Amidst Covid-19 Threat: MCGI Goes Online for 1st Quarter Thanksgiving

Bro. Eli Soriano and Bro. Daniel Razon have been using streaming media for years in an effort to preach the Gospel overseas. The system is now being used more extensively to accommodate important Church events, such as the Quarterly Thanksgiving pictured above.

Members Church of God International (MCGI) celebrated its first quarter International Thanksgiving last April 3 to 5. Brethren around the globe convened through satellite and internet technology, and, at the confines of their homes, offered songs of praise, messages of thanksgiving, and prayers of hope for God’s continuous love and care for the Church. Bro. Eli Soriano and Bro. Daniel Razon opened each Thanksgiving day with words of love, inspiration, and newfound wisdom from the Bible.

God’s Love: From Eternity to Eternity

According to Bro. Eli, everything that God made was made out of love. “Great is God’s love and compassion for us,” he expressed.

The preacher explained that because of God’s faithfulness and great compassion, He awaits those who have sinned to turn back to Him and ask for forgiveness. This he supported with a verse from 1 Timothy 2:3-4 which tells that God wants all men to be saved.

Bro. Eli also pointed out that God’s love transcends from eternity to eternity. In an act of pure benevolence, He gave His only begotten Son to carry our burdens and cover our shortcomings.

For this, MCGI was encouraged to give thanks to God in every opportunity given. “We should exist to give our Creator His pleasure,” Bro. Eli said. “Let us allow God’s will, and follow what He wants us to do,” he added.

Hope in God’s Words

As the world continues to deal with the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel carry on the task of reaching out to offer words of encouragement through biblical wisdom.

Bro. Eli emphasized that “hope is in God who can turn these [unpleasant] events to our favor.” These, he noted, had been foreseen by the prophets in the Bible. But despite these happenings, God’s words offer solace and assurance that all things work together for the good of those who love God, as written in Romans 8:28.

“When God makes a promise, He keeps it. Although we are insignificant and worthless, our greatest treasure in life is if we need something, there is a God who listens to us,” Bro. Eli said.

God Prepared A Way

The spread of Covid-19 across the globe had not only affected the regular affairs or the ‘norm’ of the majority of the world’s population. It also made a substantial change in mobility across continents, forcing people to stay at home to avoid further transmission of the disease. This meant the closure of establishments, like factories, firms, schools, and even churches.

MCGI was not exempt. But prior to the containment measures imposed in many countries, Bro. Eli had already directed a massive clean-up and disinfection of all locales used for gatherings and other services. Members were taken their temperature before being admitted inside the locales and major coordinating centers. Those who were feverish and sick were sent home and were supplied with medical needs.

Before the quarantine began, members were asked to wear face masks while inside the locales. Rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizers were also provided, and seats were arranged one meter apart each so that members will be prevented from having close contact with each other.

The challenge came when, as the cases of Covid-19 infections sharply rose and the lockdown began, Bro. Eli had to order the temporary closure of all locales to keep the congregation safe from the possibility of getting sick. “It will grieve me if a brother or a sister will acquire the disease,” he said as he wiped tears while he spoke to the congregation via an exclusive broadcast.

But with God’s help, MCGI continues to congregate and engage in Bible lessons while observing home quarantine. How was it done?

Online Social Distancing: The New Norm

After many countries imposed lockdown, MCGI turned to online gatherings to attend and participate in religious services. The move gives a more pronounced definition to social distancing, a way to curb the Covid-19 contagion.

To give some background, MCGI had been doing Gospel propagation globally through its 24/7 streaming services since 1999. Bro. Daniel Razon, Bro. Eli’s assistant to the congregation, laid out the system using all accessible technologies and platforms that were available at that time.

With his vast knowledge and experience in mass communication coupled with a strong leaning for the latest in technology, Bro. Daniel was able to tap measures that widened the scope of MCGI’s broadcast reach. Since then, strings of Bible Expositions and Bible Studies were streamed via television and the internet throughout the continents, and more audiences from different countries were seeing Bro. Eli’s preaching for the first time.

After breaking into the global broadcast scene, Bro. Eli received numerous invitations to speak before crowds interested to learn more about the Bible, particularly in South America. But accommodating an outpour of people became a slight problem. There were simply not enough closed-door facilities that can house people flocking in. In most venues where Bible Expositions were held, people were literally jamming doorways, all seats were taken, and halls were filled to the brim.

Given the bulk of invitations Bro. Eli receives on a daily basis, most falling on the same dates and times but in different places, and venues getting overcrowded during Bible Expositions, a solution was set to ease the problem: video teleconferencing.

As soon as the online platforms were established, Bro. Eli and his technical team began an almost non-stop work of live streaming Bible Studies, Bible Expositions, and Mass Indoctrinations. Within a few months after video teleconferencing was used, the number of online participants increased. Thousands were attending without choking a single venue. They were either viewing in MCGI locales or watching in their homes.

This system was replicated in other countries where transport and location were a bit of a problem. Soon, there were more audiences coming in from Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Pacific, all connected in real-time via satellite and wired networks. From then on, more platforms had to be introduced, particularly for non-English speakers who would like to hear the preaching in their native language.

Bro. Daniel’s efforts of establishing online streaming modalities for preaching the Gospel found an extended use today, now that Covid-19 has brought along a host of problems, aside from claiming the lives of thousands and restricting the movement of people.

MCGI’s religious gatherings are done online. Members do not have to leave their houses to congregate. Through teleconferencing modes, members can access exclusive and secure connections to be able to participate in all the gatherings that used to be attended on a personal basis.

Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel, who themselves are following strict quarantine protocols in their respective places, are able to reach homes and interact with more members. This system also invited more audiences outside MCGI to interact with Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel during Bible Studies, Bible Expositions, and nightly broadcasts on KDR TV.

All these measures, as Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel would often say, became possible because of God’s help and mercy.

Bro Eli Offers Thanksgiving For A Thousand New Members in the Church of God, Broadcasting Milestones

For the more than thousands newly-baptized during the first Mass Baptism of 2013, new broadcasting facilities, and more, Bro. Eli lead the brethren in offering the sacrifices of thanksgiving last January 26 this year.

Newly Baptized Members

Around 1,200 new members were added in the fold, mostly coming from so many different religions and nationalities. This was accounted to by Bro Eli as the primary reason of his thanksgiving offering that day. Hence, loud cheers and appreciation greeted the announcement of thanksgiving by the Presiding Minister to the Members Church of God International (MCGI).

A Mass Baptim in the Church of God is held twice a month, following after more or less two weeks of Mass Indoctrination. The latter is a series of Bible Study sessions of Christ’s complete doctrines that anyone who wishes to be a member of MCGI needs to undergo. Mass Indoctrinations are officiated in all Ang Dating Daan (The Old Path) coordinating centers worldwide.

Some of the newly baptized Members of the Church of God from the Mass Baptism of January 2013 singing an offering to God at the ADD Convention Center stage.
Some of the newly baptized members from the Mass Baptism of January 2013 singing an offering to God at the ADD Convention Center stage.

The phenomenal growth of the membership in MCGI is hardly surprising. Every Mass Indoctrinations that are being opened, Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel Razon said that they are receiving reports of overwhelming response, especially abroad. Hence, new members in faith are added in more than a thousand every month.

As it is written in the Bible that the heavens rejoice for even a single soul that repents (Luke 15:7), it is but expected for members of the Church of God to be celebratory. In his thanksgiving offering for the baptism of a thousand from the Philippines and other parts of the globe created a grand celebration, Bro.Eli acknowledged God who made this all possible.

New Satellite for English Speaking Countries

Television remains the top reason cited by the newly-baptized for learning of the Truth that Bro. Eli is preaching. Hence, if not for the programs like “Itanong Mo Kay Soriano, Biblia ang Sasagot” (Ask Bro.Eli, the Bible will Answer) and “Ang Dating Daan” or The Old Path in the Philippines and English speaking countries, awareness about the existence of MCGI would not be possible.

With the addition of a new satellite dish that were installed, enabling the broadcast of MCGI programs geared for the English-speaking countries, the Church will be able to reach more people.

Bro Eli Soriano teaching Members of the Church of God a biblical topic via live video streaming during a Thanksgiving service in January 2013
Bro Eli Soriano teach the Members of the Church of God a biblical topic via live video streaming during a Thanksgiving service.

God’s Protection to His People

Bro.Eli also mentions another reason for his thanksgiving – protection. Four members of the International Evangelist’s household staff offered thanksgiving after encountering a road accident also in January that had their vehicle spinning and toppling over .

The household members recounted how scary the situation was at the time. Miraculously, the driver and passengers survived the accident left with only few bruises and scratches. Surprised yet thankful that they did not suffer any major injuries, they realized right then and there that God protected and saved them from harm.

In everything, the congregants of the Church are taught to be thankful. And Bro. Eli’s thanksgiving was a soaring example why in every achievement and progress made, there’s a loving God behind.

(Words by Apple Arco)

(Photography by Rovic Balunsay)

Members of the Church of God’s Many Reasons to Give Thanks

Members of the Church of God offering Thanksgiving on the ADD Convention Center stage.

“I am offering thanksgiving to God for His unspeakable gift and for blessings that my family received.”

“I am thankful to God for giving me my duties inside the Church.”

“Thank God for always safeguarding me and my loved ones, especially our preachers.”

“I’m thanking God because recently, I got retrenched from work.”

“For my twentieth year inside His fold, I am offering my thanksgiving today! Thanks be to God!”

These are just few example reasons that congregants of the Members Church of God International (MCGI) have when offering their thanksgiving to God. In the true congregation of God, members have been taught the virtue of being thankful for whatever blessings and experiences that come in the way of their lives.

MCGI holds a regular Thanksgiving service every Saturday at around 5 p.m. Since the main headquarter is in the Philippines, majority of the members attend the service at the ADD Convention Center in Apalit, Pampanga. Some major convention and coordinating centers are also open to accommodate brethren and guests.

On a quarterly basis, the whole congregation assembles for the three-day Pasalamat ng Katawan or Thanksgiving of the Body.

Starting with the congregational singing, which is led by the MCGI Music Ministry, members join in the singing of Church hymns. Along with this part, groups and celebrants offer their Thanksgiving songs on stage.

From individuals who experienced God’s saving grace to committees, groups and locales celebrating their anniversary, celebrants first proclaim their reasons before the congregation through pre-recorded videos flashed on big screens. This is followed by the presentation of the newly-baptized and their thanksgiving presentation before the opening prayer.

The sermon immediately follows the opening prayer where Bro. Daniel Razon delivers the first half of the topic based on the outline prepared by Bro. Eli Soriano. The Vice-Presiding Minister also gives a few inspirational remarks as well as updates of Church happenings and projects before delivering the topic.

After Bro. Daniel delivers the first half of the topic, there is an alloted hour for members to take a break but also the period for members to personally consult their problems to Bro. Eli and Bro Daniel. After the break and consultation session, Bro. Eli finishes the rest of the topic for the day.

However, whatever the occasion, whatever the reason may be of Church members in their thanksgiving to God, this blog aspires to give a glimpse of the weekly offering of faith and praise to God that MCGI offers weekly.

Anecdotes and tales of how offering of thanks positively affect the lives of the Members Church of God International will be featured as well.

Written by: Apple Arco