The air was filled with joy. It was a celebration of blessings. And the smile on Decasta Burroughs’ face said it all.
“I know you! Hey, Brother Dee!” One by one, joyous reunions, bursts of laughter and lingering hugs surrounded Brother Decasta, aka Brother Dee.
“He was our first African American head deacon here in Oxnard,” said Bobby Tanghal, whose dad, Brother Ric Tanghal, Sr., introduced Brother Dee to the Iglesia Ni Cristo in the early 1970s. They were neighbors. Brother Dee now lives in Nevada, while Brother Bobby lives in Arizona. They haven’t seen each other in years, but both made their way back to Oxnard for this memorable chapel dedication officiated by the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo.
“Today is history. You know, I was a finance officer, a choir member and eventually a head deacon. I remember when finance forms were all in Tagalog and I used to sing in Tagalog, too!” Brother Dee chuckles. He pauses and says, “This is all God’s work!”
God’s work could be seen in this newly renovated and beautiful house of worship on East Collins Street, where as early as 7am, people in their Sunday best stood outside eagerly waiting to worship.
The early morning sun met the bright smiles on people’s faces as their eyes gazed upon the gorgeous new exterior. Brethren from all over California, all over the country and even as far as London, came to be part of this chapel dedication. And two hours before the worship service was slated to start, the sanctuary and the overflow tent were already filled to capacity, with people sitting and standing outside the tent, eager to listen to the words of God.
After the spiritual and blessed worship service, and the Executive Minister’s meet and greet, brethren lined up to wave goodbye as Brother Eduardo’s convoy left the chapel grounds. Brother Dee was among that crowd, and that’s where old friends whom he hadn’t seen in years, found him.
“I know this young man!” Again, bursts of laughter as Brother Matt Maranan, another Southern California pioneer, spotted Brother Dee. “Do you remember how hard it was before to get a basketball team together? Now we can fill a whole stadium!” Their laughter was so joyful, that you could tell it was not just a reunion of two old friends. These men were brothers in faith, connected by a deeply rooted service to the Lord that has bound them for nearly five decades.
And within a few seconds, another reunion — this time a hug from Sister Mary Tranco. “Brother Dee! How are you?” she exclaims. More hugs and more smiles. Sister Mary still resides in Oxnard and couldn’t stop gushing about how beautiful their newly dedicated house of worship was. “It’s beautiful, it’s really awesome, it’s more than…it was a long time in the making. I’ve been trying to help any way I could in the last week and a half, I haven’t been here 24/7 like our other brethren, but God has blessed us so much with this beautiful chapel!”
Having a gorgeous house of worship was far from the minds of brethren during their pioneering days in 1972 when they became a local congregation. In their first rented hall at the Port Hueneme Naval Station Chapel, their lease was terminated once the chaplain landlord found out INC members were covering idols with bedsheets during worship services. Or the time members were asked to leave while renting from Westminster Presbyterian Church because their pastor did not agree with the INC’s teachings and doctrines. It was not until 1979 when the INC purchased this property on East Collins Street from the Faith Tabernacle Church of Ventura County and renovated it and offered it to God on July 19, 1980. Being one of the oldest local congregations in Southern California, how fitting that it is renovated and dedicated to God just weeks after the 50th anniversary in the west.
Meanwhile, in this growing spontaneous reunion with Brother Dee, someone spots another familiar face.
“Bro Ed!” Their heads all turn toward Brother Edward Maranan and they are thrilled to see him. He was their first resident worker as a local congregation. At that moment, it’s like they were all transported back in time. Except now, they’re all a little older, but certainly the thread of faith that holds them together, is stronger and tighter.
Bobby Tanghal — whose father, the late Brother Ric Tanghal, Sr. was the first Oxnard head deacon and also a volunteer preacher — puts it in these terms. “It’s pretty incredible what we feel. Because it’s not us, its not our work, we’re just kinda like little helpers. It’s the Church, it’s God that binds us. ”
His brother Ric, who still resides in Oxnard and is currently a deacon, couldn’t agree more. “We had many successes and you know we had failures as well, but those were learning experiences, and all in all, with all the successes that God has given us, that has brought us to this very moment where we have this beautiful house of worship where we’re able to praise and give glory to our Almighty God. Also, thanks to the Administration for allowing this to be renovated.”
As brothers Ric and Bobby, Brother Ed and Brother Dee walk towards the front of the chapel to take a group picture, they continue to reminisce. And when Brother Ed thinks about what it was like back in the day, he simply says, “During that time, you’re not thinking about what’s going to happen. You’re too busy with the work at hand, you’re fully occupied. Then wouldn’t you know it, now it’s 50 years later. This is the work of God, praises be, glory to God. We are so very, very happy today. It’s special because our Executive Minister visited us today. We felt the holy spirit.”
Brother Ed is now in Northern California and is the Supervising Minister of the US West Main Office. When asked what it was like to see each other again after so many years, Brother Ed says, “It’s just a matter of being young at heart. That’s the young part of us, Brother Dee is the only one who looks like a young man around here!”
Without skipping a beat, Brother Dee chimes in, “See, that happens. God knows what He’s doing!” And on cue and with one heart, this band of brothers burst into joyful laughter so contagious, one can only hope to catch it.
By Aliw Garcia Pablo
As the daughter of Brother Ruben Garcia, one of the ministers assigned to the US since the late 1970s, Aliw has had a front row seat to the growth of the Church in the west. Today, as the Supervising Producer at INC Media Services, she helps in broadcasting stories of faith from all over the world. When she’s not helping shape stories for the media, she spends her time doing modern calligraphy and hanging out with her husband and two children.