Our church auditorium is ready! About seventy of our round tables are in place. They are covered with white, red, green table cloths. On them are strips of paper with suggestions for ice breakers to make our guests feel comfortable and welcomed. What is the event? Our church family has prepared a feast, a celebration, a banquet for the International Harvest Celebration. This year we are anticipating having more than 500 guests from 25-30 countries – from China, Japan, Korea, the Middle East, France, Italy, Mexico – all coming together to give thanks, to build relationships, to hear about the Greatest Relationship, to enjoy good food and fun together. This is a time for families to come together in celebration!
The Origins of the International Harvest Celebration
A little more than ten years ago, Dave Duddles got an idea. He saw all the countries represented in our community and wanted to get them together. That first year was a start at the vision that Dave had. It didn’t happen the following year. But in 2008, Dave came back again. He didn’t quit. He approached Bill Wismer to ask him to lead out in the event. There were a host of others who got involved in those early years to help bring Dave’s vision to life. Hugh Jones gave a gospel presentation. Wally Turnbull and David and Jan Hoyle quickly caught Dave’s vision, as they, too, had a heart and love for internationals here. Jim and Gail Thomas, Khou Xiong, Ken Lloyd also got involved because they too shared the vision. Those early years brought about 225 guests to our tables.
Our international dinners continued year after year in November near Thanksgiving. Those who led out continued to faithfully put the event together, watching and praying about how to make it better. Roddy came on as our Pastor of Gospel Missions and brought fresh ideas for the gathering. We’ve also broadened our offerings to internationals on Sunday morning with Gaby Correa working with Hispanics. David Stickles has continued to faithfully gather Asians on Friday evening. We are also adding classes to study God’s Word and to enable internationals to learn the English language. We’ve developed a wonderful foundation for introducing internationals to the gospel and for following up.
What joy to hear this year about the 500+ guests who will be coming and to hear the preparations that have been made already! This year the International Harvest Celebration with a two-pronged purpose:
- To present the Gospel message as clearly as possible.
- To build relationships with and among internationals.
How are plans being made to accomplish these two goals? The committee is focused and intentional in all their planning to keep the dual purposes in front of them.
- People are invited to bring internationals they already know for the celebration. Have you met an international in your neighborhood or at work who might benefit from this celebration? Come and bring them and their family! A prior relationship makes the table conversation much less strained and more meaningful because some relationships are already in place.
- Language leaders within the church are being included so that communication is more clear. The planning committee is looking for others within the church who have experience with different languages to come and facilitate conversation at the table.
- In addition to a traditional American Thanksgiving meal, a time of giving thanks, a Gospel presentation, music, and table conversation, an after-party is planned this year to provide an opportunity for people to linger, to continue to connect in smaller groups or for more private conversations about what has been heard during the evening. This after-party also provides a bridge for follow-up with that international foundation that has been growing at CHBC.
- Follow-up activities are planned to invite internationals to other fun gatherings at the church. Last year was our first Christmas Caroling Around the World event. It will be repeated again this year on December 20th as a way to build upon relationships formed in November.
- The evening is planned in such a way as to express hospitality – to make everyone feel welcomed and comfortable. There will be door greeters, name tags, runners to accompany our guests to their tables, ice breakers to facilitate conversation, color-coded tables to denote particular language groupings.
I am excited for what will be happening on Saturday, November 23rd at 6 pm. Find out more about how you can participate at biblechurch.life/international-harvest-celebration and join the party.
What is your vision?