Noah’s Ark Races Spy Balloon at Winter Weekend

PENNSYLVANIA—Set against the backdrop of green, rolling farmland, horse-drawn carriages and quaint stone buildings, 129 Philadelphia Church of God members from 9 states gathered together in Gordonville, Pennsylvania, for messages, entertainment and pine car racing at the annual Winter Family Weekend on March 4.

After Sabbath messages and a potluck dinner, the evening activities began with an entertainment night highlighting musical comedy, self-composed piano pieces, jazzy guitar, elegant ballet and romantic melodies. Hosted by deacon Nathan Barkei, the show was full of laughter, cheering and applause.

First time attendee to the weekend, Joe Jessop said this portion of the evening “inspired” him to get back into music, and prompted him to go guitar shopping the following week.

The lights came on and the men swiftly reconfigured the room into a reinvention of the 1960s game show “The Match Game,” hosted by Colin Schultz, wearing a white jacket and featuring a panel of Regional Director Brian Davis and his wife, Gwen; Preaching Elder Victor Vejil and his wife, Sarah; Local Elder Calvin Culpepper and his wife, Olivia; and deacon Nathan Barkei and his mother, Harriet. Questions presented to the eight teams covered topics from Hollywood to politics and from history to pure comedy.

When the games were done, most brethren walked to their hotel rooms at the Harvest Drive Family Inn, while a few remained in the hall setting up for the pine car derby set to commence the next morning.

Sunday morning after the final pine cars were registered and weighed, the race flags were waved for the derby, hosted by member Michael Davis. Commentary assistants Mahariel Rosario and Nathan Barkei began announcing car names and builders. The audience watched as the five-ounce cars sped down the three-lane track, and children gathered at the finish line to cheer the racers. After winners were determined, a more comical round of pine cars commenced, including a Noah’s Ark imitation racing a Chinese Spy Balloon recreation. An alligator, whose tail actually moved, went head-to-head against a car of multi-colored pom-poms, and an Irish dance shoe claimed victory over a moving dinner plate.

As the derby sped on, other members faced off at a table tennis tournament, with one category for ladies and one for men. While some had been practicing all year, others relied on their abilities from the last winter weekend. As each player tapped the white ball across the net, spectators cheered. After a taco lunch, groups split off to table tennis, card games and children’s games.

Ohio member Kathleen Hochstetler said she enjoyed meeting “new members from the New Jersey and New York area” and added that she “will be definitely going to future winter weekends in Pennsylvania.”

Before dinner, Mr. Vejil and Davis presented trophies to the winners of the pine car derby. Rick Petruzzi won with the fastest car overall and the fastest adult car. Eden Privratsky won for the fastest children’s car. Jessica Schultz won most creative adult car, and Noah Stewart won most creative car for the children. During dinner, Mr. Vejil also announced the winners of the table tennis tournaments, Stephen Coppola for the men’s and Mikaylah Davis for the women’s. The winners were presented with a copy of the tournament brackets.

Regional Director Brian Davis said that these weekends were “vital for building the family of God, developing the love and unity that John 13 says sets God’s members apart from the rest of the world.” He also added that despite changes to the weekend’s length, to accommodate the Church-wide fast, he was “impressed with how many members stayed late into Sunday evening in order to spend time with one another, regardless of having to work the following day.”

Plans are already underway for next year’s family winter weekend.