Pastoral Visit of the Executive Minister: Bangkok, Thailand
January 13, 2019
OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS (OFWs) endure being away from their families with the hope of earning to improve their living condition—not only for themselves, but also for their respective families in the Philippines.
This is true even with Iglesia Ni Cristo members, like Sister Susan Pascua. “In 2004, I decided to work in Vietnam so I could provide the daily needs of my children back home as well as support their studies,” she recalled.
Meanwhile, Brother Marvin Pariñas and his family have been living in Thailand for 14 years now. “We took the chance of coming here because I learned that Thailand has a high demand for engineers,” he said. He has been working as an engineer for 22 years now. “Though living here is difficult because of the different culture and environment, people here are easy to work with because they respect diversity,” he added. He is currently a head deacon in the Local Congregation of Rangsit, Ecclesiastical District of Thailand.
For them and fellow OFWs who are members of the Church Of Christ, such trials serve as opportunities that bring them closer to the Almighty Father. Being away from one’s family causes emotional hardships such as loneliness. “I miss my parents. I long to be with them, especially when they’re sick. Whatever hardships I experience as an OFW, I always pray to our Almighty God,” Sister Stephanie Lorraine Figueroa said. “If I face struggles, I always pray for guidance wherever I am, and most especially during the worship service,” she added.
For his part, Brother Enrico Dagale a deacon and Children’s Worship Service teacher in the Local Congregation of Rangsit said: “I feel so blessed for having the right to call on our Lord God in times of need, especially the spiritual blessings I need in life.”
On January 13, 2019, the Executive Minister of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ), Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, officiated at the special worship service held at the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. One of the reasons he constantly visits the brethren in various ecclesiastical districts all over the world is to strengthen them in the faith through the preaching of God’s words.
In his homily, Brother Eduardo Manalo emphasized the biblical teaching that God’s children should fully trust and have faith in Him because He hears their prayers and He will protect them from harm. “Attending the worship service is a great blessing for me. I am reminded to be more zealous in our faith to our Almighty God and to constantly pray,” said Sister Gracelia Julaton, a choir member in the Local Congregation of Bangkok.
“The important lesson I’ve learned from the worship service is to continue in following God’s commands and to always entrust everything to Him. God is always there to provide solutions to whatever problems we face as long as we always obey His commands,” said Sister Susan, a deaconess from the Local Congregation of Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam.
One of God’s commandments that members should fully obey is to propagate His words. “I invited my friends to come with me today because I also want them to hear the truth written in the Bible,” said Sister Noralyn Dangan, a deaconess from the Local Congregation of Bangkok. “With God’s grace, they were able to attend the worship service and they expressed their willingness to continue listening to God’s words. I pray that God will touch their hearts,” she added.
“I share my faith through Pasugo: God’s Message magazines and the Church’s online programs, which are a big help in the works of propagation,” said Sister Daisy Venegas, a choir leader from Sathorn Group Worship Service. “I always include the sharing of faith in my devotional prayers, that is why despite being refused by my co-workers and friends in the past, I was still able to bring them to listen to the teachings taught in the Church Of Christ,” said Sister Stephanie, a finance officer from the Local Congregation of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Some guests remarked about the orderliness of the gathering. “I noticed the solemnity of the worship service which I have not experienced in my present religion. I also did not see anyone using their phones or talking to each other during the service,” Ms. Charlene Ravina, an OFW, said. One of the guests, president of Association of Filipinos in Thailand (AFT), Ms. Maria Foz, observed that what Brother Eduardo V. Manalo preached was “really from the Bible” and so, she concluded, “He is one of God’s instruments for everyone to be united regardless of religion.” Enlightened by what the Executive Minister taught, Ms. Lyisa Catacataca, an OFW from Bangkhae, Thailand shared what she learned from the Bible-based lesson: “I just learned the difference between Jesus Christ and God.” Ms. Maria and Lyisa both decided to continue listening to God’s words and are now enlisted as doctrinal instructees in the Church.
Brother Eduardo Manalo also taught that Church members must value their election because it is a calling from God. Whatever situation they are in and wherever they are in the world, they ought to cherish and hold on to their election for as long as they live. “I have learned from the sermon to be mature in the faith and to embrace our membership by living according to all of God’s commandments,” said Sister Luisa Cabug-us, a choir member and secretary from the Local Congregation of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. “My membership in the Church Of Christ gives me peace in my life. Here, I feel the true relief from my burdens every time I attend worship services to God which I did not feel in my former religion,” she added. She is formerly a member of Members Church of God International.
The Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines to the Kingdom of Thailand, H.E. Mary Jo Bernardo-Aragon, remarked that the pastoral visit has “given a lot of joy and comfort to many of our Overseas Filipinos not only in Thailand but also to those who came from different countries.” Wherever the Executive Minister visits, his love and concern for members and nonmembers alike are truly felt. “I think listening to the Executive Minister and knowing his great love for the Overseas Filipinos is such a great comfort and we do look forward to work with the Iglesia Ni Cristo. His presence here reflects his sincerity in helping Filipinos overseas,” she added. (Cherry Rose Barnuevo-Riñoza and Felie Ace Lacambra-Julaton)