PEOPLE ARE BOMBARDED with more difficulties and challenges daily as the world nears its end like a man on his deathbed. Also not exempted from adversities in life are members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ). However, their conviction in obeying God enables them to stand firm and victorious no matter the hardship they face.
Under the inspired leadership of the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, members of the Church faithfully continue worshiping the Lord. They also actively participate in the many activities of the Church, even in this time of a pandemic.
Through livestreaming, on June 26, 2021, the Executive Minister led the dedication to God of five houses of worship, which are among the 130 houses of worship that the Church constructed during the pandemic. In the same occasion, he also greeted the 13 local congregations and one ecclesiastical district commemorating their milestone anniversaries.
The following are accounts from brethren, manifesting how God shows His love and compassion to them as they remain focused on obeying Him:
Written by Benito Carungay Jr.
CHURCH OF CHRIST members mainly prioritize their services to God. Examples are the brethren from the Local Congregation of Carlingford, Ecclesiastical District of Australia East. In the past months, they have volunteered their time and expertise in the renovation of their chapel. “We greatly value the house of worship, for it is where God’s Name and glory dwell and where His ears and eyes are ever-present to the prayers and lamentations of His people,” said Brother Diosdado Parreno, a head deacon.
Indeed, inspiring stories on how God helped His people who sincerely prayed to Him inside the house of worship abound from among Church members. One of which is that of Brother Jonathan Au, also a head deacon. In 2014, he was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. However, according to him, he never considered his disease a hindrance to fulfilling his Church duties. Recalling those days, he said, “I remember the day we left the hospital. We went straight to the house of worship so that I could perform my duties and attend the worship service.”
Like other faithful members of the Church Of Christ, Brother Jonathan places great value on the importance of the house of worship. In it, he worships God. Also, inside the chapel, he brings to God all his worries. “Whenever I am in the house of worship, when I am bowing my head and pouring my heart out in prayer, I get stronger,” he said. Today, Brother Jonathan is already free of his illness and continues to perform his Church duties.
Out of God’s love and compassion, the renovation of the house of worship was finished on June 24. Two days later, on June 26, it was rededicated to God. For the brethren, this is truly one of God’s miracles. Although things have not been easy for them, especially with the ongoing pandemic, they are all the more optimistic and inspired. Brother Diosdado said, “Our burning desire to go back to the house of worship for our services to our Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ continues in the heart of each one of us. As we continue our services, we will be able to surmount all hardships with God’s help.”
El Cajon, California
Written by Jasmine Mananquil
THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC may have hindered the plans of many people, but it could never hinder God’s plans for the Church and its members. Sister Lucia Reyes, a deaconess from the Local Congregation of El Cajon, can attest to this truth. Being a witness to their local congregation’s establishment, she saw how their house of worship grew to reach its current remarkable state.
For years, the brethren from the Local Congregation of El Cajon (formerly Spring Valley Extension) conducted their worship service in a rented place. With God’s help, the devotional prayers of the brethren led to the purchase of a building formerly owned by the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in December 2009. The building was redesigned and repaired, and the brethren faithfully started conducting their worship services there on March 7, 2010.
All the more inspired because of the new house of worship, Sister Lucia continues to fulfill her Church duty and to participate in all Church activities. Moreover, she said, “I always strive to obey God. I share my faith with everyone I meet.” She dedicates much time weekly to keep their house of worship clean, even during this pandemic.
Then, she shared, “A time came when my husband and children contracted the virus, and they were hospitalized.” Thankfully, she was safe and healthy, but things were still very hard for her as she could not avoid worrying about her family’s well-being.
Hopeful for God’s help, Sister Lucia shared, “I continued to do my best to make God happy because I firmly believe that in doing so, He will not forsake me.” She also devotes time to plead with God inside the house of worship. “Being in the chapel gives me strength and fulfillment, and I forget all of my worries. Inside the chapel, I fervently prayed for my family.” Loving as He is, the Lord God answered her prayers and blessed Sister Lucia’s family with recovery from the disease. Together, they performed their duties in the rededication of the newly renovated house of worship on June 26, 2021.
Thankful for everything, Sister Lucia expressed, “No matter what happens, we will keep our promise to fulfill our duties in the Church. In doing so, we firmly believe that God will also keep His promises to us.”
Written by Vilma Arenas
“I WAS INVITED to the Church Of Christ by my classmate who was already a member back in college. Although I gave many excuses initially, a time came when I thought I should give it a try,” said Brother Thabiso Lebitsa from the Local Congregation of Mafeteng, Southern Africa.
Although joining the Church was not initially part of Brother Thabiso’s plans in life, it was a decision he wholeheartedly made out of wanting to know the true faith. He said, “What captured my attention at first was how the minister asked questions, and every answer was Bible-based. That was unique. But the turning point for me was the moment the minister showed and proved from the Bible that there is only one true God, the Father, and that Christ is not God. That’s when I realized that this is the Church where my family and I would truly be able to serve God.”
Indeed, in the Church Of Christ, Brother Thabiso dedicates much of his time to serving God. He narrated, “At one instance, my faith was tested. My mother was very ill while she was still a Bible student. She was suffering from hypertension, and when it got worse, she experienced severe nose bleeding and was hospitalized.”
Instead of relying on himself, Brother Thabiso acknowledged that only God could genuinely help his mother. He said, “I remember begging God every day through devotional prayers in the house of worship to spare the life of my mother, so that she may be baptized and officially serve God.” The Lord heeded his prayers. Brother Thabiso said, “God is merciful. My mother got better. She was baptized and now, she’s an active member of the Church Of Christ.”
Having a newly dedicated house of worship in their local congregation, Brother Thabiso is overjoyed and all the more inspired to continue his services to God. He said, “This new house of worship is a fundamental part of our lives as members of the Church Of Christ. This is where we will confide in God all our sorrows and problems that bombard our lives. This is where we will praise and glorify the name of our great God through our worship services.”
United Bayanihan, Calamba City, Laguna
Sinulat ni Antonio Lagunoy Jr.
MAHIGIT 15 TAON nang itinataguyod ni Kapatid na Rosario Sobrevina nang mag-isa ang kaniyang apat na anak bilang isang biyuda. Pahayag niya, “Hindi madaling buhayin nang mag-isa ang isang pamilya. Bukod sa kailangan kong subaybayang mabuti ang aking apat na anak, kailangan ko ring maghanapbuhay para sa kanila.” Gayunman, paninindigan ni Kapatid na Rosario, “Hindi dahilan ang aming sitwasyon upang hindi lumahok sa mga aktibidad ng Iglesia.”
Si Kapatid na Rosario ay isang diakonesa sa Lokal ng United Bayanihan. Pahayag niya, “Kapag may pulong, mga gawain, mga pagdadalaw, mga pagkokomite, at iba pang mga aktibidad, sinisikap kong makatugon.” Ang kaniyang pananalig, “Lalong tumutulong sa atin ang Diyos kapag tayo ay masiglang naglilingkod sa Kaniya.” Iyon ang nahayag sa kanilang buhay. Ang sabi niya, “Ang Ama ang nagbibigay sa amin ng lakas at pag-asa. Kapag dumudulog ako sa Kaniya sa gusaling sambahan, kahanga-hanga dahil nararanasan ko agad ang pagtulong Niya.”
Sa awa ng Panginoong Diyos, lumaking masisigla sa Iglesia ang mga anak ni Kapatid na Rosario. At sa harap ng kasalukuyang pandemya, namamalagi silang ligtas at nasa maayos na kalagayan. Pahayag ni Kapatid na Rosario, “Marami pong problema. Pero gaya ng laging itinuturo ng Namamahala, bilang mga masiglang kaanib sa Iglesia, hindi talaga tayo pinababayaan ng Ama.”
Sinulat ni Loriza Bautista
“LUMAKI KAMI SA LABAS ng Iglesia. Bukod dito, hindi relihiyoso ang aking mga magulang noon. Pero, dahil sa mga programa ng Iglesia sa telebisyon, gaya ng nasa Net 25, kalauna’y natanggap ng aking ama ang mga salita ng Diyos. Naunawaan niya na kahit gaano kabait at nagsisikap ang isang tao, at kahit gaano pa kaganda ang estado ng kaniyang buhay, hindi siya masasabing tunay na matagumpay kung wala siya sa tunay na paglilingkod sa Diyos,” pagsasalaysay ni Kapatid na Schievvie Mae Abanilla.
Dahil sa kagustuhang makapaglingkod sa Diyos, nagkusang umanib ang ama ni Kapatid na Schievvie sa Iglesia Ni Cristo, akay ang kaniyang sambahayan. Gayunman, hindi naging madali ang lahat. Ramdam nilang lumayo ang damdamin sa kanila ng ilan sa mga mahal nila sa buhay. “Inuusig nila kami. Pero pinili namin ang Iglesia. Hindi kami aalis sa Iglesia dahil dito lamang kami mayroong kapayapaang mula sa Panginoon.”
Sa kabila ng mga pag-uusig na naranasan ni Kapatid na Schievvie at ng kaniyang pamilya, patuloy silang nanghawak sa kanilang kahalalan. Sa panahong nakararanas sila ng mga suliranin sa buhay, aniya, “Dumadako kami sa gusaling sambahan upang doon idulog sa Diyos ang aming mga pangangailangan. Doon pumapayapa ang aming puso.”
Inilarawan ni Kapatid na Schievvie ang nararanasan nila sa buhay lalo na sa mga panahon ng pagsamba sa loob ng gusaling sambahan: “Ramdam na ramdam po namin ang pag-ibig ng Ama.”
Sa awa at tulong ng Panginoong Diyos, marami mang suliraning naranasan ang pamilya niya, namamalagi silang masisiglang maytungkulin sa Iglesia. Ang kaniyang ama, si Kapatid na Jason, ay isang diakono. Ang kaniyang ina, si Kapatid na Noring, ay isang diakonesa. Ang kaniyang kapatid na lalake na si Kapatid na Norman ay isang kalihim sa lokal at ang kanilang bunso na si Kapatid na Isabela ay maytungkulin sa Pagsamba Ng Kabataan (PNK). Si Kapatid na Schievvie naman ay mang-aawit at kalihim ng Ilaw ng Kaligtasan. Sila ay nakatala sa Lokal ng Roxas, Distrito Eklesiastiko ng Isabela West.
Pahayag ni Kapatid na Schievvie, “Kahit ano pa ang mangyari, pipiliin namin ang Iglesia. Gaya nga ng ating inaawit, mawala na ang lahat sa atin, huwag lang ang pag-ibig ng Ama. Sa harap ng mga pagsubok, patuloy kaming sasampalataya na inihahanda lamang tayo ng Panginoon sa pagtanggap ng biyayang darating.”
Ecclesiastical District of Northern Midwest
Written by Leslie Ann Esguerra
THIRTY YEARS OF BLESSINGS. Such is what the Ecclesiastical District of Northern Midwest has experienced. And they continue to experience abundant blessings, which is a testament to God’s unwavering promise to His people. Starting with 11 local congregations in June 1991, the district now has 38 local congregations, group worship services, and extensions. With God’s love and help, the Church continues to grow in this part of the world.
Even though things have not been easy in life, Church members have always stood their ground, for they have been constantly reminded of God’s words taught by the Executive Minister. They also continue experiencing God’s help in their lives. Sister Ariel Cabardo, an officer in the Local Congregation of Bloomingdale, expressed, “Our parents set an example for us based on what they learned from the Church Administration when this district started. They have handed down their activeness to us.”
Sister Ariel is very thankful to her parents, for they raised her in a Christian way of life. Although she was also exposed to the culture of the world, as all people are, she was able to remain abiding by God’s words, active in her Church duty. For that reason, Sister Ariel has been able to live full of hope, even amid the pandemic.
According to her, although she also experiences various problems, she can always overcome them through God’s help. And so, she expressed, “We will continue to inspire the next generation and teach them to be active in their Church membership as well, so they can also continue to experience God’s help in their lives, as they reach the next milestone anniversary of our district.”
Written by Dennese Ducut
BEFORE THE ESTABLISHMENT of the Local Congregation of Salinas, the brethren there had to travel to the Local Congregation of San Francisco to fulfill their duty of worshiping God. Brother Robert Badanguio, the first head deacon in the Salinas Congregation, still vividly remembers their experiences 50 years ago. He shared, “It was challenging because we had to travel far, more than 100 miles one-way, to get to San Francisco every time we fulfilled our duties and attended the worship services. Still, we pushed through because we truly wanted to worship God.”
Other households of brethren in Salinas were in more or less similar situation then. Although they were few, they never gave up on hoping to have a place of worship that is nearer to their homes. “We held devotional prayers,” said Brother Robert. Through God’s help, the Local Congregation of Salinas was eventually established. Brother Robert offered his home as their first place of worship.
Later on, the brethren found a place of worship, which the Church purchased, enabling the local congregation to flourish and grow even more. Moreover, the brethren constantly participated in the work of propagation.
Brother Robert said, “Looking back at the local congregation’s history, we truly faced many difficulties. Still, we were able to carry on in performing our duties because God blessed us in so many ways.”
As their local congregation celebrates its 50th anniversary, Brother Robert expressed, “I am blessed to have witnessed the growth of our local congregation. And I am always thankful to the Father because He has never forsaken us, even now during this pandemic. My family and I are safe, thanks to Him, a manifestation indeed that the Lord God blesses His people who constantly obey Him.”
Written by Mistie Inocencio
SISTER CYNTHIA GUILLERMO, a head secretary, knows full well the requirements of her profession. “My job as a nurse is regarded absolutely essential during this pandemic. We are in the frontlines of battling the disease.” For such reason, Sister Cynthia has been enduring long hours of overcrowding of patients, which resulted in many nights of extensive work for more than a year now.
Nonetheless, despite the exhaustion Sister Cynthia gets from her work, she thankfully expressed, “I never missed a single worship service.” Fulfilling her duty as an officer in the Church is always the top priority for her. According to her, being tired from her job is never an excuse for not fulfilling her Church duty. When asked where she gets the strength, she expressed, “You can get the strength from the worship service.” According to her, the words of God and the inspiration she receives every time she fulfills her duty fuels her to overcome all obstacles she faces. She said, “We know and truly feel that we have God to strengthen and guide us. We hold on to His promises.”
Sister Cynthia is only one example of the many brethren who never let go of their divine election, even against overwhelming odds. Truthfully, members of the Church Of Christ will never give up no matter the trials, for they are determined to make it to God’s promised land.
Guadalupe, Agusan del Sur
Written by Eleonor Arsenio
AT 73, Sister Rosita Ybañez still holds on unwaveringly to her duty as a Church officer in the Local Congregation of Guadalupe, Agusan del Sur. Although currently experiencing restrictions due to the current pandemic, she remains hopeful that one day, she will be able to fulfill her duty once more inside the house of worship as a deaconess, which she has been embracing for 37 years.
Having learned from her experiences, she said, “This situation where members of the Church face hindrances in fulfilling their obligations to God is not a new thing.” Recalling her past experiences, she said, “Actually, we have been facing hindrances ever since we joined the Church—persecutions, calamities, armed conflicts, and difficult situations. Yet here we are, able to hold on to our duties. So, this current pandemic really isn’t something to be surprised and get depressed about.”
According to Sister Rosita, she has experienced far more dangerous situations before. “Back in the 80s, armed conflicts between the rebels and the government forces were rampant here in Agusan del Sur. There was even a time when we were advised to avoid going out of our homes if possible because we could end up getting caught in the crossfire,” she recalled.
“But, we never stopped worshiping God. We were able to worship Him because He guides us, so we could continue our services to Him. The situation is the same today. There is a pandemic, but this cannot hinder us from worshiping God because He is also the One Who helps us.”
Sister Rosita shared that she is very thankful to the Executive Minister for establishing household worship services and utilizing the latest technology for the welfare of the Church. Getting inspiration from worship services officiated by the Executive Minister, she said, “Yes, I am not getting any younger. But, my fervor to serve the Lord is only growing stronger. I know that our sacrifices as members of the Church will never be in vain. And so, I promise to hold on to my duty until the end.”
Written by Marilou Francisco
IN 2016, Sister Rosario and Brother Warlie Natividad lost their only daughter. Joy, 39 years old then, was single, living alone in Shanghai, China, and working as a performing artist. She succumbed to a heart attack. From Germany, Brother Warlie and Sister Rosario immediately flew to China to arrange their daughter’s funeral. After all the necessary arrangements and paperwork had been made, the couple flew to the Philippines and stayed there only for one day—to bury their daughter. They had to leave the Philippines the following day and be back in Germany to perform their duties as deacon and deaconess for the Church’s annual thanksgiving.
A question that is often asked to the couple is, “How did you manage to cope with the heartbreaking tragedy?” Sister Rosario would always answer, “God is the Giver of life, and He can take it back from us any time. The life we have is not our own … And so was my daughter’s life. When people ask us how we seemed to have easily coped with the loss of our daughter, one of my quick answers is, ‘We need to do our duties both in times of happiness and sadness, that means at all times, regardless’.”
Indeed, up to now, at 80 years old, Sister Rosario remains fulfilling her duty as a deaconess. She might have experienced many painful and challenging situations, yet, she never lost hope, for she has always placed her hope in God. “We did, and we always do bring our worries, pains, and troubles to God through prayers, as we have been taught,” she said. A great motivation for her to continue to persevere in fulfilling her duties, she said, “We may have lost our daughter. However, my husband and I just became even stronger in dedicating ourselves to serving God. Moreover, we still have the greatest wealth that anyone could ever have—our membership in the Church Of Christ, our citizenship in heaven.”
Surrey, British Columbia
Written by Brian Ramirez
UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLICAL TRUTH that the world will not get any better as its terrible end looms ever nearer, what Church Of Christ members yearn for are not the things of this world but the fulfillment of God’s promises. Fueled by that inspiration, they are always eager to go to the house of worship and fulfill their obligation to worship and glorify His name.
Expressing how he values his duties inside the house of worship, Brother Elton Calipes said, “The house of worship is a place where I feel so calm and joyful whenever I fulfill my duty.” He also has his share of worries, yet he never misses attending the worship services. He added, “I feel happy inside the house of worship. Not only can I serve God but I can also call to Him and express my concerns through prayer.” Sister Tamar Dela Cruz recounted, “I lost a loved one. For some time in my life, I felt so lonely and sad. But I overcame that, for God helped me and gave me the strength to carry on as I have never forsaken serving Him.”
Indeed, whenever Church members fulfill their duties, especially inside the house of worship, they are able to experience God’s help in so many ways. Moreover, God gives them the strength they need to forge ahead to receive what they strive for the most—God’s promised salvation.
Sinulat ni Kollene Faye Lago
“TAONG 1992 NOONG IPINANGANAK ang aming panganay. Sa araw na iyon ng lubhang kagalakan, hindi namin inaasahang makararamdam din kami ng lubhang kalungkutan. Nalaman naming may sakit ang aming panganay—impeksyon sa dugo o sepsis. Kinailangan siyang salinan ng dugo na type AB, na sa panahong iyon ay napakahirap hanapin,” pahayag ni Kapatid na Roberto Cepeda, pangulong diakono sa Lokal ng Syquia.
Pagkalipas ng 16 araw, nangyari ang hindi inaasahan—pumanaw ang kaniyang anak. Bagaman nalulungkot at nabibigatan, nagpakatatag si Kapatid na Roberto. Siya at ang kaniyang maybahay ay lalong nagtalaga sa pagtupad ng tungkulin. Pahayag niya, “Sa tuwing tumutupad kami ng tungkulin, dama ko na iniibsan ng Panginoong Diyos ang aming dalahin. Siya ang umaaliw sa amin.”
Ipinagpatuloy rin nina Kapatid na Roberto at ng kaniyang maybahay ang pagpapanata sa Panginoong Diyos. At Kaniya silang dininig. Pahayag ni Kapatid na Roberto, “Pagkalipas ng apat na taon, biniyayaan kami ng anak na lalaki na ngayon ay isa nang ministro sa Iglesia. Bukod sa kaniya, nagkaroon pa kami ng dalawa pang anak, isang lalake at isang babae.”
Marami mang naranasang suliranin, hindi nagbago ang pagtitiwala nina Kapatid na Roberto sa Diyos. Pahayag niya, “Tunay na wala pong imposible sa Diyos na makapangyarihan sa lahat. Inihabilin po namin sa Kaniya ang aming buhay, at hindi po Niya kami pinabayaan. Ibinigay Niya ang aming mga pangangailangan, lalo na ang pangangailangang espirituwal sa pamamagitan ng Pamamahala. Kaya, patuloy kaming susunod sa Kaniyang mga aral at magpapasakop sa lider na inilagay Niya sa Iglesia.”