Santiago City, Isabela, Philippines
God’s perfect plan
for His people
DEDICATION OF 6 HOUSES OF WORSHIP
COMMEMORATION OF MILESTONE ANNIVERSARIES
TEMPLO CENTRAL, QUEZON CITY, PHILIPPINES
CHURCH MEMBERS from two ecclesiastical districts and 30 local congregations commemorating their respective milestone anniversaries were blessed to attend the livestreamed worship service officiated by Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the Executive Minister of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ), on January 8, 2022. Brethren in 195 sites around the world were able to take part in the said worship service.
During the sacred occasion, the congregants witnessed the dedication to God of six houses of worship. After the opening prayer led by Brother Eli C. Hebrew, the assigned ministers then read the prayer for the dedication of the houses of worship, led by Brother Rene J. Panoncillo. After the spirit-filled homily of the Executive Minister, a prayer was led by Brother Romer D. Galang.
During his preaching of God’s words written in the Bible, Brother Eduardo Manalo exhorted the congregants that as true Christians, they should not lose hope amid sufferings in life. He reassured them that the Almighty Father will not forsake them and will continue fulfilling His promise to bring good into the lives of His people despite the worsening calamities, widespread poverty, unceasing violence, and the lingering pandemic.
Inspired by God’s words, the attendees could not help but reminisced the times when they realized that it was God’s perfect plan all along that brought them to where they are now. Here are some of their stories:
Lumintao, Mindoro Occidental
By Janelle Lagos
“It was a rainy night when my family and I were on our way home after attending the worship service,” said Sister Remedios Farro, a finance officer in the Local Congregation of Lumintao, as she recalled a frightening ordeal.
Sister Remedios, her father, and brother were riding a carabao crossing a river that had an unusually swift current at that time. “We all thought we were going to die when our carabao lost its footing. We fell into the river. With God’s help, we were not swept too far away to drown because the carabao’s rope, which was tied to the three of us, somehow got entangled with a branch on the riverbank. We then pulled ourselves out,” she narrated.
Crossing the river was their only route to the house of worship back then. However, she and her family neither turned their backs on nor lost enthusiasm for their services to God. During worship services, God’s words motivate her to not be discouraged by challenges and struggles in life. “I truly believe that God protects us from dangers the way He did when He saved us from drowning that night. And every time I’m here at the house of worship to attend the worship services and fulfill my Church responsibilities, I feel all my hardships vanish,” she added.
The newly built house of worship in Lumintao, one of the six dedicated to God during the worship service officiated by Brother Eduardo Manalo on January 8, 2022, is a true blessing for the brethren. They no longer have to walk for miles or cross the river to attend religious gatherings.
Surigao del Norte
By Ivy Lerion
In late 2019, the faith of Brother Nilo Llanto, an organist at the Local Congregation of Surigao City, was tested when his wife became seriously ill. As pandemic lockdowns started, his worry for her health increased. In December 2021, his wife died of heart failure. He said, “It hurt me so much, but I never felt that God abandoned me. He gave my wife peace and did not allow her to suffer much longer. I mourned, but I accepted that it was God’s will for her to be laid to rest.”
Two weeks later, Surigao del Norte was hit by Super Typhoon Rai (Odette). Brother Nilo recalled what he was thinking in those moments while his house was being battered by winds: “I lost my wife already, and now I’ll lose my house, too.” A few days after the typhoon, Church Of Christ members helped each other in rebuilding their houses. The Church Administration immediately sent help through the Lingap sa mga Nasalanta ng Bagyong Odette (Aid to the Victims of Typhoon Odette) event, giving food and other provisions to members and nonmembers alike.
Brother Nilo continues thanking and praising the Almighty God, especially now that his house has been rebuilt and the wound in his heart upon losing his wife is slowly healing. As he listened to the teachings from the Bible preached by Brother Eduardo Manalo, he reaffirmed: “Despite what happened, I realized that I consider myself very happy because God makes me strong. He does not leave me in the difficult battles of my life. I have already proven God’s goodness because despite what I experienced, I am one of God’s children after all. I know that my wife and I will be saved come Judgment Day.”
East Jacksonville, Florida, USA
By Jerica Riego
“God is so good,” are the words of Brother Renato Bunal, a head deacon in the Local Congregation of East Jacksonville, as he reminisced the moments that tested his faith and how God showed him His love and mercy.
Even though Brother Renato had been diagnosed with many ailments in the past, he still fulfilled and continues fulfilling his responsibility of taking care of his family while also having to attend to his health condition. His daughter, who accidentally fell from her crib when she was 10 months old, has a lifelong disability. His wife had a stroke twice. They both need supervision, even in doing routine day-to-day tasks. With regard to his situation, he said, “Just like what our beloved Executive Minister taught us from the Bible, I believe without a doubt that God will never give me trials and tribulations that are beyond my capability.” Soldiering on through these hardships has only made him stronger in the faith.
Brother Renato recalls many times in his life when he felt God’s care and protection. One of those moments he always shares, for he sees it as an inspiration to himself and others, too. Years ago, he figured in a car accident wherein his car spun five times and was pressed under an 18-wheeler truck. He narrated, “My vehicle was a total wreck. After a state trooper rescued me from the wreckage and assessed me, I clearly remembered what he said, ‘Oh my God! You barely even have a scratch!’ I believe that God saved me because He still wants me to continue serving Him.”
Keeping in mind the biblical teaching Brother Eduardo Manalo taught, Brother Renato believes that despite the sufferings and worries in life, God’s people ought to be happy, for He will give them strength, peace, and joy. “We experience different kinds of problems, whether it be health, financial, family problems, or worse. But as Church Of Christ members, it always seems like problems solve themselves. That, I believe, is the work of God’s mighty hands. He will never forsake us. As it is written in the Bible, God brings only good things to the faithful servants who love Him,” he said.
Lagawe, Nueva Vizcaya
By Tristan Jay Mendoza
Howling dogs and loud sirens shattered the silence of the cold night as flickering red-and-blue lit the concerned faces of the awakened residents. Brother Marlon Bungihan, a police officer, was part of an operation to corner a group of possibly armed men who have long been wanted by the authorities. “Because I’m not only a cop but also an Iglesia Ni Cristo member, my weapon and my Kevlar vest are not the only things that protect my life. Most importantly, our Almighty God is there for me,” he said, as he narrated what happened that eventful night.
Together with his team, Brother Marlon was in position waiting for the command to move in. From afar, they could already see shadows of the men hidden from sight as they were about to proceed with the capture. “While we were getting ready, someone fired at us. I heard bullets graze just a few inches from my head. I crouched and took cover,” he narrated.
After his brush with death, Brother Marlon realized that dire situations are always present in the line of duty. “There are always frightening things that will happen wherever we are and whatever we do in this world. That is what Brother Eduardo Manalo read from the Bible. But I will never forget what I learned from him: that God is on the side of His people, protecting them at all times. That is why I will always serve God no matter what situation I am in,” he said.
Despite his busy schedule, Brother Marlon decided to hold offices in the Church. He became a choir member, Society of Communicators and Networkers (SCAN) member, and KADIWA local officer. He said, “Fulfilling these duties is my great joy in life. I believe that since God continues to give me life, He still has a purpose for me and that is to serve Him in the Church Of Christ. That is why I will never abandon my Church duties.”
By Wilson George and Ziam Condor
It was in March 2012 when Brother Joseph Crusoe, then senior pastor of the Rhema Faith Church in Monrovia, saw a religious magazine while in a restaurant. It was a copy of the Pasugo: God’s Message magazine. Piquing his interest, he picked it up and read it. This was how the mission of the Church Of Christ started in Liberia.
As he read the magazine throughout the day, Brother Joseph’s curiosity turned into astonishment. He recalled, “The teaching about the one true God caught my attention. I also noticed that the teachings of the Church are directly from the Bible, unlike in other churches.” He found an email address and contact number on the last page and immediately copied it to his phone. He was able to get in contact with a minister assigned in the United States and exchanged information about how to learn more about the Church.
Eventually, Bible studies were conducted online, and Brother Joseph invited his friends to listen. When their former religious group’s founder learned about it, he was outraged and vented his anger towards Brother Joseph. “He warned the other pastors in our community and told them not to speak with me. But I told him that I won’t stop sharing my faith about the Church Of Christ because I know that they are teaching the truth written in the Bible.” Brother Joseph left his former religion and decided to join the true Church.
When the Church Administration sent a minister to Liberia, Brother Joseph helped in inviting more people and in interpreting conversations for them. On January 16, 2017, the Monrovia, Liberia Group Worship Service was approved. The first baptism was conducted on May 16, 2017 which included Brother Joseph. Now a deacon and with his whole family converted to the Church Of Christ, he said with conviction, “I am so happy that the true Church is growing in Liberia. Come what may, my family and I will remain in the Church until our salvation.”
Langka, Davao Oriental
By Joniza Wenceslao
Every time Brother Felicisimo Boncales Jr. and his wife attended the worship service, they had to travel many miles on foot to reach the house of worship. “We walked through muddy rice fields and thick bushes while I had to carry our son all the way, because if I wouldn’t, we might run late,” he said. Vehicles rarely passed through that secluded area. During rainy season, the trip becomes even more arduous. “Paddy dikes are very slippery when it rained. There were many times that my feet got bruised and injured,” he continued.
As head deacon, Brother Felicisimo has fulfilled his duty for many years now. “Some people ask me why I keep doing what I do twice a week or more just for my Church duty. My answer is always ‘because I am happy serving God.’ Troubles and hindrances are inevitable in life, but in fulfilling my duties to God, I make sure to do it wholeheartedly every single time. I firmly believe that by doing so, the Lord will be glorified,” he said.
When the Church Administration approved the construction of a new and bigger chapel in Langka, Brother Felicismo and his household were ecstatic. He said, “With God’s mercy, our devotional prayers were answered when the house of worship of the Local Congregation of Langka was among the six that were dedicated to God on January 8, 2022.”
San Juan, Moncada, Tarlac
By Angelika Andres
“There were times when I encountered persecution while sharing the true faith, but I never stopped. Helping in the works of propagating the true gospel has always made me very happy,” said Brother Nestor Dagundon, the head deacon of the Local Congregation of San Juan, Moncada. He recalled how some people persecuted Church members. He narrated, “Some people were angry and expressed their hate towards us by vandalizing the Church’s property.”
Despite this, Brother Nestor and the brethren never ceased to actively participate in the propagation works of the Church. “I believe that when we do good to people, even if they hate us, they will soften up and treat us better eventually. We never retaliated with hate. We spoke respectfully. We help them when we could. We greeted and smiled at them. Soon, we were able to invite many of them to evangelical missions,” he said.
Brother Nestor also knew that patience and prayers to God were needed for their efforts to bear fruit. He said, “We walked four kilometers almost every day to Barangay Matarannoc, so that people there would learn more about the Church Of Christ. With God’s help, many families were converted and the Local Congregation of Mataranoc was eventually established.” Their efforts also led to the establishment of the local congregations of San Felipe and Pance.
“It was mentioned by Brother Eduardo Manalo that the time when the signs of the coming end are being fulfilled is also the time to all the more do our part in telling people how to be saved. This is written in the Bible. That is why I promise to happily continue fulfilling this work and help in the Church’s mission for God’s glory,” Brother Nestor said.
By Mae Anne Macapagal
“Even with my age, I choose to continue fulfilling my duty to God. With this, I am happy,” said 78-year-old Sister Amparo Salazar, a choir member since she was 12 years old. She recalled how they walked for hours to invite guests to evangelical missions, while some people hurled stones and rubbish at them. “Those memories make me smile. Those places where we used to visit have their own local congregations now. Our efforts were not in vain,” she said.
Sister Amparo looked at difficult situations positively, believing that God never forsakes her. “I remember when Mt. Pinatubo erupted in June 1991. There was continuous rain mixed with mud and ash that destroyed our homes. We evacuated to the house of worship. We were only able to bring a little food and the things needed to perform our Church duties for the worship service the next morning,” she continued.
Considering herself blessed, Sister Amparo has lived through the leadership of Brother Felix Y. Manalo, Brother Eraño G. Manalo, and Brother Eduardo V. Manalo. She attests that the biblical teachings preached in the time of the Sugo up to now, in the time of the current Executive Minister, have not changed at all. “I was 12 when I personally heard Brother Felix Manalo preach at an evangelical mission. I performed my duty during the dedication of the house of worship led by Brother Eraño Manalo in 1972 and then, in 2013, led by Brother Eduardo Manalo. It is God’s teachings through the Church Administration that have kept me strong despite difficulties,” she narrated.
Ecclesiastical District of Isabela South
By Nicko Concepcion
“Being a frontliner is very risky. I am always in close contact with people, not knowing if they are carriers [of the Coronavirus] or not,” said Sister Liberty Conchita dela Cruz, who serves as a non-teaching staff in a public school in Santiago City, facing the invisible threat of the deadly virus every day. In October 2021, she was infected with Covid-19.
Amid this trial in her life, Sister Liberty remained calm and placed her faith in what God can do. “I prayed to our Lord God to heal me and return my strength, so that I can use it to fulfill my duty,” she said as she reminisced the moments when she was in quarantine. Although she was surprised by how high the medical expenses that came with her illness were, she was not bothered. “I know God will provide for me,” she continued.
On the very day she completed the required number of days for quarantine after testing negative, she went immediately to the house of worship to pray and thank God. The doctor said that she would get tired easily while doing her usual chores as an after-effect of the disease, but this did not hinder her from performing her duty in the Church. “My [Church duty] is my purpose in life and as long as I have life, I will fulfill it,” she said with conviction.
For Sister Liberty, performing her Church duty as a local secretary for more than four decades now is a way of proving her faith in God. “I can overcome whatever new trials await me because I know God listens to my prayers. I am not worried,” she said.
Universal City, Texas, USA
By Jessa Guingab
“Especially during that time, we only relied on God to strengthen us,” said Sister Lynda Beug, as she recalled when her newborn son spent weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the hospital. She and her husband, Brother Michael Beug, relived a time when their backs were against the wall.
The couple had already been dealing with difficulties for months before their son was born. “The doctor gave us a 60% chance of miscarriage within the first four months of the pregnancy. Those first-four months were the hardest because we didn’t know what would happen,” recounted Sister Lynda.
“We had devotional prayers every day and we knew that no matter what, it is God’s will and we were ready to accept it because we know it was for the best,” Brother Michael said. The couple’s faith in God never wavered despite the uncertainty. He continued, “God is merciful. Our son was born healthy. He is now five years old and full of energy.”
Putting all things into perspective, the Beugs highlight the value of raising their children to understand the importance of being in God’s nation. “As parents of two young boys,” said Sister Lynda, “our goal is to instill in them that no matter what they go through, they should never cease serving God and obeying His commandments. We want to teach them to be prayerful and to always confidently trust in Him.”
Brother Michael also emphasized how important it is for their children to learn by example: “The Executive Minister read from the Bible that true servants of God live their life to please God. So, we show our boys that sharing our faith, always being prayerful, and attending the worship services are the things that we ought to do to make God happy.”
Brampton, Ontario, Canada
By Necy Dabu
Sister Lara Enrile Lucas, the choir leader of the Local Congregation of Brampton, had a bout with cancer and triumphed. Molded in God’s teachings since she was young, she firmly believes in the efficacy of prayers to God.
At one point in her life, she and her unborn child were in danger. Sister Lara vividly remembers when she went for a pregnancy check-up and the doctor advised for her to be immediately admitted due to her condition. “When I gave birth, I lost so much blood. I was on the verge of dying. But with God’s mercy, I had a safe delivery,” she narrated.
Years later, Sister Lara again found herself within the familiar walls of the hospital. “Doctors told me that I have cancer,” she said. She did not let fear obscure her faith in God. She revealed that aside from her treatment, devotional prayers and the anointing of oil for the sick as the Bible teaches were instrumental in her recuperation.
With God’s loving grace, Sister Lara was cleared of cancer in less than a year. She is again able to put on her choir robe, pouring her heart out in singing hymns of praise, giving thanks to God. “I am grateful for His unceasing love and mercy, for He has carried me through it all,” she said.
Sister Lara strongly believes that she triumphed over the many challenges in her life because God gave her the strength and the will to go on. She concluded, “I will never forget what Brother Eduardo Manalo said during his exhortation in the worship service that, ‘God will not go back on His promises.’ As he quoted the final verse, I felt the power of God’s holy presence. As tears ran down my face, I also made a promise to God that day: I will fulfill my promises to Him—to serve and worship Him, to obey His commands until the very end.”