Christchurch, New Zealand

Looking forward
to the joys in heaven

AUGUST 14, 2021

PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD are looking forward to a time when life will get better—when the pandemic will end, and things will go back to how it used to be—especially since other countries had started to open up once again after many months of travel ban. Still, most people are essentially confined to their homes, unable to live as they used to, due to the intermittent lockdowns and safety protocols to keep safe from the life-threatening virus. The end of this pandemic is still nowhere in sight.

Though members of the Church Of Christ have also been affected by this terrible situation, they never fail to find reasons to still be thankful to God, for He continues fulfilling His promises to His people. His abiding fellowship is evident in the successes He grants on the sacred works of the Church. On August 14, 2021, brethren from an ecclesiastical district and 20 local congregations in different parts of the world gathered to offer praises and thanks to God to celebrate their milestone anniversaries. This was during the livestreamed worship service officiated by Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the Church’s Executive Minister, which was another manifestation of God’s unwavering guidance to His Church.

Brother Eduardo Manalo reminded the congregants during his homily that the time of the fulfillment of their redemption or deliverance from the wicked world is near. He thus emphasized from the Bible that rather than be unduly alarmed with events compounding the already frightening situation the world is in, members of the Church Of Christ should look forward to the joys that they will receive in heaven as promised to them by the Lord God.

The Church members take such message to heart. God’s promises taught by the Church Administration have been their guide in upholding their divine election as they journey in this world.

Barrio 7, Banga, South Cotabato

Remaining faithful and thankful to God
By Rica Jane Bansalao

“I feel better every time I fulfill my duties as a choir member in the Church Of Christ, despite my illness. We are not financially stable and have a hard time making a living, especially in this time of the pandemic. But I don’t see that poverty is a hindrance in fulfilling our duties as Church members. I know that God never gives us a problem that we cannot solve,” said Sister Emelia Ang, the choir leader in the Local Congregation of Barrio 7, Ecclesiastical District of Koronadal City, South Cotabato, which celebrated its 80th anniversary.

“I remember when I was pregnant with my youngest, I needed to walk almost three kilometers to fulfill my duty as a choir leader. Even though I felt lightheaded, I still felt at that moment that my faith in God remained, and He gave me strength to do my task as a choir member,” Sister Emelia shared.

Members of the Church learned from the Executive Minister to never give up in attending worship services to God and performing their duties. And they never blame God for their situation. Instead, they are taught to be thankful at all times, especially since God allows them to remain in their divine election.”

The hardships and trials that members of the Church have encountered all these years even motivate them to worship and praise God all the more. The Lord God can turn things around, since He is sovereign. And so, Sister Emelia makes it a point to remain faithful and thankful to God. “What I need to do is strengthen my faith and always worship Him. I am very thankful to God because He never gave up on me. He is always protecting my family and me.”

What she learned from Brother Eduardo Manalo remains in her heart: faithful servants of God ought to always stay firm and strong despite any circumstances they may face in this world. She always stays determined in her faith that God will certainly fulfill His promise to those who will remain obedient to Him until the end.

Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya

Amid all uncertainties
By Tristan Jay Mendoza

Amid the rising number of Covid-19 cases and ongoing uncertainties afflicting the world, members of the Church Of Christ continued drawing strength of faith through God’s words and the Holy Spirit they receive during worship services.

As the Local Congregation of Dupax del Sur in the Ecclesiastical District of Nueva Vizcaya celebrates its 75th anniversary, Brother Catalino Pal-ec, the congregation’s head deacon, looks back on how God has saved and protected him time and again for him to be able to fulfill his Church duties no matter what he encounters in life.

“I have been in the congregation’s leadership for more than 20 years now. Whenever I get weary and disheartened, I approach God in prayer especially during the worship services,” Brother Catalino shared. He was diagnosed with a kidney infection that drained not only his physical strength but also his courage. “What the Executive Minister taught us is vital—that we pray earnestly to God and put our hope in what He can do for us. That is what I did, and until now, I am here. So that is what I will continue doing,” Brother Catalino asserted.

Brother Eduardo Manalo taught in his Bible-based homily that all the brethren’s sacrifices are not in vain if they prioritize the worship services because on this sacred occasion, they receive God’s blessing and protection. This is also the time when they can all the more seek guidance from God through prayers. Members of the Church can attest to how powerful and effective prayer is. Through ups and downs, they can always lean on God.

We are prepared for the worst
By Gail Momblan

The brethren in the Local Congregation of Miag-ao, Ecclesiastical District of Iloilo South proved this true as they marked the congregation’s 70th anniversary. In the face of the life-threatening situation and the economic impact of the health crisis, the Executive Minister emphasized how blessed the members of the Church Of Christ are to always have God by their side. He said that the Church had already been prepared even before the virus outbreak, and its services to God are not hindered by the pandemic.

The brethren who heard the homily of the Executive Minister attest to how they gained renewed hope even as the world plunges into devastation. Sister Judita Najarila, choir leader and finance officer, is not hindered by the pandemic from fulfilling her Church duties. 

Sister Judita’s husband, Brother Bruno, was paralyzed due to a stroke. Apart from the physical exhaustion of taking care of him, she said that they also experience emotional battles, especially because of Brother Bruno’s longing to perform his former Church duty as a head deacon. Their children are always away for work, and it is hard for Sister Judita to leave her sick husband home while she performs her duties. But this even proved how God helps His children. “God never forsakes us. There are hindrances, but we find solutions every time. When I go to perform my duties, I can always find someone to look after him,” she said.

She believes the blessings in their family never run out as they continued serving God. While the health crisis has restricted the movement of people, the worship services go on unhampered. The Church Administration makes sure that the words of God reach the members of the Church through household worship services. It even became an opportunity for her husband to be able to attend the worship service without fail.

From a small space to hold services in the 1970s to a magnificent house of worship, Sister Judita witnessed how God helped and blessed their local congregation.

“We have hope. This is why we do not cease in serving God, in helping in the propagation works, and even in our offerings. Our life is hard, but God has mercy,” she said.

General Santos City, South Cotabato

Ang pagpapagal ay panandalian lamang
Sinulat ni Alex Paul Atup

Si Kapatid na Fernando “Nanding” Tolete, na nakatala sa Lokal ng Lagao, General Santos City, South Cotabato, ay nagkapalad na makadalo sa pagsambang pinangasiwaan ng Kapatid na Eduardo Manalo na nasaksihan ng kanilang lokal sa pamamagitan ng livestreaming. Siya ay ang pangalawang pangulong diakono ng lokal.

Nagunita niya na hindi naging madali para sa kaniya ang mga panahon noong bago pa lamang siya sa tungkuling iyon. Pero sa kabila noon, hindi nagpatinag si Kapatid na Nanding. Gaya ng natutuhan niya sa Namamahala, siya ay nanalangin at nagpanata sa Panginoong Diyos, kasama ang kaniyang pamilya, na nawa ay parati siyang bigyan ng mapagpakumbabang puso at maunawaing pag-iisip.

Bago ang pagsambang dinaluhan, nitong huling sanlinggo ng Hulyo, sumapit ang tatlo sa mga napakaespesyal na okasyon sa kanilang lokal: una, ang ika-75 anibersaryo ng pagkakatatag ng Distrito Eklesiastiko ng General Santos City, Cotabato South; pangalawa, ang ika-75 anibersaryo rin ng Lokal ng Lagao; at pangatlo, ang Banal na Hapunan. Subalit, dahil sa kaniyang hanapbuhay, dinapuan si Kapatid na Nanding ng Covid-19—sa panahong nalalapit ang mga mahalagang kaganapan.

“Habang kami ay nasa quarantine, kasama ko ang aking asawa na nagpapanata gabi-gabi. Hiniling namin na sana ay bigyan kami ng Panginoong Diyos ng matatag na pananampalataya, malawak na pag-iisip, at ipagkaloob sa amin ang natatanging kaalaman kung paano namin malalampasan ang ganitong pagsubok,” ayon kay Kapatid na Nanding.

Mabuti na lang at hindi naging mabigat ang impeksiyon sa kaniya at sa kaniyang pamilya. Hindi nagtagal, sa awa at tulong ng Diyos ay naging mabuti na ang kalagayan nila, at dahil doon ay nakatupad si Kapatid na Nanding ng kaniyang tungkulin sa mga nasabing okasyon at patuloy na nakapagpuri sa Diyos.

Tulad ng mga alalahanin at problemang naranasan ni Kapatid na Nanding sa nagdaang panahon, sumasampalataya siyang anumang pagsubok na mapagdaanan niya ay panandalian lamang. At totoong anuman ang kanilang maranasan, hindi pinababayaan ng Panginoong Diyos ang mga anak Niyang buong pusong sumasampalataya sa Kaniya.

God is with us in these troubled times
By Angelica Joy delos Reyes

The Local Congregation of Johor Bahru in Malaysia is now ten years old. Most of its members are contract workers from foreign countries and are far away from their families. Being overseas workers during the pandemic has even made life for them more grueling.

“We are worried that we might get inflicted by the virus and anxious that we might lose our jobs. We not only think about ourselves but also worry for our loved ones who live far away from us,” Sister Louren Magtoto said. She is a finance officer and the choir leader of the congregation. “Being in my senior years and away from my family, it’s very hard. These are the times when you wish to be in the security and comfort of your family,” she shared.

Still, members of the Church Of Christ consider themselves blessed. In his homily, Brother Eduardo Manalo reminded the brethren that no matter how difficult the situation is, God will be with His people. He will turn things around for their benefit.

Sister Louren attests to this for she sees its fulfillment in her life. “Being away from my family has helped me to be closer to God and to remind myself that there’s nobody in this world who can give the best comfort but our Father in heaven,” she expressed. “So, in our household, we continued conducting devotional prayers. I also have my devotional prayer and, if the situation allows, I conduct it in the place of worship. We are so blessed to be guided and be reminded by the words of our Almighty God that we receive during worship services and also to keep ourselves preoccupied with participating in all the activities being launched by our Church Administration.”

The brethren in Johor Bahru were inspired by the teachings of the Lord they heard from Brother Eduardo Manalo as he exhorted them to continue upholding their God-given duties and hold on to the hope of the promised salvation. Sister Louren said, “When Brother Eduardo emphasized focusing on the grace that we are about to receive from our Almighty God, those words give us hope. We have something to look forward to and help us remain zealous with faith and patience despite the burdens in this life.”

Beaconsfield, Ottawa, Canada

Our focus is on our race
By Jenny Lou Garcia

In his homily, the Executive Minister mentioned that, according to the Bible, life in this world will not get any better—people will continue experiencing different trials, problems, and even illnesses that will make them feel scared and hopeless. Even Church members are not exempt. But they do not lose hope. Instead, they put their focus on the race that God has set before them.

This was evident in the conviction of the brethren in the Local Congregation of Beaconsfield in the Ecclesiastical District of Ottawa, Canada who celebrated their 40th anniversary as a congregation. They remain steadfast and strong in their faith even during this time of pandemic.

Sister Edita Milano has been working and living by herself in Canada for about 30 years now. She is one of the longest registered members in the congregation. She is a choir member, a Children’s Worship Service (CWS) teacher, and the congregation’s head secretary. But in June 2019, the doctor confirmed that she had diabetes, which affected her ability to work and perform her duties.

She shared, “In my entire life, I did not experience being sick that I have to stop working and take medication every day and being hindered from doing my duty as a local congregation secretary. But at that time, I felt my body was not cooperating. At the same time, I was also thinking about my Church obligations, my everyday needs, and sending money to my relatives in the Philippines.”

Nonetheless, she remained focused. She shared what she learned from the Church Administration: “I did not lose hope. I always pray to our Almighty God for help and entrust everything to Him, that I can overcome these tests that He is giving me.” 

Entrusting ourselves to God
By Charlene Francia

Brother Salvador “Buddy” Saberola Jr. is one of the first members registered in the Local Congregation of Christchurch when it was established. The congregation now celebrates its 10th anniversary, and Brother Buddy is now its Buklod president. He is also a choir member, CWS teacher, and group overseer.

Listening to the lesson taught by Brother Eduardo Manalo in the worship service, Brother Buddy remembers how important it is that he was taught to always place his trust in God. He recalls one incident in his life: “I just finished attending the worship service when I saw someone calling me from the back of the chapel. They said that my wife was giving birth and I needed to go to the hospital. I was scared because I wasn’t there for her, but I knew God is. By the time I arrived, my wife had just given birth, and Calvin was born safe and healthy.”

Brother Buddy learned that trusting in God is what members of the Church should do, especially in trying times. He shares what he learned from the Executive Minister: “[Despite] everything that happens in our lives, good or bad, we still need to trust in God. Whether it’s a small or a big decision, we need to place our trust in Him because God knows what’s best for us.”

Wellington, New Zealand

Tested, but never wavered
By Leah Grace Jaime

As the Local Congregation of Wellington in the Ecclesiastical District of New Zealand celebrates its 10th anniversary, the brethren reminisce God’s unfailing love, guidance, and goodness.

Wellington, New Zealand, is considered as one of the most livable cities in these extraordinary times. However, the brethren there are not exempted from the hardships in this world for those were forewarned by the Bible. This was what the Executive Minister reminded them in the worship service he officiated.

Brother Jimry Gapatan, a head deacon and CWS teacher, experienced this firsthand. As a result of the economic downfall due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, he was subjected to a job redundancy—a situation in which a person loses his job because the employer needs to reduce the workforce.

As the head of the family and father of two, Brother Jimry cannot elude feeling worried, anxious, and fearful for his family’s future. “This affected my mental and emotional states,” he said.

Nevertheless, as the country went into full lockdown restrictions, there was one thing he tightly held on to. “During the lockdown, my entire family and I dedicated ourselves to attending the livestreaming worship service. Every night, we conducted our devotional prayers. We entrusted our life’s condition to the Father that we may surpass the tests amid this pandemic,” he mentioned. “It was through the advice and inspiration that we receive from the Church Administration that we were able to get through these trying times,” he further added.

Brother Jimry asserted that these tests did not stop him from performing his duties as a Church officer. He said, “In spite all of these, I all the more performed my duties with devotion.”

After hearing the preaching of the Executive Minister, he confided, his resolve to serve God even became stronger. It is his faith and conviction that God is in his everyday life, his light and guide. He points out what he learned from the lesson in the worship service: “As long as we entrust our life to God and we don’t stop in our active services to Him, our Lord God will never abandon us for He has a promise to His elect.”