Big Sandy congregation plans to sponsor two Feast sites

BIG SANDY, Texas--The United Church of God Big Sandy, an independent congregation, will again play host to two Feast sites this year. The sites will follow the traditional Jewish calendar, which means the Feast this fall starts the evening of Sept. 24. The locations will be the same as last year: Big Sandy, Texas, and Destin, Fla.

"We were very pleased with the locations of the Feast sites we had last year," commented Dave Havir, pastor of the congregation. "We intend to annually use our building in Big Sandy as our home base. Then we will consider other options for hosting Feast sites."

Congregational survey

Shortly after last year's Feast, Mr. Havir polled members of the congregation concerning their plans for 1999.

"The survey revealed that we should return to Destin," mentioned Mr. Havir.

Another question on the survey was whether the congregation should sponsor a third Feast site this year. Mr. Havir was hopeful that this would be the consensus.

Mr. Havir explained: "It is my opinion that the pool of quality speakers from our congregation and from associated congregations can easily sustain three sites. However, at this time the congregation recommended that we concentrate on only two locations."

According to Mr. Havir, the congregation is actively involved in plans for the Feast.

"The saints are veterans in organizing events like this," he said. "You have to remember that these people have observed dozens of Feasts. They know what they are doing. Actually, the only real job the congregation requires of me for the Feast is to coordinate the speaking schedule."

At this time, John Kilough of Horseshoe Bend, Ark., is scheduled to give two sermons and a Bible study in Big Sandy. Mark Gully of Hewitt, Texas, Reg Killingley of Big Sandy and Anthony Kimmons of Bogue Chitto, Miss., are scheduled to give sermons in Destin.

Wayne Cole of Tyler, Texas, and Mr. Havir will each visit both sites.

The rest of the speaking schedule will unfold as it is determined who is attending at the two sites. As the Feast draws closer, Mr. Havir will announce more details of the schedule.

Interdependent sites

"When we host a Feast site, we welcome congregations and individuals to participate with us," mentioned Mr. Havir.

"What we discovered last year was that people who attended became very involved in helping the Feast to be successful. Last year in Big Sandy a group of saints from the San Antonio area contributed much to the success of the Feast. Last year in Destin representatives from many different congregations made contributions. The teamwork was exciting to watch."

The two coordinators, Brian Bettes and Don Mischnick, are busy laying the groundwork for their sites. They both solicit ideas and recommendations.

Fond memories

"The Big Sandy area is a nostalgic place to keep the Feast," commented Mr. Bettes, coordinator of the Big Sandy site.

One of the significant nostalgic aspects of attending in Big Sandy was camping years ago on the grounds owned by the Worldwide Church of God and Ambassador College. Although this is no longer an option, some members from San Antonio recreated a little bit of the past when they, as a group last year, camped together at a local commercial campground. It wasn't exactly the same, they said, but it wasn't bad.

"A major key to our Big Sandy site is our beautiful church building," remarked Mr. Bettes.

The UCG Big Sandy began holding services in its new 17,500-square-foot (1,600-square-meter) building just before the Feast in 1998.

"Because of this facility, we can schedule a variety of activities for the Feast. We can have educational events like Sabbath-school classes, Bible studies and seminars. We can have social activities like potlucks, youth activities and family activities."

Mr. Bettes plans to organize a family-day activity like last year's. Depending on the size of the group at the Feast, Mr. Bettes is also considering a family dance and a family variety show.

Florida family activities

"The Destin area is a wonderful place for a Feast," said Mr. Mischnick of Hawkins, coordinator of the Destin site. "There are many activities for individual families. Since most people stay at the same condominium complex, there are plenty of opportunities for fellowship. This year we anticipate another large number of teenagers and children."

Mr. Mischnick said the church planned to schedule a variety of social activities. He mentioned that one improvement this year will be directing a few more messages toward the youths.

"I heard Dave [Havir] say he has already talked to some speakers about topics for families and for youth," he said.

Mr. Mischnick also noted that he had heard that some unmarried people are networking to attract other singles to the Destin area.

"If we can help facilitate activities for them, we would be happy to assist," Mr. Mischnick said.

The Big Sandy congregation will again provide a way for people to save money on their Feast housing in Destin. Because this congregation received a tax-exempt classification in Florida last summer, Feastgoers will not need to pay taxes on their housing when the church collects the money for the housing accommodations and pays the bill.

Come blow your horn

The UCG Big Sandy hopes musically talented brethren will attend at either of the two sites.

"Music plays a large part in a worship service," said Mr. Havir. "We are regularly looking to increase our music program. At a special activity at our congregation in December, Harold Barksdale [of Laguna Beach, Calif.] helped to bring musicians together for a special-music service. It was inspiring. We are pleased that Harold will be participating in our music program in Destin."

Mr. Havir hopes anyone who can sing or play will consider attending the Feast either in Big Sandy or Destin.

Ideas welcome

Any who are interested in offering assistance may contact Mr. Bettes or Mr. Mischnick.

The UCG Big Sandy's mailing address is P.O. Box 690, Big Sandy, Texas 75755, U.S.A. Mr. Bettes can also be reached by E-mail at and by phone at (903) 636-5066. Write Mr. Mischnick at, or call him at (800) 946-5545.

To contribute ideas for activities for unmarried Feastgoers, contact singles' coordinator Neil McIver at or (800) 946-5545.

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