Due to widespread destruction caused by Cyclone Gabrielle in New Zealand in mid-February 2023, the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) members living in Gisborne, a coastal city in hard-hit North Island, had to travel around 500 kilometers to be able to attend worship services with the Hastings Local Congregation.
“What should have been a 260-kilometer journey is almost doubled because the bridge in Wairoa that connects Gisborne to Hawke’s Bay has been swept away by the flood,” explained Brother Dante Ariola Jr., resident minister. “It was a great challenge faced by the brethren … The usual 3-hour drive became an 8-hour arduous travel. The roads were still under reconstruction, many parts were under rehabilitation.”
But they would not have to face such challenge for very long. Their prayers to have a place of worship of their own was granted by the Lord God with the Church Administration’s approval of the establishment of the Gisborne Group Worship Service.
The approved place of worship is the residence of Abraham Tumaneng Jr. along 33 Lyndhurst Street, Gisborne. On May 3, 2023, however, the new GWS held the inaugural worship service at Gisborne Central School Hall in Whataupoko, which was officiated by the New Zealand District supervising minister, Brother Dennis Dahunan.
Tumaneng, appointed as the GWS overseer, said, “We are very grateful to Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, our beloved Executive Minister, for granting our request to have a GWS here in Gisborne.”
Also expressing her joy, Jhoanna Tumaneng, a deaconess, said, “I am overwhelmed with happiness on this day and grateful to our Lord God for showing His love to us.”
For Joyvee de Leon, a choir member, attending worship services and performing her God-given duty are her topmost priority in life. “Without them in my life,” according to her, “is meaningless.”
She further shared, “That’s why when I heard the good news from the Church Administration that the inauguration will be held today [May 3], I didn’t have any second thought to come in here because I wanted to experience this one-time event and be part of the history. And most importantly, to let the power of our Almighty God once again inspire me and strengthen my faith in serving and glorifying Him.” — With reports from Roxanne Rosquita of INC News Section