HAVING THE RIGHT relationship with God is essential to receive His blessings in this life and, most especially, His promised salvation. In order to have such relationship, people ought to fulfill God’s will, foremost of which is to join the true Church Of Christ, His nation or people in these last days, and remain obedient to Him.
For this purpose, Church members are constantly taught by the Church Administration the words of God that they ought to obey primarily to please Him. On August 28, 2021, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the Executive Minister, once again delivered God’s teachings during a worship service streamed live to various parts of the world in commemoration of the milestone anniversaries of one ecclesiastical district and 25 local congregations. The Pilar Manalo-Danao Multimedia Center within the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) Central Office Complex in Quezon City, Philippines served as the host site. During the sacred gathering, three houses of worship were dedicated to the Lord God.
As they were reminded by the Executive Minister, Church Of Christ members strive to cherish and safeguard the right relationship they have with God by holding on firmly to their divine election no matter what hardships come into their lives. Some of them shared their inspiring stories.
Pasong Intsik, Nueva Ecija
By Khristine Mae Tangonan
The new house of worship of the Local Congregation of Pasong Intsik, in the Ecclesiastical District of San Jose City, Nueva Ecija was one of the houses of worship dedicated to God on August 28, 2021 in the sacred gathering led by Brother Eduardo Manalo.
One of the head deacons of the congregation is Brother Alfredo Paderan Sr., who is also one of its pioneer members. He can still vividly recall what they encountered back then. “We experienced different kinds of persecution in the past. From stones being thrown at the chapel, loud noises being made to disturb the worship services, to false rumors and slander being spread against us, I’ve witnessed them all. But I wasn’t afraid. Persecutions didn’t hinder me from attending Church gatherings. It even made me and my fellow brethren more courageous and stronger in our faith,” he said.
Church members in Pasong Intsik are grateful to the Almighty for the great gift they have received. A new and magnificent house of worship was built by the Church Administration for them.
Brother Alfredo said, “I have invited many people to come and attend our evangelical missions, especially our worship services. They were curious as to why [the Church Of Christ] keeps on building such marvelous edifices, even in the provinces, such as where we are. I simply told them that it is for God’s glory and also for them to learn more of His teachings.” Brother Alfredo believes that the new house of worship is not only a source of inspiration for Church members, but also a proof that God continues fulfilling His promises to His Messenger in these last days and to His Church.
Pateros, Metro Manila
By Carla Luz Guanzon
The logistics company of Sister Eliza Ortaleza was severely affected by the pandemic. It got to the point where expenses exceeded what their family could handle and that they could barely keep the company afloat.
“This pandemic hampered the operations of our company, that we no longer knew what to do to save it. But because I am a member of the Iglesia Ni Cristo, and our God is the true God, my family and I prayed all the more to Him. We never stopped trusting in what He could do,” Sister Eliza said. She firmly believed that God immediately heard their prayers. She said, “God has granted us the blessing to close a deal with a new client. Our trucks continued delivering goods, our employees didn’t lose their jobs, and with the help and guidance of God, our company continues operating.”
The conviction of Sister Eliza is this: “It never came to my mind to quit on the business. I thank God that giving time to save the company never did hinder my duties to God. I made sure that I never missed the worship services and the fulfillment of my Church duty as a finance officer.’’
Despite not knowing what will happen next or when this pandemic will end, Sister Eliza expressed that she knows one thing for sure: that she will never give up the greatest treasure in her life—her membership in the Church Of Christ. She said, “I recall what Brother Eduardo Manalo taught, that God continues fulfilling His promises to the Church and that He will not forsake His faithful servants.”
San Francisco, California
By Aubrey Cabanlig
Sister Donna Regala, a local congregation secretariat officer, was one of many who experienced hardships brought about by the pandemic. She works as a housekeeper while taking care of her two children and both her 82-year-old parents. Due to the current situation, her work hours were reduced, making her earn less than the usual salary she needed to provide for her family, putting her in a tight situation.
“I prayed to God for help. Even if this was a difficult situation for me, I never stopped performing my Church duties. I continued inviting people to watch our religious programs online,” Sister Donna stated. A manifestation of God’s great blessing is that what she earns still suffice for her family’s needs. “This miracle [is the work of] God’s helping hand. My family and I never felt like we lacked any good thing during this pandemic,” she gratefully said.
This was also despite a great struggle they met in the early months of the pandemic. On the 11th of May 2020, her mother, Sister Juanita Regala, was rushed to the hospital because of her worsening lung condition. She recalled, “My mom’s condition was dire that day. We were all crying when the doctors told us to leave the room. With firm faith, my family and I prayed to ask God to save my mom. We know that nothing is impossible with Him. We were overjoyed and thankful that God answered our prayers and extended my mother’s life without any further complications so far.”
Sister Donna and her family treasure highly God’s words taught in the worship services. “The words of God preached by our Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo Manalo, in the worship service strengthened me and my mom. In his biblical preaching, he taught us that God will not let us experience trials beyond our limits. But when trials do come, He will also provide us the strength to overcome them. Brother Eduardo Manalo even prayed to God to have mercy on us and to listen to our prayers. Knowing this, I am confident and assured that my family and I are in good hands,” she said.
By Lessandra Bea Castro
It has been 30 years since the first worship service of the Church Of Christ was held in Rjukan, Norway, a town where people spend almost half of the year with no direct sunlight because of its unique topography.
One of the pioneering brethren in Rjukan is Sister Guillerma Andrion, a deaconess. When they were still in the Philippines, she attended Bible studies on doctrines of the Church Of Christ despite her husband’s objections. She did so with the help of her sister and daughters, who were already Church members at that time. “I saw it as a good thing for me to listen to God’s words taught during the Bible studies because I was impressed by how my children applied in their lives the biblical teachings they learned,” she said. She was baptized on March 4, 1989. A few months later, their family moved to Norway and found residence in Rjukan.
In 1991, the Church Administration approved the family’s request for a committee prayer group (now called group worship service or GWS) to be established in Rjukan. The first worship service there was held at the residence of the Andrion family through videotaped hymn-singing and biblical preaching.
Before that, the nearest house of worship from where they lived was in Oslo―a distance of about 190 kilometers. She shared: “It was arduous to travel such a great distance. I then gathered the courage to ask my husband if he could take us to the chapel every worship service. I thank God that my husband did not refuse, even though he knew how dangerous the roads could be during the winter.”
Sister Guillerma firmly believes it was God’s way of calling her husband, the late Brother Herminio Andrion, into the Church Of Christ. “Because he always drove us to the chapel, my husband was invited by a deacon in Oslo to listen to God’s teachings. He also listened to the biblical lessons taught during the worship services held in our house,” she said. Brother Herminio eventually decided to join the Church and was baptized in 1992.
Reminiscing how she overcame many trials through God’s help, Sister Guillerma said: “I have always trusted in God, knowing that He would never abandon His people wherever they are. Despite the challenges we faced in our 30 years here in Rjukan, we are able to remain steadfast in the faith because God continues guiding us through the Church Administration.”
Hinton, Alberta, Canada
By Mirel Roman
“I suffered from a massive heart attack while I was at work back in 2019,” Brother Ranilo “Ranie” Gabatino, opened up. “This was the biggest trial my family and I experienced,” he continued.
Many would agree that such was a scary experience. However, despite what had happened, Brother Ranie said, “What I did first was to pray to God. When I was brought to the hospital, I asked to be anointed with oil by one of the deacons in our congregation.” With the help and mercy of God, Brother Ranie was able to make a full recovery eventually. He said, “The teachings of God gave me inspiration to continue performing my duties no matter what happens.”
However, the trials did not stop there as the pandemic came affecting the life and livelihood of the brethren from the Hinton Local Congregation. “Majority of us experienced unemployment,” Brother Ranie said, adding it did not affect their faith and services to God.
Having attended the worship service led by Brother Eduardo Manalo through video streaming, Brother Ranie expressed how blessed he and his family are for hearing God’s inspiring words. He said, “Even before the pandemic, our Executive Minister, already prepared us to use this technology so that he could continue teaching us the words of God.” In the Bible-based homily of the Executive Minister, he emphasized that even though members of the Church go through difficulties, they should not stop doing what is good in the sight of God.
“Despite the trials, we continued fulfilling our Church duties and we did not think of stopping in giving our voluntary offerings to God. The brethren also united to help in the renovation of the house of worship. We donated what we could to finish the project. After completing a major part of the chapel renovations, many brethren were able to get their jobs back,” he added.
“The brethren are very thankful to our Lord God for this new house of worship. We all the more have inspiration to continue performing our duties,” Brother Ranie added.
American Samoa, Hawaii
By Lance Mar Farnacio
Brother Jose “Leo” Layacan Jr. finished a computer technician course but could not find a well-paying job in the Philippines. When severe hardship struck his family, he decided to find work abroad. He recalled, “Back then, I thought I could find a decent work right away when we reached Samoa, but it wasn’t that easy.” He had to work a couple of part-time jobs every day to survive.
That time, he was practicing to be a choir member. He always made sure that he was unhindered from serving God. “Before I made decisions, I always asked God for help through prayers. I prayed for a stable job that will not hamper me from fulfilling my duties to Him,” he said.
With his work experience, Brother Leo was offered a job as a permanent crew member in a fishing boat, which meant a higher income but frequent offshore trips. That was also when he just took oath as a choir member. He recalled, “I decided not to take the job because I would have missed the worship services and my choir duties. Many told me that I lost a rare opportunity, but I didn’t see myself losing out. I believe that God will not forsake me if I don’t forsake serving Him.”
Four years later, he took oath as a deacon and eventually was appointed as a head deacon. Like what he prayed for, blessings came his way as he was accepted to work as a computer technician in a company. After a year, he was promoted to the position of supervisor.
Brother Leo continues serving God amid the difficulties, which he knows will always be around. He said, “I’m thankful to the Lord God for all of His wondrous blessings. I am also grateful to our Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo Manalo, for leading and guiding us through the biblical lessons we receive during the worship services. They strengthen our faith amid this pandemic.”
Ecclesiastical District of Abra
By Ereka Fernandez
“I believe that the key to a blessed life is remaining faithful to God no matter what,” said Sister Jovery Talingdan, choir member and granddaughter of one of the pioneer members of the Local Congregation of Bangued, Ecclesiastical District of Abra.
Sister Jovery said that she talks about her experiences to inspire others and show them that it is God Who steered her life towards abundant blessings. She recalled, “I have seven siblings, my father was a tricycle driver while my mother had a stall in the market to sell vegetables. I remember the time when my mother got very ill to a point that we thought she wouldn’t live through the day. My father gathered us to pray genuinely, kneeling and weeping to plead with God for our mother’s life.”
With God’s mercy, Sister Jovery’s mother eventually recovered. Her parents were even able to gradually expand their business from one to six stalls. Through God’s blessings to their livelihood, she and her siblings were able to finish college. “All the while, we continued performing our Church duties and worshiped God sincerely. Happiness and peace surrounded our family, and we never stopped thanking God for all His blessings,” she narrated.
But just when Sister Jovery thought that all was well, her mother’s illness recurred. This time, the illness took a toll on her mother’s body until she passed away. Sister Jovery recalled how painful it was for her: “I again prayed to God and begged for her life that day. But ultimately, I knew that it was not my will but God’s will that shall be done. I never forgot what my mother kept on saying before, that when she dies, we should be happy because she will die a member of the Church Of Christ. She has completed her race and I firmly believe that she will be saved come Judgment Day.”
Sister Jovery now runs the growing family business and despite the pandemic, their livelihood flourishes through God’s help. “God’s love is truly incomparable. And this has been proven many times in our life,” she said.
By Pzylen Pasuquin
In the biblical preaching of Brother Eduardo Manalo, he reminded the Church members that God will not allow His servants to encounter difficulties that they cannot surpass.
Attesting to God’s love, Brother Malcolm Lambkin clearly saw how God helped him throughout his life. He was already diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer in the blood, even before he became a member of the Church. Back then, he was still searching for answers on “which religion was most truthful.”
Brother Malcolm learned about the Church Of Christ from a friend of his. His interest piqued, he began to frequent Bible studies leading to his joining the Church. “When you ask questions, ministers do not give their own opinion; they always get answers from the Bible. This is what made me aware, that the Church Of Christ is the true Church,” he recounted.
As a Church member, Brother Malcolm believes that trials do come to test his faith. He underwent several surgeries to treat his illness. He said, “The doctors told me I only have five years left. But that was 21 years ago.” He believes that it was by God’s grace that his life was extended so he may be called into the Church.
Recently, he had gone through another operation and needed to stay for two and a half weeks in the hospital. However, he was able to continue receiving God’s words through the lessons for household worship services. For him, like any other faithful Church Of Christ members, this is another proof that God is always there to help and guide His servants. As he again learned a valuable lesson, he shared, “If we are God’s faithful servants and we pray to Him, we’ll get the answer. As far as trials go, I believe prayers will uplift us and our faith.”
By Beatriz Aiza Alvaira
In times of hardships, such as the current pandemic, true servants of God never lose hope but are all the more strengthened in the faith to overcome all hindrances. This is what Sister Efrelet Velasquez, a head dialysis nurse, has proven when life’s adversities almost took a toll on her.
“It’s hard enough to fulfill a nurse’s duty during ordinary times, how much more during these pandemic times. Healthcare workers are always racing against time. I am ‘on-call’ when there are emergency cases. Despite all these, I am thankful to God that I have remained in my duty as an organist,” Sister Efrelet said. Knowing how important her Church duty is, she has made it a priority to never miss fulfilling it.
A time came when Sister Efrelet encountered one of her hardest battles yet. She recalled, “Last April, our entire family had tested positive for Covid-19. A few months later, my mother passed away because of heart failure. I was so devastated and hurt. Our family was devastated.”
Going through such an ordeal is indeed distressful to any person. But with steadfast faith in God, Sister Efrelet and her family managed to move on. She said, “Because of the teachings [of God] imparted during the worship services, I feel that I am molded to be strong and firm no matter what situation I face. I learned that if we give God first place in our life, then He will surely give us what we need to overcome our sorrows.”
Sister Efrelet adheres to what the Executive Minister always reminds the Church members. “He taught us that as true servants of God in these last days, we should make God and our worship of Him our number one priority, and that we should never allow anyone or anything to hinder us from fulfilling our duties to God. Rather, we ought to place our hope in the blessings that will surely be ours when our Lord Jesus returns,” she said.
Having the right relationship with God, Church Of Christ members are certain of obtaining His abundant blessings. They always receive His help to get through life’s many challenges and they have a sure hope of His promised eternal blessings in heaven.