Armstrong Students Share Perspectives on 2019 Feast

EDMOND—The halls of 18 Feast of Tabernacles sites hummed with conversation on the evening of October 13 as Philadelphia Church of God members in 12 countries anticipated the opening night message by Pastor General Gerald Flurry. Mr. Flurry focused the Church on the book of Hebrews and the return of Jesus Christ, a theme he would return to on four subsequent days, as 59 other ministers gave sermons, sermonettes, offertories and other messages also focused on the role of Church members today in preparation for the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

Whether in the mountains of Papua New Guinea, on the beaches of Tobago, under the overcast skies of Blaine, Washington, or other diverse points beyond, thousands of members, attended Feast sites at cool, tropical and temperate sites.

Canada Regional Director John Macdonald, who attended the Sault Ste Marie and Invermere sites in Canada, said, “It was a very impactful and urgent Feast.”

Members traveled to attend the Feast, with many flying to international sites to meet members they did not know and experience other cultures and sites. Emma Moore, a Herbert W. Armstrong College student from Australia, traveled to the Philippines, describing it as “unique, because it was like being at a family reunion with a huge amount of people whom I had never met. I felt so welcome.” Fellow student Rufaro Manyepa, from Zimbabwe, attended in South Carolina, and said, “It was only my second Feast in North America, and my first away from headquarters. It was wonderful to be able to spend eight days with non-headquarters brethren I never would have been able to meet were I not a student at AC.” Student Gabe Greaser, who attended in Australia, said that he talked with members from the field about being a Herbert W. Armstrong College student, and some said they would give almost anything to have the same opportunity. He said it helped him to see that he shouldn’t take college for granted.

Many members attending the Feast also volunteer to serve in some capacity. This year, 1,200 members in the U.S. alone served on activity coordinating, audio-video, business office, operation, custodial, choir, door greeting, first aid, flower arranging, hall setup, handicap aid, hotel monitoring, security, stage arrangement and in other capacities.

Nikoli Guillar, from the Philippines, said this Feast “was unique because I was the only AC student at the Pennsylvania site. This gave me more onus to serve the handicapped, spread myself out more, and represent the college.” Local Elder John Woloszyn, who led the first aid, handicap aid and security departments in Australia, said, “the AC students who assisted were top-notch, served well without any complaints. It’s great to see students set good examples for others.” Local Elder Brian Sherwood, who served in South Africa, wrote, “The Feast success was built around all of God’s people who had the privilege to serve, because they did it with enthusiasm, and dedication, including the alumni/AC students.”

Youth, singles, seniors and family activities this year included apple-picking, barbecues, curling, go-karting, hiking, jet-skiing, swimming, trivia and other events.

Singles attending in Australia, England, North America, the Philippines, South Africa and South America participated in singles mixers early in the Feast, meeting and getting to know one another. Student Nathan Weese, from Pennsylvania, said the mixer in England was his favorite activity of the Feast. Student Brett Roberts, who is from Texas and attended the Feast in Washington State, wrote, “Our singles mixer was a ball!”

Large numbers of members attended the Family Day event at their respective Feast sites. At most sites, wet or cold weather had been forecasted, but after members prayed for good weather, most members were able to participate in the meals and activities under sunshine and enjoyable temperatures. Activities included basketball, bouncing around in human hamster balls, inflatable obstacle courses, orchard tours, speed pitch, swimming, tennis, touch football, and visiting an orchard. Filipino student Alexis Cruz noted, “It was nice to see all the seniors participating and enjoying the games, as well as the little kids’ excitement playing.” Australia Local Elder Callum Wood, an Armstrong graduate, said, “In Australia and Papua New Guinea you could see the desire of God’s people to spend time together.”

Later in the Feast, seniors gathered for a meal, lecture and conversation at the seniors’ luncheon. Colombia Local Elder Francisco Luna, remarked, “Old age is a privilege of the few and an opportunity to more completely understand life.” Latin America Regional Director Carlos Heyer, who oversaw sites in El Salvador, Colombia, Mexico and Tobago noted, “There were over 20 seniors in each location. The menu included several once-a-year treats for many, such as red wine with the meal, elegant decor and millennial surroundings. My favorite trimming in El Salvador was any dessert you wish!”

Meanwhile, singles shared activities of different kinds: go-kart racing, golfing, live jazz, painting, trivia and other activities. Armstrong graduate Reese Zoellner said, “I was able to spend time with international singles who I may not have gotten to know otherwise, which was extra special.” Student Olivia Alvord, who attended in South Carolina, said, “It was encouraging to see singles cheering on those who had never played golf before. It was a great way to build God’s family.”

Teenagers participated in their own activities, which included curling, go-karting, golfing, a high-ropes course, and indoor rock-climbing, team sports and water sports. Edmond teen Leah, who was attending her last teen activity in Australia, said that after knee-boarding and jet-skiing, “Most were a bit sore afterwards, but everyone had a blast! We were all laughing together and encouraging each other on. I was glad to be able to do a water activity since I don’t have access to that too often back home.”

The tradition of entertainment night involved numerous acts of different kinds: ballet, flute, an Irish band, musical comedy, poetry, recitations, vocal solos and duets, and others. Mr. Wood said the entertainment night in Papua New Guinea included “Irish dancing, poems and a number of guitar and piano pieces.” Armstrong student Andrea Figueroa said, “the Filipino brethren spent hours of time and dedication to present to us a wonderful display of dancing and rejoicing.”

Several international Feast sites held formal dinner dances. Local Elder Les Davison, who served in Australia and Fiji, said the event was an “opportunity to exercise the royal standard expected of God Family members.” Mr. Macdonald said of the events in eastern and western Canada this year sites, “The standard was high, and the evening was well attended.”

Another Feast tradition for members is viewing a Behind the Work video, which summarizes developments in the Church over the previous year. The 2019 video shared highlights from a dozen departments, including a segment of members who have joined the Church after attending a Personal Appearance Campaign. Student Sarah Woodard, who attended the Feast in her home state of South Carolina, said the video “was very impactful this year. It is awesome to see all the new growth from the PACs.” Student Julia Goddard, who attended the Feast in Edmond, said “it was riveting and inspiring to see what God is doing through His work.” Student Seth Malone, who attended in Edmond, said, “This Feast was an exciting Feast filled with vision, and seeing God’s hand behind it all, like in the Behind the Work film, was what made it, for me, the best Feast ever.”