AS LIVING CONDITIONS in many parts of the world continue to worsen, many are forced to dwell on the unpleasant things in life which only lead them to frustrations, and worse, depression. Others, suffering from the misery that the troubles and tragedies have brought to the world, have succumbed to hopelessness.
But faithful members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ), though inauspicious and painful events also happen in their lives, do not allow such adversities to dampen their hope. As God’s chosen people, they remain optimistic as they deal with difficult situations in their lives.
Sister Evelinda Cipres did not expect to find herself in such situation.
“I was riding in a passenger jeepney going to the city proper when the driver was suddenly shot by one of the two men riding in a motorcycle,” she said. “Since I was seated next to the driver, I was hit by a stray bullet in my head.” The next thing she remembered was that she was lying on a hospital bed.
For his part, Brother Felizardo Montero Sr. recalled the overwhelming pain of losing his wife to pancreatic cancer 10 years ago. “It was painful for me to see her suffer from all the pains she was going through. As the head of the family, I had to be brave for them,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sister Kayezier Ortaleza struggled to face the challenges of being away from her family as she pursued her dream in a language school in Japan in March 2019.
“To make both ends meet, I had to work as a caregiver on the side. But my schedule was so hectic that it was close to becoming impossible for me to perform my Church duties,” she said.
Despite the hardships Church members encounter, they place their hope in God’s promises and the goodness He bestows upon His chosen ones. Sister Evelinda, a deaconess from Pambisan Local Congregation, Mindoro Oriental Ecclesiastical District, firmly believed that it was God’s kindness that kept her alive despite the tragic accident 13 years ago.
“It was God Who saved and gave me another chance to live, so I can continue to perform my duties. I will use the strength and life He blesses me with every day in worshiping and serving Him,” she said.
For Brother Felizardo, a head deacon in the Local Congregation of Camantiles, Ecclesiastical District of Urdaneta City, Pangasinan, the death of his wife did not hinder him from continuing to actively serve God and perform his duties.
“I am still grateful to God because I and my wife were able to provide a good future for our ten children. All of them had had their respective stable jobs and had had their own respective families before my wife died,” he said.
What inspires him even more to move on with is to finish his race.
“Just like my wife, I also want to finish the race God has given me, so I can be certain of His promised salvation,” he added.
To safeguard her divine election, Sister Kayezier was willing to give up her dream and return home to avoid any conflict between her work schedule and the worship services. However, God granted her the solution to her predicament. She said, “My new supervisor allowed me to take my intended days off. As long as I prioritize what is for God, He will make a way for me according to His plans.”
Indeed, God’s kindness and protection are what His true servants hope for, especially when tribulations come to their lives. Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the Executive Minister of the Church, exhorted the brethren in the worship service that he officiated on August 30, 2020 to fix their sight on the goodness of God despite difficult times and to never waste it by remaining in their divine election. By doing so, they will be certain of God’s blessings in this life and salvation on the Day of Judgment.
The Executive Minister’s preaching was streamed live from the Sanctuary of the INC Central Temple in Quezon City, Philippines to the two ecclesiastical districts in Japan—Tokyo and Nagoya. The Ecclesiastical District of Tokyo, Japan and the Technology Resource Group (TRG) of the Iglesia Ni Cristo Central Office were celebrating their 10th anniversary, respectively. The brethren from 27 local congregations in the Philippines, which celebrated their anniversaries—50 years and above—in August 2020, also witnessed the worship service via live videoconferencing.
In his preaching of God’s words, Brother Eduardo Manalo reminded the brethren that the sacrifices they make to remain in their services as Church members are never in vain. Especially now that the Second Advent of Christ is nearing, they ought to guard their divine election more safely than ever, the Executive Minister emphasized.
Hearing this, Brother Josue Ulgasan, a project-in-charge in road concreting and a deacon in the Local Congregation of Bayog, Ecclesiastical District of Zamboanga del Sur, recalled how he gave up job opportunities to keep his Church duties.
“Road concreting projects are very seldom in our place. So if there are opportunities to work for one, we have to grab it,” he said.
However, before accepting any offer, he has to consider if the work schedule and location would allow him to perform his Church duties.
“It is important to earn for a living to provide for my family and sustain our needs. But, I would have to decline any offer if it would hinder me from performing my duties because my spiritual well-being is at stake,” he concluded.
The Executive Minister taught that if His faithful servants experience seemingly insurmountable problems, they should cling to God through fervent prayers because He is always there to help them and He will never allow their problems to push them past their limit.
Inspired by the biblical lesson, Sister Golda Rica Galang, a secretariat officer in Shinagawa Local Congregation, Tokyo, Japan Ecclesiastical District, expressed her firm conviction. She said, “God gives me unyielding strength because I belong to His nation. The sufferings I endure keeps my faith edified, so I will remain true in my calling and be worthy of entering God’s kingdom.”
PANGASINAN – When the pandemic started, Brother James Dizon was the only one left in his family to have a job; then life got tougher and tougher for them, as for everyone else. But he remained firm in his conviction not to go against any of God’s teachings.
“Temptations are there,” he said, “but I will never allow myself to get involved in any illegal means of earning extra income.”
As a Children’s Worship Service (CWS) teacher in the Local Congregation of Camantiles, Ecclesiastical District of Urdaneta City, Pangasinan, he strove to be a good example to the youth in the Church.
“We are always reminded by the Church Administration to be determined in completely obeying God’s commandments no matter what the situation is,” he said.
Before he became a regular government employee, he used to work as a contractual janitor who would be laid off every six months.
“In spite of my unstable job before, I never resorted to do things that are against the law, especially God’s laws. God has blessed me with my current job, so I trust that He will help me survive this pandemic together with my family,” he said. (Ana Tamayo)
AKLAN – To reach the house of worship, Brother Arthur Bagac rides his tricycle for more than 20 kilometers, mostly on rough road. But this did not hinder him from accepting a Church duty that requires him to frequently go to the chapel.
“I strive to fulfill my duty as a head deacon in Zaldivar Local Congregation, Aklan Ecclesiastical District because this is a great blessing from God,” he said.
A convert, Brother Arthur, pledges devotion to serving God as a member of the true Church, knowing its great difference from being a nonmember.
“I know how difficult it is outside the Church Of Christ. All the efforts and services we rendered before were just useless before God,” he said. “But now, I am in the true Church. So, I will be dedicated in my God-given duty since it further strengthens my hope for salvation.”
Just like the rest of the brethren in Zaldivar, he considers the worship service officiated by the Executive Minister through videoconferencing a special occasion because it was in celebration of their local congregation’s 70th anniversary.
Inspired by the lesson Brother Eduardo Manalo taught, Brother Arthur said, “The distant travels and the dangers we face just to reach the house of worship are just part of our journey as Church members because we are still in this world. But all of these sacrifices will not be wasted because God will grant us the most precious reward when Judgment Day comes.” (Mikaella Michi Viva and Ashley Ebon)
ZAMBOANGA DEL SUR – As he goes about earnestly performing his sacred duty, Brother Eugene Ompad Jr., one of the head deacons in the Local Congregation of Bayog, Ecclesiastical District of Zamboanga del Sur, does not seem to endure any pain.
In reality, he has a skin condition called psoriasis that greatly affects his day-to-day living.
“Aside from the financial burden, I suffer so much pain and itchiness that I can barely sleep at night and perform my daily tasks,” he said.
And yet, Brother Eugene continuously visits the brethren under his care, conducts committee prayers, and encourages brethren to accept Church duties, among others.
“As long as I can stand, walk, and speak, I will keep performing the duties entrusted to me by God,” he said.
Despite his condition, he has resolved to never forsake the duty he sworn to before God. “There is no sickness that can hinder me from fulfilling God’s commandments. I always want to be of help to the Church Administration in its many endeavors in spite of what I am going through,” he said. (Bermie Grace Aba)
MINDORO ORIENTAL – “In my 55 years of teaching the children in the worship service for children, I have seen them grow in their faith, remain active Church members, and become officers in our local congregation,” Brother Conrad Matre, a Children’s Worship Service (CWS) teacher, said. He is now 74 and also one of the head deacons in the Local Congregation in Pambisan, Ecclesiastical District of Mindoro Oriental.
He always trusts in God’s plan even if, or more aptly, even more when, his family went through painful experiences. “My older son died in an accident when he was about to graduate. It was hurtful as a parent but we had to go on with our lives and remain active in fulfilling our duties in the Church. We firmly believe that God knows what is best for us,” he said.
When they learned that their youngest son wanted to become a minister, they supported his dream and entrusted to God his future. “Even if he was away from us at an early age, we trusted that God would guide him. Through His mercy, our son is now a minister assigned in Canada,” he said with fatherly pride and thankfulness to the Lord. (Myra Caibal)
[GOD’S KINDNESS TRULY manifests towards His faithful servants in various ways. As the Church Of Christ in Japan reached 10 years, the brethren continues to praise and thank God for His abundant blessings. Here are some of the Church members in Japan who held on to their divine calling and remained obedient to God despite the hardships they experienced.]
[Sister Rogene Limbo recalled her humble beginnings and struggles before becoming a registered nurse in Japan: “Back home, I had to work as a volunteer nurse for three years to earn a certification. My daily allowance was not enough, but my family supported me all the way.”
In Japan, she continued to experience ordeals in earning her license.
“I was on the verge of giving up when I failed the Japan licensure examination for nurses for the third time. The culture shock and the 1-hour after-work study time really defined the word impossible for me to pass.”
She did not give up, boosting her resolve with devotional prayers to God. She passed the exam in her fourth take.
“God has His own time and He knows best when to grant our prayers,” she avowed.
As a frontline health worker in the fight against the pandemic, Sister Rogene, a finance officer of the Church in the Local Congregation of Nagoya, admitted that she continues to undergo struggles, but her faith has been stronger. She said, “I always consider the worship services as my way to recover and regain the strength to keep me going. I have God Whom I can pray to and depend on to care for us.”] (Justine Millado)
[Having the idea of visiting Japan as a tourist is exciting to many people. But for Brother Rafael Ola Jr. who needed to leave his family in the Philippines 34 years ago to look for a better opportunity in the land of the rising sun, it was a different story.
“My only goal was to look for a job, so I could send money to my family back home. It was tough adjusting in a foreign land,” he said.
After two years, his life began greatly changing for the better when he decided to undergo Bible studies in Japan and eventually became a member of the Church Of Christ.
“God showed me the right path I needed to walk in,” he added.
A time came when Brother Rafael was enticed by an opportunity that was seemingly advantageous—but not to his Church membership.
“I got a job offer to be a family cook that would guarantee not only a high salary but also a Japanese citizenship,” he said, “But since I was required to stay in my employer’s house, I would not be able to easily go out to attend the worship services and other Church gatherings.”
Knowing the importance of safeguarding his relationship with God, he declined the offer without any hesitation.
“God is the source of triumphs. If I forsake the worship services, I will not receive His blessings and, most importantly, I will not be saved on Judgment Day,” he said.
Through God’s help and mercy, Brother Rafael actively performs his duty as the head deacon in Tokyo Local Congregation, Ecclesiastical District of Tokyo, Japan. He is also blessed with a permanent work at a hotel and lives in Japan together with his wife and three children as permanent residents.
“When I recall my humble beginnings here, I can’t help but thank God for His goodness. He has guided me all throughout my life ever since I became a member of the Church,” he said.] (Analyn Cabintoy)