by Kathy Marson
Spokane, December 22, 2010 -
O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
(Song by Phillips Brooks 1868)
Was it because of taxes that 12,719 people traveled to Yakima, Hermiston, Spokane and Wenatchee the first and second weekends of December? What kind of production caused 695 people to either dress up in a Bible costume or become parking attendants or a hot chocolate server? And why did owners bring their 14 maa-ing goats, 13 baa-ing sheep, 11 cackling chickens, 7 neighing horses, 4 braying donkeys, 2 baby camels, 2 curly llamas and one, little three-day-old calf, to be part of the cast in the four little towns of Bethlehem?
The migration to Spokane South Hill's version of ancient Bethlehem has occurred for four years now. Three years ago, Hermiston began their little town, two years ago Yakima commenced their story of the birth of Jesus and this year Wenatchee joined in with a similar production. These productions don't just happen, they take a lot of work. Pastor Greg Griffitts from Hermiston says, "This is an all-out event. For two or three weeks this is all that is going on."
"The people in our church eally enjoy working together for a common goal," says Debbie Gilbert from Yakima. "It is great to see so many little miracles happen. From costumes, buildings and weather -- we were supposed to have a huge ice storm and it didn't happen -- God makes it all come together. This event is bigger than we are, it has to be the hand of God working."
For three or four days, there were many visitors to each Little town of Bethlehem, with members of the church and community playing the parts of the townspeople. As the guests arrived at the church, they were greeted by parking attendants and ushered into the church to listen to music from various community groups while they waited their turn to travel through the streets of Bethlehem. They were guided by a "cousin" through streets filled with the smell of camp fires, roasting chicken and torches. Amidst the cacophony of clucking chickens, the mornful wail of the shofar and the galloping of the horse, street vendors hawked their wares and the inn keeper guarded his door. Visitors experienced the tax collector's demands, the angels singing, the shepherds running, and witnessed the quietness of baby Jesus in the stable. Then hearts filled with a new appreciation of what Jesus did by coming to the earth as a baby.
And the reason why they came? All 12,000 visitors and 700 volunteers came because they were drawn to witness the gift of Jesus, who is the Light and Savior of the world.
1672 in Hermiston
3847 in Spokane
3500 in Wenatchee
3700 in Yakima
160 in Hermiston
200 in Spokane
155 in Wenatchee
180 in Yakima
4 in Spokane
3 in Hermiston
2 in Yakima
, , , and the first year for Wenatchee
"I just got back from a trip to Israel and I went to Bethlehem. This was better!"
A lady in Yakima
"Momie, God is back."
Four-year-old who saw a spotlight that reminded her of the Journey to Bethlehem in Yakima.
"Thank you for the wonderful portrayal of Jesus' story."
Man with tears rolling down his check, speaking to the Hermiston parking attendant,
"It meant a lot to me to be able to go through Bethlehem with my son and grandson."
Heard by a repair shop owner in Wenatchee who was also a part of the event.
"We would wait three hours all over again to go through Bethlehem."
A family with three little children who were the last to go through Wenatchee's Journey.
"Are you Adventists? And do you believe in Jesus?"
An amazed man at the Spokane event.