Stepping out of the plane into the sudden humidity of the air blowing in off the Indian Ocean was a stark contrast to the arid Jordanian summer we had just survived. For Lena and I, it had been months since we had seen our own families in person, but we knew that when God’s people come together for the Feast of Tabernacles we are among family. We were starved for fellowship and for a congregation. The small group of brethren gathering in Sri Lanka that year was just what we needed.
Even though it had been a while since we had been part of a sizeable congregation, there was still a tendency among our travel companions to stay close to one another. There wasn’t much of a language barrier between us and the local brethren, but sometimes even an unfamiliar accent can make a simple conversation feel awkward and clumsy. It would have been too easy to slip back into sharing inside jokes and making plans together with friends we had already made. It would have been too easy to forget that there were people on the same island at the same moment in need of the same refreshing bond of fellowship we so desired. The thought of heading back to our home in Amman without meeting new friends and sharing unforgettable moments with them helped us break out of our small, familiar circle, and reach out to the members of our spiritual family we hadn’t yet bonded with.
Whether we travel far away from home to keep God’s Feast of Tabernacles, or stay very near where we live, there will be brethren in that place with us who are in need of a boost of fellowship they don’t receive on a regular basis. They will be in need of a reminder that they are part of a larger spiritual body that is bonded together by a common goal, a common spirit, and called to be together by the same loving Creator. There are brethren waiting for our friendship, hoping and praying that we will be able to build a bond that will last far beyond the eight commanded days of fellowship.
The apostle Paul, who had stayed in Ephesus as the congregation there grew and spread, later wrote to his spiritual family reminding them of what truly binds them together. “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:1-6 Ephesians 4:1-6  I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation with which you are called,
 With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love;
 Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling;
 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
American King James Version×).
The commanded travel to keep this particular Festival of God gives us a chance to realize the truth of this bond, the importance of building and maintaining connections with one another, and the fact that we need one another. This should help us in our own attempts to reach out to the brethren who might never have a chance to travel very far from home. This should give us the courage to learn a few words in a language we don’t understand so we might get to know a member of our own spiritual family who is in need of our fellowship and love as much as we are in need of theirs. The shared truth of God’s coming kingdom is enough of a common factor that not much else is needed to form lasting friendships.
Since that first Feast in Sri Lanka, Lena and I have traveled back to be with our newfound family there several times. We have also had the blessing of being able to visit several different countries and meet more of God’s people. Although there have been times we found it difficult to step outside of our own familiar group of friends and family, we try and keep in mind the time we were starved for fellowship and in need of being loved by others. Getting to know our brethren around the world (both in and out of the United States) at God’s Feast of Tabernacles has reminded us that we are part of a very large family. This is something we would not have had the chance to realize if we had kept to ourselves, rather than sharing our life with the lives of our brethren.