Bellview Baptist reaches community with special Christmas eventcomment (1)
November 28, 2013
By Anna Keller
Bellview Baptist Church, McCalla, began a new tradition in 2012, and it was such a community-wide success that they’re preparing for the 2013 event to be even bigger.
The church hosts a Polar Express experience, based on the beloved Christmas book-turned-movie of the same name. They set up stations for families to visit that are themed according to the movie, and even have a train car to transport them to a few stations. At one point during the event, participants are led into a room where Santa tells them about the true meaning of Christmas being about Jesus rather than Santa Claus.
The church has their pastor, Tim Hassler, to thank for the idea. It’s something he came up with after living in Gadsden and participating in some local events involving trains around Christmastime.
“The Lord brought me to Bellview, and we have a really big gym here,” Hassler said. “It’s not particularly pretty, but it’s an empty space, and the Lord impressed upon my heart that we could do the Polar Express here. It was perfect for what I had in mind.”
Hassler shared his idea with church member Sheila Blevins, who helped bring it to life. Blevins helped orchestrate the transformation of the church gym into a winter wonderland, complete with a dining car, a space for Santa and more.
“We say it was Tim’s vision and Sheila’s visual,” said church secretary Debi Gaston, who helped with the 2012 event and is participating again.
The 2012 two-night event attracted around 700 people, and the church anticipates about 1,000 at this event. To accommodate the larger crowd, they’ve added a third night to the line-up. The 2013 Polar Express will be held Dec. 6–8 at Bellview Baptist.
“We see this as an opportunity to minister right here in our community,” Blevins said. “Our community is growing, and we really want to get to know the people right here and minister to them.”
Hassler adds that the event is a way to visually represent the power God has to change people.
“What we want to do more than anything is show how much we believe that God can transform lives,” he said. “That old dingy gym that’s somewhat of an eyesore? It’s transformed into a beautiful place for several nights. We want people to know that’s what God does to our lives, too. He transforms them.”
And the community isn’t the only thing benefiting from this event. Blevins said she and fellow church members also gained an increased sense of teamwork after working on the 2012 event and seeing what a success it was.
“We are, I would say, a small to medium-sized church, but this is what’s amazing about how God has blessed us,” she said. “We have amazingly talented people. And this is something that we can do because of the different talents people have. We can fulfill a need to minister to people and to show the love of Jesus by coming together to put on this event.”