Strengthening Spiritual Roots

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When is the last time you felt a true connection to your
membership in your church? In an ever-changing world where trending topics
change hourly and information comes at you with 3 million results in 0.6
seconds, making a spiritual connection may feel outdated.

According to a study by
Barna
, Christian youth today are less likely to have a faith
conversation. There are young people out there who find that religion and
church membership are not that
important anymore.

While the world may be changing, it just means more modern ways
of staying connected, even to one’s faith. Another study by
Barna found that “some churches are not helping to facilitate teens’
transformative connection with God.” The transition into adulthood can be rough
if there aren’t proper tools to guide you through. Same goes with maturing as a
Christian.

Uncharted Territory: A Religious
Journey

In 2019, the Executive Minister of the Church Of Christ,
Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, launched a project geared towards the KADIWA, which
is an acronym for “Kabataang May Diwang
Wagas
” in the Filipino language (meaning “Youth With Noble Intent”) and is
an organization for unmarried Christian youth in the Church.  The first ever International Kadiwa
Conference (IKC) would give Church youth a chance to meet young people  from another country and embark on a
religious journey towards a better understanding of what their membership in
the Church Of Christ
means. For many of the delegates,
comprised of youth from the western part of the U.S., this trip would be their
first time in the Philippines.

group of girls with conference folders
group in semi-formal clothing waving
Joshua Yanez posing in the balcony of an Church Of Christ chapel

After we got the itinerary I realized this would be no vacation. The Church Administration was giving us something very special. I realized this was going to be an intensely spiritual learning experience. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and a great privilege.

Joshua Yanez, 35 years old, Roseville, Northeast California

Learning Christian Heritage

Volunteers worked tirelessly to prepare for over 300 delegates
to arrive, with the aim to share in Brother Eduardo’s vision of cultivating an
experience they will never forget. Not only did they tour different houses of
worship and historical buildings of the Church Of Christ, delegates attended
symposiums tackling Christian youth topics such as stress management,
parent-child relationships, and religious education.

Group of girls wearing formal clothing and smiling
Group of youth at Punta Santa Ana Philippines
Conference at the School for Ministry

“To have tackled such an important issue as mental health and social
emotional wellness shows the vision of the Church Administration in helping
members deal with what is becoming such a prevalent concern for so many.” –
Christine Balbuena, Long Beach, California

Michael Kani Rivera in a blue suit in front of a painting

The Catholic Church does not actively engage in the youth’s mindset as INC (Iglesia Ni Cristo, Church Of Christ)  actively does.

Michael Kani Rivera, 33 years old, Sacramento, California, Converted to the Church Of Christ from Catholicism 4 years ago

Having the opportunity to be both a chaperone and a symposium presenter is something that I will always cherish.  To have tackled such an important issue as mental health and social emotional wellness shows the vision of the Church Administration in helping members deal with what is becoming such a prevalent concern for so many.  

Christine “Cuwi” Balbuena, Long Beach, California

Becoming Proud Christians

The Christian youth conference gave the delegates a chance to
be unapologetically Christian, to voice their concern about being religious in
a world fraught with disillusioned youth. Most of all, they saw firsthand a
Church Administration who refused to let their generation be immature in faith.
Not only did they come out of this experience reinvigorated in their faith,
they understood the importance of
youth in the Church
and how vital they are to the growth and
advancement of the Church. The opportunity to meet Brother Eduardo V. Manalo in
person and witness the Church Administration address them in this special way
solidified their drive to work harder to be lights in the world.

Gus Casillas in front of the Ciudad De Victoria chapel

What we brought back from the Philippines was desire and fuel to help the Church that much more. The Church [Administration] showed us their love, now we felt it’s time for us to really help and pay back by inviting [guests], upholding, and dedicating our time to any kind of Church activities.

I wanted to say so much when I approached [Brother Eduardo] but all that came out was, “Thank you for loving us and always thinking about us”. I could not believe that I met him. Even to this day, I feel so honored.

Gus Casillas, 22 years old, San Jose, California

Christine Balbuena posing with a friend

The highlight of IKC was the chance to meet and greet our beloved Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo. This entire trip was evidence of his love and care for the KADIWA and for the entire Church. I’ll never forget the experience. I praise God, every day, that I was granted such a blessing.

Christine “Cuwi” Balbuena
Long Beach, California
Symposium Presenter

Hannah Achacoso in front of the Church Of Christ Museum in Punta Santa Ana Manila

21-year-old Hannah Achacoso from Tracy, California had her heart set on attending an American university in the coming fall semester. However, she fell in love with the Christian culture of the Philippines and found herself drawn to New Era University in Quezon City. Before she knew it, she was on a plane headed to her new home, just three months after the youth conference.

“For many other brethren like myself, this was our first time traveling outside the country. Being able to witness and learn about not only our cultural roots, but also our religious roots, has sparked an inspiration no words can describe. This trip was for our benefit, yet it wasn’t about us. It was about [immersing] ourselves in the history of the Church. A heartwarming thank you to our Executive Minister Bro. Eduardo V. Manalo for allowing a historic event like this to take place. It was truly life changing. We love you, [Brother]!”

Emmanuel Ornedo shaking hands

28-year-old Emmanuel Ornedo from Montclair, California had always known that he wanted to become a minister of the Church Of Christ. Upon arriving back from the International KADIWA Conference, he finally had the full courage to apply. He is beginning his first year at the College of Evangelical Ministry in Quezon City this year.

Melissa Gice at the Pilar Manalo-Danao Multimedia Center

A message for Brother Eduardo:

I pray that your heart be full as ours were when we visited you, and your mind be at peace knowing we support you here across the world, no matter what, [Brother].

___

It felt like [Brother Eduardo] was happy to see us as much as we were happy to see him. It’s really comforting to be around him. I’m left with the feeling that it will be okay, we are going to do what needs to be done to support him. It was happy to feel that in person, to know that our hearts are in line with the same goal.  He really is humble. I could feel that when I saw him.

This calling is guided by God through the Administration. Not by our own will, or our own way, but through those whom He placed to lead us. I want to be a part of that, and nothing else. 

I want to pass it on. I’ve learned so much; been given so much, and it’s hard to keep quiet.

Melissa Gice, 37 years old

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