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“WHEN THE WORST WASN’T THE WORST”
Michael Rivera: I was 17 years old. I had just come back from a weekend road trip to L.A. with friends and I found all of my clothes packed in a luggage sitting outside of our home. I immediately knew I was being kicked out because of my stepdad. I was only 10 years old when my dad died. And my mom’s new husband was never fond of me. They would constantly fight about me and started to insist that once I turned 18, I should be old enough to be on my own. I wasn’t ready. And I was just so angry. But what really killed me was when my mom said, “You live on your own and you be an adult. We just want to live in peace without you here and you are just in our way of happiness.”
I picked up my things and walked about 15 miles from Lodi to Stockton, carrying with me my backpack and rolling luggage. I had no cellphone, no money, no work, no family to reach out to or contact. I had to come to terms with the fact that I was now homeless. And I found myself questioning, where was God in all of this? I thought I was doing things right by God. I was an altar boy, was serving in the choir and practiced the rosary, but I was in the worst situation of my life. I had nowhere to go. There were times where I was lucky enough to get a spot at the shelter because they would only open at certain times for admission. One of those times, I saw my classmate’s parents volunteering and I hid in shame because I was too embarrassed. After that, I would constantly check who would be serving dinner to the homeless. So, most of the time, I was camping underneath the bridge of Highway 4. I would get mugged by other homeless people on the streets. If they desired any clothing that I had. And little by little, my shoes and belongings would get stolen. For food, I remember being able to enter through the exit door of a local buffet when no one was looking, and ate there at the restaurant until I got kicked out. I’d walk into a diner just to get a free drink of clean water during the summer, when it was scorching hot outside. To stay clean, I’d go to random gas stations and wash myself. Although I felt alone and abandoned, I was all the more prayerful for every day I survived to live another.
I was homeless for nine months until my uncle let me in. I stayed with my uncle for seven months and my life started to settle. I got a job at a warehouse store, saved enough money for a car and enlisted in the United States Army. During this time, I took advantage of listening to literally every religion I could that the Army had to offer because I was searching for God, looking to fill a void. My service in the Army ended soon after I was sent to RHU, or Return Home Unit, due to an injury. I made the decision to pursue my passion in nursing. My life seemed to be going in the right direction, except for the fact that I already knew the Catholic religion I grew up in was not the true religion because I observed first-hand how certain practices weren’t based on the Bible. I kept searching.
I was working at a skilled nursing facility located in Stockton when a smiling grandmother was admitted at my unit, accompanied by her niece who was often well-dressed, specifically on Thursdays. I was curious, so I asked, “Why do you dress like that?” She replied, “I go to worship service on Thursdays, that’s why.” This struck me as weird because I had never heard of a weekday church gathering. So then, I asked, “What religion is that?” And she couldn’t help but say, “I’m a member of the true Church.” I attended my first worship service as a guest and the teachings made a strong impression on me. And this was the start of me becoming a member of the Church Of Christ.
Growing up Catholic, I was taught about the trinity—the belief that there is one God, consisting of three persons or beings. But the Church Of Christ believes that there is no trinity of persons in God. Though the Bible speaks of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, never does it refer to the Son and the Holy Spirit as being God. The Bible never says that there are three persons in one God. Rather, it points to the Father as the true God. The Son himself emphasized that only the Father is the true God.
It made so much sense to me because in the Church Of Christ, unlike in other religions, we are able to ask questions about our salvation and the minister reads the answers directly from the Bible. He never gives his own opinions when responding to questions. What he does is provide the Biblical answers, which have been taught to us by the Church Administration.
The unique thing about the Church Of Christ, which I had not observed in other religions, is that the lessons taught are taught in every local congregation all around the world. I found God—or rather, He led me to the truth—and I realized that the more I connected to God inside the Church Of Christ, the more I received His blessings.
My faith in God pieced me back together. I have been able to rebuild a relationship with my mom. She apologized to me and for so many years, I couldn’t accept it. But after learning how to be a true Christian, I’ve been able to forgive her. I have found stability; I’m a nurse now. And even during these uncertain times, I found strength in God and use that strength to help others. I have found home in a place where I belong, but most especially, I learned that “the worst” is never the worst. In fact, the worst times of my life pushed me closer to achieve some pretty awesome things, like finding God. Thank you.
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Brother Johnny Martin: Dear friends, once again on behalf of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ), we are so grateful that you joined us in our Faith Speaks Online Event.
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Brother Johnny Martin
Minister of the Gospel
Brother Johnny: For some of you, you know, this may be the very first time that you’ve heard about the Church Of Christ. For others, perhaps you were able to attend our previous events or activities in the Church. Either way, we sincerely hope that this won’t be the last time that we get to see you. Because besides sharing with you an opportunity to meet these brethren of ours, and hear their inspiring stories, there’s something more important that we’d like to share with you. The words of God written in the Bible. Why is that so important?
Think about the world we’re living in right now, dear friends. How many people are feeling worried, troubled? How many are feeling anxious, depressed? With so much uncertainty in the world people wonder if there’s really anything to hope for.
Sure the stories we heard today were inspirational, moving, we were touched as we listened to the stories. Well why were the speakers able to stand before us and tell us their stories? Didn’t they get sad too? Didn’t they get discouraged at moments in their life? And if they did, should that surprise us? The Bible tells us this, in Psalm 42:11:
But I say to myself, “why am I sad and discouraged? I should not be sad and discouraged! I will confidently expect God to help me, and I will praise him again, my God, the one who saves me.”
[Psalm 42:11 Translation for Translators]
Brother Johnny: This servant of God said right here, “why am I sad and discouraged? I should not be sad and discouraged!” So there may be moments in our life when we feel that way. But God’s servants, they don’t allow themselves to be overcome by those feelings. Instead, what do God’s servants do? They confidently expect God to help them, and save them.
In short, they put their hope in God. They put their trust in God; in what God can do in the promises of God.
Dear friends, God keeps His promises. If God promises to His servants that He will help them, well then He helps them. And what kind of help does God give His servants who put all their trust and hope in Him? In Ephesians 3:21, 20, well let’s listen now to what this passage of the Holy Scripture shows us right here. Ephesians 3:21, 20, this is stated:
“All of us who are included in the church of Christ, we should praise him forever and ever…
[Ephesians 3:21 Traduccion en lenguaje actual (Translated to English)]
God has the power to do far more than we could ever ask for! We can’t even imagine what God can do to help us with his power!
[Ephesians 3:2- Traduccion en lenguaje actual (Translated to English)]
Brother Johnny: Dear friends, that is what the speakers today experienced. That’s what we would like you to experience, as well. And so we, again, invited you to our Bible studies in the Church Of Christ. Join us and receive God’s wonderful promises.
So as we come to the end of our program we want to thank our beloved Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the Executive Minister of the Church Of Christ, for guiding us in the holding of this event. And if you would like to learn more about the Church Of Christ visit incmedia.org.
And once again, thank you dear guests, for being with us today on our program Faith Speaks. See you next time and please stick around to see if you’ve won a shirt.
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