Feast of Tabernacles 2019
The Feast of Tabernacles 2019 was certainly a special event for all of us in the United Church of God. We are still compiling statistics from our 60 sites around the world and will report them to you as we get that information, but the positive personal reports that have come to me have been most gratifying and encouraging.
At our home office weekly Focus Meeting, Peter Eddington led a discussion with staff about our impressions of the sermons given at the various sites our staff attended. It was clear that there were many memorable, inspiring messages.
We were heartened to hear that my annual webcast sermon to all Feast sites was either able to be received live or played the next day at the vast majority of sites.
The most unsafe location for the Feast has been Haiti, where we discouraged visitors because of the civil unrest. Even our senior pastor for the Caribbean, Chuck Smith, had to change his plans and not attend, but the Feast did go on with a high attendance of 136. Chuck and Mary Smith have kept an informative blog about the status of Haiti at https://ucghaiti.blogspot.com/ with photos and videos. The latest posting is dated October 30, and Chuck reports:
“The FOT 2019 started relatively slow, but as civil unrest subsided somewhat they were able to hold services, and food was in abundance! Unfortunately, my phone stopped working about halfway through the Feast, so I could not communicate with deacon Joseph Jean after that. Up to that point, most were able to attend services, with a high attendance of 136.”
Chuck Smith did, however, fly into Haiti for a day before the Feast to deliver critical supplies to our deacon Joseph Jean and his assistant Fanel. The details of this story are told at https://ucghaiti.blogspot.com/2019/10/civil-unrest-change-of-plans-but-gods.html
The other area that we had been concerned about, based on news reports, was Hong Kong. Our visitors who went there reported no incidents and the Feast proceeded without any difficulties.
Bev and I were in Panama City Beach when tropical storm “Nestor” was headed right for us! Predictions were for elevated ocean surge and lots of rain on the day I was to give our webcast message. We prayed for the storm to divert. It did, and we walked to services in good weather conditions. We can praise and thank God for delivering our members from all of these threats.
Bev and I spent the first half of the Feast in Jamaica, where nearly 500 brethren were assembled. This was my first opportunity to meet our Jamaican brethren from the Kingston and Ocho Rios congregations. We appreciate their many years of faithfulness to God. While there, we had “Jamaica Day” in which the local brethren put on a special program of music and entertainment that we thoroughly enjoyed. The venue in Jamaica is conducive to families and it was so heartwarming to see so many families spending time together as described in Deuteronomy 14:26-27 Deuteronomy 14:26-27  And you shall bestow that money for whatever your soul lusts after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatever your soul desires: and you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you, and your household,
 And the Levite that is within your gates; you shall not forsake him; for he has no part nor inheritance with you.
American King James Version×: “spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household” (ESV).
For the second half of the Feast, we traveled to Panama City Beach, Florida, which is our largest site with just over 1,000 people in attendance. This was another site focused on family. We all stayed at one hotel and interacted a lot with one another. As I reported last year, “Ed the Shuttle Driver” ferried many people from their lodging to the meeting hall. He again praised our assembly as the best one he has ever experienced. He wanted me to convey to all how much he appreciated the example that our brethren set that stands out so much from all other events they host, such as spring break and motorcycle gatherings.
Other Feast Sites of Special Interest
Nick and Megan Lamoureux share their experiences at the Nkhwazi, Malawi, site on the border of Zambia and Mozambique at https://www.facebook.com/OutOfVermont/
More than 100 kept the Feast in remote Kalukanya, Zambia, 600 miles northeast of Lusaka. There is no air service to this area and visitors are rare. You can see their Feast as led by pastor Alfred Siame and his wife Edith at https://kubik.org/2019-festival-in-kalukanya-zambia/.
Ambassador Bible Center graduates helped with the Feast in Myanmar. Here is a description by International Advisor Aaron Dean:
“ABC graduates Aaron and Austin Jennings accepted an invitation to help with the Feast in Myanmar. The small isolated site in the delta region had no elders to serve them. It required about a 9-hour drive to Myaungmya and an hour boat ride each way every day to the village of Sakhangyi where the Feast was held.
“The two young Australians were prepped by pastor Bill Bradford and were assigned two sermonettes and two sermons each. Davidson Lay Beh, son of deceased WCG elder Saw Lay Beh, who currently resides in Sheffield, United Kingdom, decided to return to his homeland to help them to have a Feast. He has been translating UCG sermons into the local language for a couple of years, including translation of the hymnal into Sanskrit, which can be seen in the film.
“The brethren built their own temporary dwelling using bamboo and tree leaves for the shelter. A sand stage was made and covered with plastic tarps, as was the main floor. The PA system and electronic piano were battery-operated. Davidson translated as well as delivered some messages, performed special music and played the hymns for song services. He will be coming to Cincinnati for the Pastoral Development Program training in November.
“Aaron and Austin stayed in a small hotel in Myaungmya because foreigners are not allowed to spend the night in local villages. We have a number of small foreign sites that need help and we hope to allow opportunities like this for other qualified young adults and ABC graduates. Since many non-English sites use a phrase by phrase translation, speakers can view their notes while the interpreter translates the previous sentence or two, making it easier to keep on track with the message.
“The opportunity will allow them to pass on their experiences to other members as they serve in the future and appreciate how members live in other parts of the world. Here is a link to the video that Austin Jennings produced of their adventure: https://youtu.be/AqGJQWpb0ak .”
That’s all the news for this week. Starting on Monday, the camp directors will come to the office for our annual United Youth Camps conference. Then, the following week, we will host 32 participants here for our 10-day Pastoral Development Program.