By Bonnie Mentel

Imagine walking where Jesus walked and experiencing His life first-hand. The church members at Kings Avenue Baptist Church are working hard to recreate that time. They have built a town, complete with carpenters, tax collectors, merchants and live animals. They expect to see 6,000-7,000 people visit this year.

Dave Gallops has been involved with the ministry for the past 28 years. He oversees the Walk Through Bethlehem ministry, and takes on the role of head Roman guard.

“I’m the mean guy,” Gallops said. “I harass people at the front gate to give them a little taste of what it was like back then.”

Although Gallops has fun with his role, he pointed out the purpose of the night is to focus on Jesus.

“The bottom line is that we’re just giving a story about a free gift that Jesus gave so long ago. We’re showing what Jesus went through in His time and the different stages, such as when there was no room at the stable for Him. We also display the cross, and we also have the tomb. We go through the three main events in His life,” he said.

Visitors are appointed to a guide and taken on a 45-minute tour.

“It’s basically two events in one program, because when people get there they have to wait and get a number. While they’re waiting there is musical entertainment going on,” he said.

The average wait is 1-2 hours. In order to have a shorter wait time, it is recommended to come at the start of the night. The church has an app for people to see when they’re close to being called.

“I promise you that you would definitely enjoy it. We’re not experts; not actors. The Roman guards are going to harass you, make you laugh. You’ll find your mood changing a bit as you get back to the manger, the cross, and the tomb. I’ve seen grown guys come out with tears in their eyes. It’s all about teaching the story about what Jesus went through and about God’s gift to us over 2,000 years ago. It’s our gift back to the community,” Gallops said.

Kings Avenue Baptist Church is located at 2602 S. Kings Ave. in Brandon. Visit www.kingsavenue.org/WTB or call 685-3095.