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Judgment House takes spiritual journey (video)

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Nov. 6, 2013 at 5:06 a.m.

Playing the role of  Jesus, Sam Matlock, of Inez, greets visitors in the heaven scene of the Judgment House put on by the First Baptist Church of Edna.

IF YOU GO

• WHAT: Judgment House

• WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday

• WHERE: First Baptist Church, 309 Cottonwood St., Edna

• COST: Free (must reserve for groups at 361-235-2828)

• FOR INFO: Call 361-235-2828 or visit fbcedna.org.

EDNA - A group of Kristi Doyle's fellow church members surrounded her in the hallway.

They stared forward at the closed double doors, waiting for the cue to pass through - and enter into heaven.

Doyle's eyes widened as three white-robed angels approached her, shrouding her shoulders with a white handkerchief.

"Welcome, welcome," the angels said, smiling as the group passed through the gates of heaven and approached the throne of Jesus.

White smoke gathered around them, and a dozen more angels appeared on both sides of her.

"I am the way, the truth and the life," God said, played by Sam Matlock, of Edna.

Matlock stepped down from his throne, greeting each member of Doyle's group one at a time.

"Well done, my good and faithful servant," he said, placing his hand upon their shoulders.

Doyle was touched by the gesture.

"There are no words for that. It's surreal. I know (the man who plays Jesus) he's a member at the church, but he gazes into your eyes so deep," Doyle said.

It's not the first time Doyle has walked through First Baptist Church of Edna's annual Judgment House, an eight-scene play about life, accepting Christ, and what happens after death.

But it's different every time, she said.

"It's a real boost for your faith," she said. "It's powerful. Especially hell. That's intense."

This year's Judgment House is based on the real life of South Carolina teen Hannah Sobeski, who died Nov. 9, 2006, of a rare form of Sarcoma cancer. She was 18 years old.

She lived her entire life, even while undergoing months of painful treatment at M.D. Anderson in Houston, desiring to grow closer to God and share her faith with those around her.

Inside Judgment House, Doyle caught a glimpse of the progression of Sobeski's battle with cancer and her admission into the Kingdom of Heaven after dying on a couch at home surrounded by friends and family singing worship songs and praying.

"I bawled. It made me happy knowing that I'm a Christian and relieved I'm not going to hell," Doyle said. "I have daughters her age, and I'm just so thankful they're healthy."

More than 250 volunteers took part in the 2013 Judgment House, including the actors who re-enacted the eight scenes.

The show is free to the public and has already confirmed more than 2,000 reservations of interested spectators, who are traveling in from across Texas to view the show.

"That's one of the real blessings of watching your church come together and put something like this on," said co-organizer, Bonnie Covin, who has been helping her husband, Charles Covin, organize the event since August. "We're here to share Jesus with the lost, and when something like this comes together, it makes it all worthwhile."

Covin said the church uses Judgment House to reach out to the community and share the gospel with anyone who may be interested.

"In this case, with Hannah's story, even though God didn't heal her and allowed her to die, her life still had purpose," Covin said. "We hope to show that life matters and God has a purpose for everyone now and after death."

Doyle said she's pleased to be a part of a show that is impacting the community and changing hearts for God.

"People say Judgment House is just to scare you into accepting Christ. But it's not," she said. "It's truth. It's real. And it gives you a view of our lives from start to finish and after we die."

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