Goldendale Holds First Journey to Bethlehem

January 26, 2015 | Lori Gray

The Goldendale (Wash.) Church presented its first Journey to Bethlehem on Dec. 5 and 6, 2014.

Guests were greeted and parked, then met their guide in the church foyer. Guides took guests on a Journey to Bethlehem, stopping first at the temple in Jerusalem, where they met a high priest who shared the significance of the furniture, unleavened bread and incense. Guests met Simeon and Anna, who encouraged them to look for a soon-coming Messiah.

Upon leaving the temple, guides shared some history about the spiritual condition of the Jewish nation at the time of Jesus' birth. When they reached Bethlehem, they were met by a Roman soldier who made them stop at the census taker and tax collector's booth to register and pay their taxes. Here the guides helped the guests pay.

Then their journey took them to the inn, where the innkeeper had to turn them away. His wife said, “We were able to accommodate a young couple in our stable. The wife gave birth to a baby boy.” The innkeeper added that they too could check out the stable since he doubted they would find lodging in crowded Bethlehem that night. 

After leaving the inn, the guides shared some prophecies foretelling the Messiah's birth and encouraged the guests to keep their eyes and ears open, as they visited the stable, to find if there might be any indications that the baby the innkeeper's wife had spoken of might be the Messiah.   

The stable, they discovered, was crowded by some very excited shepherds who were visiting the young couple with the newborn baby. The shepherds told the guests an incredible story about being visited by angels while they watched their sheep. As they shared, a bright light appeared behind the guests, they turned to find the source, and there, as though in a flashback, was the angel sharing the good news about Jesus birth.

Then the light became brighter and included a host of angels who gave praise and glory to God and sang. The cold night air was filled with the majestic strains of the "Hallelujah Chorus." When the singing was over, the light faded away and the guide exclaimed, “We must go and tell others the good news of the Messiah's birth!” So they hurried on.

Visitors met the wise men bearing costly gifts. Their guide ushered them into the Better Living Center, where they discovered an incredible street in Bethlehem with fully furnished shops including an apothecary; the Healing Market; Martha's Market with fruit, vegetables and grains; a bakery with the smell of freshly baked bread; and Bethlehem Baskets, where the shopkeepers were weaving onsite. At each of the shops, the guide interacted with the shopkeepers about their wares, each time finding an opportunity to share the good news of the Messiah's birth.

Guests heard Scripture recited and sung about the Messiah in the Jewish home. They heard about the Messiah at the town well, where local news was shared as women came to draw water. At the synagogue, the women guests sat on a bench to one side and the men on the other and listened to Scripture read from the scrolls by the Rabbi. After encounters with the townspeople at Leah’s Cloth and Candle Shop and the potter’s house, they visited the carpenter's shop, where the carpenter told of meeting Joseph, a good and honest carpenter, from the town of Nazareth.

Upon completing the tour, the guides asked their guests to consider all that Jesus had given up in His majestic heavenly home to come as a tiny, helpless babe in Bethlehem. And because of Jesus’ great love for them, He ultimately gave His life, so that they might have life eternal. Would they accept the greatest gift of all time?

Bethlehem cuisine awaited the guests, where they enjoyed authentic Jewish refreshments at tables attractively decorated with nativity figurines. Beneath a canopy in the cuisine area, there was a special craft for children, where they could meet the local Adventist elementary school teacher, Cris Laulile, and make a "baby Jesus in the manger."

Following their fellowship and when they were ready to leave, guests were guided to their cars by two youth, Andrew Beckner and Micah Reimche-Vu. This additional care and attention was greatly appreciated.

In spite of the cold and icy conditions the first evening, the census-taker recorded 170 guests for both evenings. Many expect more next year. In spite of sickness that kept 50 staff from participating, 78 did an amazing job of portraying the Bethlehem story and assisting with the first-ever Journey to Bethlehem in Goldendale.

There were miracles of printers out of ink printing, having gifted folks available to wire the electrical, create the costumes, and to paint and decorate the street of Bethlehem. The members at Goldendale were joined by other community members to produce a labor of love for their community that was all about Jesus.

What was a first in Goldendale has been happening in Wenatchee, Yakima, Spokane and Hermiston each year. Each location has their own unique way of presenting the story of the birth of Jesus. Over 5,050 visitors came through Spokane. In Hermiston 1,700 attended their event, and totals are still coming from Wenatchee and Yakima. Thousands of visitors were reached for Jesus, and only God knows the full impact.

Lori Gray, Goldendale Church member, Elaine Kubler Goldendale Church communication leader, and Kathy Marson, Upper Columbia Conference communication assistant