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Chapter 31: The Journey


directors on stage

Never underestimate the importance of the journey. I am inclined to say that the journey is the most important part of any endeavor.

I have kicked myself many times for not keeping a journal. In the Exodus account of the first Passover, God commands his people to recount the events so that all the generations to follow will hear of His works and know what a great God we serve.

If the only “acts of God” you know about come from the Bible and none from your own life, then you’ve either forgotten all God has done or there’s a problem.

As God commanded Israel, take time to write down some “acts of God” from your journey. Don’t try to write them all at once. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, maybe a truth He revealed and so on. The most amazing thing to me about our journey is that the “big” moments didn’t seem that big while living them.


Lead your family to do this. Then tell your children the accounts. Recount the workings of God. Testify that He is as alive and active today as He was 3000 years ago.

The first year of our amphitheater journey ... whew! It was hard!

You’ve heard: “Build it and they will come?” Well, that only works as a good movie line.

The journey to the amphitheater meant having to negotiate a complicated series of poorly-marked curvy roads through a deserted and deteriorating old theme park.

My daddy, a Highway Design Engineer, decided that the way they designed the roadways in Heritage USA was that Tammy Faye got mad at Jim and chased him around with a bulldozer! Then they paved it!


heritage usa map


From the onset, we knew that marketing would be difficult. We had no budget or expertise. So we made a marketing agreement with the company that operated the Heritage USA Grand Hotel, located on the grounds. They had a large marketing staff and a hotel that needed to be filled with tourists.

What we didn’t count on... that company went bankrupt and the hotel closed soon after we opened. With that closing, we lost what promised to be thousands of tourists and already contracted religious conferences.


hotel closing news article


After opening, our crowds ranged from a couple of hundred to sometimes less than 25 people.

... In a 3000-seat amphitheater.

Quitting would have been so easy.


article about crowds


Every day we made the journey around the amphitheater seven times, praying. I remember a specific day when I poured out my downcast heart to God.
“God,” I said, “Surely you would not have called us to give up everything, do all this work, spend all this money, gather all these people, only to humiliate us by letting us fail!!”

His answer to me was instant and pointed.

“You say this to others: ‘If you were the only person in the world who was lost, God still would have sent Jesus to die for you.’ ... If I (God) didn’t spare my only begotten son for just one person, how do your sacrifices, inconvenience and pride measure up to that?”

Moral of that story: Don’t talk to God about inconvenience and sacrifice.

We were so excited when we had our first tour bus! Oh! What a day!

bus pulling upOur very first tour bus pulling up to the doors of King's Arena!
bus grouopOur first tour group steps into the amphitheater lobby!

A phone call from a tour company was like winning the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes! Between being outdoors, being brand new, being virtually unknown, and having no money or website, nary a tour company in the world knew we were alive!

Some of our first promotional flyers we created once we started into production.

promotional flyer
promotional flyer
promotional flyer
promotional flyer

One day Lynn, our only staff member, asked me, “Do we have a Christmas show?”
Me: “Why do you ask?”
Lynn: “A tour company is on the phone and wants to know.”
Me: “A TOUR COMPANY?!!... WE GOT A CALL FROM A TOUR COMPANY?!! ...Yes! Yes! We do a Christmas show!”

Office door flies open. Rebecca comes running up the steps where I’m working.

We’re doing a Christmas show!!!


There’s a tour company that might come!! I know exactly what we’ll do!


We’ll tell the real Christmas story! God already wrote the script! It don’t get no better than that!

Then back down the steps she went!
And that year, on top of everything else, we did indeed write & perform a Christmas show.


christmas show photo"The Real Christmas Story" was originally a one-act show entitled "Jerusalem in Lights."


After all these years, “THE REAL CHRISTMAS STORY” has gone through changes, but it has played every Christmas since that opening in 1997. And it’s still an all-time audience favorite!

We don’t know if that tour company that called ever made the journey to see our Christmas show but thousands upon thousands have since.

The journey.
It’s the path we walk every day with God.
Keep walking.


More Photos from Christmas

wisemen at stable
dancers on stage
shorty the elf
soloist on stage
nativity scene
victorian caroler
Santa and Mrs. Claus
overview of stage
promotional rack card


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Chapter 32: Keep Your Eyes on Jesus
Chapter 30: May 22, 1997

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