WHEN THEY FEEL life’s difficulties taking their toll on them, members of the Church Of Christ all the more put their hope in God, for when they are weak, they are truly strong, because their strength comes from Him. Indeed, God’s loving-kindness and mercy for His people in these last days are more than enough reason for them to remain zealous in serving Him.
This conviction of the faithful had once again been reinforced by the words of God taught by the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, during the worship service he officiated on March 27, 2021.
From the host site in the Pilar Manalo-Danao (PMD) Multimedia Center at the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) Central Office Complex in Quezon City, Philippines, Brother Eduardo Manalo’s preaching was streamed live to various local congregations and ecclesiastical districts in different parts of the world that were celebrating their respective milestone anniversaries in March.
Reflecting the biblical lesson taught by the Executive Minister, the following inspiring stories of some brethren who attended the worship service show that God never abandons His people for their strong devotion to and firm hope in Him.
Written by Cleofe Ariola
It has been 25 years since the official return of the true Church Of Christ to its original home in Jerusalem, Israel in 1996. Although the brethren there have been facing different hurdles in life, God continues to protect and take care of His people in these last days who put their complete trust and hope in Him.
Among them is Sister Mary Ann Pascual, a stay-in caregiver in a nursing home for the elderly. She took care of an 88-year-old man with diabetes and who was insulin-dependent. Aside from having to assist her patient in his medical and personal necessities, she also had to do household chores.
This daily routine of six years for Sister Mary Ann unexpectedly changed when what she feared about Covid-19 became a reality for her.
“One day, my employer and I felt sick. We felt the symptoms of the virus that we heard from the news like diarrhea, loss of appetite, fever, and body malaise,” she recalled.
She and her employer decided to get tested for Covid-19. “I feared that I would be infected by the virus. Getting sick and not being able to work means I would not be able to provide for my family back in the Philippines,” she said.
After a few days of waiting, the result came out that her employer was positive of the virus. He was then hospitalized, while Sister Mary Ann remained in quarantine at home.
Terrified about the news, Sister Mary Ann couldn’t help but to be worried about the worst-case scenario. “If I also get sick, I would not be with my family and I would be just by myself. It was quite traumatic for me, feeling helpless and anxious about what would happen next,” she added.
However, as a true servant of God, Sister Mary Ann drew strength from the One Who can truly help her: “My only protection from the virus was my prayers to our Almighty Father. I knelt and held my devotional prayers every day and fervently sought the help of God. I pleaded with Him not to leave me but to shield me from this pandemic, and to never forsake me in those moments.”
She completely overcame her loneliness and fear through the words of God that was taught by the Church Administration. Just like what the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo Manalo, always reminds the brethren during worship services, true Christians have the true God and there is nothing impossible with Him.
Therefore, whenever Sister Mary Ann was on the verge of breaking down, she said, “I would always remind myself that God will not abandon me and that I must always have faith in what God can do for me.” Sister Mary Ann can attest that God did not forsake her because when she took her Covid-19 test again, the result was still negative. “Amid the fears and worries I encountered, I remained strong through the help of God,” she said.
Meanwhile, when she lost her job, she thought that it would be easy for her to look for another employer. But it became difficult for her because, at that time, the entire country implemented a total lockdown.
Her prayers to God were constant. She shared, “After three months of applying for work, I was offered a permanent job near the place of worship and so, I accepted it.” By God’s grace, Sister Mary Ann continues to actively perform her God-given duty as a deaconess. Together with the rest of the brethren in Jerusalem Local Congregation, they promise to remain hopeful and unmoved amidst distressing times to be certain of the promised salvation on the nearing Judgment Day.
Written by Armand dela Cruz
In March 2020, California instituted a sudden statewide lockdown of public buildings due to the pandemic, shutting all public schools and transitioning students to distance learning.
One of those greatly affected were the siblings Sister Cheneill Marcia, a 15-year-old ninth-grader, and Brother Olen, an 11-year-old sixth-grader, both attending in one of the schools in Stockton that were forced to send their students home for the new educational setting.
While children have to incorporate this new system into their daily lives, parents have to deal with the psychological impacts on their children because of the absence of their daily routines and the social environment they used to have.
But for Church Of Christ households, dealing with unprecedented circumstances do not dampen their enthusiasm in serving God. Sister Cheneill and Brother Olen’s parents, Brother Oneill and Sister Cherry, are able to cope with the situation while leading their family in the Christian way of life.
Sister Cherry shared, “Due to the lockdown, my husband’s work hours had changed which forced me to work from home. I had the responsibility of monitoring my children’s progress while maintaining my work productivity.”
Having to work and supervise their children’s schooling at home at the same time is physically and mentally exhausting for both parents. “But, I do not want my children to worry because I know they are also experiencing difficulty because of their new schooling environment,” Sister Cherry said. “Our role as parents is not only to provide for our family but to also be a role model to our children on how a faithful servant of God reacts under extraordinary circumstances.”
Constantly receiving God’s words through the Church Administration, the Marcia household continues to perform their Church duties. Both children are choir members in the Children’s Worship Service (CWS), Sister Cherry is an assistant choir leader, and Brother Oneill is a deacon. “We want to demonstrate to our children that, as Church officers, if we make God and our duties our priority no matter how difficult the circumstances may be, He will listen to our prayers and will comfort us in times of distress,” Brother Oneill said.
“I knew that if I had lost hope, it would be equivalent to relinquishing my Church membership. But because we are in the true nation of God, we will never be forsaken,” he added.
Now that schools will be reopening in August, they fear that their children might catch the virus, but Sister Cherry said with conviction: “I continually pray to God to keep my family safe from sickness and harm. I remind my children to pray constantly because God performs miracles under extraordinary circumstances.”
Both children agreed, “We love our membership and duties in the Church. A valuable lesson we learned from our parents is to be prayerful any time of the day.”
Written by Rosal Mary Ann Ramac
Imagine doing your routine where sunlight only shows up not more than six hours, not to mention a chilling temperature of -40 to -65 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a typical day during winter season that lasts for eight to nine months for the residents of Alaska, specifically in the interior region where the Fairbanks Local Congregation, Alaska Ecclesiastical District is situated.
Given its geographic location, living in Alaska is not without challenges. “It is a beautiful state, full of wildlife and wilderness. Witnessing the northern lights [aurora borealis] is also an amazing experience,” said Sister Junella del Rosario, a finance officer. “However, living in an over six months’ dark winter days is depressing.”
According to studies, short existence of daylight for many months creates a shift in mood and disposition, hence, many suffer from anxiety and depression. Worse, if symptoms become more severe, others tend to commit suicide.
That is why for Sister Marlene Wagaman, one of the pioneer members of Fairbanks Congregation and currently an officer in the Finance Department of the North Pole Group Worship Service (GWS), having a right mindset helps her cope with the extreme weather condition and difficult situations. “Prayers are a big part of my everyday life. I always pray before I leave the house for work and pray again when I reach home,” she said.
As a retired high school math teacher living in North Pole, Alaska, Sister Marlene always places God first in any decision she makes in her life. “I always leave everything up to Him because He knows what is best for me. I am happy and content with what I have because I put God first in my life. I achieve this disposition in life by following His commands,” she said.
When the pandemic came, Sister Junella and her family were found in yet another depressing situation in their lives: “My husband and I went through financial hardship. He lost many clients from our cleaning business, I was laid off, and my son got sick.”
However, their faith in God, strengthened by their constant attendance in the worship services, is what motivates them to endure the hardships. “This experience made us more inspired because the more I am weak, the more I get stronger having the faith in God. We conduct our devotional prayers, help in propagation activities, follow all of God’s commands, and are more active in the Church. We felt His guidance and love and got through those challenges.”
Moreover, Sister Junella emphasized how important it was to be hopeful even when being hit by a difficult ordeal: “We are the true children of God. He will not forsake us. He is merciful and He keeps His promises as long as we follow His commandments. What are happening in these times are all written in the Bible. We need to have faith and we should not lose hope. In the end, we will all be together in the promised land with Him.”
Written by Michael Angelo Gallego
When a brother in the Church heeds the call of our Lord God to enter the holy ministry and to be of help to the Church Administration, he must be prepared to sacrifice anything he holds dear and accept the divine calling wholeheartedly—without regrets—for the spiritual welfare of the brethren.
Brother Joel Albert Eusebio, who used to work as a registered nurse in a skilled nursing facility for the elderly in Miami, Florida, USA, recalled what made him decide to join the ministry. “My motivation is to be of assistance to the Church Administration,” he said.
In one of Brother Eduardo Manalo’s pastoral visitations livestreamed to their local congregation, he made a call to all the eligible men to help in the work of salvation by joining the holy ministry. “That call to action inspired me to make the decision to join the ministry,” Brother Joel declared.
Although he already had a stable job, he did not regret his decision because for him, he said, “I did not see me leaving my professional career as a loss. Rather, I saw it as a chance for me to give back to God for all the blessings and good things He has done for me and my family.”
Thus, even though he also experiences trials, he is motivated to continue what he had started. “I wanted to dedicate my entire life to serving God. There isn’t anything material in this world that could compare to the blessing of being part of the holy ministry,” he shared.
Brother Joel currently performs his ministerial functions and is also assigned in one of the departments in the Central Office. With God’s mercy, he was able to witness the preaching of God’s words led by Brother Eduardo Manalo through videoconferencing.
The Executive Minister stressed that ministers and ministerial workers should preach the words of God with conviction, firm faith, and genuine love. Now, more than ever, the brethren need spiritual strength in facing great difficulties, that were made worse by the pandemic, for them to hold on to their membership.
“The Church Administration always reminds us to hope in the Almighty Father and wait expectantly for Him. If we constantly prioritize our duties to God, He will be delighted with us. Then, we will be certain that God will save and rescue us. We have plenty of reasons to continue praising Him,” said Brother Alex Obligado Jr., a ministerial worker currently assigned in the Ecclesiastical District of Metro Manila East who was also able to witness the preaching of the Executive Minister. “This is one of the biblical truths that we will teach the brethren under our care, especially during worship services. We will do our best to do it with conviction, faith, and love.”