Mahayag, Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines

Holding on to salvation
with eager intensity

OCTOBER 23, 2021

AS THE END of the world draws nearer, Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) members should never lose their relationship with God as His people to be sure of attaining His promised salvation and the eternal life in heaven. This is what Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the Church’s Executive Minister, reminded the congregants in the live-streamed worship service he officiated on October 23, 2021. He exhorted the brethren to treasure God’s words in their lives and emphasized the value of endurance and perseverance to continue being strong in their faith and holding on firmly to their divine calling.

During the sacred occasion, the Executive Minister led the dedication to God of 11 houses of worship. He also greeted the members of 34 local congregations and an ecclesiastical district celebrating their milestone anniversaries.

The following stories recount the experiences shared by brethren who attended the holy gathering.

Buayan, Cotabato North

Batangas Ecclesiastical District
By Juan Miguel Cadevida

Brother Marcelo Aldovino Jr. was once an altar boy in the Catholic church. “The priests taught me things I didn’t understand, I just obeyed blindly,” he recalled.

In 1984, he was invited to an evangelical mission in the Church Of Christ. “I was amazed by the way the minister preached using the Bible, so I decided to continue listening to God’s words. The biblical lessons about the one true God and about the false prophets convinced me to leave my former religion. That year, I was baptized,” he continued. He is now a deacon in the Bauan Local Congregation and the current Society of Communicators and Networkers International (SCAN) district president.

Being a convert, Brother Marcelo attested that the love he feels from the Administration in the Church Of Christ could not be found in his former religion. He was deeply inspired by the way Church officers conduct visitations to the brethren’s homes to pray for them to strengthen their faith. He further said, “The Executive Minister never fails to remind us to hold on firmly to our membership and renew our lives to ensure our salvation. With the Church Administration’s care and compassion, we, Church members, become closer to God,” he said.

Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada
By Rosalyn Higa

One of the pioneer Church members of the Henderson Congregation, Brother Elison Patio, reflected on the preaching of the Executive Minister, saying, “God has extensively prepared me for a greater calling, that is, this Church duty that He entrusted me with.” He is an organist and also a choir director in the Mountain States Ecclesiastical District.

At the age of six, Brother Elison learned to play the bandurria, eventually advancing to piano and organ, while learning vocals under the tutelage of professionals in music. Through the years, he continues to fulfill his Church duties, especially during the worship services. He shares his gift selflessly, leading and mentoring choir members and training brethren in their musical pursuits. “My real wealth is my Church duty. What more could I ever ask for?” he exclaimed.

Brother Elison, now 55, is happily married and blessed with three children. Also musically inclined, they sing with him in the choir. “Music in the Church is incredibly powerful, moving people, including my family, to be closer to God. That is what we experience during hymn-singing in the worship services,” he said.

Boxing champion Brother Kevin Johnson, known to enthusiasts as “Thunderstorm,” is a deacon and the Light of Salvation (LOS) president in the Las Vegas Congregation. Believing in the Bible-based preaching of the Executive Minister, he attests that being obedient to God’s words has brought him much blessings. Knowing the dangers and challenges that surround him and his family, he channels courage through prayers.

Brother Kevin knows how tempting material things are in this world, especially with his career. “But as I was called in the Church Of Christ, I learned that contentment comes from my faith and my relationship with God. I believe that inner peace is more important than all the riches in life,” he said.

He feels blessed to be able to lead his wife and their children to the true worship of God. Being among those who fight the good fight of faith, he shared: “Time is limited. Every day is an opportunity to obey God’s commands and to share our faith.”

Baruyen, Ilocos Norte

Lathrop, California
By Marben Leonador

“I was constantly moving to different cities because of my job. I was used to long drives,” said Brother Marvin Andriade, an engineer. He settled in California in 1999 and became one of the congregation’s pioneers.

When he was a part of the Tracy Congregation, he witnessed how the brethren there weathered persecutions. Being the head deacon of the local congregation, he did his part in giving them encouragement. “I always reminded them to persevere and pray because persecution is part of being in Christ’s body.”

As years passed, the local congregation grew even more. In March 2011, they wrote to the Church Administration to request if the brethren in Lathrop could have their own place of worship as an extension of the Tracy Congregation. Through God’s grace, they received instructions to establish Lathrop into a new local congregation.

Brother Marvin, now head deacon of the Lathrop Local Congregation, is thankful to have witnessed Brother Eduardo Manalo congratulate Lathrop for its milestone anniversary. “I’m hoping that God will continue to give me the strength to perform my duty,” he said.

Kitabog, Zamboanga del Sur

Oxford, United Kingdom
By Ria Rabara

Sunday, 2:00 a.m. The alarm goes off. While most people are still sound asleep, Brother Jude Shanta Fernandez is already up and gets ready to perform his Church duty. The videostreamed worship service in Sri Lanka starts at 7:30 a.m., which is 3:00 a.m. where he is.

He helps in translating the worship service lesson to Sinhala―his native language. He fulfills this until the first rays of sunlight hit the streets of Oxford. He also fulfills as a deacon and the Light of Salvation (LOS) president in the Oxford Group Worship Service (GWS). “I never feel tired at all. I am doing it happily and wholeheartedly,” he said.

Born a Catholic in Sri Lanka, he moved to the UK as a student. Little did he know that his faith and his life would change. “I was first introduced to the Church Of Christ in 2003. I was convinced to join the Church after learning from the Bible about the only true God and the one true Church that Christ redeemed. After that, I yearned to let my friends know about this biblical truth, so I volunteered to translate for the Sri Lankan doctrinal instructees during Bible studies,” he narrated.

As Brother Jude go through many trials in life, he expresses his conviction: “I will hold on to my faith despite the trials and stay connected to our Lord God to receive His promises.”

Makawa, Misamis Occidental

Novaliches, Quezon City
By Angelie Sabado

“I was angry at [Iglesia Ni Cristo members] back then because they said that the only Church that will be saved on the Day of Judgment is the Iglesia Ni Cristo,” said Sister Aurora Garcia, now a deaconess in the Novaliches Local Congregation.

She did not know that her husband was already attending the Bible studies in the Church. She narrated, “I was surprised when he brought a minister to our home for a Bible study. I was curious, so I continued to listen. After a few weeks, I understood and believed, especially the biblical teaching about the one true Church established by Christ. My anger dissipated. I was eventually baptized in the Church.”

After a year, her parents came home from abroad, finding out that she had joined the Church Of Christ. “They were angry and said many hurtful things. Everything they had given to me was taken away. Then, they went abroad again and left me,” she said. But she did not feel angry with them at all. She believed that her faith was being tested. “I became more steadfast in the worship services and I actively shared my faith with more people,” she added.

Sister Aurora reflected upon what Brother Eduardo Manalo taught during the worship service. “He taught us to fight for our faith, so that we can persevere until we attain our salvation on Judgment Day. Regardless of the trials and persecutions, I promise to continue fulfilling my duty to God and help in propagating His words so that more people will be saved.”

Luop, Zamboanga del Sur

Mahayag and Luop, Zamboanga del Sur
By Chenilyn Aswe and Dale Dimain

A once-devout Catholic, Sister Sofia Lamparas from the Mahayag Local Congregation decided to listen to the biblical teachings of the Church Of Christ and was baptized in 1971.

Her loved ones, including her husband, persecuted her. She said, “They wanted to hinder me from attending worship services. I often cried, not because of what they did, but because they didn’t understand how important it is to worship God.” But she never gave up inviting them to listen to God’s teachings.

In 1982, she accepted the duty of deaconess. Through the years, she continues to experience persecutions and face calamities in life, but she is firm in her hope in God. “I have never let these trials affect my faith. I always pray to God for strength and He never lets me down,” she affirmed.

Now 83 years old, Sister Sofia continues serving God while she still has life and strength. “I am so happy to have witnessed the dedication to God of the new house of worship in Mahayag. Truly, God continues blessing the entire Church,” she said.

Another house of worship dedicated to God was for the Luop Local Congregation. Brother Gregorio Decipulo, a pioneer member, clearly remembers how God dispensed His love to his family. “Back in 1960, only three of my seven siblings were Church Of Christ members, while my parents and the rest of us were their vehement persecutors. When my mother fell gravely ill, my father and I challenged my siblings who were Church members to pray for her. I remember kneeling down with tears running down my cheeks upon hearing their prayer,” he reminisced.

With God’s help, and to their family’s astonishment, his mother eventually recovered. He said, “My parents and I decided to listen to God’s words taught in the Church. We then believed that there is only one true God and He is with this Church.” Brother Gregorio was baptized, and has been an active Church officer since then. Being grateful to God, he donated a parcel of land to the Church, which is where the newly dedicated house of worship now stands.

Now 81 years old, he said, “I make sure that my wife, my children, and my grandchildren are active Church members as well because this is my promise to God. Until the end, we will never stop worshiping Him in the Church.”   

New Panay, Maguindanao

Prague, Czech Republic
By Hazel Ann Ramilo

Many nights were of little sleep for Sister Glicelyn Ramilo back in the days when she traveled by train for more than four hours from Prague to Vienna, Austria to attend the worship services. “No matter how difficult, it was all worth it every time I arrived at the place of worship. I firmly believe that God watched over me all those times,” she said.

 The brethren’s prayers in Prague were answered when the Church Administration approved the establishment of their Group Worship Service (GWS) in October 2011. They no longer had to travel to Vienna to attend worship services.

Sister Glicelyn recalled the challenges of being new in this country as a Church member. She said, “Many people are so busy with work. They don’t prioritize religion. With different work schedules, it’s difficult to meet and speak with them, especially during this pandemic. But with God’s help and our eagerness to share our faith, we are able to invite friends and colleagues to evangelical missions, Bible studies, and to watch our religious programs online.”

Sister Glicelyn felt the Executive Minister’s love and concern for the brethren when he reminded them that they should keep a firm grip on their divine election until the day of salvation comes. “I always feel that Brother Eduardo Manalo is there for us. He never ceases to remind us God’s teachings to strengthen our faith. That is why I promise to always obey God’s will,” she vowed.

Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis, Tennessee
By Drew Perez

God does listen to prayers. This is why Brother Bernie Perez, a head deacon in the Memphis Local Congregation, has made prayer a part of his life.

Before having their current house of worship, the brethren in Memphis rented a hall in Southaven, Mississippi, half a mile from Memphis, Tennessee.

“When we were searching for a permanent house of worship, our resident minister led us in conducting devotional prayers to God because He is the One Who designates a place for such a holy purpose,” Brother Bernie remarked.

In searching for a suitable place for worship services, his wife, Sister Diana, asked assistance from a real estate agent who gave her listings of chapels for sale, which they presented to their resident minister. They found a chapel owned by the Evangel Temple Church.

On August 15, 2017, the Church Administration approved their request to purchase the chapel, which was refurbished to fit the needs of their holy gatherings. Then, a major renovation was done to the 500-seater chapel and was rededicated to God on October 23, 2021. Brother Bernie said, “Our hearts are filled with joy that our Almighty God heard our devotional prayers. He had chosen this place where we worship Him.”

With God’s mercy, their house of worship was among the 11 houses of worship dedicated to God by Brother Eduardo Manalo.

Bumbungan, Rizal

Bumbungan, Rizal
By Corazon Vizmanos

Sister Lagrimas Iwarat, a pioneer member of the Bumbungan Local Congregation, cried during the live-streamed worship service. She remembered a specific event in her life when she and her younger sibling, Sister Yolanda Alejandro, experienced how God immediately answered their prayers.

“In wartime 1943, the sound of gunfire and the sight of soldiers became familiar to many of us. But fear dawned on us when a group of enemy soldiers arrived and shouted at us, aiming their guns and motioning at us to stop while we were on our way to worship service,” Sister Lagrimas recalled. Their father tried to speak to the soldiers, but was ignored. He held his daughter’s hands and prayed to God. They felt that they, along with a few others, were to be taken somewhere else.

Nevertheless, Sister Lagrimas said, “God never abandoned us. I heard someone command the soldiers, then they looked elsewhere and ran back to their vehicles. They left as quickly as they arrived. We felt relieved. When we reached the place of worship, they prayed to thank God for His protection, and we have never stopped thanking Him since then.”

Indeed, the power of prayer is great and the Lord God Whom Church Of Christ members pray to is Almighty and ever-loving. Sister Lagrimas has always held on to this truth. She shared her conviction: “No ordeal is too severe and no problem is too burdensome with God on our side. That is why we will never let go of our membership in the Church because this is what links us to God.”

Guagua, Pampanga
By Francis Rowen Yusi

“Back then, heavy rains caused the road to be impassable due to floods. We used boats to travel to the house of worship. I saw how the brethren valued the holy gatherings. They would not let anything hinder them,” said Brother Jose Wanta, a pioneer member. Remembering how God guided them through trying times made them all the more inspired to celebrate the 101st anniversary of their local congregation.

Sister Maria Cristina Wanta, a deaconess and Brother Jose’s daughter-in-law, recalled her share of trials and how she held on to her Church membership despite the persecution from her loved ones who were nonmembers. “When I was still a doctrinal instructee, they would not allow me to leave the house to attend the worship service. They said that it was shameful for our family to have someone convert to another religion, since we have a relative who is a Catholic priest. They threatened to disown me, but I decided to obey God first before anyone else. After all, that is what the Bible teaches to become Christ’s true servant,” she narrated.

During those times, she found solace and strength in attending the worship services. Like what she learned during Brother Eduardo Manalo’s biblical preaching, God’s people ought to remain brave amid difficulties and should persevere to continue serving and worshiping God until the end.

Matti, Davao del Sur

Matti, Davao del Sur
By Julius Allen Abalde

Over the years, Church officers in Matti have traveled by groups to far-flung towns and mountainous barangays to invite people to listen to God’s words, convincing them to join the Church. Brother Nicolas Vicho, a head deacon in the Matti Local Congregation, recounted, “After planning to conduct a Pasugo distribution activity to invite people in a specific town, brethren heard of an impending danger in that area. The road leading there was supposedly blocked by armed men.” Yearning to share their faith, Brother Nicolas and the brethren did not abandon their plan because of those rumors. They asked God for guidance through their prayers and proceeded.

On the day of the activity, the rumors of the impending threat proved to be false and SCAN members confirmed it. “God gave us the courage to share our faith. No one was worried that day. We pushed through to bring the truth of God’s teachings to more people,” Brother Nicolas said. With God’s help, they were able to invite busloads of people from that town to attend the evangelical mission that evening.

Brother Nicolas said, “God never neglected us. He gave us His constant light, so that we could fulfill His will.” As worship service attendance grew in Matti due to the intensive propagation of God’s words, the brethren witnessed another triumph from God with the dedication of their new and bigger house of worship. They find themselves elated and grateful, for God Himself has bestowed such a blessing upon them through the Church Administration.

Papaya, Nueva Ecija

Papaya and San Francisco, San Antonio, Nueva Ecija
By Marvegrace Santiago

“Life is meaningless if it is not used to serve God.” Such is the conviction of Sister Ma. Theresa Perez, a deaconess in the Papaya Local Congregation, having understood God’s teachings in the Bible. Despite her busy schedule being a school teacher, she always prioritizes fulfilling her Church duties. “It feels like something is missing if we don’t participate in Church activities,” she added.

A convert, Sister Theresa is one of the Church officers in their congregation to have invited many people to listen to God’s words, able to convince many of her friends and loved ones to join the Church. She said, “It makes me feel so happy to know that God utilizes me in bringing more people into the Church. I believe He is happy when His servants fulfill this task of sharing the faith with others because He wants people to be saved come Judgment Day.”

Being also a convert herself, Sister Olympia Reyes, a deaconess in the Local Congregation of San Francisco, San Antonio, also strives to convince others to join the Church. “When I was baptized in the Church, I invited my sister to join as well. We experienced much persecution from our loved ones, even to the point of letting us choose between them and our Church membership. But God helped us find ways to get through difficult times,” she added.

Sister Olympia stood her ground and continued attending worship services and holding devotional prayers to God. “What’s really important is to trust in God. I prayed sincerely to Him for courage to be able to lead more people to join the Church, especially my loved ones,” she said. God heard her prayers. Her five brothers were eventually baptized and are now active Church officers.

Even now that she is facing other hardships as a mother, she believes that by trusting in God’s plans, she can hold on until the end. “My eldest was epileptic; she had daily seizures, so I couldn’t leave her. The anointing of oil for the sick and constant devotional prayers were what we did. With God’s mercy, she no longer has epileptic attacks. God healed her.”

God’s faithful servants never lose hope, for God continues fulfilling His promise to help and guide them. Thus, they do their best to maintain their relationship with Him by always worshiping Him in the Church Of Christ and by obeying all of His commandments.