Another Road to Bethlehem
by Doug Connelly
The “Walk to Bethlehem” (WTB) production has become an annual free outreach event at Hudson Community Baptist Church (HCBC). We are located in the Hudson/Saint-Lazare area of Quebec just a forty-five minute drive west from downtown Montreal. WTB was inaugurated by some visionary congregants who saw the potential in their five-acre church grounds (ample parking, a stable, a barn, a multi-functional church building that was formerly a horse-riding stable), to put on a multi-sensory musical-drama presentation proclaiming the true meaning of the birth of Jesus Christ on that first Christmas in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago. Guides take groups of up to thirty people on a forty-five minute walk during which they meet live animals and all the characters that are mentioned in the biblical narratives surrounding the coming of the Messiah. The final scene ends at the cross. Through word and song an explanation is given about why Jesus had to die. The guests are then invited for refreshments and homemade goodies in our Christmas Café. The first WTB in 2005 drew over 1200 guests over two weekends.
The production has become more popular each year with a record number in 2011 of just over 3,100 guests coming in busloads and in cars from all over southern Quebec and eastern Ontario. Some came from even as far away as Kenya and Singapore. Although the production is in English, we are beginning to see many more French Canadians attend. Most of the congregation is bilingual so our francophone friends are made welcome. Bibles and tracts were made available in both English and French in our Christmas Café, and the Christian Farmers’ Fellowship provided walking sticks this year to those who listened to a three minute gospel presentation. As far as we know, there were eight people who prayed to receive Jesus into their hearts. We know many lives were touched in different ways. Here are a few of the comments that were written in our guest books this past year.
∙ I came with a sister and a new friend that is searching for God and through your ministry you have planted a seed.
∙ Thank you so much from a father who heard a beautiful, wonderful message of the love of God toward me, my three children, my wife and her cousin visiting from Poland.
∙ Thank you for sharing this amazing night and teaching us the real meaning of Christmas.
∙ God chose your production to bring a lot of life and healing in my heart.
∙ This was the first time I did the Walk. I have been so blessed. My heart is so full and I am so happy my children got to experience this journey with me tonight.
∙ Notre famille a participé à la marche de Bethléem le 2 décembre dernier et nous avons adoré notre expérience et nous comptons ajouter cette activité à nos traditions du temps des fêtes.
Knowing that people have come to faith in Christ, and that lives are being touched by the love of God spurs the leadership and congregation on to continue this ministry as long as we are able. We are thankful for how this ministry draws us close together as a community of believers, developing unity within our own church family and establishing friendships with Christians from at least six other churches who volunteer to help us with this venture. Our other church ministries grind to a halt each mid-November as almost the whole HCBC congregation gets involved in numerous roles, including cast and support workers involved in decorations and props, costumes, animal-care, set-up, parking, technical needs, hosting, baking, supervising bon-fires, publicity, administration, finances, prayer, outdoor maintenance, etc. There were one hundred and thirty-one cast members, seventy-five of which were from HCBC, and eighty-five support workers altogether in this year’s production.
It is an exciting, spiritually uplifting time of year for our church family, as well as physically exhausting for some of the older workers. We thank God for the opportunity to share the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ with the community around us. God has given us the grounds and the buildings to host this event and the people willing to share their gifts and talents for their Lord. My wife, Willa, and I have experienced four WTB’s and are so blessed to be part of such a wonderful ministry. We are pulled aside from the busyness and glitter that secular society tries to impose upon us at this time of year and are filled again with the joy and wonder of the true message of Christmas. It thrills my heart to see young children delight in the true story of the baby Jesus who came to be the Saviour of this world and to share with people in our Christmas Café about the great love of Jesus. For more information, videos and pictures of our WTB, visit our web page at www.hudsonbaptist.com
—Doug Connelly is pastor of Hudson Community Baptist Church, Saint-Lazare, Quebec.