After much prayer and renewed volunteer involvement, Walk to Bethlehem will return this year.
Walk to Bethlehem features a live Nativity and tour of the Bethlehem marketplace as it appeared during the days of Jesus' birth. This year's event takes place Saturday and Sunday at First Christian Church.
According to the event's coordinator, Judy Church, the event took place 1995-2009, when “volunteer fatigue” ended the two-day interactive Christmas event.
“We regretted stopping because it was an outreach,” Church said.
After a few inquiries and pledges of support from local churches and neighbors in the form of volunteers and financial assistance, Church was able to successfully convince the church board to restart Walk to Bethlehem.
Church said one of those inquiries came from Jeanne Ringswald who attends Life Bridge Church.
“My kids absolutely loved it,” Ringswald said. “We always looked forward to it.”
Ringwald has talked about the return of Walk to Bethlehem to friends and church members, and financial and material donations have come in at a steady rate.
North Christian Church is helping with publicity, providing costumes and members are volunteering to help with the production. The 4-H Llama Club is providing llamas. Yet others are handing out flyers, helping with set-up, working marketplace booths and lending other animals such as a donkey and long-haired goats.
“This is a wonderful way to get the community together,” Church said.
The production still includes guided tours every 10 minutes outside and inside the church. Walk to Bethlehem features live scenes, live animals, the marketplace and a place to hold prayers. Church said potters and wool spinners will be a part of this year's event.
Even neighbors of First Christian Church are excited to see Walk to Bethlehem's return.
Shirley Carter is one of those neighbors who helped man the booths at past productions. The first two years she worked at the bread and cheese booth and then worked at the fruits and nuts booth. She was disappointed when the church discontinued the event.
When Church informed Carter everything was a go for this year, Carter was first to offer her help and, yes, she will be at the fruits and nuts booth again this year.
“We have to know what we believe and to witness to it,” Church said. “This is a way to express their Christian faith.”
“We're a melting pot,” Ringswald said. “It's wonderful we can get together.” Ringswald's grandchildren and family also are volunteering to help this year.
Carter said it's touching to see parents carrying their small children to the intergenerational event.
“It's a way to share my faith,” Church said. “I felt like I was recognizing Christmas. This takes care of that. You give of yourself. This baby changed the world. After that, everything is gravy.”