MENDEZ IS ONE of the municipalities in Cavite province, Philippines—about 11 kilometers east of Tagaytay City, a famous tourist destination in the country. Known for its relatively cool weather, Mendez is a suitable place to grow various farm produce; and so, many of the locals turned into farming as a way to earn a decent source of living. It is also about an hour away from the shoreline of Taal lake, where the famous Taal volcano is situated.
When the volcano erupted early this year, residents in Mendez were greatly affected. Among them were members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo. However, the Taal Volcano eruption did not dampen their spirits. Even when faced with health hazards, inaccessibility to basic resources, and paralyzed delivery of basic services, they set aside personal priorities to focus on what matters to them the most—their worship and service to God.
Despite what was happening around them, they prepared their house of worship for congregational worship services. They did not allow the eruption to hinder them from holding the worship services.
“There were frequent earthquakes, heavy ashfalls, and the smell of sulfur dioxide was everywhere, yet, with face masks on, from morning until dawn, we were cleaning the chapel and its compound,” said Sister Adora de Jesus, as she recounted the days of continuous preparation leading to the worship service day.
“We were cleaning up the gardens; some were scrubbing the roofs. We kept ourselves busy with tidying up the compound,” recounted Rowena Trinidad, a finance officer.
Two months shy of the 82nd anniversary of their local congregation’s establishment, the brethren from Mendez received a blessing they long hoped for. Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the Executive Minister of the Church, would be leading them in a worship service to God. They held devotional prayers to praise and thank God for such grace.
Included in their pleadings was for God to take care of Brother Eduardo Manalo, especially during his travel to their local congregation. The brethren knew how much at risk the Executive Minister was, considering the imminent danger posed by the volcanic eruption and weather disturbances currently hounding their town and nearby provinces.
On the morning of January 31, 2020, Brother Eduardo Manalo arrived at the house of worship in Mendez. Brethren could not hold back their tears, as they witnessed the fulfillment of their ardent prayers. The choir rendered heartfelt hymns of thanksgiving that moved the entire congregation to overflowing praises and profound gratitude to the Almighty Father and to His Son, Jesus Christ.
In his homily, Brother Eduardo Manalo emphasized that in order for the Church members to overcome trials and sufferings, they should never forsake the worship service done in His temple or house of worship. It is there where they can cast their worries to God, for it is only Him whom they can turn to in times of distress.
Citing recent events, Brother John Rence Nuestro, a deacon, shared, “Because of Taal Volcano eruption, the restaurant where my wife [a deaconess], and I worked, was ordered closed. We had no work and received no pay for 14 days.” But Brother John Rence did not lose hope. He said, “In the worship services, I prayed hard. I told God about my worries and struggles. I felt the outpouring of blessings from our Almighty Father. He did not forsake our family. During the eruption of Taal Volcano, aid from the Church Administration was sent to our local congregation and my family was one of those who benefited. There were also those who offered me cleaning jobs and I earned more than I expected.”
Inspired by Brother Eduardo Manalo’s homily, Brother John Rence said, “I will continue to help the Church Administration in taking care of the brethren, edifying their faith and making sure that they remain active in the Iglesia Ni Cristo despite the calamities.”
“Holding worship services in high regard,” were the words etched in the heart of Brother Joseph Salgado: “Never be absent from the worship services and constantly renew your way of life.” Brother Joseph, also a deacon, shared how his life changed when he became a Church member: “Before I was baptized in the Iglesia Ni Cristo, I was a carefree individual without direction in life. When I became a member, I learned the importance of worshiping God in the true Church. I once declined a job promotion offered to me because the job required more time which would hinder me from fulfilling my duties as a deacon.”
Brother Joseph has witnessed how his wife and his only daughter, both with congenital heart diseases, still manage to attend the worship services despite their condition. “God promises long life to those who are obedient and to those who constantly renew their way of life,” said Brother Joseph. “We should never doubt Him.”
Because the brethren greatly value worshiping God, they make various sacrifices in order to attend the worship services. Brother Jesus Benalla, group overseer recounted, “There are instances when we have to walk for almost an hour just to attend worship services because we do not have money to pay for the fare. But no matter what his sacrifices are, Brother Jesus said, “When I worship God inside the chapel, I find peace; I always pray, I trust in Him, and I am committed to my duties of looking after the brethren under my care.”
Brother Eduardo Manalo reminded the brethren to remain steadfast in their faith in God and in what God can do to their lives. He admonished all in attendance to unite in obeying all of God’s commandments, so that His merciful blessings will continue to pour out on them and their families, and for them to receive the things they need, which they convey to God through their fervent prayers.
At 99, Sister Bibiana Rodrigo, the only living pioneering member of the local congregation, has difficulty walking. Yet, she remains active in attending the worship services. “My being a Church Of Christ member will bring me to salvation. Where else can I get that blessing? I always attend the worship service because this is where I draw strength. I am happy when I am inside the chapel. I receive more than what I pray for.” Sister Bibiana’s firm conviction and faithful promise is to “uphold my Church membership until my last breath.”
Through the pastoral visit of the Executive Minister, the brethren from the Ecclesiastical District of Cavite South, received their edification and inspiration at a time they needed it most. The brethren returned to their homes and continued on with their daily life with renewed faith, promising that they will constantly return to the house of worship—a place where they feel safe—and uphold their worship services to God until the very end.