Fun, subliminal Bible lesson all in one
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Many churches avoid any semblance of a celebration of Halloween, eschewing the costumed frenzy that is traditionally a part of the autumnal observance. Some have “haunted houses” that depict the horrors that can befall those who partake in social evils such as abortion or drug abuse.
Then there are Escape Houses, which are growing in popularity across the nation.
Escape Houses, like the one presented near the end of October by First Assembly of God Church in Atmore, combine coded Biblical lessons with the least-monstrous components of Halloween to provide a fun experience that also leaves in its wake a valuable lesson for Christians and non-Christians.
“What even non-Christians, when they read (the clues), don’t realize is that not only are they having fun, but a seed is planted,” said Johnny Rolin, who is nearing the end of his third year as youth minister of the Atmore church.
First Assembly centered its Escape House around Harvest Festival, which occurred on October 30. Members of the public paid to tour the three-room, riddle-filled structure — of which cobwebs and colored lights were the only nods to traditional Halloween observances — on Festival night, the night preceding it and the night immediately following it.
The experience being a new one for Rolin and his older charges, they didn’t publicize it very extensively. Still, a fairly large number of people went through the three rooms — an office, a jungle camp and a cave — although very few did so in the 15 allotted minutes.
“I’m not sure how many people in this area know what an escape room or escape house is,” said Tonya Rolin, Johnny’s wife and “the brains behind the clues” that led individuals from room to room. “But on Fall festival night, we had 50 or 60 go through, and a few more also went through on the other nights. One group came from Cantonment. They saw it on Facebook and drove all the way up here.”
The youth minister said the idea to present the escape house came from visits to similar set-ups and a desire to do something a little out of the ordinary this year.
“Everybody had 15 minutes to escape, or make it through,” he said. “This was our first year doing an Escape House. Our youth group and college group went to many escape rooms as a kind of team-building thing. For Harvest Festival we wanted to do something different, so we decided to do an escape room.”
None of those who went through the Escape House were able to decipher the clues in time to beat the clock without help from the “clue-master” who was stationed in each room. Still, each one seemed to enjoy the experience.
“Nobody made it out without help,” Tonya Rolin said. “I think everybody got stuck in the first room; it was the hardest. After their 15 minutes were up, they could either leave out the emergency exit or pay for more time. Most everybody paid for more time to keep going.”
The Escape House, put on by the college students and high school seniors of First Assembly’s Power House Youth Group (which consists of individuals ages 13-23), was a fundraiser for the group’s annual trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn. for the Extreme Winner Youth Conference.
Students taking part in the presentation included Kyle Kersey, Alana Rolin, Jude Parham, Charleigh Parham, Ansleigh Maholovich, Chas McGhee, Hannah Hughes, Zach Percy, Hannah Booker, Rebecca Booker, Auden Lassiter, John Hiebert, Mitchell Faulk and Charles Aymond (as Indiana Jones, who gave each person a copy of The Life Book when he or she made it through and came outside).
Will there be another First Assembly Escape House next year?
“I think next year we’ll mix it up some, probably change the theme up,” Johnny Rolin said. “The only advertising we did this year was word-of-mouth and Facebook, so maybe next year we’ll have a better turnout.”
He added that most of those who made it through did so without realizing they had just been subjected to not only a fun experience, but also a Bible lesson.
“You have fun, and we plant seeds,” he said. “That’s the best part. We’re not trying to scare anybody into church, but no matter what you do, you’re not getting out without reading God’s word.”