10/24/12 — Embracing life, showing heaven, giving hope

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Embracing life, showing heaven, giving hope

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on October 24, 2012 1:46 PM

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Jeane Anderson acts out a scene alongside Alan Sutton, left, in the Judgement House put on by the First Pentecostal Holiness Church. The show features nine scenes that follow a community in turmoil, being terrorized by an unknown evil. Judgement House runs through Nov. 11. Days and hours are Friday from 6:30 to 10 p.m., Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m.

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Alan Sutton carries Megan Jackson, 6, out of a "burning" building as they act out a scene in the Judgement House put on by the First Pentecostal Holiness Church.

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Mike Ludwig acts out a scene in the Judgement House put on by the First Pentecostal Holiness Church.

There have been stories about youths dealing with drugs, alcohol and bullying. There have been stories about families dealing with tragedy and conflict. And there has even been stories about the rapture.

But they all have one thing in common -- the hope of eternity in heaven.

Judgement House has a been a fall project of First Pentecostal Holiness Church for 20 years now, and even after all these years, people still are willing to wait in line to see the newest production.

"We began it originally to give teenagers an alternative to Halloween," said pastor Bill Rose. "The youth group here produced the first one.

"Then it turned into a much larger production involving more adults who saw the benefit of it. And it has continued to expand for 20 years."

Rose recalls the storyline of that first Judgement House.

"It was about a teenager struggling with alcohol, and he got into a car accident and passed away," he said. "I think it was very positive and we think it had an impact on people seeing it."

Other themes have included a family in crisis after their little boy was playing with matches and accidentally set the house on fire, killing his sister; a school shooting shortly after the Columbine tragedy; and a school bus wreck.

"What we are trying to embrace is the very briefness of life," Rose said. "Life is precious, but brief.

"We've wrapped our stories around families, their struggles and successes. We're just trying to embrace people's ordinary lives and their ordinary struggles."

But amid all the tragedy and conflict, the dramas always end on a positive note.

"We're always talking about the hope of heaven," Rose said. "Our drama is always intended to present people with life and death scenarios and the consequences of life.

"Eternity has two places. There's a place called heaven that God created for us, and where those who've accepted Jesus as their savior go to. And there's a real hell that's occupied by people who rejected salvation and have chosen to pay for their own sins. Those are the two consequences of choices."

This year's drama centers around the reconciliation of a family.

"There's forgiveness and healing," Rose said. "That's one of those beautiful positive things that we're trying to portray -- that there's hope and healing for brokenness when there's brokenness in families."

The dramas don't just happen each year. It's a long involved process involving many people.

In May, a committee starts talking about concepts. In June, the writing begins, and is completed in July. Then in August, actors start training and sets are designed.

Judgement House has grown over the years. The first year saw 500 people attend and 1,500 the second year. But by the third year, attendance jumped to 9,000, Rose said.

"That's when it started taking on a life of its own," he said.

And as it took on a life of its own, it grew tremendously.

This year, the drama is divided into several different scenes. Those attending walk from one to the other. For those who have trouble walking, wheelchairs are available. And for those who have trouble standing, folding chairs are available.

The first scene is always the big scene, Rose said.

"One year we did an outdoor lake scene with a motor boat that ran across the lake," he said. "Some kids fell out and one saved another from drowning. We bought a huge pond tarp and built sides. It had a train track inside that the boat ran on."

This year, the first scene is an entire city.

"We will have a house fire with live fire," Rose said. "Firemen from Antioch Volunteer Fire Department will be part of that scene."

The drama always has been and always will be free, he said.

"One of our greatest beliefs is that the gospel is free and grace is free, so our drama is free," Rose said. "Our church has been blessed and our members are committed to giving to the kingdom of God, and this drama is part of it.

"We really believe in life change -- that God's grace saves people. We believe in eternity and we want to help people embrace the reality that you can't live forever here. You're going to have to live somewhere after you die. And we want that to be heaven."

And Rose sees people changing during the drama each year.

"The first year, 12 people experienced salvation through our counselors who are available during the drama," he said. "Last year, 1,200 people experienced salvation. In the 20 years we've been doing Judgement House, more than 250,000 have attended and 20,000 people have made a commitment to God."

People come from out of town and even out of state to see the drama.

Rose said one group from South Carolina has been coming for 15 years. Others come from Virginia, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and even New York.

Judgement House runs through Nov. 11. Days and hours are Friday from 6:30 to 10 p.m., Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m.