BARBERTON: For the next week, the Rev. Howard Russell will be able to look out his office window and find inspiration.
That encouragement will be in the form of Messiah’s Mansion, a life-size model of the portable temple described in the Bible's book of Exodus.
“I will be able to see a structure that the children of Israel saw every morning before going to gather their manna for the day, more than 3,000 years ago,” said Russell, president of Christian Healthcare Ministries. “For the Israelites, the Hebrew sanctuary was a dwelling place for God that they carried through the wilderness for 40 years, and it reveals God’s plan of salvation for humanity.”
Work crews spent about 700 man hours this week setting up the tabernacle — a 75-by-150-foot courtyard and 45-by-15-foot temple – on the lawn at Christian Healthcare Ministries, 127 Hazelwood Ave., Barberton. Tours of the display, which is operated by staff and students from Harrah, Okla., will be offered at no charge to the public 1 to 7 p.m. beginning today through Aug. 11.
The tour is divided into five sections that take about 15 minutes each. Tours begin every 15 minutes.
Clayton Leinneweber, who heads the Messiah’s Mansion ministry with his wife, Carolyn, said thousands have taken the sanctuary tour in about 180 locations in 15 states, Canada and Jamaica since 2003. The idea for the exhibit began in 1995 with a pastor who was teaching the story of the tabernacle at a youth event.
The traveling exhibit is based in Harrah, where some of the students at a local Seventh-day Adventist high school work to set up and dismantle the exhibit and serve as tour guides. The students receive a stipend and are eligible for scholarships.
The Leinnewebers came to Barberton with a team of 15 others ranging in age from 16 to 29. They were joined by several local volunteers in setting up the exhibit, which is surrounded by colorful tent-like walls.
The model tabernacle is built to the same specifications as the ancient tabernacle, which the Bible says was built according to the precise instructions given to Moses shortly after the Exodus more than 3,000 years ago.
“The purpose is to help people connect the tabernacle with the rest of the Bible. We share the history of the sanctuary and how the Israelites used it, and we show the timeline of the Messiah,” Clayton Leinneweber said. “It’s all about symbols. As people walk through the tour, they will see things that point them to the Messiah. Our focus is on the gospel of Christ.”
A basic overview is given at the beginning of each temple tour. During the tour, a guide explains the symbolism of the altar of sacrifice and laver and how the objects are applied spiritually to present-day life. Symbolic explanations and spiritual applications also are given for the showbread, the altar of incense and the candlesticks. The last station focuses on the garment of the high priest and the symbols found there, Leinneweber said.
According to the biblical account, the Hebrews carried the tabernacle with them for 40 years in the wilderness and brought it into the Holy Land when they crossed the Jordan River. Hundreds of years later, when Solomon, the king of Israel, built a temple in Jerusalem, the Ark of the Covenant from the original tabernacle was placed in it.
The Rev. Steve Hicks traveled to Barberton from Howard, Pa., to volunteer to help set up the model tabernacle. He said he considered the task a unique way to see the Bible come to life.
“I have read about the tabernacle many times in the Bible, and this gives me a real connection to those scriptures,” said Hicks, who serves as pastor of Eagle Heights Bible Church. “This is like being a Levite for a day, experiencing what the Israelites felt thousands of years ago.”
Russell, who toured Messiah’s Mansion for the first time two years ago in Fredericktown in central Ohio, said he is hopeful the exhibit will bring the Bible to life for those who take the tour — like it did for Hicks.
“It’s not every day that you can see the Old Testament tabernacle,” Russell said. “We just hope it will benefit people because we brought it here as a way to give back to the community.”
Christian Healthcare Ministries is a voluntary, cost-sharing nonprofit through which Christians share the costs of each other's medical bills. Russell describes the ministry as a biblical solution to health-care costs and a Christian alternative to health insurance.
Russell said the ministry is available in all 50 states and has a membership of nearly 40,000. Members pay a fee — $150 per unit, or person, for comprehensive coverage — and submit medical bills to the ministry. Ministry staff then negotiate discounts on members’ behalf. A check is sent to the members to pay the bills.
Such bill-sharing programs have come under scrutiny by regulators, courts and legislators, raising questions about whether they should be regulated like insurance.
For more information about Christian Healthcare Ministries, go to www.chministries.org.
More information about Messiah’s Mansion can be found at www.messiahsmansion.com. Group tours, which are available during the day, can be arranged by calling 330-848-1511 or 1-800-791-6225.