For many churches, an Easter egg hunt with hundreds and even thousands — sometimes tens of thousands — of treat-filled plastic eggs has become a traditional community outreach event. But for Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, this Easter’s outreach took on a more unique feel.
“We had held an Easter egg hunt for a lot of years,” says Anthony Matrone, the connect pastor for Central Assembly, “but we didn’t feel the impact during that week was what we were looking for, so we decided to do something a little different.”
Through consultation with the Center for Holy Lands Studies, discussions with Bible scholar Wave Nunnally, and the construction, design, and artistic abilities of skilled staff, the church spent months creating a walk-through experience that depicted what Jesus went through during His last week.
“There’s so much that happened between Palm Sunday and Jesus’ crucifixion,” Matrone says. “And that sometimes gets lost and we don’t talk about it.” Called “Walk the Last Week with Jesus,” the unique tour clearly accomplished the goal of communicating what Jesus experienced during His five-day journey to the Cross.
Using 650 feet of linear pipe and drape, staff at Central set up a self-guided pathway in their multipurpose auditorium. Each draped “room” depicted a scene or items representing each day:
Monday — the cleansing of the temple where Jesus turned over the money changers’ tables
Tuesday — Olivet Discourse where Jesus shared the signs of His return
Wednesday — Jesus is anointed with very expensive perfume by Mary at Bethany
Thursday — Jesus and His disciples take part in a Passover meal
Friday — Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
Two rooms concluded the tour — the first depicted three crosses and shared key Scriptures concerning Christ’s sacrifice and the last room had tables and chairs with several staff pastors available to share Communion with individuals and families.
Each room also featured artistic renderings, replica artifacts, information boards, and periodically even some genuine artifacts from the time period — they even had a room with small cups of traditional foods served at a Passover meal for guests to taste. As a bonus, each day a video was posted online featuring James Bradford, senior pastor, and Nunnally discussing the significance of that day in a more in-depth fashion.
Matrone says that more than 800 people came through the experience, many of them from outside of the church.
“People were inviting friends, neighbors, and coworkers to Walk the Last Week with Jesus,” Matrone says. “We also had a few different groups come through, including a home school group and guys from Adult and Teen Challenge . . . the Communion with people at the end was often a powerful time.”
In addition to concluding the experience with Communion, pastors asked individuals what they could pray for them. In that time, requests for healing from illness, restoring broken relationships, for loved ones to experience salvation, and other more personal needs were frequently shared.
Sevo and Kristina Lwali, long-time members of Central Assembly, went through the experience with their four children — Imani, 14; Joshua, 12; Severin II, 11; and Asali, 9. The older kids walked through the experience at their own pace, while Sevo guided Asali, explaining things to her.
“I really enjoyed reading all the information they had about the geography and culture,” Kristina says. “It helped make the story come alive with more details, as well as the exhibits and pictures they had. One of the most impacting things was seeing one of the nails from the time period (used for crucifixions) and thinking about the pain Jesus endured . . . the story is so powerful when reading it, but having the visual images, pictures, and information made it that much more impactful.”
The visual presentation also captured their children’s attention and helped bring home the reality of what Jesus did for them.
“I really liked how the pictures and words helped explain the story and I understood it better,” Asali says. “They did a really good job!”
Severin II also enjoyed the event. “It was interesting to see all the things Jesus went through, like the whips and the nail and the crown of thorns,” he says. “It made me think more about it. It was a really good experience.”
“It’s fascinating to see visual references connecting history and the Bible,” Imani states. “It was so different seeing the visuals of the torture methods — it made the story come alive for me.”
Sevo especially appreciated the opportunity to share the walk and teaching opportunities with Asali. The experience also came at the perfect time for him as he was looking for something to really help him engage in the Easter week at a different level.
“It really met me where I was at,” he says. “It amplified what Jesus actually went through . . . what He did for us.”
However, both Sevo and Kristina noted their appreciation for the Communion time and for the opportunity to have their family to be prayed over by a pastor.
“During the Communion, Pastor Anthony paused and asked that we allow the Lord to search our hearts,” Sevo shares. “I realized that I’ve been struggling with some unforgiveness and bitterness. In the light of who Jesus is and what He has done for me, I turned it over to Jesus and told Him I was so sorry . . . it was a powerful moment and my kids heard me talk about it. It was good we did it as a family.”
Matrone says he enjoyed watching other families interact with and explain things to their children. He also enjoyed having the same opportunity with his children.
“I think at times in today’s church culture, we separate the adults from the children, and there is good in that, but there are times when we need to come together,” Matrone says. “I have three kids (ages 5 to 10), and I don’t know what seeds were planted while I was explaining things to them, but that family component — kids asking questions about Jesus and what that meant — was pretty powerful for me.”