the Philippines, eight years ago. “Some of my companions died and all of my fishing vessels were destroyed,” he added.
For someone who had lost his entire livelihood and experienced a tragic event in life, it would be easy to give up and be hopeless. But this wasn’t the case for Brother Joelan. As a head deacon, he showed non-stop enthusiasm in the works for the Lord. He continued being a helper to the Church Administration in strengthening the faith of the brethren in their area and in sharing the true faith. He said that, during those trying times, “The house of worship was the only place where I felt at peace the most, especially during worship services and my devotional prayers.”
He considers the house of worship to be his fortress in times of distress because it is where God’s power dwells. The sacred place has always been important to Brother Joelan. That is why his heart was filled with joy and excitement when he learned that their local congregation will be blessed with a new and bigger house of worship. It was one of the houses of worship dedicated to God during the worship service led by the Executive Minister on November 20. “We feel so grateful because even in the midst of the pandemic, the Church continues building houses of worship in different places of the world. This is the fulfillment of God’s promise that whatever happens to the world, He will help His servants.”
Sinulat ni Hanna Kathleen Caraan
“Ang paglalakbay sa mundong ito ay hindi madali, subalit dahil may gusaling sambahan na aking takbuhan upang manalangin sa Diyos, nakapagpapatuloy ako at ang aking sambahayan,” pahayag ni Kapatid na Ederlinda Rabano, mang-aawit at maytungkulin sa pananalapi sa Lokal ng Malamig, Distrito Eklesiastiko ng Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro.
“Dahil sa kahirapan, kakulangan ng pangangailangan, at upang maitaguyod ang pag-aaral ng aking mga anak, naisipan kong makipagsapalaran noon sa Hong Kong upang magtrabaho,” pagbabalik-tanaw ni Kapatid na Ederlinda. Subalit, nalaman niyang hindi niya maayos na matutupad ang tungkulin doon dahil sa magiging sa set-up ng trabaho, hindi na niya itinuloy ang planong pangingibang-bayan.
Nag-aalala man sa pangangailangan ng kaniyang pamilya, ngunit nananalig siya sa mabuting plano ng Diyos para sa mga lingkod Niya. “May mga pagkakataong pinanghinaan ako ng loob. Subalit, mas nanaig sa akin ang pagpapahalaga ko sa pagtupad ng aking tungkulin. Sa aking mga pagsamba at pagpapanata, nararanasan kong lalo akong pinalalakas ng Panginoong Diyos,” pahayag niya.
Hindi naman siya nabigo sa kaniyang pag-asa sapagkat pinadaloy ng Diyos sa kaniyang sambahayan ang mga biyaya at pagpapala. Patotoo niya, “Hindi kami pinababayaan ng Diyos sa araw-araw. Hindi man kalakihan ang aking kinikita mula sa maliit na tindahan, nakasasapat ito sa aming mga pangunahing pangangailangan, lalo na’t naitataguyod namin ang payapang mga paglilingkod sa Kaniya.”
Tulad niya, payak rin ang pamumuhay ng maraming kapatid sa Lokal ng Malamig. Gayunman, nahayag ang masaganang pagpapala ng Diyos sa kanila sa pagkakatayo ng kanilang bago at konkretong gusaling sambahan. Saksi si Kapatid na Ederlinda kung paano ipinagmalasakit ng Ama ang mga kaanib sa dako nila. “Hindi kailanman nawaglit ang pagsama ng Ama sa aming mga pagtitipon. Nakatitiyak kaming Siya’y nasa aming kalagitnaan, nakikinig sa aming mga panalangin, at handang magkaloob ng mga biyaya.”
Sinulat ni Charisse Jhacielyn Tibon
Nakapagtamo man ng karunungang panlupa, subalit ayon kay Kapatid na Neil Borja, “Sumasampalataya ako na wala itong saysay kung hindi ipagkakaloob ng Diyos ang mga katangiang kailangan para matupad ko ang aking mga saguting sinumpaan sa Kaniya.” Sa kabila ng pagiging abala bilang electrical engineer, higit niyang pinahahalagahan at pinagsisikapang tuparin ang kaniyang mga tungkulin sa Iglesia sapagkat kinikilala niya itong malaking biyaya mula sa Diyos.
Si Kapatid na Neil ay isang guro sa Pagsamba ng Kabataan (PNK), katiwala ng purok, at katuwang na tumutupad sa tribuna sa Lokal ng Highway Hills, Distrito Eklesiastiko ng Metro Manila East. “Nagpapasalamat ako na kinasangkapan ng Diyos ang aking mga magulang na imulat kaming magkakapatid sa pagpapahalaga sa tungkulin mula pa sa aming kabataan.”
Gaya ng inaasahan ng Diyos sa mga maytungkulin na inilagay Niya sa Iglesia Ni Cristo, sinisikap ni Kapatid na Neil na pangunahan ang mga kapatid na kaniyang nasasakupan sa lubos na pagtitiwala sa Diyos at tapat na paglilingkod sa Kaniya. Pagpapatunay niya, “Napakahalaga ng mga gampanin ng isang maytungkulin sapagkat sa atin itiniwala ang mga kapatid. Marapat lamang na tayo ang unang-unang nakalapat ang damdamin sa pagsunod sa mga kalooban ng Diyos upang mas madali nating mahikayat ang mga kapatid na sila ay sumama at makiisa sa lahat ng gawain at kilusan ng Iglesia.”
Lubos ang pananalig ni Kapatid na Neil na anuman ang kalagayan ng buhay, ang mga lingkod ng Diyos na tapat na tumutupad ng kanilang tungkulin ay magtatamo ng pag-alalay mula sa Kaniya. Ani Kapatid na Niel, “Hindi magaan ang pagdadala ng buhay. Wala rin akong taglay na kahit anong kayamanan. Subalit, nahahayag pa rin ang pagtulong ng Panginoon dahil hindi Niya kami pinapabayaan at patuloy naming nakakamit ang Kaniyang mga pagpapala.”
Sinulat ni Narra Estonanto
Isa sa mga hindi malilimutan ni Kapatid na Benjamin Picar Jr. na ipinayo sa kaniya ng kaniyang lolo na si Kapatid na Juanito Picar Sr. ay ang sinabi nito noon sa kaniya na tumanggap siya ng tungkulin dahil ito aniya ang magsilbing “bakod” sa kaniyang buhay upang makapamalagi siya sa karapatan sa pagtatamo ng kaligtasan.
Sa kaniyang kabataan pa lamang, ipinamulat na kay Kapatid na Benjamin ang kahalagahan ng paghawak ng tungkulin. “Nagpasiya akong maging mang-aawit 30 taon na ang nakalilipas. Sa awa at tulong ng Diyos, hanggang ngayon ay masigla pa rin akong nakatutupad ng aking tungkulin,” saad niya.
Ipinagpapasalamat ni Kapatid na Benjamin sa Diyos na ang kaniyang lolo, na pangulong diakono noon at isa sa mga pioneer member ng Lokal ng Caba, Distrito Eklesiastiko ng La Union, ang isa sa mga nagturo sa kaniya na ang tungkulin ay dapat mahalin at ingatan sapagkat ito’y isang malaking biyaya mula sa Diyos.
“Kung papaano ko pinahahalagahan ang aking tungkulin, ganoon ko rin itinuturo sa aking sambahayan. Hinikayat at hinubog ko rin sila na tumanggap ng tungkulin sapagkat sa pamamagitan nito ay lalo kaming magiging malapit sa Diyos,” paglalahad ni Kapatid na Benjamin. Sa kasalukuyan, ang kaniyang asawa ay isang diakonesa at ang kaniyang dalawang anak ay mga kalihim ng lokal at kagawad sa PNK.
Sa pagsapit ng ika-80 anibersaryo ng Lokal ng Caba, lubos silang nagpapasalamat ng kaniyang sambahayan dahil nakabahagi sila sa mga biyayang espirituwal mula sa pagtuturo ng Kapatid na Eduardo Manalo. Ito ang pangako ni Kapatid na Benjamin: “Patuloy kong aakayin ang aking pamilya sa masiglang paglilingkod at pagtupad ng tungkulin hanggang sapitin namin ang pangakong kaligtasan.”