O Little Town of…Hector, Community creates ‘Holy Town’

Story by Jeannie Stone

On the night of Christ’s birth, in the ancient town of Bethlehem, ancestral home of Joseph the Carpenter, an angel of the Lord announced to the shepherds, “for there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

In a small town nestled in the Ozark hills of Pope County, members of Hector First Assembly of God have re-created that holy town and will open the gates of the city to guests searching for their own room in the inn Friday, Dec. 4.

For two weekends the 100 member cast will live up to Bethlehem’s literal name, “House of Bread.” The alternate outdoor world they have created freeze plays the moment in time that changed the course of human history. The time when the “Bread of Life” came down from heaven to offer salvation to those who believe. (John 6:35, 51)

The extraordinary event showcased in the sleepy town is the result of a vision shared by Jason, a private music instructor, and Lana Muncy, members of the congregation.

Lana, a first grade teacher at Hector Elementary, encouraged her husband Jason, who sold the community on the possibility of transforming a little plot of earth into the earthly birthplace of Jesus.

“With the support of the leadership in the church and the hundreds of volunteers outpouring from every corner of Hector, we experienced countless blessings the first year of production,” Jason said. “We bill it as ‘The event that changed the world forever.’ ”

The performances are orchestrated out of love from the church members – a free gift.

“It’s a neat way to replay the story of Christmas so many of us grew up with in church, but it’s also a way to share the story with others who weren’t as fortunate, and who might not have ever stepped foot inside the walls of a church.”

In fact, the church has reaped tangible blessings due to the tour.

“We’ve actually had people who started coming to our church after walking through our Bethlehem because they were touched and realized they missed that church involvement in their lives,” Jason said.

“To my knowledge there is nothing quite like this in the entire state,” he added. It has, literally, put little Hector on the map during the holy season.

The town, with a population barely over the 500 mark, hosted 3,500 guests to their Bethlehem during the inaugural season in 2008.

“This is our interpretation of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus,” Jason said, “but we try to create as realistic an experience as possible. Animals of all kinds are incorporated into the village scenes. Camels, horses, sheep, goats, cows, calves, chickens and goats make up the animal crew.”

“The whole essence is for the guests to feel as if they are arriving to town to pay their taxes, as in the Biblical story, and are searching around town trying, desperately, to find a room to rent. When you walk through the gates, it feels so old world.”

The town of Hector pulls together for the experience, Jason said: “It truly takes a lot of commitment. It’s not just the 100 members of the cast, but the construction crew, costume crew, design crew, cooking crew and even a parking crew devoted to the event which takes over 13,000 square feet.”

From the first Saturday in October, hammers and needles are flying to reconstruct the visual masterpiece.

“Last year, the construction crew was really working overtime to pull this off. This year, it’s a lot like putting together a giant puzzle,” he said.

The costume crew had challenges of its own whipping up period-accurate costumes for the 100-member cast.

Most of the people, if not all of them, are so willing to be a part of this, Jason said. There is even a cooking crew that feeds the entire cast on performance nights because there are so many cast members who work out of town.

The humble visionary eschews accolades. “I’m not really a minister or anything at the church. I’m just a lay person, I guess you could say,” Jason said.

The Muncy’s two sons Silas and Josiah were a part of the first season and return this year as members of the cast. Silas, then 14 months old, played the starring role of baby Jesus, and Josiah accompanied his mother as one of the townspeople.

“He had one line to say, and he delivered it over and over,” Jason said.

That word was “Shalom” which, literally translated, means more than simply “Peace.” Shalom means to be complete, perfect and full – a state of grace impossible without God. To greet one another with “Shalom” is to proclaim a mighty blessing.

“And to think this all happens in little Hector,” Jason said.

And, to think it all happened in little Bethlehem… Shalom.

 

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