Congregation sponsors weekend of sermons, songs and seminars

By John Warren

BIG SANDY, Texas--"One of the greatest needs among the Church of God is Christian fellowship," said Dave Havir, pastor of the Church of God Big Sandy. So the congregation here plays host to the brethren each winter for its Family Fellowship Weekend.

This year's event, Dec. 22-23, included a marriage seminar by Wayne and Doris Cole of nearby Tyler, a music-filled church service, two meals, seven additional seminars and three family activities.

48 years of experience

The events of the weekend began at 12:30 p.m. Saturday with a marriage seminar by the Coles, who have been married for 48 years.

Mrs. Cole spoke first and talked of nine distinct stages in marriage. Approaching the subject with humor, she spoke as one who in her words had "been there, done that and survived to laugh and talk about it all."

The nine stages were dating and preparation for marriage, newlyweds and their adjustments, the first pregnancy, the first bundle of joy arrives, the first child goes to school, those teenage years arrive, Mom's in menopause and Dad flips out in a midlife crisis, the empty-nest syndrome and the golden years of retirement.

Mr. Cole spoke next and focused on a book by Gary Chapman titled The Five Languages of Love.

"Rarely do both marriage partners speak the same primary language of love," said Mr. Cole. "It is important to learn to speak the language of your spouse."

The languages are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch.

Sound of music

A two-hour church service convened at 2:30 with two shorter-than-usual sermons and 15 selections of special music.

After the congregational singing, Karl Wilson of Tyler introduced the first segment of special music. Here is a synopsis of this portion:

· A vocal ensemble from Big Sandy sang, with Mr. Wilson directing. Other members of the ensemble were Christy Evans of Waverly, Ohio; Betty Foster of Longview; David Havir of Big Sandy (not to be confused with his father, Dave Havir); Jonathan Havir of Big Sandy; Melodee Overton of Hawkins; Darcy Stahl of Big Sandy; Maria Velasco of Gladewater; Daron Walls of Gladewater; Wayne Weese of Big Sandy; Mike Wilson of Big Sandy; and Joanne Woodring of Tyler.

  • Mrs. Foster and Mrs. Velasco sang a duet.
  • Marilyn Boston of Eustace sang.
  • A quartet sang. It included Messrs. David and Jonathan Havir, Mrs. Overton and Kim Skelton of White Oak.
  • Heather McLendon of Hawkins sang.
  • Rob Evans of Waverly, Ohio, played a piano solo.
  • Sondra Beam of Fulton, Miss., sang.

Kingdom vision

Joe Kirkpatrick of Portales, N.M., delivered the first sermon. Mr. Kirkpatrick is a banker who serves as an elder in the Christian Church of God in Amarillo, Texas, founded in 1980 and pastored by Jeff Booth of Amarillo.

Mr. Kirkpatrick's sermon was about maintaining a focus and a vision on the Kingdom of God.

More music

After the sermon Mr. Wilson introduced the second segment of special music. A vocal ensemble from the Tulsa, Okla., area sang eight songs.

The ensemble is directed by Ray Kurr of Mounds, Okla. Other members of the ensemble were David Andrews, Natalie Andrews, Fran Hope, Bridget Kurr, Heather Perkey, Derinda Smith and Lucille Smith.

Mr. Kurr pastors a small fellowship group in Tulsa. He also coordinates and directs a choir from various Church of God groups in that area.

In recent months the choir has traveled to congregations in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Texas.

Ready for the wedding

Mr. Havir, who gave the second sermon, began his message by reading a quotation: "A good sermon comforts the afflicted, but a good sermon also afflicts the comfortable."

In his heart-to-heart message, Mr. Havir talked about the certainty of Jesus' return and asked if people were ready for the wedding (a reference to two parables in Matthew 22:1-14).

Mr. Havir concluded with a seven-minute multimedia presentation. The presentation coordinated fast-moving images projected onto a large screen behind the lectern with rousing music.

Mr. Havir told The Journal that Jonathan Stahl of Big Sandy deserves the credit for the multimedia presentation.

"I want to thank Jonathan for coming up with the idea, for putting in the dozens of hours to produce the presentation and then for offering it for me to use in some fashion," said Mr. Havir. "It was a powerful presentation, and it made the perfect conclusion to my sermon."

Barbecue dinner

After the service members of the congregation enjoyed a dinner prepared earlier in the week by members of the congregation.

Michele Mischnick of Hawkins coordinated the meal but credited many other people with helping out.

"Various people came to the building on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to prepare the main items," said Mrs. Mischnick. "Many others brought desserts."

The meal consisted of barbecue, potato salad, coleslaw, beans, bread, tea, lemonade and desserts.

Family dance

At 6:30 p.m. two people from the local area taught the group country-and-western dances, including line dances.

At 8 p.m. Patricia Forrest of Pritchett and her daughter Crissy played CDs while the audience visited and danced.

Sunday-morning brunch

A long-standing tradition during the Family Fellowship Weekend is to sponsor a brunch for guests.

At 9 a.m. Arlon and Tat Tomes of Lindale and their crew served the meal of eggs, ground-beef patties, potatoes, fruit, biscuits, banana bread and drinks.

The early arrivers were treated to a surprise when they were invited to be witnesses as Mr. Havir baptized Brandi Kurr of Mounds, Okla.

Seminars about the family

At 10 the seminars about the family began in the classrooms.

The speaking schedule was as follows:

  • Terry Beam of Fulton, Miss., gave a presentation titled, "M.A.D., Aren't They?" Mr. Beam, who has worked for 14 years in the parts department of a motor-home company, described positive qualities of mothers and encouraged people to show honor to their parents.
  • Mrs. Skelton presented "Keeping All the Balls in the Air." She and her husband, Wynn, have for eight years owned and operated Skelton Roofing. She is a substitute teacher and has a 77-year-old mother living with the family. In her presentation she described the challenges and rewards of taking care of an aging parent.
  • Nancy Francis of Big Sandy gave a presentation, "Ketchup Doesn't Count as a Vegetable, but Vegetarian Pizza Does." She is a sales representative at Strategic Fulfillment Group in Big Sandy and the mother of three teenagers. She discussed the challenges of caring for teenagers as the only parent in the home and gave suggestions about how members of a congregation can help.
  • Mrs. Overton presented "What's A Parent Supposed to Do?" She has been a teacher for 17 years and works in the Big Sandy school system. She is also coordinator of the Tyler Tough-Love Group. In her presentation she introduced the concepts of the group and gave a few specific principles.
  • Mr. Kurr gave "Never Lose Again." He and his wife, Pam, have for 26 years owned and operated a window-cleaning business in Oklahoma. In his presentation he said many people concentrate on judging winning based on external factors, then he showed how to win in an "inner" sense.
  • Cindy McLendon of Hawkins presented "Few People Are Paying Attention." She and her husband, Charles, have for 18 years owned and operated Fabco Products. Earlier in her life she worked for two years for the Texas House of Representatives. In her presentation Mrs. McLendon showed that many elements of society are not geared to helping families. She gave some scheduled dates of events in the news that could have a negative effect on families.
  • James Moran of Tyler delivered "How Many Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?" Mr. Moran is a licensed professional counselor in private practice and is employed with the University of Texas Medical Branch, serving the prison population in a psychiatric unit. In his presentation he described roadblocks associated with changing one's attitudes and practices and made recommendations to effect change.

Family variety show

At 2 p.m. a two-hour variety show began with Wayne Woodring of Tyler as the emcee. Tim and Angela Dunnam of Pritchett were the sound technicians, and Neil McIver of Big Sandy was stage manager. Jake Dunnam of Pritchett also helped on the stage.

The first act of the show was a play about Noah's ark coordinated by Mrs. Woodring and directed by Sharon Wilson.

Characters in the cast

The cast of characters included Walter Crankcase (Jonathan Havir), Noah (Jared Weese of Tyler), Mrs. Noah (Jessica Wilson of Tyler), Shem (Ruth Syltie of Pritchett), Ham (Reaghan Francis of Big Sandy), Japheth (David Havir), Heckler No. 1 (Crissy Forrest), Heckler No. 2 (Abby Syltie of Pritchett) and the sign person (Clint Skelton of White Oak).

Other performers in the show were as follows:

  • Paula Monsalvo of Gladewater played classical guitar.
  • Katherine Goodchild of Gladewater played two piano selections.
  • Nine-month-old Devon Stahl gave an equestrian performance. (His father pulled him around the stage on a wooden pony.)
  • Mrs. Skelton sang.
  • Mr. Evans played a piano solo.
  • Mr. Andrews, Bridget Kurr, Mr. Kurr and Miss Perkey performed a skit from Fiddler on the Roof.
  • Lee Stolley of Pritchett sang and played guitar.
  • Ashlie Contos of Big Sandy danced.
  • Reg and Jessica Killingley played Abbott and Costello in the classic "Who's on First?" skit.
  • Abby and Ruth Syltie sang and played guitars.
  • Mr. Andrews on guitar and Mr. Kurr on recorder flute played an instrumental duet.
  • Mr. Wilson and his 15-month-son Jacob played a duet on harmonicas.
  • With the help of assistants Jackie and Joni Mischnick of Hawkins, Jonathan Havir performed an act of magic and illusion.
  • Mrs. Beam sang.

Movies and games

At 6 p.m. movies and games began. Joni Mischnick had organized the evening, with separate movies showing in the classrooms. While some played table tennis and foosball in the foyer, others played cards and table games elsewhere in the building.

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