Maysan, Valenzuela City, Philippines

The highest privilege:
being part of God’s chosen people

JUNE 12, 2021

On June 12, 2021, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the Executive Minister of the Church Of Christ, officiated a worship service at the Central Temple in Quezon City, Philippines. Through video streaming, the worship service was witnessed live by Church Of Christ members in 42 local congregations and one ecclesiastical district that celebrated milestone anniversaries in the month of June. During this occasion, Brother Eduardo Manalo also led the dedication to God of four new houses of worship: those of the local congregations of San Jose, Antique; Maysan, Valenzuela City; Sagayen, Davao del Norte; and Manook, Sorsogon.

Out of love and compassion, the Executive Minister reminded the brethren that their membership in the Church Of Christ is the highest privilege they received. Because of their Church membership, they have been redeemed through Christ’s blood, forgiven of their sins, and attained the right to pray to, be heard by, and serve God. Most of all, they have the right to be saved on Judgment Day. These are great reasons brethren always hold on to their divine election and continue with their services to God come what may in their lives, as shown in the following accounts:

Ecclesiastical District of Malaysia
Written by Gazel Joy Ragat

It has been more than a year and a half since the world’s first case of Covid-19 was recorded. Since then, the virus has claimed the lives of millions. Even affluent countries with top-notch healthcare system have not been spared from the deadly outbreak. The economies of various countries have also been affected by the pandemic.

Brother Michael George Lim has spent 18 years of his life to establish a comfortable life for his family. He is one of the head deacons in a local congregation in the Ecclesiastical District of Malaysia. He was a trusted executive in a multinational bank, and this gave him many privileges. “Working with many companies led me to meet many people from different walks of life and a great opportunity for career growth,” shared Brother Michael.

After many years of dedicated work, he suddenly received the news in January 2020 about his unforeseen retrenchment. “It was my first time to get retrenched, and the feeling was very depressing. I thought I could get another job right away, but I was wrong. Months passed, and among hundreds of applications I submitted, only very few responded with reluctant intentions of hiring me,” he recalled.

The sense of loss bruised his self-confidence and led him to doubt his capabilities. “Those were the times when I felt so weak, to the point where I wanted to give up and leave for the Philippines,” he said. This burden took a toll on him. He considered that moment as the “lowest point” in his life. Despite this, he and his family never stopped participating in Church activities, especially attending worship services.

“But God is so good. When I was on the verge of giving up, He turned the situation around. When I was about to give my farewells to the brethren in my local congregation, I received a job offer. I accepted it and began working right away,” Brother Michael continued. He firmly believes that God listened to his devotional prayers.

Brother Michael considers it a great blessing from God to be able to provide for his family’s needs. However, he knows that material wealth is incomparable to the greatest privilege, which is the divine election he received from God––his membership in the Church Of Christ. He said, “Whenever I perform my duties, that is the time when I don’t think about all my worries. It’s when I truly feel uplifted.”

He is grateful to God for the love and concern not only from his family but also from the Church Administration. With God’s mercy, he received more than what he prayed for. He was given the means to provide for his family, even in times of crisis, and the privilege to continue fulfilling his Church duty.

Arayat, Pampanga
Written by Kate Palomo and Jomar Manaloto

Receiving different privileges in life is one of man’s desires. And during the livestream worship service officiated by Brother Eduardo Manalo, he emphasized that our divine election is the highest privilege that man can attain. Having heard this, Brother Hemerson Suba, KADIWA president, and choir member, recalled the important reminder of his father, who recently passed away, for Brother Hemerson to remain in his divine election no matter what.

His father’s death caused much grief to their family, especially to Brother Hemerson. He and his father had a close relationship. There were days when he felt depressed and inconsolable. But because he remembers his father’s advice, he was able to move on and remain active. “His reminders are our inspiration. Since we were children, my siblings and I  had been constantly taught to serve and worship God and to hold on firmly to our calling,” Brother Hemerson said. He remembers that his father wanted all of them to be true Church Of Christ members who will never let go of their privilege.

And because of the worship service he attended, Brother Hemerson’s sadness and longing were replaced with hope. “I firmly believe that the day will come when we will be together again in the Holy City,” Brother Hemerson said.

Parents in the Lord yearn to pass on to their children their treasure––their faith and membership in the Church Of Christ––the greatest privilege one can ever receive. They always pray to God for their children to remain in the Church until the end so that even when they are laid to rest, they are assured that their children will also be saved.

With God’s help, Brother Hemerson has overcome his grief and spends more of his time fulfilling his Church duties and worshiping God. He promised, “I will uphold my divine election, despite many trials and obstacles along the way, because this is what will help me face the future and what will help me receive salvation.”

Sariaya, Quezon
Written by Kyla Maderazo and Eugene Ortega

Before joining the Church, Sister Annabelle Comendador used to avoid members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo so that they could not convince her to listen to the teachings upheld by the Church. She recalled, “Back then, I thought that being a member was too much of a burden as there were too many prohibitions.”

To persuade Sister Annabelle to join the Church, her neighbor brought a minister to her residence and she received them into her home. On the third time listening to the lessons during Bible studies, she was convinced and decided to join the Church despite her family’s disapproval. “A few months after my baptism, my firstborn fell very ill. The doctor said that my child might not survive if his temperature would not go down. My parents, who were devout Catholics, visited us in the hospital, saying that I was being punished for leaving my old religion,” she recalled.

Even in the face of persecution from her loved ones, Sister Annabelle stood her ground. She said, “I remained firm in my conviction that I am in the true Church that Christ purchased with His blood. I called for a deacon to pray for my son and anoint him with oil before we transferred to other hospitals. With God’s help, my son eventually recovered from his sickness.”

Sister Annabelle mentioned how great a privilege it is to be one of God’s chosen ones. “I feel so blessed because God answers my prayers. I promise to always obey Him without reservation,” she said. She is a deaconess in the Local Congregation of Sariaya who actively shares her faith with others, especially her loved ones, so that they, too, may become part of God’s people, which is indeed the greatest privilege in life.

Kingston, Jamaica
Written by Rosita Powell

In June 2011, the first Group Worship Service (GWS) of the Church Of Christ in the beautiful island of Jamaica—Kingston—was established. Many Jamaicans did not know about the Church back then, and many of them saw it as just one of the many Protestant sects already established in the Caribbean. But because of God’s mercy, the number of Church Of Christ members in the country continues growing.

One who witnessed how God’s guidance and love manifest in the Church Of Christ in Jamaica is Brother Seymour Powell from Kingston GWS. “Although reluctant at first, I started attending the worship services and Bible studies on doctrines. I thought it would be the same as other religions, but I realized that this was different. I felt how God nourished my faith here, even at times when trials came my way. I remember the kind of life I lived back then when I was enslaved by worldly vices––alcohol and drugs––which were all against God’s teachings,” he recalled.

Brother Seymour considered it a life-changing moment when he was baptized in 2018. He faithfully believes that what the Church Of Christ teaches are all written in the Bible. One of the teachings that convinced him to join the Church is the complete renewal of life and how it should be done.

“I always prayed to God to help me lead a new way of life. I felt His great mercy when He allowed me to be baptized and become part of His people in these last days. He cleansed my sins and gave me another chance. Now I will use this chance to open the eyes of my fellow Jamaicans by inviting them to come and listen to the words of God taught in the Church,” he enthusiastically said. He promises to share his faith with others so that they, too, will receive this great privilege of being part of God’s people.

Mexico City, Mexico
Written by Miguel Angel Garcia

“Our Almighty Father has kept us safe during this pandemic. We can truly count on His protection,” said Brother Luis Medina, head deacon of the Villa de Carbon GWS. Despite the hardships, he has never lost his faith.

Since large worship gatherings were prohibited because of restrictions due to the pandemic, Brother Luis strived to teach himself how to use videoconferencing equipment for them to conduct household worship services at home through video streaming. Through this, he was one of the many brethren who witnessed the preaching of the Church’s Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo Manalo, in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Local Congregation of Mexico City, which was the first congregation he was registered in.

“Not everyone has the privilege of being God’s true servant. I am blessed because I am among God’s chosen,” Brother Luis said. He described how the Executive Minister’s preaching motivated him to solidify his faith by trusting God in everything.

Throughout the last two decades, Brother Luis has noticed that being in the Church Of Christ has completely changed his life. He said, “I believe that being in the Church protects me from all bad things in this world. Our enemy, the devil, never rests and is always looking for ways to separate us from the Church, but as long as we remain firm in the faith, we will be triumphant against the enemy.”

Brother Luis observed that in Mexico, especially in this pandemic, many people have turned away from religious activities. But Church Of Christ members continue sharing their faith even online to bring more people into Christ’s fold. Thus, he actively shares his faith online with his loved ones and friends using the knowledge he has learned recently. “Despite being in a country with enormous Catholic presence, we heeded the call of the Church Administration to intensify further the works of propagation, and we have reaped abundant fruits. It only shows that God is truly with us, even in times of adversity,” he said.

San Jose, Antique
Written by Lei Ann Joy Aduana

When his five-year-old son tumbled down two flights of stairs in 2012, Brother Jovil Villorente knew that his faith was being put to the test. “I rushed my son, who was badly injured, to the hospital, and then I went to the house of worship to seek the Lord and beg Him to heal my child,” he said. During his prayer, he also made a solemn vow to God that he would all the more continue obeying the Father’s commandments and leading a renewed way of life. The Lord God did not forsake him and listened to his fervent prayer.

Following that incident, Brother Jovil kept his promise and convinced his loved ones who were not Church Of Christ members to listen to the words of God taught in the Church. In 2015, he was entrusted with a sacred duty as a deacon and eventually was appointed head deacon of the Local Congregation of San Jose, Antique.

“As long as I live, I will never forget all of the Lord God’s goodness to us. He continues granting success to my children. He has blessed us with an abundant livelihood and, most importantly, He has bestowed sacred duties on my family,” Brother Jovil said.

As part of his commitment, Brother Jovil responds to the intensified works of propagation launched by the Executive Minister. “With God’s guidance, I encourage my employees who are nonmembers to listen to God’s words during Bible studies. At the same time, my family and I set a devotional prayer to ask God to help us persuade more people to join the Church. With God’s help, many of our guests respond positively. We don’t force them, instead, they approach us, saying that they want to learn more about the Church,” he explained.

Regardless of the world’s worsening situation, faithful members of the Church Of Christ will never be discouraged. They will continue fulfilling their duty no matter what. Their utmost priority is to give glory to God.

Maysan, Valenzuela City
Written by Lois Valdellon and Angelique Dela Rosa

“It was the teaching that only those who are in the Church Of Christ will be saved come Judgment Day that made me curious back then to examine the Church,” said Brother Richard Perez, the second head deacon of the Local Congregation of Maysan. Growing up as a Catholic in Pampanga, he had no idea about the Church Of Christ until his grandmother invited him to listen to its biblical teachings.

“My father and I traveled approximately 40 kilometers from our house in the barrio to the venue of evangelical missions in town. Despite the hardships, we were not hindered from learning more about the Church. Many questions in my mind were answered from the Bible,” Brother Richard recalled. He was baptized in 1989.

Aiming to seek greener pastures, Brother Richard moved to Manila only to realize that his lack of academic credentials was in the way of his dreams. He went from being an industrial worker to establishing small businesses, which eventually fell into bankruptcy.

However, he did not lose hope. “Brother Eduardo Manalo taught us to set our devotional prayers to God, especially when faced with adversities and trials. My wife and I fervently prayed every night, asking God to bless us with a source of livelihood that won’t hinder our Church duties,” he said.

Brother Richard met some brethren who worked in excavation. He took the opportunity to learn from them, which eventually led him to establish his own construction firm. “I had no prior experience with construction jobs, but I faithfully believe that my current business is a grace from God and His answer to my prayers. Prayer has become part of my life,” he said.

As what the Executive Minister taught from the Bible, God’s wondrous work on Brother Richard’s life is a fulfillment of God’s promises to His righteous servants. Those who entered the Church Of Christ received the greatest privilege in life and the promise of salvation. “Everything I have comes from God. When giving advice, I always tell the brethren to give our Father a reason to bless them. And this is by fulfilling His will, such as leading a new way of life and helping in the works of propagation,” he added.

Amid the pandemic, Brother Richard continues sharing his faith with others. He said, “My uncle and his wife, former Born-again Christians, are now candidates for baptism in the Church Of Christ. Through social media, I was able to send him online links of our religious programs and articles. I am so happy that he shared with me his plan to convince all of his children to listen to the teachings of the Bible taught in the Church.”

Sagayen, Davao del Norte
Written by Shara Mea Aligato

“As long as both my feet have the strength to walk and I still have life, I will fight for my faith as a member of the Iglesia Ni Cristo.” These were the words of Brother Manuel Tenaja Sr., the head deacon of the Local Congregation of Sagayen, after reminiscing a riveting moment in his life.

In 2003, he invited people from a remote place called Melale to attend the Bible studies on doctrines. The trip is 86 kilometers one way, and during the rainy season, the road becomes very challenging even for their vehicles. Still, he managed to accompany a large group of doctrinal instructees to the house of worship twice a week.

One evening, when Brother Manuel accompanied doctrinal instructees on their way home, their convoy halted upon hearing nearby gunshots. Then, a group of armed men emerged from the thicket. “These people held us at gunpoint and wanted to rob us. With a silent prayer, I asked God for help, and then I spoke to them in a calm voice.” He explained to them that they were on their way home after attending a religious gathering. “Because of God’s mercy, we were able to convince them somehow to let us pass through safely,” he recalled.

Despite the challenges, Brother Manuel continued inviting more people to listen to God’s words. He and his family became instrumental for hundreds of people to be baptized in the Church Of Christ, paving the way for the establishment of some local congregations and extensions.

Eventually, the size of the house of worship in Sagayen could no longer accommodate the growing number of attendees. Brother Manuel decided to donate a large parcel of his land to the Church for the construction of a bigger chapel. Through God’s mercy, the Church Administration approved the construction of a chapel on the land he donated. Their devotional prayers were answered when the new house of worship was among the four dedicated to God on June 12, 2021. Until now, he and his household remain steadfast in the faith, not forgetting his promise to God that until the very end of his life, he will happily fulfill his Church duty.

Manook, Sorsogon
Written by Febbie San Pedro

Once a devout Catholic, Brother Christian Mora narrated, “My mother used to read Bible verses to me as a child. This opened my mind to study the beliefs of my religion back then. When I was working in Dubai, I had an officemate who is a Church Of Christ member. He invited me to attend a Bible study.” He accepted his officemate’s invitation.

When attending Bible studies in the Church Of Christ, Brother Christian would always write down the verses in the lesson. He said, “When I got home, I looked up the verses in my Bible. And I was so surprised because what was taught was exactly what was written in the Scriptures. The third time I attended, I was finally convinced that I already found the true Church. All my questions were eventually answered.” He was convinced that what the Iglesia Ni Cristo teaches about the Lord Jesus Christ is true––He is man, not God.

However, his relatives, who were devout Catholics then, were not pleased at first. “When I returned to the Philippines, I immediately invited a minister to our home for [my relatives] to listen to a Bible study. With God’s mercy, all of them were eventually called into the Church. This year, my two brothers were baptized. My mother and some of my nephews are also in the process of joining the Church,” Brother Christian joyfully said. He also has seven more relatives who joined the Church.

Never exhausted in sharing his faith, Brother Christian constantly invites many people to attend evangelical missions and watch INCTV programs. He also hands out copies of Pasugo: God’s Message magazine and shares links of the Church’s religious materials online. He knows that bearing abundant fruits will lead the way to the establishment of more local congregations and the dedication of more houses of worship, such as that of the Local Congregation of Manook.

“When I found out that our new house of worship will be dedicated to God by Brother Eduardo Manalo, I was delighted and thankful, so I immediately thanked God through my prayers. The biblical teaching of the Executive Minister inspired me to hold on firmly to my divine election, for this is the highest privilege a person can get. Our membership in the Church Of Christ is my treasure in life and, with it, I know I will be saved come Judgment Day,” Brother Christian said.