Sitting inside the plane an hour before I officially entered my reality that is New York City, without so much as a provocation or any form of observable warning, I started crying. Hard.
At the corner of my eye, I saw the Spanish-speaking lady near me slowly lower her copy of a guidebook to New York and eye me with a mixture of worry and confusion. I couldn’t blame her — one minute, I was taking photos of the beautiful, luminous blue moon hovering on the ebony sky, the next, I was bawling.
If I could just explain to the lady that my tears were brought upon by a realization hitting me, and the old familiar feeling at the pit of my stomach welling up, uncontrollably, making me see how unbelievably lucky I was.
Though I was undoubtedly nothing short of being penniless and undeniably unworthy, Someone way beyond the beautiful moon and the vast skies made it possible for me to travel to Brazil for yet another time.
And for someone as small as I am, it was nothing but a modern-day miracle.The feeling of gratitude and elation engulfed me, and before I knew it, my eyes quickly turned warm, and hot tears fell down my cheeks and chin, fogging up my glasses.
I was weeping and the only thing I could do was disguise my sobs into pretend yawns.
She was still looking at me with concern, and so I gave her a small smile to assure her that I was alright, as I wiped away my tears. She gave me a small smile back, and cocked her head to one side — almost as if she was trying to see what was going on in my head.
Señora, I thought to myself, I wish that you really could read minds because I would love to let you in on my thoughts and have you see the vivid, moving pictures of one of the best memories of my entire twenty-something years of existence.
The Journey Begins
March 31, 2015 – At 3:45 in the afternoon, my companions and I temporarily abandoned the lively mess of luggage, strollers and bags parked in our small kitchen/dining nook and quietly piled in our small bedroom.
The Church’s solemn hymn no. 50 came on and a gentle hush fell over the four of us. Silently singing, with hopeful hearts, we readied ourselves and sang hymn no. 1 – a wonderful prelude to a prayer that we all had to keep us safe on a journey to bring us to our heart’s desires.
Armed with a prayer and heightened enthusiasm, we went through the usual traveling motions with obvious joy, and eventually, braved the skies and transferred from one airplane to another.At this point, I welcomed the allure of resting my tired eyes for a few hours of sleep.
Daybreak came and my eyes fell downward to admire the beauty of Chile. Snow powdered chocolate mountains were immediately below us, with ridges that rose and fell beautifully, as if a graceful symphony for the eyes.The mountains cascaded to patches of flat land, forming an earth-colored quilt, laid out to perpetually spread warmth. A few thousand miles more, we were finally able to see familiar territory.
Finally, Brazil.I uttered a small thank You to the Almighty for keeping us safe after almost a day of traveling and for giving me the opportunity to return to where I left a big chunk of my heart a year ago — beautiful Brazil.
The airport was filled with friendly faces, as delegates from USA and Canada, as well as several brethren residing in South America, welcomed us at the terminal. Awaiting our respective rides to transport us to our accommodation houses and hotels, we sat around and tried to control the palpable excitement.
A Welcome Surprise
On the eve of April 1, 2015, instead of going straight to our hotel, we were given the chance to see the venue where the International Thanksgiving to God celebration of the Members Church of God International (MCGI) will be held.
Needless to say, this was a very welcome surprise.
At around 8 p.m., a mixture of Filipino and foreign brethren were still busy helping one another in fixing tents, arranging chairs, and making final arrangements before the big event.
And after a day of airplane food, I devoured a plate of a home cooked meal prepared with love by our dear Bro. Eli Soriano.After a few hours of meeting and greeting brethren of various nationalities, we were transported to our hotel rooms to rest.
With smiles on our tired faces, we slept for the night.
The Lord’s Supper
We arrived at the venue at noontime, giving us enough time to meet with our respective groups in the Church and prepare for the three-day event, as well as the Lord’s Supper.
Chorale members from different countries met and practiced their songs, while the ever energetic Teatro Kristiano members, the Christian dance troupe of the Church, practiced their choreography nearby.Meanwhile, an adorable Brazilian Teatro Kristiano member practiced his steps alone. Not only did he know the steps by heart, his determination and desire to perform his duties caught my attention. A few moments later, announcements came on in three languages — Filipino, Spanish and Portuguese, beckoning the brethren to assemble in the main area because the Lord’s Supper was about to take place.
To signal the start of the gathering, the Teatro Kristiano members of South America took the stage and performed a lively dance number to God and the brethren.
The small Brazilian dancer, now dressed in all white, danced with his fellow Teatro Kristiano brothers and sisters, to the delight of audiences.
In my mind, I thanked God for this boy and his parents — I thanked God for their dedication and effort. I thanked God for the humbling inspiration.The brethren then sang trilingual songs of praise to God, often pausing to clap their hands after a song has ended, to show their appreciation for such hymns that give joy as well as spiritual reminders.
The opening prayer was rendered in three languages, and was then succeeded by a very memorable topic. Simultaneously, the Filipino-based topic was translated to Portuguese and Spanish.
Bro. Daniel Razon and Bro. Eli Soriano, the Church’s Overall Servants, discussed the topic to the brotherhood — making sure to cover each point with care, always backed up by biblical verses.
The Overall Servants discussed the deeper meaning of the biblical event of Christ’s washing the feet of the apostles, and how it relates to Christians in today’s dispensation.
One of the more important parts of the topic was the great sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, and how it was truly “the most important part of the history of humanity.”Answers to questions such as why Christians do not give offerings during the commemoration of the Lord’s Supper, as well as what the great effect of Christ’s being nailed on the cross was to mankind were biblically expounded.
The brethren need not wonder if the topic was clearly understood by all — joyful cheering and clapping can be heard almost at the same time, from the Filipino, Spanish and Portuguese delegates in attendance.
And as the night deepened, and the topic came to a conclusion, we once more knelt in prayer to the Almighty Father whose mercy and love were made all the more apparent once the God-given topic was concluded.
A few hours more and the first day of the International Thanksgiving was about to begin. And with a prayer in my heart and anticipation in my mind, I closed my eyes for a few hours’ rest.
[To be continued…]