TO HELP THEM keep going until they reach their ultimate goal—to attain the everlasting life in the Holy City—despite the hurdles that confront them, Church Of Christ members constantly receive guidance and inspiration through God’s words written in the Bible that the Executive Minister constantly teaches them. Brother Eduardo V. Manalo once again delivered to them God’s message of hope when he officiated at a worship service in the Central Temple in Quezon City, Philippines on February 19, 2022.
The sacred and special occasion was attended and witnessed through videoconferencing by brethren from six local congregations whose respective houses of worship were dedicated to God as well as those from the 34 local congregations and one ecclesiastical district that commemorated their respective milestone anniversaries. Before the homily, Brother Arnel R. Canicosa led the opening prayer. Afterwards, Brother Bienvenido C. Santiago read a brief description of each of the new houses of worship, followed by designated ministers’ recitation of the prayer of dedication led by Brother Rene J. Panoncillo.
During his Bible-based sermon, Brother Eduardo Manalo enjoined the brethren to imitate and possess the faith of God’s early servants who, by faith, were able to surmount impossible situations because the Almighty provided them the means to do so. Brother Romer D. Galang led the prayer after the homily, after which Brother Eduardo Manalo said the benediction.
Here are some of the attendees’ recollections of their experiences on how the merciful God truly acts favorably toward His faithful servants who firmly trust in His power and devotedly uphold His laws.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
By Kathleen Arongay
Balancing school and work can be tough and overwhelming. In the US, a survey shows that “about half of all full-time college students have jobs outside of school” and “70% of college students are stressed about finances” (mhanational.org). While juggling tasks can be grueling, Sister Rosemaricel Ignacio, a mechanical engineering student and college office assistant, is able to manage it because of, she said, God’s help.
On top of her responsibilities as a working student, she still actively performs her duties in the Church. “Obedience to God will lead us to a better future,” she explained. “I always thank Him for helping me with my responsibilities in the Church and, at the same time, with my schooling.”
Over anything else, it is her duties in the Church that she prioritizes the most. “God always has a plan, and He is always there to help us with everything. We shouldn’t get stressed about anything because He’s there for us to lead us towards victories. No matter how hard it is, no matter how many tasks I have to juggle, I know that He’ll always be with me.” Currently, Sister Rosemaricel is an organist and assistant head secretary.
Fellow college student from the Local Congregation of Oklahoma City, Ecclesiastical District of South Central States, Sister Tianna Tillman, has the same view. “I feel so fulfilled when I’m performing my Church duties. No matter what may be going on at any point in my life or even just before the worship service, I’m always comforted and I feel better because it doesn’t matter how busy I get,” she said. Sister Tianna is a choir member and an officer in the congregation’s Children’s Worship Service (CWS), Light of Salvation (LOS), and KADIWA organization.
Four days before the congregation’s 20th anniversary, the brethren of Oklahoma City, including Sisters Rosemaricel and Tianna, were blessed to attend the livestreamed worship service officiated by the Executive Minister on February 19, 2022. “We should not worry about anything, but instead, we should be prayerful,” shared Sister Tianna. “This is a message I constantly have to remind myself of. But it’s also a commandment of God that has brought me so much peace when anxiety would have otherwise wreaked havoc on my mental health. As a Church member, having God by my side all the time is the most comforting thing.”
By Chiara Baldo
“He was in a vegetative state for almost six years before he passed away last May 2021. One thing I can say, if it were not for God’s fellowship and help in our lives, my daughter and I would not have been able to get through that ordeal,” said Sister Erlyn Galicia.
The story of the Israelite judge Gideon cited by the Executive Minister in teaching a vital lesson inspired her to be braver and to have complete faith and trust in God even in the face of extremely difficult circumstances. She recalled how Gideon, though the least important in his clan which in turn was the weakest in their tribe, was chosen by God to lead but a few hundred Israelite soldiers to fight against the Midianite army of hundred thousand besieging their country. With God’s guidance, Sister Erlyn learned, he patiently persevered and triumphed.
“The same will happen to us, if we would have firm faith in God, especially that we are encountering so many extraordinary circumstances in our time,” she said. Despite the numerous trials that she and her family faced, she holds on tightly to her membership and actively performs her duty as a choir member in the Local Congregation of Milan, Ecclesiastical District of Italy North.
“In times of great sorrow, I find true peace and happiness in worshiping God and Jesus Christ and in participating in all the activities launched by the Church Administration,” she said. Moreover, God continues giving her a source of joy and inspiration through her daughter, Sister Abigail. “Despite her young age, she’s growing up with strong faith and holy fear. She continues successfully in her studies, but, above all, in performing her duties in the Church,” said Sister Erlyn.
By Marilou Pagurayan
Reaching a quarter of a century of existence—and going stronger than ever—is another testimony of God’s love and guidance to the Church Of Christ in Angola, a country in southwest Africa. The Viana, Luanda Group Worship Service (GWS) in the Ecclesiastical District of Southern Africa was established on February 28, 1997. Nine days before its 25th anniversary, on February 19, 2022, the brethren were blessed to witness the worship service officiated by the Executive Minister via livestreaming.
Brother Gerardo Negocio, an Angolan national, regarded his being part of the momentous occasion as a great blessing from God, Who called him to be among His chosen servants from this part of the world. “I was introduced to the Church Of Christ when my friend invited me to attend a worship service in Viana. From there, I learned the importance of joining the Church,” he recalled. He then decided to pursue his membership because, according to him, “The preaching [in the Church Of Christ] is based on the Bible.” With the help of God, after completing the necessary requirements to become a full-fledged Church member, Brother Gerardo received the holy baptism in May 2016.
Recalling the lesson he learned from the preaching of Brother Eduardo Manalo about fully placing one’s trust in God, Brother Gerardo shared, “I believe that if God is always with me, I will receive the strength that I need to overcome any obstacle in life. So, I promise complete obedience to all the words of God that the Church Administration teaches us.”
Wanting others to receive also the precious gift he received from God when he became a member of the Church, Brother Gerardo strives to share the true Christian faith with his fellowmen. He said, “As taught by the Church Administration, I will continue participating in the intensive work of propagation. I will help others find the truth and have a true relationship with God.”
Sta. Barbara, Bulacan
By Mark Angel Prollo
Sister Norma Trinidad, a choir director in the Ecclesiastical District of Bulacan for the last 40 years, always finds a light of hope in God’s promises to His chosen ones despite challenging times. Expressing her firm determination, she said: “No matter what trials I face, I continue worshiping our Lord God because this is my primary duty to Him, and I feel His presence in the worship service that gives me strength to go on.”
This conviction resonated during the anniversary worship service of the Sta. Barbara Local Congregation’s 95th anniversary. In Brother Eduardo Manalo’s homily, the Church members were reminded of how God’s people can overcome great challenges in their life by fully trusting the Almighty Father.
Sister Norma’s unswerving loyalty to God is what she holds on to, especially during difficult times such as when she fell ill with diabetes and partially lost her eyesight. “Even when there were times I was having a hard time moving around, it did not stop me from performing my duties to God,” she shared. Asked what keeps her going, she answered, “It was all because of God’s help. I trust in His miracle through praying and the anointing of oil.”
As one of the elderly members in their congregation, Sister Norma shared, “I want to inspire the young members to uphold a Christian way of life until we reach Christ’s Second Advent. And, as what the Church Administration always reminds us, I also encourage them to prioritize the worship services.”
Through God’s wisdom taught by the Executive Minister, the brethren were filled with hope that should another set of tribulations come their way, they will certainly emerge victorious, just like how God unceasingly helps their congregation throughout the years. After 95 years, the congregation, which began with a few members and a humble chapel, now has thousands of faithful and an 850-seater house of worship, one of the most recognizable landmarks in the town of Baliwag.
San Pablo City, Laguna
By Shan Aleck Blanca
As they commemorated the 90th anniversary of their local congregation, the brethren in San Pablo City Congregation were blessed to attend the worship service officiated by Brother Eduardo Manalo through videoconferencing. Among those who felt their hope and courage rejuvenated was Sister Aida Esteban, a deaconess. She looks back on how she experienced miracles from God that taught her to fully trust in what He can do for His people.
Sister Aida was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in January 1990. Life became more arduous, especially because her children were still small at that time. Despite her situation, her faith remained unshaken, pinning her hope in God with her fervent prayers. “I didn’t lose hope. I promised that once I recover, I would continue with even more devotion to my Church duty,” Sister Aida shared. With God’s mercy, she was able to recover after almost a year.
Her battle with cancer did not stop there. After 30 years of being a cancer survivor, in May 2020, amid the pandemic, she faced a great hurdle that once again tested her faith, but this time with breast cancer. “I was also diabetic then,” she recalled. “And so, I thought, how could I survive the operation? But then, I entrusted everything to God. I said to myself that I could do it because I was able to overcome it before with the help of God.”
“We are in the true faith. Our God will help us overcome trials in life. Even if I face great hardship, I will never neglect my Church duty,” Sister Aida firmly said. Inspired by God’s words she learned during the worship service, she added, “I will continue being strong in faith so that whatever happens, I can firmly hold on to my calling.
Sinulat ni Sarah Jane Pangilinan
“Agosto 2021 nang magpositibo sa Covid-19 ang aking kapatid,” sabi ni Kapatid na Wilbert Bencito. Dahil nakatira silang mag-anak sa iisang compound, nagpasiya silang magpa-test. Sa pagkakataong iyon, kaba at takot ang kaniyang naramdaman, hindi para sa kaniyang sarili, kundi para sa kaniyang ina na bukod sa matanda na ay may sakit pa sa baga.
Makalipas ang ilang araw, dumating ang balitang kinatatakutan ni Kapatid na Wilbert: “Nahawa sa sakit na Covid-19 ang aking ina, kasama na ako at ang labintatlo pa [sa aming compound].” Bilang tunay na Cristiano, hindi nalimutan ni Kapatid na Wilbert ang unang-unang dapat gawin sa gitna ng kabagabagan—ang maglagak ng pagtitiwala sa Diyos.
“Nagtatag kami kaagad ng panata [para manalangin sa Diyos]. Hindi kasi namin alam kung ano ang maaaring mangyari,” sabi ni Kapatid na Marvin. “Kahit magkakabukod kami ng dako [ngunit] dahil may internet [kaya] naisagawa pa rin namin ang sama-samang paglapit sa Diyos.” Sa awa at tulong ng Ama, silang lahat ay gumaling sa sakit pagkatapos ng dalawang linggo.
Subalit, may pagsubok pang kinaharap si Kapatid na Wilbert. “Lalong humina ang resistensiya ng aking ina dulot ng Covid-19. Makalipas lang ang halos dalawang linggo, namayapa na si nanay,” malungkot niyang pahayag.
Sunud-sunod man ang mga pagsubok na dumating, nanindigan pa rin si Kapatid na Wilbert na ang lahat ng iyon ay kalooban ng Diyos. Kaya, nang marinig niya ang pagtuturo ng Tagapamahalang Pangkalahatan noong Pebrero 19, muling napatunayan ni Kapatid na Wilbert kung gaano kabuti ang Panginoong Diyos sa kaniyang pamilya sa kabila ng malungkot na pangyayari.
Pahayag ni Kapatid na Wilbert, “Tapat ang Diyos sa Kaniyang mga pangako na hindi Niya pababayaan ang mga lingkod Niyang taos-pusong nananalangin sa Kaniya. Sa halip na maging malungkot, kaming lahat na magkakapamilya ay lalong tumibay sa pananampalataya na anuman ang mangyari, mamamalagi kami sa paglilingkod.”
Lubos na pakikipagkaisa
Alaminos City, Pangasinan
Sinulat ni Rossana May Ico
Ang Hundred Islands ay matatagpuan sa Alaminos City, kanlurang bahagi ng Pangasinan. Dahil sa dinarayo ang lugar na ito, ang pangunahing kabuhayan ng mga residente ay nasa larangan ng turismo. Isa na rito si Kapatid na Marvin Esposo na pitong taon nang nangangasiwa ng kanilang souvenir shop.
“Wala man kaming kaalaman at kakayahang magpatakbo ng ganitong uri ng negosyo sa simula, sinikap naming mag-asawa na pag-aralan itong mabuti upang matugunan namin ang pang-araw-araw na pangangailangan, lalo na para sa paglilingkod sa Diyos,” wika ni Kapatid na Marvin. Sa sipag at tiyaga ng mag-asawa at, higit sa lahat, sa tulong ng Panginoong Diyos, ay umunlad at lumago ang kanilang negosyo.
Sa ngayon ay mayroon na silang maliit na grocery store at nakapagpundar ng van na nagagamit din sa kanilang negosyo. Nananalig sila na “Ang Diyos ang tumulong at gumawa ng paraan upang ipagkaloob ang aming mga ipinagpapanata. … Nadarama namin na Siya ang umaalalay sa amin.”
Sa kabila ng pagiging abala sa kaniyang kabuhayan, pangunahin pa rin kay Kapatid na Marvin ang pakikipagkaisa sa mga aktibidad sa loob ng Iglesia Ni Cristo at pagtupad ng kaniyang tungkulin. Siya ay pangulong diakono sa Lokal ng Lucap, isa sa 59 na lokal, bukod pa sa 18 extension, sa Distrito Eklesiastiko ng Alaminos City, Pangasinan na sumapit sa ika-55 taong pagkakatatag noong Pebrero 13.
Kinikilala ni Kapatid na Marvin na isang napakalaking biyaya na masaksihan niya ang pagtuturo ng Kapatid na Eduardo Manalo. “Lagi po akong susunod sa mga aral ng Panginoong Diyos, magpapakatatag, at mananalangin sa Kaniya na tulungan kami upang masapit namin ang hangganan,” buong paninindigang pahayag niya.
Tunay na yaman
Sinulat ni Kate Phebe Alahan
Bilang isa sa limang pinakamatatandang lokal ng Iglesia Ni Cristo, karamihan sa mga unang kaanib ng Lokal ng Buting ay nakadaupang-palad ang Sugo ng Diyos sa mga huling araw, ang Kapatid na Felix Y. Manalo. Isa na rito ang lola ni Kapatid na Levita “Levie” Tago, si Kapatid na Petronila Flores. Iminulat sina Kapatid na Levie ng kanilang lola sa tunay na pananampalataya na tinaglay nito bunga ng pangangaral sa kanila noon ng Sugo.
Kaya, para kay Kapatid na Levie, maytungkulin sa pananalapi sa lokal, ang tunay na pananampalataya ang siyang pinakamahalagang kayamanan na isinalin ng kaniyang lola hanggang sa kanilang henerasyon. Kahit matagal nang namayapa ang kaniyang lola, namamalaging buhay pa rin kay Kapatid na Levie ang kaniyang ibinahagi—na ang Iglesia Ni Cristo ay tunay na sa Diyos, kaya mahalagang manatili sila rito hanggang matamo ang buhay na walang hanggan.
Ang ganitong pagpapahalaga sa kahalalan ang patuloy na ipinananawagan ng kasalukuyang Tagapamahalang Pangkalahatan, ang Kapatid na Eduardo Manalo, sa lahat ng kaanib ng Iglesia upang makatiyak sila ng kaligtasan. Kaya, ngayong mayroon nang sariling pamilya si Kapatid na Levie, lagi niyang ipinapaalaala sa kaniyang pamilya na bagaman “May darating pang mas mabibigat na pagsubok pero hinding-hindi kami bibitiw, kundi lagi kaming mananalangin sa Ama.”
Sa pagsapit ng Lokal ng Buting sa ika-107 taong anibersaryo nito, muling nakabiyaya ang sambahayan ni Kapatid na Levie sa pagtuturo ng mga salita ng Diyos sa pagsambang pinangasiwaan ng Kapatid na Eduardo Manalo. Pagbabahagi ni Kapatid na Levie, “Sa hirap ng buhay ngayon, idagdag pa ang pandemya, natutuhan kong lalong dapat maging matatag. Ang lahat ng hirap na ating nararanasan ngayon, pagkakataon ito upang lalong maging matibay sa pananampalataya sapagkat napakalapit na ng Araw ng Paghuhukom.”