Easter is a time of joy as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and we acknowledge all that means for us: eternal life, abundant life and salvation from a life of sin by a God Who is eternal. But the full celebration of Easter must include the fervency of Palm Sunday, the shock of the overturning of the Temple’s money tables, the quiet closeness of the Last Supper, the grief of a prayer on the Mount, the betrayal of a friend at midnight and then capture, torture and a farce of a Court decision. Then more torture, a long climb up to Golgotha with a wooden cross, an agonizing and earth-shattering death, followed by the cold darkness of a borrowed tomb. So many emotions, so much passion before the glorious morning of Easter.
Many of us have seen the longest week in history portrayed on stage and in film during the season of Easter, but in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, they perform the Great Passion Play (GPP) outdoors, several days a week, from May until October, in a 4,100 seat amphitheater. Beginning with the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the drama tells the complete story of Jesus’ final week until His Resurrection and Ascension. The Play is a must-see event, with hundreds of actors and live animals detailing this special historical event.
Randall Christy of The Gospel Station, has attended the GPP many times over the years. From 2008 until 2012, attendance had declined to the point where the Play was closed due to lack of funds. Christy says, “I felt compelled to find out more. The Board of directors of the Passion Play had closed it for good, sold the animals, locked the gates, turned off the lights to the Christ of the Ozarks. I was strongly convicted to try and do something about this, and could not believe that the Lord wanted the Great Passion Play to close.” Christy immediately began to work on reviving the Play, working with the local bank and raising funds to initiate the 2013 season. Facilities were renovated and the area of The Holy Land Tour was also opened for the first time in five years.
The park facilities of The Great Passion Play not only include the staging area but also a Bible Museum, Art Museum and Holy Land Tour, with historical exhibits and actors that introduce guests to various Biblical characters. It’s an educational experience for all patrons and is regularly visited by school and college groups. “The Great Passion Play has some of the most rare Bibles on display, such as an original 1611 King James Bible, first print, first edition, in mint condition as well many others worth seeing,” says Christy. “We also have several masterpieces in our art collections with some from the 1500’s and 1600’s, as well as a very old sculpture of Jesus Christ dating to 800AD.”
The Park also hosts Christian Music concerts, seminars and special Christmas activities. One of its most well known outdoor exhibits is the great Christ Of The Ozarks statue, standing 67 feet tall with the arms of Christ spread out to welcome all to come and learn about Him.
Randall Christy decided to initiate the return of the Great Passion Play because of the message the Play and the Park had in common with his well-known music website, The Gospel Station. “Every song we play on the air is about the Gospel of Jesus,” says Christy. “And so is the Play. We are extremely mission minded and the Great Passion Play is the latest in our family of ministries.” He adds, “We are in a culture war in our country and if Christians do not fight it, who will?”
The Gospel Station has always been a ministry for Christy. “It’s more than just music, it’s the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are not just a radio business, selling air-time. Our people are personally involved in global missions and ministry, with a goal of seeing one-million people come to the Lord. So far we have seen over 326,000 accept Christ, all of them with local pastors to follow up, and most of them in public schools of foreign countries. We have a burden for kids, homeless, widows and orphans. Gospel music is one of the best ways to reach people with the story of Jesus Christ and one of the most effective ways to encourage Christians in their daily lives.”
The Gospel Station’s mission team has traveled far and wide, including Nicaragua, Nigeria, Kenya and Costa Rica. Christy says, “Without our Vision Team, the supporters who share this vision, we could not accomplish all of these things for the Lord. Reaching people for Him is the main reason we are here, in His service.”
Randall Christy is currently on the Board of Directors for the Great Passion Play, a group of men determined to continuously improve on areas of the Park and expand their facilities. The Gospel Station will have a presence at this year’s Ozark Gospel Music Convention and there will be a special presentation of the Great Passion Play during one of the evening concerts. Christy encourages, “Please make the trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, this year with your family and your church to see the Christ of the Ozarks, the Bible and Art Museum, The Holy Land, and most of all – The Great Passion Play.”
To listen to the Gospel Station click on to http://thegospelstation.com/dyn/index.php
By Lorraine Walker
First Published by SGN Scoops digital magazine in April 2014.
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