By Susan Mires
ST. JOSEPH – From a grassy field in St. Joseph, visitors could experience the Middle East desert.
About 3,000 paeople toured a life-sized replica of the Biblical tabernacle constructed by Green Valley Baptist Church.
From the outer court to the holy of holies, visitors were guided through the tabernacle as it might have looked when Moses and the Israelites traveled through the desert on their way to the Promised Land.
Pastor David Mason said they wanted to show people how to approach the Lord. The replica included all the original elements such as a brazen altar, the Ark of the Covenant and the mercy seat.
“It’s a treasure map of how to find the great and wonderful presence of God,” Mason said.
Don Juhl, one of Green Valley’s members, depicted the role of the high priest.
“The greatest part was finding the connection between everything God told Moses and how it points to Jesus Christ,” he said.
Visitors first went through a set-up room, where some of the background of the original tabernacle was explained. Then, they walked outside and were guided through the structure.
Juhl and his wife, Theresa, brought two sheep from their farm to add to the scene. The priests explained how the animal sacrifices covered the sins of the Israelites, but Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrifice.
“It’s a way to evangelize. For the Christians, it is a way of uplifting them,” Juhl said.
For the last two years, Green Valley has offered tabernacle tours for two weeks each August. Most visitors came as part of church groups from denominations as diverse as Amish, Catholic and Baptist congregations.
Now, Green Valley wants to pass the ministry on to another church or group of churches.
“We want to give it to people who have a desire to present it to their area as we presented it to ours,” Mason said.
The tabernacle took more than two years to construct at a cost of about $10,000.
“It was provided for the same way the original tabernacle was, out of the love offerings of the congregation,” Mason said.
The panels of the outer court were made of red, white, blue, and purple vinyl. Women from Green Valley sewed the veil of the tabernacle embroidered with the names of God. They also made all the costumes. It takes eight people to present the experience.
The original tabernacle had tables made of wood overlaid with gold. Members looked for creative ways to build the new pieces.
“We had to really sit down and figure out the cost, yet still have it so people could experience the tabernacle,” Mason said.
But the effect was inspirational. Juhl said one woman wept as she walked through, then reached out and caressed the golden Ark of the Covenant.
“If you use your imagination, you could see yourself in the tabernacle,” he said.
Mason described the walk-through experience as learning 50 chapters of the Bible in 30 minutes. At the end, visitors went through a wrap-up room with a simple presentation of the Gospel.
“When you put it in the fashion that people best learn – visually and experientially – it changes everything,” Mason said.
Any church or pastor interested in the tabernacle can contact Mason at firstname.lastname@example.org.