By Glory Grace Plana

EFC Western Visayas hosted a Christmas and year-end fellowship celebration as 2022 came to a close. With the pastors and a select group of young people from each local church. It was a lovely opportunity to consider the year’s accomplishments.

The year-end fellowship gathering occurred in Jaro Church in Iloilo City on December 22, 2022, at 9:00 am. Pastor Benjamin Chavez, Chairman of Western Visayas, welcomed all the other pastors from Bacolod, Guimaras, Antique, and Iloilo City. The party began with a heartfelt speech. He was adamant that the purpose of the gathering was to remind people of God’s love and goodness and foster unity because the summer leadership training was postponed due to typhoon Paeng that struck in October 2022. As he concluded his remarks, he prayed to seek God’s presence to permeate the congregation and enter their hearts as they sang songs of adoration.

The fellowship would not be complete without singing and worshiping God through worship. The musicians from Ajuy Church established the mood as they readied their hearts, minds, and souls to listen to the word. In doing so, they welcomed the spirit of God and brought a revival to everyone. As the crowd sobbed, bowed down, and lifted their hands and voices in adoration of the one and only God, the music team effectively performed their part. It was a fantastic time for Pastor Benjamin Chavez to begin. He was preaching the good news of God since the place was filled with shouts of praise, melodies of voices, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. The preacher entitled his sermon “The Christmas Hope,” which can be found in John 3:16–17, with which most of us are familiar given the Bible verse. He proclaimed that the world longs for hope, but Only God can give us true hope. All human hopes are wishful thinking; only God can provide us with lasting hope. He sent his only begotten son to save us from our grave sins. Therefore, Jesus is the living hope. Jesus is the answer. Jesus is the Savior of the Lord.

Pastor Benjie reminded the people that every one of them is a leader. Their duty as a leader could only be done effectively if they carried and shared the message of hope to their communities. He shared that they are God’s vessels of mercy and are destined unto honor and glory. Pastor Benjamin requested a song to conclude the message of the Lord. After the altar call, the stage was open for anyone who wanted to declare God’s goodness.

As was to be expected, several ministers and young people rose to speak about their encounters with God and how He never abandoned them, no matter the challenges. These people all have unique tales to share and they can all attest to the fact that God was by their side during their hardships and silent struggles. One of the pastors testified that she believes in the Lord because whatever God starts, he finishes! He will also grant your desires if you keep praying and entrust your everything to Him. She continued by saying that building the church with God is essential. A young man also recounted being a prodigal son. He said God would undoubtedly guide you along a better road if you seek forgiveness. A second chance is all he asked from the Lord, as he knows he was a wicked person who turned his back on God. Consequently, God granted his plea since he showed a willingness to serve him again. Everything has a reason, he understood, and the only thing that matters is God in his life, no matter what challenges he will face.

Lastly, others attested that any labor for the Lord will always have meaning and value, no matter how difficult and wearisome. Without a doubt, we all have a unique tale to talk about how the Lord has touched our lives. The sharing of testimonies could go on all day, but lunch is served at noon. Everyone waited in line to choose their food and satisfy their stomachs.

Games are necessary to maintain momentum after an hour of eating and mingling. All young people were encouraged to participate in the games because the winners would receive prizes. In addition to the competition, the games bring people together and help them get to know each other better. After the games, three groups from the youth received an award. The event’s final phase was honoring all the pastors for their sacrifices and dedication to the Lord by offering them gifts of appreciation. No one left the celebration without receiving a blessing. One of the pastors said a prayer to bring an end to the gathering. He prayed for protection for everyone’s travel going home, for the EFC organization to receive more blessings and new leaders, for churches to grow. Everyone cheerfully greeted and bid each other goodbye. It was a fun and meaningful gathering for the ministers, and they are hoping for another event for them to reconcile again. The event was successful because God’s will and provision made every part of it possible. Praise be to God!