Boxing fans around the world paid large sums to watch Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey exchange bloody punches. Supporters of deposed Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra marched to Bangkok shouting their vehement protests. Brethren of Members Church of God International, however, traveled far and wide to celebrate the grand International Thanksgiving for the first quarter of 2010.
Pacquiao brought Filipinos another reason to celebrate, bringing home another title for the country. Shinawatra’s supporters are nearing their goal to pull down the government. Yet of all the reasons for people to amass, MCGI’s International Thanksgiving shuns violence and puts good news in its headlines.
More than 875 foreign and local coordinating centers hosted the grandest event among all other MCGI celebrations. Of this number, 75% are based abroad, proving the successful global evangelization efforts of the Church, led by Presiding Minister Bro. Eliseo Soriano and Vice Presiding Minister Bro. Daniel Razon.
Bro. Eli Soriano is happy and thankful to God at seeing the continuous growth of the Congregation despite political and religious discrimination and persecution. Katulong ng Pangangasiwa (KNPs) overseas report that as far as Gospel work is concerned, the Foreign Ministry has already reached six continents and several island nations.
Bible studies and expositions remained in-demand over the last four years. Television and Internet viewership have dramatically increased in India, the Americas, and Europe. Ministers are sent round-the-clock to officiate baptism, wherein immersions yield an average 200 individuals weekly.
This first quarter thanksgiving this 2010 also kicked-off the new year in the Hebrew calendar’s reckoning, which is year 5770. The Church celebrates the Hebrew new year as it is the “one observed by the Israelites at the time of the Exodus, and the early Christians, because it is biblical”, Bro. Soriano asserts in one of his discussions.
Meanwhile, barely three minutes before the MCGI congregation knelt to pray on its second day of thanksgiving, Indonesia felt a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, Sunday, March 14. Although it did not trigger a tsunami, reports say that the earthquake is just one of the series of tremors that have disturbed the country in weeks.
It can be remembered that on December 26, 2004, Indonesia was hit by an earthquake-induced tsunami which claimed an estimated 225,000 lives, left 500,000 homeless, destroyed properties, houses, and impailed businesses set at the coasts of the archipelago. The strong quake also left considerable damage to India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. That same day, MCGI held its final quarter thanksgiving through songs and dances to honor and praise of the God of Israel.
Until today, the Congregation considers it as God’s salvation that the Philippines was spared from the what-might-have-been effects of the tsunami that struck the region, since the giant waves that came crashing to the Indonesian shores was caused by a 9.0 magnitude quake, based on the Richter scale, and stronger by 2 levels than the one that shook Haiti. The tremor was strong enough to send destructive columns of water to the dotted Philippine archipelago, but it did not.
The Philippines, like Indonesia, lies directly above the Pacific Ring of Fire which is the most active seismic and volcanic region in the world. Several tectonic plates and trenches are found in the Ring, and the most active volcanoes and destructive earthquakes occur in the countries situated in it. It is quite surprising that though the Philippines is also frequented by earthquakes in recent weeks, the tremors were considerably faint.
As of this writing, no MCGI congregant based in Thailand has been reported to have suffered the effects of the political crisis there. Although supporters of Shinawatra insist on coming to cry their protest against the government, the thanksgiving celebration there ended peacefully and uninterrupted, just like in other monitoring centers elsewhere.
(Written by: Cecile Vizcaya)
(Photo by: Rovic Balunsay)