Following a script called "The Silent Killer," more than 100 local volunteers present the reality of life and death with and without God this weekend at the Pratt's First Christian Church.
One year the story was about coming clean from drugs, another time it revolved around a fatal sports injury, and this year the Judgement House theme is carbon monoxide poisoning. But every year, in each presentation, the main goal of the walk-through drama that takes place at Pratt's First Christian Church is to provide an opportunity to know Jesus Christ.
On April 6, 7 and 10, more than 100 cast members from the First Christian Church and other local congregations will team up to present the gospel in a new way to those who venture in with a curiosity to know more at Judgement House. This is the second year the production, which is part of a nation-wide organization, has been set for spring, right around the Easter holiday.
"I've been involved with Judgement House for 20 years," said First Christian Church pastor Mike McGovney. "I first saw it in a church in Arkansas City and I loved the concept of it. This is a way of presenting the real gospel to people who may not want to have anything to do with church."
McGovney pastors churches in Pratt and Cunningham and was part of a core group, along with his wife, Marla, and friends John and Pamela Ford of Pratt, who brought Judgement House to the area 12 years ago.
"Most other churches present Judgement House in the fall, as a counter to spook houses around Halloween," McGovney said. "But our cast members felt it might work better here to do it around Easter as the timing is better with so many others activities happening with sports and holidays in the fall."
Last year, more than 325 guests participated in the walk-through drama at the First Christian Church, located at 123 N. Ninnescah, Pratt. Of those, 34 made a decision to give their lives to Christ and 57 rededicated their lives to serving God.
"Our family has been involved since day one around here," said Pamela Ford. "It is so important to us, because it opened our eyes to how much we were living in sin. Our family made a complete turn to living for the Lord, even our two boys, they came to Christ through Judgement House. We want to share that opportunity with others because it has changed our lives."
Ford said that actors and actresses perform scripts that have been licensed by the national Judgement House organization which originated in Alabama. However, both John Ford and McGovney have turned their own life stories into Judgement House productions with much success.
"John wrote a script called 'Play Hard, Pray Hard' and Mike wrote about his own son's struggle with drugs and death in 'Cleaned Up,'" she said.
This year the script is "The Silent Killer." Because there are life and death situations portrayed, as well as the agony of life in Hell, McGovney said children under the age of 10 were not recommended to be part of the walk-through dramatizations.
"We have rules," McGovney said. "We do not have blood and gore, it is done tastefully, but we deal with intense situations and death, so family support is required, even for teenagers."
McGovney said he was part of a smaller crew that took a Judgement House presentation into a prison setting where he was just overwhelmed by the prisoners response to wanting and needing Christ in their lives.
"We do this because it is an opportunity to see and find out about Christ in a non-church-like setting," he said. "These are real people and real stories about choices that have been made the consequences of those choices."
This year in Pratt, with the theme revolving around carbon monoxide poisoning, city firefighters will be on hand for the Sunday afternoon presentation April 7 to talk with participants and give out free carbon monoxide detectors.
"We felt this was a great opportunity to present God and take care of some community service," McGovney said. "The close calls we've had recently here with carbon monoxide is a very real danger and we want to do all we can to save lives."
Judgement House takes place Saturday, April 6 from 6:30-9:30 p.m., Sunday, April 7 from 4:30-7:30 p.m. and Wednesday, April 10 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. After registration in the First Christian Church, participants are provided with guides for the walk-through drama experience. The event takes about one hour to complete. A donation is suggested, but Judgement House is mostly funded by an annual volleyball tournament sponsored by the Cunningham First Christian Church.