Feast sites can leave lasting impressions

By Darlene Warren

BIG SANDY, Texas--From Acapulco to Uvongo, from Gettysburg to Gatlinburg, Church of God members will gather to observe the Feast of Tabernacles again in just a few short weeks. No matter where you attend the Feast, you can rest assured there will be plenty of food, fun, fellowship and sermons (unless you are attending a Feast with no sermons) throughout the eight-day festival.

Even though thousands of brethren around the world will celebrate this most anticipated event in modern church history, we all acknowledge the many variations of traditions that abound among members.

In my early days of Feast observance, the Feast consisted of camping out in the pineywoods of East Texas with two services each day and sometimes an evening service thrown in for good measure. The campground was filled with people having a good time and finding pleasure in each other's company. The daily cares of school and employment were buried at home for many of us, not to be resurrected for at least eight days.

Everyone came. Only the hospitalized or most critically ill remained behind. For years in Big Sandy a man attended who had to be rolled into services on a hospital bed. A lovely lady I had the pleasure of knowing for years, now deceased, attended even though she was crippled with rheumatoid arthritis and spent much of her day in a wheelchair.

One day on the way back from the bathhouse her daughter accidentally tipped her out of her wheelchair, but even that didn't deter her from having a good time. Early Feastgoers were an enthusiastic group.

South of the border

As the years passed, we as a people became somewhat more sophisticated. With Feast sites opening up all over the world, many left Big Sandy for the bright lights of such places as St. Petersburg, Hawaii, Acapulco and numerous European locations.

A Feast with no sermons isn't exactly a new concept. Any Feast where you must listen to services through a headset would qualify in that regard.

Take Acapulco as an example. By the time the translator came to the end of his sentence, I had forgotten the beginning of it.

It has been several years since we visited there, but it was worth the trip. Where else would the hotel employee escort you and your family to your room and, upon finding a late check-out still in the shower, open the door and demand he remove himself posthaste. That was an eye-opening experience.

Where else but Acapulco would your husband purchase a pair of white leather shoes (all in the name of a good bargain) and come home looking like Ricardo Montalban welcoming visitors to Fantasy Island?

Or, when inquiring of a local restaurant owner the outcome of a World Series game, the proprietor promptly snatches the only newspaper in the establishment away from a local who's already reading it and gives it to you?

Where else but Acapulco do they hide tomato slices inside your grilled-cheese sandwich? Do you know how difficult it is to extract a tomato slice from melted cheese? Trust me, you will find a way if you haven't eaten since you've crossed the border.

Quaint little villages here and there

Now Cape Cod, Mass., that's an interesting place. It is undeniably one of the most beautiful places on the U.S. East Coast, famous for its gorgeous sand dunes, jutting coastline, artist colonies, and quaint cottages, known worldwide as the first place the Pilgrims called home.

Only 116 million tourists visit each year, and, except for the Kennedy clan, everyone must enter and exit on the one road that leads on and off this most popular of coastal locales.

That's only half the problem. The other half is that up north "traffic circles" ("roundabouts," for you Brits) abound. (They're designed to trip up us Southerners.)

Before reaching the road that leads to Cape Cod, you must enter one of these traffic circles and hope you shoot off at the right angle that will intercept with the one-lane road leading to the Cape, otherwise you could spend a goodly portion of your Feast circling this Old World invention.

Not coincidentally, there's a small town in the near vicinity that is aptly named Buzzards Bay. Yankee ingenuity has been grossly underestimated. Don't kid me, they know exactly what they're doing. The same people who designed that roadway sent an engineer to Missouri when the Lake of the Ozarks site was being built.

Family togetherness

Although not always possible, many families traditionally try to spend the Feast together. Grandchildren, parents, children, aunts, uncles and cousins all combined at one Feast site can be a wonderful experience.

The year we attended at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., proved to be the year a large number of our family was able to convene together. I'll never forget that year. We stayed at a place called the Clearview Motel. Unfortunately, the only thing we had a clear view of was the parking lot.

I knew we had a problem the moment we stepped into the room and found a flyswatter lying on the bed. That was the year I began my personal tradition of never walking barefoot in a motel room. That was the year my son got the flu and threw up on the doormat outside our room. That was the year my daughter, only days before the Feast, fell while roller-skating and broke her arm. We were not a happy family that year.

European vacation

Although I've never been to a European feast site, someday I just might make it. If I ever do, I'm determined to avoid the museums, ancient cathedrals and more-popular tourist attractions.

What does capture my imagination are those fascinating crop circles that appear overnight. Where do they come from? What or who could be causing them? Is this a supernatural phenomenon?

Or could it be a crazed fellow church member experiencing flashbacks of the year he attended the Feast at Cape Cod? The truth is out there.

Have a great Feast of Tabernacles!

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