“Emotional” interaction brings many to tears seeing Moses’ Wilderness Tabernacle.
By Dwight Widaman | Editor
Building on the successful 2016 stop in the area, The Tabernacle Experience returns to Kansas City April 21 through April 30 at Oakwood Baptist Church on the border of Kansas City and Lee’s Summit. It is being hosted by Oakwood and manned by volunteers from both Oakwood and Country Meadows Baptist Churches.
It is rare that the popular interactive experience would come to the same city within eight months but the overwhelming response of the public to last fall’s exhibit in Eastern Jackson County proves why this is one of the most anticipated traveling exhibits currently touring North America.
Developed by Jeanne Whittaker, a California woman who got the idea while praying on a trip to Israel some twenty years ago, her vision quickly grew into reality with the help of her own church. The Tabernacle Experience is now a detailed and historically accurate full-scale replica of Moses’ shrine that was carried by the Israelites across the Sinai Desert after they were freed from Egypt, as told in the book of Exodus. To date, over 220,000 people across the United States and Canada have traveled back 2,500 years ago when two million Israelites, set free from Egypt, banded together on the promise of a new land they could call their own with a promise to follow the one true God.
That trip back in time, and the effect it has on a person, is one of the motivating factors in bringing it back. Russ Taylor, pastor of Oakwood Baptist Church says seeing it last fall in Lone Jack, Mo. was an experience he will never forget.
“It was a tremendously moving experience,” says Taylor, reflecting on when he and members of his congregation saw it. “Seeing all the requirements that a Holy God demands to dwell among a holy people.”
For many the benefit isn’t just educational. Taylor says he was even caught up in the moment–and it surprised him. “I saw a number of people who were moved to tears, as I was,” he says, “they left in very hushed tones. It clearly had touched them and very deeply.”
The Oakwood congregation will certainly be prepared with new knowledge when they see it this year. The church has been going through a Sunday morning series on the Tabernacle taught by Taylor. Having started in February, the pastor says that a number of members have said they finally understand the sacrificial elements of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant and how they are intertwined.
For the pastor, though, it isn’t a recent interest, “Seeing it in a three-dimensional way, through the Tabernacle Experience, reignited my passion to share it with our congregation and others,” he told Metro Voice.
Pastor Taylor says that as they’ve been working through the series, this period of Moses is the first time, since the fall, that God expressed His desire to dwell among His people.
“All humanity is hot-wired to know God. The Tabernacle Experience does a great job of explaining that wiring and it exposes people to the opportunity to know God through Jesus Christ. One leaves being reminded of it, as Christians, or being exposed to it for the first time.”
The exhibit features historically accurate, artistically crafted biblical replicas of the Brazen Altar, the Table of Showbread and finally, the Ark of the Covenant. State-of-the-art interactive displays take what a visitor sees to a new level that’s understandable to young and old alike, whether they be seasoned Christians or just curious individuals who haven’t attended church in a while but are drawn to the ancient worship practices.
When The Tabernacle Experience visited Lone Jack Baptist Church last fall, over 5,000 people saw it and reservations filled up within days of the article in Metro Voice.
Shelley Holsten, a member of Lone Jack and one of the organizers of their event said it had a profound effect on her. “The Tabernacle Experience was, for me, a deeply personal worship experience,” she said. “Having the headset on allowed me to shut out everything and concentrate on the presence of the Holy Spirit. With all senses engaged, I felt His holiness like never before.”
While the exhibit is mostly self-guided, volunteers direct worshippers through the various aspects of the tabernacle tent. With the help of audio, they journey through the sanctuary with a 55-minute narration in which they interact at each of nine stations. Jesus Christ is revealed in each aspect of the tabernacle.
The Experience may be the most unique traveling exhibit in the nation. But why does a tent, fabric walls and an altar set up in parking lots, fields and churchyards across the nation capture the imagination and spiritual aspirations of so many people?
Pastor Taylor observes that we live in a more visual and experiential age and it gives people the opportunity to really see what they’re reading in their Bibles. “This allows us to see how people experienced God 2,500 years ago, in a way that reading alone is difficult to convey.”
“The most beautiful aspect,” Taylor says, “is how different parts of the experience point to the Christ to come.”
Holsten shares a story about a priest who visited, but had run out of time to wait his turn. She says she could sense his angst when he came to her and said he had to leave in 15 minutes. Was there any part of it he could experience before he had to go? She quickly grabbed a headset, took him straight back to the stations inside the tent, and told him to listen as long as he could, then to just bring the headset out when he had to leave.
“When he came out a short time later, the tears were flowing and he was too caught up to even speak to us,” Hosten says. “Instead he began pulling out bills and stuffing them in the donation box. When we tried to assure him, it wasn’t necessary–he didn’t even get to experience the whole thing–he just shook his head at us, continued, and left in silence.”
The Tabernacle Experience will take place Friday, April 21 from 11 a.m. through Sunday, April 30 at 8 p.m., rain or shine. Oakwood Baptist Church is located at 7600 Lee’s Summit Road, Kansas City, Mo. (North of Lakewood Medical Center).
Cost is $6 pp/$20 per family. Walk-ins wait for those with reservations. You are encouraged to go on line and reserve your time to attend, though donations/payments can only be taken at the door.
For info, and to signup, visit www.obckc.com or call (816) 373-4733 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.Visit the Oakwood Baptist Church website for more info and to register.