Fire Wrecks 'Journey' Village

October 06, 2015 | Marcia Stone

A popular Christmas event in Kelso, Wash., suffered massive fire damage this summer.

Journey to Bethlehem, an outdoor walk-through experience of the Christmas story, occurred at the Journey Church in Kelso, for the past 18 years. Early on Sabbath morning, Aug. 11, 2015, church leaders received a call that there had been a fire in the village portion of the sets. Fortunately, only three small shops burned. 

Members started talking about repairing the damage, but the fires didn’t stop. There was a small fire on the playground, next to the village site, on Aug. 21 and then a large fire on Aug. 29. The last fire destroyed the city center set, including most of the props and the majority of the shops. That same day, another four fires were set in the woods above the village. It is estimated that the fires caused about $80,000 worth of damage. Many of the destroyed props had been lovingly created and donated by members who no longer live in the area, so the loss was sentimental as well as monetary.

Community support and grief was immediate and widespread. There have been offers to help clean up and rebuild. Two older women visited and cried as they explained they had never attended but knew how much the community enjoyed the event. In fact, it was the third-largest event each year in the community, with 6,000–8,000 attending each year.

One mother brought her 6-year-old twins to see the fire damage. She asked them what they saw. They replied, “The cross still stands.”

Members had been praying God would set their church on fire, but not like this. God is still in control. They are praying God will guide their church as they wait on Him to lead the way. Please join them in this prayer.