Pastor General Endures Travel Delays to Deliver Campaign in Tampa

EDMOND—Philadelphia Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry held a public appearance campaign at the Renaissance Tampa International Hotel on January 20-21 in Tampa, Florida. He covered the biblical book of Hebrews in a pair of 75-minute lectures for an audience of 187 Trumpet subscribers the first day and 120 subscribers the second night.

On the trip, Mr. Flurry was joined by Philadelphia Church of God Southeast United States Regional Director Wik Heerma and his wife, Deborah; audio-video technician Joshua Sloan; personal assistant Grant Turgeon and stewardess Paris Turgeon. The flight aboard the Church’s Gulfstream G450 aircraft was scheduled to depart Oklahoma City at 8 a.m. Once airborne, the pilots encountered a malfunction in the motor operating the wing flaps and returned to Oklahoma City. The plane departed again, but again the pilots were forced to return.

The group returned to the hangar around 10 a.m. and needed an alternative to the original plan of arriving in Tampa by 11:30 a.m. local time and hosting the campaign event at 3:30 p.m. Chief financial officer Andrew Locher, marketing director Shane Granger and the two pilots discussed a number of possibilities: live-streaming the lectures from the stage of Armstrong Auditorium on the Church’s headquarters campus in Edmond, chartering a private plane from the Oklahoma City airport or from another nearby airport, or live-streaming the first lecture and flying to Florida the next day.

Mr. Flurry stated his determination to travel to Florida no matter what. Miraculously, the pilots found a small charter plane available at a nearby airport. Mr. Flurry, the Heermas, Sloan and Grant Turgeon drove with Granger to the new hangar and took off a little past noon in a much smaller Cessna Citation CJ4 jet.

“The remarkable thing was, they were able to take off just two hours and 15 minutes after we committed to the flight,” Granger recalled. “The nearest other aircraft was in Tulsa [two hours away] and would have required you to drive there, and that would have been three hours before takeoff—you would have missed the campaign.”

Instead of missing the campaign, Mr. Flurry arrived in Tampa at 3:15 and checked into his hotel room at 3:30. Mr. Heerma went straight to the meeting hall and read an announcement explaining the delay. After nearly five hours of delays, the start of the campaign lecture was postponed by just half an hour to 4 p.m.

“[N]o one left or seemed too bothered. Actually, everyone seemed very relaxed and enjoyed the coffee and tea,” Texas pcg member Rachel Szabo wrote in an e-mail to Granger after the first lecture. “The venue was the best yet (out of the three pacs we have attended). The video and brochures tailored to Florida were a nice addition, and having the hotel provide cookies, coffee, tea and water with fruit was nice. It was more professional and inviting.”

In his first lecture, Mr. Flurry covered Hebrews chapters 1-5, in which the Apostle Paul inspired the early Church with a vision of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and His role as Advocate, Intercessor and living Savior today. He questioned the worth to God of those who refuse to deliver the warning message, and implored the audience to sacrifice to build God’s faith, mind and character. He also encouraged listeners to read Hebrews 4:12 repeatedly because it shows the usefulness of the Bible in cutting to the core of human nature, revealing secret human intentions, and building a sound mind.

On the second night, Mr. Flurry summarized Hebrews chapters 6-13 and connected correction with the God Family vision. He gave three reasons why listeners should be bold: that you may enter the holy of holies in heaven, because Christ can now live in you, and because He now intercedes for you.

After an hour talking with members, prospective members and subscribers, Mr. Flurry and company returned to the charter plane around 10:30 p.m. Gaining an hour due to the time zone difference, the group landed in Oklahoma City after midnight and arrived back at their homes about 1 a.m. on January 22.

Mr. Heerma traveled back to Tampa for follow-up Bible studies on January 27 and February 10 about the Sabbath and the Holy Spirit, respectively.

“For the first study, we were plagued by bad weather, with heavy rain and flooding,” Mr. Heerma said. “We had only four non-members in attendance, but these came from far away. One lady was local, but the others drove in from either Orlando or Tallahassee. This certainly shows their commitment.”

“In the study on the Sabbath, I was able to give a lot of practical information related to the subject,” Mr. Heerma continued. “I try to answer them in a personal-correspondence style. Questions like, ‘How do I keep the Sabbath at home?’ ‘What things can and can I not do on the Sabbath?’ ‘How do I handle talking to my boss about the Sabbath?’ People really seem to appreciate the practical approach.

“For the second study, we had 10 non-members in attendance. This message was well-received. Many seem to be challenged by how they can move forward. This certainly was evident in the requests for attendance or in-home visits.”

Since the Tampa campaign, ministers have visited 17 non-member attendees, have invited three to attend services, and are counseling with three others to possibly attend as well.