One Christian family in our local community has been shining brightly for Jesus Christ, on October 31st, in a very public way.
Together with the help of many relatives and friends, the Bell family decorates a public park with lights, organizes fun activities for all ages, and shares homemade cookies and apple cider. They distribute Bibles, tracts, Christian CD’s and movies. They play upbeat Christian children’s music on loud-speakers and they preach the Good News of the Gospel. They serve together as a family, work hard, and WOW, do they glorify God!
In this post, I asked Deb Bell to share about her family’s outreach, now in its 20th year!
They’re a mission-minded example for us all!
“What do we do with Halloween?” The answer to this question should be the same as it is to, “What do we do with September 5th or April 29th or January 2nd?” We do what Jesus wants us to do with every day of our lives. And we find out what that is by asking Him.
For our family, our “Halloween” journey began by asking, “What does Jesus want us to do?” In answering that question, we researched and learned about Halloween; we observed how friends and neighbors celebrate Halloween; we studied God’s word to look for applicable insight and wisdom that could be applied to Halloween. And through that, Festival of Light was birthed in White Salmon, Washington.
Festival of Light began in 1994 at our home. The first year consisted of handing out Bibles and tracts to all who came to our door. Every year on October 31, children and many of their parents walk through our neighborhoods and knock on doors asking for candy or gifts. Many Christians take this opportunity to pass out tracts and Bibles to neighborhood children. After the amazing response that first year, during which kids came to our house asking, “Are you the ones handing out Bibles? Can I have one?” we decided that we would continue to do that and more.
As a result, Mid-Columbia Ministries (MCM) organized Festival of Light in response to what we viewed as a great opportunity to share God’s love with our community.
Many churches have provided and still provide alternative entertainment for the church children in the form of harvest festivals. MCM decided it would be fun and effective to combine the harvest party concept with the evangelism associated with handing out tracts and Bibles, and we took the harvest festival concept to the street. In this way, we not only provide alternative entertainment for our own children, but also for those traditionally non-church children who comprise the majority of Halloween trick-or-treaters.
In contrast to the meaning of Halloween and the many associated activities that are a celebration of Satan and the darkness that he perpetrates, the Festival of Light emphasizes the light of Jesus Christ and the good things which He brings to our lives.
The response from parents and children alike has been overwhelming. In 1996, we shared the light of Jesus with over 200 primarily non-church trick-or-treaters. By 1997, the number had jumped to over 400. In response to the increase in size and the lack of parking and room at our house, Festival of Light was moved from our front yard to an empty parking lot in downtown White Salmon.
The event, as mentioned before, is basically a harvest festival moved to the streets. The focus of the evening is the light of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we make every attempt to bring light into the darkness of the night. We decorate with lots of lights; we play loud positive upbeat Christian children’s music; we hand out lots of candy, toys and prizes that promote Jesus by giving away movies, CDs, Bibles, and tracts. We serve freshly pressed hot cider and homemade cookies.
As with all things in life, we always try to take it back to Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
The traditional images and themes of Halloween do not meet these criteria. Volunteers are asked not to dress in traditional Halloween costumes, choosing positive, religious, or neutral themes instead. Donated materials and treats are free of traditional Halloween themes (e.g., Jack-O-Lanterns, witches, ghosts, bats, etc.). However, that does not stop us from engaging the culture.
All children, parents, and community members are allowed to participate, regardless of costume. And, they are welcomed with love and acceptance, and perhaps a bit of tongue in cheek humor. A little girl dressed as a witch might hear, “My, what do we have here – a fairy princess? You look absolutely beautiful tonight.”
When we first started 20 years ago, parents would bring their kids simply because they did not like the haunted house and were thankful for someplace fun that did not scare their kids. And they keep coming back every year, whether it be for the games, the cider press, to see other people from the community, or because they know they will find resources to help them with difficulties in their lives.
In this, our twentieth year, our goal is still to provide an event where parents and kids can participate with friends in a positive atmosphere and where godly themes are promoted. In addition, we use the opportunity to share the Gospel with everyone who comes through.
While it may confuse some – many within and outside of the church assume that we are “celebrating” Halloween – the truth is that we are celebrating Christ in a manner visible to the community whether they completely understand our motives or not.
So, we do not worry about what others “think” we are doing, we just do what Christ has called us to do. And an added bonus is that all of our kids have grown up assuming that they will spend Halloween serving the community and being a blessing to others – and not focusing on their own fun, entertainment, or candy. And, now grown, they thank us for the example that we set and the opportunity they have had to share their faith in a real way with the community every year.
Because, the real question is — as believers — are we fleeing darkness and pursuing light? Or are we embracing, or playing with, darkness and hiding, or ignoring, the light?
Join the Discussion (with a comment below)
As your family has asked the Lord, “What would Jesus have us to do?” How has God led you, especially in regards to October 31st?