The pandemic has not yet ended, while calamities that are unusual and extraordinary in occurrence and power, such as typhoons, volcanic eruptions, and wildfires, continue bringing devastation. The situation is even compounded by increasing poverty and civil unrest. Despite being affected also by such circumstances, the Church members are undaunted, for it has been evident in their lives that God never abandoned them even for a moment. That is why even during the times when prospects before them are dim, they continue placing their hope that God will always make it right for them in the end.
During the Thanksgiving Worship Service that Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the Church’s Executive Minister, officiated at on December 18, 2021 in the Central Temple, he mentioned that the Church has expanded to 159 countries and territories. Since 2009, 4,297 new ministers have been ordained. The Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) School for Ministers has more than 6,000 students currently enrolled. Since 2009 also, the Church has dedicated to God 2,720 new houses of worship around the world, including the 14 new houses of worship that were dedicated during this pastoral visitation.
And so, the members of the Church Of Christ will never stop giving thanks to God, as they sing hymns of praise to the Lord, entreating Him in their hymns: “Hear our hearts shout with rejoicing, Oh Father, we thank You!”
Grateful despite the struggles
Bagong Silang V, Caloocan
By Namilhyn Komatsu
The Balingit family from the Local Congregation of Bagong Silang V, Ecclesiastical District of Caloocan North experienced one of the hardest years in their life as they encountered an unexpected tragedy approaching the end of last year.
All the members of their family are active Church officers. The head of the family, Brother Robert Balingit, is a deacon. His wife, Sister Mylene, is a finance officer. Their eldest and middle children, Brother Russel and Sister Kristine, are both choir members and Children’s Worship Service (CWS) officers. The youngest, Brother Robbie, is a junior CWS officer. Just like many families, they had their fair share of struggles.
“Even before the lockdown, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It is truly a difficult time for me and my family. But we always prayed, and I never skipped attending the worship services. Even when I started my chemotherapy, I still attended the worship service. With God’s grace, it is my tenth year of being cancer-free,” said Sister Mylene.
After overcoming this trial came the stress brought about by the series of lockdowns due to the spread of the coronavirus.
“I was scared. Children like us weren’t allowed to go outside, but I always prayed to God asking Him to protect us,” said Brother Robbie.
Auspiciously, a very delightful news came at the perfect time for these brethren.
“We’ve waited for a long time for the dedication of our newly built house of worship, which is why we felt elated when we heard that, finally, our house of worship will be dedicated to God, and we felt even more excited hearing that the dedication will be officiated by no less than our beloved Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo,” said Brother Russel.
Brother Robert, being an overseas Filipino worker, felt thankful that their congregation’s house of worship would be dedicated to God, coinciding with his vacation in the country. He was elated on his way back to the country that he would be able to attend this joyous occasion with his family.
As they prepared for this special occasion, an unexpected tragedy happened. Three days before the anticipated event, Sister Kristine, succumbed to bacterial meningitis. She was 22. Their family was in an inexplicable pain and shock for her untimely death.
Brother Robert recalled, “When I arrived home from my flight, I was put in quarantine for five days. During that time, my daughter was already in the hospital. When I found out about this, it was truly very painful. I can’t even describe the pain that I was feeling. But what I did was pray relentlessly. After finishing my quarantine, I saw my daughter and had been with her, but it was too late.”
Despite the situation, their family, altogether, still attended the worship service. There, they listened to the words of God taught by the Executive Minister himself, Brother Eduardo Manalo, through videoconferencing.
“It is truly a remarkable experience. At first, I couldn’t fully examine the details of the actual house of worship, for my sole focus that time was to attend the worship service and listen to the words of God. When Brother Eduardo Manalo started preaching, it was uplifting. He taught us that when we experience heavy struggles, we should just remain strong and steadfast. We must be thankful despite the hardships that we are experiencing. After hearing those, I felt relieved. After the worship service, as I walked out of the hall, I felt renewed and I thought, I, as the head of the household, should be the first one to be strong for my family,” Brother Robert recalled.
Despite experiencing probably one of the most painful things that one can encounter in this lifetime, the loss of a loved one, the Balingit family learned from the Executive Minister’s exhortations that in these trying times, the best thing to do is to trust more and believe in our Lord God, draw closer to Him, and fervently pray for healing and strength. Even though there are a lot of trials, still, there are more reasons to be thankful for and this family shows how to be grateful despite struggles.
God has good purposes for His people
By December Saldaña
The dedication of the house of worship of the Local Congregation of Everett in the Ecclesiastical District of Washington State was both uplifting and spiritual. Brothers Stanley Hudson, Antonio Jumipit, and Edijer Crelencia were three deacons who volunteered to drive over 4,000 miles back and forth to Missouri to pick up the pews and the podium to be used in the renovation. Overcoming their harrowing journey through dangerous terrains, severe snowstorms, torrential rains, and the unpredictable onset of over 60 tornadoes was nothing short of a miracle.
“During the lesson,” recalled Brother Antonio, “[Brother Eduardo] pointed out that there were many instances where we could have been hurt or be in a worse condition, but something always happened that we were saved.”
Brother Antonio recounted the moments when they witnessed vehicles stranded at the side of the road, yet they were still inching along through less than five feet visibility range in a blizzard. “We could feel our car being swept away by the wind, so we parked underneath an overpass. A state patrol saw us and guided us to an off-ramp where we managed to find a rest area. We waited for a couple of hours. After that, the weather was completely different—as if nothing happened.”
“I really couldn’t describe it,” he said in tears, “the feeling that I had during the dedication. There were so many things to thank God for. The journey that we took taught me to always trust in God. So many unfortunate things could have happened, but here we are, safe.”
“There are no words to describe my feelings right now,” Brother Stanley humbly said. “It was such a surreal experience. I’m so overjoyed that we now have a beautiful place where we can worship God.”
Higit na mabuti ang Diyos sa maiisip ninuman
Parañaque City, Metro Manila
Sinulat ni Roxanne Vargas
Isang makasaysayang pangyayari ito sa buhay ng mga kapatid sa nabanggit na lokal. Mahigit dalawang taon nilang kinasabikan ang araw na iyon. Subalit bago pa man ang araw ng kanilang pagpapasalamat, hindi rin sila nakaiwas sa mga problema at suliranin, kaya ibinihagi ni Kapatid na Alex Batiagao, nakatala sa lokal, ang kaniyang ginagagawa sa tuwing dumarating ang mga pagsubok.
“Ang isang ginagawa ko sa pagharap [sa mga] pagsubok ng buhay, gaya ng itinuturo ng Pamamahala: manalangin, magpanata. Iyan ang ginagawa ng aking sambahayan. Isinusumbong namin sa Panginoong Diyos lahat ng aming hirap, … Sa tuwing kami’y nananalangin, ramdam namin ang pagyakap ng Panginoong Diyos.”
Ibinahagi rin niya ang kaniyang karanasan noong mapatunayan niyang may inilalaan ang Diyos ng tunay na biyaya para sa kaniya.
“Tinanong ako ng katiwala namin, ‘Ka Alex, baka puwede kayong tumanggap ng tungkulin bilang katiwala ng grupo.’ Nagkataon na sa panahong iyon ay security guard ako at halos dose oras ang aking trabaho,” wika niya.
Gayunman, tinanggap niya ang nasabing tungkulin. “Napakasarap palang magkaroon ng tungkulin,” pahayag niya. Isinalaysay rin niya na ipinagpanata nilang mag-asawa na sana’y mabago ang kaniyang trabaho para mas magaan niyang matupad ang kaniyang tungkulin, at ibinigay nga iyon sa kanila ng Diyos. Naulit pa ang gayong karanasan nila noong siya’y iniakyat sa tungkuling pagka-diakono.
“Noong ako’y tawagin bilang diakono, itinulot muli ng Panginoong Diyos na makasumpong ako ng panibagong trabaho,” pahayag pa ni Kapatid na Alex, “kaya ang oras ko para sa Panginoong Diyos, sa tungkuling bigay Niya sa akin ay nagagampanan ko.”
Ang mga pangyayari sa kaniyang buhay na akala niya noo’y hindi mabuti ay sinasampalatayanan niyang ipinihit ng Diyos para sa kaniyang ikabubuti.
God’s love will last forever
Tuguegarao City, Cagayan
By Dinah Lou Gravidez
Brother Jerry and Sister Nancy Tango used to live in Jerusalem, Israel. They experienced intense persecution and hardships from their employers, but they stood firm in attending their worship services. Now, they have more than two decades of being active Church officers in the Local Congregation of Carig, which is now the Local Congregation of Tuguegarao City. As they listened to the homily preached by Brother Eduardo Manalo, they looked back on the experiences they went through.
“I gave birth to my youngest daughter and she was diagnosed with down syndrome and epilepsy. I felt saddened as a mother, but I never felt dismayed nor have I questioned our Almighty God,” said Sister Nancy.
They consider their child as a blessing regardless of her condition and she never became a hindrance for them in fulfilling their Church duties. Rather, she became one of their sources of strength for them to uphold their zealous service to the Almighty God.
“Our God is good and merciful. No one among His people who goes through trials and overcomes them fails to see better days ahead. We are thankful for all the situations we’ve been through because we know He’s always been with us,” Sister Nancy attested.
Like the rest of the brethren in Carig, she and her husband Brother Jerry feel humbled that a new and beautiful house of worship was built for their local congregation and its dedication to God was even led by the Executive Minister himself.
Ang sigaw ng aming puso
Sinulat ni Alessa Amor Alcantara
Ibinahagi ni Kapatid na Janis Yambot na mula sa Lokal ng Baler, Distrito Eklesiastiko ng Aurora ang kaniyang karanasan matapos mapakinggan ang mga aral ng Diyos na itinuro ng Namamahala. Siya ay pangulong Binhi, kalihim sa Ilaw ng Kaligtasan, at II TSV Lead. Bata pa lamang siya nang malaman niya na may breast cancer ang kaniyang ina.
“Noong 2019, sa Recognition Day namin, hindi ko inaasahan na sa araw rin na iyon ay panghihinayang at kalungkutan ang mararamdaman ko,” aniya. Hindi na niya nagawang pumunta sa paaralan nila para tumanggap ng parangal noong araw na iyon dahil dinala nila sa ospital ang nanay niya upang sumailalim sa operasyon.
“Masakit bilang isang anak na makitang ganito ang pinagdaanan niya,” sabi pa ni Kapatid na Janis, “Nakakadurog ng puso na makita ang nanay ko.”
Ngunit sa kabila ng mga dinanas na iyon ng kanilang pamilya ay kinaawaan pa rin sila Diyos. “Nakakapunta pa rin kami sa kapilya kasama ang aking nanay upang makatupad ng aming tungkulin,” masayang ibinahagi ni Kapatid na Janis.
Ang namamalagi nilang kumbiksyon: “Habang kami ay patuloy na binibigyan ng Ama ng lakas ay patuloy rin naming ilalagak ang aming pag-asa sa magagawa ng ating Diyos,” pahayag ni Kapatid na Janis.
Anuman ang sitwasyon ng kanilang buhay, ang laging isinisigaw ng puso ng mga kaanib ng Iglesia Ni Cristo ay ang pagpapasalamat nila sa Panginoong Diyos dahil nasa kanila pa rin ang kanilang kahalalan bilang Kaniyang bayan, na siyang pinakamahalaga nilang kayamanan.
Our labors in the Lord are not futile
By Ela Andrea Beronilla
“We just have to completely put our trust in Him, and He will never let us down,” said Sister Aillyn Natividad, a deaconess and finance officer, after recounting her experience of sharing her faith before the renovation of their house of worship was completed.
Even during the pandemic, Sister Aillyn persisted so much in helping in the work of propagation. Inviting nonmembers to the Church became a daily routine of hers. Many times, she was turned down by those she invited, adding to the challenges she faced alongside with the threats of the pandemic.
But later in the year, the webinar was introduced to the brethren, a method of sharing their faith through social media platforms. Excited at the news of this activity, she began to reach out to people through social media.
“People’s responses were overwhelming. A lot of people showed interest in joining the webinar, and I made sure that I responded to each one,” said Sister Aillyn. On the day of the webinar missions, she was able to invite 20 guests from different parts of the world.
She recalled that one of her guests who was from Kenya refused at first. But she still continued to invite her. She sent her the video that was played on the first day of the webinar. Then, her prospect responded to her and said she was excited to connect the following day. “My heart is filled with joy and gladness,” exclaimed Sister Aillyn, “for I know this is the work of God in us.”
She firmly believes, “We are His instruments in calling people to join the Church. We just need to put all our trust in Him and He will do the rest.”