“Mom, did that guy really just say I had to pay my taxes before I enter?” With a confused, but innocent look on her face that is what my (then 5 year old) daughter said the very first time she visit Bethlehem Village of Hope in Delta, Missouri.
Down the back road, off the beaten path, in this tiny town The First Baptist Church of Delta, recreates what Bethlehem may have looked like when Jesus Christ was born.
I first discovered this event off a tiny newspaper clipping in our local paper, I insisted that my dad and mom go with me to check it out. I worried the whole time we were driving that I was wasting our time; thankfully, it was quit the opposite. I remember my dad and his jolly laugh as he watched my curious daughter count her coins out as she paid her taxes to King Herrod. I later found out that my mom returned every night the Village was open that year with a different group that she had rounded up…yes it is that good.
The Village of Hope is set up to resemble a mini model of Bethlehem, when arrive you are greeted and handed a tiny bag of coins. These coins you will use throughout The Village to pay your taxes, purchase trinkets from the merchants, and of course give your gift to the new baby Jesus.
At first my kids are always scared of the soldiers, of course it is not everyday you see a man yelling “give me all your money” and dressed in full clad armor. Once we maneuver past King Herrod’s soldiers the real fun begins. My daughter stocks up on what she calls her Christmas shopping — the merchants have hand crafted items, foods, and trinkets that you can purchase with your coins. All the items you purchase with your coins you get to keep, my Christmas tree is decked out with handmade angels, Shepherd’s hooks, and wicker baskets that my daughter has purchased from The Village of Hope. Each merchant will ask you if you are there to see the “new baby” meaning Jesus, this always builds the excitement in my kids’ eyes.
After you have visited all the merchants you will enter the stable area, this area happens to be my son’s (now 5 years old) favorite area. Any animal you can imagine in a stable is there and you get to pet them. The whole tour of The Village takes approximately 45 minutes, but we probably spend 30 minutes of it petting and loving on the sheep, goats, and camels.
As you depart the stable area, you will see the “new baby” and his happy new parents. Visitors have the opportunity to leave a gift for the new baby, my children are stingy and usually just comment how cute he is, but keep all their treasures.
Every year I get asked from other parents and friends, “is it worth the drive, should I take my 2 year
old, would you go again?” Yes, Yes, and Yes! I tell people no matter what your beliefs are, it is worth the trip. The Village of Hope is perfect for all ages, let me say that again, ALL ages.
However, before you go you must know:
- The Village is outdoors, so dress accordingly.
- This is a free event, they do accept donations, but they are not expected.
- Last year in 3 nights 1952 visitors went through The Village, be prepared to wait a little while. The church is very organized and they entertain you as wait, my kids love the entertainment as much as the visit!
- Wear walking shoes, it is not a long walk, but you will be maneuvering around merchants, animals, and other visitors.
- No matter where you are coming from Delta, Missouri is off the beaten path, so be prepared for the drive.