The last-ditch effort by a Gospel radio ministry from Oklahoma to save the Great Passion Play of Eureka Springs has apparently succeeded within hours of the deadline with Cornerstone Bank, which would have closed its doors, possibly forever.
According to the Rev. Randall Christy of the Gospel Station Network of Ada, Okla., the race against the deadline was tight because, although more than the $75,000 required to pay off interest on the Play's mortgage was raised ahead of the Wednesday afternoon deadline, some funds had only been pledged at that point, and the full amount in cash was necessary to meet the bank's requirements.
"The bank has assured us they will continue to work with us, as we will them," Christy said Wednesday night. "The Passion Play is definitely going to open for the season. We are meeting later tonight to work out ticket prices and other specifics, and tomorrow (Thursday) at noon we will hold a press conference in the bleachers of the Passion Play. Anyone who has ever been involved with the Passion Play or anyone else who's interested is welcome to attend. I am very excited this is happening, and now we are going to talk about the future."
GPP Chairman of the Board Keith Butler was equally enthusiastic about the successful fund drive and the new opportunities. "It all went very, very well," he said. "I described it to somebody earlier by quoting the famous baseball catcher Yogi Berra: 'It ain't over till it's over.' Bottom of the 9th inning, two outs and full count, bases loaded, but we made it. We made it."
According to Cornerstone Bank President Charles Cross, the partnership between Cornerstone and the Gospel Station Network was a success.
"We met with them today well into the afternoon," Cross told the Citizen late Wednesday evening. "It is my understanding that they have met their goal of $75,000. They are coming tomorrow to deposit the funds."
The Passion Play had announced in September it faced potential foreclosure in the face of funding difficulties. It was only in the last few days -- with the Passion Play facing a Dec. 31 deadline on a deed in lieu of foreclosure if at least $75,000 wasn't paid to the bank to cover past due mortgage interest -- that Christy and his 20-plus radio station ministry came forward to offer to help raise enough money to pay off the interest the Play owed and save it from imminent closure. The outreach was successful, and now Christy's group has a one-year exclusive opportunity to buy the facility outright, which he says he believes will be likely now that the initial hurdle has been cleared.
Christy says plans include a $6 million dollar refurbishment project for the Play. In the meantime, he says, the main thing is to make sure the gates are open on time for the season and that the word of the Lord can be spread and new souls saved.
"I will never forget the first time I witnessed the sacrifice Jesus made for us, live at the Passion Play," Christy said. "It causes a person to realize the pain and suffering He went through for us."
For further details on the background and recent developments of this breaking story, see the current issue of the Lovely County Citizen.