The sun had barely risen when Peter opened his eyes. He wasn’t awoken by the numerous pitter patter of feet on concrete, nor was he jolted awake by the melodious matching of pitches by the choir. He just simply opened his eyes and was awake. He was excited.
He got out of his make-shift bed that lay on the cement floor and started to fix himself. Having taken a shower the night before, he starts to comb his hair. He then falls in line in one of the little shops selling hot lugaw and some puto, then goes back to his seat to anticipatively wait the start of the program.
On the other side of the world, it’s 10:00 in the evening, but Anne and her family have no intentions of going to bed. Anne’s mother had already finished packing their rations for the day (or by this case, the night) and was now gathering her siblings, making sure their scarves were secured around their necks and their boots tightly snuggling their feet.
They would then make the short but cold night’s walk to their locale in London to join the countless number of peculiar people, either up too early or up too late, to offer the sacrifices of thanksgiving to the Lord, for the second day of their International Thanksgiving to God (ITG) has come.
Peter and Anne’s experiences are only one of the few situations that brethren from the Members Church of God International (MCGI) experience every quarter of their three-day ITG. Unlike regular people who would spend their Fridays and weekends partying, relaxing or just spending the day off, these peculiar people from the MCGI would travel miles and miles to congregate in different coordinating centers all over the Philippines and the globe, transcending time zones and sleeping patterns. Today’s the second day of the ITG, and the congregation’s energy hasn’t dwindled. It heightened.
At the start of the thanksgiving ceremony, right after the Teatro Kristiano and the Music Ministry sang the opening song, Brother Eli addressed the difficult situations brethren experience all over the globe in order to participate live in the thanksgiving. Brethren situated in Apalit, Pampanga, Philippines (where the ADD convention center is located) have to endure the scorching heat a tropical country would offer, while brethren coming as far from London would brave the graveyard hours of 11pm onwards. Brethren in the Middle East, where Christian religious practices are highly suppressed, would stay in underground locales sometime between mid-afternoon and evenings while brethren in South America also experience difficulty with their time zones. Despite this, Brother Eli calls upon the brethren to “endure unto the end” to be saved (Matthew 24:13 KJV).
Unlike regular church services of other religions wherein pastors would take the stage, read a passage or two from the Bible and start to retell countless stories irrelevant and unrelated to the verse at hand, the brethren in MCGI are fed with God’s wisdom coming straight from the Bible, through the delivery of Brother Eli Soriano and Brother Daniel Razon, with God’s help and mercy. These are wisdom not typical for today’s pastors – all of them came from the Bible.
After being spiritually and physically replenished, congregants gathered onstage to offer their sacrifices of thanksgiving to God with the fruit of their lips. Dances, songs of praise and testimonies were given onstage from various parts of the country and the globe. It is indeed a great feeling to stand alongside brethren, uncaring whether it was too hot or too sweaty, being one in hearts with the goal to express their endless gratitude to the Lord.
The rest of the day and night were spent on talking about the history of the Church, to how it started and how it came to be what it now is, similar to what Luke had done during their time in the first Church. (Luke 1:1-3 KJV)
As the night tolls on and the second day of ITG has been wrapped up, brethren from all over the world will sleep with further more excitement, like Peter and Anne, in their respective parts all over the world, to await the coming of the third and last day of the ITG. More Biblical wisdom will be introduced to the fold and more dancing and praises and happiness will abound as the nation of God celebrates. But for the rest of the remaining night, Peter returns to his make-shift bed in the ADD Convention Center, Anne and her family will make their way home, and I will go to sleep feeling fulfilled, satisfied and hopeful as the following day approaches.