October 3, 2022
My original intent was that my September letter would be my last one prior to the Feast of Tabernacles, but with all the events of the past week, I decided to get one more letter to you before everyone leaves for the Feast. My wife and I are leaving on the day before Atonement and won’t return until the office reopens on Oct. 20.
Let me begin with the latest on Hurricane Ian and the Feast site in Fort Myers, Florida. The Holiday Inn where we were scheduled to hold services escaped serious damage and was planning to open as soon as power was restored. However, the local members who surveyed the area all agreed that it looked more like the aftermath of a war zone than the beautiful area it was before Hurricane Ian came through. Given the magnitude of the damage to the Fort Myers area, and especially the beach, where several people had secured lodging, we approached the management at the Holiday Inn with the request to cancel our contract. We had already paid the full amount due, which came to approximately $13,000.
We were certainly aware of a clause in our contract that would allow either party to void the agreement—with no financial penalty—because of “acts of God” (the exact wording from the contract) such as a hurricane. After a discussion with the management of the Holiday Inn, we decided to exercise the clause and void the contract. Both parties agreed that, after this year’s Feast, we will pursue a new contract for 2023. The funds already paid will be applied to the new agreement, and there will be no financial loss.
Of course, the aftermath of the storm will not be so easily resolved. It is estimated that it will take months, likely up to a year, to repair all the damage done by the hurricane. Sanibel Island, which is one of the barrier islands just off the coast and one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Florida, was completely destroyed. The bridge that connected the island to the mainland had a large section taken out of it, leaving the island accessible only by boat or air.
Once the hurricane made landfall near Fort Myers, we began receiving numerous calls at the office asking about the brethren. As of this writing, we are not aware of any Church members injured during the storm. Some evacuated, while others hunkered down in their homes. In speaking with Jim Haeffele, the local pastor for the Fort Myers congregation, we are aware of only three families that sustained considerable flooding in their homes. (In at least one case, it appears that the home has been completely destroyed.) Others sustained some wind damage, but not the extensive flooding of the three families. The Church has offered emergency financial assistance to any who suffered loss from the storm.
Last night CNN reported that the death toll in Florida had reached 76, but was expected to rise since the rescue efforts are still ongoing. Given the magnitude of what has happened, we are very thankful that there were no injuries among the brethren and that, with the exception of the three families, the damage reported so far has not been severe. Of course, this could change as we get more information. Such an event would be difficult to deal with at any time, but to have it happen within days of the Feast of Tabernacles vastly intensifies the problem. Please continue to pray for the brethren and all those who suffered loss from the storm.
The final four holy days of the year (Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles and the Eighth Day) lay out God’s plan for saving the world. Christ stated very clearly that “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). While we are not spiritually part of this world, we are part of it physically, and we suffer when others suffer. We believe that all human beings were created in the image of God with the potential for eternal life according to God’s plan, which we celebrate each year through the annual festivals.
There is another piece of news I want to share with all of you prior to leaving for the Feast. Because of higher-than-expected income this past year, we were able to add a large amount to this year’s Media budget. I asked Clyde Kilough, operation manager for Media, to put together a plan for spending these additional funds. The plan he presented to the administration included the development of a weekly or biweekly Internet program for preaching the gospel to the world.
This is to be a 20- to 30-minute program that will post regularly on all our Internet platforms—LifeHopeandTruth.com, COGWA TV, Roku, YouTube, etc. While I believe everyone will be able to learn from and be inspired by this new program, our intent is to present a message to the world, warning of future events and explaining the only true hope for mankind: the gospel (good news) of the Kingdom of God.
As part of our planning for the new program, we began a search this summer for presenters to get us started. We came up with a list of nine men who were asked to come to the studio and audition. These auditions were then reviewed by the Media staff and the administration. We also hired an outside professional TV consultant to review the auditions and give us his recommendations. Keep in mind that the program, as designed, is to preach to the world and not the Church. For that reason, we wanted to know how a professional outside the Church would react.
After several weeks of review, we have settled on four men who will become the first presenters on the new program. We may add new presenters, and we may change out some of the original selections in the months ahead. This is just the beginning. The first four presenters for our new program are all church pastors, with one being a regional director as well as a church pastor. These four men are Gary Black from Houston, Texas; James Capo from Phoenix, Arizona; Joel Meeker from the office; and Phil Sandilands from New Orleans, Louisiana. These four will begin working on scripts and program development immediately after the Feast.
In addition to the new Internet program, we are getting some amazing results from a recent advertising campaign. We placed an ad on Facebook for our booklet on Revelation, and the number of views, new contacts and booklet downloads have all been very encouraging. We are still in the early stages of this ad campaign, but we expect we will be able to share very positive results with everyone after the Feast.
In spite of all the darkness in the world today—hurricanes, war, famine, earthquakes and civil unrest—there are also some bright spots that have great potential for furthering the reach of the gospel message! I want to wish all of you a meaningful Day of Atonement and a wonderful Feast of Tabernacles. We should not forget those who are suffering, but the holy days provide us the opportunity to look beyond that suffering to a future world when it will be eliminated!
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,