Time travel seems to be the one thing that no 21st century inventor will claim to understand completely, let alone provide proof of. When it comes down to it; however, Kings Avenue Baptist Church comes closest to fulfilling this daunting task. It is even willing to take you with them on a trip back to Jesus’ birth that you will never forget. You will be able to visit the local well and talk with the residents about the rampant rumor of a baby whose birth will change the world, learn from the rabbi, view the wares in the marketplace and feel the scorn from the Roman guards. You will also be able to view the baby Jesus nestled in the manger under the watchful eyes of his lovely mother Mary. This isn’t the church’s first trip back in time; it will be Kings Avenue Baptist Church’s 25th annual Walk Thru Bethlehem.
As you can imagine, it takes a lot to construct such an extravagant event from basic materials such as plywood and nails, but church member Dave Gallops explained the passion behind the construction. “This is the best gift to give the community free of charge because it is the gift that God gave freely to us.”
This is Gallops’ 24th year helping to re-construct Bethlehem, and when it is complete, he will trade in his hammer and nails to suit up as a Roman guard with his son, Nathan, and fellow church members, Ryan and Jerry Messman. The entire event uses more than 300 volunteers, not all in costume. There are those behind the scenes helping to create the costumes, cook the food and entertain those waiting to go through. The entire event is as close to being historically accurate as is legally possible. “We try to keep it as close to the description in the Bible. If we have any changes, we ask the elders of the church before we make them,” explained Gallops.
Last year, there were approximately 7,200 people in attendance, and this year, due to it being their 25th anniversary, there are expected to be even more. “For many people, this is a family tradition in their Christmas season,” commented Catherine Clark.
An admission fee is not charged, but as the event costs about $5,000 to run, donations are appreciated. Walk Thru Bethlehem is open to the public on Thursday, December 8, 6:30-9:30 p.m.; Friday, December 9, 6:30-10 p.m.; Saturday, December 10, 4-10 p.m.; and Sunday, December 11, 4-9:30 p.m. at Kings Avenue Baptist Church located at 2602 S. Kings Ave. in Brandon. There are no preregistrations; the staff’s only advice was to arrive an hour early in order to avoid the rush. There will be accommodations for the handicapped. The standard group size is limited to 12 people in a group. While you wait, there will be a concession stand to buy snacks and live entertainment with groups like The Gibbs Family, along with other local groups. For more information, call Kings Avenue Baptist at 685-3095 or visit kingsavenue.org.