Bethlehem Walk returns for its seventh season beginning Wednesday, December 1st.
The interactive outdoor drama where guests experience first century Bethlehem is located in eastern Goochland County, VA and continues through Sunday December 6th.
As visitors enter the city, the sights, sounds and smells carry them to a period of time that changed the world.
Travelers to Bethlehem Walk journey through the heart of the city to the marketplace that is bustling with activity from over a dozen authentic shops; they enjoy samples from the baker's shop, see the blacksmith at work making crucifixion nails, marvel at the potter's crafts and listen for the rumor of a king's birth from excited townspeople.
Since its inaugural season in 2003, Bethlehem Walk has thrilled and emotionally touched thousands of visitors from across Virginia and the world.
The 2008 production welcomed visitors from across the country (Southern California) and across the Atlantic Ocean from nations like Germany.
Nearly 6,000 visitors toured the city the first year and last December, this ministry touched over 10,000 people.
Over the brief six year history of Bethlehem Walk approximately 45,000 people have toured the event and over 700 decisions have been made to accept Christ as Lord and Savior.
In that time Bethlehem Walk has become a Christmas tradition.
Last December, host church Salem Baptist in Crozier, VA partnered with five area churches to reach the community with this interactive Gospel drama that takes visitors through scenes ranging from the entrance of the Savior into the world to an empty Jewish tomb.
Salem's Senior Pastor Zack Zbinden says producing a Bethlehem Walk is no small undertaking.
"A church in Homer, Michigan uses more than 300 cast, crew, hostesses, and helpers," says the Pastor.
"They draw upon the time, talents, and energy of their members. That church has been doing this event annually since 1985 and attendance averages nearly 1000 people per evening. A church in Marietta, GA will host their 16th annual Bethlehem Walk this year. They average almost 3000 people per night. Another church in Warner Robbins, GA has hosted their event for over ten years and in 1999 drew over 12,000 people over four days."
Zbinden explains one of the unique aspects of the event is the unity and fellowship it fosters not only with his congregation, but among the participating churches as well.
"Even though the focus for the entire production was to win the lost to Christ, one of the most exciting benefits of working for three months on a church-wide project was the unity that was fostered among our members," noted Zbinden.
"Because of that benefit and the fact that our need for others to help us was obvious, we began to invite other churches to participate with us in this event. With hundred's of decision for Christ, there was no way that Salem could follow up with so many people. That is why we are grateful to the churches that have helped put on Bethlehem Walk in the past and are extending an invitation to other churches to join us as we reach our community for the Lord Jesus Christ."
Bethlehem Walk is located at Salem's Broad Street campus in Goochland County, VA just 6 miles west of Short Pump.
The tour is outside and takes approximately 45 minutes so guest are encouraged to dress appropriately for the outdoor weather.
The rough terrain is not suitable for wheelchairs; however the organizers do provide "chariots" to accommodate those who need them.
Because of the huge response to Bethlehem Walk, tours are given on a first come-first served basis. Special tours are available for the hearing impaired and also in Spanish.
Please contact the Salem Baptist Church office at 804-784-4171 for details on these special tour times or for additional information. Admission is free however donations to help defray the costs of construction and maintenance are accepted. Parking is available at the event and at satellite locations. Shuttle service is provided to and from satellite parking locations by Winn Transportation.
There is still a need for additional cast and crew members. For those who would like advance beyond just a visitor to Bethlehem Walk and become a part of the event, organizers welcome you. Individuals who would like to participate can call the Salem Church office or email them (email@example.com) and your interest will be forwarded to a walk coordinator who will contact you with the details for this year's event.
"I believe a ministry event like this will draw people who will normally take their families to see Santa Claus or Christmas lights," added Zbinden. "Bethlehem Walk allows them the opportunity to experience the true reason for the season."
Wednesday, December 1, 2010 . . . 6 – 9 PM
Thursday, December 2, 2010 . . . 6 – 9 PM
Friday, December 3, 2010 . . . 6 – 10 PM
Saturday, December 4, 2010 . . . 4 – 9 PM
Sunday, December 5, 2010 . . . 3 – 8 PM