On Friday, December 9th 2016, my wife and I took our daughter to Tulsa, Oklahoma to experience the well renown “Christmas Train” at Dry Gulch U.S.A.
First off, if you’ve never been to Dry Gulch U.S.A. to experience their church summer camp, you’ve missed out. As a kid of the 90’s I grew up with Gospel Bill, played by Pastor Willie George from Church On The Move. The set of the western town became this amazing Kids Camp!
My first time there as a camper, I was blown away! It was surreal to walk down the streets of a western town that I saw on T.V. so many times. The General Store from the T.V. show was there and had become a place to purchase souvenirs. The steam locomotive was there and was fully operational. Our bunks were in some of the buildings right off of the main street of the western town. Dry Gulch offered an overall great experience in the environment. Everything was so clean and fresh looking.
Dry Gulch U.S.A. offered amazing outdoor activities such as water slides, swimming pools, horseback riding, bumper cars, Go-Karts, lake day with a banana boat and tubing behind a jet ski, and much more.
But my favorite part of camp was seeing one of the main characters show up one evening during our chapel service. I’ll never forget that night as the character Elmer Barnes, played by Jeff Merrill, came and spoke to the campers about who the Holy Spirit is.
Fast-forward 15 plus years to Friday, December 9th 2016…
I found myself walking down memory lane again as my wife and I carried our one-year old girl down the streets of Dry Gulch U.S.A to get in line at the Depot in order to ride the famous “Christmas Train.”
The town was so festive and lively. Western Christmas music played over the outdoor speakers, Christmas lights lined each building, large fire pits were scattered throughout the streets for chilled guests to get warm, the carousel was playing music as kids were taken on a magical ride on horses, dogs, giraffes, and tigers. Desserts and food were being prepared for your order, carolers were dressed for the occasion as they walked around town singing, horse drawn stage coach rides went around the wooded area as the steam locomotive blew its whistle.
Not long after we were in line, it was time to board the Christmas Train. I held my daughter up so she could look out the window at what was about to happen. Once everyone was on board, we waved to the people outside as the train started on its way.
A voiceover of Pastor Willie George (a.k.a. Gospel Bill) came over the speakers in each train car, welcoming the passengers to Dry Gulch U.S.A. and the Christmas Train. Beautifully composed music blended in behind his voice as he started to tell the story of Christmas as the train passed through a tunnel. We soon passed by live re-enacted scenes from the bible and beautiful paintings that all worked together to tell the story of Christmas.
This was by far the best version of the story of Christmas I’ve ever heard because its started with Genesis chapter 1 where God made everything and reminded the listeners that even before the beginning of time, God had a plan. The train took us through major chronological events from the bible, explaining to us that the reason God sent His Son Jesus to be born from a virgin was to become the Savior of mankind. Ever since the fall of man back in the Garden of Eden, the world has only become more and more corrupt.
The best part of this Christmas Adventure was watching my little girl during the whole story. Her eyes were fixed on each scene and each colorful picture. Her eyes were filled with wonder as she took it all in. Not only was her mind learning of these true events and what God did for her, but her spirit was being encouraged too.
My wife and I were tearing up as we watched how she was drawn into the story of Christmas. Something special happened to us that night. We saw Christmas through our daughter’s eyes. The Holy Spirit reminded us what it was like to witness the message of the Gospel for the first time and how it changed our lives forever. We were reminded of the joy and hope that the Christmas story brings to everyone who believes.
It’s cheesy. It’s cliché. But we all need to stop and remember that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Take some time to slow down this Christmas and look at Christmas through the eyes of a child. Notice the joy, the hope, the excitement, and the faith they have. It’s contagious. Notice the innocence, purity, and compassion they have that we have seemed to have lost sight of as adults.
One time, Jesus’ disciples asked, “‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ 2 He called a little child to Him, and placed the child among them. 3 And He said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.’”Matthew 8:1-5
Take a moment and listen to this song by Bethel Church.
Listen closely to the words of this song that were sang spontaneously in a worship set.
I truly believe that this is a major key that will help thrust the Body of Christ into a deeper relationship with God. That in turn affects how we have relationships with other people, which in turn will show others who God is and that He loves them very much regardless of race, religion, or past.
May we never lose our wonder of who God is and what He has done for us. Let us strive to see God through the eyes of a child with hope, joy, and faith.