The Phoenix winter services were held during the last weekend of February. The event has been gathering service guests annually for 37 years. The services surprise a first-time visitor. Blazing heat welcomes the guests who arrive from every direction. There are no signs of winter around. Spring has arrived, which can clearly be seen in the sprouting desert trees and bushes.
The opening services filled up the approximately 1000 seats of the church as well as a large tent outside. The precious words of the opening services reminded us why people travel up to thousands of miles to attend the services.
Matti Määttä from Oulu had come for a mission trip with his wife Eila. In his sermon Määttä said:
– My wife and I have travelled around North America and Canada for mission services and we have felt the believers’ love. It has touched our hearts. We are children of the same God. Neither state borders nor long distances are a boundary for Christian love.
Määttä’s sermon was based on Phil.4:4–7: ”Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”
– What has made us joyful today? There can be several different sources of joy, but the main reason for joy is that we have been granted the grace of being God’s children. The love between believers is not forced but comes from a joyful heart. It is a fruit of the living faith. Faith gives us power when we are a living branch of the vine. God’s peace goes beyond all understanding. In our daily lives we get weary and may feel powerless, but God has promised to fill up the empty vessels with his goodness, preached Matti Määttä.
In our everyday life we feel tired and lacking, but God has promised to fill the empty vessels with his goodness, said Matti Määttä (right). His speech was translated ty Jon Bloomquist.
In our everyday life we feel tired and lacking, but God has promised to fill the empty
vessels with his goodness, said Matti Määttä (right). His speech was translated ty Jon Bloomquist.
Joy to gather together
Jim Frantti, chairman of the LLC, thanked the southwestern believers for organizing the services.
– It is a great joy to meet such a large group of service guests gathered together. Weak travelers get strength for the journey. When we travel through our lives child-like, God will guide us through difficult times.
Ken Wuollet reminisced in his sermon how God has increased the number of believers here. He said that the congregation of Phoenix started with 89 adult members and 100 children. Today there are approximately 1500 members in the area.
– The motto for the services “Seek the Lord and his strength” reflects well these years of growth. God’s kingdom has not changed, even though the world around us is changing. Living faith is the greatest gift: our goal is to reach heaven one day. To reach that goal we need to stay on the narrow pathway as believers and to believe our sins forgiven” preached Ken Wuollet.
George Koivukangas, a member of the LLC board and a minister of the Cokato congregation reminisced about the past decades:
– In the 1970s the congregations in Detroit and Michigan were the largest congregations in the USA. Both of them had over 1500 members. At that time the congregation of Phoenix consisted of a few dozen members and their church was a small house. The large congregations as well as their boards and ministers were lost in the heresy of the 1970s. After the heresy only 20 members remained in the congregation of Michigan. Arizona became a growing area and this big church was obtained. Now there are approximately 1500 members in that area. After the heresy God gathered the congregation. The love, warmth and closeness were touching. Around those times believers wanted to gather together often. God’s blessing has been wonderful, reminisced Koivukangas.
Uplift your hearts to believe
Jari Pigg preached about “You are the light of the world”, which is from the gospel according to Matthew. He brought greetings from the believers of Toronto.
– We have been made the light and salt of the world. We might feel that our light is weak, but God is our strength. As a child I saw when flocks of birds gathered together to sing on the power lines before their migration. When I arrived here to the services I felt the same. The large group of believers is ready for the journey. The world does not recognize this joy, peace and freedom. Even now we can uplift our hearts to believe our sins forgiven.
The announcer invited the guests to come and dine in the cafeteria. The announcement could be thought proverbially to represent the entire services: we came to the services to be nourished by the word of God. There were eleven speaker brothers who served us in these services.
On Friday night there was a youth discussion. Randy Herrala gave a presentation on confession. He reminded the listeners about the meaning of confession as follows:
– Confession is a gift to help a child of God in faith. It has a spiritual foundation and it is voluntary. Enumeration of sins is not essential, nor possible, when a person wants to confess their sins. We were also reminded that the preaching and believing of forgiveness are the most important parts of confession. It felt and looked wonderful when a full room of believers attentively listened to the presentation and the conversation that followed.
Guests arrived at the church from every direction in a blazing heat of 30 degrees Celsius. There were no signs of winter around. Spring had made desert trees and bushes sprout. Majestic cacti marked the boundaries of the service area.
Guests arrived at the church from every direction in a blazing heat of 30 degrees Celsius.
There were no signs of winter around. Spring had made desert trees and bushes sprout.
Majestic cacti marked the boundaries of the service area.
Text and pictures: Päiviö Karttunen
Translation: Maija Koivukangas
Poikkeusolojen vuoksi radion ja netin välityksellä lähetetyt Suviseurat saivat kuulijoiden palautteen perusteella positiivisen vastaanoton. Historiallisten Suviseurojen järjestelyt sujuivat suunnitelmien mukaisesti, eikä suurempia häiriöitä ilmennyt. Seurojen keskeinen sanoma välittyi kaikkialle maailmaan ja seurapuheet käännettiin yhdeksälle kielelle.