MEEKER—Martha Jones dreams big. And why not? She knows she has a big God.
It has been Jones’ desire for some time to have a place where people could come, enjoy a meal and be treated to Bible stories which expose them to the Gospel.
About 10 years ago, while living in London, Mo. with her pastor husband, she did Hallelujah scenes in the church, which was a great outreach, but so much trouble to put up and take down.
“I wanted something permanent, and began praying about it, but God seemed to say “wait.”
The couple ended up moving to Meeker, where Joe Jones became pastor of First Church, and the idea of a permanent place to display the Gospel was put on the back burner.
Then about three years ago, Martha began to feel God was telling them to start a restaurant where they could recreate biblical scenes.
“I didn’t know why He would call us to Meeker to do that, and I thought maybe Shawnee was the place,” Jones said. She started looking at property, and because they would need a rather large place, she said she knew God was going to have to finance it.
In the meantime, their daughter got married, and Jones bought several things, such as glassware, plates, napkins, etc. for a sit-down dinner. Then people started to give them supplies, like a lot of restaurant kitchen equipment.
“I felt God was saying, ‘I’m moving you toward this,’” related Jones.
She mentioned to a deacon at First Church a building on Main Street which was vacant. He said he knew who owned it and introduced her to the owner.
“It was an old Ford garage, and pretty rough,” said Jones. “We’ve been working on it for two years, and we still have a lot to do.”
The restaurant in the front of the building, named the Marketplace, is open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Saturday.
But what really drives Jones is the dream of creating an atmosphere where the Gospel can be shared.
“One of the large rooms we haven’t yet completed is to be like the Marketplace in Bethlehem, where there are basket stores and things that look like an old biblical city,” she said. “We want to have a lot of hands-on activities where children can do things like write their names in Hebrew. And while they are waiting in that area for dinner, we will have a scene take place where different characters come in, like when the disciples picked up the loaves of bread after Jesus fed the 5,000. We will pass out bread, which will be part of their hors d’oeuvres, while waiting to go into the restaurant. They will go through a buffet line and then to a room where they will see other scenes.”
She said her goal is from the time people enter the door until they leave, they are exposed five times to the Gospel.
“We want people to see the Bible as an interesting book, not just a story book, but a book about God and how He works in lives,” she said.
At present, Jones is doing Bible mystery dinners.
“I was discouraged it was taking so long to get the building done, I wanted to do something in the process,” she said.
Currently, the Bible mystery dinners are in one room, and Bible characters, who are usually students from drama classes at area high schools, come into the room to portray scenes, in which there are clues to solve the mystery.
Jones said most of the things in the restaurant are either used, from a garage sale or auction, or have been given to them.
People have stopped and said, ‘I don’t know if you can use this, but I felt I was supposed to give it to you,” Jones said. “It’s almost always something we needed that day. It’s a confirmation to me that God is in the project.”
Jones said the room they are currently working on will have a boat in it, giving the opportunity to talk about Jesus in the boat with His disciples. It will also double as a stage, she said.
“My husband went to visit some people who were building a home, and they gave him some left over lumber,” she related. “They built a log house, and what they gave us was wood that looks like a boat.”
When finished, the building will house a room for the Marketplace, one with the boat, one a garden scene and one a palace, which can also be depicted as a temple, depending on what story is being done.
“When we’re through, I’d like to have a free walk through, like we did with the Hallelujah Trail, where people can see several scenes,” Jones said.
She noted that one of her desires is to introduce children to the Word.
“If I can just get children excited about coming to a place, then they can hear the Gospel,” she said. “We’re located close to an elementary school, so I want to have things where the children can come during the day.”
She said she recently met a lady who is a potter, who agreed to come and do a demonstration for the children.
Jones said although the facility is not in full operation yet, the restaurant has given them opportunity to talk to people, who would never come to church, about Christ.
Presently, the room for the mystery dinners can accommodate 40 people.
“We’ve had a lot of church groups come, and we welcome them, but we also want to reach others with the Gospel,” she emphasized.
At one of the mystery dinners, guests had to figure out which Bible verse was being referred to from the Bible scene clues. Another dinner featured murders in the Bible, and participants had to solve how each murder correlated and spelled a name in the Bible. Prizes were given for those who guessed correctly.
Guests are served a menu of either barbecued chicken or lasagna, salad, vegetables, homemade bread, dessert and tea and coffee.
As her dream approaches fulfillment, Jones is quick to point out that for her, it’s not about a job, but a ministry.
For more information on the Marketplace, phone 405/279-3333, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.