December 15, 2011
Organizers Hoping to Draw 2,000 Guests in Second Season of Journey to Bethlehem
AWAY IN THE MANGER - Organizers are hoping to draw as many as 2,000 visitors to the Journey to Bethlehem to be held west of Memphis beginning this weekend.
Encore, encore, encore!!! While it may not have been a shouted chorus like those at the end of famous rock concerts, the leaders of the local Journey to Bethlehem production heard the message none the less. After more than 1,000 guests made the journey last Christmas season, it was an easy decision to plan a sequel in 2011.
"Well I think we all knew in our hearts this was going to be something more than a one-time event," said Pastor Steve Jarvis of the Lighthouse of Faith Church, the body that is heading up the production. "It seems like after it was over last year we just wanted to keep doing it every night. Somewhere about mid year we came out and made it official. You know God is just so good!"
Early preparations began in October, as a few obstacles had to be overcome. The largest complication was the brand new church building setting smack dab in the middle of where the Journey began in 2010.
"We have changed some things up this year, providing more intense interaction," said Jarvis. "The trail is longer and different, since we are building a church now on the property it required some creativity to make it all work and thanks to the Lord He always comes through for us."
Passersby on Highway 136, west of Memphis, have noticed that a new village is forming. Construction has been ongoing for two months. While the inn remained mostly in tact from last year's production, additions have been made to it, as well as many of the camps along the path to Bethlehem.
"We really want people to feel like they are traveling the same roads Mary and Joseph did to Bethlehem," said Jarvis. "We are looking for impact, to shake the dust off of peoples' zeal for the Lord and light a holy fire back into the people of this world. It's exciting to see what happened last year and I think our people are hungry for more and hopefully the community is too."
Guests will have interactions with Roman soldiers and witness how they governed the lands of their sprawling empire. The trail is filled with the perils of thieves and tax collectors and the inconvenience of the cumbersome modes of transportation such as donkeys, camels and horses not to mention the multitudes of livestock such as goats, cattle and sheep, that dotted the lands around the ancient town.
However, those are just the trimmings. The true point of it all is arriving in Bethlehem where our Savior has been born.
"This is something we feel strongly about doing," said Jarvis. "Our world has forgotten and we need to be reminded that Jesus is the savior of man and He is coming back and we have to be ready. So everything we can do as the Lighthouse church to shine a light on Him and help prepare people for His return we are going to do it."
Production dates and times have been expanded in 2011, as organizers are hoping to double the number of travelers to 2,000 or more.
The first Journey will start at 6 p.m. on Friday, December 16th. On Saturday, December 17th, the Journey will open at 4:30 p.m. with a 4 p.m. start time on Sunday, December 18th. Guests with special needs, are encouraged to attend Sunday afternoon.
"We are going to try to have motorized 'chariots' this year for travelers who cannot walk the trail," Jarvis said. "They will be easier to step into and should get around a little easier than the wagon that was used last year."
Organizers have added a fourth night to the Journey. December 20th will be reservation night. To make an appointment to have your group make the Journey, call Jarvis at 660.341.6232.
"It is a busy time of the year for everyone," Jarvis said. "Last year we had a lot of people tell us they missed the Journey because of scheduling conflicts. We hope the reservation night will meet many of those needs."
While the journey itself takes part at the new church site west of town, the trip begins at the current church building on the east side of the Memphis square.
"It is very important that people not come to the site of the journey," Jarvis said. "We are starting at the church on the square in Memphis."
Prior to departing for the Journey site, guests will be placed into an extended family group, with a group leader who will guide them to Bethlehem, where they have all been called to complete the census.
A number of volunteers from other area churches have joined the cast from the Lighthouse of Faith to swell the ranks to between 125 and 150 moving parts who will bring the Journey to life.
The trip will take approximately 30 minutes from when the guests get on the bus at the church to the time they get back on the bus after the journey is completed. Guests will be bused back to The Place Youth Center on the square for hospitality including hot chocolate, kettle corn, cookies and fellowship.
The entire journey is free and open to the public.