Spokane Journey to Bethlehem Pounded by Storm

by Jay Wintermeyer

The record-breaking storm pounded the main gateway of the Journey to Bethlehem village at the South Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church on Spokane's South Hill.
Set pieces from Journey to Bethlehem littered the ground following the record storm.
The temporary shelters for Journey to Bethlehem were no match for the near hurricane-force winds.

SPOKANE, Wash., November 19, 2015 - Did you ever build something super exciting as a kid only to have someone come along and smash your prize creation to bits? That's kind of how the curators of a local Spokane holiday fixture feel in the wake of this week's devastating storm.

Members of the South Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church awoke Wednesday to discover the nativity village they have been building since mid-October suffered significant damage from the gale-force winds that cut a path of destruction across the Inland Northwest Tuesday and Wednesday.

The nativity village lost three main structures and the main village gate, all ruined beyond repair. Additionally several of the shelters were toppled by the storm, but only sustained minor damage.

Event director, Nancy Engle, said “This has set us back. We're going to have to have a work bee for the next few Sunday's to get back on track for opening day, December 4.”

The annual Journey to Bethlehem nativity pageant has been part of Spokane's South Hill holiday festivities for nine years. The event, featuring more than 120 actors and as many as 30 live animals, draws crowds of more than five thousand people each year.

"People expect Journey to Bethlehem and make it part of their holiday tradition every year. The thought of canceling never entered our mind," said South Hill Adventist senior pastor, Paul Blake. "We can easily replace the damaged set pieces with rented tents. This is about telling the story of Jesus and overcoming problems just like He did."

This is a labor of love for the community. A committee of 20 people work year around preparing for the first weekend in December. In the end, it’s about serving the community and sharing the love of Jesus said Engle. “I love doing this and seeing how this event affects the more than 5,000 guests who enjoy it each year.”

Journey to Bethlehem opens Friday, December 4 at 6 p.m. at the South Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church on the corner of 57th and Freya. The event continues Saturday and Sunday, December 5 and 6 from 5 to 8 p.m. For more information, visit jtbspokane.org.