November 3, 2016 Member Letter
It was a wonderful Feast of Tabernacles for my family and me! I hope all of you had the same experience! Sharron and I attended the first half of the Feast in Orange Beach, Alabama, and the second half in San Diego, California. We had virtually perfect weather in both places! Even though we had more than 1,000 members who traveled outside the U.S. this year (a record number), I have not heard of any major travel issues. By the time you receive this letter, everyone will be home safe and sound. It is a dangerous world, and we should never take God’s protection for granted.
Over the past week I have been collecting attendance data from all the Feast sites, and it has been very encouraging. This was our highest attended Feast of Tabernacles since our first as COGWA in 2011. According to the preliminary numbers, our attendance has grown by 750 people since our first year (2011). The difference from year to year has been small, but it is encouraging to see the increase over the five-year period from 2011 to 2016.
I was also excited to meet many new people this year—individuals observing their very first Feast of Tabernacles or, in some cases, individuals with no Church of God background who began attending with us after 2011. While in London for the Feast of Trumpets, we met a lady with no prior Church of God background who became a member in 2013. On the Day of Atonement in Pensacola, Florida, we met another new lady who was attending her very first Day of Atonement, followed by her first Feast of Tabernacles. On the first day of services in Orange Beach, Sharron and I met three new families who were at the Feast for the first time. We also met two new people, a lady and her daughter, in San Diego who were attending their very first Feast of Tabernacles. I can honestly say that I met more new people this festival season than any other in recent memory.
The lady we met in London on the Feast of Trumpets had a most unusual and interesting story. She came to London from Uganda for work several years ago and has been living and working in the area ever since. In 2011 she was attending a work-related conference in Ghana, and while there, she sat next to a gentleman from Malawi. During the course of the conference, she complained to him about being dissatisfied with her religion. It turns out that he was a Church member, and he encouraged her to go to the Church’s website and study our doctrines (this was before LifeHopeandTruth.com existed). She did and was excited about what she found! Within a few months, she contacted our pastor in London, Peter Hawkins, and began attending services. She was baptized in March of 2013.
This story reminds us how important our actions and words are in helping others who are looking for the truth. We are to be lights in a very dark world (Philippians 2:14-16), and our example does not go unnoticed. In Matthew 5:16 Christ instructs us, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” It has been true for a number of years that most new people come into the Church through the example of someone who is already a member. It may be someone at work or someone within the family or even a stranger, as in this case. You just never know.
In other news from the Feast, you probably heard of the situation in the Philippines where two typhoons struck that country within a few days of each other. This year we planned to have one Feast site in Baguio City, which is located in the northern part of the island of Luzon. The first typhoon struck Luzon to the south of Baguio, and even though there were strong winds and heavy rain, there was no serious damage done in the city. The second typhoon struck in the same general area and again produced strong winds and heavy rain but caused no serious damage in Baguio. However, these two typhoons effectively cut off our members from the southern island of Mindanao and prevented them from traveling north to the Feast site. With the assistance of one of our pastors, Paul Cebrian, they quickly organized an impromptu site in the city of Butuan. Everything worked out okay, with 43 in attendance. Needless to say, we were very concerned while watching two typhoons strike the island of Luzon in a matter of days just prior to and during the Feast, but I can now report that everyone is safe. Even though we only planned for one site in the Philippines this year, we actually had two—Baguio City and Butuan!
There are two other items of news from the office that I want to share with you in this letter. First, I would like to remind you of our next series of FI Online classes. Please mark this on your calendar. On Wednesday night, Nov. 9, at 8 p.m. Central Time, I will resume my series of classes on the Fundamental Beliefs of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association. If you recall, I covered the first 10 beliefs in the spring of this year. We will now be covering the final 10. The Nov. 9th class begins with the subject of the Passover, and the remaining classes will follow each Wednesday night through mid-January. All you have to do is click on this link to log into the classes: http://foundationinstitute.org/online. Prior to each class you can download the handout for that particular class. When I finish my classes in mid-January, we plan to have Joel Meeker teach his class on Daniel and Revelation. With everything that is going on in the world today, I am sure you will appreciate Mr. Meeker’s class on prophecy.
My final item of news is to bring everyone up to date on our office situation. Our finances are strong, and we have an excellent cash reserve. We believe it is in the best interest of the Church to build or purchase our own office building here in the Dallas area. In Dallas the cost of leasing is roughly equivalent to the price of buying, but when you buy you have something tangible at the end of the day, whereas leasing leaves you with nothing (except the prospect of higher rents!).
In November we will renew our lease here in Allen for one additional year, securing our current location until May 31, 2018. That should give us time to locate land and build an office, which seems to be the most efficient and best use of our resources. We have been looking for almost two years, but haven’t yet found the right location. We will keep you informed as to our progress. Please continue to pray for God’s guidance in these decisions.
We have a lot of work to do here in the office getting caught up after the Feast. Thank you so much for your support and prayers! I hope to see many of you over the next several months at various Church activities. My next international trip will probably be to Ghana early next year.
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,