In an effort to show young people the horrors of real-life violence and prevent future tragedies, a church near Dallas has put a new twist on an old theme.
Instead of building a haunted house, Trinity Assembly of God Church in the Dallas suburb of Cedar Hill has staged what it calls a Hell House. CBS News This Morning reports.
"The best way to save kids is to scare them," says Tim Ferguson, a youth pastor at the church. The intent is to save teens from doing wrong, he notes.
The church's Hell House 911 features more than a dozen scenes about rape, suicide and other grim topics, including a reenactment of the April shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.
The idea is to show teen-agers that the images they see every day on TV, movies and video games are real, but there's no hope to those images, says Ferguson.
The intent is for young people to see the house and realize that there are consequences to their actions, he adds.
"There's a real evil out there, but there's always a real answer. Cassie [Bernall] stood up for God in the middle of that," he says.
"We want to show there's hope on the other side, and there are people who will stand up and do the right thing in spite of all the evil going on," Ferguson says.
The visual effect is quite graphic, but the community's reaction has been positive, Ferguson says. "The response has been overwhelming," he notes. "It's been incredibly supportive and touched many kids' lives."
"The Columbine scene is really honoring the young girl who died," Ferguson points out.
Though the decision to re-create violent scenes was difficult to make, the congregation and community leaders have been quite supportive, Ferguson says.
"In our nine years of Hell House, we've had 57,000 people go through," he adds. "I get more controversy over my sermons."
The decision to include the Columbine scene was solidified by the recent Fort Worth shootings, says Ferguson.
"I went home that night and watched the news on CBS. I saw at least five times the Columbine image of the young man falling out of the library," he says.
"The question is, why? What's going on here?...I believe we have an answer to those images," he says.
At the end of the Hell House tour, lasting about 45 minutes, three minutes of preaching and crisis counseling are provided.
Hell House is an evangelistic outreach to teen-agers, explains Ferguson. "Even last Saturday, there was a girl who had been raped in a close family incest scene. We were able to pray with her and counsel her and report that."
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