Journey to Bethlehem Brings South Hill and Community Closer
God blessed our Journey to Bethlehem, with more than 3,000 guests attending,” says Nancy Engle, director of the event for South Hill Church in Spokane, Wash., Dec. 7–9. “We had a talented team, and God multiplied our efforts," says Engle.
Journey to Bethlehem is more than a living nativity; it’s a dramatic production of Bethlehem. Visitors journey back in time to arrive in the city on the night Jesus was born. They walk among shops, pay taxes to the Romans, inquire about lodging at an inn that is full, and listen as an angel tells the shepherds where they can find the Savior.
“The event is designed to give visitors a realistic view of life in Jesus' time,” says John Solomon, Spokane South Hill Church pastor, “and to give people a sense of what Jesus did for the world.”
"We started in June with five core people who had a vision, and we completed it in December with the help of more than 200 volunteers and thousands of hours,” says Engle. “It's exciting to see how it's pulled in members who didn’t feel connected to the church. One person commented, ‘I know this is my church now!’" Many got involved in set construction, costume making, acting, animal training, fundraising, lighting and publicity.
One of the biggest jobs was creating the sets—18 structures in all. “Starting in August, I spent about five-and-a-half days a week working on the structures for each part of the journey,” says Ted Lutts, retired UCC treasurer and director of construction. Lutts was assisted by several other retired church members.
Then there were costumes. Joyce Wilkens and Helaina Boulierus, costume co-directors, began shopping for materials and started sewing robes in July. “We thought we would need about 35 costumes,” Wilkens says. However “we made 102 costumes all together."
Newspapers, television and radio stations in Spokane, were soliciated and "the event was placed on all community calendars,” says Maxine Solomon, South Hill member and publicity co-chair. Posters and yard signs were also part of the advertising campaign. "I think the advertising made a big difference in attendance," says Jimmy Johnson, who directed music.
“People in the community appreciated the event,” says Barb Anderson, church member. “I helped put people in groups as they began the journey, and many of them had so many good things to say when they got done. One man who had just been to Israel said, ‘that was so real to me.’ And another lady said, ‘that just brought me to tears.’ There was so much the Lord did through this event."