What a sight to behold! That Christmas night – Etab’s 31st Christmas Family Nite. The sanctuary was packed with tables good for 500 people and the stage was decorated with the winter props for the last musical presentation – “Wrapping all the way.” Members were all seated in their assigned tables, all donned in their Christmas best outfit. Outside – there were 4 buffet serving stations – set up by the caterer. What a relief for me – this load of cooking for 500 people annually was thankfully removed from me this year by the caterer. All of this thanks to Pastor Billy Tan who sponsored half of the catering cost for us, making it possible for many of the community Rahabs to attend at a low cost of 130 pesos per head for a ten course buffet.

It is incredible that we have celebrated our Christmas with the Filipinos for the last 31 years. Etab and her people have become our second family. Pastor Toh Nee and I have stayed longer in Iloilo city than in Singapore. Even though the parents and sister of Pastor Toh Nee were here to celebrate etab’s 31st Christmas family night, the kinship couldn’t compare with the one we feel with our dear people of Etab.

That night our congregation watched the Final Presentation of “Wrapping All the Way”, directed by Farida Kabayao. It is amazing to see how God used Farida to transform this 24 cast of characters – many of who were novice on the stage – to sing and dance with perfect coordination, harmony and professionalism. The costumes were immaculately designed and matched – all thanks to the skillful hands of Corazon Kabayao. Headdresses, make- up, choreography, set design, lightings, sound and back-up singers were all state of the art quality. God is good as to provide Etab with many different talents to pool in that night to open our Christmas Night celebration with such gaiety and amazing musical performance. Bravo to all from this musical group!! We glorify God for granting such a success to your team and we appreciate you for all your hard work for the past few months.

In the midst all the beautiful lights, sounds and trappings of Christmas- that night we still remembered Jesus – the Word Made Flesh, by listening to the word of God preached by Pastor Toh Nee. THE BLESSINGS OF FOLLOWING THE NEW BORN KING- that was the title of the sermon. What are those blessings?

……Blessing, Peace and Satisfaction

……Called, chosen and faithful

……Rebuilding, Restoring and Repairing

What an apt message for Etab this Christmas because for year 2016, Etab has seen God bless us with manifold blessings. He has given us peace and satisfaction in serving him. When the many leaders came on stage to be appreciated by the senior pastor, I witness that for the last 4 years, God has raised up another new pool of the Called, the Chosen and the Faithful to support us and Etab. Glory be to God!!

And because God helped us to stick to His calling and to our Filipino congregation at Etab, He has blessed us this year 2016 by REBUILDING our ministry – joy, unity and peace are back at our church; by RESTORING what was lost – many new souls and talents were added into our church to replace those we lost in year 2012; by REPAIRING our faith and trust in Him and in people.

Indeed – there are blessings when we follow the new born King Jesus.

This was the first time in the history of our Christmas Family Night that zonal competition was done away with. Yet even without competition among the 5 zones, our congregation was humored by a simple skit replayed by the DJ cell group of Pastor Toh Nee. Cast of characters composed of serious and dignified professionals and business people of our cell group . Yet in the skit- these members put aside their conservative demeanor and put on the character of the handsome, the rich, the depressed, the charitable one, the educated one and the violent one. Pastor Toh Nee and I are so proud of our beloved cell members – who have all become our friends and confidante. Thank you Pastor Carlyn for being our lively and engaging narrator and thank you Farida for writing and directing this skit.

The Christmas nite sped on with our traditional games – “Booby and Bonus” – with the grand bonus prize of US30 going to Jacque Parales; “Something or Nothing “- with something like 5 gift packs from my favorite shopping haunt now- S & R-; “ALL ABOUT TODAY” – a Q & A game culminating with the most difficult question prized at 1000 peso and who else bagged this prize except the one with courage to run upstage to grab this question. And the one with such bravado was Vincent Improgo!

But the event that touched my heart the most that night was the closing number – Christmas greetings by all my leaders on the stage. Two couples danced to the upgraded version of Cha Cha Cha (with Winston missing all the cha chacha steps); Fernand Peralta and Cheng Lao narrating so eloquently ; Ptr Carlyn releasing a surprised video recording by our two beloved daughters, Joy and Jan who were not with us this year. Our leaders all sang to the composition of Pastor Edgar who summed up our four years of difficult journey, giving tribute to the ultimate goodness of God for year 2016 and declaring for a more fruitful and successful new year!

Thumbs up to God and to my beloved leaders and members for once again making a mark for etab’s 31st Christmas Family Nite! It will be engraved in my memory as the most rewarding Christmas as I see the rising of the new ones taking the center- stage. Indeed God is still the greatest Rebuilder, Restorer and Repairer. Aren’t these one of those blessings of following the new born king, Jesus?

A prophetic rhema that sums up IMMANUEL for etab:
“Plan and plot all you want—nothing will come of it. All your talk is mere talk, empty words, Because when all is said and done, the last word is Immanuel—God-With-Us.”
Isaiah 8:9-10 MSG

Four years ago, the enemy planned and plotted to decimate etab. But nothing came out of it. Because four years later, after all was said and done, the last word is IMMANUEL – God-With-Us…. God-With-Etab! And many literally can concur with me that IMMANUEL was really at our 31st Christmas Family Nite!!! Hallelujah !!!