Journey to the Cross Impacts Cast, Crew

May 11, 2016 | Kathy Marson

What brings a cast together each year to dramatically tell the story of Jesus at Washington's Spokane Valley Church?

Meet Reece Dobson, who played the groom in the wedding at Cana, where Jesus performed His first miracle. Dobson met girlfriend, Stephanie Syverson, two years ago. She’d been active as the props coordinator for Journey to the Cross for several years, and this year they were asked to play bride and groom.

“Stephanie is always doing stuff for me, and we do a lot together, so I was willing to help her out,” says Dobson. "I really enjoyed getting into the biblical time period. I’m a Christian, so I enjoyed the way everyone worked together with no butting heads.” A former shepherd of goats and sheep, Dobson appreciated the family atmosphere.

“This was absolutely the best biblical depiction I had ever seen,” Dobson said after he had the opportunity to go through presentation late Saturday night. He traveled from Newport, Wash., to the Spokane Valley every day to participate. “I highly recommend it to others as it is fun to be in the story of Jesus," he says.

Neighbors of the Spokane Valley Church, Chena and Jeremy Zimmerman, have participated for four years. When their bishop came to the church one Sabbath and learned of the need for cast members for Journey to the Cross, he shared this with his local Mormon ward. The Zimmermans volunteered that year and enjoyed it so much they brought their thespian children the next year. Now they make this a family tradition.

This year, seven Zimmermans participated. Five are too young or prefer not to “act.” Sons Jared and Riley took turns as James, a disciple of Jesus, with their dad playing Peter. Adam Zimmerman was a Roman soldier at Golgotha, while brother Logan donned a costume so he could be part of the story and served cider to cast members and kept fires and torches burning. Chena was Mary Magdalene at the tomb of Jesus, while her daughters Angelina and Alicia danced at the wedding at Cana.

“We do this because we love being part of something big. We loved the smell of the wood chips, the fires, and so we wanted to share this with our whole family,” says Jeremy Zimmerman.

Chena also enjoyed the camaraderie with other cast members. She found it interesting to share beliefs and “the things we have in common.” Her favorite part of Journey to the Cross was watching each Jesus as they interacting with cast members.

“I love the community, and sharing the scripture stories,” says Jeremy Zimmerman. "I have learned so much about Jesus. The spirit of this event changes your life.”

Spokane Valley's new associate pastor, Jake Wilkinson, served as a roving Jesus. Seven groups, each with a Jesus, Peter, James and John, stay with the tour groups so attendees have continuity in each scene of Christ's life.

The most pivotal moment for Wilkinson was Pilot's court. “How could people choose so poorly?" he wonders. "The sorrow Jesus must have felt when they chose Barabbas and began to yell 'crucify Him!'"

The new Spokane Valley senior pastor, Teddy Shupe, was at the end of the Journey, meeting and greeting the guests. "This was an amazing event, especially as I saw and heard the impact that it had on people afterwards," he says. "And it was so impressive to see the willingness and enthusiasm of Jesus-followers from our [Adventist] churches and from different denominations come together to show and tell the story of Jesus to the community in a wonderful, winsome way for all ages." 

Journey to the Cross allows each cast member to have a clearer picture of Jesus and a wider circle of friends. The cast becomes family and closer to God and His character as a result of immersing themselves in His story. This is the theme of so many who share the story of Jesus in Journey to the Cross each year.

This ninth annual Journey to the Cross brought more than 3,200 to the Spokane Valley Church on March 25–27.