Readers report on their Feasts of Tabernacles

Following are reports Feastgoers have sent to The Journal on their 2002 Feast of Tabernacles. For earlier reports see the September and October issues. The Journal plans to publish the remainder of the reports in the Dec. 31 issue.

Icing on the cake

BUELLTON, Calif.--The Feast this year at Rancho Santa Barbara was memorable, perhaps the most memorable ever. With just more than 200 brethren and ministers assembled from all over the country, we had a truly spiritual Feast.

Harold Barksdale and his team of singers and instrumentalists wove the musical presentations into a tapestry of praise and inspiration.

The sermons were inspiring and fit well with aspects of the plan of God and meaning of the Feast. There were also 10 seminars (two each morning at 9 o'clock) on many aspects of Christian living. The speakers included David Antion, Wayne Cole, Richard Crow, Brian Knowles, Jeff Henderson, David Liesenfelt and Bill Lussenheide.

The opening service, on Friday evening, Sept. 20, began with rousing music followed by a sermon by Mr. Liesenfelt that set the stage for all that was to come. He stressed that each has a part to play in a successful Feast and encouraged us to use our talents to contribute to the success of the observance.

Mr. Henderson spoke on the role of Jesus in God's plan of salvation and how the disciples were transformed by the Holy Spirit. He gave us practical ideas on how we Christians can respond to issues and ideas.

In addition to his sermon, Mr. Crow bravely conducted an interactive seminar for the men on the subject of lust and pornography.

Mr. Lussenheide preached on the seasons of life. By way of showing the importance of the summers of our lives, he expounded on the proverb "Go to the ant and be wise."

Mr. Cole recounted his pilgrimage from the religion of his birth, the Church of God Seventh Day, through the Worldwide Church of God and his discovery of the pearl of great price, Jesus our Lord and Savior.

Mr. Knowles told us of things he would do differently if he could relive his life. He included the physical and spiritual.

On the last day, Mr. Antion spoke on the meaning of the number eight, the number of new beginnings. The day symbolizes many things including a new song, a new name, newness of life, a new creation in Christ, resurrections to eternal life and, finally, new heavens and a new earth, in which God is all in all.

In addition to the worship services, we had fellowship socials such as professionally called square dancing, a karaoke evening, a golf tournament and a farewell banquet.

But the icing on the cake was the incredible Bible school for children. Under the able guidance of Carolyn Scharpen, Stephanie Liesenfelt and Rosemary Stogner and with the help of several others, the children studied "the armor of God."

Then, on the last day, the children performed the songs they had learned during the Feast. It was delightful to see the children so excited about going to church each day. They inspired the rest of us.

For more information on the Guardian Feast site, check Make reservations at the Rancho Santa Barbara Marriott by calling (800) 638-8882. Robert and Peggy Macdonald, Pasadena, Calif.

2002 Feast No. 2

EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark.--This is the second festival site I attended. Three or four people attended the Feast of Tabernacles twice, following two calendars. This site was based on a calendar that begins with the faint crescent after the spring equinox.

This fine Feast of Tabernacles took place in the island area along the shores of Beaver Lake, near Eureka Springs. It started the evening of Oct. 21 and ended on the Last Great Day, Oct. 29. Weather was variable: rain and sun, temperatures low 50s to 70.

Services were in a house, with an average of 40 people attending.

The main sponsors were Bill and Sally Rollins of Elkhorn, Iowa, with an independent church in Omaha. They took care of me and sometimes gave me tidbits of food because there was no restaurant nearby.

Speakers were Mr. Rollins, Jerry Boston (from an independent COG in Little Rock); Ron Saladin (from the Church of God Faith Fellowship in St. Louis); Jim Morris; Art Duhachek; David Manning; Earl Lewis (Church of God Seventh Day from Joplin, Mo.); Wayne Holmes (from Little Rock); and Willie Brown (from God Cares We Care in Little Rock).

Mr. Brown did a Davidic dance in front of the audience and did a Pentecostal-and-response service.

A women's Bible study was given by Trish Manning and another Bible study by John Schmitt.

Activities were scheduled on Thursday, Saturday night and Monday. Thursday was the Holy Land tour (which included a sukkah, tabernacle and the Sea of Galilee). Then came a tour of downtown Eureka Springs, with its shops, hills and springs.

Late in the day was a message on the potter.

Thursday night was the passion play (which Eureka Springs is famous for, this time in pouring rain). This was mainly the last few weeks of Jesus' life, including the resurrection and ascension.

The talent show and the dance were a huge success. Mrs. Boston tried to teach us how to do the cha-cha.

Monday was a tour of Eureka Springs Gardens. In the gardens is the Blue Spring, which is along the Trail of Tears, the route the Cherokees were forced to take to Oklahoma.

It was a great Feast. Larry Graff, House Springs, Mo.

The Feast in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM--We kept the Feast of Sukkot this year in Jerusalem with around 50 brethren from all over the world.

We built a real sukkah on the roof of our hotel and decorated it with lulav branches and fruits. It was interesting to see the branches get a little browner each day. It truly reminded us of the meaning of Sukkot, that, like the lulav branches, our time on this earth is timed and we need to worship our heavenly Father each and every day with our heart, mind, soul and strength.

The brethren had a wonderful serving attitude, and it really was like a family reunion. We had a pilgrim tour after the Feast from Dan to Beer-sheva and even went to Egypt to the original Red Sea crossing site, where 14th-century-B.C. chariot wheels were found.

All was wonderful, but above all Yahshua our Savior was the center of our Feast, as He should be. I invite all to join us (the Congregation of YHWH) in Jerusalem next year. Don Esposito, Carteret, N.J.

200 at CGI's Jamaica site

OCHO RIOS, Jamaica--More than 200 Church of God International Jamaican brethren celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles in Ocho Rios this year, capping off what was a magnificent Feast with the baptism of eight persons on the Last Great Day, bringing to 16 the total number of people baptized for the year so far.

Highlight of the Feast was the visit of Bill Watson and Vance Stinson from the United States. Both men, who are speakers on the CGI's Armor of God telecast, spoke during the first and second half of the Feast, respectively.

The CGI Jamaican Feast site is the largest indigenous Feast site in both Jamaica and the greater Caribbean, with both the United Church of God an International Association's and the Living Church of God's sites in Jamaica consisting largely of American brethren. This year only the visiting CGI ministers came from overseas.

The Jamaican brethren savored the presence of the Eternal and His Son to make it a memorable Feast of Tabernacles. Meetings took place at the Jamaica Grande Hotel, where the UCG met, and the Hibiscus Lodge Hotel nearby.

The Feast began on the opening night, Sept. 20, with praise and worship and reflections from deacons George Ramocan and Glenford Smith.

(Incidentally, for the first time a Jamaican speaker, Mr. Ramocan, addressed the CGI's Jekyll Island, Ga., Feast site the latter half of the Feast, with great effect.)

The opening-day sermon was delivered by Jamaican pastor Ian Boyne, who talked about world conditions and the need for the return of Christ.

He also made reference to the number of high-ranking theologians who were now speaking favorably about the Old Testament and the importance of using it to understand the New Testament.

Mr. Boyne spoke about building positive mental attitudes and dealing with crises and delivered a split sermon defending the view that man's destiny is to be born into the God family, quoting scholars in the process. He also spoke on Christianity as "the best option."

Mr. Watson, from Cleveland, Ohio, gave inspiring messages on prophecy and the need for spiritual alertness, as well as steps to spiritual growth.

Mr. Ramocan, a former Jamaican senator and respected politician, gave an enlightening message on the tabernacle in the Garden of Eden and the fact that that tabernacle preceded the tabernacle in the wilderness.

"What we are celebrating is something that goes back further than the wilderness tabernacle," he said. "We are celebrating something that is patterned off the tabernacle in heaven and which already existed in the Garden of Eden at creation."

When Vance Stinson, from Tyler, Texas, approached the pulpit, much anticipation was in evidence because his theological skills are well known.

He did not disappoint. He gave a view of the Feast as well as a sermon on the book of Zechariah ("The Day of Small Things") that held the audience spellbound.

His Last Great Day sermon was a moving presentation on the importance of perseverance and living a quality Christian life.

Other Feast speakers were deacons Glenford Smith, Paul O'Connor, Carlton Sterling and Gilbert Bell.

The Herbert W. Armstrong Memorial Speaking Contest, also a highlight of the Feast, lived up to its reputation.

Presenters were asked to research the strongest arguments against Mr. Armstrong's view that government was from the top down.

Again, Jamaican Sandra-Mae Robinson won, largely interacting with the ideas of Norman Edwards, the Likeminds Internet forum and critics of hierarchical government published in The Journal.

(The essay was submitted to The Journal and the CGI's International News and will appear in the December issue of The Journal.)

The church also had a picnic, a family fun show and a couples' and singles' night as well as a leaders' night and a youth day (organized by the active CGI Women's Ministries).

For the youth day, the youths took over the services, including the sermonette.

Everyone left the Feast stimulated to move in the strength of the Lord and to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Ian Boyne, Kingston, Jamaica.

Island-hopping Feast

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico--Ever wonder what it is like to have your hotel follow you to several destinations? How about visiting white sandy beaches, rain-forest-covered mountains and rocky cactus-laden deserts all in eight days?

What if you were a sports nut? Would volleyball, basketball, in-line skating, swimming, water slides, ice-skating, miniature golf or a rock-climbing wall interest you?

What if they were all just an elevator ride away?

If you were more the passive feaster like me, gourmet meals to hot dogs and everything in between being available to eat all day and all night long would suit you just fine.

Even the Broadway-style entertainment, "ice capades," beach parties with steel-drum bands and the many dancing opportunities made it hard to do absolutely nothing. And of course there was plenty of souvenir gathering.

All this and more was available at the Feast of Tabernacles observance sponsored by the Church of God Downers Grove on the Royal Caribbean's Caribbean cruise.

Stops along the way included San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Martin and Curacao, then back to San Juan.

Organizers included Ken and Trisha Svehla, Gerry and Sheila Bernardo and Laureen Blissard.

Wonderful amenities and accommodations do not make a Feast of Tabernacles, but they sure did take away any chance of boredom.

It's hard to put your finger on what it means to have a "successful" or "very satisfying" or even a "fulfilling" Feast of Tabernacles. Yet we had it and more.

Sure, we had the choir, the soloists, Feast classes for the kids, special classes for teens and youth day with youth speakers, but these are just a part of the hardware for success at a Feast. Even "good" messages or "all good" messages do not equal a wonderful Feast.

I'm having trouble describing the intangible. But, whatever it was, maybe the heart of success at a Feast was that we all strove to take home with us the spirit that Christ hopes for all of us. I truly believe we did.

We had a cross section of organizations, with a cross section of beliefs. We had a group of people more concerned with integrity of spirit than with making their pet point. This attitude became contagious. We had a Feast on water to remember, but hardly a watered-down Feast. Maybe what I'm trying to describe is brotherhood.

I don't think our Feast experience can be replicated, but I sure hope a bunch of people are going to try. Laureen Blissard, Naperville, Ill.

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