I think it’s safe to say that I am…different. As my mom says, I was born “a different breed” compared to most teenagers my age. I used to consider myself to be pretty normal, actually—that is, until I realized that something as simple as my birthday wish would completely oppose to that of a normal sixteen year old. This year, upon the arrival of my sixteenth birthday, I did not add a new car to my birthday wish list, but rather, a ticket to the “Holy Land Experience” theme park, a biblical tourist site based in Orlando.
While the few that actually visit this New Testament centered attraction are active church members, African Americans, and Hispanics, I somehow felt the inexorable desire to visit this religious site myself. After all, it sounded perfect place to spend a sweet sixteen. With temple models, Jerusalem streets, interactive shows and singing Jesus’s, one could easily say that this was no average “Harry Potter World,” but rather…an incredible trip through the Bible.
The website itself was inviting enough, and I had been eagerly waiting for almost a year to visit the real scene in person. After some gesturing and begging, I finally convinced my family to take part in this biblical excursion, and I am so appreciative that they did; I enjoyed every minute spent at the “Holy Land Experience” theme park.
As soon as we entered the parking lot for this biblical site, I already knew I was in love. Greeted with bursting crystal waters and convivial music, I understood the primary mission of this theme park: to experience first century Jerusalem through a historical, educational, and theatrical perspective.
The Trinity Broadcasting network really went all out with the biblical ambiance, filled with various crucifixion shows, worship gatherings, and other unique exhibits; I really did leave the park that day satisfied and overjoyed to see such an acclaimed religious theme park.
But why did I love it so much? At the end of the day, the “Holy Land Experience” is a biblical Christian theme park; the staged shows covered the gist of the New Testament and it seemed just coincidental that the actors there greeted visitors with the friendly “shalom.” Why did I enjoy this experience, moreover, why do I now actually miss the “Holy Land” in my own state?
Maybe it was the uniqueness of the small, gospel- preaching terrain. The “Holy Land Experience” is perhaps the only theme park in Orlando that replaces the Mickey Mouse ears for tabernacle models, but that kind of uniqueness is appreciated by the rare breed of teens like me. The park itself was about one quarter the size of “Islands of Adventure,” but this one quarter offered so much more value to the religious Christians in the world; I actually wished there was a small, convenient theme park for every religion.
Along with the interesting shows and activities, I noticed the people. The actors here weren’t desperate faithless professionals in search of theatre careers, but rather devout Christians who merely sing and act to glorify G-d. Anyone could have seen that their biblical characters in the historical performances brought forth values that they carry as people, even after they exit the grounds of the mock first century Jerusalem streets. Not only did they portray their assigned characters, but they truly believed in their characters, and all the Christian values that accompanied them. The actors at the “Holy Land Experience” theme park never once broke out of their characters, for they are those characters.
I think every theme park, every popular attraction, every tourist site, should thrive off the same intentions as the “Holy Land Experience.” This non-profit organized biblical experience proved that with passion, Psalm 102: 22-23 could easily be fulfilled.
“His praises in Jerusalem, when nations gather together, the kingdoms, to serve the Lord.”
This Jerusalem experience, though primarily targeted toward the Christian faith, attracts a variety of religious groups, enabling all visitors to learn and experience together. While the gory crucifixion scenes may not be for everyone, they work for the rare breed of religion-centered teens, like me.
Beyond all the Jesus-based activities, the “Holy Land Experience” brought Psalm 102: 22-23 to life; this Orlando religious attraction offered all religions the opportunity to experience first century Jerusalem together, the actors portrayed a passion for what they do and who they are as faithful people, and the entire trip through the Bible was an unforgettable one, satisfying my simple sweet sixteen wish.