Central Ministries’ Bethlehem gets audio update

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Staff report

Central Ministries has revamped its Living Nativity Drive-Thru for 2017, making it easier to hear the stories associated with scenes of Bethlehem.

Melissa Soldner, who was charged with updating the feature this year, said it draws hundreds of people each Christmas season. “There have been up to 500 cars coming through, and there also are some Amish carriages coming through,” Soldner said. “It takes over a hundred people per night. My passion is to share the story of the Lord Jesus, and I think that’s why a lot of people do it. We have probably 200 to 300 people working behind the scenes because we may not have the same cast on Saturday that’s on Friday.”

The Living Nativity will be presented Friday and Saturday, Dec. 1 and 2, from 6:30-9:30 p.m. each evening. Central Ministries Chapel Ridge Campus is at 5801 Schwartz Road, and faces St. Joe Center Road on the north side of Indiana 37. Admission is free.

Cast members are from both the Chapel Ridge Campus and the Leo Campus.

Soldner said the village will be more 3-dimensional than in years past. Townspeople will set up vendor booths, but won’t sell anything. “We’re also excited that we’re going to ask people to pay their taxes like they’re coming into Bethlehem. You will be given a coin or two to pay your own tax as the travelers come to pay taxes that Caesar had decreed as law throughout the land,” she said. “We have a new Gabriel and Mary scene plus the shepherd and the angels. There will be real sheep in that little pen and a Nativity with miniature donkeys and then we’ll have the Wise Men and some camels.”

Guests still will move among 13 scenes of Bethlehem. But this year the stories will not be told on a recorded loop at each scene. Instead, guests can call up the OtoCast App on their cell phones to hear the narratives for free. Someone will be available to help people download the app.

Sherry Yoder of JD Yoder & Sons Construction in Spencerville designed the new scenes. Bobbi Shull wrote the narrative performed by Central Ministries voice actors Don Wharton, John Crilly, Smith Handerson, Josh Koiner, Amy Crilly and Delaney Crilly. The audio was produced by Crying Out Loud Productions, Fort Wayne, with all talent from Central Ministries.

“Bobbi and husband Perry Shull also add a little Bethlehem humor with road signs they created,” Soldner said in an email.

“Gerbers Electric of Woodburn is making sure the place is lit up for everyone to see,” Soldner said. “Woodwork of Ed Hugenard will be throughout the story. Wood-burned signs by Tim Humbert will give an ancient feel. Ambrose Tata made contributions that will be pivotal to the story.”

The story will end with a picture of heaven demonstrated by Living Grace Dance Ministry, also of Fort Wayne.