The sheer joy of being spiritually refined


“WE KNOW THAT GOD works to help those people who love him. He uses everything that happens to them to bring something good. He does this for those people that he has chosen to serve him.” This is the content of Romans 8:28 in the EasyEnglish Bible, which is one of the focal points of the biblical lesson taught by Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the Executive Minister of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ), when he officiated at the worship service on November 18, 2022 at the house of worship of the Local Congregation of Lawy, Ecclesiastical District of Capas, Tarlac. The sacred gathering was streamed live to other local congregations around the world commemorating their respective milestone anniversaries of establishment.

In his homily, Brother Eduardo Manalo taught from the Bible that people experience all kinds of adversities in life. There are tough personal challenges such as illnesses, loss of a loved one, failures, job loss, financial problems, persecution, and disasters. And these adversities could be even far worse than anyone could imagine. Even Church Of Christ members struggle with many things in their life. Nonetheless, the Executive Minister expounded that God commands His faithful servants to “fear not” and that they should not allow anxiety nor fear to overcome them. As God’s chosen people, they ought to place their hope in the Lord and be joyful, for going through trials and tribulations is a spiritually refining process.

During the worship service, Brother Pedro F. Castillo, district supervising minister of Capas, Tarlac, led the attendees for the opening prayer. After the preaching of the Executive Minister, meanwhile, Brother Romer D. Galang led the prayer. Brother Joselito Y. Canlas, assistant district supervising minister, led the prayer for the voluntary offerings. The Executive Minister said the benediction.

Church members listen to the preaching of God's words by the Executive Minister during his pastoral visit
to the Local Congregation of Lawy in Tarlac, Philippines

Lawy, Capas, Tarlac
By Jasphee Castillo and Maria Katrina Ann Dantes

On November 18, 2022, the Local Congregation of Lawy in the Ecclesiastical District of Capas, Tarlac celebrated its 95th anniversary since its establishment in 1927.

Brother Alberto Cayabyab, 82, fondly called “Brother Ben,” is the current head deacon of the congregation and his wife, Sister Magdalena, 81, is a deaconess. “There were only a few members in the congregation back then. I remember how small our former house of worship was. Even though in the early years, we were not spared from persecutions, we continued holding our worship services,” Brother Ben recalled.

The couple had also witnessed the victories that God bestowed to their congregation. “The pioneer brethren were dedicated in the works of propagating the words of God; we even traveled to remote and distant villages to share our faith so that many people may hear the truth,” said Brother Ben. With God’s help, the Lawy Local Congregation flourished through the years. In 2015, an extension sprang forth from Lawy, which became a local congregation in 2021—the Local Congregation of Manga.

“I remembered the day when Brother Eduardo Manalo visited our congregation to officiate a worship service back in 1982. I was already a deacon then and was one among the three who received a certificate of recognition.” The recognition was given to Brother Ben for his outstanding dedication in helping to propagate the words of God.

Brother Alberto Cayabyab and his wife

Now in their old age, the couple expressed their gratitude for being able to witness their local congregation reach its 95th anniversary. “Sitting with Brother Eduardo Manalo on the rostrum while performing my duty in the worship service is an experience that I will never forget,” he said, his eyes brimming with tears. He continued, “Hearing the words of God preached by the Executive Minister, I felt all the more strengthened in my faith. I promise to always fight for my faith whatever trials I may face, for I know that God will never leave my side. Despite my age, I am inspired to remain active in fulfilling my duties until I breathe my last.”

For 71-year-old choir leader, Sister Anita Sicat, trials are given, not to make God’s servants suffer but to be strengthened and purified in their faith. Recalling how she felt when diagnosed with multiple illnesses a few years ago, she said, “I thought that was going to be the end of my life. I already felt weak because of going through several operations to get rid of a clogged artery in my heart and to remove the tumors in my lungs. But though my health faltered, my faith never wavered,” she continued. She has been performing her Church duty for more than four decades and these trials never hindered her dedication in serving God.

In the face of death, Sister Anita firmly clutched on to the hope that God will never forsake His faithful servants. Even while undergoing treatment, she did not fail to request to be anointed with oil and prayed fervently for God’s healing, fully surrendering herself to Him. “My prayers were answered. God is merciful. When I regained physical strength [after operation and medication], I made sure to return to fulfilling my duty as a choir leader,” she said.

Sister Anita reminisced how she felt the love of the Almighty Father especially during the difficult moments of her life. She affirmed, “My heart is overjoyed for the great blessings we received in the worship service. I asked God in prayer to make me stronger so I may still fulfill this duty He gave to me. I love my duty and I promised God that I will all the more be faithful in serving Him while He still gives me life and strength.”

Ecclesiastical District of Mountain States
By Rosalyn Higa

The Church Of Christ in the Ecclesiastical District of Mountain States has grown significantly in membership over the past five years. In celebration of its milestone anniversary on November 3, 2022, brethren from local congregations within the district witnessed the worship service officiated by Brother Eduardo Manalo via live video stream on November 17, 2022 (November 18 in the Philippines).

Through the Executive Minister’s Bible-based preaching, the congregants acknowledged how richly God has blessed them and the entirety of the Church. They looked back at God’s love and mercy that were revealed especially when they faced challenges, collectively and individually. With thanksgiving in their hearts, they made a commitment to God to march forward with renewed faith towards salvation, which is their ultimate goal.

Brother Jamie Le Gore, from the Local Congregation of South Las Vegas, is a deacon, Buklod officer, and vice president of the Light of Salvation (LOS). He said, “My Church duties keep me occupied and help me grow in the true faith.” He believes that God uses Brother Eduardo Manalo as an instrument to strengthen them in the face of hardships. With a smile, he continued, “the tests and trials in life make us pure in faith. Therefore, we must be happy, not overwhelmed.”

Brother Jamie Le Gore

Brother Tony Hill is a veteran of the US Air Force and a retired computer technician from Aurora, Colorado. He said, “The message of the Executive Minister about rising above our fears of hardship and challenges was straightforward and uplifting. I’ve had many challenges in my life especially with my physical condition, like a couple of heart attacks, surgery for an aneurysm, and spinal fusion on my back, among other medical conditions that slowed me down and hindered me from doing things I wanted to do.”

However, these challenges made him even more persistent in serving and glorifying God the best he could. As a head deacon, he leads the brethren in edification and propagation and actively participates in the many projects and endeavors in the Church. With his wife, sister Emily, a deaconess, and dutiful children and grandchildren, Brother Tony has been and will always be thankful to God.

“Dealing with illness can be scary and isolating, and for the family members, it could make them feel helpless and devastated,” said Brother Leo August Jussila Jr., head deacon of the Local Congregation of Tempe, Arizona. He expressed gratitude to God for being alive today. For some time, he suffered from severe heart problems, and also Covid-19, which, in his age of 83, could have been fatal. He said, “I was ill, yet firmly believed and prayed for God’s healing so I trusted Him completely. I asked for strength so I could still perform my Church duty despite my age. And He never let me down.”

Brother Leo has been a member of the Church Of Christ for 32 years. He is a veteran of the US Navy who worked for Air Show Navigation Systems. With a son in the holy ministry, a daughter who is a choir member and KADIWA officer, and a loving wife who is also a choir member, Brother Leo takes pride in sharing his family’s unwavering devotion to God’s service.

Chicago, Illinois
By Clarissa Corpuz

On November 8, 1972, the Church Administration approved the establishment of the Local Congregation of Chicago. Brother Eddie M. San Gabriel, a minister of the gospel, was sent to oversee their first worship service held at the home of Brother Phillip Garcia at 5525 North Winthrop Street in Chicago, Illinois.

As the years went by, their place of worship could no longer accommodate the growing number of brethren. And so, they searched for a larger venue for their holy gatherings. By God’s mercy, they found a chapel of the United in Christ Lutheran Church that was for sale. It can accommodate 856 people and stands on a 2,891-square-meter land. The Church Administration approved of the said property’s purchase on July 30, 2014.

On March 7, 2015, brothers and sisters from the Chicago Congregation, along with others from various congregations, witnessed the dedication to the Lord God of their beautiful house of worship in a worship service officiated by Brother Eduardo Manalo, the Executive Minister of the Iglesia Ni Cristo.

Chicago, being the center and first local congregation in the Ecclesiastical District of Northern Midwest, has been instrumental for the establishment of other congregations and extensions in the US and Canada. Brother Lysander Garcia, a deacon, recalled, “We would go to Nebraska to reach out to other members and went all the way to Detroit, Michigan, even up to Toronto, Canada. It was really a memorable time because we created bonds of friendship and brotherhood at the time when social media was not yet prevalent.”

The house of worship of the Local Congregation of Chicago in Illinois, USA

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of their local congregation’s establishment, the brethren in the Local Congregation of Chicago witnessed, via live video streaming, the worship service officiated by Brother Eduardo Manalo on November 17, 2022 (November 18 in the Philippines). In the lesson, the Executive Minister mentioned that despite the fiery trials Church members may face in life, they ought to hold firmly on their hope and trust that God is always ready to help and save them.

Sister Eleazar “Ellie” Guerrero, a deaconess, performed her duty during the said worship service. She said, “It is true that God always helps us. That is why when I fulfill my Church duty, I always feel that I become strong and steadfast. So, I always plead with God for firm faith, for holy reverence and love for Him. As a deaconess, I have hurdled many struggles in life. Through them all I held on to my sacred calling. I love the Church Of Christ, and I always ask God in my prayers to allow me to fulfill my duty until the end of my life when I finish my race.”

On November 20, 2022 the brethren in Chicago held a celebration for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of their local congregation at the Elmcrest Banquet in Elmwood Park, Illinois, during which brethren showcased musical performances promoting Iglesia Ni Cristo original music. They also gave recognition to the pioneering brethren and Church officers. Brother Michael Corpuz, a deacon and a Children’s Worship Service (CWS) teacher, was not only in attendance of the celebration but was also one of the performers that evening. He said, “The celebration we held for our anniversary served as an insight for the youth on how God blessed our local congregation throughout the years. This activity will inspire them that despite many hardships and trials, we can always rely on God’s help and guidance so we can reach our goals and aspirations.”

Heathrow, United Kingdom
By Love Ann Sison

The growth of the Church Of Christ in the Ecclesiastical District of United Kingdom is evident with its more than 60 congregations established in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and also in the Republic of Ireland. One of them is the Local Congregation of Heathrow, which reached its milestone anniversary on November 24, 2022. It was 25 years ago when its establishment was approved by the Church Administration.

Church members in Heathrow were truly joyful to be included among the congregations in various parts of the world commemorating their anniversaries that witnessed the special worship service led by the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo Manalo.

One of the pioneers in Heathrow is their head deacon, Brother Vernon J. Cunanan. He considers his duty as a gift from God. “For me, it means a lot to be a Church officer because I have been part of that journey since the congregation was first established. So, to reach 25 years is indeed a great blessing. Just like what the Executive Minister taught during the worship service, in the years that had gone by, though beset with many trials, God’s love and care never faded but all the more grows in the Church,” he said.

For another pioneer member, Brother Giancarlo Mattera, a deacon and finance officer, being part of the said gathering is memorable. He said, “We have a lot of activities coming up for our anniversary. I was able to reflect on everything I have been through as a Church officer, and on everything we have been through as a local congregation. God helped our congregation grow. I always feel the love of God through the guidance of the Church Administration.”

Heathrow’s first members were initially registered in Battersea, the first local congregation established in the United Kingdom and Europe. Heathrow’s place of worship is on the top floor of the Church’s Europe Main Office in Sunbury-on-Thames, London. Their place of worship was dedicated to God during a special worship service officiated by the Executive Minister on July 25, 2010. Over the years, brethren in Heathrow grew in number, which eventually led to the establishment of the local congregations of Heathrow North and Heathrow East, and also Reading-England and Guildford, England Group Worship Services (GWS).

In his Bible-based preaching, the Executive Minister reminded the brethren, among others, not to be confused or disturbed by the extraordinary events happening in the world today, including the effects of the pandemic. “Some lost their jobs, some cannot even make ends meet, some were even given a choice whether to eat or heat their place because of winter,” Brother Vernon shared with admiration the faith of the brethren in Heathrow who overcame these challenging situations.

This conviction is also evident in Brother Giancarlo, who has been a volunteer worker for the Church in the Europe Main Office since it opened. “I feel so blessed to be always here at the chapel. I can always pray here any time of the day. I feel secure and protected here,” he said. Because he lives near the chapel, many events in his life happened right in the place of worship. He continued, “My life story revolves around this place for the last 12 years. I proposed to my wife here, dedicated my child to God here, and we have our family devotional prayers here. This is a very special place to us.”