Amid the worsening condition of the world, the members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) have the hope of receiving God’s promises. In truth, God has been and will always be true to His promise of helping and strengthening them, His people, in times of need. Above all, God has promised His faithful servants the great reward when the Lord Jesus Christ returns—salvation, eternal life, and the peaceful dwelling with Them in the Holy City.
This is what Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the Executive Minister of the Church, highlighted in his Bible-based preaching during the worship service he officiated through livestreaming on January 22, 2022 at the Central Temple in Quezon City, Philippines. On the said occasion, the Executive Minister greeted the ecclesiastical district and the 30 local congregations that were commemorating the milestone anniversaries of their establishment.
The opening prayer was led by Brother Arnel T. Verceles, while Brother Romer D. Galang led the prayer after the preaching of the Executive Minister. Also in the sacred gathering, 15 ministerial workers were ordained as ministers of the gospel. After taking their oath of office led by Brother Rene J. Panoncillo, they went up to the podium to receive the laying on of hands of the Executive Minister. Having been bestowed the office of minister of the gospel and the sacred duties and responsibilities that come with it, they are now of greater help to the Church Administration in safeguarding the faith of God’s people. Brother Eraño S. Codera then led the prayer after the laying on of hands.
The following are stories of some of the brethren who, whatever they experienced, did not allow themselves to lose their confident trust in the Lord and in His promises:
San Jose, California, USA
By Joanne Marie Badanguio
At the beginning of this year, the Local Congregation of San Jose in the Ecclesiastical District of Northwest California celebrated its 45th anniversary. Sister Remy Sabino, a deaconess and also one of the pioneers in San Jose, recalled how she had felt when the congregation was established. “I still remember the circular that was read in the worship service on January 5, 1977,” she said, remembering not only the announcement of the establishment of the Local Congregation of San Jose but also the feeling of joy she felt about it. “I was overjoyed and felt thankful to the Church Administration for seeing the need of the brethren and, even from afar, it was evident that they were always looking after the faith of the brethren,” she recounted.
The challenges that the brethren encountered as they were starting as a new local congregation did not dampen their spirits. “We started renting a hall in San Jose for our gatherings. The time allotted on rented venues was limited, so the brethren were constricted in the types of activities that could be held. Meetings were held at the brethren’s garages and choir practices were done in different homes. Despite these challenges, the brethren took advantage of every opportunity to gather together.”
Just as they confidently hoped and prayed for, the Local Congregation of San Jose continued growing and flourishing. “From renting a small venue for worship services to now having a beautiful house of worship, our prayers were answered and we were blessed. We started from a few members to growing so large that new local congregations, such as Mountain View, Milpitas, Gilroy, and South San Jose were established,” Sister Remy narrated.
As the Church members from the Local Congregation of San Jose commemorate their anniversary, they promise to never waver in their faith and will continue doing what God expects them to, especially now that the time of the fulfillment of their redemption is truly very near.
Orange County, California, USA
By Diana Zapanta
Celebrating the 35th year of the establishment of their ecclesiastical district, the brethren from Orange County, California felt blessed to receive greetings from the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo Manalo, during the worship service. Sister Lucy Brimbuela was among those gathered in the house of worship of the Anaheim Local Congregation, which was commemorating its 45th anniversary.
As she listened to the homily in which the Executive Minister lovingly exhorted the brethren to not throw away their confident trust in the Lord, Sister Lucy could not help but think of God’s guidance in her life and in her work as a psychiatric nurse.
In doing her job, she prioritized the implementation of Christian values in every manner of caring for their residents. She never forgot to exemplify to them how she, as a Church Of Christ member, ought to live—that is, living for Christ, completely obeying God’s will. And when challenges came her way, she followed what the Bible teaches—to calmly face those ordeals.
Over the years, as Sister Lucy experienced tests of faith, she has always trusted God’s plan. “I don’t even question it. What I ask God is to show me what [He wants] me to learn.” With God’s guidance, she was able to persevere, prioritizing above all her Church duty.
As a deaconess who also cares for the brethren, she would always advise them to be devoted to attending the worship service in order to be strengthened in the faith through God’s power. She said, “When you’re having trials, and you attend the worship service, it’s as if God were speaking to you.” Having witnessed in her life that God never goes back on His promise, she vows to never cease encouraging others to hold on to their faith and their confident trust in the Lord.
By Madelyn Ramos
Known for its vibrant streets and rich cultural heritage and history, Thessaloniki is one of the places people in Greece go to and spend their days off. Sister Imelda Balbin used to do so. She said, “My first work in Greece was in Kastoria. It took four hours to travel by bus to Thessaloniki. Before, I traveled to Thessaloniki every weekend just to spend my days off.”
Little did she know that it is in Thessaloniki where she would find something far greater than just a breather from tiring days at work. It is where she was introduced to the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ).
She shared, “It was in the 1990s when a Church member from the Thessaloniki Group Worship Service (GWS) invited me to the Church’s worship services and Bible study on doctrines.” Upon understanding that the Church Of Christ is the Church that is of God and of Christ, she decided to register as a Bible student and, according to her, “I also decided then to move to Thessaloniki and find another job there.”
However, Sister Imelda had a hard time finding a job where she would be able to freely attend the Bible studies on doctrines and the worship services. She worked from one employer to another because of the persecutions and trials she experienced. There was even a time when, for a couple of weeks, she was assigned somewhere far away from the place of worship.
Despite what she experienced, her conviction to become a member of the Church did not waver. “So, I held my devotional prayers that God may help me overcome those trials,” she said. Then in March 1998, she was able to receive her baptism. “I felt so blessed and overjoyed because despite the many challenges I had to face, I was able to overcome them through the help of the Almighty God.”
Trials did not stop even when she was already baptized, and she had to find new employment several times. What she did in those times, she said, “I continued to beseech God through my devotional prayers. With His guidance and help, I was able to find a job near our place of worship where I would not be hindered from attending the worship services and performing my Church duties.” Sister Imelda is now an organist and finance officer in the Thessaloniki GWS.
These experiences were reminisced by Sister Imelda as she pondered on the teachings taught by Brother Eduardo Manalo in the worship service. She expressed, “We are all the more strengthened in our faith. Through God’s teachings imparted to us, I fully understand that whatever we experience in this world, God will always be by our side. He always has the best plans for us that is why we must entrust to Him our lives.”
Kent, Washington, USA
By April Petines
As the Local Congregation of Kent, Ecclesiastical District of Washington State, celebrated its 25th anniversary, Brother Mardo Liwanag could still remember very well the day he took his oath as a head deacon about five years ago.
Being a Church officer does not exempt one from challenges. Brother Mardo clearly remembers a moment when his dedication to his duty was tested. Right before a worship service in which Brother Mardo was to perform his duty in the podium, his father experienced severe pain. “He was sweating. I thought it was another heart attack.” His father was taken to the hospital where he underwent surgery to remove gallbladder stones.
Despite what happened, Brother Mardo still fulfilled his Church duty. He entrusted his father’s health completely to the Lord God. “I will always prioritize my faith,” Brother Mardo shares.
This incident was not the first time Brother Mardo leaned on his faith in the Lord God as he faced a challenge. His father had a major heart attack in 2012 while in the Philippines. His siblings called and told him to prepare himself because the doctors said that their father was not going to make it.
He remembers telling his siblings, “Kneel down and pray. I will also kneel down and pray here.” Through God’s unfailing mercy, his father fully recovered then and returned home to the United States one month later. His father has been doing well for 10 years now and was also able to recover from his last surgery.
Brother Mardo shares that his faith and trust in the Lord God were once again strengthened during the worship service Brother Eduardo Manalo officiated. He was reminded of how crucial it is to keep his confident trust and faith in the Lord. Brother Mardo declared, “No matter what happens, I will completely trust in the Lord God.”
San Nicolas, Pangasinan
By Joel Guirren
In the worship service he officiated, Brother Eduardo Manalo reminded the brethren that they ought to remain living for Christ, upholding their Church membership, and actively performing their Church duties whatever they may face. Reflecting on the worship service lesson, Sister Shirlone Gaspi, a choir member from the Local Congregation of San Nicolas, reminisced how God strengthened her amid all the challenges.
“A few years ago, I would walk for more than an hour and cross a river just to fulfill my duty as a choir member in the then Cabuloan Extension. The worship service was scheduled at 12:00 noon, and I would go back immediately to the house of worship of our local congregation to perform my duty in the worship service in the afternoon,” she recalled with a beaming smile.
No obstacles could ever stop Sister Shirlone from carrying on with her duty. “No matter how overwhelming and challenging the situation is, I draw strength from God and inspiration from singing praises with thanksgiving in my heart to Him,” she continued.
Sister Shirlone faced another test of faith when her mother passed away in 2019. Admittedly, Sister Shirlone grieved and felt like dying within, but she has never forgotten to lean on the heavenly Father during this sad moment of her life. “I know that that day would come. I asked the Lord to give me the strength to overcome this for my family. Having faith in this difficult time allowed me to find peace in God’s presence,” she expressed.
Fully understanding why God allows us to encounter trials and obstacles, Sister Shirlone said, “We shouldn’t just be thankful to God for the happy times. We should also always greet troubles with unshakable faith because these are among His ways to make our faith fortified, steadfast, and immovable.”
By Georgina Sasaki
Located at the northernmost part of Japan, Hokkaido is known for having a long winter season. Others may find it wonderful to live in a place that snows. But it also entails risks, such as what happened to Brother Shinji Sasaki from the Local Congregation of Hokkaido, Ecclesiastical District of Tokyo, Japan. There was a time when he slipped on the snow, which left him with a broken leg that is, until now, aided with a brace.
However, while the injury may have slowed Brother Shinji down physically, he has nevertheless remained steadfast and unhindered in his services to God. Recognizing the importance of the worship service, he said in Nihongo, “私たちのこの世の旅の導きである神の教えは礼拝の時にいただけます [It is in our worship services to God when we receive the teachings that serve as our guide as we continue our journey in this world].”
Such is also the conviction of Brother Shuji Saito, also from the Hokkaido Congregation. Even when he underwent a major surgery, he has likewise remained firm in his resolve not to forsake the worship service. For, as he attested, “特に困難のときこそ、礼拝で心の安らぎを得ることができます [It is in the worship service where we have the peace of mind we need, especially in these difficult times].” Unfazed by the ordeal he went through, he drew strength from prayers to God. He shared, “そのようなとき、私はいつも神に祈ります。私と私の家族がそのような試練を乗り越えられるように助けてくださった神に本当に感謝しています。私はこれからも神に大きな信頼を置きます[During those moments, I prayed to Him, as I always do. I am truly grateful to Him for helping me and my family overcome such a trial. I will always keep my confident trust in Him].”
What the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, reiterated in the worship service that the Lord God expects His people to praise Him no matter what happens resonated with him. It was clear to him that even if God’s chosen people go through hardships, His promised help for them will never cease, that they may overcome whatever they experience. Brother Shinji said, “私たちはいつも神に信仰を置くべきです。神はいつも私たちのそばにいて、私たちを強くし、これからも熱心に神に仕えることができるようにと支えてくださいます。どんな妨げに直面したとしても、私はこれからも神を礼拝すると約束します [It is in God Whom we should always put our faith. He will always be by our side to strengthen us for us to be able to stand our ground and remain active in our services to Him. I promise to remain unhindered from worshiping Him despite any obstacle that I may go through].”
Sinulat ni Normelyn Pajo
Sinasampalatayanan ng mga kaanib ng Iglesia Ni Cristo ang mga pangako ng Panginoong Diyos sa kanila—hindi lamang ang Kaniyang pagtulong sa buhay na ito, kundi higit sa lahat ay ang Kaniyang pangakong kaligtasan sa Araw ng Paghuhukom. Kaya, upang mamalaging matatag ang kanilang pag-asa sa mga pangako ng Diyos anuman ang kanilang masagupa, laging itinuturo ng Pamamahala ang mga aral ng Diyos na siyang nagsisilbing gabay ng mga kaanib ng Iglesia sa pagtataguyod ng kanilang kahalalan.
Ang mga ito ang inspirasyon ni Kapatid na Babylinda Cortez, isang diakonesa sa Lokal ng Indang, Distrito Eklesiastiko ng Cavite South, upang maipagpatuloy ang pagtupad ng kaniyang tungkulin sa kabila ng mga naranasang pagsubok sa buhay. “Sa tulong ng Diyos, ako ay naging matatag, lalo na sa harap ng pinakamatinding pagsubok na dumating sa akin—nang mamayapa ang aking anak,” wika niya.
Sariwa pa rin sa isip ni Kapatid na Babylinda ang sakuna na nangyari sa kaniyang anak. Habang pumapasada ng van, ang kaniyang anak ay naaksidente at nasawi. Sa panahon ng pagdadalamhati, namalaging matatag si Kapatid na Babylinda at nanghawak sa pagpapalakas ng Diyos. “Sa mga panahong iyon,” aniya, “ang aking pinanghawakan ay ang panalangin. Sumasampalataya ako na anuman ang aming pinagdaraanan ay magagawa naming mapagtagumpayan dahil hindi kami iiwan ng Diyos.”
Tulad ng ipinahayag ng Kapatid na Eduardo Manalo sa pagsambang kaniyang pinangasiwaan, ang mga tunay na hinirang ng Diyos ay hindi manghihina sa kabila ng kaligaligan at patuloy na magpupuri sa Kaniya anuman ang mangyari. Ito rin ang pangako ni Kapatid na Babylinda: “Hinding-hindi ako bibitiw anuman ang mga pagsubok na dumating sa akin. Hindi ako magpapabaya sa aking tungkulin at patuloy akong makikipagkaisa sa Pamamahala sa pagpapatibay sa mga kapatid at sa pagpalaganap ng tunay na pananampalataya.”
“To have a son who is a minister in the Church is truly a joy for parents in the Church Of Christ. Even when [Brother Marco] and his brother were still young, they have already held various duties in the Church. We, as parents, were even more delighted when they decided to enter the holy ministry. And now that they are in the holy ministry, my wife and I have peace of mind, for we know that wherever they may be assigned, the Almighty God will never forsake them. We sincerely hope that they be of help to the Church Administration in taking care of the Lord’s flock.”
“As ministers in the Church, we are the first ones expected by God not to be distracted by anything that the enemy of our faith, the devil, uses as instrument to weaken our faith and hinder us from fulfilling our obligations to God. That is why, we should continue confidently trusting in God and being prayerful, asking God for the strength we need to carry on with performing our duties and for us to remain firm in our divine calling. I vow to always strive to fulfill whatever task I am entrusted with. I will strive hard to do whatever I can to accomplish what God expects from me as a minister in the Church, that I may be of help to the Church and, above all, for the glory of God.”