Feasts focus on Kingdom through lens of Sept. 11
Following are the first reports Feastgoers have sent to The Journal on the 2001 Feast of Tabernacles. More reports from Feast sites are planned for the November and December issues. For guidelines to submitting your Feast report and optional photographs, please see the article beginning on page 24 of the Sept. 30 issue.

Reports are alphabetical according to location. The name of the writer appears after each report.

Feast in cabins and a houseboat

CENTER HILL LAKE, Tenn.--A group of brethren from East Texas, Boston and Illinois assembled the evening of Oct. 1 through Oct. 9 to meet and fellowship with each other and our Creator, the Eternal God, for His harvest festival.

Most of us kept the Feast together last year in Destin, Fla., and found it to be enriching and spiritually uplifting, so we wanted to have a similar experience this year. We kept the Feast in cabins (and a houseboat!) around Center Hill Lake in central Tennessee. The foliage on the hills was changing to the subtle autumn beauty of faded gold and burgundy, a relaxing and beautiful setting.

Most of our days consisted of meals and fellowship, with a highlight and focal point each day of a two-hour Bible study with prayer, song, reading and discussion.

We studied the Feast of Tabernacles and offerings by fire with Hebrews 12:29 (God is a consuming fire); Zephaniah 1:18 (all the earth will be devoured), with 1 Peter 1:5 (we are protected by the power of God through faith); how to act when brethren have different beliefs with Philippians 2:1-18 (be united in spirit, consider others' interests, and have an attitude like Christ's); the Feast of Tabernacles and why do we keep it, with Leviticus 23:43 (live in booths to remember the Israelites in the desert); and the first and second deaths, Revelation 20.

One day we went to another Feast site, in Nashville, and heard a sermon by Harold Smith on current events and how we need to focus on the prophecies of the Bible to prepare for the times to come.

Another day we went to Crossville to another Feast site to hear a sermon by Bill Rollins on David's desire in Psalm 27 to dwell in His house, to behold His beauty and to meditate in His temple and how those should also be our desires.

I think everyone who was here would agree we are discovering a new way to keep the Feast. We were all much spiritually blessed and fulfilled, and I am sure we will all be excited to meet again next year.

Margot Cardenas and Nathan Rollins.

Three Corpus Christi sites

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas--This year my wife and I visited at three Feast sites, all in the same general location. Our temporary dwelling was a condo at Port Royal, Mustang Island, near the city of Corpus Christi.

As far as I know, all of these sites met on the traditional dates and times.

The Cornerstone and CGOM sites did not have services on Sunday. Families were encouraged to spend time together.

We were joined in our condo by our daughter and her family and were thrilled to spend some time with them, especially our grandchildren.

Port Royal Resort has a large swimming pool with a water slide, hot tubs and easy access to the beach. We took a boat ride to a nearby island to look for seashells, fish and dolphins and soak up some sunshine.

I thought some of your readers might be interested in attending in this area next year. This report should be read with the understanding that it is viewed from my background and personal point of view. I hope there will be reports from others attending these sites as well.

I have kept the Feast since 1972. I attend services in East Texas.

  • Mustang Island, Port Royal Resort, Cornerstone Publications, Texarkana, Texas (Jim Rector): This was a smaller group of enthusiastic brethren with a Messianic flavor. The songs were led by Randy Rondeau from the Winnipeg Assembly of Yahweh.

Although most of the music was new to me, it didn't take me long to learn the melody and sing along. There were also presentations of special music and Hebrew dance.

I found everyone friendly and enjoyed meaningful conversation.

There were many activities planned, and services were not cut short. Information and literature were available on a table in the back. Some of the services were interactive, and this was the first Feast I have ever attended where I actually got to give my comments.

Services were just a short walk from my room. In case I forgot to say it, thank you to all those who made this site possible.

  • Corpus Christi, Church of God Outreach Ministries: The CGOM brethren met at the Holiday Inn on Corpus Christi Bay. This was a little larger group but still filled with enthusiasm. The services were somewhat more like I was used to, but with a little more audience participation.

The building was so full that we had to have a little help finding seats. The sermons were given with power and conviction, and the song service rang out with feeling.

There was a presentation about an ad to be placed in a national newspaper by CGOM that deals with the terrorist attack on America and our alliance with Israel and an offer concerning "an ancient book with answers to modern questions."

This group had a fish fry, dance and musical presentation, along with other activities.

Thanks also to Julian Cruz and the San Antonio church and all others who participated for sponsoring this site. Please come back next year.

  • Corpus Christi, United Church of God an International Association, Milford, Ohio: The United Church of God met again in the downtown convention center. Services were much the same as in the past years I have attended, although the numbers seemed to be down somewhat.

The meeting place is spacious, with plenty of seating and a large stage for the song service and sermon givers.

Among those giving the sermons were the names of longtime ministers I was familiar with from my years with the Worldwide Church of God.

Near the center is a museum, the Texas State Aquarium, the USS Lexington battleship and many other attractions, including two shopping malls. Thanks to the people of the UCG for providing this site.

I highly recommend the Corpus Christ area for a great Feast of Tabernacles location. There are plenty of good restaurants, a beautiful beach and a warm ocean. The climate of the area and the warmth of friends can make for a glorious Feast. Duane Giles, Palestine, Texas.

Focus on your family

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas--A full moon in the sky reflecting off the water, swaying palms, warm gentle breezes, the soft sound of waves lapping against the shore: Doesn't this sound millennial? The 200 brethren attending the Feast at Corpus Christi thought so.

Add to that the scenery and the multitude of brethren rejoicing, fellowshipping, laughing and crying together, listening to our God's Holy Word and praising Him with words and music and, except for the Millennium, it couldn't be better.

Our glorious Feast at the Holiday Inn Emerald Beach in Corpus Christi began on Monday evening with finger foods and fellowship, followed by an opening-service welcome by our Feast coordinator, Julian Cruz.

Each day's services consisted of congregational singing led by Mike Cruz, with the words to the hymns projected on a screen. Scripture readings were given each day by the younger members at the Feast site: Brice McNautt, Jennifer Calvert, Jason Curb, Brian Gawith, Brooks Willhoite, Ashley Stefek and David Daniels. It added a family flavor to the services with our youth participating.

The sermons given each day were always inspiring, educational and timely. The speakers were Julian Cruz, Alfred Harrell, Dan Johnson, Tom Williams, David Hope, Jim Arnold, Ron Davis, Tim Hall, Fred Porter, John Thom, Matthew Steel and Ron Willhoite.

The special music was ample and expertly done by various persons and groups, including the festival choir conducted by Ron Davis, the San Antonio choir and individual offerings by Luther Waller, John Thom, Mike Sloan, Mike Cruz, Billy Stefek, Ron Davis, Al Smalley and Shelly Thom, plus Ashley Stefek, Jennifer Calvert and others of the youth group. (For those of you whose names I did not get, I apologize.)

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons, Dr. Harrell of the Christian Leadership Academy held workshops on evangelism and the pursuit of truth. These were well attended, with thought-provoking questions and a multitude of answers from the audience.

From these workshops Dr. Harrell obtained interesting answers on ways to evangelize such as projects that wouldn't take an organized effort, projects that would take an organized effort (emphasis on advertising) and projects that could be done by individuals or local churches. The varied and interesting things that people brought out were amazing. Dr. Harrell will incorporate these ideas into his continuing teachings.

On Tuesday evening we were treated to a Mexican dinner and mariachi band. They provided everyone lots of good music and many laughs.

On Wednesday evening a clown entertained the children, but I think the children had just as much fun as did the adults later in the evening when Tom Williams and the Pickin' and Grinnin' Band took over the bandstand, playing and singing while those who were so inclined danced.

On Thursday evening we were treated to a fish fry at Cole Park Amphitheater and some more Pickin' and Grinnin' music. The fry was a gift to us all from the Little Rock congregation, which provided more fish than we could eat.

Friday evening a Bible study was presented by James Ussery that was enjoyed by all.

Saturday evening was the family-night fun show, with upwards of 19 acts.

The acts ran from jokes, magic, songs, violin pieces, hillbilly humor, a dance by the CLA Raisinettes and One Old Prune and a skit on the harmful effects of jealousy to the surprise visit from the King, Elvis! A great time was had by all.

On the Sabbath afternoon a baptism took place. We welcomed John Van Westen as our brother in Christ.

The pool was also being used that day as a birthday party, and, as John came up out of the water, the children at the party were singing "Happy Birthday."

Sunday was designated Focus on Your Family Day and was a free day. No activities were planned until the afternoon, when a bay cruise on a paddle wheeler was taken along the beautiful bayfront.

Monday was youth day, with Jason Curb as song leader. All the special music was provided by the young people, with a children's choir and individuals singing.

On the Last Great Day a blessing of the children took place. With the singing of "God Be With You" and almost everyone crying, our eight days of rejoicing before the Lord was over. Time to start gearing up for next year! Rosy Halley, Chandler, Texas.

Big Sandy Feast in Florida

DESTIN, Fla.--The Church of God Big Sandy sponsored feasts this year in Big Sandy, Texas; Wisconsin Dells, Wis.; Angel Fire, N.M.; and Lihue, Hawaii; as well as Destin.

The Destin site had 230 in attendance. The Big Sandy group heard from two speakers visiting from the CEM site (in nearby Niceville) and sent two speakers to the CEM site.

This writer asked Dave Havir, pastor of the sponsoring church, why the sites aren't combined since the two groups--the COG Big Sandy and CEM--are obviously not antagonists.

"That's a good question," he said. "But by having them separate more people get a chance to speak. We follow a more traditional format that some people feel more comfortable with. Our group is smaller, and some people like that too."

Mr. Havir recognized that people were "free agents" and are going back and forth between the sites. Some speakers can help one person, while others are spiritually fed by others. Mr. Havir spoke at both sites.

The Big Sandy site featured teen classes and seminars. There was one interactive Bible study.

On Thursday, Oct. 4, Mr. Havir gave a sermon on spiritual sacrifices that included a role-playing game within the sermon.

It emphasized that God wants us to be merciful, not condemning of others. We should obey God from the heart.

During the sermon Mr. Havir stepped to the side. Three young people consecutively came to the podium to talk with him from a written script about what true followers of Jesus do. They were Mr. Havir's son David III, 20, Jessica Wilson, 17, and Reaghan Francis, 16. The play illustrated the practical application of true Christianity.

The sermon concluded with Mr. Havir role-playing with his other son, Jonathan, 17 (who was baptized in the Gulf of Mexico during the Feast). In this skit Jonathan played the victim in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Mr. Havir played a reporter who asked him questions such as "How did you feel about the people who didn't help you and the Samaritan who did?"

I asked Mr. Havir why he used this method. "People listen better when you vary from a normal sermon," he said. "The teens in our audience listen carefully if a teen is doing the speaking."

This sermon was hooked up to the Wisconsin Dells Feast site via the Internet.

Lenny Cacchio spoke about how a true Christian practices his faith.

"Much of Christianity is a save-yourself religion," he said.

God has not given us the spirit of fear, but some look at prophecy that way, he said.

"Luke 4:18-19 says Christ didn't come just to preach but to heal the brokenhearted."

Mr. Cacchio said we should be a giving people. We should pray for our neighbors and for people who don't know God.

He exhorted us to do something on behalf of repenting for the nation. He pointed to Nehemiah 1:4-11, which records that God's servants took the sins of the nation upon themselves. He said that Daniel also prayed that way (Daniel 9:1-19).

We can pray on behalf of America. We should not take the approach that "we are God's people, we are okay, and God is punishing them." Bill Stough, Lonedell, Mo.

Salvation Army at the Feast

GLENDALE, Ore.--For the seventh year the Omega Praise Fellowship of Southern Oregon sponsored the Feast of Celebration at Fir Point Bible Camp in Glendale. As in the past, Omega Praise followed the traditional Jewish calendar to determine the dates of the festival, beginning the evening of Oct. 1 and ending Oct. 9.

The festival was somewhat different from what we were accustomed to in that everyone either stayed in RVs or in primitive cabins. Meals were provided by the staff of the camp. This arrangement allowed everyone to eat together and enjoy table fellowship at least three times each day.

The weather was beautiful the entire Feast, enabling many to eat their meals outside in the "community sukkah."

Each morning the group of about 60 feasters would assemble at the dining hall for breakfast. After the dishes were done (which became the responsibility of the men), everyone would move to the "chapel" for the morning praise, worship and study.

Each morning's service would begin with the blowing of the shofar, followed by the waving of the lulav, a Jewish tradition that grew out of a literal interpretation of Leviticus 23:40. This was followed by the recital of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

Praise and worship consisted of songs of both Messianic and traditional gospel flavor with taped accompaniment. The local talent also contributed heavily to the worship with guitar, violin and piano pieces. During most songs a majority of the attendees would participate in Hebraic circle dancing to further enhance the worship service.

Messages were presented by a variety of speakers from various backgrounds including Roger Davis, the head of the Salvation Army in Grants Pass, Ore., who had recently moved his congregation from Sunday worship to the Sabbath. Other speakers were Bob Salmon, Jim Sorenson, Dean Wheelock and Tim Kelley.

A highlight of the festival was the rehearsal of the Water-Pouring Celebration, a ceremony during the time of Ezra's temple that Yeshua (Jesus) likely participated in (John 7:37-39).

Before the rehearsal the men set up the camp's baseball field to portray the layout of the temple area of Jerusalem. That evening everyone who wanted to participate donned "priestly garments" and took part in the celebration, either as a priest accompanying the "high priest" who gathered the water or as a priest who waved the willows around the altar. Everyone enjoyed the opportunity to learn by doing.

Omega Praise Fellowship did not take up offerings during the festival, so one of the ways feasters helped defray the costs of the festival was to participate in the festival auction. Everyone brought something to sell, and everyone bid on the items. Oftentimes bidding wars would begin between friends or even between mates, resulting in items often selling for many times their value. It was a fun way to raise money for a good cause.

. Tim Kelley, Hawkins, Texas.

Like minds like the Feast

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH, Fla.--Several members of the Likeminds Internet forum met for the Feast here Oct. 1-9. The gathering was not an official Likeminds Feast. In fact, there was no such thing. But at more than one location, understands The Journal, friends who have gotten to know each other on Likeminds got together this year at the Feast.

One such gathering was in Indian Rocks Beach, a few miles north of St. Petersburg, in the condominium rented by George and Pam Dewey of Allegan, Mich.

The Likeminds brethren, about 18 of them, on Oct. 3 studied Philippians 1, about Jesus being preached.

Services began at 10 in the morning, more or less. At 4 in the afternoon several of the brethren were still there. First had come an hour of singing to the guitar accompaniment of Richard Fox of Nashville, Tenn. Then came the formal discussion of Philippians 1, all interactive, with virtually everyone participating in the interesting discussion.

Then came a discussion of an hour or so of Jeff Booth's sermon of the previous day.

The Likeminds brethren had heard about Mr. Booth's startling sermon, at a nearby Feast site, concerning the terrorist attacks and the need for the brethren to support America's efforts to root out and punish the terrorists, even militarily. (For more on Mr. Booth's sermon, see the lead article on page 1 of this issue.)

Then came a discussion prompted by questions from a Journal writer concerning the Likeminds forum itself. The information gleaned by the Journal representative will probably appear as an article about Likeminds in a soon-coming issue of this newspaper. Dixon Cartwright, Big Sandy, Texas.

Christians and reality

KISSIMMEE, Fla.--Christian Commandment Keepers, based in Anaheim, Calif., the site of the original Disneyland theme park, sponsored a Feast of Tabernacles site in the other land of Disney, the Orlando, Fla., area.

Mark and Linda Kaplan and relatives and friends observed the Feast here at the Four Points Sheraton about a mile and a half from the entrance to Disney World.

Dr. Kaplan, a former rabbinical student, teaches English as a second language at schools of higher learning in Southern California. Here he played host to a group of about 65 of the brethren, some who had come from overseas.

One man told this writer, on the Last Great Day, Oct. 9, that he had traveled to Florida for this festival observance because he had read about it beforehand in The Journal.

On the day this writer attended, Steve Sidars of Pagosa Springs, Colo., delivered the sermon, about God and the nature of human existence.

Humans live in a "fantasy land," said Mr. Sidars. Physical existence is not real; human beings will not realize reality until the Kingdom of God.

"This box, this fantasy world, that we call our lives" is not reality, he said; people only think it is real. "Compared with what God has in store for us, these things are not real."

The Christian Commandment Keepers' observance on the last day of the Feast included special music by Janelle and Marissa Sidars, daughters of Steve and Marci Sidars. Marissa played the harp, and Janelle played the violin. Dixon Cartwright, Big Sandy, Texas.

Reflections on Lake Texoma

LAKE TEXOMA, Okla.--All who came to rejoice before the Lord did so with great thanksgiving for His blessings and for bringing us together again for the fifth consecutive year at Lake Texoma. Yes, there will be a Feast here again in 2002.

This was my 30th Feast, and I wanted to reflect on it by thanking all who made the decorations unsurpassed, the special music praiseworthy and the Sabbath-school classes second to none. Where else can the younger children's chorus receive a standing ovation on children's day and richly deserve it?

The fish fry and Bojohnson Trio show were big hits. One of the seminars was given by Loy Baker, who generously shared some of his World War II experiences with us.

Many gave of their time and talents to enhance the enjoyment of the Feast and give glory to God. Perhaps you would like to give a little at the Feast. Think about it for next year.

Along that line, I was thinking about Feast 2002 already, and it came to mind that it represents the Kingdom of God and that the Kingdom will usher in a time of healing: of our land and nation, our mind and bodies and our families and marriages.

Although I don't regulate the speakers' topics for seminars (volunteers) or sermons (assigned), perhaps we could reflect on healing in all its applications past, present and future. Take at least one day this year and think and pray about it. Yes, even fast, not to make your voice heard on high but to listen to what your Creator and Healer has to say on this subject (and He has much to say).

Let the winds of doctrine blow on by while we get down to some serious business. The time is short. Steven J. Kieler, Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Life-revealing occasion

NAIROBI, Kenya--If there was any life-revealing occasion in my life, it was this year's Feast of Tabernacles sponsored by the True Church of God, presenters of The World Tomorrow.

It began with the opening-night message, which established a beginning of a totally different life in a totally different world. Citing the current evil activities surrounding today's life, the message threw us forward to the solution, the world tomorrow, when the Kingdom of God will rule over the earth, with the spirit of the knowledge of God covering the whole earth in the same way the water covers the ocean (Isaiah 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14).

With that mind dominating everyone in the Feast, it really portrayed the unified family of God. The spiritual fruits of joy, love and peace were evident in everyone all through, confirming this. The entire congregation of 20 people decided to share all things. That is, we looked together and ate together, without anybody trying to dislodge any plan agreed upon.

It was actually a repeat of the first-century church's condition, when the early Christians had all things in common (Acts 4:32).

After the first-day holiday, which was packed with spiritual inspiration about life in the Kingdom, the second day was greeted with a jubilant beach walk for the entire congregation that broke shortly for a delicious packed lunch on the beach.

United in that same world-tomorrow spirit, we spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach, improvising games and swimming. It was the most ecstatic occasion in our lives, in a group in which everybody was free, happy, contented and fully belonging. There were all sorts of activities, with everybody carefully attending to them according to the law of liberty to the best of his knowledge.

For the first time since I began to attend feasts, life in the Kingdom of God fully become clear in my mind, and I was able to see the fruits of following God's Word. With this understanding, we all saw the benefits of God's Kingdom ruling over the earth, and at the end of the Feast we began to seriously pray that the Kingdom would come.

How are we doing it? Everybody is yearning for next year's Feast, and we speculate that the last Feast will be in Jerusalem, at table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the saints who were before us, when Christ begins His 1,000-year rule on earth, the real Feast of Tabernacles.

For more information about the True Church of God and The World Tomorrow, write P.O. Box 12035, Nairobi, Kenya. Waema J. Mutulu, Nairobi, Kenya.

Joyful and uplifting Feast

NICEVILLE, Fla. -- Almost 1,000 officially registered attendees, in addition to many visitors from other nearby Feast sites, celebrated a joyful and fulfilling Feast of Tabernacles at the CEM Feast site here this year. For the third year the beautiful Okaloosa-Walton Community College in Niceville was the location for youth classes, seminars and services.

This Feast was organized and operated by the CEM Festival Association, a volunteer organization that is open to anyone who would like to help put on the Feast. More than 200 members contributed to the success of this year's Feast. The vision for the CEM Festival Association is to make the Feast for God, of the people and by the people.

The CEM Feast got off to a stirring start when Mindy Czuchra sang the Sandi Patti arrangement of "The Star Spangled Banner," complete with a waving American flag projected onto a huge screen behind her. Mindy has a voice that is able to hit that extra octave that is Sandi Patti's trademark, and when she launched into another verse of the anthem it was hard to keep a dry eye.

Worship of God in music has been a strong point of the CEM Feast every year since its founding. This year built on that tradition and improved upon it by devoting one day's song-service time to contemporary praise-and-worship music. A band consisting of seven accompanists along with four vocalists enhanced the service, all led by Brent Kern. The praise and worship was well received by almost everyone, even some who had some doubts initially.

Sermons were given by Ron Dart, Steve Sanders, Larry Watkins, John Reedy and Mike Linacre. Additionally, on two days there were guest speakers from the Church of God Big Sandy Feast site nearby. A longtime minister in the Church of God, C. Wayne Cole of Tyler, Texas, spoke one day, and on the Sabbath during the Feast the afternoon sermon was given by Dave Havir of Big Sandy.

The guest speakers received a warm and enthusiastic welcome. Much to the approval of the audience, Mr. Havir concluded his sermon by inviting UCG elder Jeff Osborn and his family to sing a song.

Thus on this day the CEM festival site heard a sermon by a minister from another Feast site that was concluded by music presented by a UCG elder. The wall that has been keeping God's people apart may not be down, but at least this may have loosened a brick or two in it.

Youth-day services at Niceville were special for all involved. The services were not just "for" the youth, but every part of services was conducted by the youth. Terri Osborn did an outstanding job as song leader.

Precious Yutangco's and Aaron Quinn's short testimonies about their lives as Christians held everyone's interest.

The main message was a sermonette given by Bob Quinn. Special music was provided by the youth choir. The highlight was a play about the Exodus titled "Did Pharaoh Get Stuck in the Mud?" that involved youths of all ages.

Each day's activities began with classes for the youths and a selection of seminars for anyone to attend.

The youth classes utilized CEM youth lessons specially prepared for the Feast. Five age-groups, each with its own lesson plan and theme, attracted almost 100 students of all ages each day.

Class activities were highly interactive and tailored to each age-group for best appeal and the most fun as well as learning. CEM has prepared four years' worth of special festival lessons for each age-group so that each year every youth will have a completely different set of lessons.

While the classes were taking place there was a series of seminars open to anyone to attend. Another 100 people attended the seminars each day. A well-rounded range of subjects and speakers provided something for almost everyone.

One of the seminars was so popular that it had to be repeated during the Feast. Last summer, before the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Mike Linacre agreed to give a seminar titled "Islam and New Testament Christianity." On the first day of seminars there was not room for everyone who wanted to see Mr. Linacre's presentation, so a special repeat was arranged for later in the Feast. The repeat also drew an overflow crowd.

When not attending services there was plenty else to do in and around Destin, Niceville and Fort Walton Beach. One night an entire video arcade was reserved for the teens to play video games, air hockey and the big hit of the evening, laser tag. In fact, the younger set was kept busy throughout the week with activities including a beach party, teen dance and roller-skating party.

Family was the focus of many activities. A family dance, complete with 17-piece swing orchestra, provided the music, giving an opportunity for the young folks to surprise the older crowd by kicking up their heels. Many of the 50-and-over bunch didn't realize the youngsters knew how to swing.

For the more laid-back believer, the annual ice-cream social, along with the ever-popular family picnic, provided great opportunities for fellowship (and good food). These events, along with the family dance, were paid for by the Festival Association and were free to all comers.

Many brethren took advantage of the other activities planned by the Festival Association. These included minigolf for preteens, a golf scramble, separate luncheons for singles and seniors and cruises for dinner, dolphin watching and sightseeing.

Of course the tricity area of Destin, Niceville and Fort Walton Beach also boasts a fine variety of eateries, from fast food to fabulous. God's people certainly took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the hospitality of the Emerald Coast's cuisine.

The CEM Festival Association is already planning how to make next year's Feast even better. Volunteers are needed in almost every area, and it is never too soon to start planning for next year. Jim Ross, De Soto, Texas.

Living, CES and United

NOOSA HEADS, Australia--I attended three Australian Feast sites with my wife and our 3-year-old boy. These were all along the eastern Australian coastline in the state of Queensland, within a two-hour drive of each other.

· The Living Church of God held the Feast in Tugun, along the Gold Coast, south of Brisbane. This is an area of beautiful beaches with a string of interconnected towns: Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach, Burleigh Heads, Corrumbin, Tugun, Coolangatta and Tweed Heads. The Gold Coast is a premier Australian vacation spot with a surplus of tourist attractions.

Weather was perfect: sunshine and more sunshine. The license plates in Queensland call it "Sunshine State."

Bruce Tyler, head of the LCG in Australia and the Pacific Rim, began the first service with a big welcome to the 150 attending from all over Australia, including 30 Americans and a few Asians. The welcoming message was brought via videotape from San Diego, Calif., by Dr. Rod Meredith, who went through the scriptures in Zechariah, Acts and Revelation pertaining to the Millennium.

During the four days we spent there, sermons were given by Mr. Tyler, Darrell Tanner, Jim Meredith, Bob Teal and Ben Whitfield. Subjects included ruling in the Kingdom of God, Moses and the Ten Commandments and the Feast, giving and serving during the Feast, restoring apostolic faith, tithing, and guarding against deception.

Mr. Tyler also gave a report on his recent trip to India to visit a large group requesting to become part of the LCG. Evidently he was following a well-worn path because this group had received money from other Church of God organizations and appeared to have a mission of obtaining funds without a strong scriptural foundation of basic beliefs.

The fellowship was great, and the interacting of cultures was interesting. Two Asian members, one from Kuala Lumpur and one from Singapore, spent much time scurrying around with their video cameras as stereotypical tourists.

Since I have lived in Australia for a year and know the ropes, I am amused watching Americans adjust. The fish-out-of-water syndrome applies. I had never really noticed how arrogantly many Americans conduct themselves when they arrive on these shores. An air of superiority is often evident. Things should be done everywhere as they are in America.

Not true. Although many daily-life operations are less convenient in Australia, many other ways of doing things are more efficient and environmentally sound.

October is springtime in Australia. During the Feast there was an astounding abundance of flowers everywhere, red, pink, blue, yellow, white, every color of the rainbow. Plus colorful birds of every type make it a real paradise.

On the first day, the lunch meal was catered by a local company that did an excellent job. The caterers served beef and lamb spit roast, and one of the servers was heard to comment, "All the Australians chose lamb, and all the Americans chose beef"--simply a difference in cultures.

· Our next Feast site was at North Stradbroke Island, which is reached by ferry. Christian Educational Services (associated with Christian Educational Ministries, Ron Dart, Tyler, Texas) has used this area for several years. It is picturesque with stunning cliff walks, whale watching and pristine beaches.

This group of 100 was friendly and produced superb special music and rousing hymns that some of the other COGs could learn from. There was an excitement and enthusiasm for praising God through song that I haven't seen in other places. I have long thought the boring musical scores of the old hymnals are in serious need of revision. I was told, "Well, they are the Psalms." True, but the music is not.

Geoff Robertson of the Rochedale Fellowship of the Brisbane area organized the Feast on "Straddie," as the island is known locally. We felt comfortable with the group, which seemed to follow biblical principles without the rigidity found elsewhere.

Messages were given on the mystery of God and little children and a Kingdom of God sermon by a pastor of a Seventh Day Baptist Church of Auckland, New Zealand, Ian Ingoe.

There was a presentation for the children projected on a screen of images of lions and lambs and stars of the universe that gave them excellent visual imagery of the Kingdom of God, not just old men preaching words out of a book. This was a wonderful method to teach the young people.

When discussing some of the other COGs with this group in the gathering place they had for pizza and ice cream and such, I found their attitude to be wonderful. They have a theme of "building bridges, not fences."

  • The United Church of God held the Feast in Noosa Heads, perhaps one of the most beautiful spots in Australia. The whole area is impressive, with outstanding accommodations, beaches, nature walks through the national parks, river cruises, boat rentals and bistros and shops along the riverfront that leads to the ocean.

The community center in which services were held was a spacious, isolated building, just perfect for the 250 attending. We spent the last two days with the brethren there and heard messages from Graemme Marshall, Reg Wright and Allen Hamilton on the subjects of miracles, kings in training and the human potential.

Mr. Marshall received a farewell round of applause for his service because he is being reassigned to Canada and replaced by Bill Bradford, who has served in Australia before.

One of the themes the UCG is stressing at the moment is the aspect of servant leadership, the efforts to preach the gospel and care for the people.

Unfortunately, we arrived at the UCG site a bit late to build many new friendships, but we did encounter old friends from Big Sandy, Texas, Charles and Barbara Black, and spent an enjoyable evening with them.

Overall, these three organizations all held uplifting and enlightening Feasts, certainly with different approaches, but all focused on the meaning of the Feast Days. John Dickerson, Canberra, Australia.

Different calendars, same Feast

ROBBERS CAVE STATE PARK, Okla.--This Feast site was sponsored by Truth on the Web Ministries ( Brian and Ken Hoeck of Truth on the Web selected the site and planned the activities. They were helped by other brethren in making it one of the best Feasts ever.

I want to be wherever God wants me to be for the Feast. Earlier in the year I did not know where it would be. I had seriously considered three other places. Even though I had finally made reservations at one of them, none seemed right.

Then one day I received an E-mail from Brian Hoeck, whom I knew as a member of my Calendar Information Forum ( We had started the forum to discuss what God would want us to do pertaining to His appointed times (which days He would want us to keep).

Brian said a few members of the forum (who all believed the same way about the calendar) planned to meet at Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma.

We all believed God wanted us to start the biblical month according to the observation of the new moon (first sighting of the crescent) in Jerusalem. Immediately after reading this invitation I knew it was where God wanted me to be. I felt an excitement that was unbelievable.

One family drove all the way from New York state. Brian Hoeck and his family, his brother Ken, a close friend and another couple all drove from the Chicago area. Three families came from Colorado, another family from Texas. My family traveled from Washington state. Others were from Oklahoma itself. Our numbers varied from about 82 to 35.

Some from Oklahoma did not keep the same days we did (they started and ended a day earlier), but this did not get in the way of anyone at this Feast site. We had the best fellowship ever.

We had a somewhat traditional service every day with hymns, prayer, special music and a message. It began with "Wandering in the Wilderness" by Brian. Then "God's Family" by Steve Bruns, "God's Garden" by Ken Hoeck, "Beatitudes Part 1" by John Bush, "Tested but Accepted" by Don Reed, "Beatitudes Part 2" by John Bush and "To Be Announced" by Don Reed. We ended with "A New Beginning" by Brian.

Some stayed in cabins, others in tents. There were no phones or television sets.

The hall was open at about 8:30 in the morning and most of the day and evening for fellowship. Sabbath school for ages 3-13 was 9 to 10 a.m. on days two through seven of the Feast. The class was taught by Samantha Hoeck (wife of Brian), Jennifer Falat and Robin Reed. Lessons included "What Would Jesus Do?," "Tabernacles," "Prayer" and "Fruit of the Spirit."

The children had an ice-cream social to mark the end of Sabbath school.

The state park offered paddle boats on a beautiful lake, miniature golf, horseback riding and hiking. The park also provided activities guided by a naturalist. One was stargazing. There seemed to be way more stars to see in Oklahoma.

The naturalist showed us how to view the International Space Station with the naked eye.

Someone special attended the Feast this year, Cleo Nixon, a member of God's church for many years. He lives in Oklahoma, about 2,000 miles from Moses Lake, where I live in Washington. Cleo had lived in Moses Lake for a couple of years in the '50s.

Then came the worst and the best of the Feast--the hugging and crying--the culmination of a great experience with God and the brethren, making memories that will be cherished for a long time to come. Steve Bruns, Moses Lake, Wash.

Feast gatherings

SUNRIVER, Ore. -- Greetings from the Feast of Tabernacles in Sunriver, a recreational community near Bend, in central Oregon.

Our wonderful Feast site was, once again, unmatched. We had the splendor of God's creation, from the physical beauty of the golden fall aspens and the blazingly rich sunrises and sunsets to the loving families who warmly embraced the rehearsal of His truth and Restoration.

Our gatherings (daily averaging about 165) represented the states of Maine, Kentucky, Tennessee, Utah, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona and Nevada as well as British Columbia and Alberta, Canada.

Our small size, along with the tremendous volunteer effort, enabled our tabernaclers to truly enjoy one another and fellowship during daily breakfasts before services and lunches after services.

Special dinners, family-day activities, a talent show, lively Bible studies and a youth outing were other opportunities to get reaquainted and meet new brothers and sisters in Christ.

In our humble efforts to honor and worship our Father, our services were overflowing with special music, thought-provoking readings, inspiring messages and special segments devoted to children's songs and stories.

If polled, those who tabernacled at Sunriver in 2001 would say that they were abundantly blessed with God's grace, mercy and love. All look forward to returning in 2002 to again celebrate another joyous Feast of Tabernacles. Steve Moyer.

Impressive slate of speakers

TREASURE ISLAND, Fla.--The Christian Church of God, based in Amarillo, Texas, sponsors a movable Feast, so to speak, in that the site varies from year to year. In the past, CCG members and their guests have gathered in Colorado Springs, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and, this year, Treasure Island, Fla., for the yearly observance.

The CCG, which follows the Feast dates according to the Jewish calendar, met in the Bilmar Resort Motel, right on the Gulf of Mexico on Florida's west coast, aided by the small, faithful contingent of brethren from Amarillo who make this Feast site possible year after year.

Jeff Booth of Amarillo, along with Joe Kirkpatrick of Portales, N.M., and Jerry McClenagan of Amarillo, serves as an elder in the church. Mr. Booth and friends founded the group in Amarillo in 1980. About 65 attended this year. Attendance was about half of what was expected because of canceled flights after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

Speakers and messages included the following:

  • Mr. Booth spoke on the horrifying events of Sept. 11 and the need to support America's efforts to defeat the terrorists responsible for the attacks (see details of Mr. Booth's sermon in the lead article beginning on page 1).
  • Mr. Kirkpatrick, associate pastor in the CCG, delivered a sermon titled "Kingdom Vision": how to keep your head about you when everyone around you is losing his.

"Where there is no vision, the people perish," said Mr. Kirkpatrick, "but he that keeps the law, happy is he."

  • Ken Westby of Federal Way, Wash., founder of the Association for Christian Development, which evolved from the Associated Churches of God he founded in 1974, delivered two sermons on two consecutive days.

The first was "The Day After the Resurrection" and the second "The Davidic Kingdom."

In the first he talked about the Amalekites of the Bible, equating them with the terrorists of Sept. 11, both figuratively and even literally. Mr. Westby believes certain predominantly Muslim peoples are descendants of Amalek (Exodus 17:10).

The events of Sept. 11 were on everyone's mind at the Feast, as epitomized by Mr. Booth's sermon on the first day. Mr. Westby referred to the events several times: "A lot of people of the more liberal persuasion had a rude awakening here on Sept. 11, didn't they?" he rhetorically asked.

Speaking of Islam and certain other religions, he noted that the "inevitable perfectibility of human nature ... is thwarted by religion, generally."

In his second sermon, "The Davidic Kingdom," Mr. Westby offered his take on prophecies pertaining to King David.

He concluded by reminding the brethren they are "all of the seed of David. We are royalty, and we shall inherit soon a kingdom." Jesus, who will return soon, will "be carrying the key to the house of David."

· Next on the speaking list was a sometimes-controversial preacher, Whaid Rose of Denver, Colo. Mr. Rose is president of the largest Church of God (Seventh Day) denomination, the Denver conference of the CG7.

The CG7 is the antecedent of the Radio/Worldwide Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong in 1934.

Mr. Rose's sermon this year was about "glory." In it he spoke of unity, a subject of concern to many Church of God members.

"I only wish that such a wave of unity could wash over us Christians where we could all be united," he said.

God's goal is to be "glorified," said Mr. Rose. Man's goal, on the other hand, is to be "satisfied."

"The reason man sins against God rather than glorifying God is because of man's desire to satisfy his own lust."

Mr. Rose said he is "most satisfied in God when God is being most glorified in me, and God is most glorified in me when I am being satisfied in Him." Dixon Cartwright, Big Sandy, Texas.

Church Links  -  Addresses  -  Church Logos  -  Finances  -  Photos  -   Memorial

The Study Library  -  In Transition  -  Messages Online  -  Live Services

Back Issues  -  Subscribe  -  Email List  -  Ad Rates  -  Site Map

© The Journal: News of the Churches of God