CRESTVIEW — The Church of God recently held its annual Feast of the Tabernacles in nine locations around the United States.

CRESTVIEW — The Church of God recently held its annual Feast of the Tabernacles in nine locations around the United States.

However, a Crestview family chose to attend the event farther south.

Sandra and Art Dreaden, their son Cody and his wife, Kim, both Crestview High School alumni, spent the eight-day feast in Mendoza, a 452-year-old colonial city in western Argentina.

The adventure, which began last month with a flight into Santiago, Chile, was part of the family's desire to broaden its cultural horizons.

"It's just so expanding to be with people with other cultures; to see how they live but see how, basically, we're so alike," Sandra said.

Visiting South America also meant a climate change. The Dreadens' bus almost didn't make it to Mendoza in time for the celebration when snow blocked the Andes mountain pass between Chile and Argentina.

Lions and lambs, wine and olives

The Feast of the Tabernacles is the Church of God’s celebration of Old and New Testament teachings, Sandra said.

"We keep all of the Holy Days in Leviticus 23 that Christ and the New Testament church kept," she said. "Feast of Tabernacles, to us, pictures when Christ returns to this earth; the whole lion-lies-down-with-the-lamb business."

Each day began with a church service, leaving afternoons free for sightseeing with the Dreadens’ Argentine hosts, along with explorations to vineyards and olive groves outside the historic city.

A team of translators ensured the "international" guests — those not from Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia —  were included in all the services, dinners and entertainment.

Art Dreaden celebrated his birthday during the sojourn, receiving a special present when he exchanged neckwear with another man, adding a Tabasco-themed tie to others in his collection.

Time to recharge— and dance

"To us, it's a time of the year when we get our batteries recharged, get our spiritual life on track, and find what's really important in life," Sandra said. "It's a time to rededicate our lives to what's really important."

It was also a time to experience new cultures, as church members from different countries performed native dances while dressed in traditional clothing.

Cody and Kim Dreaden added a touch of Americana with a well-received swing dance demonstration.

"They did these moves where he swings her legs around his neck and flips her upside down," Sandra said. "The Latin brethren had never seen anything like it and were exclaiming, 'Don't drop your wife!'"

This year's feast came with tangible and spiritual blessings. When Cody returned to Santiago, with cell phone reception, an exciting email was waiting for him.

The University of Florida senior, who graduates in December with a mechanical engineering degree, received a much-hoped-for job offer.

"There were many blessings on this trip," Sandra said.

Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.