“The Distance Between”
By Grace Cuarto
Growing up in Northeast Philadelphia, everything just seemed far. In order to attend Worship Service, we had to leave at least an hour and a half before assembly to make sure we got there on time. The total drive time was 45 minutes on a good day; meaning there wasn’t going to be a game or concert that would create traffic. Doesn’t seem like much but when you’re a kid, that’s far. Philadelphia’s neighborhoods are divided into large sections – North, Northeast, Northwest, West, South & Southwest Philadelphia.
As a child I would gauge distance not by time, but by landmarks. By that restaurant there will be traffic every time because two lanes become four. By the time you get to the stadiums in South Philly, we’re half way to church. Get to the Airport, 15 minutes away. Widener exit is 7 minutes away. Growing up, that was how I told time every week we went to church. Because church was far, a lot of factors needed to be considered. Is someone available to drive me? Do we have gas? Could I ride with one of the brethren? Even as a child I would worry about these things because they determined if I will make it to perform my duties or not. But after praying, I would always make it because even though the House of Worship was far, our duties came first.
We’d always have Bible Study held at my house growing up. I was always that kid who held Bible Study during first part of her birthday parties, because we’d have visitors there already there so it was a good opportunity for them to hear the words of God, and people would be interested in the Church… but the distance always got to them. They would comment how the House of Worship was too far and how we were crazy for driving so far when there was a chapel down the street. Because of this, it was always my mom’s dream to have a House of Worship in North Philadelphia.
Despite my mother, Sister Nenita Cuarto, being sick all the time when I was growing up, she did her best to help take care of the members of the Church – especially those without families with them in the Local Congregation. She always fostered them and would even say that if there were a House of Worship in North Philadelphia she would open up her home to the members of the Church so that they would always have somewhere to go to.
In 2012, her dream –as well as mine and many other members living in North Philadelphia – came true. What used to be a 45-minute drive is now a 5-minute drive! On April 28, 2012, the Extension of Northeast Philadelphia held its first Worship Service. God blessed our extension again by sending us our own Resident Worker, Brother Jason Dulalas. With his arrival, missionary propagation for the extension was done regularly on a weekly and sometimes even daily basis. Through the devotional prayers of the members of North Philadelphia, the Local Congregation grew and got even stronger. I know this would’ve made my mom so happy, if she had lived to see the day.
On June 20, 2014, just two years after its establishment, our Lord God once again blessed the Extension of Northeast Philadelphia when we received word that we were approved by the Church Administration to become a full-fledged Local Congregation. I will never forget that service. The youth members walked around the hall saying “Hi welcome to the LOCAL CONGREGATION of Northeast Philadelphia” announcing it to everyone, waiting to see if they would catch on. When they did, the look on their face was priceless.
With the increasing number of members, everyday devotional prayers, activities, missionary and propagation efforts, and constant motivation and enthusiasm of the brethren, the Local Congregation of Northeast Philadelphia continues to work hard to further their victories in the works of the Lord. There was still one blessing we prayed for: a House of Worship. Until just like all the other prayers, God answered this prayer too.
On November 20, 2017, members in the Local Congregation of Northeast Philadelphia were blessed with their very own House of Worship. Though on that very day, I was counting the miles between us once more, as I was on my way to a new chapter in my life in Wisconsin. As a child I used to measure distance by landmarks that served as a reminder of how far you’ve gone and how close your destination is. Now as an adult, I measure distance in answered prayers. Each prayer granted by God brings us closer to fulfilling His will.