Event set for Dec. 17 and 18
Put 60 cow/calf pairs, 40 sheep, seven donkeys, three llamas, two pot-bellied pigs, one miniature horse, and a host of ducks, peacocks, chickens, doves, in close proximity to about 500 people and what happens? Nothing short of a miracle, according to Carol Duerksen and Maynard Knepp of rural Hillsboro, who, along with a handful of youth and sponsors from the Tabor Mennonite Church youth group, host an annual Night in the Barn event on the third weekend of December.
“God’s hand is in everything,” Duerksen said. “It’s just amazing how everything comes together for this event each year. Already we have newborn lambs for the manger scene, and a tame cow recently had a calf.”
Hosting Night in the Barn is Duerksen and Knepp’s way of sharing abundant blessings bestowed on them by God.
“It all started about 15 years ago, when we first hosted the Agri-Urban Day on the Farm event,” Duerksen said. “That was a great way to connect children with farm animals and their parents and grandparents with an opportunity to support Mennonite organizations. It was so much fun that we wanted to do it more than just once a year. Night in the Barn seemed to go along with that theme.”
The following year, the couple began a 14-year odyssey of portraying the night of Christ’s birth for all who came to their farm.
Night in the Barn, always a free to the public event, will take place this year from 6 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 17 and 18 at the Duerksen/Knepp farm, located four miles south of Hillsboro, three miles west, and ½ mile north on Falcon Road.
The real-life nativity, takes place in the bottom of an over 100-year-old barn.
“We try to keep everything as basic as possible, to remind people of the humble beginnings and birth of Christ,” Duerksen said. “There are cobwebs on the ceiling, animal smells and sounds, and the Christmas story, portrayed by youth actors and actresses.”
This year, the theme of Night in the Barn tells the Christmas story through the eyes of Joseph, Jesus Christ’s father. According to the Bible, Joseph took his betrothed and heavily pregnant wife, Mary, to Bethlehem, for a census count by ruler Caesar Augustus. Joseph likely had no idea what was about to happen.
Visitors to Night in the Barn, and those who host it, likely have no idea what might happen either, when animals and humans combine to tell the age-old story.
“The first year we tried this, we had the whole herd of sheep up close to the barn,” Duerksen said. “When people started showing up, the whole bunch of them stampeded out to the pasture, never to be seen again that night.”
This year however, a long-time Night in the Barn performer will be on hand to make sure the sheep are represented. Pippi Longstocking, a 12-year-old ewe, has been in every manger scene at the farm since her birth in 2000.
“Pippi was a bottle baby,” Duerksen said. “She knows her place and willingly comes to the manger for visitors.”
Duerksen said the donkeys also seem to love to play their roles as the nativity scene unfolds.
“They come in willingly to hang their heads over the fences and stall doors,” she said. “They just love the people.”
Duerksen said other possible crowd-pleasers this year could be Jingle, the new baby donkey who loves attention, or Piglet, the pot-bellied pig, who is sure to make an appearance with her over-sized offspring, Kleinschweine.
“Our reason for doing this is that we may never get to know what that first Christmas was really like,” Duerksen said. “But, we can come to this barn, with these animals, in this setting, and imagine. That is the miracle of Christmas.”