If you’ve ever been on a weekend flight en route to Las Vegas, the conversations you’ll hear are usually the same — what parties, what clubs and what casinos people will be hitting. People usually come here for the weekend to get away from their present reality. But for James King, who drove in from Southern California, he came to Vegas for the sake of his tomorrow.
“I wanted to see Brother Eduardo Manalo. I’ve always seen him on screen and listening to the Word but seeing him this close, I don’t know if I’ll ever get another opportunity,” said the 69-year-old track coach. He was introduced to the INC by one of his athletes.
James was one of hundreds of people who came to Las Vegas for the Henderson chapel dedication which was officiated by Executive Minister Brother Eduardo V. Manalo. And while Las Vegas may not be known for religiosity, James says this is the best place to start.
“(Las Vegas) is the best place to save people’s lives and try to get people back into the house of the Lord. If you think about it, there are more people that need to be saved here.”
And Sylvie Diablo, who woke up at 4am to be here at the chapel dedication, couldn’t agree more. “You see people put money in machines and they gamble, but I give flyers when we have Bible study so they can come and listen. And if they say, ‘I cannot, I’m working,’ I say, ‘Take just one day, let’s go to Bible study.’ I tell my coworkers and I invite them and I even call my boss to change their schedule.”
Originally from West Africa,Sylvie was relieved when she found the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ). “I was looking for a church…I just wanted the right one.” Then one day, Dee Burroughs, a member of the Church Of Christ, walked into the store where she worked and after some small talk, he asked her if she’d be interested in attending Bible study in the Church Of Christ.
And within minutes of attending her first Bible study, she knew she had found what she had been looking for. “Brother Edgar, the minister, he read the Bible, I start asking questions and after that, that was it. Every question you ask a minister, they will give you an answer.”
“The (church) I went to before, it was different – all these people give me their opinion what God has done for them…but this Church, the Church Of Christ, is from the Bible…it comes from God’s commandments, and that’s what I follow always.
And just like every worship service in the Church Of Christ, the Henderson chapel dedication focused on God’s words straight from the Bible and what people need to do to secure their place in heaven.
“I got to shake Brother Eduardo’s hand and God willing, I was blessed… because you never know at this age!” He lets out a hearty laugh, and his athletic physique makes it hard to believe he’s almost 70 years old. James may have found the true church later in life, but he’s enjoying every bit of it. “I love it! I’m in the house of the Lord now!”
Finding the true Church in a place like Las Vegas, commonly known as “Sin City,” couldn’t have been more ironic for Freddy Jones. About 10 years ago, he was working as a DJ at a karaoke hangout and saw a group of young people who were having a great time — laughing and joking around, but he was surprised to know that they were sober. They were having pure, clean fun in “Sin City.” He later learned they were members of the Church Of Christ. And since becoming a member himself, he has been passionately sharing his faith to people looking to be saved. His dad, Jesse Mooreland, was one of them.
“You know, even back in biblical times, Lot was also told to come outta there, you know when he was in Sodom and Gomorrah, that’s kind of how I feel. Yeah, we’re in right in the middle of all of that but we have come out of there. Here’s the thing, I live in the world, but I am not of the world. I am now a member of the Church Of Christ and I can never go back,” said Jesse. His son, Freddy, looks on proudly at his dad, nodding and smiling at his every word. “That’s my daddy! I get to live with this! This is awesome!”
Freddy continues by saying, “We’ve never felt so much love, especially for our Lord God. This is so awe-inspiring and to be able to come to a Worship Service or Bible Study or hang out with brethren, guarding the chapel all night. Brother Eduardo mentioned earlier, everybody else is falling off. We’re the only ones that’s striving.” When asked how many people they’ve introduced to the Church, their eyes lock and in unison, both said “A lot!” They burst in joyful laughter. They have lost track, but together, they estimate that they’ve brought over forty souls to be baptized in the Church. And there’s no stopping them.
Their eyes beam with excitement when talking about the impact of the Church in their lives. Jesse reflects on his life now and says, “Being African American, we used to always use this term, ‘Every time I take two steps up the ladder, I am pushed three steps back down so I’m never getting ahead,’ right? So, in the Church Of Christ, if I take two steps up the ladder, God helps me with the third step going up, so what do I have to lose?”
This is now the second chapel dedication, officiated by Brother Eduardo, that this father and son duo has witnessed here in the Las Vegas area. And a new chapel for them only means one thing — more chances to hold Bible studies and open doors to people that may need saving from themselves.
Jesse says, “What is so phenomenal right now, we have had individuals just walk through the gates, looking for a Church. They walk through the gates and say, ‘I wanna join a Church.’ And just to see the Church growing from back in 2010 when I was a Bible student up to now, it’s phenomenal. It’s like you can’t beat the growth, here and I haven’t seen anything like this anywhere else, ANYWHERE in the entire world, especially in Las Vegas.”
Written 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.