“BEING A FRONTLINER is not easy. It is very risky and exhausting.” That was how Brother Noli Jimeno described his work of helping battle the Covid-19 pandemic. He was once part of the Rapid Action Team (RAT) at the Almendras Quarantine Facility in Davao City. His most recent assignment was in Agdao District, one of the high-risk areas in Davao City at the time. “My task was to fetch the suspected Covid-19 patients. Then, there were times when I was assigned in the District Center to monitor the suspected and confirmed Covid-19 patients,” he said.
Not only is he worried of contracting the virus himself but as a husband and father, he is all the more anxious that his family might get it from him when he comes home. He said, “I normally feel afraid and nervous every time I go to work.”
As the number of Covid-19 infections in the Philippines markedly rose in previous months and quarantine measures continued to be implemented, more and more businesses were forced to temporarily, if not completely, halt their operations. Such was the case with the food stall where Sister Myla Mandaloni used to work. Originally from North Cotabato, Sister Myla came to Davao City to pursue a college degree and found work on the side to support her studies. Now on her third year, she faces frustration as she is on temporary break from her work with a “no work, no pay” policy.
“It is really tough for a working student like me who does not have other sources of income to finance my daily needs and my online classes. But what makes it even more challenging is being away from my loved ones during these trying times,” she said.
Amidst distress and frustration, members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) are always taught by the Church Administration to take courage, be confident, certain, and undaunted. This was what the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, once again exhorted them during the worship service he officiated on August 8, 2020. The worship service was streamed live from the Sanctuary of the Central Temple in Quezon City, Philippines to more than 600 remote sites where brethren gathered, carefully following health safety protocols.
In his Bible-based homily, Brother Eduardo Manalo advised the brethren not to feel sad and discouraged in the face of difficulties but confidently expect God to bless them because, as His chosen people in these last days, the members of the Church Of Christ have God on their side and He is always ready to help each of them.
Brother Noli, a deacon in the Local Congregation of Davao City, Ecclesiastical District of Davao West, felt so blessed that his faith in God was further fortified on the said occasion. “Whenever I start to feel anxious and frightened, I pray to the Father, entrusting my very life and my family to Him. With His help, I am able to courageously face fear and stress. I firmly believe that He will protect His people, including my entire household.”
Also firmly holding on to what God can do for her, Sister Myla, a choir member in the same local congregation, expressed with conviction, “I never stop my devotional prayers that God may grant my aspirations in life, so that I would be of help to my family back home and, more importantly, I will be able to serve the Lord God and the Lord Jesus Christ continuously in the true Church Of Christ.” With God’s blessings to her family, her siblings have recently been able to regularly send their financial assistance for her studies and daily needs.
Brother Felipe Buencochillo, an organist in the Local Congregation of Davao City, has also experienced in his life God’s protection. “After teaching the hymns to the choir members of the Local Congregation of Kidapawan City, Ecclesiastical District of Cotabato North, one of my assigned local congregations then, the bus I boarded on my way home to Davao City figured in an accident,” he shared. “There were many casualties, but God’s love and mercy was upon me. I was spared from tragic death. Certainly, God can make things turn around for you so long as you pray and trust in Him.”
In spite of the unfavorable condition her family is in, Sister Jowanamora Canja, chronicler and assistant head secretary of the Local Congregation of Laguindingan, Ecclesiastical District of Misamis Oriental, recognizes the incomparable advantage of being in the Church Of Christ. “There is a big advantage in being members in the Church Of Christ,” she said. “With God’s kindness, we never feel neglected. Even though our source of livelihood has been affected since my husband lost his job more than three months ago due to the spread of Covid-19, we still manage to press on.”
Another solid proof that God is with His Church is the continuous parade of victories in all of the Church’s endeavors. Even in these times of crises, the Church is able to build houses of worship. In the said worship service, Brother Eduardo Manalo led the dedication of the newly renovated house of worship of the Local Congregation of Davao City. This is reminiscent of the time when God’s Messenger in these last days, Brother Felix Y. Manalo, led the Church in edifying the faith of the brethren, in propagating the gospel, and in building houses of worship, even when the world was facing the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918.
Houses of worship are very important for members of the Church in conducting worship services. But with the current situation, the Church follows government-imposed safety protocols—including a limited number of attendees in religious gatherings or, in other areas, large gatherings are not allowed in the meantime. Nevertheless, members of the Church do not forsake the worship service, may it be held inside the house of worship or done in their respective homes.
“The worship service is essential for our spiritual wellbeing. It is where we receive God’s teachings that serve as our guide as we live in this world. We also experience God’s power in our worship services, which strengthens me and my family, especially in facing distress and frustration,” expressed Brother Prudemil Benluta, a head deacon in the Local Congregation of Bais City, Ecclesiastical District of Negros Oriental.
Whatever they may experience, true Church Of Christ members will never weaken in their faith. They will continue to uphold their Church membership, for they know that the distress and frustration they experience in this life are nothing compared to what God has promised—salvation, the eternal life, and the right to dwell in the Holy City where they will attain true peace. Sister Jecrifema Ancheta, a deaconess in the Local Congregation of Tuguegarao City, Ecclesiastical District of Cagayan South, expressed with firm resolve, “It is my firm promise that happen what may in my life, I will remain in my divine election. I will continue to perform my duties and be united with the Church Administration until my last day or the day of our salvation, whichever may come first.”