by Kathy Marson
Spokane, Wenatchee and Yakima, Wash., December 19, 2011-
After taking her children through Spokane's Journey to Bethlehem the first time, Sara* joined another group that was just beginning and journeyed through again. After the second time through, Sara scurried over to the church and asked to speak to the pastor's wife.
Shelley Blake was located and Sara said, "I'm looking for a church to join where my children are taught about Jesus." Blake was able to invite her to attend the South Hill Church. Blake said that probably half of the people who came through this fifth-annual journey on Spokane's South Hill were brand new and many said they came because they saw the huge bright star. At night the star hovering over Bethlehem could be seen for miles around.
Spokane, Wenatchee and Yakima all host this event every December called Journey to Bethlehem. The excitement in the churches just before the event on dress rehearsal night is electrifying. Hundreds of people in the cast and crew take an evening to gather together, don their costumes, and make sure props and power are working before the guests arrive.
Once they arrived in Yakima, this comment was overheard by a little boy who had just finished his journey, "I didn't get to pet the rhino!" He was referring to Izzie, the camel. Yakima's third-annual Journey to Bethlehem event ran December 2-5.
The churches all give this event free to their communities. More than 4,800 followed the star (searchlight) to the Yakima Church's "Journey." Spokane had 4,978 guests and Wenatchee in their second year had 3,529 guests attend during their four-night journey.
New this year in Yakima was a planted "tax evader" who was hauled off to jail from the tax collector's tent. Spokane added the story of the Wise Men at the beginning of the journey; and halfway through guests saw the widow searching for her lost coin in her little house.
A donation box was added in Yakima so that people could donate to the Union Gospel Mission. In Spokane, a Second Harvest Food Bank container received donations from thankful guests who felt it a privilege to be a part of this yearly reenactment of the time when Jesus was born 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem. Many lives are touched and changed forever through the Journey to Bethlehem.