Sacrifices of a Leader
In part one of “A Decade of Blessed Leadership,” individuals reflect on the sacrifices made by the Executive Minister as he travels to visit congregations of the Church Of Christ around the world.
Randel Cera: My name is Randel Cera. I fly for a flag carrier legacy airline. I’ve been in the aviation industry for the past 20 years. I’ve been to more than 25 countries.
Chrissy Fisher: Hi, I’m Chrissy Fisher, and I was a flight attendant for four years. I’ve traveled to over 40 countries, and that’s about 20 percent of the world.
Czarina Pangan: Hi, I’m Czarina Pangan. I have been a flight attendant for seven years. I have been in 13 countries.
Richelle Villanueva: I have been a flight attendant for three years now.
I am currently working as a flight attendant in one of the international airlines here in the Middle East. I’ve been working for this airline for about 15 years now.
Edwin Pabale: I am Edwin Pabale, an airline pilot, 24 years flying. I’ve visited 24 countries.
Chrissy Fisher: My name is Chrissy Fisher, and I’m originally from Melbourne, Australia, but I now live in Honolulu, in Hawaii. Ever since I was a little girl, I remember traveling from Australia to the Philippines which we would often do with my family. And I remember saying, “When I grow up I want to be a flight attendant.” I didn’t even know what, really, a flight attendant was but that was my dream ever since I was a young girl.
Edwin Pabale: Ever since I was young, I wanted to fly. That’s how simple it was. I wasn’t thinking about how much it paid. I just wanted to experience flying. That’s all. I started in the Air Force. I started in the Philippine Air Force Flying School way back in 1995. After graduating from college, I became a military pilot for almost 11 years. Then, I applied with Cebu Pacific Air in 2006. Since then, that’s been my only job.
Richelle Villanueva: Of course, I get to see different cultures, different places. I’m happy because I’m able to meet new people. It’s a learning experience. Every place I visit, I learn something new. I think that’s the best thing about being a flight attendant.
Chrissy Fisher: At the beginning, I was really so happy that I was fulfilling the dream I always had as a kid. It was such a great experience because I got to do all the things that I wanted to do. I wanted to travel the world.
Richelle Villanueva: Honestly, it gets really, really lonely. I would long for rest and sleep, and be with people back home — I’m often far away from my family. When I would get home, it’s either they would already be sleeping or no one is home.
Chrissy Fisher: A few years into it, I realized, “Oh, what’s next?”, because I knew that I wouldn’t do this forever. It’s not a forever job because it was so exhausting. It was not good for my body. I just knew that I couldn’t do this forever.
Venice Sarmiento: Have you ever seen what happens to a half empty water bottle in a plane on landing? So, if you look at a water bottle, what happens is it kind of becomes deformed, our body is mostly water.
Edwin Pabale: There is the physiological effect of high altitude. While flying, you maintain a certain pressure inside the airplane. Even just sitting inside the airplane, you will feel tired because normal pressure outside is zero. You will start to feel pressure on your body inside the plane between six to eight thousand feet, just imagine being on top of a mountain, that’s the pressure the body feels.
Chrissy Fisher: After a few years of flying, I started to really suffer from different ailments. I was at the doctor’s very frequently. I constantly had a sore throat. I had tonsillitis almost every month. I was an insomniac for many, many months. I couldn’t sleep because we had very different schedules.
Venice Sarmiento: I have experienced problems with my stomach. I developed gall stones back in 2013. I had an operation during that year. I felt dehydrated at the end of the flight. Even if you’re going to plan your day, even if you’re going to plan your layover, you can’t really control your body. When you’re a flight attendant, that’s already a given.
Brother Sergie Santos: When a person travels, it is an illusion to say, or even to think that the person, whomever it may be, is at rest. You are not resting; therefore, your heart rate is up, your metabolism is up. That’s why one of the negative effects of constant travel is dehydration.
Clifford Stirba: If you’re traveling greater than eight hours, now you run the risk of fatigue just because you haven’t eaten. You haven’t stretched, so your blood is pooling now in your body and making it more difficult for you to circulate your blood. This can lead to a phenomenon called jet lag. Your body has to adjust to this lag that built up in our brains. There are chemicals that are affected by sunlight and by darkness and throughout the course of the day, it makes us feel tired. So, you can imagine, if you travel to a spot where you would feel like it’s midnight, and you want to sleep, but it’s midday, it’s really confusing to have to fight through that. For some people, it can be quite debilitating. So, it takes a toll on the physical body, and one of those tolls is a drop in our immunity, a drop in our body’s ability to fight off disease.
Brother Sergie Santos: Now, studies reveal that it takes two weeks to adjust to a certain time zone. Now, imagine jumping from timezone to time zone — day in, day out, for ten years.
Randel Cera: I had one of these flights where we were flying to Galveston County — it’s at the border of Texas and Mexico. We had this severe thunderstorm. So, we tried to do the approach as much as we could. However, it wasn’t doable. So we diverted to our diversion airport. On our way to the diversion airport, the first thing that happened was the severe rain coming into us. Eventually, we had this really severe turbulence. I think that was the first time I’ve encountered such turbulence that it was difficult to maintain the stability of the aircraft. And then that’s the time when the lightning hit.
Chrissy Fisher: I’ve had a time when we were trying to land into New Zealand, we tried to land for two hours. We couldn’t land because there was a thunderstorm. I remember a plane crash-landing in Dubai airport. It was very close to my house. That was when it was a reality, like, “Oh my gosh, this could happen to me!” I just remember at that moment thinking, “Oh my gosh do I know anybody on that flight? Do I want to do this job anymore?” It was such a scary experience, I questioned whether or not I wanted to do this and whether it was worth it. Like, was it really worth this job when my life could be at risk?
Venice Sarmiento: I realized, the only reason why I kept going is because I have my family to come home to and my children, and of course my husband.
Richelle Villanueva: For me, I’m still a flight attendant until now, not for the traveling, not for the experiences that others are looking for as a flight attendant. For me personally, I’m still a flight attendant so that I may continuously support my family. That’s the only reason I want to continue because I really don’t want to fly anymore because of the risks that I’m taking every flight.
Czarina Pangan: Sometimes, for example, when we hear news about instances of plane crashes or hijackings, I wonder about what our Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo has to face in his daily travels.
Richelle Villanueva: Working as a flight attendant, I only have a family to take care of. Then imagining what Brother Eduardo has to take care of — the entire Church in various places. So, for me, it’s amazing and we shouldn’t take it for granted that he’s doing all these for us.
Randel Cera: Comparing it to the nature of flying that we’re doing, he’s been traveling, in fact even more than what we’re doing in the industry of aviation. It’s just amazing. When he gets to the place, he has to conduct a worship service, he has to talk to all the Church officers, and, of course, he has to spend time with the brethren. Tirelessly— again and again.
Brother Glicerio Santos, Jr: When Brother Erano Manalo passed away in 2009, that’s when Brother Eduardo Manalo said that he will visit all the brethren, not just here in the Philippines but in all places around the world. He wants to continue to strengthen the faith and fortify the hope of the brethren. That’s actually what can be read in the Bible.
Brother Erano Codera: That’s actually what can be read in the Bible. The visitations of the apostles to the brethren– particularly the Apostle Paul. They were the instruments used in the land of the Gentiles. We know that the places that the Church reached were not geographically close to each other but far away from each other in different countries. Just like what we can read in Acts 15:36, they revisited the local congregations of the Church that they previously preached to.
Brother Robert Pellien: I don’t think anybody realized how many great leaps and bounds of progress were to be seen under the new leadership of Brother Eduardo Manalo. And so much of that is due to all of the programs and projects, during the past ten years, and the pastoral visitations that he does. Going from district to district and local congregations. I mean if you could look back at the ten years, and how well traveled our Executive Minister is, it’s amazing how anyone can do it that much.
Brother Gregory Worthen: He’s considering all the situations and all the conditions that the brethren are in, in different parts of the world as he’s traveling to these places. He’s going into places where, perhaps Christianity is not recognized–so that’s a danger to him. That doesn’t deter him. Natural disasters, calamities, storms–all these things– also come about. These things do not deter him.
Brother Glicerio Santos, Jr: By God’s mercy, I was able to witness his pastoral visitations in various countries. I can say that Brother Eduardo is very brave, very patient, very diligent, and he is constantly thinking about the welfare of the brethren inside the Church. He always tells me that his main goal in life is to guide the members of the Church Of Christ to have perfect faith and to be able to present the Church in a glorious state when our Lord Jesus Christ returns.
Brother Erano Codera: He conducted a pastoral visit to a local congregation in Mindanao. When we were on our way home, I was flying in a separate airplane. While we were in the air, one of the engines of the airplane I was in stopped working. There was a leak in the gas tank. So, we needed to make an emergency landing. Thankfully, the pilot was able to land our airplane safely. Everyone knows about the dangers of traveling, especially on airplanes. Because if there are any issues, it’s not like a car on the ground where if there’s a problem, you can just pull over. You can’t park the airplane in the middle of the air, right? So, we can just imagine that the dangers our Executive Minister faces in his travels are more severe. He travels even farther distances. His travels are more often just so that he can reach the local congregations faster. Also, during the times that he is traveling, he is still using that time to perform his duty. The truth is that there are moments while he’s traveling, especially when he’s in other countries and we are here in the Philippines, wherein he is still able to give us instructions. We can communicate with him through modern technology; even while he is traveling in an airplane. He still does office work! He doesn’t waste any time. He makes the most of every moment to work. Even in countries with time difference, he can still be consulted at odd hours. So you can only imagine how much sacrifice he makes, and the time he puts in just so that he can fulfill his duty for the benefit of the whole Church. Yet, I have never heard any kind of complaint from our Executive Minister. When you see him, he’s full of gladness when he talks to you and he shares his joy when he performs his duties because of his love for the Church.
Brother Glicerio Santos, Jr: I am amazed by Brother Eduardo–by the strength of his faith, by the strength of his conviction. No matter what the trail is–we know the trials that Brother Eduardo is going through, right? But when it comes to all of that, he entrusts everything to God. He always says, “We have God with us. He will not forsake us.” That is what Brother Eduardo wishes for all brethren to understand well. Do everything that will give glory to God because not only is it our duty, but also because the day of our salvation is near. Let’s not allow that as Church Of Christ members, we’d fail to give glory to God, which is what our Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo Manalo always teaches.
Brother Glicerio Santos, Jr: There was this one time where there was a terrorist attack. The terrorists attacked in Australia and they were only a few steps away from the hotel where we were in. But Brother Eduardo said, “Let’s wait this out. This shall pass.” All the while, the people in the hotel were running away and hiding but Brother Eduardo and I remained calm saying, “God is merciful to us.” After that, there was a time when there was a polar vortex and it was extremely cold. Brother Eduardo said, “We will continue.” That’s when we experienced the great difficulty of extremely cold weather. There was this one time in the Middle East, in Dubai, where this time it was extremely hot, so much so that no one was going out in the streets and some people would be getting nosebleeds from the heat. But Brother Eduardo said, “We will continue.” There was another instance, this time in America, in La Motte, where there was a blizzard. No one wanted to travel the roads. It was so cold and there was so much snow. Still, Brother Eduardo continued. Truly, when it comes to worshipping God, we see Brother Eduardo value it more than anyone. No matter what dangers, no matter what happens, he prioritizes the worship service.
Brother Glicerio Santos Jr: There’s many other things that we experienced in our travels. Can you believe that ten years have already passed and not even one bad situation has stopped him. Can you believe that there are millions of people going through doctrinal instructions? For example, 1,662 different pastors from various religions have joined the Church. It was only during Brother Eduardo’s leadership when that has happened. Also, all the amazing achievements that have been recognized by the Guinness World Records, 24 records in all, achieved by the Church. In particular, the worldwide Aid to Humanity, these all happened during the leadership of Brother Eduardo Manalo.
Brother Glicerio Santos Jr: All of these are the results of Brother Eduardo Manalo’s ten years of pastoral visitations to various parts of the world. For me, if Brother Eduardo didn’t do any of these things, we wouldn’t see the Church this active. The reason why the Church is this active and this victorious, firstly, is because it is the will of God. Secondly, it is due to the dedication and what we would call, courage of Brother Eduardo Manalo; which is why the Church Of Christ has achieved all of these victories. When Brother Eduardo and I went to the new museum, there is a section there that shows all the pastoral visits that Brother Eduardo conducted. When I saw it, I was amazed. And I showed it to Brother Eduardo and I said, “Brother Eduardo, it’s only been ten years and you’ve visited over 554 local congregations abroad!” And he replied, “Oh! That’s a lot!” One might ask, how was that even possible? It’s because of the help and mercy of our Almighty God.
Brother Erano Codera: Out of curiosity, I asked him about the pastoral visitations that he does, “Don’t you get tired?” He replied very honestly, “I do get physically tired. However, “ he said, “when Brother Erano Manalo was still alive, he gave me an instruction, “When you become the Executive Minister of the Church, strive to visit every local congregation of the Church Of Christ wherever they are in the world.
Visit the brethren and see their condition.”
[Video : “Thus, wherever the brethren are–even if they’re in remote places–I make every effort to go there. Each of us needs to be active in our membership in the Church Of Christ when Christ’s Second Advent is near.”]
[Video source: Executive News: “Let us keep on enduring don’t let go of our divine election. Don’t allow anything to ruin it. But, if we endure patiently and hold on to our membership in the Church Of Christ whatever we face, then we are sure that we will make it to the end]