Out of Bethlehem
Local church home to Nativity set made by hand in Israel.
By RACHAEL GRAY
Nativity scenes all around Garden City are lit up in yards and houses, with some displayed on tables and handed down from generation to generation.
But not many are made from olive bark carved by Christians in Bethlehem.
In order to see that, visitors are welcome to come to First Christian Church in Garden City to view a set hand-carved by the Zacharia brothers of Bethlehem, Israel. The brothers carved the set in a workshop at their home, at a business that has been passed down for many generations of their family.
Gale Frank, a member of First Christian Church, returned home from Israel earlier this month and shipped the Nativity set.
Frank's aunt's blankets are auctioned off every year at the Navajo Taco Dinner, an annual fundraiser for local charities through the church. This year, Frank will have something different to bring to the table.
He said while in Israel at the brother's shop, God spoke to him.
"God told me, 'This is it.' I had the answer to our fundraising right there. So I bought it and shipped it back," he said.
The set will be auctioned off Feb. 23 at the annual dinner.
Past dinners have raised $24,000 for local charities and nonprofit organizations.
Frank and church leaders think with the special Nativity scene, they may be able to break $30,000. In the past, handmade quilts have brought in $3,000 apiece.
Scott Schurle, pastor, said he's inspired by the set and by Frank's generosity.
"It's inspirational to me to see what some people will do, and the talent they possess to share the message. Gale inspires me, too," he said.
Frank said it's not about him, but about the children and families who will benefit from the fundraising.
"It's about supporting Christians. I supported the brothers in Bethlehem, and now the community will help support families here," he said. Frank went to Israel on a Christian trip and also had been there in 2009.
He said when tension rose last month between the Israelis and Palestinians, they almost considered canceling the trip.
Frank said when they arrived in early December, the country was peaceful.
"The day we landed, the conflict had quieted down. There wasn't any extra security or anything. It's a really peaceful place," he said.
Frank and Schurle said the Nativity set will be displayed on Christmas Eve during the church's service.
The church also is open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily for people to come pray. They also can come look at the Nativity set, Schurle said.
Church members and leaders are trying to spark as much interest in the set as they can before the auction.
"We're hoping people step up and bid on this. We're also hoping people come in and take a peek at the beautiful piece of work," Schurle said.
Frank said whoever purchases the set will benefit from it — from donating to charity and also acquiring a rare piece to add to Christmas collections.
"My goal, through the set and through the church, is to spread the message of Jesus and what he can offer," he said.