Judgement House in Ridgeland takes participants on journey to Christ

loberle@islandpacket.comFebruary 28, 2014 

Ridgeland Baptist Church members Tiffany Zareva and Jennifer Frank are dressed as angels for the heaven scene in the church's exhibit, Judgement House.

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  • IF YOU GO

    WHAT: Judgement House, a walk-through drama

    WHERE: Ridgeland Baptist Church, 1448 Grays Highway, Ridgeland

    WHEN: 2-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m., March 1; 5-9 p.m., March 2

    DETAILS: Reservations recommended. Call 843-726-3127.

This weekend you could find out your eternal destiny -- in Ridgeland.

The Judgement House, an hourlong walk-through drama that continues March 1-2 at Ridgeland Baptist Church, recounts the stories of three people and the choices they made during their lives. Visitors will journey along with them until the final destination, heaven or hell.

"The point of Judgement House is so that people realize that there is only one way to heaven, and that is through a relationship with Christ," said Deanne Owens, coordinator of Judgement House. "It gives a clear picture of the gospel and your relationship with Christ when your time on earth is done. Life with Christ is eternity in heaven and life without Christ is eternity in hell."

An outreach ministry, Judgement House exhibits, like the one at Ridgeland Baptist, are held across the country and overseas. This is the 13th year the church has held Judgement House, with this year's theme, "Web of Lies," focuses on social media and its potential dangers.

The production involves more than 200 local cast and crew, mostly members of Ridgeland Baptist. Owens said almost 1,000 people went through Judgement House last weekend. Groups of 20 are sent through every 12 minutes.

First, the three characters' stories on earth are told. There's a good-girl who doesn't know Jesus, a pedophile who murders two children, and a boy named Kevin who loves God and tries his best to share the gospel with those around him.

Then, guests walk through hell, where the first two characters end up. Red lights illuminate a dark room that is hot from space heaters which are on full blast. The room smells of sulfur. Actors locked in shackles beg for water.

"The Bible says it's a place of torment," Owens said. "We try to mimic it as much as possible without it being a haunted house. We want people to know this is real."

As the group moves along from hell, the pearly gates of the sanctuary open and they enter heaven. There is a waterfall, clouds and sheets covering the pews. The room is completely white. Jesus, played by a church member, descends from the staircase and speaks with each person in the group.

"It's just a small part of what I envision heaven to be like, just very clean and pure and refreshing," Owens said. "Most of the time seeing just how bad hell is makes (people) realize how wonderful heaven is."

While Judgement House is sometimes criticized as being a "scare tactic" or an "in-your-face" attempt to bring people to Christianity, those who've been through it see it differently.

Beaufort resident Shari Smith went through Judgement House last weekend with her 10-year-old son, Bryce. They are members of The Link, a church in Port Royal, and Smith appreciates the imagery Judgement House provides.

"I don't feel like it's a scare tactic. I think it's very realistic of how things probably really are," Smith said.

At the end of the event, her son decided to accept Jesus as his savior.

"You watch the main character and his portrayed life, and that really clicked. The fact that he didn't live a life for Christ resulted in his ultimate demise of going to hell," Smith said. "When you see that and realize you have that choice to make yourself, it's a pretty powerful experience. If you haven't made a decision, and you see where you could end up, you realize you need to make sure you are right with the Lord."

Follow reporter Laura Oberle at twitter.com/IPBG_Laura.

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