“PUT ALL YOUR HOPE in the grace that will be yours.” Thus Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the Executive Minister, once again exhorted the brethren in the livestreamed worship service he officiated at on February 13, 2021 in commemoration of the milestone anniversaries of 32 local congregations and an ecclesiastical district.
Through his Bible-based sermon, Brother Eduardo Manalo reminded the brethren to look ahead and focus not on their momentary struggles but on God’s promised reward that will last forever.
Holding on tightly to God’s promises, Church Of Christ members have been taught to keep their minds off the worries caused by the trials and tribulations that they encounter. They firmly believe that the Almighty Father will surely help and guide His faithful servants who worship Him with utmost sincerity.
Bayan-Bayanan, Marikina City, Philippines
Written by Danise Lusanco
Seek God and know the true worship of Him—this was what Brother Arvin Mark Matito, a Light of Salvation secretary, did when he had an unusual experience in his life before converting to the Church.
In 2014, a friend convinced him to listen to the biblical teachings upheld by the Church Of Christ. He remembered: “I occasionally attended Bible studies on doctrines, but did not take it seriously at that time because, back then, I was an altar boy in the Catholic Church.”
There was a time when he suddenly experienced excruciating pain in his abdomen. He had himself taken to a hospital after he started vomiting blood. He narrated, “After a few days in the hospital, my condition didn’t improve. I felt so weak. I knew I was not getting well. It felt like I was already dying. Even the doctors were clueless on the cause of my illness. They were merely speculating on what illness I had, saying that I needed to undergo more tests.”
While Brother Arvin was in the hospital, his friend, accompanied by a Church minister, visited him. After speaking with the minister who gave him biblical advice, Brother Arvin made up his mind and uttered a promise: “When I get better, I promise to continue listening intently to God’s words and continue learning more about the Church Of Christ.” Before leaving, the minister said a prayer for his recovery.
A few days after the visit, Brother Arvin recovered and felt better—physically, because he felt his illness had faded away, and, spiritually, because he knew then what he had to do to fulfill God’s commandment regarding the true worship of Him.
Brother Arvin continued to listen to God’s words taught in the Church Of Christ and put them into practice. One of the teachings that convinced him to become a member of the Church was God’s prohibition on the worship of idols or graven images. He reflected on the many years of his life as a Catholic altar boy, when the way he worshiped God then was not in accordance with His teachings.
“Sincerely worshiping God and obeying His commands with all my heart is what I have been striving to do ever since I became a Church Of Christ member. As long as I have life and strength, I will serve and worship God sincerely and wholeheartedly,” Brother Arvin vowed.
He does his best to make sure that he also fulfills the complete renewal of life and the sharing of his faith with his loved ones who are not yet members of the Church Of Christ. “With God’s mercy, I was able to invite one of my siblings, my aunt, my uncle, and my grandmother. They are now active members of the Church,” he said.
Caganhao, Marinduque, Philippines
Written by Michell Moreno
“It was in August 1987 when Typhoon Herming ruined our home. I cannot help but cry every time I remember that tragedy,” said Brother Marcelo Moreno, deacon and Buklod president of the Local Congregation of Caganhao. He also recalled the hardships he endured during the early years of his membership in the Church Of Christ.
“I lived and worked in a palaisdaan (fish farm) together with my wife and children. I was not fond of listening to the radio … so, that time, I had no idea how strong the coming typhoon was,” Brother Marcelo narrated. That night, he was alone at home when a strong, whirlwind-like gust destroyed his house in a matter of minutes. Alone in the dark, he cried in fear as his belongings were blown away. He said, “I prayed hard to God to protect me from any harm.”
To shield himself, Brother Marcelo took shelter in a shallow hole on the ground and covered himself with a piece of wood. He remembered that it felt as though he were in his grave already. He continued, “I was so afraid, but I never stopped praying. I surrendered myself to God.” Due to exhaustion, he fell asleep, but woke up only to realize the extent of the damage. “I was in shock at the sight of the area that was once my home,” he continued.
Even with all the devastation, Brother Marcelo never thought of ceasing to worship God. He and his family had to walk more than ten kilometers to attend the worship services since transportation and roads were affected by the typhoon.
“In the worship services, God comforts me and gives me strength to go on despite the trials I encounter. Together with my family, we will show our sincerity in worshiping Him by never ceasing fulfilling our Church duties no matter what happens,” he declared.
With the Lord God’s help, Brother Marcelo was able to have their house rebuilt and he found a better source of living. His wife, a deaconess, and all seven of their children, continue ever so fervently fulfilling their duties to God and in worshiping Him with utmost sincerity.
Dallas, Texas, USA
Written by Geneko Riko Wilganowski
“As a 15-year-old teen that time, I witnessed the help and guidance of our Lord God as our local congregation was still being established,” said Brother Dean Malabanan Sr., head deacon of the Local Congregation of Dallas, as he recalled their congregation’s humble beginnings. His parents, his siblings, and he were the pioneer members of the Church Of Christ in the Dallas area during the mid-1970s, a period in their lives that proved to be very challenging.
“Back then, there were only a few members and Church officers, and we did not have a permanent place of worship yet,” Brother Dean narrated. Since modern technology and social media platforms were not yet available then, he remembered the challenges they faced: “The first difficulty was finding other Church members who could possibly be in the area.” As God’s answer to their prayers, brethren and their families started reaching out to Brother Dean’s parents.
“The next challenge was where we could meet,” he said. With God’s help, Brother Dean’s father found a suitable place of worship where they could gather, which was approved by the Church Administration. Eventually, the group worship service that once consisted of just one family became one of the biggest local congregations of the Church Of Christ in the Midwest region of the United States.
Brother Dean faithfully believes that the Lord God helped them because of their sincerity in conducting worship services to God—giving glory to Him. He said, “I believe that when we have the intent and desire to worship God sincerely, He helps us through the times, especially when we are extremely exhausted and overwhelmed by life’s worries. Having such dedication made me realize how I’m able to go on and continue serving Him.”
Brother Dean recalled what his father said to them when they faced hardships and difficulties as pioneers in their local congregation: “The Church Administration always teaches us that everything we do, we do for God.” Brother Dean continued on, saying, “The biblical lesson taught by Brother Eduardo Manalo reminded me that our journey is almost over, that all of our problems and sufferings will come to an end when Christ returns. It reminded me that we are closer now to what we are striving for and that our salvation is really at hand. When I focus my mind on this, the sacrifices and struggles don’t become a burden.”
Indeed, God answers the prayers of those who are true and sincere in their worship of Him.
Written by Cherry Joy Aquino
Sister Naomi Matsumoto, a choir member in the Local Congregation of Chiba, Ecclesiastical District of Tokyo, Japan, earns an average wage. She has been working for eight years in her morning job and two years in her evening job. Her income is barely enough to make ends meet, but she resists the lure of working notoriously long hours to work, as is the growing culture in Japan, just to earn more. She knows that if she goes with the flow, she could not make time for the worship services.
“Even when working at night, I always make my Church duties my top priority because serving God gives me the strength to face all my problems,” she said.
“Brother Eduardo Manalo reminded the members of the Church Of Christ to be sincere in worshiping God. I was able to immediately relate to the importance of having this quality because it helped me when I was struggling in my personal life,” Sister Naomi said.
She also recalled that there was a time when her income was not enough to sustain all their needs. She had to help her parents in settling bills. Adding to that was the persecution she experienced in her workplace. “I was sad and worried,” she said, “but I never lost hope but instead kept my trust in God. Like what Brother Eduardo Manalo taught in his Bible-based preaching, God will bestow His blessings on His servants who show sincerity in worshiping Him.”
Sister Naomi narrated that through all the hardships and persecutions she experienced, she never turned back on her faith and continued to serve God all the more. God’s promises are her inspiration as she continues to face the struggles in life and as she fulfills her duties in the Church Of Christ. At present, she now has her own family.
“I believe that God will do wondrous things for us when He sees in our hearts how sincere we are in worshiping Him. He has blessed me to have a family of my own and now, together with my husband, I continue to serve God and perform my Church duties,” she said.
Miami, Florida, USA
Written by Joven Aurealyn Esquito
“It was four in the morning of July 4, 2016, while I was at work, I received a phone call from my son. Crying, he said: ‘Dad, we got into an accident. There’s blood all over.’ I forgot where I was or what I was doing. All I could remember was praying to our Almighty God,” narrated Brother Neil Tugaoen, head deacon of the Local Congregation of Miami, as he tearfully recalled the accident that almost claimed the life of his entire family. His wife, mother, mother-in-law, son, daughter, and nephew figured in a car accident more than 250 miles away from where he was at that moment.
“I called out to God in tears saying ‘Please don’t forsake me. I can’t afford to lose my entire family’,” Brother Neil recalled.
Being a nurse, Brother Neil knew his family was in a life-and-death situation. But being a member and an officer in the Church Of Christ, he sincerely believed that only God has the power to save the lives of His faithful servants.
Brother Neil listened intently to Brother Eduardo Manalo’s biblical preaching during the livestreamed worship service commemorating the first anniversary of the establishment of the Ecclesiastical District of Caribbean. The occasion brought back so many memories of how God answered his prayers.
It was very clear that as Brother Neil faced that great ordeal, every step of the way God answered his prayers. He said, “God gave me the presence of mind and courage to be strong for my family. The rescue team found them faster than I expected, all six of them were brought into a reputable trauma hospital.” His wife, nephew, and son sustained only minor injuries. Though both his mother and mother-in-law were confined in the ICU and his daughter had a fractured clavicle, he never panicked and was never discouraged. “I saw God’s mercy and grace through the brethren, officers, and ministers who came to offer help and prayers,” he continued.
Even amid such a great trial, Brother Neil remained undaunted. Faithfully, he drove back and forth from Daytona to Miami to perform his duty as head deacon while his loved ones were in the hospital.
After more than two weeks of hospitalization, his family was discharged. And though still recuperating, all six of his loved ones survived and joined him in offering heartfelt gratitude to God during the anniversary thanksgiving of the Church that year.
Indeed, God is always ready to answer a sincere and humble request, a prayer from His servant full of faith that He can do even the impossible.