PEOPLE USUALLY MAKE PLANS when they want to achieve something in life, such as securing a bright future for themselves and their loved ones. And to make sure that everything will go as planned, they strive to stick to whatever they have firmly decided on. However, as humans have limitations, their well-thought-out and carefully executed plans still meet unavoidable challenges that may result in failures.
However, when God is the One Who lays out plans for the good of His chosen people, no matter what happens, He will surely bring them to fruition.
Just a few days after Typhoon Karding (International name: Noru) hit Bataan, which was placed under Signal No. 2 when the storm struck the province, still, the members of the Church Of Christ flocked to the newly constructed house of worship of the Local Congregation of Abucay, Ecclesiastical District of Bataan. During the preaching of Brother Eduardo V. Manalo at the dedication worship service on September 30, 2022, he emphasized what God has declared in the Bible—God has good plans for His people, plans for their peace and security, as well as a good future. That is why the Executive Minister always exhorts members of the Church Of Christ to completely entrust themselves to God.
The 1,200-seater house of worship is currently the largest in the ecclesiastical district. Also, on the said occasion, brethren were able to witness through livestreaming the rededication to God of the house of worship of the Local Congregation of National City, Ecclesiastical District of San Diego County, after the edifice underwent a major renovation aimed at increasing its seating capacity.
Bataan District’s supervising minister, Brother Isaias D. Antinew, led the opening prayer. Then, Brother Bienvenido C. Santiago read the profile of the houses of worship to be dedicated, followed by Brother Rene J. Panoncillo leading the ministers assigned to say the prayer for the dedication. As he began his homily, Brother Eduardo Manalo greeted the local congregations celebrating their respective milestone anniversaries, and the district of Bataan for its 90th anniversary. After the preaching of the Bible-based lesson by the Executive Minister, Brother Romer D. Galang led the prayer, then Brother Eduardo Manalo said the benediction.
The following are stories of some of the brethren who witnessed how God’s plans were fulfilled in their lives:
Staying inspired no matter what
By Chelsea Estrella
During the preaching of the Executive Minister, he referred to God’s servants as the “most blessed people” as what await them are God’s best plans. So, he encouraged the brethren to remain inspired, determined, and patient despite the persecutions and ordeals that they encounter in this world, for nothing compares to the promise of peaceful dwelling in the Holy City.
While attentively listening to the preaching of the Executive Minister, the congregants pondered on how God proves His mercy in their lives. Brother Bernardo Mangawang, endearingly called “Tatay Ben,” has understood how important the house of worship is in his life.
Being the head deacon for 33 years, Tatay Ben witnessed how the brethren in the congregation have high regard for the house of worship. “The brethren here are not wealthy in terms of material possessions. But they are rich in faith,” he said. Most of the brethren in Abucay get their livelihood from farming and fishing. Although most do not have material possessions in abundance, they are dedicated to the worship services and devotional prayers conducted in the house of worship where they cast their concerns and worries to God.
Tatay Ben himself has experienced a great deal of troubles and challenges that turned out to strengthen his faith even more. In 1981, he was diagnosed with a gallstone that required an operation. He firmly believed that because he held devotional prayers and completely put his trust in the Lord God, he was eventually healed.
He was diagnosed with Stage 2 colon cancer. And in December 2021, he underwent a surgical operation. His family stayed with him at the hospital where they welcomed the new year. They continued holding their devotional prayers in at the hospital, as well as the household worship services.
“When we finally left the hospital, I continued praying to God to help me get through the most serious disease I had,” he said. As always, God stayed true to His promises, and Tatay Ben is now in a better condition, continuously fulfilling his divine duties even while having a colostomy bag and a catheter attached to him.
Just as what Brother Eduardo Manalo reiterated, God’s faithful servants are fully assured of hope and extraordinary strength until the end. So, they stay inspired and patient, just as how the members of the Abucay Congregation waited patiently for the great blessing of a new house of worship. “We vow to maintain the cleanliness and orderliness of the compound, protect the house of worship, and love this great blessing from the Lord,” he said.
In the house of worship, Tatay Ben and all the other brethren in Abucay hear the words of God and hold their devotional prayers, which keep them inspired no matter how hard life is and no matter what troubles they experience.
God’s love across generations
Ecclesiastical District of San Diego County, California
By Imelda Ladrillono
The second oldest city in San Diego County, National City was established in the late 1800s when the advancements in transportation were beginning to take root. Having one of the first terminal stations of the transcontinental railroad in the Pacific Coast, the city’s growth resulted in one of the largest lands and economic booms in the history of California. Additionally, the establishment of the United States naval military bases in the area paved the way for the influx of Filipino migrants serving in the military, among whom were some of the pioneering Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) members in National City.
The Local Congregation of National City was established on March 7, 1970. Another historical milestone was reached when the first Iglesia Ni Cristo house of worship in California was built from the ground up in 1984, and was dedicated to God on June 29, 1985. In 2022, with the edifice now almost four decades old, the Church Administration approved the renovation of the house of worship so it will remain fit for their sacred activities.
As the planned rededication worship service approached, the renovation faced many challenges. The entire Ecclesiastical District of San Diego County united earnestly in daily devotional prayers to God, asking for His miraculous grace. Brethren of all ages were at the chapel daily, volunteering to help in any way in the renovation of the house of worship.
Brother Robert Papa, one of the head deacons and son of one of the pioneer members of the congregation, recalls the many answered prayers he has uttered in this house of worship and how the chapel brings hope to all the brethren and the community. He said, “With everything that goes on in life, we come here regularly. It just gives us the hope that we need to continue on. God gave us a [chapel] where we pray to Him. It is here where the Church Administration teaches us timely lessons. Especially when we’re feeling down, but whenever we hear the words of God, they strengthen us once more. That’s why the house of worship is important for us because it is here where we receive the spiritual blessings we need to continue on in this life and not lose hope.” The brethren are united with this same sentiment.
On September 29, 2022 (September 30 in the Philippines), even amidst all the turmoil and unrest in the world, the rededication to God of this house of worship in National City pushed through. It was simultaneously dedicated to God with the Local Congregation of Abucay in Bataan, Philippines, in the worship service led by Brother Eduardo Manalo through livestreaming. In his homily, the Executive Minister reminded the Church members to always remember the works of wonder that God has performed for His people and that His plan for them is always for their good. The rededication of this house of worship is testament to God’s never-ending grace to His people.
Laging magtiwala sa pangako ng Ama
Tanza, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental
Sinulat ni Jethro Depalobos
Isa sa mga dumalo sa pagsambang pinangunahan ng Namamahala sa Iglesia ay si Kapatid na Cyrill Deocampo, isang diakonesa at maytungkulin sa pananalapi sa Lokal ng Tanza. Sa kabila ng mga naranasan ni Kapatid na Cyrill, siya ay nanatili pa rin sa masiglang pagsunod. “Dumating ang kahirapan, sakuna, at pag-uusig ngunit hindi kami nasiraan ng loob. Patuloy kaming nananalig sa Panginoong Diyos na Siya ang magpapalakas sa bawat isa sa amin,” wika niya.
Ang taong 1998 ay hindi malilimutan kailanman ni Kapatid na Cyrill. Ito ang taon kung kailan pinagpahinga ng Diyos ang kaniyang asawa. “Noong mga panahong iyon ay labis akong nalungkot. Nawalan ako ng karamay at katuwang sa pagpapalaki sa mga anak namin,” sabi pa niya. Noong namatay ang asawa niya ay maliliit pa ang kaniyang mga anak: sampung taong-gulang ang panganay; pitong taon ang pangalawa; at ang bunso naman ay apat na taon.
Ngunit sa kabila nito ay hindi pinanawan ng pag-asa si Kapatid na Cyrill dahil inilagak niya ang kaniyang buong pagtitiwala at pananalig sa Ama. Pahayag niya, “Para makayanan ko ang mga problema at suliranin, pumupunta ako sa kapilya tuwing gabi at nagpapanata. Hinihiling ko sa Ama na sana ako ay tulungan, gabayan, at bigyan pa Niya ng lakas upang magamit ko ito sa pagtataguyod sa mga anak ko, at lalo na sa paglilingkod sa Kaniya.”
Dahil sa ganitong pananaw ni Kapatid na Cyrill, hindi kailanman sumagi sa isip niya na tumigil sa pagtupad ng tungkulin (siya ay isang mang-aawit nang mga panahong iyon). “Sa gitna ng ganoong kahirapan at kabagabagan, patuloy akong nanalig at nagtiwala sa pangako ng Ama sa mga nananatili sa pagtupad ng kanilang tungkulin anuman ang sumapit,” wika ni Kapatid na Cyrill. Dahil sa pagsampalataya niya sa magagawa ng Ama sa buhay niya, natupad ang kaniyang mga kahilingan para sa kaniya at sa kaniyang sambahayan.