The Thorn has been a central part of the way New Life Church has reached the Colorado Springs community during the Easter season for a number of years now. Our daughter, Kristen (14), was six when she was cast as the little girl Jesus swings around during the scene where he is playing with the children, and everyone in our family has participated in various ways over the years. This year, Kristen was in a number of the scenes while Matt and I had the privilege of coordinating food for the Saturday rehearsals and performances.
Although we envisioned a lot of the planning, shopping, set-up, serving, clean-up and general schlepping involved in feeding 800 people, we had no idea the truly special insight behind the scenes we would be afforded in the process. Let me begin by saying how blessed we were by a fantastic team of volunteers who answered the call to serve those serving — each one of them inspire us personally by their faithfulness and diligence.
Less like a story, instead I offer a compilation of pictures, moments, or conversations that flit through our mind and heart as we reflect.
Heart warming moments: Some of the children, only 8 or 9 years old, are the most eager to help. They love stacking cups or pushing carts, even the cruel task of spreading out Tootsie Rolls on the tables. Several gathered around Matt as he popped the popcorn for snack and professed he was their new friend, though they looked more like adoring fans (popcorn draws all ages, in fact). Their desire to help became especially endearing to us personally.
One couldn’t help but notice the special bond among the groups of Pharisees, angels, demons, Centurions, scribes, dancers, Roman women, and crowd members as each group sought each other out to share experiences from the scene they were just in, or pray together because of illness, injury, or weariness. Over the past months of preparation and practice they encouraged one another in so many ways along-the-way and that was apparent to us every time we came in contact with them.
At the end of the night there was always food left-over and unfortunately, some portion inevitably goes to waste. However, the larger portion of food that remained after the Thorn and Crown cast & crew were fed went home with single parent families, to Tent City with a cast member, or with those administering God’s grace at Acacia Park through $5 Missions.
Quirky, funny things: While getting ready to serve snack we sighted satan riding a hobby horse, which still causes a head-tilt when the picture reforms in our minds … that one is not easy to adequately describe in words. And then there are the angels and demons, who may have thought no one else noticed them in between performances in the upper hallways, were obviously in some sort of relationship as they held hands or simply gazed into each other’s eyes (which is creepier than it even sounds since the make-up for the demons includes yellow or white contact lenses) … this still sends shivers! (For great images of the cast visit A Better Image Photography — Ted Mehl does a wonderful job capturing the story.)
My personal favorite was the unintended torturing of the cast with the smell of fresh popcorn as we had to pop it in the Activity Center, which was their green room. The popcorn machine had set-off the fire alarm during a practice earlier in the week, so we had to use the machine in the A/C due to the higher ceilings in order to get their snack ready for after the 1:00 performance. Matt and I wondered if it ever caused the 1:00 performance to finish in record time – fresh popcorn is hard to resist!
Sacrificial, inspirational moments: Just before each performance the directors would address the cast with important scene and logistical reminders, but none more poignant than their passionate reminders of purpose. The testimonies of those in the audience and the impact of the performance was especially sobering, refocusing everyone to the message of the cross that each one of us display on and off the stage.
We tip our hats to the scads of make-up crew and the cast members starting hours before the performances to get ready and their diligence to stay ready all throughout the day. They endured long hours to make it all beautiful, scary, muscular, intimidating, hairy, grimy, and ethereal. (They rock!)
When we peeked into the rooms to check on food, we noticed the dancers sitting in circles reading the scriptures to prepare their hearts for what they were trying to portray. How does anyone really know what an angel feels when all heaven rejoices at the saving of a soul or when the earth was created? They try.
Though we never actually laid eyes on some of these folks, we delivered food for those who conscientiously man their post during long performance days depending on someone to notice they need nourishment or a bathroom break. These are the men and women working with tech, pyro, rigging, merchandise, ticket booth, as well as various make-up artists. We appreciated how gracious and self-sacrificing they were.
And then there’s the cast members that wait with cups of water in the hallway for the demons, angles, Centurions, Jesus, and other changing scenes. Just doing what they could to help.
Vital co-laborers: NLC pastors, security team, staff and volunteers serve as hosts for each performance, welcoming guests, making them comfortable, and praying for those making a decision for Christ. The NLC Hospitality Team is the ever-gracious extension of New Life as they serve EVERYONE. This is a great crew of people who are more likely noticed when something doesn’t get done than when it does — they blessed us.
Far behind the scenes are the vendors who believe in what we are trying to do and do all they can to make it happen on time and under budget. There are far more, but for our part, we are grateful for Extreme Pizza and KFC/A&W on 83. Both of these businesses gave us deep discounts on the food that fed so many. I would also like to mention Sam’s Club, High Country Home Educators, NLC Childrens Ministry and Safeway for their contributions and support.
The Crown had its own cast and crew to feed, but that didn’t hinder them from washing a ton of dishes for us, and being willing to lend a hand in any way they could. We are grateful for new-found friendships there.
We recognized early on how prayer undergirded everything. The prayer team quietly, yet forcefully, interceded for so many. Though we didn’t always see them, we sensed their dedication and commitment to support all that was going on and all those we hoped to reach. Please know, this is only a limited view of all the details and effort required for such a production to reach the stage, it is simply a few observations of “the food people”. We were so blessed to be able to serve and help communicate the greatest story ever told. To God be all the glory.