Church of God folks tell more about their festivals

Following are reports Feastgoers sent to The Journal about the 2000 Feast of Tabernacles. This is the second issue since the Feast that has carried reports. For guidelines on submitting your report and optional photographs, please see the article beginning on page 1 of the Sept. 30 issue. Any reports that arrive at The Journal's office after this issue are planned for the December issue, which the editors expect will conclude this year's Feast-site coverage.

Tiny but mighty

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.--A tiny but mighty Feast of Tabernacles took place here with fewer than 75 people in attendance, although every day we had visitors on their way to and from other sites--even people still in the WCG.

The theme of our Feast was "Preparing the Bride." It was a warm and bonding Feast. Coordinators Chris and Bev Carson took great care to see that no one was left out of any of the social events, seminars and Bible studies who wanted to be there.

Every afternoon and evening groups of 20 to 40 people went out to dinner, had a barbecue or presented a fun show.

In the mornings the hotel served free breakfast to all the Feastgoers who stayed in the same hotel or in the homes of brethren.

We had sermons by Chris Carson, Peter Kamen, Terry Bruns, Norman Rowe and Clayton Irish. Not one of them had been ordained in the WCG. Nevertheless God inspired them, and the sermons were awesome.

We also had (I am sure) the biggest percentage of musical talent of all of the Feast sites. We had special music most days, and the good voices we did have carried the song service so that it sounded like we had our own choir.

More than one person remarked to me that this was their best Feast ever, and this was not a cliche. Mary Wendt. Albuquerque, N.M.

Damp but enthusiastic

ALBURY, Australia--Another Feast of Tabernacles sponsored by the Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association and Intercontinental Church of God reached a successful conclusion after 25 people attended at the Commercial Club in Albury. This was an excellent attendance compared with the relatively small beginnings in earlier times.

The Feast was again capably organized by our energetic coordinator, Dusan Zubovic, who put in an enormous effort to ensure the comfort and safety of all present.

The wet weather caused some changes to the proposed activities, but even inclement conditions failed to dampen enthusiasm as some of us visited a nearby trout farm in torrential rain for another wonderful day.

Each day we were treated to inspiring sermonettes, another first for our Feast 2000. David Dunlop, Croydon Park, Australia.

Season of our joy

ARDMORE, Okla.--More than 350 people attended the Festival of Sukkot (Booths) at Lake Murray Lodge, near here, beginning Friday evening, Oct. 13. This was the second year the festival, sponsored by a small home fellowship in East Texas, has been held at this location.

According to organizers Tim and Angie Kelley of Hawkins, Texas, those who attended were from various church backgrounds, with nearly 50 percent claiming to have recently been a part of "mainstream Christianity." When asked for a show of hands, about one third of those in attendance indicated that this year was the first year they had ever kept the festival.

The Lake Murray festival was a "Hebrew roots" Feast site, which means the focus of the festival was to see what could be learned by studying all the information given in the Bible about the festival, as well as looking at and rehearsing the temple ceremonies that extrabiblical historical records show were part of the festival celebration in first-century Jerusalem.

According to Mr. Kelley, the Bible indicates that Yeshua (Jesus) took part in the temple celebrations.

"We know that Yeshua was at the temple during Sukkot," he said. "John 7:37-38 shows that He taught about rivers of living water, a direct reference to the water-pouring ceremony that was held during the festival. The Jews had been going through the motions for years, but only a few really understood what it was all about."

Though the Lake Murray festival officially began on a Friday evening in accordance with the Jewish calendar, the standard most Church of God groups follow, many who participated were following differing days for the observance.

For instance, Dave Thomas, in charge of audiovisual operations for the festival, started the festival Wednesday evening because he does not abide by the postponements that are a part of the Jewish calendar.

On the other hand, Web Hulon and his friends from South Carolina, who were responsible for music at the festival here, started the festival on Thursday evening since they follow the actual moon sightings in Jerusalem.

Speakers included Joseph and Debbie Good of Hatikva Ministries; Ron McKown; Avi ben Mordechai of Millennium 7000 Ministries; Steve Salter of Hatikva Ministries; Dean and Susan Wheelock, publishers of Hebrew Roots magazine; Angus and Batya Wootten, author of Who Is Israel and Why You Need to Know; Web Hulon; Steve Zimmerman; and Tim Kelley.

Not only was there a wide variety of speakers, there were many diverse messages, with most centered on the theme of Sukkot.

A sampling of the more than 23 topics covered includes "Being Tolerant of Those with Differing Beliefs," "Immersion: Preparing for the Festival," "Why Will Animal Sacrifices Be Reinstituted in the Kingdom?," "Solomon's Kingdom: A Picture of the Millennium," "The Sukkot: Refuge of Faith," "Mysteries of the Kingdom," "The Prayers for Sukkot," "The End-Time Regathering of Israel" and "Living Waters."

Highlights of the festival included the water-pouring rehearsal, the Festival of Lights, a teen debate, a four-hour Hebrew-language class, daily readings of Deuteronomy, the Israeli-night dinner, five Hebrew-dance classes, the family fun show, daily Bible classes for children 4-12, teen camp-fire discussions and nightly Bible discussions in "Sukkah City."

During the latter portion of the festival a reporter and cameraman from the Oklahoma Educational TV network were on hand to interview speakers and attendees and tape many of the presentations and teachings as part of a documentary on religion in Oklahoma to be aired during the latter part of November.

Pictures from this year's festival and information on next year's can be found on the Internet at Angie Kelley, Hawkins, Texas.

Unity at the Feast of Tents

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines--The brethren coming from Metro Manila, Bataan, Cavite and Laguna traveled to Baguio early morning Friday, Oct. 13, a trip taking at least eight hours if one is coming from Manila, and began arriving between 2 and 4 p.m.

The brethren were here to observe the Feast of Tents, sponsored by the Church of God International Affiliated Associates (COG-IAA), and were welcomed by Pastor Enrique Gabuyo, who arrived earlier that same day with his family. Before the Sabbath began, all of the brethren had arrived to start this observance of the Feast.

Since our theme for this year was "Nostalgia: A Perspective to Recapture our First Love," messages rendered revolved around remembering the former days, rejoicing and reminiscing on the inspiring past of the glorious triumphs of those who ran the race ahead of us so we can reach forward to what is ahead of us for the things God laid up for us for our part in His overall work of salvation.

An aggregate attendance of 35 brethren joined us in Baguio, with several first-timers. The brethren were elated when one of our brethren, Miss Auria Delfino, after attending the church's regular weekly Sabbath services and Bible-study campaigns for almost a year, decided to go through the water of baptism.

The baptism was held at the swimming pool of Hotel Supreme. The ceremony was performed by Pastor Gabuyo and was assisted by Melanie Chua and Mina Ho.

We had morning and afternoon services on the first and last day and morning services in between. The women brethren performed daily morning intercessory prayer from 6 to 8 a.m.

Pastor Gabuyo, Rodel Carating and Raul Hipe spoke on technical and inspirational topics that were geared towards helping the brethren recollect and recapture their first love. The messages included faith and obedience to God; seeking first His Kingdom and believing that all these things shall be added unto us; the temporal nature of our physical life, possessions and the world we live in; knowledge and deception; worship; marriage; family and children; the Millennium; and the White Throne Judgment.

The books of Haggai and Ecclesiastes were reviewed, with emphasis on priorities and vanities of life, stressing the point that life without God is vanity (meaningless).

At the end of that sermon everyone agreed with one accord that we need God to put meaning into our lives.

Activities during the Feast included a Baguio tour. Being so close to nature, one can't help but praise God and imagine how the earth was during the days of Eden when His creation was new and free from human abuses.

The brethren attended a concert sponsored by the Church of God Manila. Our own teens' and children's choir contributed two songs for the show. Everybody was jubilant with the splendid performance by our younger brethren.

Aside from the traditional Bible bowl, new games were introduced including charades, a husband-and-wife game that put to the test how well each couple knew each other; math scramble; and Bible-character guessing, wherein a representative was called from each group and given a name of a Bible character. The group members then asked questions that could be answered only with yes or no. Once the last member asked the final question, the group was supposed to guess the correct Bible character.

The brethren also enjoyed games of 10-pin and duck-in bowling, billiards and basketball. We played basketball with brethren from other Churches of God. The teens took a good jog at the oval track of Teacher's Camp. The brethren also enjoyed biking and boating at Burnham Park, one of the city's popular spots.

We also had the traditional potluck dinner on the eve of the eighth day as a get-together meal. And on the Last Great Day (Shemini Atzeret) we were treated by a children's choir under the guidance of Mrs. Vivian Hipe, accompanied on guitar by Miss Gina Constantino, a sister from the Church of God Manila.

By the conclusion of the Feast the brethren by God's grace and the power of His Spirit with conviction had recollected and recaptured their first love.

At the closing of the Feast one of the verses read was 1 John 2:15-17: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world.

"And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever."

With the singing of the final hymn, "Till We Meet Again," the Feast came to an end with love and unity abounding between brethren. With the renewed zeal and commitment to do the commission, the brethren left for home with the hope and faith in the coming Kingdom of God.

The Church of God IAA congregation will hold the Feast of Tents 2001 at Baguio also. The reservation for the Feast site is already made. We hope and pray that you will be able to join us next year as we rejoice in this God-given Feast. Herbert Chua, Mandaluyong City.

First Feast in six years

BANGKOK, Thailand--The Feast of Tabernacles took place in Thailand for the first time in six years, and it was a great success. All 26 COG members of the Karen tribe who wanted to come were able to make it, and 24 brethren from the U.S.A. came over to join them in what turned out to be the greatest Feast of Tabernacles ever held in Thailand.

Most of the Karen who attended had never been to a Feast of Tabernacles before. Especially for the children, it was an exciting and unforgettable festival.

The entire fall festival season was spiritually invigorating. The spiritual joy of the season began on the Day of Trumpets on the Burma border in Mae Sot.

Lazum Brang, pastor of the Church of God in Kachinland in northern Burma (or, officially, Myanmar) had traveled from his home in the distant mountains of northern Burma to be with us.

Leon and Gloria Sexton met with three Karen families, Pastor Brang and Utaiwan Han (a Thai COG member) for services to celebrate the meaning of the day.

We gave Pastor Brang some used clothing and several Burmese-language publications to take back with him for the Kachinland COG brethren. We also provided him with festival assistance for the poor members who would not otherwise be able to attend the Feast of Tabernacles in Burma.

Lazum Brang pastors about 600 members of the Church of God scattered all over the northern and central regions of Burma.

He has his work cut out for him. He must travel in a region of the world with few roads and limited transportation. To get to the Thai-Burma border for Trumpets, he traveled six days on foot and by log truck, train and bus. He passed through numerous military checkpoints to reach the border. He then had to repeat this arduous journey to return to his home region in the far north.

Pastor Brang spoke on Trumpets about the meaning of the day and the importance of observing God's holy days every year. This was quite inspiring since the Kachin have only kept the annual feast days since last year.

He informed us that the Holy Spirit is active in the border regions alongside India, Tibet and China.

He told us he knows this is true because he receives more than 100 visit requests each month from people living in these areas who are starved for the truth of the Bible.

He has started a Bible school for young people from the border regions to teach them the Bible truth so they can help evangelize in their home areas. Leon and Gloria Sexton, Bangkok, Thailand.

Laid-back Feast fellowship

BIG SANDY, Texas--The Church of God Big Sandy sponsored a Feast of Tabernacles full of fellowship in the local church building this fall. Attendance averaged around 150 on each high day and daily more than 100. Feastgoers came from New Mexico, Florida, Ohio, Dallas, Waco and Texarkana.

The site was one of four locations sponsored by the congregation. (Others were Angel Fire, N.M.; Destin, Fla.; and Wisconsin Dells, Wis.)

We started the Feast with a wonderful Friday evening of fellowship and refreshments.

On Tuesday a senior citizens' luncheon took place at the Village Tea Room in Big Sandy. Young people from the congregation bused tables and served coffee, tea and dessert. A big thanks goes to Julie Wilkins for coordinating the lunch.

On Wednesday the group enjoyed a fun afternoon of games and serve-yourself ice-cream sundaes.

On Thursday we had a spaghetti luncheon at the building. The serving and cleanup by all were so organized one would have thought we were professional!

We had begun the Feast on the high day with an impromptu potluck. It was such a hit that we decided to repeat it on the Last Great Day. It lent itself to great fellowship and camaraderie.

Someone could ask, Did it rain? Longtime church members know there is always the possibility of torrential rain in Big Sandy during the Feast. However, it was beautiful and warm, with the exception of only a couple days of drizzle.

Because other Feast locations have more restaurants and activities of which to partake, we spent more time in fellowship and special music. The children sang several times during the Feast, as did various church members. We were blessed to have Roger Bryant sing special music on both high days and enjoyed his melodic voice, accompanied by his talented wife, Lyna Jane, on piano.

Sermonettes were given by Roger Daniels, Loren Edelbach, Ron Feaker, Ron McCollum and J.L. Roden. Sermons were by Wayne Cole, Dave Havir, Reg Killingley, Ed Mitchell, James Moran and Wynn Skelton.

To cap the end of the Feast, Mr. Mitchell baptized Misti Green, a college sophomore from the Dallas area, who was attending in Big Sandy with her parents from Daytona Beach, Fla.

All in all we had a peaceful, laid-back Feast of Tabernacles with the best fellowship and the uplifting of each other through God's Word.

Isn't it great to be able to talk of the things of God and Jesus Christ with brethren of like precious mind? Isn't it great to be able to disagree with each other on small points but still love each other as brethren without fear of chastisement or being cast aside?

We could all agree with what the Feast of Tabernacles pictures: our future and what it holds for us in the coming Kingdom of God. Kim Skelton, White Oak, Texas.

Global alive and well in England

DERBY, England--Once more God placed His name over the ancestral home of the duke and duchess of Devonshire at Chatsworth House, in the rolling hills of Derbyshire, for the Global Church of God's observance of the fourth Feast of Tabernacles in the British Isles.

Visitors from the United States, Canada and the Irish Republic joined with native Feastgoers to participate in what festival elder Bob Devine called the "family Feast atmosphere" that epitomized every aspect of the eight-day convocation.

A comprehensive explanation of the scriptural basis of the Feast and its implications for humanity were fully covered by the speakers.

In addition to daily services, the brethren participated in tours around this beautiful stately home as well as nearby Haddon Hall, a guided tour of the surrounding dales of National Peak Park and Derwent Valley and theme parks Alton Towers, The American Adventure, Gulliver's Kingdom, and the Heights of Abraham.

Three events of inclusive social activity, a family fun evening, a festival dinner and an informal last-night buffet helped the feeling of togetherness.

Increase, in the form of newly born children, was acknowledged when Esther Lydia Oakden of Derby and Rebecca Harris of Belfast, Northern Ireland, were blessed by Mr. Devine and Mr. Adkins.

As a final bonus, on the Last Great Day some of the overseas brethren chatted with the duchess of Devonshire, who showed considerable interest in our international gathering.

Already some folks are planning for next year. How much longer can we keep this experience a secret?

The awesome autumnal transformation of the foliage of the park that happened during our stay, which was emphasized by the afternoon sunlight, lent a constant reminder to us of the ongoing involvement of the great Creator with His creation.

The setting was truly millennial and a fitting backdrop to the close of another round of holy days that God established to teach and preserve the knowledge of His great plan for mankind. Bob Devine, Derby, England.

No professional lecturing

DESTIN, Fla.--The Feast here, sponsored by Friends of the Sabbath International, was wonderful from our standpoint. The material we addressed was exciting and stimulating, without professional paid ministers lecturing to us.

We covered in detail the details and typology of the tabernacle, the temple, the sacrifices, divine worship, the typology of the Gospels, and the feasts. What we discovered again was that God is so gracious that He gives each of us such profound knowledge and understanding that we should never feel dependent on paid professionals to teach and lead. We are indeed dependent on His Word and His inspiration.

We would compare the wisdom, understanding and teachings we had here with any of the professional, corporate efforts. Our lesson: God is working with individuals. God is not dependent on human corporations for teaching, growth or service to His elect.

The program we presented, to involve all who wanted to be involved, was successful.

We had attendance of 25 to 60 and felt each session was beneficial and exciting. Whether our format would work in larger settings remains to be seen. It certainly works in our settings. [For more about the Destin Feast, see the Oct. 31 issue, page 12, under the subheading "Friends of the Sabbath: The Tabernacle of the Lord."] John Merritt, Oconomowoc, Wis.

A little child shall lead them

ESCONDIDO, Calif.--Speakers at the United Church of God's Feast site here wove a theme of servant leadership through their festival messages.

Dave Register, pastor of the San Diego and Loma Linda congregations and this year's festival coordinator, welcomed those attending the Friday-night opening services Oct. 13.

Again this year services took place in one of the world's finest concert halls at the California Center for the Arts.

Encouraging his audience to prepare for the future as he referred to the prophesied millennial reign of Christ and our role as His bride, Mr. Register said that our work as a "wife" is more than heavenly bliss; "hard work" awaits us in this marital union.

The next day Robin Webber, pastor of the Bakersfield, Garden Grove and Los Angeles congregations, gave the offertory message to the 1,100 in attendance.

After inspiring special music presented by the festival choir under the direction of Fred Crow of the San Francisco area, Bill Bradford, pastor in Oakland and San Jose, emphasized servant leadership, setting the tone for the festival. He encouraged his audience to learn "how to teach in the Millennium" by citing the example of how Christ taught His disciples.

Mr. Bradford quoted from the Gospel of John and John's first epistle: "And the Word [Christ] was made flesh and dwelled among us . . ." and "We have heard, we have seen with our own eyes . . . [and] looked upon and our hands have handled" Christ. Thus Mr. Bradford showed Jesus was a human being, as were His disciples. "I am among you as one that serves," he quoted Jesus as saying.

The gentiles exercised authority in their ruling, said Mr. Bradford, but Christ said it "shall not be so" among His followers. Jesus could have "zapped" those who mistreated other people, but instead of using His authority He set the example of following God's way, God's will, as a servant among them.

Mr. Bradford quoted Isaiah 30:20, about "your teachers," to show that tomorrow's teachers will follow Christ's example of being a personal servant to His followers.

On the subject of truth, Roger Foster, who has served in the ministry more than 40 years and is a full-time writer for the church's publications, showed in a sermon the confusion, deception and compromise extant when people try to define "truth."

Just because you think you have truth in your mind doesn't make it truth, he said. "There's only one truth, and that's from God's Word."

Mr. Foster also gave a Bible study on prophecy to a packed house of about 400 in the center's theater.

Another speaker, Stuart Segall, who, serves in Sedro Woolley and Seattle, Wash., gave an emotional message on "comfort," telling about a pet dog named Grizzly who was a "good shepherd." Mr. Segall, quoting from the book of Job, said we can learn from animals how to console and provide therapy to heal the brokenhearted.

After the youth choir sang on youth day, Mr. Register gave a colorful message titled "The Animal Kingdom." By using slides of San Diego's famous zoo and wild-animal park and a stage decorated with hundreds of stuffed animals, which Feastgoers donated to the young people in attendance, he encouraged the youths to realize how tame and cuddly wild animals will be in the world tomorrow.

Speakers also included Daniel Berendt, Edmonton, Alta., Canada; Richard Berendt, also from Edmonton; David Blue, Boise, Idaho; Steve Buchanan, Tucson and Sierra Vista, Ariz.; Wayne Dunlap, Eureka and Crescent City, Calif.; Jon Garnant, Orange County, Calif.; Glenn Harmon, Bend and Medford, Ore.; Camilo Reyes, Bakersfield and Fresno, Calif.; Ralph Teele, Camp Verde, Ariz.; and Chuck Zimmerman, Yuma, Ariz.

Feastgoers watched a festival video, "Education in the Church Today and in the Millennium." Activities also included a lunch for senior citizens; young adults' and singles' activities; a family day at Felicita Park with sports, music and a hike; a museum visit; and a picnic. Ellis Stewart, Big Sandy, Texas.

Uplifting and varied Feast

KENDAL, England--A wonderful feeling of peace permeated the Festival of Tabernacles this year as a relatively small group of some 25 brethren met up with each other again at Kendal. We were thankful that we were together, that God had protected us during the year and that He had made it possible for Frank and Pat Scherich of Liberty Hill, Texas, to return. The surroundings were beautiful and historical, the meeting hall light and comfortable.

The site was not sponsored by a particular Church of God organization; it was financially supported by the people who attended it, who came from various fellowships, including nonaligned groups, the Intercontinental Church of God, Syvende dags Kristne (in Norway), and the Church of God International.

Kendal is a picturesque town in Cumbria, in the north of England, built of local stone with interesting little alleys, called yards, off the main street. These often contain beautiful old cottages. We do therefore hope that we can return to Kendal next year because there is so much more to explore. We recommend it for anyone interested in visiting and experiencing England at its best.

The services were uplifting and the messages varied. We feel blessed, having heard from local speakers, namely David Kingston, Anthony Miles and Trevor Smith, as well as Mr. Scherich, who was our festival elder.

The main theme that remained with us after the festival is that the God we serve is merciful and kind. This was the subject of one of Mr. Scherich's sermons. Other topics were Paul's letter to the Philippians; "A search for God"; the work of the Spirit; and God working through little things.

We personally participated in a couple of outings this year. One day we took a trip over the mountains and continued with a ride on a narrow-gauge steam train to the coast. Much to our surprise we found the remains of an old Roman fort high in the hills with a lot of interesting historical information about the Romans.

Even though English mountains are relatively low, seldom have we experienced steeper, narrower mountain passes. It was an adventure to drive there, and we decided not to take the same way back, opting for a longer but less-demanding route.

On another day several of us went for a boat trip on Lake Windermere. Because some feared the water, afraid that the boat might sink, they had to stay behind. The boat took us to a large aquarium just off the lake where we could walk under the water and view fish from many angles. At the aquarium we enjoyed seeing otters running around and playing with pebbles.

As a small group we were encouraged by the baptism of a new member, David Appleby. A little child, Randy Scherich, was blessed at the festival. Seeing growth brought us joy.

We look forward to meeting up with everyone again next year because that is the only opportunity some of us have for fellowship during the year.

After the festival Frank and Pat Scherich came to Norway (where we live) for a few days, meeting up with the brethren on the Sabbath. Tore Sorensen, who attends regularly, wanted to be baptized, requesting that this be done outside somewhere in a forest lake.

He came to us on a Sunday when it was absolutely bucketing down with rain, and we had had sleet during the night. But, shortly before he arrived, the clouds parted and the sun came through with a beautiful rainbow.

We decided, therefore, to drive out into the woods and walk to a nearby lake. Mr. Scherich and Tore waded out into the cold water. The baptism took place with only friends present; we were there totally alone. It must have been cold, though they both assured us it was nowhere near as bad as one might think.

We drove back to our house with the sun still shining. Tore had hands laid on him there, and shortly afterwards the clouds came back and it poured rain again. Anthony and Margaretha Miles, Baerums Verk, Norway.

Friendly Feast

KINGS BEACH, Calif.--At the Intercontinental Church of God's Feast site here, we had about the same number of people as last year. Again, Phill Dunagan was our festival coordinator.

Some of the sermons were given by Sam Roberts, who also acted as song leader, and Mr. Dunagan.

Garner Ted Armstrong spoke the last two days.

Great sermonettes were presented by Wally Fagerstedt and George Bratcher.

Elvis was here on the fun night, although some called him Phill Dunagan (see Mr. Presley's picture on this page). His helper, Howard Bruce, was a part of fun night.

A motor trip up to Virginia City and train ride were a joy. On the train were Lois and Ben Chapman and many more.

This was a friendly Feast. Howard Bruce, Glendale, Ariz.

Great sermons and fellowship

LAKE TEXOMA, Okla.--To quote a phrase from Professor Harold Hill: "We said we would, and we did!" One hundred sixty-eight happy people rejoiced before God and partook of eight days of His wonderful physical and spiritual blessings at the Lake Texoma Feast site.

I'm sure we shared the sentiment of all Feast-keepers in the usual fare of great sermons, bountiful food and great fellowship. Unique to Lake Texoma was our nightly prayer service, which grew slightly from last year. Eight to 10 of us gathered to consider needs and problems and present them to our loving Father.

Wednesday afternoon a flotilla of three fishing boats invaded the 93,000-acre lake loaded with 12 highly trained and experienced fishermen (women and boys). Together the catch equaled 90 striped bass from one and one half to five pounds and two catfish, which were promptly returned. The next day all at the Feast were invited to a fish fry but were unable to consume all the fish.

Other neat additions were a Bible quiz, two barbershop quartets from Dallas, a cobbler-and-ice-cream social and mini-Bible-study sessions.

We were pleased to have nearly 30 children who kept the Bible-school teachers busy. Afternoons and evenings they were busy with bowling, a fun park, a kids' carnival and a fort outing.

Decorations were plentiful, and beautiful music filled the room often. Much of it was supported by the harmonies of a choir from Tulsa, which were greatly enjoyed.

The Last Great Day a seminar and Bible study took place in the afternoon, and we hope to continue this tradition. Steven J. Kieler, Fort Dodge, Iowa.

10 baptisms in Jamaica

OCHO RIOS, Jamaica--The largest gathering of Caribbean brethren celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles took place at the CGI Feast site in Ocho Rios, where the church has one of two congregations in this country.

Some 210 brethren gathered to hear inspiring sermons and special music, sing praises to their God and have a stimulating, exhilarating set of recreational activities. The highlight of the Feast was the baptism of 10 people on the Last Great Day, bringing the total number of baptized persons this year to 26, the largest number in the history of this rapidly growing church.

The church, which has an average attendance of 170 in Kingston and about 23 in Ocho Rios, had all but one member attend the Feast, in spite of the economic depression in the country and that members are under economic strain.

This is an indication of the zeal and dedication of the Jamaican CGI. Though just five visited from overseas this Feast, including two ministers, which was a disappointment to the local brethren, offerings were up by 15 percent over last year, when there were 30 visitors.

The sermons were excellent. The first, given by Ian Boyne, gave a global view of problems and challenges affecting the world, including diseases and a range of environmental problems, the Middle East crisis and the global economy.

Mr. Boyne read from reports put out by the World Bank, the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund, all showing that, in his words, "man's system is not delivering the goods and is unsustainable."

Bill Watson, presenter on the Texas-based CGI's Armor of God television program, followed with a message on prophecy, stressing its importance as well as the importance of watching.

But he stressed, too, that it is important to watch not just prophetic trends but one's spiritual life.

Sermons by George Ramocan stressed the importance of the Church of God's maintaining its doctrinal identity and distinctiveness, rejecting the view that "we are just another of the 28,000 churches of Christendom." In a moving presentation, he systematically went through some fundamental doctrines, showing that those who did not believe them could not properly be called Christian.

Other sermons by Mr. Boyne were on mercy and love as well as the superiority of the Christian way of life and Roger King on surviving the lion's den and on the Kingdom of God.

Sermonettes were given by deacons Paul O'Connor and Glenford Smith as well as Gilbert Bell, former minister in the Church of God (Seventh Day) who joined the CGI this year after being convicted about the need to keep the holy days.

The youth choir was sensational, the adult choir pleasing, the special music delightful. The sports day, barbecue beach party and picnics were enjoyable.

There was an early-morning prayer meeting on the beach, but a big event was the annual Herbert W. Armstrong Memorial Speaking Contest in which lay members test their skills in biblical exegesis by presenting one of the doctrines taught by God's church.

This year it was the matter of the deity of Christ. Members were challenged to find the best scholarly and biblical arguments to defend the doctrine as well as the best arguments to rebut its opponents.

For the third year Derrick Allwood went away with the trophy and a $5,000 (Jamaican) cash prize, though he was severely tested this year by two new entrants and new members of the church: second-prize winner Odeth Burton and third-prize winner Erlette Findlay. Odeth left the Church of God (Seventh Day) day and Erlett the sacred-names group Remnant of Yahvah.

Some brethren took the opportunity to fellowship with their brethren in the United Church of God meeting nearby who had a large overseas contingent of 260.

The CGI was also addressed by a UCG Toronto deacon, Jamaican Ken Allen, who gave an emotional appeal for unity among the Churches of God. Ian Boyne, Kingston, Jamaica.

Memories last forever

SAN ANTONIO, Texas--"The Feast is only eight days, but memories last forever." This phrase, coined by Feast coordinator Julian Cruz in his welcoming remarks Friday evening, Oct. 13, set the theme for Feast of Tabernacles 2000 in San Antonio.

The Feast was, by many reports, the best ever. Over the years that I have attended the Feast, I usually felt that the year just celebrated was always the best ever, but this year at San Antonio there was such a feeling of God's love and of brotherly love that my heart almost burst from it.

Most years a saying given in one of the messages becomes the catchphrase for the entirety of the Feast, but this year we found many to hang onto and remember. For example:

  • "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."
  • "Preach the gospel and, if necessary, use words."
  • "The One Another Ministries: Love one another, edify one another, pray for one another, serve one another, etc."
  • "We are in God's army, not the secret service" (that is, we should not be ashamed of Christ and what we believe).
  • The underlying theme of the Feast this year (possibly thanks to the attendance of Dr. Alfred Harrell and others of his Christian Leadership Academy, or CLA) was "personal evangelism."

We had 169 registered brethren who thoroughly enjoyed the loving family atmosphere. The highest attendance was 156.

On Friday evening at the CLA lecture about the Sabbath, Dr. Harrell spoke to 133 people. The public had been invited to this lecture, and it is known for sure that seven of these were non-Sabbath-keepers attending as a result of a flyer or newspaper ad.

All seven took literature and the Church of God San Antonio's business card. Mr. Cruz has telephone numbers of three visitors who want to discuss the Sabbath further.

Several members from the Church of God (Seventh Day) attended, one of whom was a CG7 pastor, Elroy Gold. He was impressed with the "Sabbath" lecture and told Dr. Harrell and Mr. Cruz he wants to get more involved in sponsoring future lectures.

The success of this turnout was helped by the passing out of flyers by most all of the people attending. With encouragement at each service from the pulpit, people were asked to take stacks of flyers and widely distribute them on car windshields or directly to individuals. Many accounts were brought to the pulpit from people who had had exciting experiences with others while distributing the flyers.

Not only were there exciting, inspiring messages from Mr. Cruz, Dr. Harrell, Fred Porter, Luther Waller, Tom Williams, Tim Hall, David Hope, Jim Arnold and John Thom and a special appearance of Ken Westby, but there were workshops each morning, Monday through Thursday, on evangelism given by Dr. Harrell.

The Bible study was given by Dr. Harrell and Lee Davis and a rousing, animated testimony by Billy Stefek, who felt the word evangelism should be replaced with stewardship.

Each day's service was highlighted by one of the congregation's children reading a scripture and a great music program with many special-music presentations by adults and children.

Youth Bible classes were conducted daily, and youth-day activities were much appreciated.

All was not just edification. There was much planned to do by the coordinator. The first evening saw finger food and fellowship; the second night brought Mexican appetizers, mariachi music and fellowship. On Sunday were a barbecue dinner and a clown for the children and music by Tom Williams and the Pickin' & Grinnin' players, with much dancing going on.

On Monday a hamburger feast was provided at a park with a pinata for the children. The fun show brought a great variety of acts. After these special events came plenty of time for family and friends to get together and see the sights of San Antonio. In San Antonio this year we surely rejoiced before the Lord! Rosy Halley, Chandler, Texas.

Building godly families

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn.--Fine warm weather graced the Sevierville Feast of Tabernacles Oct. 14-21. This Feast observance was sponsored by United Christian Ministries of Birmingham, Ala.

The Feast was nestled in the Smoky Mountains with a theme of family: the human family and the family of God.

Feastgoers rode horses through the Smokies and shopped, dined and listened to sermons, lectures and Bible studies.

Ray Wooten, founder of UCG, spoke about the human father and God, the heavenly Father.

Other speakers included Jeff Ledy, George Crow, Floyd Spears, Wes White, Rodger Sandsmark and Jim Aschenbrenner.

Linda White gave a lecture on women's role in the church. I didn't know it was open to men.

Jeff and Sharon Ledy gave seminars on building godly families.

Alan Ruth gave a seminar on the cyberchurch.

Other presenters were Billy Hower, Keith Calvert, Terry Post and Fred Mobley.

Thirty-four people from Michigan traveled over the Smokies into North Carolina to go white-water rafting. I was invited. Several turned over and fell into the water. I managed not to fall out.

Thursday I went to the laundry with Becca Blevins and Peggy Wooten. Thursday night was the talent show, with the theme "The Barber of Sevierville."

Billy Howell was the barber. Mr. Wooten sat in the barber's chair telling jokes. Yours truly played the harmonica. Floyd Spears played the guitar and cut up with some jokes.

All in all, it was one of the best Feasts ever. Larry Graff, House Springs, Mo.

Wisconsin interdependents

WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis.--"This has been the greatest Feast spiritually I have ever experienced."

"It's the most creative and electronically advanced Feast site I've been to."

"I've spent many Feasts in the Dells, and this was by far the best ever."

So went comments from the Wisconsin Dells interdependent site sponsored by the Minneapolis Church of God, the Church of God Berean Fellowship and the Church of God Big Sandy.

"This was my 48th Feast, since 1953 in Big Sandy, Texas, said Garry Pifer, member of a Bloomington, Ill, interdependent church. "It was the best Feast from a spiritual standpoint. I came back more fired up and charged up to study into various topics. So much at this Feast centered on Matthew 25:35-40. It has inspired us to do more in our community throughout the year."

It was our hope and prayer that everyone could experience a spiritually uplifting Feast this year. More than a few here said it was, indeed, their best. We were reminded of what pure religion is about and were inspired to make a difference.

We walked with a brother through his years of deep depression, gaining insight into the dangerous combination of "arrogance and ignorance" in those purporting to "help."

Together we found much to learn of God's protection and love for us in "Lessons from the Succah."

Interactive sessions revealed a wealth of wisdom and faith-building experiences among our brothers and sisters. Interaction extended as far away as Texas, utilizing the Internet. Our tech crew enhanced services by projecting scriptures and references for all to see.

Our young adventurers, ages 5-11, used their "Feast travel kits" to follow a map to the treasure (God's Word).

Activities, crafts and music served to instill life lessons throughout the week that ended with the children sharing their enthusiasm in song with the congregation.

Ladies found inspiration in an interactive seminar on prayer, stating enthusiastically:

"The woman's prayer seminar was excellent."

Said another:

"I've never been to anything like that. I almost feel this meant the most to me at this Feast. It picked up my spirits a lot."

We broke bread together and bonded in such a short time during the "steak-out," family dance, fun show and family hike.

The only downside?

According to our youths (speaking for us all), it only lasted eight days. Scarlet Geiger, Helenville, Wis.

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