8th Day: Journey to Judea

On the eighth day we traveled thousands of miles and twenty centuries to Judea.  We went to Countryside Baptist Church to do their Journey to Judea, a mile long outdoor route that had nearly one hundred actors, livestock, and beautiful sets.

We started the afternoon with one of Marshall’s favorites- pesto pizza.  Today we called it Christmas pizza, as it is red and green from the tomatoes, spinach & pesto and the white crumbly feta appears almost snow like.  It was the perfect thing to warm our bellies before venturing out to travel back in history.  Recipe below.

Christmas Pizza

Once we were all fed and double checked the weather, we packed up and drove out to Kansas once again.  It was suppose to be a mix of freezing rain and snow all day so we weren’t sure we would for sure be able to make the forty-five minute drive; luckily it held off so we decided to venture over as this is suppose to be a must see event.

Our stops along the journey

We brought Marshall all bundled up and in the jogging stroller with two thick fleece blankets packed in around him as it is an hour long event in below freezing temps.  We turned in our ticket, (it was a free event but did require preregistration) received purple placards to place us in a group, and were then let in to a greeting hall full of cocoa and cookies.  Marshall was grumpy when I asked him to say ‘cheese’ for a picture (he does imitate the ‘cheese’ sound quite well) until he got a cookie and was instantly better, sigh.  I swore I wouldn’t be the parent to bribe their kid to behave, and I’m usually not.  But he’s two, nonverbal, and we just drove forty-five minutes . . . we were going to at least try to see this!

Before and after cookies.
Oy vey.

We didn’t have to wait long before our group was called back into a sort of holding room where we were given orange ‘Roman Census’ cards.  Right off the bat we were transported back to another place in another time.  The sets, decor, and costumes were all pretty realistic.  We were guided by a narrator and a sweet girl that would escort people back to the church if they decided to cut the tour short because of children, cold, etc.  Marshall was immediately best friends with the girl, always making sure she was close by and wanting to follow her, he kept trying to charm her with his smile.  She was almost as good as a cookie to keep him distracted.

Some of the scenes along the way and being
guided by lantern

The first person we met, at the mouth of the trail, was Moses.  Each stop we met a new biblical figure who would explain their lives, prophecy, and general ties to Jesus.  It really put into perspective how long the coming of Jesus was and that God works in his own time.

There was one stop that I couldn’t help but giggle.  It was Abraham’s stop.  Abraham was called by God to sacrifice his son but at the last moment an angel stopped him and then provided a sheep for a sacrifice instead.  In and of itself, this is not comical, but a grandma’s reaction was.  See, she was there with her daughter and her daughter’s children in a side by side stroller.  As they were talking about sacrificing the lamb, grandma starts to panic and says pretty loudly that they need to shield the kids’ eyes, thinking that we were about to witness an actual live animal sacrifice.  Her daughter shushed her and next thing I know I hear a muffled crying, I turn around to see grandma covered the younger child (about five) with the blanket.  The mom quickly grabbed the stroller away from grandma and it was time to move on to the next station.  Really though?  It just kind of struck me as comical that someone thought the church was sacrificing lambs in five minute intervals in front of children and everybody; that would bring it to a whole new level of dedication to making it real.

Back to the journey, Marshall did so well.  Each station was only a few minutes, as there were about thirty stops in sixty minutes.  It was so perfect with offering new scenes, people, and animals to keep children’s attention.  Each stop also had a nice roaring fire going that we were all huddled around watching the scene play out.  It was amazing and we didn’t even realize the cold misting rain until we saw thin ice very slowly accumulating on Marshall’s jogging stroller.

Journey to Judea ’13- scenes from Bethlehem


Marshall watching the Magi’s prophecy


Mads looking on as Mary (on live donkey)
is turned away at the inn


Marshall & Brad at The Nativity


Jesus being blessed at the temple.
(Hey I said the nice guide girl was almost as good as cookies to Marsh)

It was very moving to see how everything came together just right and finally come upon the Nativity scene.  Most places this would be the end of it, but not here, the church wanted to drive home the whole purpose Jesus was sent in the first place.  We were greeted by townspeople who told us of different miracles Jesus performed for them and how he made you feel upon just newly meeting him.  We were escorted by singing angels and then we met John the Disciple.  He was next to a cross and sorrowfully recounted the crucifixion.  Marshall started to get sad over hearing John’s emotional testimony and hid his face in Brad’s shoulder.

Once more I naively thought that this would be the end but it wasn’t, I should have known better.  We were led further up and out of the woods to a clearing with a fully lit tomb full of candles.  The tomb was empty and Jesus had risen.  They explained how this is truly what the Christmas season is all about, not the story of the stable, but the salvation of us all.  It was a beautiful note to end on.

The tomb

The whole tour just flew by and before we knew it we were back in the parking lot getting ready to head back over to Missouri.  We had to take it pretty slow as the winter mess they were predicting for earlier finally caught up to us and there was a light freezing rain the whole way home.  Marshall slept soundly in the back and the roads weren’t too bad so the drive wasn’t bad at all.  It was definitely well worth the drive to see, I wish more churches did something like this on this kind of scale.

We got home, made dinner, and lit our second candle in the advent wreath.  Marshall loves the ritual of lighting the candles on the wreath with Sunday dinner.  Though, it is hard for him since we used birthday candles in his advent craft, so he always tries to blow them out once we light them.

Second Sunday, second candle on the Advent Wreath


Trying to blow out the candles

The eighth day was a day of quietly reflecting through time and history and what it all means to us as Christians.  It was a reminder of what we are really celebrating during this season and allowed Marshall to get a better understanding through visuals.  There was a peace that we found on that trail that is hard to describe, it was touching and we didn’t realize how much we needed that until we were midway through.  This day has been the most meaningful to us so far.  I hope that everyone is able to find a similar experience, be it religious or otherwise, that gives you a feeling of peace and warmth.


Semi-homemade Christmas Pizza

1 whole grain, pre rolled pizza crust
1 package pesto sauce
3/4 c water
1/4 olive oil
1 small roma tomato, diced
1/4 fresh baby spinach leaves, cut into ribbons
1/2 c shredded chicken breast
1/3 c crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 425.  Mix pesto package, water, oil and simmer.  After a few minutes, spread pesto sauce onto the pizza crust.  Put down the chicken, tomato, feta, and spinach and put in the oven for about 8 minutes.  Its that easy, and the pizza is lighter than ‘traditional’ pizza and way less greasy.  Enjoy!


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