Michelle and her Victory group have been reaching out to families in a barangay in Santa Rosa, Laguna long before the COVID-19 pandemic. She and other Kids Church volunteers have been doing outreach programs in that barangay to minister not just to the kids in the area, but even to their parents and families.
When the coronavirus outbreak started and most regions were placed under enhanced community quarantine, one of the parents from that barangay reached out to Michelle and sought help from her group. When she told her Victory group about this, they immediately responded by giving donations. She was soon overwhelmed with all the help they were willing to extend to those families.
Though unable to involve her Victory group in the packing and distribution of the relief items because of the community quarantine, Michelle had all the help she needed from her own family. And to her surprise, what she thought as a one-time thing was soon followed by more donations from people who were all willing to bring hope to families in need.
Now, they have been sorting and distributing relief packs every week not just to one barangay, but to three barangays! God’s generosity overflowed through different people, and it was way more than they expected.
God’s provision also paved the way for them to be an even greater blessing to the kids in the area. Aside from the relief packs, they have also started preparing and distributing snacks for the kids in those barangays every day. And in order to continue what they have started prior to the lockdown, they brought their Kids Church classes online through a messaging app. Aside from the lessons and snacks, they also provide activities and crafts for the kids and their parents.
In this season of uncertainty, we can go beyond helping people in need by sharing the message of the gospel with them. Michelle and her group have seen the changes in the lives of the kids they minister to and even in the lives of their parents. And it’s what motivates them to continue reaching out.
Like Michelle, her group, and all the other people who are doing what they can to be a blessing, let us bring hope all around us. In spite of the crisis, we can be a channel of blessing because we trust that God will always provide for us.
Michelle Papa is a Kids Church teacher and one of our Victory group leaders in Victory Santa Rosa.
My father, Eduardo San Gregorio, regularly joins my mother, my sisters, and me at Victory Greenhills on Sundays. Over the past couple of years, we encouraged him to join a Victory group or go through ONE 2 ONE with someone, but he always hesitated, mostly because of a speech impediment that he had as a result of a stroke he had suffered six years ago.
After that stroke, my sisters and I committed to praying daily for our father’s recovery, as well as for funds for the hospital bills, medication, and subsequent therapy. We soon took out a loan from a bank, with our house as collateral, to raise funds. Unfortunately, the money we were making as a family was only enough for us to live on; we couldn’t meet the monthly dues for the house.
Still, Tatay’s recovery was our main focus, and we passionately covered him in prayer, both for the healing of his speech impediment and for the courage to start his discipleship journey by being part of a Victory group, or going through ONE 2 ONE with someone.
“It will be so helpful for you, Tatay,” I would say, “because these men will be like brothers for life. They will pray for you, support you, and even help you practice your speech.”
“I would just slow the group down,” he would reply. He would reference how the right side of his body was paralyzed. We would pray, then we would stop pursuing it for that moment.
Over time, however, we knew God was working in his heart. And then one day, by God’s grace and through a lot of prayer and persistence, he bravely went through ONE 2 ONE. Then, February 18 and 19 arrived, the fateful days of his Victory Weekend.
“Do you want to be water baptized?” we asked him.
“Yes,” he said.
“We can have you sprinkled with water,” we offered, knowing he would have a hard time entering and leaving the pool where the water baptisms took place.
“No,” he replied, “I want to go to the pool, no matter what.” We were stunned. “It’s not about me, it’s about my relationship with Jesus. And I want people to know that nothing is impossible with Him.” And everyone saw him go down and enter the pool to be water baptized!
That newfound faith proved to be crucial in the months to come. We still had a balance of almost PHP 300,000 from the loan we took out from the bank. In May 2017, the bank sent us a letter of foreclosure, should we not be able to pay off that loan. Later that year, in September, we received a letter informing us that our house would be put into auction by the 12th if we didn’t pay back what we owed; and we couldn’t!
We had no idea where we could get that kind of money in such a short period of time. Our entire family was literally on our knees in prayer by that point; we were so worried we would lose our beloved house.
Then, God came through! A week before September 12, our uncle, my mother’s brother, heard about our situation and offered to sell a lot in Bulacan, which he owned, to raise funds to pay for the house. God then paved the way for one of our cousins to buy the lot for the money we needed to pay off the loan, keeping the lot in the family.
Just last week, we received the title deed from the bank!
We always knew that God is capable of great things, but it was in that moment when we received the title deed that we saw the results of months of prayer, courage, and faith that comes only from a relationship with Jesus. Today, our father reads his Bible without fail and regularly attends his Sunday morning Victory group. As for me, my mother, and my sisters, it was a powerful faith-affirming moment. Jesus said in Matthew 18:20 that “. . . where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them,” and we saw Him move as we prayed for our father and our home.
Because we have seen in our family that He is truly faithful, we encourage you to cover your family in prayer and trust that God will hear your prayers and answer them according to His will and timing.
TJ San Gregorio is a worship services coordinator at Victory Greenhills.
“We’ve been married for seven years, and all that time, we’ve been praying for a child,” 38-year old Jonathan Agbuya shares. He and his wife, Divine, were told by their doctor that the chances of them having a child were slim. They were advised to undergo in vitro fertilization. The process would involve a series of complex procedures and would cost half a million, to a million pesos.
After several months of attending Victory Novaliches, the couple decided to get connected to a Victory group. Feeling the acceptance and love from their new spiritual family, they opened up about their struggle in conceiving a child. Their Victory group leader encouraged them to be more specific in their prayers and told them not to lose hope because God is in control. “Praise God for our leaders who encouraged us, prayed with us, and labored with us on our heart’s desire to have a baby,” Jonathan declares.
Soon, the couple were discipled and became disciple-makers, themselves. Divine was eventually introduced to a coaching group composed of other married women. Like before, she shared her desire to have a child, so that the group can pray with them, too. She soon found out she and Jonathan weren’t alone in their situation. Three out of the four women in the coaching group were also praying for a baby.
One of them underwent an operation in both ovaries and was advised by the doctor that the chances of her getting pregnant were small. “They didn’t lose hope,” Jonathan shares, “Like us, they kept praying to God.” The second couple also wanted another child, but was told that it would be risky for the mother because she was diagnosed with myoma.
This time of waiting on the Lord coincided with their study of a book that encouraged them to lay down their every concern to the Lord, and to claim God’s promises in their lives. “God revealed to us the things that we need to give up because they hinder us from receiving His blessings,” Jonathan shares. It wasn’t an easy journey. They would sometimes feel hopeless and defeated, but their friends and spiritual family would remind them of God’s plan for their life, which is a hope and a future.
Before the year ended, after praying unceasingly as a group, Jonathan and Divine received news from their member diagnosed with myoma that she and her husband were finally able to conceive. Like before, the group covered them in prayer as they went through a delicate pregnancy. On August 2013, the couple became the proud parents of a healthy baby boy without any complications.
Add to that, the couple who faced infertility problems because of an ovarian operation was also able to conceive in January last year. They welcomed a bouncing baby boy to their family in August.
“One by one, we were starting to experience God’s answer to our prayers!” Jonathan exclaims.
It was their turn to witness God’s miracle when Jonathan woke up one morning in May 2013 to Divine holding a pregnancy test. The result was positive. “We were so amazed!” Jonathan shares, “I thought I was just dreaming!” Still in a state of awe, the couple immediately headed to the hospital to get an ultrasound. The doctor confirmed that Divine was indeed pregnant. What the couple didn’t expect was for them to hear their baby for the first time. “The doctor let us listen to our baby’s heartbeat,” Jonathan shares, “And our hearts were just jumping with joy, giving praise and thanks to our Lord!”
On the 24th of December in 2013, Divine gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. A wonderful Christmas gift from God to them. They named him Jediah Daniel, which means “Jehovah knows” and “God is my judge.”
Jonathan and Divine couldn’t help but be in awe after witnessing God’s work, not only in their lives, but also in their friends’ lives. “Hearing these other stories, I can say that God truly works in us individually and personally,” Jonathan shares. They may have a similar desire, but God dealt with them in a way that fits uniquely to their situation
Jonathan recalls the story of the blind man, Bartimaeus, in the Bible. When asked by his disciples whose fault it was that the man was blind–the man or his parents–Jesus answered, “This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:1-3)
“Like Bartimaeus, I believe that God has a reason and purpose in everything that has happened to us,” Jonathan declares, “And that is to give glory to Him, and Him alone.”
“If God can give children to barren women in the Bible, He can do it to me, too!”
These are the words of 36-year old Arnee Lacerna who has been married for eight years to 36-year old engineer, Erwin. After the healthy birth of their first son, Ethan, the couple didn’t expect to encounter difficulties with a second pregnancy. However, after two miscarriages in a span of a year, the couple was dumbfounded. Their consultations with their doctors during both miscarriages gave them the go signal to try again, but they wondered why they couldn’t push through with a healthy pregnancy.
The couple knew something was wrong with Arnee. On the third miscarriage, they decided to consult another perinatologist, and that’s when they found out the real cause of the miscarriages.
“There are top five causes of miscarriage, according to my doctor,” Arnee explains, “In my case, I have three out of those five.” They discovered that she has an immunological problem, which means that her blood is incompatible with her husband’s, rejecting the part of the baby that comes from him. She was also diagnosed with antiphospholipid antibody syndrome or APAS, which hinders the oxygen from flowing properly to the baby. Lastly, Arnee also has elevated natural killer cells, which is good for patients with cancer, but deadly for pregnant women because the cells treat the fetus as a foreign body and attack it.
With their marriage strongly rooted in Jesus, the couple’s faith remained steadfast. They were thankful to finally find out the causes of the miscarriages, and relieved that there are treatments for them. “I admit I was scared because not everyone who undergoes these treatments has favorable results,” Arnee reveals, “But we chose to trust God as I went through the tests.”
When Arnee became pregnant again, she continued undergoing various blood tests and treatments. The entire ordeal was a spiritual and emotional roller coaster for the couple. Aside from being physically taxing on Arnee, it was also a financial challenge for them.
While pregnant, Arnee had to be on bed rest for two months because of the threat of another miscarriage. She also had to deal with problems in her amniotic fluid and blood sugar. A daily injection of inhonep was also administered to her.
The experience brought Arnee and Erwin closer to God, individually, and as a couple. Together, they would pray every day, declaring God’s promises in their life.
“We could have questioned God why He allowed these complications, why He allowed three miscarriages to happen because they don’t seem to fit in His promise of blessings,” Arnee shares, “But we realized God didn’t promise a storm-free life. He promised us a storm-proof one.”
Spurred by encouragement and prayers from their friends and family at Victory U-Belt, the couple didn’t feel alone as they underwent challenge after challenge. “Our friends, families, ninongs and ninangs–they stormed heaven’s gates for us,” Arnee shares, “They made us strong when our faith was shaken. As a result, we experienced joy and peace amidst the pain.”
Finally, last June 22, on a beautiful Wednesday morning, Arnee gave birth to a healthy baby boy. They named him Arthur Mateo, meaning “courageous, noble; a gift from God.”
“When I heard him cry for the first time, I cried!” Arnee exclaims, “When they placed him on my chest, it felt amazing!” Now parents to two healthy boys, Arnee and Erwin couldn’t contain their praises. After all the faith-testing years they went through, they are now claiming God’s promises to them. Those years were the most difficult for them, but there were also the best because they experienced God’s comfort, peace and faithfulness firsthand.
“We turned to the Bible to be reminded of all His promises,” Arnee says, “We held on to Matthew 9:29 which says, ‘According to your faith, let it be done to you.’”
Looking at their little bundles of joy, Erwin and Arnee are reminded, not of the difficulties, but the fulfillment of His promises. “God is our promise-keeper, faithful Father, and healer. He created us to be overcomers,” Arnee declares. “As we remain in Him, we will experience the fullness of his unconditional love. We didn’t deserve these blessings, but He gave them to us anyway, simply because He loves us so much.”
When thirty-three-year-old Normi Herrera got married five years ago, she and her husband, Daniel, agreed that they would take a step of faith and build a single-income household. “I want to be present in the formative years of my kids,” she says, “Everyday is a teachable moment for them, so I want to be the one to do that.”
That meant not being able to use her degree in Consular and Diplomatic Affairs from the College of St. Benilde. It meant foregoing the fancy business attire and heels. It meant her staying at home 24/7, faced with routine domestic chores. It didn’t look and sound glamorous, but Normi knew it was something she had to do.
After starting a home with her husband, she gave birth to two boys–Ziki (four years old) and Amos (two years old). Being a full-time homemaker meant that she homeschooled her children from the time they could understand concepts and remember them. On top of being their teacher, she also has to juggle household tasks. “I have my hands full!” she shares, “I have to carefully schedule my day, especially when I was still doing freelance writing. Otherwise, it would be pure chaos.”
To accomplish her writing jobs, Normi would write after her kids have gone to bed. She would be up after midnight, trying to finish her tasks before her deadline. Sleeping less and working more made her cranky and short-fused. It affected the way she dealt with her kids and her husband. “I would rush bedtime, just so I can go to work already,” she shares. It also distracted her from her regular devotion and quiet time, because she would end up thinking about the things she needed to finish. Eventually, Normi knew she had to give up her writing job, even if it meant lesser income for them.
With her husband’s support, Normi decided to focus again on being a full-time homemaker without the distractions of a freelance job. “Being in a single-income household wasn’t easy,” she confesses, “There were times that my husband and I were counting the last of our savings, but we’re always blown away with how God is truly faithful in providing for His children.”
Despite the challenges of being a full-time homemaker, Normi still understands the importance of discipling other women. “We stopped leading a Victory group when my kids were much smaller,” she shares, “But our senior pastor, Pastor Noel Ojerio and his wife Maryjune, assured us that we should not feel bad about not being active in the ministry for a time because our season then was to raise our kids. After all, Victory’s core value is family.” The kind of understanding and encouragement their mentors gave them helped Normi and Daniel be wiser in their discipleship of other people.
After finding their groove and settling into a workable routine, the couple went back to discipling other married couples. Being a full-time mother, Normi saw the need to help other mothers learn how to manage their household and fully depend on the Lord while doing it. “Whether you’re a working mom or a full-time homemaker, mothers struggle with the same issues,” she explains, “You worry about how to be fully present for your husband, how to properly care for your kids, and how to manage your home. So, I want them to find Jesus first, and be established in Him.”
Their involvement in the ministry became more permanent when Daniel was hired as full-time staff of Victory Caloocan. Normi knew that her husband would take a pay cut if he left his profession as an architect, but she had no doubts that God would provide for them. “There was also clarity from God’s word and support from our mentors,” she shares, “I was fully confident that with his decision to obey, God would cover all our needs.”
True enough, last Prayer and Fasting week, Normi saw God’s hand fulfill her simple request. With all the household chores she faces everyday, she wanted an automatic washing machine, so she can multitask better. It was something she wanted since last year, but they didn’t have the extra funds for it. “I wrote it down as one of my faith goals,” she reveals, “It sounds so shallow, but it was so important to me!”
After Prayer and Fasting week ended, Normi received a message asking for the amount of the washing machine she wanted. It was from a friend who heard that she wanted a washing machine, and she wanted to bless Normi and Daniel with one. Knowing how expensive it is, Normi considered replying with a small amount. “I wanted to tell her to just bless us with the amount they can give, and we’ll just cover the remainder,” she confesses, “But I was rebuked by the Holy Spirit. Amidst my hesitation, God assured me that I have asked and believed, so here it is.”
She gave the right amount, and her friend deposited the exact amount they needed. They were able to buy the washing machine at a discounted price, which meant that there was even a little extra money left. “I cried tears of joy!” Normi exclaims, “God’s faithfulness is amazing. He really assures us that He is mindful of us down to the tiniest details.”
With all the goodness and grace they experience in their life, Normi couldn’t help but continue to share it with other people. Along with her husband, she regularly mentors other married couples. “When a marriage is shaken, and it is not grounded in the Lord, it can eventually add to the number of broken families,” she says. She also finds time to mentor single women, too. As for her husband, Daniel will enroll in the School of Church Planting this September to fulfill his calling as a church planter.
Right now, the couple is praying for a graceful transition as this change impacts their family. Normi is also in faith that she will be able to reach out to more women and help them navigate their lives. “I am a mother and a wife, so be it through birth counseling, breastfeeding consultation, or discipleship, I will do what God tells me to do with the season He has given me.”
Sometimes it is easy for us to forget about what God commands us, particularly with money. In this blog post by Victory Fort pastor Paolo Punzalan, discover the three things that we need to remember in light of God’s faithfulness. Check out his latest blog post, “Forgetting God and His Words.”
“Miracles still happen in this age and time . . . God is able and His hand is never too short.” A few years ago, Tina Melendres’s son, TJ, was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease. Watch this video to know how God healed her son and provided for the finances that their family needed.