Journey to Bethlehem Sees Record Crowds
By Linda Wilson

This year marks the 15th year the Kelso-Longview (Wash.) Church has offered their production of Journey to Bethlehem. This event, which takes community members on a "journey" where they can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel their Bethlehem experience, attracted more than 8,500 people.

This year's production involved nearly 220 volunteers, most of them from the Adventist congregation, but some from other churches. These volunteers work together like a well-oiled machine in areas such as set design and set up, costumes, parking, greeters, directors, animal tenders, fire tenders, security, and parking. The newest cast member this year was Curley the Camel, replacing the church's camel, Gizmo, who died suddenly early last spring.

At the start of their Journey, participants are met by two "cousins," who guide them from Nazareth to Bethlehem. On the way they come across three magi and their camel, spend time in a householders tent, are held up by a Roman guard, experience a Bethlehem marketplace, beg for lodging at an inn, pay their taxes, witness an angel, and find a family huddled together at a manger.

Every person taking the Journey ends the trip at a large lighted wooden cross where they are told, "Tell everyone you see; anyone you meet — that the Messiah, our Savior has been born!"