ONE of the greatest blessings—and joys—of the Christian life is having a church family. Having been literally rooted out of our home in Mindanao to pursue further studies in Manila, my brother and I didn't have any immediate family members to go to, homes to spend the weekends in, aunts or uncles to visit. Yet the Lord, in His sovereignty, brought us to a small, faithful church where everybody knew each other. Over the course of many years we have developed meaningful relationships with many of the members who have always prayed for us and wished us well. Our local church is the closest thing we have to a family in Metro Manila.
Left alone in Manila because I had hospital duties to attend to (ah, the tragedy of my residency: the myth of holidays), I was surprised to receive invitations from church friends. Would I want to spend Christmas Eve with them? It thrilled me to know that I didn't have to spend it alone in my apartment, although I wouldn't have minded the idea of reading in solitude, reflecting on the year that was. Thankfully I was, in fact, free on December 24. After doing rounds that morning, I had a late lunch with Ate Anj Nepomuceno and Joan Rivera at an Italian restaurant. I then watched the evangelistic Christmas Concert in church, which set my heart on the true reason for the celebration: Christ has come to save us from our sins. I spent Christmas Eve at the Espino home in Quezon City. It was a dinner filled with interesting conversations, hearty laughter, and conversations about basketball and the history of ketchup.
Spending time with people from church is always a wise decision. I am often encouraged, sometimes rebuked, when I hear friends praise God for their own circumstances. I realize there are bigger problems than mine. I'm reminded not to think too much of myself but to think of others, too, and how I may serve or pray for them. God, who is infinitely wise, has deemed it profitable for His children to spend time together, because in fellowship, even outside of the church building, there is joy, encouragement, comfort, even peace.