TO MANY PEOPLE, the toll that Covid-19 has taken on their lives is difficult to comprehend. In only a few months, the deadly disease has upended people’s daily lives. Millions have lost their jobs and livelihood as they grapple with the heartbreaking reality of “new normal” while getting caught up in the fear of being infected. The global economy is in decline and this has sparked panic, depression, and hopelessness in many people. Undeniably, man has entered an unfamiliar territory and it is reshaping his perspective and the way he lives.
The race is on, so to speak, for different countries to find both medicine and vaccine to fight the highly infectious disease. But developing a safe and effective vaccine is not enough. People must also learn to cope with the pain of losing their loved ones and the abysmal feeling of helplessness.
Members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) also feel such pain and uncertainty brought about by the pandemic. But in times like these, they have learned to silently bow down in prayer even more, patiently hoping for God’s help. Through biblical teachings, they understand that while living in this world, there will always be grief and sorrow; but God has promised that He will never abandon His faithful servants.
Timely enough, Church Of Christ members, upon celebrating the 106th anniversary of the Church’s emergence in these last days, were able to attend the Thanksgiving Worship Service officiated by the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, at the Local Congregation of Templo Central in Quezon City, Philippines on July 19, 2020. The worship service was also witnessed by many brethren in their respective houses of worship as it was videostreamed to thousands of remote sites around the world.
In his Bible-based preaching, Brother Eduardo Manalo emphasized that Church Of Christ members should always strive to follow God’s will, whatever the situation is. They ought to continue giving thanks to Him, no matter what they may have experienced, because doing so glorifies Him.
The Executive Minister exhorted the brethren to patiently wait for God and diligently seek Him. During the said occasion, Brother Eduardo Manalo also announced the theme of the Church’s activities for its 106th year: “Put All Your Hope In The Grace That Will Be Yours.”
Sister Liwayway Abing, a deaconess in the Local Congregation of Tacurong City, Ecclesiastical District of Sultan Kudarat, recounted how her family was greatly affected by the current pandemic, saying: “In the wake of the lockdown, we were forced to shut down the quarry business we established. When our operators left and our equipment started to break down, we were greatly saddened. There were times when we barely got enough sleep and our worries affected our health.”
Despite that, she has remained grateful to the Almighty. She said, “I never stopped thanking God. He has kept me and my loved ones safe from Covid-19.” Even though the pandemic has severely affected their livelihood, she remains hopeful. “This is just a hiatus. I am optimistic that we can bounce back soon. We continue to conduct our devotional prayers and we cast all our burdens upon the Lord God. … I completely trust in Him, firmly believing that He will not allow us to be tested with trials that are greater than what we can take,” she narrated.
Because of the government’s quarantine protocol, religious gatherings in all parts of the Philippines were temporarily restricted for several months. Brother Nomar Chavez, a head deacon in the Local Congregation of Mandurriao, Ecclesiastical District of Iloilo South, wholeheartedly followed the instruction of the Church Administration to the brethren to conduct worship services in their respective homes.
In leading his family in their household worship services, Brother Nomar said, “Every time we gather at home for worship, we wear our Church officer uniforms. My wife, Marites, and our three daughters, Shayra, Jan, and Mica are all choir members. My brother, Marcelino Jr., is a finance officer.”
Frightening events may be around them, but Church Of Christ members like Brother Nomar and his family do not dwell in fear. “As God’s true servants, we were taught that what we need to do especially in times of dire situations, such as this pandemic, is to fully entrust ourselves to God. Through constant and earnest prayers to Him, my family will be safe from all worries. God will take away our fear,” he stated.
On December 15, 2019, a 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck the province of Davao del Sur, Philippines. One of those who were extremely affected was Brother John Louis Canque’s family. “Our computer shop, which was our family’s primary source of income, collapsed together with other structures in the vicinity,” Brother John narrated.
In the hope of recovering from the trauma and damages, they started the year 2020 by rebuilding the shop. However, due to the pandemic that forced a quarantine since March, Brother John’s family suffered more financial difficulties. “I am working in Manila and being far away from my family had felt like I could not help them at all. My father did not have a definite job. Many said that we were in a financial ruin that no one can recover from it.”
Nevertheless, recalling what the Executive Minister constantly reminds Church members, Brother John never loses hope. “I have set specific hours of the day conducting devotional prayers. My family didn’t give up either. We further strengthened our relationship with God. My father accepted a Church duty as group overseer. We all became Church officers, for we truly believe that this will bring us closer to God,” he said.
Their firm hope in God has put Brother John and his family in good stead. “I firmly believe that accepting Church duties has paved the way for more blessings in our family. My father has been hired by a telecommunications company. Even my uncles also got jobs recently. Indeed, when we prioritize God, circumstances will change for the better,” Brother John said.
Currently, Brother John is actively serving as KADIWA president in the Local Congregation of Guadalupe, Ecclesiastical District of Metro Manila South. He is also a secretariat officer and Children’s Worship Service (CWS) officer. He currently works as a software engineer in Makati. With firm conviction, he stated: “Just like what Brother Eduardo Manalo taught from the Bible, we went through many hardships during this pandemic. But because of God’s unfailing love, we have so much more to thank Him for.”
Many young professionals who are away from home can relate to the experience of Sister Rhea Barroga, a lawyer by profession. She lives in Quezon City, hundreds of miles away from her family in Cotabato. Despite being away from her family, her continuous source of strength and joy is her Church duty. Sister Rhea is a CWS teacher at the Local Congregation of Templo Central, Ecclesiastical District of Central.
She used to be troubled by the fact that her parents are growing old and her time to be with them may be limited. Hence, she travels back home as often as she can to spend time with them. She narrated, “I booked a flight bound for Cotabato in March to visit my parents. But then, the community quarantine took effect. I was not able to leave Metro Manila.”
Locked down in the four corners of her apartment, Sister Rhea diverted her attention to watching INCTV programs to keep herself uplifted. She also centered her mind on prayers, relying on what God can do in these distressing times. “It wasn’t just the boredom, but the anxiety and the loneliness that brought me down on most days. Adding to that was my fear and worry for my parents. I don’t think any son or daughter could say that they don’t miss their parents in a time like this,” she said.
One day, Sister Rhea watched an episode of Executive News, entitled, “Thankful no matter what,” which brought her to tears and gave her the much-needed inspiration. “I was reminded of the biblical teaching preached by Brother Eduardo Manalo, that there is nothing impossible with God and that He has the power to turn a negative situation into something positive. What we need to do is to call on Him, trust Him completely, obey His commandments, and give thanks to Him no matter what the situation may be,” she said.
With the current situation, Sister Rhea may have to wait a few more months to personally see her parents in Cotabato. But believing that God is always there to take care of them, she is never overcome by fear and anxiety. Sister Rhea added: “I feel the love and concern of Brother Eduardo Manalo for all the brethren because he continues to teach and remind us to hold on firmly to our divine election and to never cease thanking and worshiping the Almighty Father.”
Amid the world’s worsening condition, the members of the Church Of Christ view their hardships and afflictions as but tests of faith and are only temporary. They do not place their hopes in this world, but in what God has promised—the grace that is to come and will surely be theirs.
“Pagligad sang pila ka bulan nga lockdown bangud sang pandemia, ginpamatian sang Diyos ang amon mga pangamuyo. Ang pagsimba sa amon lokal liwat na nga pagahiwaton sa balay simbahan sadtong Hulyo 19, 2020. Ang sagrado nga pagtilipon, nga amo man ang Pagpasalamat sa Anibersaryo sang Iglesia, nga gindumalahan ni Utod Eduardo V. Manalo, Manugdumala nga Pangkabug-usan, paagi sa livestreaming.
Samtang nagapungko ako kag nagapamalandong, nabatiyagan ko gid, kaupod ang mga kauturan, ang kahidlaw sa pagsimba samtang bug-os tagipusuon kami nga naga-ambahan sang mga himno kag sang amon kinaugalingon nga pagpangamuyo. Nagatuo gid ako sa mga Pulong sang Diyos nga ginatudlo sang Manugdumala nga Pangkabug-usan. Gintudlo sa amon ang tuhoy sa mga tanda nga magakalatabu kun malapit na ang Ikaduha nga Pagkari ni Cristo, nga ang mga ini natuman na kag padayon pa nga nagakatuman sa aton nga panahon. Naghatag ini sa akon sang motibasyon nga palig-unon pa ang relasyon ko sa Diyos. Nagasaad gid ako nga magapabilin gid ako nga mangin mapinasalamaton sa Iya ano man nga sitwasyon nga akon masugata.
Indi ko mapunggan ang akon kaugalingon sa pagluha nga mabatyagan ko ang paghigugma sang Diyos paagi sa Manugdumala nga Pangkabug-usan sa iya nga pagpangamuyo sa Diyos para sa bug-os nga Iglesia kag nagpakitluoy sa Iya nga dumdumon ang kada isa sa aton sa adlaw sang kaluwasan. Isa yadto ka pinasahi gid nga pagsimba para sa amon. Indi gid namon malipatan ang ini nga pagtililipon bangud nga nagpauli kami nga puno sang Espiritwal nga mga pagpakamaayo. Matuod nga kaupod gid namon ang Diyos sa bug-os nga panahon sa amon nga pagsimba sa Pagpasalamat.”
[After several months of lockdown due to the pandemic, God answered our prayers. The worship service in our local congregation was to be held once again in the house of worship on July 19, 2020. The sacred gathering, which was also the Church’s Anniversary Thanksgiving, was officiated by Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the Executive Minister, through livestreaming.
As I sat and contemplated, I felt so eager to worship God together with the brethren, as we wholeheartedly sang the hymns and said our personal prayers. I firmly believe in the teachings of God taught by the Executive Minister. We were taught about the signs that will happen when Christ’s Second Coming is very near, and that they have been fulfilled and are continuously being fulfilled in our time. This motivated me to all the more strengthen my relationship with God. I promise that I will always be grateful to Him whatever situation I will encounter. I cannot help but cry when I felt God’s love through the Executive Minister as he prayed to God for the entire Church and pleaded for Him to remember each and every one of us on the day of our salvation. It was a very special worship service for us. We will never forget this gathering for we went home full of spiritual blessings. God had truly been with us throughout our Thanksgiving Worship Service.]
“Iti kanito a nadamag ti pamiliak a mabalin manen ti aggimong iti balay kararag para iti panagyaman maipaay iti Anibersario ti Iglesia, nagkararagkami tapno agyaman ken Apo Dios.
Apaman iseserrekko iti uneg ti kapilya, nariknak iti panagayat ken panagdungngo ni Apo Dios. Uray no rumbeng a tungpalen ti tunggal maysa kadakami dagiti social distancing measure, sanitation protocol, ken panagusar ti face mask ken face shield, dagus a makita ti ragsak iti rupa dagiti kakabsat a makigimgimong. Malagipko ni nanangko, a kaabayko, nga aglulua apaman a nagkidem tapno agkararag.
Tunggal maysa a miembro iti pamilyami ket naglaplapunusan ti ragsak iti pusomi. Napalawlawannak kadagiti kakabsat a naimpapusoan nga agkankanta kadagiti himno a pagdaydayaw ken Apo Dios. Napnoankami amin iti pusomi ti gagar nga agyaman ken agdaydayaw iti Dios. Atentibokami amin idi panawen iti panagadal kadagiti sao ti Dios nga indauloan ti Manangaywan Sapasap ti Iglesia Ni Cristo babaen ti live video streaming.
Nariknami amin a rimmegtakami ken pimmigsa ti pammatimi. Uray kasano ti karigat ti panagbiag, mapagballigian ken madaliasatmi amin a parikut ken pannakasuot a dumteng iti biagmi agsipud ta kaduami ni Apo Dios ditoy sibaymi.”
[The moment I received news that we could finally gather once again in the houses of worship for the Anniversary Thanksgiving, my family members and I thanked and praised God.
As I stepped inside the chapel, I already felt God’s love and compassion. Though each of us had to strictly observe social distancing measures, sanitation protocols, and the wearing of face masks and face shields, one could readily notice the joy in the faces of the brethren attending the worship service. I can still vividly recall my mother who sat next to me crying right after she closed her eyes to pray. Every member of our household could not contain the happiness we felt in our hearts. I was surrounded with brethren singing hymns of praises with their hearts. We were all excited to offer thanks and praises to God. Everyone was attentive during the study of God’s words led by the Executive Minister through live video streaming.
We all felt renewed and strengthened. No matter how arduous life may seem, we will triumphantly overcome and conquer all the challenges and trials that will come our way because we have God on our side.]
“Pag-abot ko sa sambahan, sarong diakonesa an nagrani asin nangumusta sakuya. Saro siya sa mga rason kaya nagpapasalamat ako sa Kagurangnan. Naging instrumento siya ta nganing maapod ako asin an sakuyang ina sa
Nagigirumduman ko kung gurano siya kapursigido san una, haros urualdaw nagduduman sa samuyang harong ta nganing imbitaran kami sa mga pagpapabalangibog kan tataramon nin Kagurangnan asin pagpapaliwanag kan importansya nin Iglesia Ni Cristo. Nin huli ta sa saiyang pagiging pursigido, tinanggap kan sakuyang ina an saiyang imbitasyon.
Nin huli ta an sakuyang ina dai nakahiling, an plano ko san una, ihatod sana siya sa pag-aadal kan Biblia asin mahalat sana ako sa luwas sagkod na matapos. Pero, napiritan man giraray ako na magtukaw sa taning niya sa bilog na panahon kan aktibidad.
Nauyam ako sa enot. Pero, an mga adal sa Biblia na nadangog ko, dai sana nagpangalas sakuya; kundi nagtao man sakuya nin liwanag kan kamatud-an. Poon kaidto, padagos na kaming nagdangog asin nagpalista bilang dinudoktrinahan. Dai naghaloy, nabautismuhan ako asin an sakuyang ina sa tunay na Iglesia Ni Cristo.
Namatian ko sa puso ko an labi-labing pagpapasalamat sa pagiging pursigido kan diakonesa, an Tugang na Socorro Jaylo, na naghatod samuya sa pagkamidbid sa tunay na Kagurangnan asin sa pagkakaigwa nin karapatan sa pagsasagibo nin tunay na pagsamba sa Saiya. Sagkod ngunyan, nagtutupad siya kan saiyang katungdan, maski kan nagadan na an saiyang agom. Mientras na kadakol na kaulangan an saiyang inagihan, padagos siyang nag-iimbitar nin mga tawo sa laog kan Iglesia, kaibahan duman an sarong pamilya na ngunyan miyembro naman kan Iglesia.
Nagtatao sakuya nin urog na inspirasyon na pangaputan an sakuyang pagka-Iglesia Ni Cristo na maimod an saiyang debosyon sa Kagurangnan. Nin huli kaini, pagtukaw ko sa laog kan sambahan sa Pasalamat sa Anibersaryo kan Iglesia, maogma akong nagpasalamat sa Kagurangnan sa daing kasagkudan na grasya asin inspirasyon na nareresibe ko sa buhay.”
[When I arrived at the chapel compound, a deaconess approached me and asked how I was. She is one of the reasons that I am thankful to God. She was His instrument in calling me and my mother into the Church.
I remember how persistent she was then, coming to our house almost every day to invite us to evangelical missions and explain the importance of the Church Of Christ. And because of her persistence, my mother accepted her invitation.
Since my mother is blind, my plan back then was to just accompany her on the way to the Bible study and wait outside for it to finish. However, I was compelled to sit with her throughout the event.
I felt annoyed at first. But the biblical teachings I heard did not just make me curious; they enlightened me of the truth. Since then, we continued to listen and enlisted as doctrinal instructees. Eventually, my mother and I were baptized in the true Church Of Christ.
I feel an overwhelming gratefulness in my heart for the persistence of the deaconess, Sister Socorro Jaylo, that led us to knowing the true God and having the right to render true worship of Him. Until now, she fulfills her Church duty devotedly, even after her husband passed away. And as she soldiers on through many challenges, she continues to invite people to the Church, among them was an entire family who are now Church members.
Seeing her devotion to God inspires me even more to hold on to my Church membership. That is why as I sat inside the house of worship during the Anniversary Thanksgiving Worship Service, I joyfully thanked the Lord God for the unending blessings and inspiration I receive in my life.]
“Tungod kay dili pa Iglesia ang akong mga ginikanan, gi-pangunahan nako ang akong duha ka igsoong babae sa mga pag-alagad sa Dios. Kanunay akong nagpahinumdom sa akong mga manghud nga mahimong bahin sa ilang kin-abuhi ang pag-ampo. Gitudluan nako sila nga musalig sa mabuhat sa Dios tungod kay nagatoo ako nga dili Niya kami pasagdan.
Hulyo 19, adlawng Dominggo, mao ang adlaw sa among Pasalamat. Layo pa ang oras nga gitakda, anaa na ako sa kapilya. Sa pagduyog sa organ kauban ang pag-awit sa mga mag-alawit sa Templo, nanlimbawt na ang akong balahibo dungan sa pagtulo sa akong mga luha. Alang ka-nako, midagayday gayud ang paghigugma ug kalooy sa Dios sa akong kinabuhi. Sa dihang nakita na nako ang pagsulod ni Igsoon Eduardo Manalo, nagpasalamat ako sa Dios kay nagbutang Siya ug Pagdumalang Pangkatibuk-an sa Iglesia nga walay undang sa pagtuman sa katungdanan, nga kanunay nga nagatudlo sa mga igsoon aron maandam sila sa kaluwasan.
Tinuod nga wala gayod mapakyas ang akong paglaom ug pagsalig sa Dios tungod kay labaw pa sa akong gipangayo ang Iyang gihatag kanako. Tungod niana, dili gayod nako wad-on ang pagtoo ug pagsalig Kaniya. Kanunay nako nga tumanon ang Iyang mga pagtulun-an ug padayon akong makighiusa sa mga buluhaton nga ipatuman sa Pagdumala sa Iglesia.”
[Because my parents are not yet Church members, I myself lead my two younger sisters in serving God. I always remind both of them about this, so that they will learn how important it is to make prayer a part of their life. I teach them to trust in what God can do because I firmly believe that He will not forsake us.
July 19, Sunday, was the day of the Church’s Anniversary Thanksgiving in our local congregation. I arrived early at the house of worship. When I heard the sound of the organ accompanying the hymn singing of the choir at the Temple, I was elated and tears began to flow. For me, it was an outpouring of God’s love and mercy into my life. When I saw on the screen Brother Eduardo Manalo, I gave thanks to God for placing an Executive Minister in the Church who never ceases to fulfill his duty, always teaching the brethren to prepare them for salvation.
Indeed, my hope and trust in God is not in vain because I always receive blessings from Him more than what I ask for. So, I will never lose my faith and hope in Him. I will always fulfill all His teachings and continue to participate in all the activities launched by the Church Administration.]