Festival 2003 Australia
The 2003 Feast of Tabernacles was a most uplifting and adventurous experience for Roger and me. We began the first leg of the trip to Australia (approximately 10,000 miles) on Wednesday, October 8, and spent the next 18 hours alternating between changing planes and flying.
The trip began in Raleigh, NC, with a one-hour flight to Memphis, Tennessee. From Memphis, we flew to Los Angeles, CA; then to Auckland, New Zealand; then after 12 continuous hours in the sky, we ended the flying madness in Brisbane, Australia, just in time for a three-hour drive (on the left side of the road) to the feast site in Ballina.
Was it worth it? Absolutely!
The church in Australia did a great job coordinating the activities and made everyone feel special. Herb and Tui Haupt hosted the festivities at the Tropical Gardens Recreation Center in Ballina. The center is set in a plush tropical landscape that is nearly hidden from the street by overhanging shrubs and palm trees. Approaching it, one sees a well-kept lawn with interesting tropical flowers and a breathtaking lake with a cross bridge and fountain. The interior of the center is elegantly furnished and able to accommodate approximately 100 people.
Services began each day at 10 a.m., and special Bible studies were conducted on Sabbath afternoon and the following Friday night.
Herb Haupt opened the feast with a sermon explaining the meaning and importance of the holy days. His sermon demonstrated his great depth of appreciation for God's plan for man.
Roger King gave five sermons on various topics, such as the "The World Tomorrow," dealing with the millennial reign of Christ; "Prayer Changes Things," emphasizing the importance of prayer in the lives of people of faith; and "Music, a Method of Praise," demonstrating how music was used to praise God as well as upbuild and encourage God's people. One of the Bible studies was devoted to discussion of music and praise from a biblical point of view.
Catered meals were served on the first and last days of the feast. Between eating all of that wonderful food, Tui planned a Sunday of games and fellowship, followed by a "bring your own meat" barbeque, which was enjoyed by all.
A trip to the animal park was scheduled for Tuesday, but a bad virus kept most from making it. One at a time, at least four out of twenty in attendance, fell victim to what was believed to be a "bug."
Most evenings were spent fellowshipping in dwellings, sharing ice-cream and games, taking long walks under a moonlit sky, or dining out.
The last night of the Feast of Tabernacles in Ballina was somber. We all realized that, as "strangers," we had come together in the Spirit of Christ, abided together, trusted each other, and ended up acknowledging that due to the bonds in Christ, we were not strangers at all. We were brethren, bound together at a given time in a given place for God's purpose. Tomorrow we would separate and re-establish the 10,000-mile distance between us. What would we each take with us as a lesson for life? If we can show love and concern for our distant brothers, we should be committed to do the same for the ones we see weekly.
On a personal note, Herb, Tui, Zelton, Dianna, Peter, Michele, Shere', Marie, Alex, and Mercy, as well as all the others whom we did not get to spend enough time with, we'd like to thank all of you for your very special gifts, your hospitality, and your Christian kindness.
After the feast in Ballina, we spent two nights in Sydney, Australia. All that this country girl can say is "WOW!" The contrast between Ballina and Sydney is incredible. Ballina is lovely, quiet, and peaceful with a focal point of beautiful calming blue water. Sydney is more like a 24-hour amusement park. There is nothing calm about it.
Once we landed, a shuttle took us to our hotel in the heart of Sydney, which was in walking distance of Darling Harbor. Our balcony overlooked the entire harbor and the numerous shops and nightlife. Since we arrived at night, it was easy to see that lights lit up the darkness for as far as the eye could see. Day and night the city is crawling with people-not only on the ground and water, but even in the sky by means of skyscrapers and tramcars. We made the most of our short time in Sydney by taking a tour bus all around the most famous sites.
The bus allowed us to get on and off all day long for one price. We strolled among thousands of diverse people viewing the Opera House, notorious parts of the downtown areas, and spent a good deal of the time in China Town.
Later that evening, we dined in the hotel dining room to a festive international buffet with elaborate gourmet deserts and champagne.
We finished the Australian experience by sitting on the balcony observing the harbor lights below and the heavenly lights above, and reflecting on the adventure that God had permitted us to take. With rejoicing hearts, we thanked Him and we thanked the Church of God International for being faithful stewards over His flock.
Landing safely again in Raleigh, NC, it was business as usual, but with a greater understanding of and appreciation for God's plan for mankind and His promises for the future as demonstrated by the Feast of Tabernacles.