Journey to see Jesus: ESM to host ‘drive-thru’ Bible story

Published 4:47 am Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Bible will come to life next weekend, as ESM United Methodist Church in Bogalusa hosts “Journey to Bethlehem,” a 10-scene drive-through re-enactment of the story of Jesus Christ’s birth.

The Rev. Bill Moon, pastor of ESM, said that he has helped spearhead the event at previous churches he has pastored, but this is the first time it will be offered here at ESM. He last helped organize the living nativity in 2013, when he was the pastor at a church in Arcadia.

Moon said that the set and costumes have been in storage since then, but discussions among ESM church members convinced him it would be a good idea to bring the event to his new church in Bogalusa. Moon began serving as ESM’s pastor in June of 2014.

“This is our Christmas gift to the community,” Moon said.

The drive-thru event is free and will be held Saturday, Dec. 8, through Sunday, Dec. 9, from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. each night. The 10 scenes will be set up outside the church and family life center, and Moon said that it can take up to 100 actors and other volunteers each night to make the event work.

As a result, six other area churches are also joining to help put on the event. They are Bush United Methodist Church, Sun U.M.C., Varnado U.M.C., Thirkield U.M.C., Harry’s Chapel U.M.C. and St. Paul’s A.M.E. Church.

“Each scene has a Scripture board that tells the essence of that portion of the story,” Moon said. “All of the scenes are life-size props with real actors.”

Moon said that the sets are the same ones he used at Arcadia in 2013, but ESM members have been helping to refurbish and repaint them for the upcoming performance. In addition, he said that he has heard from previous performers who are interested in helping, and there are scheduled actors this year who do not even attend any of the seven organizing churches.

“The feedback that we’ve gotten from the community so far is that they are very excited to see this for our area,” he said.

Moon said that visitors to the living nativity will receive a few gifts as they leave — candy canes for the kids, and information about area churches for everyone. He said he hopes that if any visitors aren’t churchgoers and are touched by the event, they may consider attending a local church close to them.

Moon noted that the best thing about putting on an event like this is seeing the reactions of visitors. He recounted one story about a mother and her little girl who attended a similar event years ago when he was volunteering.

Moon said that the girl and mother had driven up to a scene where there was only a single angel, pantomimed by an actress. He then heard the girl turn to her mother and ask “is she real?,” and the angel responded with a wink.

Later, the mother told the girl they needed to drive to the next scene, and the angel gave the little girl another small wave goodbye.

“When it comes to Christmas memories, that little girl is going to remember that one for a long time,” Moon said. “That’s what this event is all about.”