ANSWERED PRAYERS AND PROSPEROUS TRAVELS: MCGI’S INTERNATIONAL THANKSGIVING TO GOD IN BRAZIL, 2015 – PART 2

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International Thanksgiving to God – Day One

April 3, 2015 — A little after 3:00 a.m., we were knocking on Bro. Aaron Romero’s hotel door, ready, willing — and with God’s help and mercy — able, to go to where the rest of the brethren are.

It was the first day of the International Thanksgiving to God (ITG) celebration of the Members Church of God International (MCGI) in Brazil, and even without a hint of caffeine, we were already wide awake.

The sky was still in its proud ebony state as we traveled our five-minute drive from our hotel to the venue. From inside Bro. Aaron’s rented car, I saw the familiar convention grounds, already lit up — a refreshing scene both for the eyes and the soul.

Chorale members were already starting to gather near the stage, wearing their pristine white and black uniforms, topped with ties and scarves. Pieces of notes and tunes escaped from the ADD Band and Orchestra’s instruments, and hung in the air for a few seconds before they fluttered away.

Chorale members in Brazil ready themselves for the ITG's first day. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

Chorale members in Brazil ready themselves for the ITG’s first day. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

At about 4 a.m., chorale members boarded the stage whilst Teatro Kristiano members in their flowing blue and white uniforms took their spots just underneath the stage, directly in front of the brethren.

The combined force of the chorale and teatro members rendered a lively opening number — a song of praise to God. And even before daybreak, loud cheers and claps emanated from the convention grounds.

The MCGI chorale and Teatro Kristiano render an energetic opening number early in the morning. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015].

The MCGI chorale and Teatro Kristiano render an energetic opening number early in the morning. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015].

The chorale then led the brethren in Brazil and in various remote points all over the world in the congregational singing — an MCGI staple in all of its gatherings.

From upbeat to solemn songs, MCGI's international music ministry chorale members led the brethren in the congregational singing. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015].

From upbeat to solemn songs, MCGI’s international music ministry chorale members led the brethren in the congregational singing. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015].

And just as the brethren sang hymn no. 50 and 1 in three beautiful languages — Filipino, Spanish and Portuguese, respectively — the regal sun began to beam its rays on the brethren, casting a golden glow on everyone.

The prayer, which was also translated into three languages, was uttered solemnly. Since last year’s induction to the brotherhood, the trilingual hymns and prayers were quick to become dear to my heart.

After another round of joyful praises to God led by the chorale and teatro members, Bro. Daniel Razon meekly boarded the stage with his head bowed down, to teach the brethren the first part of the ITG topic — one of the main highlights of the event.

After the solemn opening prayer, the Music Ministry Chorale and the Teatro Krisitano members led the brethren in a joyful song of praise. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

After the solemn opening prayer, the Music Ministry Chorale and the Teatro Krisitano members led the brethren in a joyful song of praise. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

Bro. Daniel started the timely and interesting topic on the great value and the deeper biblical meaning of serving God. With Portuguese and Spanish translators on the stage with him, he discussed the topic with clarity and patience.

He would speak his point in Filipino, wait for it to be translated in Spanish then Portuguese, and continue with his train of thought. Now this was not an easy task — without focus and patience, there’s a big possibility that you’ll lose your train of thought.

Bro. Daniel Razon delivered the first part of the topic in Brazil for MCGI's first day of the International Thanksgiving to God celebration.

Bro. Daniel Razon delivered the first part of the topic in Brazil for MCGI’s first day of the International Thanksgiving to God celebration.

But Bro. Daniel carefully spoke and listened — making sure that his message came clear to all those in attendance who came from various parts of the world. He would pause and think, and take the time to ask everyone if they understood the important topic being discussed.

And based on the cheers, the smiles, the agreeing nods, coupled with the hands and flags shooting in the air, it was clear that the answer was a resounding yes.

Cheers for a well understood topic. [Percy Caroro, PVI PH. April 2015].

Cheers for a well understood topic. [Percy Caroro, PVI PH. April 2015].

At noontime, a short break was announced for the brethren to eat and rest for a bit. In the Philippines, where the bulk of the members are, it was already midnight.

Instrumental music of fast-beat Church songs were playing in the background while The little Teatro Kristiano from the day before started to dance one song to another. Before long, the brethren started to take notice — and he was being broadcasted in all MCGI remote points across the globe!

The adorable Brazilian Teatro Kristiano danced one Church song to another by heart, while the brethren in Brazil and in all parts of the world watched with joy. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015].

The adorable Brazilian Teatro Kristiano danced one Church song to another by heart, while the brethren in Brazil and in all parts of the world watched with joy. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015].

The adorable Brazilian Teatro Kristiano danced one Church song to another by heart, proving that he might be young at age, but his dedication to his craft is steadfast and well beyond his years.

Brethren from different countries who were visibly delighted by this little irmāo‘s dancing abilities and innate cuteness, whipped out their smartphones, videocams and cameras to record him in action.

They also put chocolate bars and dollar bills right next to him. But this did not sidetrack him. He didn’t even glance at the sweets nor the money. He kept on dancing. He kept on with his duties.

And I stood there, basking in the humbling event unfolding before my eyes with a huge grin plastered on my face.

Bro. Rodel Mangiliman, one of the Helpers of the Ministry, then came on the microphone and announced that the rest of the brethren should join the child in praising God through dance — and that’s exactly what ensued, to the delight of everyone.

Believers from different nations sing songs of praises to God during day one of the International Thanksgiving to God celebration of MCGI in Brazil. [Aaron Romero, PVI NY. April 2015].

Believers from different nations sing songs of praises to God during day one of the International Thanksgiving to God celebration of MCGI in Brazil. [Aaron Romero, PVI NY. April 2015].

And I will never forget that the whole congregation, not just those gathered in Brazil but in other places as well, was united in praising God — led by an innocent little boy — who performed his duties without hesitation.

Children truly are of heaven, I thought with a smile, while singing and dancing with the rest of the grateful ones.

A beautiful Brazilian Kawan ng Cordero (KNC) member smile adorably for the camera. [Diane Mercaida, PVI UAE. April 2015].

A beautiful Brazilian Kawan ng Cordero (KNC) member smiles adorably for the camera. [Diane Marcaida, PVI UAE. April 2015].

Then came Bro. Eli Soriano

Bro. Eli arrives on stage with a smile on his lips . [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015].

Bro. Eli arrives on stage with a smile on his lips . [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015].

Walking down the stage, with a smile on his lips and his Bible in hand, the crowd in Brazil almost immediately stood up and cheered simultaneously, as if a zealous orchestra played beautiful symphony all at the same time at the first sight of their loving conductor.

A few of the brethren from Singapore and North America weren’t able to contain their excitement upon seeing Bro. Eli again — some of them, for several years, while others, for almost exactly a year. They stood up and crowded near the stage, taking photos of Bro. Eli.

With a smile, he asked the brethren to sit down so that the important part of the festivities — the studying of God’s words — may commence. With happy faces, the brethren did as they were told, and readied their Bibles and notebooks for the discussion.

During the discussion of the topic’s final leg, the Overall Servant of the Members Church of God International (MCGI) made sure that the importance of what it is truly like to be a preacher of God’s words were understood by all.

He patiently discussed a biblical detail in Filipino, then in English, Spanish and Portuguese. He listened intently as translators spoke to the Spanish and Portuguese brethren, making sure that the translations are accurate. He spoke and listened with love for the word of God, and for those who are intently listening to it from all across the globe.

As Bro. Eli discussed during the second part of the topic, the true servants of God who preach His words are ordained by God to teach the brethren how to render their service — all according to what the Bible dictates.

“We do not just serve God. We serve God in an exact manner,” added Bro. Eli as he read 1 Corinthians 9:26.

20150403-PVI Pol Arellanountitled (158 of 349)

Bro. Eli speaks in Portuguese to further elaborate on a biblical point during MCGI’s International Thanksgiving to God celebration in Brazil. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015].

 The basis is God’s holy words, and the lives of those whom God chose to preach them as stated in the Bible.

“The true apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ are not dependent on the members for what they are going to eat and what they are going to dress,” said Bro. Eli to the congregants.

And Bro. Eli lives by this belief in his own life — working from daybreak to nightfall to finance the growing number of coordinating centers and broadcasts in South and Central America, he has put up his own businesses with his own two hands, with the help and mercy of God.

Bro. Eli talks in Spanish for the brethren hailing from Central and Latin America. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015].

Bro. Eli talks in Spanish for the brethren hailing from Central and Latin America. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015].

Today, he has purchased a bigger coordinating center named after the Church in the city of Sao Paolo, for the ever-growing number of congregants in the area. Another bigger coordinating center in Curitiba was also purchased, without members being asked for any financial support whatsoever.

His selflessness is something that’s known not only to the brethren, but also to those outside the Church. The many charities that he and Bro. Daniel Razon have started cater to people of all ages, nationalities, and beliefs. Most of the charitable institutions spearheaded by Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel remain in his land of origin, the Philippines.

Bro. Eli looks on to the brethren in the Philippines on the LCD monitor in Brazil, as he tells them how much he misses his native land. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015].

Bro. Eli looks on to the brethren in the Philippines on the LCD monitor in Brazil, as he tells them how much he misses his native land. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015].

It is quite evident that the Philippines remains to be a very special place for Bro. Eli — during the event, he recalls walking along the aisles of the Ang Dating Daan Convention Center in Apalit, Pampanga, where he used to conduct his teachings to the brotherhood in person almost a decade ago.

Pointing at the screen where he used to tread as he spoke God’s words, he uttered with a wistful smile, “I miss the Philippines.” The joyful brethren in Brazil waved hello to the brethren in the Philippines through the wonders of modern technology.

Bro. Eli had the brethren in the Philippines deep in his heart and mind — he wanted to make sure that the brethren in the Philippines had enough time to rest so that they can listen and understand the trilingual topic being discussed, not just for the event’s first day, but for the rest of the event’s proceedings.

Bro. Eli keeps an eye on the time, out of his love and concern for the brethren in the Philippines. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015].

Bro. Eli keeps an eye on the time, out of his love and concern for the brethren in the Philippines. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015].

And so the first day of the International Thanksgiving to God officially concluded to give way for the brethren in the Philippines and nearby countries to rest their eyes and gather strength for the next day.

But the day was not over for Bro. Eli. It was still quite young for the likes of Bro. Eli, to be honest.

He called for a consultation session for the brethren in Brazil to ask their questions of faith. And Bro. Eli, being the man that he was, asked for his table and chair to be brought down from the stage and be transferred to where the brethren are — so he can listen to their concerns more clearly.

Bro. Eli sits right in front of the brethren to better listen to their concerns and problems. [Aaron Romero, PVI NY. April 2015].

Bro. Eli sits right in front of the brethren to better listen to their concerns and problems. [Aaron Romero, PVI NY. April 2015].

A sister from Brazil asks her question to Bro. Eli during the consultation session served by Bro. Eli Soriano. [Derrick Manila, PVI Canada. April 2015].

A sister from Brazil asks her question to Bro. Eli during the consultation session served by Bro. Eli Soriano. [Derrick Manila, PVI Canada. April 2015].

At nighttime, when questions of the brethren from South America have been answered with biblical bases, Bro. Eli Soriano bade farewell to the congregants so that they could rest for another round of biblical studies on the following day.

[To be continued…]

Answered Prayers and Prosperous Travels: MCGI’s International Thanksgiving to God in Brazil, 2015 – Part 1

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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.

Luminous Luna. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015.]

Luminous Luna. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015.]

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.

Airport conversations. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

Airport conversations. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

A review. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

A review. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

Digital flowers. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

Digital flowers. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

Peek. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

Peek. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

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.

Rocky cliffs. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

Rocky cliffs. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

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.

Familiar ground.  [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

Familiar ground. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

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.

Cooked and eaten with love.  [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

Cooked and eaten with love. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

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.

Warming up. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

Warming up. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

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.

Unfazed by the passers-by, the young Teatro Kristiano prodigy kept on with his choreography. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

Unfazed by the passers-by, the young Teatro Kristiano prodigy kept on with his choreography. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

Inspirational. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

Inspirational. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

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 performance of one's duties. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

The performance of one’s duties. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

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.”

Taking down notes. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

Taking down notes. [Pol Arellano, PVI NY. April 2015]

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…]

Bro. Eli Soriano Tweets for Peace: #Noynoyparin Campaign Continues

News, Events and Second Glances

New York, USA — Just before Filipino televangelist Bro. Eliseo Soriano finished discussing a biblical topic to the multitude of members of the Church of God International, he exhibited his desire to fight fire with peace — by blogging about it.

On his newest blog entitled “Backing Up the President by Being Peaceful”, Bro. Soriano continues with his campaign to back-up the President of the Philippines by calling for peace in his land of origin.

Bro. Eliseo Soriano's newest blog -- Backing Up the President by Being Peaceful, published on www.controversyextraordinary.com.

Bro. Eliseo Soriano’s newest blog — Backing Up the President by Being Peaceful, published on http://www.controversyextraordinary.com.

The blog was debuted to Church congregants in six of the seven continents, on their regular Thanksgiving to God event on Saturday, February 21, 2015.

On his blog, Bro. Soriano discussed how President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III took his rightful seat in office, listed some of his major accomplishments for the country — and in true Bro. Soriano fashion–  listed biblical bases for his sound arguments.

Stressing on the importance of peace, Bro. Eli called for his fellow Filipinos to focus on banding together as brothers, instead of calling for the President’s resignation, especially during times of crises.

“The fate of the gallant SAF44 who died in line of duty was not the fault of the President! Instead of calling for his resignation, let us rally behind him in helping these fallen heroes,” blogged the Filipino televangelist.

An advocate of peace, Bro. Eli Soriano started a five-day, possible record-breaking socio-political trending topic in Philippine’s Twitterverse by coining the hashtag #Noynoyparin — a campaign to support the president amidst calls for his resignation.

The hashtag was supported by thousands upon thousands of Twitter users not just in the Philippines, but in various countries as well. The campaign was published on several local news outfits and blog sites.

Not only did Bro. Soriano start the campaign for peace, he will also spearhead a charity concert for the benefit of the fallen 44’s families and loved ones. Starting the bid of 1 milliion PHP, he called on government officials and concerned citizens to extend a helping hand.

To bring the charity ball into a roaring start, MCGI will donate 1 million PHP to the fallen 44's families.

To bring the charity ball into a roaring start, MCGI will donate 1 million PHP to the fallen 44’s families.

His initial tweet that started the peaceful movement has been retweeted by more than 1,400 times. Bro. Soriano has 72,000 Twitter followers as of writing time.

The tweet that started it all -- Bro. Eli's first tweet about supporting President PNOY on Twitter.

The tweet that started it all — Bro. Eli’s first tweet about supporting President PNOY on Twitter.

Something to be proud of: MCGI’s Hapi Christians Adopt Gays in Golden Years

News, Events and Second Glances

The month of June marks the celebration of LGBT Pride in the USA. Here in New York, a whole week of vibrant, rainbow-colored rallies, parties and dances were organized to show that they are happy and proud to be members of the LGBT community.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, a group of proud gay Christians show the world their unique brand of gay pride – by being gay men that the world can truly be proud of.

On June 18, 2014 in celebration of Philippine public service channel UNTV’s 10th year anniversary with the theme of “Caring for the Elderly,” MCGI’s Hapi Christians extended help to the Home for the Golden Gays – by giving them a new home, in Novaliches, Philippines.

Atty. Imelda Roque (L) and Brgy. Chairwoman Mila Uy (R) cut the ribbon to mark the relocation of The Home for the Golden Gays at Novaliches, Philippines. Rodel Lumiares, Photoville International 

Atty. Imelda Roque (L) and Brgy. Chairwoman Mila Uy (R) cut the ribbon to mark the relocation of The Home for the Golden Gays at Novaliches, Philippines. Rodel Lumiares, Photoville International

The Gift of Love for the Elderly Gay Community

“The Hapi Christians’ participation for UNTV’s 10th year anniversary is the establishment of the adoption house for the special elderly. We have chosen to welcome the golden gays into our home,” said Mr. Robi Lolin, PRO for the Hapi Christians.

“This is our way of showing our love, and this is under the guidance of our leaders, Bro. Eli and Kuya Daniel,” Lolin added, referring to MCGI leaders Bro. Eliseo Soriano and Bro. Daniel Razon.

 

MCGI, UNTV and Hapi Christians gleefully welcome members of the Home for the Golden Gays to their new home. Rodel Lumiares, Photoville International

MCGI, UNTV and Hapi Christians gleefully welcome members of the Home for the Golden Gays to their new home. Rodel Lumiares, Photoville International

To make sure that the special elderly in the Home for the Golden Gays utilize their skills, talents and time, the Hapi Christians will also organize seminars and trainings for the elderly gays.

“Based on interviews that we conduct, we check what the elderly are still capable of doing, based on their age. We want them to be productive. Some of them have experience with being masseuses, and some of them know how to cut hair,” said Mr. Relin Gimena, Hapi Christians’ Business Manager.

“We are planning to organize ways on how to come up with services for them to generate income for themselves,” stated Gimena.

Mr. Ramon Busa, President of the Home for the Golden Gays, thanked the Hapi Christians organization for their help and support to the Golden Gays during the live telecast of the MOA signing at the UNTV building.

“We greatly thank the Hapi organization for their helping and welcoming the members of our organization,” remarked Mr. Busa.

“Yesterday, we were formally relocated and were welcomed by the Hapi organization in Barangay Talipapa. In fact, some of the members of the Home for the Golden Gays are already living there. Thank you very much,” stated Busa.

“We will not be able to carry on with this project if it weren’t for God’s help. It is through Him that we are able to do this,” replied Mr. Larry Espinosa, President of the Hapi Christians group.

“Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel [always] teach us that we must help those who are in need of it,” he added.

The Hapi Christians is the Christian gay community of the Members Church of God International, who are being taught to utilize their talents, skills and abilities for the glory of God. Read more about them here.

 

 

References:

1] Pascual, P. (2014). A moment for the sunset beauty queens. Retrieved from: http://outragemag.com/moment-sunset-beauty-queens/

2] UNTVKasangbahayMo. (2014, June 23). MOA Signing between BMPI, UNTV, Hapi Christians and Home for the Golden Gays. [Video file] Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IogG3xmJ2sg

 

 

 

Uma Jornada para o Sul-Açaõ de Graças Internacional, Membros da Igreja de Deus Internacional (MIDI) na America do Sul

News, Events and Second Glances

Traduzido pelo Irmão Edson da Veiga

A Gênese de um Êxodo

 

Armado com um pouco de cafeína e um sistema cheio de adrenalina mais uma copiosa quantidade de ânimo, estamos preparados para enfrentar os céus com sacos pesados ​​- tanto em nossas mãos e olhos.

Éramos parte dos representantes da celebração da Ação de Graças a Deus Internacional da Igreja de Deus Internacional membros (MIDI) de Nova Yorque, e viajamos para a América do Sul pela primeira vez para testemunhar história bíblica se desdobrar.

A noite antes de nossa viagem tinha sido agitada; com os preparativos de última hora, não houve chance de deitar e descansar. Não que a gente quisesse. Na realidade, estávamos muito agitados para dormir, mesmo depois de um dia inteiro de trabalho.

Várias horas depois, eu nos encontrei sentados na área de espera do portão designado para nosso primeiro vôo. Ao meio dia, a menos de duas horas do nosso vôo, nos unimos a oração comunitária na Radio La Verdad da UNTV 37 via aplicativo móvel.

We joined the community prayer at 12 a.m. PHT via the UNTV radio app. Because we were taught to pray before each undertaking.

We joined the community prayer at 12 a.m. PHT via the UNTV radio app. Because we were taught to pray before each undertaking.

Um silêncio repentino caiu sobre cada canto e fresta do aeroporto com o início da oração. Pelo menos sobre minha amiga Eunice e eu.

 

Naquele momento, a pequena diferença de tempo entre enxugar as lágrimas quentes dos olhos fechados e dizer “amém” em minha mente – Eu sabia que a viagem tinha começado oficialmente – porque tudo o que levou a esta abençoada oportunidade tinha começado com uma oração.

 

E ao fechar meus olhos durante a decolagem, agradeci a Deus em silêncio. Eu perdi a conta de quantas vezes eu já proferi a minha gratidão a Ele, que tornou isso possível.

 

Porque é nada menos que um milagre dos dias modernos: uma menina relativamente sem dinheiro de Nova Yorque viajou milhares de quilômetros para estar com seu Ingkong mais uma vez.

 

Take off. Self-portrait. April 2014.

Take off. Self-portrait. April 2014.

Bogotá, Colômbia

A nossa viagem consistiu de uma estada de 12 horas, em Bogotá, Colômbia.

 

Chegamos nas primeiras horas da manhã.

Para passar o tempo, nós andamos por aí. Embora em um orçamento rigoroso, fomos capazes de comer e até mesmo beber um incrível café colombiano, porque felizmente, os preços na Colômbia não foram tão íngremes como em Nova Iorque. Nós cochilamos.

 

Nós ficamos sem coisas para fazer, e o tempo passava lentamente. Inúmeras vezes quisemos acelerá-lo um pouco para que pudéssemos chegar ao nosso destino especial mais rapidamente.

 

Colombian coffee. Bogota, Colombia. April 2014.

Colombian coffee. Bogota, Colombia. April 2014.

Um pouco mais de uma hora antes de sairmos Colômbia, encontramos um grupo de pessoas que nos fizeram repensar os nossos desejos sobre o tempo mesmo que por apenas alguns minutos.

 

Foi lá que nós conhecemos os representantes colombianos que foram acompanhados por obreiros filipinos da Igreja. Quis o destino que estivéssemos compartilhando o mesmo voo da Colômbia para o nosso destino final.

PVI_PArellano_2014 (19 of 586)

Todos eles nos cumprimentaram com apertos de mão firmes e amigáveis e abraços calorosos. Na minha emoção, eu esqueci que tinha um problema de não saber espanhol suficiente para dizê-los o que eu estava sentindo naquele momento.

 

Eu queria que eles soubessem como fiquei entusiasmado em ver os colombianos nativos – não-Filipinos, que são os frutos do chamado de Deus naquela terra estrangeira.

 

Eu queria dizer-lhes que há milhares e milhares de irmãos filipinos que estariam em êxtase ao ver nossos fiéis de língua espanhola naquela parte do mundo.

 

Eu queria explicar as lágrimas de felicidade que embaçaram os óculos quadrados.

 

Mas tudo o que eu queria dizer parecia já ter sido dito de forma tácita após cada sorriso, aperto de mão, abraço que foram trocados. E por esta linguagem do amor, eu sou profundamente grato a Deus.

A little fun before boarding the plane. Bogota, Colombia. April 2014. Pol Arellano, PVI NY

A little fun before boarding the plane. Bogota, Colombia. April 2014. Pol Arellano, PVI NY

E como estávamos no nosso vôo final, tanto filipinos quanto colombianos, eu dormi com um sorriso gravado no meu rosto a milhares de pés nas nuvens.

 

Quando e onde sonhos se tornaram realidade

 

Ao fazermos o nosso caminho em direção à zona de chegadas do aeroporto, um grupo de irmãos de diferentes países como Omã, Emirados Árabes Unidos, Dubai e Filipinas já estavam lá, esperando por nós com sorrisos acolhedores. Todos nós viajamos juntos ao nosso destino final.

 

KNP Bro. Bong Bodeña welcomed the Colombian brethren and the rest of the delegates at the local airport.

Todos nós sentimos que estávamos finalmente perto do lugar dos nossos sonhos em comum.

 

E foi quando o ônibus finalmente parou que senti meu coração acelerar mais.

Almost there. South America. Pauline Arellano, PVI NY

Almost there. South America. Pauline Arellano, PVI NY

Os céus foram iluminados pela lua e numerosas estrelas quando eu coloquei o primeiro pé no local, e a realidade tirou o vento de mim, me deixando sem ar de alegria – eu estava realmente lá. Realmente estava acontecendo, pensei.

 

Enquanto esperava minha bagagem ser trazida para baixo do veículo, irmãos de vários países se apertaram ao meu redor. Liderados pelo ministério de jovens, vários irmãos cumprimentaram aqueles que chegaram de outros voos longos. Saudei a sensação de déjà vu.

 

Eu já vi isso antes e eu senti essa sensação peculiar, anos atrás, em um lugar chamado Apalit, Pampanga.

 

Graças a Deus

 

No primeiro dia da Ação de Graças Internacional, eu estava do lado esquerdo do palco segurando minha câmera que já tem 4 anos. No palco estavam os membros do coral de diferentes raças vestindo a mesma assinatura uniforme preto e branco. Abaixo deles, os membros do Teatro Kristiano da Igreja dançaram graciosamente e como um só.

The Teatro Kristiano danced their praise to God, as accompanied by the Church's international chorale members.

The Teatro Kristiano danced their praise to God, as accompanied by the Church’s international chorale members.

Membros do coral guiaram os fiéis cantando músicas tanto animadas quanto solenes em louvor a Deus, simultaneamente cantando músicas em tagalo e em português.

 

E pela primeira vez na história da Igreja, o solene hino número 50 foi cantado em Filipino, Espanhol, Inglês e Português tudo ao mesmo tempo.

 

A oração solene foi proferida em três línguas e foi acompanhado pelo som de choro impotente mas esperançoso por irmãos de diferentes nacionalidades.

 

Em seguida, uma explosão colorida de energia e emoção inundou o palco quando os diferentes representantes de vários países desfilaram na frente de toda a congregação. Isto foi apropriadamente chamado de Desfile de Cores.

 

E depois de bandeiras das diferentes nações terem sido levantadas e balançadas, o celebrante fez o seu caminho para o palco.

Após vários anos de sem ver o irmão Eli, à primeira vista dele de pé no meio de um mar de irmãos que viajaram de diferentes cantos do mundo para estar com ele, um sentimento de euforia indescritível tomou conta de mim. Eu senti luz, e, no momento, eu sabia o que era felicidade.

 

Com um sorriso animado e quente, o irmão Eli cumprimentou os irmãos no Brasil e em todas as partes do mundo. Ele foi recebido com sons de alegria ensurdecedores e aplausos.

 

O pregador internacional que havia sido exilado em uma terra estrangeira durante vários anos, não esteve na companhia de uma multidão de irmãos, especialmente os irmãos filipinos. Enquanto ele falava com os irmãos na América do Sul, naquele mesmo momento, a felicidade, o seu apreço e gratidão a Deus por este grande evento da Igreja era evidente em toda a sua pessoa.

 

O irmão Eli estava feliz em ver os irmãos mais uma vez. Lágrimas de alegria fez seu olhos brilharem ainda mais do que normalmente.

 

E quando as palavras de amor, de gratidão, não são suficientes, por vezes, uma canção apropriada faz justiça – a música certa fala de um coração desejoso por outro.

 

Dos corações agradecidos do irmão Eli e do Ministro Vice-Presidente Ministro irmão Daniel Razon, surgiu o desejo de cantar para a irmandade. Para expressar o seu amor por cada um dos membros, independentemente da língua ou cor.

 

Os líderes da Igreja cantaram Through the Years. E mesmo que, às vezes, suas vozes romperam com soluços e lágrimas que escaparam, a alegria em seus corações foi sentida por toda a congregação, que cantou junto com eles.

 

Olhando para os nossos irmãos de língua espanhola e de língua portuguesa que não entendiam muito de inglês, as lágrimas em seus olhos eram o suficiente para me dizer que mesmo que a canção foi cantada em inglês, o espírito da música transcende as barreiras linguísticas. Foi o suficiente para me deixar saber que eles entenderam o que nossos pregadores queriam expressar.

 

Bro. Eliseo Soriano sang Through the Years with Bro. Daniel Razon.

Bro. Eliseo Soriano sang Through the Years with Bro. Daniel Razon.

Irmão Eli:

 

Não me lembro quando você não estava lá

Quando eu não ligava para ninguém além de você

Juro que passamos tudo o que há

Não posso imaginar nada que perdemos

Não posso imaginar nada que nós dois não possamos fazer

 

Através dos anos

Você nunca me deixou na mão

Você mudou minha vida

Os dias mais doces que eu encontrei

Eu encontrei com você

Através dos anos

Eu nunca tive medo

Eu amei a vida que fizemos

E eu estou tão feliz que eu fiquei

Bem aqui com você

Através dos anos

 

Irmão Daniel:

 

Não me lembro o que eu costumava fazer

Quem eu confiei em quem, eu escutei antes

Eu juro que me ensinou tudo que eu sei

Não posso imaginar, precisar de alguém assim

Mas ao longo dos anos, me parece que

Eu preciso de você mais e mais

 

Através dos anos

Através de tudo de bom e mal

Eu sabia o quanto tivemos

Eu sempre fui tão feliz

De estar com você

Através dos anos

É melhor todos os dias

Você já beijou para passar minhas lágrimas

Enquanto estiver tudo bem

Eu vou ficar com você

Através dos anos

A música me atingiu bem no peito, e eu me vi chorando, com minha câmera sobre o meu quadril, com uma mistura violenta de emoções.

Após uma memorável canção de abertura, da maneira dos verdadeiros Membros Igreja do Deus Internacional, o dia foi preenchido com um tema baseado na Bíblia, entregue pelo irmão Eli e pelo irmão Daniel.

O dia passou voando tão rápido. E antes que eu percebesse, eu estava fazendo meu caminho para onde eu iria descansar um boa noite de sono depois de dizer graças a Ele que me deu o presente daquele dia maravilhoso.

E que concluiu o primeiro dia da Ação de Graças Internacional na América do Sul.

 

A Sojourn to the South – MCGI’s International Thanksgiving in South America, 2014 (Part 2)

News, Events and Second Glances

The first day of the International Thanksgiving to God of the Members Church of God International came to a close.

Outside the Convention Center in South America, the afternoon sun gave a golden halo to everything it touched – the tents, the beautiful multi-color sand, and most finally, the brethren who traveled to see Bro. Eliseo Soriano on his 50th year of service.

The whole day felt a little like standing in the middle of a beautiful ocean while staring at the biggest sunset you’ve ever seen. You then welcome a friendly, crashing wave with outstretched arms and wait for it to slowly and gracefully vanish behind you and at the same time, around you. You then smile contentedly.

There was beauty, joy, excitement, and finally as nighttime drew nearer, there is a peaceful calm in our neck of the woods.

It felt a little like this, only better – only more indescribable.

At Nighttime

Before I slept, I prayed and hoped hard to get the opportunity to be able to see Bro. Eli up close and be a recipient of his smile. I wanted to hold a conversation with him, no matter how brief. I wanted him to feel how much he is missed not just in New York, but also in all places.

And though I knew in my heart that I already have been greatly blessed with just the opportunity to travel to South America, I prayed for the chance to hold Bro. Eli’s hand and give him my greeting in person.

I remembered my older brother, who asked that I hug Bro. Eli for him. And I prayed and wished to be able to do so – for my brother, family, loved ones and the rest of the brethren who weren’t able to travel to South America.

I prayed for that one chance. Timidly and with the knowledge that I do not deserve it, I prayed that night.  I made my wishes known to Him who knows it even before I say it.

The Second Day

After a quick meeting with the rest of the Photoville International photographers a little after 5 a.m., I made my way to the Convention grounds.

The Photoville International members of various countries pose for the first shot of the second day ITG. (Mark Ilutin, PVI Australia).

The Photoville International members of various countries pose for the first shot of the second day ITG. (Mark Jail Elutin, PVI Australia).

The choir members were already doing their vocalizations; prepping their vocal chords for the songs of praise that they will be leading the congregation in singing.

After the congregational singing and the heartwarming trilingual prayer, Bro. Daniel stood by the pulpit, to pick up from where the topic left off the day before. Bro. Daniel spoke in Portuguese and Filipino to carefully explain the topic to the brethren.

As I sat there watching Bro. Daniel speak fluent Portuguese, a certain feeling of pride settled in my heart. A Filipino preacher stood in front of thousands of South Americans, speaking a language that was not his own.

He would speak, and patiently await the corresponding translations before moving on to reading and explaining a verse. He would pause to ask if the congregants understood his point — which was delivered in various languages.

And based on everyone’s reaction, anyone can tell that he was well understood.

Portuguese and Spanish-speaking brethren cheer as MCGI Vice-Presiding Minister Bro. Daniel Razon explain the first part of the topic during the International Thanksgiving to God celebration's second day. Pol Arellano, PVI NY

Portuguese and Spanish-speaking brethren cheer as MCGI Vice-Presiding Minister Bro. Daniel Razon explain the first part of the topic during the International Thanksgiving to God celebration’s second day. (Pol Arellano, PVI NY)

A short recess was announced so that the brethren can have their lunch and also listen to the Yearend A Song of Praise song entries. The sun was high and the heat was a far cry from what I had to battle this time of the year in chilly New York.

As I stepped outside, I was greeted by a happy group of Teatro Kristiano, choir members and brethren volunteers who formed a line between the makeshift kitchen area to the convention center for the speedy delivery of food to the brethren indoors.

Bro. João Paulo Chaves, a Teatro Kristiano member from Rio de Janeiro helps in the speedy delivery of food to the brethren in the Convention Center.

Bro. João Paulo Chaves, a Teatro Kristiano member from Rio de Janeiro helps in the speedy delivery of food to the brethren in the Convention Center. (Pol Arellano, PVI NY)

Despite high temperatures, Teatro Kristiano members and other volunteers stood outside and made a human line connecting the kitchen to the convention center.

Despite high temperatures, Teatro Kristiano members and other volunteers stood outside and made a human line connecting the kitchen to the convention center. (Pol Arellano, PVI NY)

Learning from the Learned

In the early noon, to the delight of the crowd, Bro. Daniel called upon Bro. Eli Soriano to the stage.

It was a beautiful experience.

It was the second day of the three-day affair but I still wasn’t able to get over the fact that I was there, seeing Bro. Eli animatedly and powerfully discuss biblical points in person.

Bro. Eli Soriano speaks in Portuguese, Spanish, English and Filipino in delivering the topic during the ITG's second day. (Pol Arellano, PVI NY).

Bro. Eli Soriano speaks in Portuguese, Spanish, English and Filipino in delivering the topic during the ITG’s second day. (Pol Arellano, PVI NY).

 

He would patiently, lovingly go over one major point, showing his audience of different nationalities the deeper wisdom behind such beautiful Scripture.

He would face the Filipino-speaking brethren and relay a point in the vernacular as Bibles would open, and pens would scribble. He would wait for the translators to relay his statements to the other side of the convention center, where the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking brethren sat.

He would often ask the audiences if they understood him. He would encourage brethren to speak up, to let him know that they understood him.

He would ask questions. At one point, he announced that whoever gets the answer right would get one sack of rice as a prize, with a good-natured laugh. He would ask that a microphone be passed around for the brethren to give their answers or pose their questions.

He was careful in choosing which words to use in explaining biblical facts – he was particular, he was exact.

Numerous times did he spot and correct mistranslations even from the native speakers of Spanish and Portuguese, and they would concede with a smile or a shy laugh, for they knew he was astonishingly right.

It was there that Bro. Eli’s standard of fairness and equality shone.

He wanted everyone to understand what he has understood.

And so aside from the blessing of the wonderful topic I’ve written down in my notebook and heart, I was given the blessing of learning how Bro. Eli wants to impart what he’s learned.

How his love for all and for his God-given duty compels him to have patience, to be careful, to have a strict sense of equality in everything that he does.

Simply Indescribable

After the closing prayer, holding my thirteen-year-old Bible, I made my way in front of the stage. I didn’t know what to expect. I just hoped hard.

I saw Bro. Eli walk on stage from the right a few heartbeats later. Bro. Daniel followed him, together with his security personnel. Those who saw him immediately gathered below the stage, wanting to see him up close.

Bro. Eli stood by the edge of the stage and leaned forward to hold the outstretched hands of the brethren just below him. I found myself raising my right arm, and saying Bro. Eli’s name softly. The voice I heard didn’t sound like my own.

He looked at me and with a large grin, held my hand. He gave it a slight squeeze, and the first thing that registered in my mind when our eyes met and his hand held mine was “thank you for celebrating my 50th year of service with me.

I stood there in disbelief. I couldn’t put my hand down. He shook other brethren’s hands and shook mine again. It took me a moment or two to take everything in. Then, with misty eyes, I captured the moment.

Bro. Eli leaned towards the brethren below the stage to hold their hands. Pol Arellano, PVI NY.

Bro. Eli leaned towards the brethren below the stage to hold their hands. (Pol Arellano, PVI NY.)

To give way to other brethren, I moved towards the side. It was then that I saw a line forming on the left side of the stage. I moved fast and got in line. The line ended where Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel stood.

From afar, I saw those in front of me hugging Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel.

I waited for my turn.

Breathless. Lawrence Espano, PVI Canada.

Breathless. (Lawrence Espano, PVI Canada.)

I exchanged excited smiles with those behind me. The line grew longer, and I thought to myself, after a full day of preaching and tending to our needs, Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel made time to greet everyone who came.

It was finally my turn, and Bro. Daniel greeted me first. “Hello po kuya,” I found myself saying, and he greeted me with a smile and a gentleman’s hug – not at all tight yet respectful and warm. It was the perfect older brother’s hug.

And finally, I faced Bro. Eli.

I moved closer, smiled, and said “Happy birthday po, Ingkong.” He answered “Salamat,” or “thank you,” with a sincere smile.

The last thing I saw was Bro. Aaron Romero, one of the workers who kept things in order, and he gave me a slight nod and moved his eyebrows up and down, and I could almost hear him say “Go, this is your chance.”

And it was.

I closed my eyes.

Dividing a split second, my thoughts went to my prayer the night before, my family, my loved one, and the rest of the brethren who weren’t able to come see Bro. Eli in person that night.

I hugged Bro. Eli. I rested my face on his right shoulder. It was soft, and it felt like coming home after a long, arduous journey. I made that moment last for as long as I could. I hugged my Ingkong ever so tight.

The blessed chance. Rovic Balunsay, PVI Philippines.

The blessed chance. (Rovic Balunsay, PVI Philippines.)

We both let go of the hug, knowing that behind me, another thousand or so brethren stood in line. As I walked down the stage, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably out of sheer joy.

Though I did not and I still feel that I don’t deserve it, God answered my prayer. And there will never be enough words, in centuries past or in years to come, to ever describe the joy I felt that night.

My friend Apple saw me going down the stage. She asked me if I hugged Bro. Eli, and I nodded yes. She hugged me and told me how happy she was for me, which prompted me to cry a little bit more.

On that blessed night, hugs became one of my favorite things in the world.

 

That concluded the second day of the International Thanksgiving in South America.

A Sojourn to the South – MCGI’s International Thanksgiving in South America, 2014 (Part 1)

News, Events and Second Glances

 

The Genesis of an Exodus

Armed with a little bit of caffeine and a system-full of adrenaline plus a copious amount of excitement, we prepared to brave the skies with heavy bags – both in our hands and eyes.

We were part of the New York delegates of the International Thanksgiving to God celebration of the Members Church of God International (MCGI), and we traveled to South America for the first time to witness biblical history unfold.

The night before our journey had been hectic; with last-minute preparations, there had been no chance to lie down and rest. Not that we wanted to. In reality, we were too giddy to sleep, even after a full day’s worth of working.

Several hours later, I found ourselves sitting by the waiting area of our first flight’s designated gate. At 12 p.m., less than two hours before our flight, we joined the community prayer on UNTV 37’s Radio La Verdad via the network’s mobile app.

We joined the community prayer at 12 a.m. PHT via the UNTV radio app. Because we were taught to pray before each undertaking.

We joined the community prayer at 12 a.m. PHT via the UNTV radio app. The UNTV app is free to download on iTunes and the Play Store.

A sudden hush fell over every corner and crevice of the airport as the prayer started. At least it had for my friend Eunice and I.

In that moment, the small gap of time between wiping away warm tears from closed eyes and saying “amen” in my mind – I knew our journey had officially begun – because everything that has led to this blessed opportunity had started with a prayer.

And as I closed my eyes during take off, I thanked God silently. I lost track of how many times I’ve uttered my gratitude to Him who made this possible.

Because it is nothing short of a modern-day miracle: a relatively cash-strapped girl from New York traveled thousands of miles to be with her Ingkong once more.

Take off. Self-portrait. April 2014.

Anticipation, a self-portrait. New York, NY. April 2014. Pol Arellano, PVI NY

 

Bogota, Colombia

Our trip consisted of a 12-hour stay at Bogota, Colombia.

We arrived in the wee hours of the morning.

To pass the time, we walked around. Though on a strict budget, we were able to eat and even drink amazing Colombian coffee, because thankfully, prices in Colombia were not as steep as New York’s. We napped.

We ran out of things to do, and time went by slowly. Numerous times did we wish to speed it up a bit so we could get to our special destination faster.

Colombian coffee. Bogota, Colombia. April 2014.

Colombian coffee. Bogota, Colombia. April 2014. Pol Arellano, PVI NY

 

A bit over an hour before we left Colombia, we found a group of people who made us re-think our wishes about time even for just a few more minutes.

It was there that we met the Colombian delegates who were accompanied by Filipino Church workers. As fate would have it, we were sharing the same flight from Colombia to our final destination.


PVI_PArellano_2014 (19 of 586)

Our Colombian and Filipino brethren pre-departure. Bogota, Colombia. April 2014. Pol Arellano, PVI NY

They all greeted us with firm and friendly handshakes and warm hugs. In my excitement, I forgot that there was an issue of me not knowing enough Spanish to let them in on what I was feeling at that time.

I wanted to let them know how thrilled I was to see native Colombians – non-Filipinos, who are the fruits of God’s calling in that foreign land.

I wanted to tell them that there are thousands upon thousands of Filipino brethren who would be ecstatic to see our Spanish-speaking believers in that part of the world.

I wanted to explain the tears of happiness that fogged up my square glasses.

But everything that I wanted to say seemed to have already been said in an unspoken manner after every smile, handshake, and hug were exchanged. And for this language of love, I am deeply thankful to God.

A little fun before boarding the plane. Bogota, Colombia. April 2014. Pol Arellano, PVI NY

A little fun before boarding the plane. Bogota, Colombia. April 2014. Pol Arellano, PVI NY

And as we were on our final flight, Filipinos and Colombians alike,  I napped with a smile etched on my excited face thousands of feet up in the clouds.

 

When and Where Dreams Came True

As we made our way towards the airport’s arrival area, a group of brethren from different countries such as Oman, United Arab Emirates, Dubai and the Philippines were already there, waiting for us with welcoming smiles. We all traveled together to our final destination.

KNP Bro. Bong Bodeña welcomed the Colombian brethren and the rest of the delegates at the local airport. April 2014. Pol Arellano, PVI NY

We all felt that we were finally near the place of our common dreams.

Almost there. South America. Pauline Arellano, PVI NY

Almost there. South America. April 2014. Pauline Arellano, PVI NY

 

And it was when the bus finally stopped I felt my heart race the most.

The skies were lit up by the moon and numerous stars when I first stepped foot on the venue, and reality struck the wind out of me, leaving me breathless with glee — I was really there. It was really happening, I thought.

As I waited for my luggage to be brought down from the vehicle, brethren from various countries milled around me. Spearheaded by the youth ministry, several brethren greeted those who arrived from other long flights. I welcomed the feeling of deja vu.

I have seen this before and I have felt this peculiar feeling, years ago, in a place called Apalit, Pampanga.

 

Graças a Deus

On the first day of the International Thanksgiving, I stood  by the left side of the stage holding my three-year-old Rebel T3i camera. On stage stood choir members of different races donning the same signature black and white uniform. Below them, the Teatro Kristiano members of the Church danced gracefully and as one.

The Teatro Kristiano danced their praise to God, as accompanied by the Church's international chorale members.

The Teatro Kristiano danced their praise to God, as accompanied by the Church’s international chorale members. Pol Arellano, PVI NY

Choir members led the congregants in singing both lively and solemn songs of praises to God, simultaneously switching from Tagalog to Portuguese songs.

And for the first time in Church history, the solemn hymn number 50 was sang in Filipino, Spanish, English and Portuguese all at the same time.

The solemn prayer was uttered in three languages and was accompanied by the sound of helpless yet hopeful sobbing by brethren of different nationalities.

Afterwards, a colorful burst of energy and excitement flooded the stage as the different representatives of various countries paraded in front of the whole congregation. This was aptly called the Parade of Colors.

 

And after the different nations’ flags have been raised and flown, the celebrant made his way into the stage.

After several years of not seeing Bro. Eli, at the first sight of him standing amidst a sea of brethren who traveled from different corners of the world to be with him, a feeling of indescribable elation overwhelmed me. I felt light, and at the moment, I knew what happiness was.

I remember the last time I saw Bro. Eli vividly. He wore a purple barong and walked around the Ang Dating Daan Convention Center in Apalit, Pampanga in the Philippines. Back then, he was thinner, and had more energy.

As I stared at Bro. Eli, the fact that he is no longer as young as he was before was obvious. The years of hard work, of sleepless nights, of burdens that abound — is unmistakable.

With an excited and warm smile, Bro. Eli greeted the brethren in Brazil and in all parts of the world. He  was welcomed with deafening cheers and claps.

The international preacher who had been in exile in a foreign land for several years, has not been in the company of a multitude of brethren, especially Filipino brethren. As he spoke to the brethren in South America, on that very moment, his bliss, his appreciation of and his gratitude to God for this grand Church event was evident on his whole person.

Bro. Eli was happy to see the brethren once more. Tears of joy made his eyes sparkle even more than it usually does.

And when words of love, of gratitude are not enough, sometimes, a fitting song does justice — the right song speaks from one longing heart to another.

From the grateful hearts of Bro. Eli and Vice-Presiding Minister Bro. Daniel Razon sprung the desire to sing to the brotherhood. To express their love for each and everyone of the members, regardless of language or color.

The Church leaders sang Through the Years. And even though at times, their voices broke with escaping sobs and tears, the joy in their hearts were felt by the whole congregation who sang along with them.

Looking at our Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking brethren who did not understand much English, the tears in their eyes were enough to tell me that even though the song was sung in English, the spirit of the song transcends language barriers. It was enough to let me know that they understood what our preachers wanted to express.

Bro. Eliseo Soriano sang Through the Years with Bro. Daniel Razon.

Bro. Eliseo Soriano sang Through the Years with Bro. Daniel Razon. April 2014. Pol Arellano, PVI NY

Bro. Eli:

I can’t remember when you weren’t there
When I didn’t care for anyone but you
I swear we’ve been through everything there is
Can’t imagine anything we’ve missed
Can’t imagine anything the two of us can’t do

Through the years
You’ve never let me down
You turned my life around
The sweetest days I’ve found
I’ve found with you
Through the years
I’ve never been afraid
I’ve loved the life we’ve made
And I’m so glad I stayed
Right here with you
Through the years

Bro. Daniel:

I can’t remember what I used to do
Who I trusted whom, I listened to before
I swear you’ve taught me everything I know
Can’t imagine needing someone so
But through the years it seems to me
I need you more and more

Through the years
Through all the good and bad
I knew how much we had
I’ve always been so glad
To be with you
Through the years
It’s better everyday
You’ve kissed my tears away
As long as it’s okay
I’ll stay with you
Through the years

The song hit me right in the chest, and I found myself sobbing, with my camera parked at my hip, with a violent mix of emotions. 

After a memorable opening song number, in true Members Church of God International fashion, the day was filled with a Bible-based topic, delivered by Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel.

The day flew by so fast. And before I knew it, I was making my way towards where I would rest a good night’s rest after saying thanks to Him who gave me the gift of that wonderful day.

 

And that concluded the first day of the International Thanksgiving in South America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Other Face of Pride: MCGI Christians on The Good Kind of Pride

News, Events and Second Glances

People do not normally say, “I am a proud person” on a regular basis.

We do not normally hear that sentence mentioned with enthusiasm during the first day of school when students are asked to state their name and something interesting about themselves. Or when meeting one’s future mother-in-law for the first time, where first impressions are incredibly, life-alteringly important.

And it’s not that big of a mystery – pride has had a negative connotation over the years, with it being one of the seven deadly sins.

One can say that if the word pride were a novella, it would be the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, because the word pride doesn’t just represent a dark-sided face. It is one complexly beautiful term with an underrated good side.

Pride Has Two Faces

In the world of psychology, there are two types of pride. In a scholarly paper entitled “Types of pride and their expression,” the stark difference in pride’s two types based on the studies of Jessica Tracy, PhD and Rick Robbins, PhD, are explained:

Authentic pride, represented in words like accomplished and confident, is positively associated with personality traits of extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and with genuine self-esteem, whereas hubristic pride, related to words like arrogant and conceited, is related positively to self-aggrandizing narcissism and shame-proneness.

Based on the types of pride, fortunate individuals possess the healthy authentic pride, which is a positive interpersonal trait that springs forth from accomplishing something great.

In an interview published in the American Psychological Association, Dr. Tracy remarked on the importance of having pride.

“If you have an achievement or success, it’s important that other people know about it. It says: ‘I’m someone who shouldn’t be rejected,'” stated Dr. Tracy.

Christian Pride at its Finest

And it is that good kind of pride that Members Church of God International (MCGI) Presiding Minister Bro. Eliseo Soriano urged Church members to have: to be proud of being Christians.

Bro. Eli tweets how proud he is to be a follower of Christ's doctrines. Photo courtesy of Bro. Eli's official Facebook page.

Bro. Eli tweets how proud he is to be a follower of Christ’s doctrines. Photo courtesy of Bro. Eli’s official Facebook page.

The international preacher reminded the Christian members of MCGI to be proud of being Christ’s followers, because God Himself is proud of those who follow His words.

“The Son of God thinks of things that are of heaven. Brethren whose vision is directed towards things that are of heaven, those are the people that God is proud to call His children. He is delighted when they call upon Him,” remarked Bro. Eli.

Which was greeted by a positive sense of pride by Church members all over the world. From Apalit, Pampanga where the Ang Dating Daan Convention Center is located to various coordinating centers all over the world.

Online, MCGI Christians brandished their sense of pride on social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Here are some of the crowd favorites:

Sis Karol writes in her native language how proud she is to be a Christian. Screenshot courtesy of Sis Karol's Facebook account.

Sis Karol writes in her native language how proud she is to be a Christian. Screenshot courtesy of Sis Karol’s Facebook account.

Hailing from Perth, Australia, Sis Aileen Ravalo posts one of the Bible verses discussed By. Bro. Eliseo Soriano on Christian Pride.

Hailing from Perth, Australia, Sis Aileen Ravalo posts one of the Bible verses discussed By. Bro. Eliseo Soriano on Christian Pride. Photo courtesy of Sis Aileen’s Instagram account.

Bro. Robin Mendiola states that the best thing that happened to his life was when he became a member of the Church. Courtesy of Bro. Robin's Facebook page.

Bro. Robin Mendiola states that the best thing that happened to his life was when he became a member of the Church. Photo courtesy of Bro. Robin’s Facebook page.

“We have nothing to be ashamed of. The word of God is something to be proud of every time and all the time,” remarked Bro. Soriano.

And so these Christians  herald their pride to the world, and they don’t stop at uttering and posting words — they strive with God’s help and mercy to live by it.

 

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References:

1] Carey, Benedict. (April 6, 2009) When All You Have Left Is Your Pride. Retrieved fromhttp://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/07/health/07mind.html?_r=0

2]  Azar, Beth. (March 2006). The faces of pride: New research on pride suggests it deserves more credit as a basic human emotion than previously thought, Vol 37, No. 3. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar06/pride.aspx

When O stands for Objectionable, not OK: A Brief glimpse of Ostentatiously Opulent Scandals Trending in the Philippines

News, Events and Second Glances

Jenny holds her daughter tight inside the crowded makeshift evacuation center, both of them just two wet faces amidst a sea of relocated people due to Typhoon Maring. Her gaze is blank; her mind is lost between thinking about their small house flooded through and through, the streets of their barangay which are teeming with badly paved roads, their yet-to-be-paid-in-full TV set where she watches Ang Dating Daan on and her daughter, sleeping quietly while running a fever.

The television camera pans over her for half a second while she holds that gaze.

It is that gaze that a 23-year-old absently saw on the muted television set in one prominent hotel’s hip bar in the heart of the Metro. From a higher area of the country, where the typhoon’s strong presence can’t be felt, the seemingly rich young lady ordered a round of drinks for her friends with a wave of her bejeweled hands.  She swipes one of her many debit cards, which is one too many for a 23-year-old to have, fueled by money a 23-year-old could never have unless she’s Richie Rich’s sister.

But even Richie Rich’s hypothetical sister would probably have enough sense not to waste the fortune that her parents worked hard for. But then again, when your parents didn’t acquire the fortune you buy flashy stuff with fairly, who’s going to keep count, right?

Why, the Filipino people, of course.

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The above story may or may not be fictional but at the same time, to some, it may feel absolutely real.

Even with displacing thousands of Filipinos, causing high-level floods, disrupting schools and businesses, the anguish Typhoon Maring brings won’t be able to compare with the level of anguish some unbelievable scandals have brought to the Filipino consciousness.

A Scandal’s Theme: I Can Name The Truth in Four Notes

It’s not really hard to pinpoint what a scandal is. Especially when there’s a theme.

First up, we have the lady of the dismal hour, Ms. Janet Lim-Napoles.

Janet Lim-Napoles. Not even Typhoon Maring can drown her 10-B pork barrel scandal. File photo from rappler.com

Philippine authorities are currently hunting down businesswoman Napoles, allegedly the woman behind the 10-billion Pork Barrel scam.  All that money was supposed to have gone towards the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which could have gone to projects that would benefit taxpayers – like better flood-resistant roads for low-lying areas, benefiting both the poor and the rich alike.

But all that money that the Filipino people worked hard for seemed to have gone to personal bank accounts, her younger daughter’s spending sprees, real estates, and more.

If that wasn’t enough, word around town is that she funneled the funds to fraudulent non-governmental organizations, which was supposedly built under the guise of giving aid to the people. Ironically, instead, she stole from them.

Now, Napoloes is in hiding. But rumor has it that she will be hard to catch since allegedly, her politician friends who helped her with her grand scheme, got her back.

So to sum it up: an evil scheme, ruthless self-spending, an ironic twist and powerful connections.

Which brings to mind a lesser-known scandal of equally appalling misuse of funds. A few years back, a man named Daniel Veridiano did the exact same thing Napoles is now famous for – using money that wasn’t his in gut-wrenchingly opulent proportions.

Daniel “Puto” Veridiano. File photo from an article penned by Jane Abao entitled “Portrait of the ‘raped man’ for whom the Interpol would mobilize”

Not so long ago, one Daniel “Puto” Veridiano used one credit card of the Members Church of God International (MCGI) for his personal gain. By using a credit card that was supposed to have been used for purchasing broadcast equipment for the Church’s propagation efforts, Veridiano used millions of pesos to pamper himself with expensive things.

If stealing money wasn’t enough, Veridiano decided to file a false rape case against MCGI Presiding Minister Bro. Eliseo Soriano to get on a rival religious organization’s good side.  Ironically, he was the one who admitted to raping 14 young men who were his subordinates at the time when he was still a member of the Church. Here’s a video of Veridiano admitting to his misdeeds.

Now Veridiano is hiding in the wealthy bosom of his influential religious friends, as he betrayed MCGI for continued financial support from the company of those whom he said would be “like a quick jump to hell” if he ever joined.

After betraying Bro. Eli Soriano, the very man who helped him when he was ill, Veridiano became a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo. Screen capture from Youtube video.

After betraying Bro. Eli Soriano, the very man who helped him when he was ill, Veridiano became a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo for financial prosperity. Screen capture from Youtube video.

Like the rest of the thinking population of the Philippines, I can’t help but sense a theme here.

The Truth Comes Out of the Shopping Bag: What Scandal-Laden Money Can Buy

Money can buy lots of things.

For the Napoles clan, millions of dollars was spent on posh properties outside the Philippines. And that’s just the tip of the spending iceberg.

The family also owned several luxury cars that she and her family cruise the many beautiful places of the Philippines with.

“Sec. Leila Delima releases the list of vehicles reportedly owned,& possibly being used now by Janet Napoles. pic.twitter.com/a34rvPeGiC” from Nikolo Baua @Nikobaua. Screen capture from Mr. Baua’s Twitter account.

This famous list of cars, now retweeted and emailed by Filipinos for dissemination purposes, has a funny twin in satire form, originally posted on this blog:

Making light out of a very absurd situation: a list of the many absurd things one could probably get away with with the people’s money. Screen capture from “So, What’s News?” blog.

While the list contains things that might make you break into a chuckle, the social networking site of one of Napoles’ children can make you channel your inner 8-year-old and break into a tantrum.

Jeanne Napoles, daughter of Janet Naploes, lived a very lavish lifestyle and “flaunted” it for people to see.

On her Tumblr page, she posted photographs exhibiting the dilemma only a few young ladies face in today’s hard economic times:  Just what should a girl wear to the Grammy’s?

On her list: Purple Max Azria dress. Screen capture from: http://jeanenapoles.tumblr.com/page/5

On her list: Purple Max Azria dress. Screen capture from: http://jeanenapoles.tumblr.com/page/5

She probably wore these to the Grammy's. Christian Louboutin shoes. Screen capture from: http://jeanenapoles.tumblr.com/page/5

She probably wore these to the Grammy’s. Christian Louboutin shoes. Screen capture from: http://jeanenapoles.tumblr.com/page/5

The public's sneak peak: Finally, after days of deep thought and introspection, her Grammy's get-up. Screen capture from: http://jeanenapoles.tumblr.com/page/4

The public’s sneak peak: Finally, after days of deep thought and introspection, her Grammy’s get-up. Screen capture from: http://jeanenapoles.tumblr.com/page/4

This is on top of course of her numerous trips to various countries like Japan and London. You can see more of her photos here.

It’s not so much as her blogging about her life and what she owns and what she wore that’s the problem — every other teenager in the world who lives in the Me Millennium does this too. What’s extremely bothersome is that the young lady is reportedly unemployed, and that the money that funded all her lavish activities and belongings weren’t hers or her family’s. Her parents only made  Php 577,807.47 for 2011-2012.

Hence, that money is the Filipino people’s.

In the same light,  Daniel Veridiano, who doesn’t own any businesses or doesn’t belong to income-generating families had the bad habit of showering himself with expensive gifts.

In an expose article written by Jane Abao entitled “Portrait of the ‘raped man’ for whom the Interpol would mobilize,” she writes about how Daniel “Puto” used an extension credit card to support his opulent and highly unnecessary vices:

Puto loved jewelries so much like he has many hands and neck to adorn, but he appeared to be buying gifts for himself and for others too. The list of Puto for 2003 just for watches and jewelries showed the following in Philippine Pesos: Swatch, 800; Swatch, 3,500; Swatch, 13,600; Lucerne, 6,400; A. Rialto 39,697.00; Montre watch, 26,620; A. Rialto 18,800; A. Rialto 14,776; Venice jewelers, 40,000; and L. Heng Jeweller (Singapore) 79, 131. For 2003 alone, he spent a total of PHP 243,324.00.

For 2004, his list also showed the following just for watches and jewelries alone: Mossanite, 9,000; A. Rialto 23, 364; Multi Time, 446, 777; Gorriceta karat, 18, 801; A. Rialto, 14,750; and No Curfew, 23,940. For this year alone, and for these items, he incurred PHP 536, 632. In two years time, he bought several watches and fine jewelries from only a few thousands to enormous amounts to total PHP 779,956.

This is of course, aside from the many cash advances, posh clothes, town-to-town hops, pricey dermatology appointments, numerous gadgets and devices..

Veridiano on focus. One of Veridiano's shopping sprees caught on camera. Screen captures taken from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE2DFrRsuOc

Veridiano on focus. One of Veridiano’s shopping sprees caught on camera. Screen captures taken from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE2DFrRsuOc

And of course, to top it all off, a penis enlarger.

All of these, he spent lavishly on himself. And who paid for what amounted to  millions of pesos worth of self-serving damage? The very man who helped him get through his illness — Bro. Eliseo Soriano, or Bro. Eli for short.

Daniel "Puto" Veridiano talks about Bro. Eli Soriano, the man who took him in and helped him get through a serious illness. He would later accuse him of rape. Screen capture from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9zc0lf52Ms

Daniel “Puto” Veridiano talks about Bro. Eli Soriano, the man who took him in and helped him get through a serious illness. He would later accuse him of rape. Screen capture from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9zc0lf52Ms

And so what do we, the Filipino people, get from these cases of gross opulence on account of innocent people’s money?

We get to see very clear pictures of injustice.  If we think about it, these self-centered events have very cogent linkages to the very basic of what the rest of the populace should enjoy: the money they’ve squandered should’ve gone towards projects of goodwill and community betterment.

We as a country are used to being struck by numerous back-to-back typhoons. And we are proud to say that the Filipino nation is a country of fortitude and resilience: our streets may be flooded, but our hearts and spirits remain high and dry.

These heinous acts of opulence form just a small part of the corruption that strike the country from the highest levels of power, worse than any natural disaster we can ever encounter, weathering our country to the core. And it’s up to us if we let such ostentatious displays of opulence, greed and corruption happen again, and again, and again.

Or we can stand up, object, and do something about it. Let these folks and everyone in the world know, that this show of opulence on our expense is definitely not OK.

Show them that we truly are a resilient people. We do not just spring back at corruption, greed, and injustice.

We strike back by arming ourselves with the truth and holding on to it like it was all we have in life — holding it as tight as we would our only daughter, who has a fever in the midst of a typhoon.

#BibleExpo: Biblical Wisdom through a Hashtag

News, Events and Second Glances

From music to money, the flexible pound sign (#) has been making  lives easier since the 12th century.

And it was that one fateful day in August of 2007 when a mere suggestion by Chris Messina turned out to become the start of something that would change the face of the # forever.

Photo courtesy of InternetMediaLabs.com, from the article entitled The Hashtag: A Door to Discovery on Twitter. Link: http://internetmedialabs.com/twitter-hashtags-101-guide/

Today, the hashtag is everywhere – Twitter pioneered its usage while Google + and now Facebook has followed suit. Thanks to one symbol, social media users are now able to follow and track what topics interest them.

Just as long as a topic is preceded by the #, it is archived in the vast recesses of the Interwebs and will be there waiting patiently for you to peruse it until you get to the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot.

Fast forward to six years from the first hashtag created: August 2, 2013 – a group of people who believe in sharing God’s wisdom to others via technology will be making use of this popular symbol to impart biblical logic to the world.

God willing, these people will be using the hashtag #BibleExpo on Twitter, Facebook and Google + for the Members Church of God International’s (MCGI) Worldwide Bible Exposition.

The official Bible Exposition hashtag: #BibleExpo. Photo courtesy of Ang Dating Daan's Facebook page.

The official Bible Exposition hashtag: #BibleExpo. Photo courtesy of Ang Dating Daan’s Facebook page.

Just like the hashtag, Bible Expositions were created to bring people who would like to learn more about an important topic together – salvation. Visitors from all over the world get to ask their questions on the Bible – and they would get a Bible-based answer from international preacher and MCGI Presiding Minister Bro. Eli Soriano and Vice-Presiding Minister Bro. Daniel Razon.

During Bible Expositions, guests and online followers who may be stuck in traffic or their work desks benefit from the live blow-by-blow account of the questions and answers from the live Twitter feed from the Church’s official Twitter accounts –  @TheOldPathTV (English) and @AngDatingDaanTV (Filipino), as well as from visitors who join in on the live blogging using the #BibleExpo hashtag.

There’s a lot of use to the #. And for a group of humble believers the world over, its use is of something great:

#Salvation

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References:

1] http://socialmediatoday.com/kevin-basset/1545426/history-hashtag-infographic

2] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/magazine/in-praise-of-the-hashtag.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

3] http://www.mcgi.org/about/leaders/

4] http://internetmedialabs.com/twitter-hashtags-101-guide/