EVM CONDUCTS HISTORIC WORSHIP SERVICE-ORDINATION TO MARK JERUSALEM LOCALE’S 20TH YEAR
A personal account of Bro. Arnel A. Tumanan
MARCH 31, 2016. Thursday. It’s 9 in the morning inside the Zion Hall of the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel (Formerly La Romme Jerusalem Hotel). The congregation is solemnly singing hymns of praises led by the Choir, already moved by the presence of the Holy Spirit while eagerly awaiting the entrance of our beloved Executive Minister, Bro. Eduardo V. Manalo. I also know that this is also the situation at all the remote sites in different parts of the world witnessing this historic occasion. Then that moment came. And everyone felt the undeniable outpouring of the spiritual blessings of our Almighty God.
This occasion marks the 20th anniversary of the triumphant prophesied return of the Church of Christ to its original city of establishment when Brother Eraño G. Manalo officiated the inaugural worship service on March 31, 1996. I could still vividly remember the events that transpired before and during that historic occasion. Many brethren feared for the safety of our Executive Minister (Ka Erdy) back then because 1996 was a period full of perils and uncertainties. The Jewish State is still reeling from the assassination of their Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin which took place on November 4, 1995. It was also the height of skirmishes between the Israeli Defense Force and Hezbollah (a lebenese para-military and political organization labeled as terrorists). The deadly suicide bombings perpetrated by islamist militants and retaliation of the Israeli Army was the norm. To say that tensions were high was an understatement. Yet such dangers and threats did not deter the stern resolve of Brother Eraño to proceed to Jerusalem in 1996. He believes that his pastoral visit to the Holy Land is his personal mission mandated by God. With this belief is the conviction possessed by the early servants of God, most notable is of our Lord Jesus Christ, who did not fear the impending death that he will suffer upon his entrance to Jerusalem.
In this very same venue also on the last day of March, 20 years ago, after 2,000 years of absence of the true Church of Christ in its original home, Brother Eraño proclaimed to the congregation gathered here back then: that God’s prophecy about the return of His people in this land is being fulfilled right before their eyes. This prophecy was pronounced in the Book of Isaiah 52:7-8 which Brother Eraño asked me to read during his homily. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring the happy news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns. The watchmen shout and sing with joy, for right before their eyes they see the Lord God bring his people home again.”(The Living Bible) He explained that the watchmen mentioned in that prophecy pertains to the ministers of the Gospel whose duty is to bring or preach the message of salvation.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring the happy news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns. The watchmen shout and sing with joy, for right before their eyes they see the Lord God bring his people home again.” [Isaiah 52:7-8, LB]
Twenty years later, as the present Executive Minister of the Church of Christ, it is Brother Eduardo V. Manalo’s duty to edify the brethren by nurturing and nourishing their spiritual yearning for God’s words. He has to travel thousands of miles around the world to pastor the Christians and strengthen them in their faith especially in times of difficulties. If the bombings in 1996 did not deter him and his father, Brother Eraño to go to Jerusalem, the present-day scourge of terror however more intense and even deadlier cannot in anyway prevent Brother Eduardo from officiating the scheduled worship service in that much loved and contended City.
On October 31, 2015, ISIS claimed responsibility for the downing of a Metrojet plane with a homemade bomb in Egypt killing 224 passengers. Two weeks later on November 13 last year, ISIS slaughtered more than a hundred civilians in Paris, France in simultaneous suicide bombings and random shooting rampage. Early this year, Boko Haram burned to death almost 200 civilians including women and children in northern Nigeria. While ISIS orchestrated the bombing of tourist spots in Istanbul, Turkey which killed at least ten people including nine German tourists.
On the morning of March 23, 2016 just four days after the arrest of the prime suspect in the November 13 Paris massacre, ISIS elements bombed the Brussels International Airport and a Metro station in the Belgian capital. The morning bomb attacks massacred at least 35 people, all civilians of various nationalities.
These horrible events have sowed fear in the hearts of most people. But not in Brother Eduardo V. Manalo. He is also as dauntless and courageous as his father. Acting with firm faith in God’s almighty hand, he decided to go to Jerusalem just as his father did two decades ago. He will never be hindered in fulfilling his divinely appointed duty to proclaim the words of our Almighty God to His servants wherever they may be. He will also be making history as he will officiate the first ordination of new ministers of the true Church of Christ in Jerusalem after more than two millennia.
The official entourage of Brother Eduardo to Jerusalem included Brother Glicerio Santos Jr. (General Auditor), this writer (Adviser of Buklod Organization and verse-reader of the Executive Minister), completing the 3 ministers who were also with Brother Eraño G, Manalo in the inaugural worship service in Jerusalem in 1996. Included now are Brothers Pepito Acuesta (Europe Main Office Coordinator), Joel Narciso (Southern Europe District Minister), Romeo Marquez (Northern Europe District Minister). Brothers Felmar Serreno (United Kingdom District Minister), Alex Batulan (Africa District Minister), Jonathan Jamias (Southwest California District Minister), Ferdinand De Dios (Pacific Northwest District Minister), William Dominguez (Europe Main Office Auditor), Darwin Blanco (Southern Europe District Auditor), and Alain Castro (Resident Minister of Jerusalem Locale) completed the bevy of 12 ministers accompanying the Presiding Elder.
The Jerusalem Worship Service and Ordination proceeded without any glitch as God fulfilled His promise to uphold His Church. The congregation assembled at the venue as early as six in the morning although the worship service was actually scheduled at ten in that last Thursday of March 2016. As the brethren had already filled the hotel lobby by seven a.m., it was decided by the hotel management to allow them entrance into the worship hall at least three hours ahead of the schedule.
The Executive Minister himself arrived at the Zion Hall almost 45 minutes before the scheduled start of the worship service. The congregational hymn-singing began earnestly after all the ministers entered and took their respective seat assignments. After several spiritual hymns have been sung by the choir, Brother Joel Narciso of the host Southern Europe Ecclesiastical District led the opening prayer. He led the more than 900 gathered faithfuls in thanking Almighty God for the safe arrival of Executive Minister and his companions.
The powerful homily of Brother Eduardo commenced with him emphasizing that the fulfillment of biblical prophecies were the real reasons why the Church of Christ was able to return to the city of its birth in 1996. Quoting a recent rendition of the Scriptures known as The Last Days Bible, the Presiding Elder proved to the congregation even the precise time when the Church will be reestablished in the Far East at the time “ends of the earth” and its ultimate return to Jerusalem after having been organized also in the City of Rome in 1994.
But the Executive Minister stressed to the brethren that it is not enough to just remain as members of the Church of Christ to receive God’s blessings and His promises. More importantly, Christians must become holy, full of enthusiasm, and disciplined in their worship of the true God. He enjoined the congregation to remain steadfast in their faith and dedicated to their respective duties and offices in the Church.
Brother Eduardo also called on the brethren to be strong and persevering in the face of trials and persecutions and to consider these things not as hindrances but as added opportunities to become more righteous in the sight of God. By this time the congregation could no longer hold back the tears form their eyes brought about by the intense power of the Holy Spirit and touched by the noble desire of the Executive Minister that every member of the Church of Christ be saved on Judgement Day.
How kind and wonderful God is to His nation in these last days! Though the first century Church of Christ that was established here in Jerusalem, Israel, during the time of Christ and the Apostles, was not recognized by the established government back then and even suffered harsh and terrible persecutions from the State; But now, the Church of Christ in these last days was not only recognized and registered in the government of Israel but they also greeted and welcomed our beloved Executive Minister, Bro. Eduardo V. Manalo on his return here as he officiated a very powerful and spiritually blessed worship service and a historic ordination of 10 new ministers as a part of the 20th founding anniversary of the congregation of Jerusalem, Israel.God has fulfilled and continues to fulfill all His promises to the Iglesia Ni Cristo that this is His nation which He will never forsake. The parade of victories the Church now enjoys prove that this Church indeed belongs to Him and He divinely and expertly guides our current and beloved Executive Minister, Bro. Eduardo V. Manalo. Glory be to our Great God!