EVEN IN THE HARDEST of times, true servants of God find happiness. For one, it is their delight to always worship and serve Him, no matter what. Moreover, even amid great difficulty, they can be sure that the Lord will never abandon them but take care of their needs, as long as they continue to trust in Him.
This was reminded to members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) from various local congregations which were blessed to attend and witness either in person or via live streaming the worship service officiated by the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, at the Central Temple on October 17, 2020.
Nine of those congregations are in Luzon, two each in Visayas and Mindanao that were celebrating their respective milestone anniversaries (50 years and above) within the period of October 12 to 25. Before preaching, the Executive Minister conveyed his joyful greetings to the brethren in those congregations.
In his Bible-based homily, Brother Eduardo Manalo expounded how God has been fulfilling His promises to His loyal servants citing the story of Prophet Elijah and the widow in Zarephath.
The Executive Minister reminded the brethren that since the Church Of Christ is God’s nation today, its members can expect to receive such blessings as promised by God. He exhorted them to be determined in the faith in order to reap the benefits of being part of God’s nation.
Indeed, many brethren have firmly held on to God’s promises despite the different kinds of hardships they have been going through thus, enabling them to overcome the adversities they have encountered. Some of them shared their wonderful experience of God’s care and blessing, thus finding happiness amid hardships.
DE CASTRO, PASIG CITY
Written by Kristina Celine Castro
“God has truly fulfilled His promises to us. I experienced this personally when He gave me a new lease on life after going through surgery six years ago,” recounted Brother Pablo Bengco, one of the head deacons of De Castro Local Congregation, Metro Manila East Ecclesiastical District. Brother Pablo’s wife, Sister Lita, added, “We placed our absolute trust in God. We never lost faith in what He can do. It was a miracle that Pablo survived the heart attack.”
The couple requested a minister to pray for them in the intensive care unit they were in before and after the surgery. Brother Pablo was also anointed with oil in obedience to God’s command for the benefit of the sick. They continued their devotional prayer while in the hospital. Brother Pablo said, “My speedy recovery was God’s gift. I was advised to rest for three to six months to recuperate. But just after the first month, I already had the strength to attend the officers’ weekly meeting at the house of worship. I was so happy that I was able to fulfill my Church duties again. God gave me more than what I asked for.” He expressed his firm conviction that hardships are but tests that God’s servants should overcome to grow in the faith. He said, “I truly believe that I am not at the losing end when I experience hardships in life.”
Like Brother Pablo and his wife, the other members of their congregation were made even more spiritually resilient after the worship service. As the brethren celebrate the 104th anniversary of their local congregation’s establishment, they continue to wholeheartedly believe that God will invigorate and strengthen them to endure everything with patience as they wait for the Second Advent of the Savior.
Written by Francis Rowen Yusi
“I will never forget when Mt. Pinatubo erupted. The lahar filled the rivers and it always flooded when it rained,” said Brother Alfredo Carlos, a deacon and one of the pioneer members of the Local Congregation of Guagua, Ecclesiastical District of Pampanga West. Now 73, he recalls the hardships he faced living in this lowland town. “The floodwater poured into the house of worship. The water was waist deep and some of the chairs floated,” he said, mentioning how some brethren used small boats to reach the house of worship. “We refused to be hindered by any calamity. We continued attending the worship services,” he added.
Church Of Christ members in Guagua today may not have experienced the hardships that Brother Alfredo faced decades ago but they understand that adversities and trials take different forms and will always be present in this life. That is why they remain prayerful and they place their confidence in the Almighty God, for nothing is impossible with Him, just as what the Executive Minister reminded the brethren in his biblical preaching. This is one of the reasons Church Of Christ members do not allow themselves to be separated from God, even in the hardest of times.
Sister Grace Mallari endured tribulation when she was still a new Church Of Christ member. She said, “I have experienced severe persecutions when I invited my friends and acquaintances to listen to God’s words taught in the Church Of Christ, but I endured them and they never stopped me. I do my best to convince others to become a Church member like me, so that they will also know the happiness I feel to be among God’s true servants.”
STA. CRUZ, LAGUNA
Written by Katherine Bisco
Enlivened by God’s words, Sister Enriqueta Calvelo recalled her family’s struggles when they settled in Sta. Cruz in 1968. “We started with almost nothing. We have eight children whom we worked hard for to support their education. We hardly knew what to do back then, but we were not troubled. We know that God will not forsake us,” she said. Sister Enriqueta and her husband, Brother Mario Calvelo, a deacon, are among the oldest active Church Of Christ members in Sta. Cruz.
With God’s help, all their children successfully finished their studies and now have their own families. They are all active Church officers and members.
Another test of faith happened recently when Brother Mario was diagnosed positive with Covid-19. “When I am faced with problems, whatever it may be, I always pray sincerely to God. I firmly believe that when I wholeheartedly plead to Him, He will listen and will not forsake me,” Brother Mario said. Indeed, with God’s mercy, he was able to fully recover. He continues to fulfill his Church duties and remains determined in keeping his faith firm despite the different trials he faced in his life.
Through the years, as the number of Church Of Christ members has flourished in Sta. Cruz Local Congregation, their trust and faith in God are further strengthened. With their hope renewed, the brethren promise to remain active in participating in the various Church activities and in fulfilling their duties to God, in spite of the hardships they may encounter.
ISULAN, SULTAN KUDARAT
Written by Nelson Sablay
Brother Hildaverex Magno, a deacon in the Local Congregation of Isulan, Ecclesiastical District of Sultan Kudarat, recalled the time when he suffered temporary memory loss due to a mild stroke. He said, “Aside from my condition, we were also facing severe poverty. Our situation was very depressing, but we placed our trust in God and found comfort in prayers.” His mind may have lapsed on many things that time, but what he never forgot was that he is a Church Of Christ member. “I never gave up on worshiping God because He never gave up on me. Under no circumstances did I forget to attend the worship services even with my condition,” he added.
The sacrifices Brother Hildaverex and his family had gone through have made them stronger. He eventually regained his memory after a few months. “I was very happy because I have once again proven that God is always there for His children. He never forsook me and my family,” he said. They have made it their solemn promise to continue serving God no matter what.
True enough, Brother Eduardo Manalo has inspired the brethren to all the more keep their trust in God and keep looking at His promised salvation with all hope and perseverance. With God’s abundant love, the brethren in Isulan stand unshaken in their faith as they celebrate their congregation’s 60th anniversary amid the pandemic.
Written by Ruth Calutan
“My husband and I earn a living by doing other people’s laundry and cleaning their houses. Life is tough for us and our five daughters, and there were even times when I could not help but want better things in life for my family,” said Sister Lilibeth Abalele, the choir leader in the Local Congregation of Hinabangan, Ecclesiastical District of Western Samar.
Being underprivileged in material things does not make Church Of Christ members pitiful or unfortunate. The attainment of spiritual wealth is their priority in life. Sister Lilibeth shared, “I remember the times when my husband and I ate only once a day to save money and food for our children.” But despite their meager means of living, they remain devoted in their services to God. “We were not hindered in fulfilling our duties. We never gave up attending the worship services to God. We thanked God in our prayers and never blamed Him for our situation. We saw poverty as a trial in our life that we could not avoid.”
As a true Church Of Christ member, Sister Lilibeth’s devotion to God did not waver even when trials almost overwhelmed her and her family. She gathered strength from God and continued on despite the poverty. “Though we may not be wealthy, we never stopped praising God, our Creator. We always thank Him because He did not allow that we beg for food on the streets. We were even able to send all our children to school. My family and I were not depressed, in fact, we are really happy to serve and worship the Lord,” Sister Lilibeth said.
As what Brother Eduardo Manalo taught in his Bible-based preaching, true servants of God ought to always stay strong and firm in their divine election. They should be determined in their faith that God will certainly fulfill His promise to His people who remain loyal to Him until the end.
There will always be problems in this life and troubles are ever-present. But God’s righteous servants will never allow themselves to be hindered by these things. They remain undaunted when hardships come because it is then that they feel God’s help the most. They constantly dedicate themselves to their worship of and service to God because they firmly believe in what the Bible teaches—worship opens the doors to all of God’s goodness.