Who would have thought our daily lives could change in the blink of an eye when the pandemic hit us?
Sis. Joy Magnaye of Jesus Is Lord Church Tanauan, Batangas Chapter has had her own share of an unexpected turn of events, an unforeseen twist which highlighted a principle long inculcated in her: serving God never stops.
Sis. Joy leading the praise and worship in JIL Tanauan
Sis. Joy grew up in a family that serves God. As early as 13 years old, she was already serving as a Sunday school teacher while her mother, Sis. Florie Rodrigo, was a Bible teacher and her father, Bro. Sotero “Teroy” Rodrigo, was a member of the Security of the Saints. Sis. Joy’s next ministry was as an usherette. Today, she serves as a worship leader and the Worship and Arts Network (WAN) Coordinator of JIL Tanauan, while her parents were assigned as the church coordinators of JIL Montana, an extension of JIL Tanauan.
“Everything was okay in the business and in the ministry. We were okay physically, spiritually, emotionally, and financially,” Sis. Joy said.
Sis. Florie with JIL Montana extension members
Bro. Teroy and Sis. Florie Rodrigo
Sis. Florie’s birthday celebration in January 2021
The status quo was disrupted in March 2021 when she, together with her parents, started feeling feverish. Her mother had difficulty in breathing when her potassium and magnesium levels suddenly dropped and was then sent to a hospital in Manila. She tested positive for COVID-19. After three days of being admitted to the hospital, Sis. Joy received news from her cousin: her mother was gone.
She expressed her grief by shouting; she felt so helpless. As the sole child of her parents, she has no siblings to turn to. “I did not question God that time. Blangko lang ang isip ko. Walang question o hate kay God. Sobrang lungkot lang yung naramdaman ko (I did not question God that time. My mind was just blank. I did not question or hate God. I just felt too much grief),” Sis. Joy said.
While grieving the loss of her mother, Sis. Joy was also admitted to a hospital following numerous attempts of finding one that still accepts COVID-19 patients.
Meanwhile, Sis. Joy’s father was tight lipped upon receiving news of his wife’s death. That same day, he was admitted to the hospital and, after a few days, passed away due to heart attack.
But that was not the end of Sis. Joy’s toil. Her husband, Bro. Jojo, also contracted the virus and was confined in the same facility where Sis. Joy was admitted to.
Despite it all, the couple experienced God’s hand. They both recovered from the disease. And when they were discharged, their combined hospital bill only amounted to a mere 21% of their expected bill.
The Hurt Continues
The emotional struggle started for Sis. Joy when she returned home, especially in times when she was left alone in silence. “Hindi pa tapos ang sakit (The pain persists),” Sis. Joy said. Though she was already out of the hospital, she still had to deal with the pain of losing both her parents.
She admitted having a hard time standing back up on her feet, saying she still feels she is not yet totally healed. “Kahit na hindi pa natatapos ang sakit, alam ko na kasama ko sa journey ko si Lord (Although the pain is still there, I know that God is with me in my journey),” she said.
Alongside the emotional battle came a physical one. Sis. Joy started experiencing hair loss, fatigue, overactive bladder, and body pains. “I can carry all the physical pain pero ang pinakamasakit na pain ay yung pagkawala ng mga magulang ko (I can carry all the physical pain, but the most agonizing pain is the death of my parents),” she said.
Bouncing Back, Serving Again
JIL Tanauan leaders, led by Ptr. Addie Asi, prayed for and encouraged Sis. Joy and her husband. They advised her that a way to heal the pain is to regain herself, to do the things she used to do, and to avoid overthinking.
After several months, Sis. Joy and Bro. Jojo were assigned in JIL Montana Extension – the church where her parents used to minister. “Pinagpapatuloy po namin yung naiwan ng mga magulang ko (We are continuing what my parents started),” she said.
Appointment of Bro. Jojo Magnaye as the new extension coordinator of JIL Montana
Sis. Joy and Bro. Jojo Magnaye with JIL Montana extension workers and leaders
Sis. Joy said that they received the same love given to her parents by the congregation. “Ramdam namin na mahal na mahal sila ng mga tao doon. Sobrang treasured sila (We felt that my parents were loved by the people there. They were treasured),” she said. That love was also felt by Sis. Joy and Bro. Jojo as they were accepted and welcomed in the church community.
The turning point of the experience was crystal clear to Sis. Joy. “Ito po ay noong bumalik kami sa ministry at nakita namin na naglilingkod din ang ibang kapatiran sa Panginoon. Enough na po yun (It was when we returned to the ministry and we saw other believers also serving God. That was enough),” she said.
When asked why they decided to continue serving God, Sis. Joy said she did not let fear or sadness waver her hope and trust in the Lord. “Mas lalo kong ginustong paglingkuran Siya dahil alam ko at dama ko pa rin ang Kanyang pagmamahal, pagtitiwala, at paggabay sa akin (My desire to serve God intensified because I know and I can feel His love, trust, and guidance),” she said.
Sis. Joy said she believes God used the physical, spiritual, and emotional battles brought by the COVID-19 and the deaths of her parents for them to serve others. “Ilang pamilyang nagka-COVID na ang natulungan namin. We gave them advice and help on what to do (We have helped some families experiencing COVID. We gave them advice and help on what to do),” she said.
Pondering on the Lessons
The story of Job was something Sis. Joy had been contemplating on. “Nawala lahat kay Job. We are still blessed kasi nandito pa rin kami at may financial blessings pa rin (Job lost everything. We are still blessed because we are still here and we still have financial blessings),” she said. Sis. Joy said they were also able to extend their financial blessings to families affected by COVID, noting that the challenge in the financial aspect is hard.
The experience left Sis. Joy with an evident takeaway. “Pain will always be present until we grow old but I believe that in those pains, God is my healer,” Sis. Joy said.
She said that those currently experiencing hardships should dismiss the thought of being alone. “Hindi kayo nag-iisa. Nandyan po ang Diyos (You are not alone. God is with you),” she said.
Sis. Joy said she drew her strength from God foremost. “Sa Diyos ako patuloy na kumakapit kahit mahirap, kahit masakit (I am clinging to God, even though it is hard and painful),” she said. She also drew strength from her husband, and her 13-year-old son Jehiel’s very strong faith that they would be healed. Added to these are the people around her who love and support her.
Serving God Never Stops
According to Sis Joy, the Christian life may be exhausting sometimes. With this, she leaves 1 Corinthians 15:58 as an encouragement:
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
“When I feel so sad and so upset, I remind myself that the only answer is to put my hope back in God. After the pain and heartbreak, He will create a beautiful masterpiece out of every broken piece,” Sis. Joy said.
No sickness, pandemic, death, stopped Sis. Joy, Bro. Jojo, and Bro. Jehiel from serving God. May their story of healing, resilience, and faithfulness inspire you to never cease giving God the kind of service He deserves. No matter the season, let us remain steadfast and pass on the torch of servanthood from generation to generation until Jesus comes back for His church.
Photo courtesy: Sis. Joy Magnaye