From the President . . .
Greetings brethren around the world,
Reports from around the world indicate that the Feast of Tabernacles was an inspiring and motivating time for everyone, with spiritually sound and encouraging, informative messages, and a sense of brotherhood and unity.
That’s exactly what should have happened—the Feast giving us a vision of what it will be like when Christ reigns as King of Kings, and the whole world lives by His law and way. Happiness, joy, harmony and God’s blessings will abound.
As you return from the Feast and get back into your everyday life in this world, hang on to that vision and that yearning for God’s Kingdom to come. Don’t let the world and its cares dull the vision and hope/expectation God has given us. Rather, cling to it and strengthen it by drawing closer to Him in all our thoughts, actions, and choices, striving to live by every word of God.
A Stark Reminder
In stark contrast to the joy of the Feast, we were reminded of the darkness in this world and the times in which we live with the brutal and heartless attack on Israel by the terrorist group Hamas on the Eighth Day.
The stories of the surprise invasion and the ISIS-style attacks on unsuspecting Israeli citizens, with the massacre of so many, including the murder, torture, beheadings, rape and kidnapping of Israelis and other nationalities who happened to be present is an awful reminder of the hate and evil that exist in this world.
In an instant, just as the Feast of Tabernacles ended, the world we live in again changed forever. The shock and rhetoric from around the world is dramatic and direct, as terrorism again shows its ugly head in a world that may have forgotten the atrocities that it can bring.
Against this backdrop, our brethren in Israel for the Feast found themselves in a nation under attack, with God keeping the fighting far from where they were gathered. Some activities after services on the Eighth Day had to be cancelled, but earlier in this week, as was reported to you through email messages, all brethren were accounted for, safe, and had moved from Israel to Jordan, where flights home from Amman were being scheduled. Feast Coordinator Charles Melear and tour director and pastor Frank Fish remain in Amman until all Feastgoers have flights home. A report from Israel appears later in this Update.
Blockades in Guatemala
In another part of the world, the end of the Feast was also interrupted by regional political events. In Guatemala, civil protests began near the end of the Feast over a reported election challenge. Blockades of cities, preventing the free flow of people and supplies, were staged across the country, including the area where the Feast was held.
Several from the Feast were able to leave after the Eighth Day as caravans emerged through the areas to airports or back to where people lived, God obviously giving them passage as they saw their way through city after city. However, several more remain at the Feast site, unable to leave because their return home is blocked. They are all safe, still in the hotel where the Feast was held. Through this morning there is food, but the blockades appear to be serving their intended purpose of limiting supplies as food concerns have emerged. Mario Seiglie, senior pastor for Spanish-language areas, and Guatemalan pastor Israel Robledo, who is with the remaining Feastgoers, have been “on top” of this situation. Please be assured that the brethren are being cared for, and funds are being provided to the hotel, as needed, to pay for members’ unexpected housing costs due to this crisis. A further report on the situation is included later in this Update.
Your continuing prayers for the situation in Guatemala and Israel are deeply appreciated and requested. God is our Savior, Provider, Deliverer and Father, who loves us and will see us through all the situations we encounter in life. He is always there, always aware, always by our sides. We learn to trust and put our faith more in Him, something we will need to learn and build into our lives and character as we see the world continue its downward spiral into the evil and difficult place it is prophesied to become as the return of Jesus Christ draws near.
“Don’t Be Dismayed”
Brethren, these times can be trying. These times can take us by surprise because no one sees them coming. Through it all, Christ reminds us: Don’t be dismayed. Don’t be afraid. Look to Him, return to Him, and trust in Him.
As we see the world changing into a place we no longer recognize, don’t be discouraged, rather be encouraged as you see prophetic events occur and the time of Christ draws near. God has called us to these times and gives us His Spirit to guide, direct, encourage, teach and comfort us. Let us use these times to draw closer to Him, closer to each other, coming out of this world and becoming the people collectively and individually He wants us to become.
Because of these situations that have come upon us so suddenly, this Sabbath I will be in Orlando, Florida, and my sermon from there will focus on recent events, the prophetic implications of those, and what we need to be doing as a result. You will be able to find the sermon online on the Sabbath, or it will be posted at ucg.orgunder Sermons within the next few days.
Please continue to read through this Update for other items of note, including the current Beyond Today tour Darris McNeely is conducting through Australia, with encouraging results.
Brethren, our thoughts and prayers are with you around the world. We are all family. We live in difficult times, but these times strengthen us if we look more fully to God, continually putting our trust in Him.
Take care, keep your eyes focused on God, and pray in earnest for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done.
In Christ’s service,
Updates From Latin American Feast Sites
I am informing you that we are still in Panajachel, Guatemala, because the political situation of the country continues to be very difficult. The blockades of the roads continue throughout the interior of the country, so it is impossible to travel to our homes. We are 65 people here at the Feast site, including two families who visited us from Chiapas, Mexico. We trust in our Creator and in our older brother Jesus Christ for their help. Every day that passes the food is becoming more scarce since there is no option to buy any more of it. I will continue to inform you of our situation.
—Israel Robledo, pastor, Guatemala
Hurricane Lidia hit landfall some 30 miles from Puerto Vallarta and caused some rains, but the brethren who were there were able to leave. We are thankful that the hurricane turned south instead of entering Puerto Vallarta at the last moment.
—Mario Seiglie, senior pastor, Spanish-language areas
Updates From the Israel Feast Tour
From Charles Melear:
“About 80% of the Israel Feast Tour attendees are now traveling home by Wednesday night, Oct. 11. Out of 178 attendees, only 12 were able to leave via Tel Aviv, Israel. All others had to travel to Amman, Jordan. It was a significant challenge rebooking flights to travel home from Amman, Jordan, and some even had to fly first to Dubai. On Friday, Oct. 13, Charles & Jacque Melear, Frank & Valerie Fish, and Don & Patti Harms will be the last to leave Amman.
“We are thankful for the many emails and texts of concern. It was a great Feast. Although the military action began on the Eighth Day, it basically did not disrupt the observance of the Feast of Tabernacles. It disrupted the post-Feast touring in Jordan and caused many canceled flights, but we know God has intervened and protected his people.”
From Steve Myers:
“Since everyone’s flights from Tel Aviv were canceled, we rescheduled our flights as almost everyone else did, and left from Amman, Jordan. At the moment, we are waiting in the airport at Cairo, Egypt, to catch our next flight to Paris, and then hopefully back home to Cincinnati.
“When the missiles started firing on the Sabbath, I reminded the brethren during the sermon that we have an awesome God, and one of his names is ‘the LORD is our Banner’—Yahweh Nissi (Exodus 17:15). We are told of that name in the Bible when the Ammonites attacked the Israelites, just after leaving Egypt. When Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ arms, Joshua won that battle with God’s help. It certainly reminds us all that no matter what the odds, no matter what the difficulties or the circumstances, we can always remember that God is our Banner—He is our Refuge and He is the one who watches over us at all times. God has certainly made that known in obvious ways to all of us who celebrated the Feast in Israel this year.
“We certainly appreciate all the prayers and have experienced the blessings of our God even as we witnessed the chaos around us. We realize that we are another step closer to that time when God will ultimately intervene.”
Presentations in New Zealand and Australia
We have had a profitable series of Beyond Todaypresentations in New Zealand and Australia. At the invitation of the Australian office, we have been planning these events for several months. In New Zealand we had more than 50 new attendees in three locations. We felt this was a very good response, considering the number of subscribers who signed up in advance indicating they would attend.
Thus far we have held two events in Australia (Brisbane and Gold Coast) with the same percentage of results. 80 new attendees attended these events. The topic I have been covering is “Finding Peace in a Chaotic World.” Focusing on Daniel 2 and the certainty of the coming Kingdom that will fill the whole earth and stand forever, I move to a strong call to repentance and belief in the gospel (Mark 1:14, 15).
This weekend the tour continues in Sydney then on to Adelaide, Perth and ending in Melbourne. Members can follow a chronicle of the tour on my Substack blog at darrismcneely.substack.com.
—Darris McNeely, International Education and Services Coordinator
From Ministerial and Member Services . . .
New Assistant Pastor
Ken Loucks, an elder from the congregation in Portland, Oregon, was hired in September for continued ministerial training. He now serves as an Assistant Pastor with pastor Rex Sexton for the congregations in Portland and The Dalles, Oregon. Your prayers are much appreciated for a smooth and successful transition for Ken and his wife, Becca.
Winter Camp Announcement
Winter Camp 2023 is coming soon! Camp runs from Dec. 27 to Jan. 2, in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. We are looking forward to another wonderful camp this winter. We already have over 100 campers registered. We are still in need of male and female counselors.
You can find all the information and apply online at uyc.ucg.org.
—Aaron Creech, Winter Camp Director
Winter Family Weekend
It’s not too early to plan for Winter Family Weekend. Everything will be conveniently held at one location, under one roof!
Watch this special video preview and plan now to attend Winter Family Weekend: Winter Family Weekend Video Announcement.
General registration will open on Friday, Oct. 20. (For those with special needs, early registration will be available beginning Wednesday, Oct. 18.)
All rooms have been contracted for the fantastic rate of $90 per night! The three available room sizes will be as follows: King, Double Queen and King plus pull-out sofa.
As you know it takes the help of many individuals for a program such as Winter Family Weekend. Regardless of what congregation you are from, if you are willing to volunteer in a certain area or simply in general, please be sure to complete the volunteer section of the registration page. We will find a spot for you and appreciate your service to God and the brethren!
Watch for further updates at wfw.ucg.org.
The United Church of God is still seeking candidates for a Client Relationship Specialist. Details about all of the current job postings for the Church may be reviewed at ucg.org/members/news/current-job-openings.