Journey to Bethlehem Events Impact 7,400
Despite cold December 2009 temperatures, more people than ever took the Journey to Bethlehem in the Upper Columbia Conference. In addition to the familiar Hermiston, Ore., and Spokane, Wash., area events, Yakima, Wash., members put on their first JTB this year. In all, more than 7,400 visitors passed through the three JTB sites.
The JTB experience is designed to give visitors a realistic view of what life was like in Jesus' time. Visitors are taken on a journey back in time, arriving in the city on the night Jesus was born. They walk among buyers and sellers in shops, pay their taxes to the Romans at the tax office, inquire about lodging at an inn that is already full, and listen as an angel tells the shepherds where to find the ultimate Christmas gift — Jesus the Savior.
For church members it's a journey of faith because it takes months of preparation creating costumes and props, and hours of practice to act out the scenes. It’s a group effort that can take as many as 300 volunteers and several area churches to put on.
"Sometimes during the process you feel like it is going to be a very expensive failure," says Nancy Engle, who has directed the event in Spokane for the last three years. "But God multiplies our efforts and things come together."
"When the Yakima Church board voted in April to present JTB, they knew it would be expensive and time-consuming," says Nita Hinman, Yakima Church communication leader. "But they felt inspired by those who had done it in the past."
Finding a church member to direct the event in Yakima was their first challenge. "Debbie Gilbert, one of our members who is a full-time nurse, turned the position down at first," says Hinman. "But after praying about it for a month, she was impressed to accept the major responsibility, and what a fabulous job she did. Our members felt the journey was a wonderful experience and a powerful evangelistic tool, and we hope to do it for many years to come."
Comments from those who make the journey indicate a powerful impact. Statements like, "that fed my soul," and "I'm coming to your church next week," are a delight for any pastor or church member, reminding them of this great opportunity to share the gospel message.