The global pandemic interrupted Southside Baptist Church’s 23-year streak of staging judgement house, but the evangelistic endeavor returns this month — but in a different setting and script from previous years.
The drama, titled “I’m Fine,” will be moved to the church’s new Life Action Center, which will result in all facets of the drama being handicap accessible and all on one floor.
“We’re excited about it,” said Vickie Roper, who wrote the script for this year’s drama and coordinates the seven-day event. As of Oct. 8, more than 1,300 reservations were made to attend the drama. Typically the walk-through drama draws churches/organizations from Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana and Illinois.
This will be the first judgment house staged during Kyle Noffsinger’s time as pastor of Southside, but he is quite familiar with it. “I went through it while serving at another church — I loved the story, the drama, the atmosphere, but what I was most impressed with was what happened in the counseling room. That is where the gospel was clearly articulated in a passionate way and people were called to repentance.
“That is the sole reason we do this — we are not actors and our scenes don’t require tens of thousands of dollars to create. We have volunteers who have found an effective way to share the gospel.”
This year’s drama focuses on the issues of anxiety and stress, “which are so prevalent now,” Roper noted, adding that “40 million adults aged 18 and older of the U.S. population suffer from anxiety.” She pointed out that women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety, and that while anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only 36.9% of those affected receive treatment.
“The pandemic has made stress and anxiety more prevalent — not just in teens, but in all ages,” she said. “When you think of suicide and depression, it’s connected to anxiety and stress.”
The storyline, written when COVID-19 numbers were better than they are now, focuses on a teenage girl who is struggling. She is enjoying the virtual option for classes but doesn’t look forward to returning to in-person classes because she likes the safety and comfort of being home. She is anxious about the possibility of getting COVID and battles ongoing fear that something bad is going to happen. “She has the feeling that is always looking over her shoulder for something bad to occur,” Roper said.
The teen fears to talk about her worries, always responding with the phrase “I’m fine,” even though she is not fine. The drama shows how she pretends to feel normal but is overwhelmed by her situation.
The teen’s father is away from home, working in a COVID unit. The drama traces how she worries when her mother leaves for the airport to pick up her father as he returns home. She frets that the airplane will crash. She has two friends traveling to her house to check on her, but they are involved in a tragic accident while talking with her on the phone. She takes several pills to help calm her anxiety, but takes too many and doesn’t wake up.
The drama presents the gospel as it shows people making — or failing to make — a decision that will determine their eternal destiny. The drama is for persons sixth grade and older.
“Social Anxiety Disorder affects 15 million adults and usually begins at age 13,” Roper said. “It is the fear of being judged by others, being embarrassed or humiliated, being the center of attention or fearing accidentally offending someone. Anxiety disorder affects 25% of youth ages 13-18.”
Counselors lead groups of about 25 or less through various scenes, with groups starting every 15-20 minutes. The drama is scheduled for Oct. 16-17 and 20-24. On Saturdays, doors open at 2 p.m., on Sundays at 1 p.m., then at 6 p.m. on all other nights. The event is free, and masks are not mandatory. Concessions will be available, with proceeds going toward a summer youth mission tour. Reservations are encouraged. People can visit www.southsidebaptist.com to make reservations. Walk-ins are welcomed, but those persons may experience a wait time.