FROM 1918 to 1920, a pandemic known as the Spanish Flu “ravaged the world … and killed at least 50 million and afflicted 500 million. … It took the lives of 80,000 Filipinos and infected 4 million.” This is according to the article Pandemic kills 80,000 Filipinos published in www.manilatimes.net. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been over 32.7 million Covid-19 cases worldwide and, as of this writing, more than 300,000 of which are in the Philippines.
When the Spanish Flu broke out, the Iglesia Ni Cristo was barely four years old. Despite that pandemic’s having a great toll in the Philippines, the works of the Church Of Christ did not slow down but even continued to ascend.
Under the administration of God’s Messenger in these last days, Brother Felix Y. Manalo, the Church conducted activities to propagate the gospel and started constructing houses of worship. Furthermore, in May 1919, Brother Felix Manalo officiated at the first ordination of ministers in the Church. These were part of the fulfillment of God’s promised help to His Messenger in these last days.
Today, with God’s unceasing help and guidance, the Church Of Christ, under the leadership of the present Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, continues to progress in all its endeavors despite the numerous crises caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Church members remain active in sharing the true faith and, in August 2020, a house of worship in Davao City, Philippines was dedicated to God. In addition, more ministers and ministerial workers are added to the Church.
On a worship service he officiated on September 20, Brother Eduardo Manalo led the ordination of 22 newly appointed ministers and the graduation of 1,195 ministerial students who took oath as regular ministerial workers. A total of 259 ministerial students were gathered in the Central Temple in Quezon City, which was the main site, and 936 were in 98 different remote sites where the occasion was witnessed live via video link. This special worship service was also witnessed through video streaming in different local congregations throughout the world.
“Just like during the years of the Spanish Flu, the Church Of Christ under the leadership of God’s Messenger pressed onwards with its works. The same is being done now during the administration of Brother Eduardo Manalo. He does not allow that the works of the Church, such as this ordination, be hindered by the pandemic. The Church continues to hold activities in accordance with God’s commands and, at the same time, observing the health and safety protocols implemented by the government for our welfare,” said Brother Arnel R. Canicosa, Iglesia Ni Cristo School For Ministers (SFM) President.
Imparting a timely reminder, Brother Eduardo Manalo emphasized in his homily the importance for all Church members to not allow themselves to be hindered by any obstacle in running their race or spiritual journey towards their salvation. Instead of giving up, Church members are taught to always place their confidence in the Lord God.
Despite this threatening pandemic, Brother Mark Loi Yarcia, one of the newly ordained ministers, who is also a registered nurse and currently assigned as a supervisor of a medical team in the New Era General Hospital (NEGH), shared how God took care of and blessed Church Of Christ members who did not cease in their services to Him.
“This pandemic has affected people regardless of their status in life. There were those who lost not only their means of livelihood but also their lives. Even doctors are not spared from this illness. Still, the brethren who contracted this disease and were confined in our hospital did not stop in serving God. They continued to devote themselves in the worship services being held in the hospital’s chapel. And because of their solid faith in God, He healed them,” said Brother Mark.
Brother Joven Ace Tropel, one of the new graduates who was raised in Germany, recounted the challenges he faced while studying in the ministry, and what he did to overcome them. “Being from another country, one of my biggest trials was adjusting to a new culture and life situation. But one of the things I learned from my experiences and, more importantly, from the lecture of the Executive Minister, is the importance of praying to and trusting in God,” he said.
Brother Michael Abagon, head deacon in the Local Congregation of Kariya, Ecclesiastical District of Nagoya, Japan, and father of one of the newly graduated ministerial workers, recollected how he and his family entrusted in God’s power his son’s studies in the ministry: “Whenever my wife and I would have a video call with our son, we would always remind him to continue with his devotional prayers. And we, ourselves, here in Japan, would keep on praying to God to help our son finish his studies, so he can be a good helper of the Church Administration.”
Brother Eduardo Manalo also taught that Church Of Christ members must have self-discipline in order to live a righteous and holy life toward receiving God’s promises not only in this life, but especially in the one to come.
“Being molded to be the future leaders in God’s nation, ministerial students are primarily trained to strictly comply with rules and regulations, not only in the school, but even in the dormitories. And despite the community quarantine, the SFM holds online classes, where ministerial values are continually taught to the students, and discipline is still enforced and followed,” said Brother Arnel.
One of the new graduates, Brother Pjay Passi, who hails from Greece, attested to how his training in the SFM had prepared him for the challenges he faced while being trained in his local congregation assignment.
“By holding on firmly to God’s words, I was able to carry on with my studies. I was able to manage a balanced schedule to fulfill my obligations in my studies and in my local congregation assignment. And even if I encountered obstacles, I kept on pushing forward, like what we were taught in the SFM, to accomplish our duties, for I know that this is what God expects me to do,” Brother Pjay said.
As part of the SFM curriculum, the Special Task Force (STF) program was initiated by Brother Eduardo Manalo himself with the purpose of training ministerial students in additional skills that would help them in their ministerial functions. Brother Joji Hara, a newly graduated ministerial worker from Japan, shared how the STF program helped him overcome one of the challenges in performing his duty: “Being raised in Japan, I had a difficulty speaking Filipino and English when I came here in the Philippines. But because I was blessed by God to be part of the STF translation team, I was able to break through my language barrier and develop my communication skills.”
Through the leadership of Brother Eduardo Manalo, along with the ministers and ministerial workers all over the world as his helpers, the Church Of Christ continues to reap successes in all its undertakings, as its members train themselves in holiness through intensive obedience and unceasing confidence in the Lord God. The Lord God, in turn, fulfills His promises to the Church. And as the Church Of Christ continues with its works, even in the midst of the pandemic, the Executive Minister has once more called the attention of qualified brothers in the Church to join the ministry to help in taking care of the Church members in various parts of the world in their services to the Lord God.
Brother Brian Catalan from Germany, also one of the new graduates, recounted why he decided to join the ministry. “What inspired me to study to become a minister is my desire to help the Church Administration, especially now that the Church has reached 158 countries and territories. I have hoped that I could be a helper to our Executive Minister in teaching the words of God in the German language,” shared Brother Brian.
No matter what severe obstacles the Church may encounter, this work, began by God’s Messenger in these last days, will remain victorious until Judgment Day because God promised that His last work of salvation will never be forsaken. Fully believing in this, Brother Joseph Andrew Oda, another newly sworn-in ministerial worker who is from France, said, “The Church Of Christ continues to progress despite the pandemic and worsening hardship because this is the nation of God in these last days that He has promised to never abandon. And now that I am a regular ministerial worker, I will use all the qualities and skills that God gave to me to fulfill my duty and be a true helper of the Executive Minister in caring for the Church.”
While the Church presses onwards with its works globally, being established in 158 countries and territories, the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, has called the attention of qualified male members of the Church from all over the world to join the ministry, in order to be of greater help to the Church Administration in the propagation of the true faith. Here are four native speakers of foreign languages, who have heeded the call of the Executive Minister, and are included among those who graduated and took oath as regular ministerial workers on September 20, 2020:
Sendo os primeiros obreiros ministeriais nascidos e crescidos no Brasil, os irmãos Franco e Marco foram educados por seus pais na cultura cristã. Filhos dos primeiros membros da Igreja naquele país, os irmãos Gascon viram o estágio pioneiro da Igreja de Cristo no Brasil. Mesmo agora, a Igreja ainda não se expandiu lá. O irmão Marco disse: “Há tantas pessoas no Brasil que precisam ser salvas no Dia do Julgamento. É por isso que meu irmão [Franco] e eu voluntariamente nós entramos no Ministério, para que possamos servir como instrumentos de Deus para ensinar às pessoas a Sua mensagem de salvação.” Como novos obreiros ministeriais regulares, eles decidiram fortemente em ser bons ajudantes da Administração da Igreja, não só em pregando aos seus semelhantes a importância da Igreja de Cristo para a salvação, mas também em trazer os escolhidos de Deus à sua perfeição espiritual. O irmão Franco disse: “Onde quer que eu seja levado, serei um bom exemplo para os irmãos, especialmente os líderes da Igreja, sendo dedicado em cumprir as minhas obrigações nos serviços de adoração e em todas as obras da Igreja.”
[Being the first ministerial workers who were born and raised in Brazil, Brothers Franco and Marco were brought up by their parents in the Christian culture. As children of the pioneer Church Of Christ members in that country, the Gascon brothers saw the early years of the Church in Brazil. Even now, the Church has yet to expand there. Brother Marco said, “There are so many people in Brazil who need to be saved on Judgment Day. That is why my brother and I willingly joined the ministry, so we can serve as God’s instruments in teaching to people His message of salvation.” As new regular ministerial workers, their strong resolve is to be good helpers of the Church Administration, not only in preaching to their fellowmen the importance of the Church Of Christ for salvation but also in bringing God’s chosen ones to their spiritual perfection. Brother Franco said, “Wherever I may be assigned, I will be a good example to the brethren, especially to the Church officers, in dedicatedly fulfilling my obligations and in all the endeavors of the Church.”]
Antes de unirse a la Iglesia Ni Cristo (Iglesia de Cristo), la religión era solo un cosa sin importancia en la vida del hermano Luis. No solo se concentraba principalmente en trabajar, sino que además, no se sentía espiritualmente satisfecho cada vez que asistía a las reuniones de la iglesia. No fue hasta que le invitaron a una misión evangélica en la Iglesia de Cristo que fue cuando se sintió satisfecho tanto con las enseñanzas que escuchó como con la manera que proclamaron las palabras de Dios.
El hermano Luis es el primer obrero ministerial Ecuatoriano en la Iglesia De Cristo, y ahora su servicio a Dios es su máxima prioridad en la vida. Con la ayuda de Dios, también pudo convencer a su madre, dos hermanos, tres tíos y tres tías para que se convirtieran en miembros de la Iglesia de Cristo. Lleno de inspiración, dijo: “Estoy dispuesto a hacer todo lo posible para enseñar y compartir las palabras de Dios con los demás.” Si es la voluntad de Dios, ellos también serán llamados en la Iglesia de Cristo y serán salvos en el Día del Juicio.
[Prior to joining the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ), religion played only a minor role in the life of Brother Luis. Not only was he focused mainly on working but he did not also feel spiritually satisfied whenever he would attend religious gatherings before. It was not until he was invited to an evangelical mission in the Church Of Christ that he felt contented with both the teachings that he heard and the manner of the preacher’s delivery of God’s words.
Brother Luis is the first Ecuadorian ministerial worker in the Church. Service to God is his top priority in life. With God’s grace, he was also able to convince his mother, two siblings, three uncles, and three aunts to become members of the Church. Filled with inspiration, he said, “I am willing to do everything to teach and share the words of God with others. If it’s God’s will, they, too, will be called in the Church Of Christ, and be saved on Judgment Day.”]
A former pastor in the Pentecostal Church, preaching has been Brother Obinna’s passion. Little did he know then that what he was proclaiming to people before was not the truth written in the Bible, until he was introduced to the Church Of Christ. After hearing the true words of God upheld by the Church, Brother Obinna decided to step down as a Pentecostal pastor and become a member of the Church Of Christ. Motivated by his desire to preach, this time, the pristine gospel, Brother Obinna decided to join the ministry. With firm conviction, Brother Obinna said, “No matter what trials come into my life, I will never abandon my membership in the Church Of Christ and my ministry.” He is the first Nigerian regular ministerial worker in the Church Of Christ.