By Valerie Baldowski
A Stockbridge church recently held an outdoor depiction, based on the Bible's Book of Revelation. It's "Tribulation Trail" drew more than 16,000 visitors, according to Dennis DeOliveira, a 10-year member of Life Pointe Church, and the organizer of this year's event.
The performance was held at the church -- formerly Mount Vernon Baptist Church -- which is located at 2178 Ga. Highway 138 East. The church holds the event annually, each Friday and Saturday evening, during the month of October.
"We're trying to bring people in, and bring people to Christ," DeOliveira said. "It's real effective. This year, we had 1,579 salvations, people that gave their souls to Christ, because they went through the trail. We had 5,068 who rededicated their lives to Christ."
"Tribulation Trail" begins with a conversation among God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, about God's concern with fallen mankind, and his plan to redeem man. It continues by depicting 12 scenes from the Bible, and concludes with the "River of Life," the depiction of God's plan, in which humans are invited into eternal life.
Afterward, counselors from the church meet with visitors to discuss their relationship with God, according to Life Pointe Pastor Irv Ryder.
The trail provides an opportunity to share the Gospel, said Ryder. "Essentially for us, we have, from the Christian perspective, a story to tell," said Ryder, who played an anti-Christ character in this year's dramatization.
"For us, it's getting that message that Jesus shared, and connecting people to that message. Around here, we call it a message of hope, worth, and meaning.
"The idea behind the trail is that it depicts a particular portion, and an interpretation of apocalyptic events," he added. "So, for us, we display what is probably the primary interpretation in modern culture of that apocalyptic event."
The church has been organizing the annual walk since the early 1990s, said DeOliveira. Preparations for "Tribulation Trail" involve supervising parking, providing security, setting up lighting, operating the concession stand and ticket booth, as well as special effects, continued DeOliveira. "It takes about 300 people to put it on," he said.
Organizers will prepare for next year's event by cleaning the trail in January, and repairing some of the props in May, said Debbie Stovall, a church member since 2006.
"We are all as a team. It's not about one person, except for God. He's the only one that this is about," said Stovall, "We're here doing God's work. We do what we can to lead people to him."
Stovall helped with ticket sales, as well as with placement of the actors in each scene, in this year's walk. The feedback received from the visitors is varied, she said. "We have different comments. People say they enjoy it, people say it changed their lives, that now they know the truth, and they get saved, they're happy about it," added Stovall.
This year's trail drew visitors from as far away as England. "It's powerful, people come from all over," said DeOliveira.
Others visiting the area from North and South Carolina, as well as Tennessee, have also walked the trail, said Rich Shultz, a 15-year member of the church. This year, Shultz played one of the shadowy characters in the first scene, titled, "God's Plan."
Shultz added that, after the walk, visitors filled out response cards, to provide suggestions for improvement, as well as their feedback on what they thought about the trail.