A Little …ok, maybe more than a little… History of Sukkot Northwest:
Natan Lawrence, co-founder of Sukkot Northwest along with Sandi, his wife, grew up celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles every year beginning in the Fall of 1960. He has celebrated the Feast in locations throughout the United States as well as Canada and France. Sandi Lawrence’s first Feast celebration was in 1991 at Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe, California, but that was also her last until Natan and Sandi returned to celebrating the Feasts of YHVH in 1999.
In 1998, a small fellowship group began meeting in their home on Shabbat. They invited everyone to celebrate Sukkot with them in 1999 at Sunriver, Oregon, and several accepted their invitation. It was very small but a meaningful and memorable Feast. In 2000, they joined the world of the internet and looked for other believers with whom to celebrate the Feast. They found a Sukkot celebration in the State of Washington in the fall of 2000 and met some wonderful new friends. However, to their disappointment, that was the last year that Sukkot site met in Washington. In 2001 they joined another Washington celebration, but that was its one and only year of existence. Those two Sukkot sites used the dates of the traditional Jewish (Hillel 2) calendar, though the Lawrences had already begun celebrating the moedim (appointed times) according to the instructions in Scripture to begin each month at the new moon and to begin each year when the barley is aviv. They joined the Hillel 2 folks for Sukkot, but quietly kept the feasts according to their new understanding, not wanting to offend others. They felt that it wasn’t profitable spiritually to argue about the calendar, and still don’t. They simply do what we believe to be biblically accurate.
The following is a history of Sukkot Northwest as recalled by Nathan and Sandi.
In 2002, we looked once again for a Sukkot site in the Pacific Northwest to celebrate the Feast, and not only were there very few to choose from that were Messianic, all were on the traditional Hillel 2 calendar. So after much prayer, Sukkot NW was established in the Fall of 2002. We rented facilities at Sunriver in Central Oregon, started publishing this website, and put out invitations for all who wanted to join us.
Desiring larger meeting facilities and not finding one to fit our needs in the Bend/Central Oregon area, we moved Sukkot NW to Gold Beach at the southern Oregon coast (near the California border) in 2003. Sukkot NW continued there during 2004 and 2005. Each of these years we camped on the beach and stayed in local motels, couples renewed their wedding vows in the sukkah, we made shofars out of dried seaweed, and many memories and friends were made. It’s a beautiful location, the weather is generally warmer and nicer than the northern coast, and most of the time we were there was sunny. However, we had memorable experiences with wind and rain.
Wanting to return to Central Oregon again, we set up camp at the LaPine State Campground in 2006. Camping was great and the weather was beautful, but the meeting facilities were small, so we moved back to Gold Beach in 2007 for a larger celebration. Then in 2008 we needed a rest. A small congregational Sukkot celebration in Molalla, Oregon was planned.
Refreshed once again in 2009, with the difficult financial time our nation and state of Oregon were experiencing, we decided to stay closer to home and celebrated Sukkot NW at Camp Rilea in Warrenton located at the north Oregon coast, inviting all to join us. This was the first year we played the “Newlywed, Oldie-Wed, Truly Wed” game for a nice prize, and what a fun night it was! This has now become a tradition!
We very much like the Gold Beach and Warrenton locations at the Oregon coast. The weather was beautiful at Camp Rilea, but desiring consistently good weather, we looked to Central Oregon again. The weather is decidedly better for avoiding the fall wind and rain. The high desert is beautiful and there are many activities to do and places to explore around the area. Much to our delight, in 2010 the city of La Pine acquired and approved remodeling of the Finley Butte meeting hall. It was ample enough for our needs and we had room to grow. Additionally, the location is centrally located for the folks coming in from surrounding states. We were very excited about our new location and celebrated Sukkot NW at Finley Butte until a strong storm caused extensive damage to the building in 2013, rendering it unusable for Sukkot that year and beyond!
In 2014, 2015, and now again in 2016, we are celebrating Sukkot NW on the Rogue River in Southern Oregon near Grants Pass. Griffin Park is a beautiful park with nice campsites and a covered shelter (with a stone fireplace) overlooking the Rogue River. The climate is fabulous, the river is wild and scenic, and the fishing is excellent!
Every year, we pray and ask YHVH where he wants us to be, and we endeavor to hear his voice and go where he leads us. Only he knows where we will be next year. This we know. Eventually, we will be celebrating Sukkot each fall in Jerusalem as the prophet Zechariah foretold (Zech 14:16) in the presence of King Yeshua. Until then, we carry on the best we can in the lands where we’ve been scattered to, while doing our best to celebrate YHVH’s appointed times eagerly awaiting the Messiah’s second coming.