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10/7/97 Churches see lives changed in Halloween-season dramas

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (BP)–When Melissa Brackett saw “Judgment House” three years ago, her life wasn’t falling apart. A straight-A student, she had never gotten involved in drugs or other negative influences.
But through the drama at Higher Ground Baptist Church, Kingsport, Tenn., she realized no matter how good she was, without Christ she was headed for hell.
“I was overwhelmed by the people who led me in prayer,” said Brackett, a recent high school graduate who works at an office supply store. “They were complete strangers but so loving. They were there specifically for the purpose of leading people to Christ. Their love and care touched me.”
Brackett is one of thousands who have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior in recent years at Halloween alternative productions known by such names as “Judgment House,” “Hell House,” “The Verdict” and “Party Time Weekend.”
Whatever the title, pastors say God uses these productions to capitalize on the interest generated by celebrations of a very worldly holiday.
“It’s the greatest evangelistic tool I’ve ever seen,” said Ted Wilson, youth pastor at Higher Ground, now in its fifth year of presenting Judgment House. “It’s one of the highlights of my life in church work.”
“Judgment House has had an incredible impact on our church,” said Phil Wilson, youth pastor of Two Rivers Baptist, Nashville, Tenn. “We’ve never baptized a lot of people from it but we’re building the kingdom. When you hear stories about what God has done, you say, ‘Wow, I get to be a part of that.'”
Harlan Avera, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, London, Ky., said this month’s Hell House will attempt to get people’s attention about the effects of sin in their lives. Last year’s drew 211 to the altar.
“This is also bringing us back to the point of what his Word says and how we ought to be living,” Avera said. “Our church is not the same. We’re looking for other ways to touch those around us.”
Meanwhile, those who have been saved during the Halloween season say their lives will never be the same.
High school senior Chris Champeaux said Jesus became real to him at last year’s Hell House at First Assembly of God, New Iberia, La. Three days after he prayed to receive Christ, he was badly injured in a dirt bike accident.
“I think it got me prepared for what happened,” said Champeaux, who spent a month in the hospital. He believes God is now calling him to the medical field so he can help others in similar situations.
“Afterwards, I thought about everything that happened and the messages they tried to bring out. I started really praying and thinking really deeply.
“A lot of people are looking for examples of what God can do. I think one reason people don’t believe in him is they don’t have any examples. I want to tell people about God and what he has done for me.”
Melissa Parker of Nashville accepted Jesus last year at Two Rivers’ production. Although she had joined a church at 13, she felt confused about her spiritual condition and relationship with the Lord.
“The whole experience motivated me,” said Parker, who was baptized at Two Rivers and credits pastor Jerry Sutton with providing members an in-depth understanding of the Bible. “I always knew Christ was there but I didn’t know the extent of what he went through for me.”
A personal shopper at a department store, the 28-year-old woman said God has been guiding her life in many ways, including Scripture.
One of her favorite verses is Psalms 141:3, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips” (NIV). In the stressful world of retailing, she said the verse reminds her to be careful not to offend others or say something to hurt them.
The last scene of Judgment House portraying Christ’s crucifixion touched Stacey Spain of Nashville two years ago, awakening her to the blood Jesus shed on behalf of everyone. It also made her start thinking of how Christ lived and the ways he could change her own life, she said.
She quit visiting nightclubs with friends and moved to a different part of the city. For several months she had prayed God would bring her the man he wanted her to be with; right after moving she met the man who is now her fiance.
“When I talk to anybody about their man problems, I just tell them to pray to God and ask for his help,” she laughed.
The Lord is also directing her to help others, said Spain, who now attends her fiance’s Presbyterian church. She said her concern has been kindled by the congregation continually reaching out to the homeless and others in need.
Registered nurse Pam Beverly was moved to tears when she went through Higher Ground’s Judgment House in 1994. She was so upset she walked out of the church. A deacon followed and convinced her to come back inside.
“I felt the Lord was speaking to me while I was (watching),” said the Kingsport resident, then in nursing school after a mid-life career change. “When I got saved, a burden had been lifted from me.”
Not only did she sleep better, Beverly said she felt tremendous peace because she wasn’t “going in circles” any longer. God also opened the doors for her to get a position at a hospital last year, she said.
“In the past six months (the Lord has) taken a lot off me and allowed me to grow and have a personal relationship with him,” she said. “He gives me the strength and helps me make it through the day.”
Brackett, who plays a lead role in Higher Ground’s 1997 drama, finds similar benefits as she considers her future.
“God showed me if I read his Word and be patient, he’ll lead me. I used to struggle, never knowing which direction to go. He’s shown me how to follow him in faith.”

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  • Ken Walker