By Heather WilburnNovember 12, 2008
For 22 years, the Fort Bliss chapel community has offered area residents the chance to glorify God with the Hallelujah Festival, an event organizers call a Christian alternative to Halloween.
This year, more than 350 people took part in the festival, held Friday at Center Chapel Four.
"Halloween is a night when the forces of evil are rampant," said Barbara Cotton, Fort Bliss Protestant director of education and the event's coordinator. "We are praising Jesus with our Hallelujah Festival. All of our games are scripture-based, our costume judging is for biblical costumes, and everything we're doing is lifting up Jesus."
The festival, which has grown each year since it started in 1986, opened with a worship service especially for children and a visit by the Vacation Bible School puppets. The puppets made another appearance before the closing worship to perform a skit called "Do Not Be Afraid," Cotton said.
"It talks about trusting in Jesus and not being afraid on a night like this, where you need to concentrate on having the power of love and a sound mind," she explained.
Games, refreshments and more filled the time between the opening and closing worship services, with all activities being run by volunteers. In fact, the event would not be possible without the help of volunteers, Cotton said.
"I'm very pleased with the volunteers we have, because our entire staff is volunteers," she said. "We probably have over 50 volunteers that helped put this together."
Volunteer Danyelle Barnett has taken part in the Hallelujah Festival for five years, and continues to do so because she believes the event is good for the children that participate in it.
"It's an awesome way to reach out to people for Christ," she said. "I love [the festival]. It's a great way to have an alternative for Halloween, and have a Christian view of Halloween."
Tomika Abraham brought her children, 23-month old Jackson and 3-year-old Allyson, to the festival because she felt it provided a safe, wholesome way for them to celebrate the season.
"I didn't want to take [my children] out onto the street where people are wearing scary costumes," she said. "I wanted to bring them in the church and around the church where the activities are Christian-based."
As far as her children were concerned, Abraham said, the event was a success.
"They've eaten hot dogs, chips of course, and they've played several games," she said. "I think they're having a good time."
Biggs Chapel member Sandra Richardson came to the event with her sister, who brought her "little" from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
"I think it's great as an alternative to what's going on, on the outside," she said. "It's well-organized, well-planned, structured, and the children are having a lot of fun."
Kayla Sanders, 7, agreed, and said she was having fun.
"I have done some bowling, and some games," she said, noting that the bowling had been her favorite activity. Sanders was costumed as a fairy because she "wanted to be one of Tinkerbell's friends," she said.
For 11-year-old Gavan Eakers, the event provided the opportunity to spend quality time with loved ones.
"I've played games, I've eaten, I've worshiped with friends and we're just about to get ready to go inside and watch a little skit," he said, adding that the games had been his favorite part of the evening. "It's just a good opportunity to spend time with your friends and spend time with your family to worship God."
"We're just so happy that everyone is here," Cotton said, adding that she was pleased with the event's turnout. "This is something that we love to do."