OMAHA – The town of Omaha is up in the country – really up in the country. Situated at the top of Missouri on Highway 149, there are two residents in the tiny burg. There is only one occupied house. But every Sunday about a hundred people gather in the Baptist church just west of the old gas station and general store.
And for the past six years, on a Sunday afternoon, the third weekend of December, the congregation swells close to 150 as the Omaha Baptist Church puts on a fictional radio drama called “KOBC, Radio Omaha – An Omaha Country Christmas.”
The brainchild of Omaha pastor, Kevin Collins, the 20 person cast assembles for a show that is described as “part Prairie Home Companion, part Hee-Haw and part church.” The sign at the front of the auditorium blinks “on air” as the jokes and songs begin.
This year they expanded the show into nearby Unionville for a Saturday performance at the local middle school auditorium.
Emcee Collins said they do the show with a focus on country fun while telling the Christmas story. Lots of corny jokes and skits permeate the country style gospel music show. Collins weaves stories and homespun humor into the intros to the songs and the commercials for homespun products and services found in and around Omaha. Church and community members sing, play and do interviews and skits in the production.
“We are sharing the Christmas story in a way that shows God’s people can have a good time,” said Collins. “We see the joy of Christmas and people have a lot of fun.
“It’s a lot of fun to watch people get into the music,” lead musician Mary Vestal said. “Christmas is a time when people really cut loose. You really have fun with Jesus’ birth. It’s a time to reflect on why we have the season.”
Fellow KOBC broadcaster, Roger Casady, said he loves the rural flavor of Omaha Baptist Church. We like that small town feeling. It’s like one big happy family. We’re close, pulling all the same direction, loving God and loving people.” He added, “In this rural area people may not go to any church, but they will all come out to see this (show). I hope we are connecting with them in a way they can grasp the Christmas story.”
Casady wears overalls and a red neckerchief over his white shirt, like all the men in the show. Most of the cast wears denim and cowboy boots. It’s country to the bone.
As Collins draws the show to a close, he shares the Gospel story and invites people to consider a relationship with Christ.
“In addition to being an outreach tool it is a unique way to share the Christmas story. It helps give church a good name in the community I suppose,” he commented. “It’s Christian entertainment and they hear the Gospel.”
Vestal said the songs and jokes are just “old style country humor.” She said they practice for about two and a half months. Some of the musicians pick and play in local country bands. Some, like Vestal, grew up singing in church.
The crowd laughed, tapped their toes and clapped heartily as they celebrated Jesus’ birth “Omaha style.” Signing off with the KOBC call sign, Collins invited the crowd to return again next Sunday. Many will be back.