FORT SILL, Okla.-- Several hundred children from the Lawton-Fort Sill community celebrated another spirit of the season at the Frontier Chapel Gospel Service's Hallelujah Harvest Oct. 31 here.

The 18th annual event offered a safe alternative to trick-or-treating with games and prizes, food and fellowship in a Christian atmosphere, said festival organizers.

"It's a great event seeing everyone reconnecting, learning about God and having fun," said Vickie Harris, Frontier Chapel Gospel Service special programs coordinator. "It's wonderful seeing the kids' eyes lighting up for games, toys and to hear God's words."

Children participated in more than a dozen games ranging from ring tosses to a cake walk to Nerf-like basketball. Each game had a biblical message and games included the walls of Jericho, everlasting water and Daniel and the lion's den.

"At the faith walk, which is our cake walk, the children are testifying that they are walking for Jesus," Harris said.

Regardless of the outcome of a game, every child won a candy or tickets that could be redeemed for a prize. Prizes included Christian action figures, other toys and ear buds for MP3 players.

Costumes and masks were encouraged, but they had to be biblical or geared toward the edification of chapel life, said Chaplain (Maj.) R. Randall Thomas, 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade chaplain and Gospel Service senior pastor.

"Nothing ghoulish, nothing gory, no ghosts or goblins," Thomas said.

In the sanctuary, Chaplain (Maj.) Doug Lax, Garrison Chaplain staff and Gospel Service co-pastor, performed five-minute mini-sermons from Ephesians, Chapter 5.

"We're teaching that there are spiritual forces in this world, there are ghosts and their job is to give us bad thoughts," Lax said. "The lesson is that we put on the whole armor of God and ask him, 'what do you want us to do?' We consult his Bible, we pray and we talk to the Holy Spirit to find out the right thing to do."

Dozens of volunteers from the chapel and Catholic and Protestant congregations helped organize and work the event, Harris said. They manned the different games as well as the kitchen area where free hot dogs, chips and sodas were served.

It was 18 years ago when Harris started the alternative Halloween offering at the Gospel Service here.

In her travels as an Army wife, Harris saw alternative celebrations at Fort Riley, Kan., Fort Hood, Texas, and Wertheim, Germany. Even though the Harrises didn't have children, she said she wanted to create a safe environment where children could learn about the Lord.

Returning to Fort Sill in 1994, Harris thought it would be a great time to start it here.
"Everyone at the Gospel Service was excited about it, and it just grew from there," she said.