Tacoma, Washington, USA
TRUE SERVANTS of God, like other people, also go through sufferings while living in this world. Fortunately, they are continuously taught the holy words of God by the Church Administration not only to remind them that their afflictions serve to test their faith but more importantly how to deal with them. For, no matter what form and how difficult they are, such trials help them be purified in their faith and deemed worthy of attaining eternal life in the Holy City.
On May 29, 2021, in a worship service he officiated, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the Executive Minister of the Church Of Christ, exhorted the brethren to never weaken in their faith but instead be joyful even in the face of trials. Citing the Bible, he reminded them that through the strength and guidance coming from God, the faithful are able to overcome various trials.
From the Central Temple in Quezon City, Philippines, Brother Eduardo Manalo’s preaching was livestreamed to various local congregations all over the world that were commemorating their milestone anniversaries. On that sacred occasion, eight ministerial workers received the laying on of hands of the Executive Minister to become ministers of the gospel, bringing to 4,225 the total number of ministers ordained since 2010.
The following are some of the experiences of brethren who remain active in fulfilling their sacred duties to God with their ardent desire to triumph over the trials and complete the race He has set before them.
By Megan Nicolas
Retirement. A stage in life that many people look forward to after years of hard work. Brother Elpidio de Jesus, fondly called Jong, and his wife, Sister Bella, from Burnaby Local Congregation, have become very familiar with this kind of life since retiring in 2008.
To fulfill one of their lifelong retirement dreams, they had a house built in Tagaytay City, Cavite, Philippines. Whenever they wanted to go on vacation, they would spend half of the year there.
While life after retirement may seem full of comfort to many, the couple knows first-hand that they are not exempted from experiencing setbacks in this life.
“We were in Tagaytay in January 2020 when the Taal volcano erupted. Things had not settled yet from that disaster when the pandemic struck in March,” Sister Bella recalled. These disasters created challenges for many people including the couple.
Despite the situation, they continue remaining rooted in the words of God that guide them in their marriage, in life, and, most importantly, in their services to Him. Sister Bella explained, “That has been part of our principle in life since we got married. Upon waking up in the morning, be thankful. Don’t look at the problems.” Brother Jong added, “To me, you have to take them as they come. Going through all trials and challenges is part of being purified.” Their positive outlook in life is infectious to anyone who knows them.
They also know that the current situation is not easy for everyone. Because of this, the couple dedicates much of their time to helping those in need. Sister Bella expressed, “Everything comes from God. That is why we are always thankful for what He gives us and we try our best to give to other people and share our blessings to those around us.” Although their retirement benefits are not much, this has never stopped them from helping others.
Above all, their faith in God has given them all the hope they need to live peacefully and has allowed them to use their strength in continuously performing their duties as deacon and deaconess, respectively. They may be retired from work, but their obligations as true Christians do not end. “We have to pass all these trials to be worthy of receiving salvation. God won’t give us trials that we cannot overcome. Sometimes the next one might be harder than the last one. But through prayers, He will guide us,” Brother Jong said with conviction.
By Jon Rodney Mangona
“These challenges would have made anyone just give up,” Brother Steve and Sister Marisol Benson both said. The couple, who has four children, was referring to the difficult trials they experienced as a family.
Over the years, the health of Brother Steve deteriorated. “It started with poor [blood] circulation in my lower extremities that seemed minor at first. I then almost lost my vision due to a detached retina, but I was able to keep my eyesight through surgery,” he recalled. He was diagnosed with diabetes.
As the head of the family’s condition worsened, despair was looming around the corner ready to engulf the family’s morale. “As the condition increased in its severity, I lost my right foot. Soon afterwards, I also lost my left foot and right arm as well,” he said. The onset of these conditions and disability caused Brother Steve to no longer be able to perform in the choir.
During those trying times, the family also dealt with experiencing loss of employment, home, and personal possessions. Unable to hold back tears, Sister Marisol recalled, “The trials continued to pile up, times in which our children would either come home or be woken up to Brother Steve experiencing numerous seizures, countless visits to the hospital, and calls for emergency medical assistance.” All these experiences would have led others to give up hope.
But that was not the case for the Bensons. No matter what happened in their lives, they never lost faith and trust in God’s promises. They were able to keep despair at bay through their dedication to their services to God and their constant prayers to Him. “I believe that if we entrust our very lives to God, give Him first place in our hearts and remain faithful, He will always provide for us and show His mercy,” Brother Steve said.
Through the guidance of their parents and, above all, with the help of God, the Benson family has been able to overcome many obstacles through the power of prayer. Their faith continues growing and getting stronger. Brother Steve even said, “I still pray for God to allow me to perform again. Even though in my condition I may not be able to, I can still pray and, with God’s help, anything is possible.” Sister Marisol added, “In many ways, Brother Steve would not have survived all that he has experienced. We would not have survived. But with God’s help, here we are,” she declared with a firm resolve that they would still be able to remain steadfast in their divine election.
By Hayden Smith
Peace of mind. It is a mental state that many long for, but is becoming harder to achieve especially during this pandemic. But Church Of Christ members such as Sister Celyn Barcelona find peace of mind by entrusting everything to the One Who can truly provide for His people—the Almighty God.
In March 2020, life for Sister Celyn had been going well. Everything seemed to be business as usual as it was for many as well. Then, the pandemic hit. “Seemingly out of nowhere, life as we knew it had drastically changed and it is really hard,” she recalled.
As a Children’s Worship Service (CWS) teacher, choir member, and KADIWA officer, Sister Celyn turns to her God-given duties for the peace she longs for. “Performing my duties opened a way for me not only to strengthen my bond with my fellow brethren but, more importantly, to get closer to God,” she said.
Among other things, she draws inspiration from her good relationship with brethren in the Church as she faces the trials that come to her life. “Despite being adversely affected by the pandemic, they remain strong in their faith and active in sharing it,” Sister Celyn further said. “Even the young brethren have adapted well. They are still eager to take part in Church activities and even help each other whenever anyone of them needs it.”
Most of all, as what the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, always exhorts the brethren to do, Sister Celyn remains hopeful and prayerful. “I find peace, especially when I pray inside the house of worship and after I perform my duties. Through prayer, I entrust everything to God and ask for His guidance,” she enthused.
Sister Celyn drew renewed inspiration from the lesson taught by the Executive Minister during the worship service, through video streaming. “Brother Eduardo Manalo continues to teach us the importance of being prayerful and how to remain strong in our divine calling.”
Sister Celyn understands the hardships people have been enduring nowadays and how difficult it can be to carry on with a normal life. But she still remains optimistic. In spite of the uncertainties, one thing remains certain for her: “God is always there whenever we need Him. He will show us many different paths and will guide us to the right one.”
By Shannon Sarmiento
“It was really a low point in my life. I thought I did everything right in my work,” recalled Sister Sherry Cannon who worked as a dental assistant for many years. Unfortunately, her position was eliminated due to the pandemic.
“Am I going to make it? It was a difficult time. It happened last year when everyone was trying so hard to be careful not to be infected with the virus,” she said. Like in other places, especially those greatly affected by the pandemic, having a stable income to provide the needs of the family and protecting themselves from the risk of getting sick are of utmost importance.
What motivated Sister Sherry to continue despite the difficult ordeal was God’s continuous manifestation of His love for her. “There was a point when I was stressed and worried how I was going to survive and how I was going to make it,” she narrated.
However, instead of focusing on the negative emotions, Sister Sherry learned to cope with the situation by having a thankful mindset. “I should never take for granted God’s blessings. We can never repay Him for what He does for us—giving us our life and strength. But, we can at least show gratitude by never letting go of our calling. This is my lifelong promise to Him.”
As Sister Sherry was blessed to attend the worship service officiated by the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo Manalo, which was streamed live to their local congregation, she realized that everything she experienced was a test of faith. “I should never let go of our faith by holding on to the hope of the grace that will be ours. I knew it was the Holy Spirit that uplifted me,” she said.
Amid these difficult times, God opened up doors of opportunities for Sister Sherry to go on in life without compromising her services to Him.
Being a convert and now an officer in the secretariat of Great Lakes, Illinois Local Congregation, Sister Sherry has been through various situations in life. Learning from such experiences, she said: “We need to rely on God and not on what we know.” That is why, as she actively participates in the intensive work of propagation, she always asks God for courage to invite others to get to know more about the Church Of Christ.
By Melissa Sarmiento Allen
Having to undergo surgery is not something most people would take lightly. Sadly, some develop feelings of severe anxiety and stress after learning that they need one. But for true Christians like Brother Carlito de Guzman, things like health problems and medical operations are, in his words, “just a part of life.” Immediately upon learning that he would require surgery, the 72-year-old grandfather of seven prayed to God and entrusted himself to the Almighty Father.
Although Brother Carlito was unafraid of the outcome of his impending operation, this head deacon from the Local Congregation of Lakeland did have a specific request from God: “I wanted to have an early recovery, so that I could immediately go back to performing my duty.”
With God’s help, the surgical procedure was a success and he was soon able to return home to recover. However, it quickly became apparent that his trial was far from over—he was constantly in pain.
Meanwhile, a very important event in the Ecclesiastical District of Florida was fast approaching—a worship service to be officiated by the Executive Minister through videoconferencing. Given his physical condition, Brother Carlito was unsure if he would be strong enough to attend, let alone perform his duty during the historic event in the house of worship.
Throughout this ordeal, Brother Carlito continued remaining prayerful. Just five days after his surgery, he felt well enough to drive again. The very first destination he wanted to go to was the house of worship. He thanked God and fervently begged to give him a chance to perform his duty in the said holy occasion.
Afterwards, he felt a renewed strength that helped him endure pain. His prayers were answered and he was very hopeful that he would indeed be able to fulfill his duty on the blessed occasion.
“I felt God was with me, looking at me, and testing me. I felt His power pouring on me,” said Brother Carlito as he recalled the immense joy of being able to perform his duty during the worship service. “We must always follow the words of God that were taught to us. Whatever trials come, it’s for us to be tested and to have the right to receive the promised salvation.”