CERES -- For more than a decade thousands of people have brought lawn chairs out and waited for hours for their chance to walk through a living nativity experience hosted by Grace Community Christian Church in Ceres.
Now, Grace is calling all seamstresses to help them stitch back together what thieves have ripped away from the holiday tradition.
Taking thousands of Californians back to the time of Ceasar Augustus takes a lot of people power. Tammy Hott says a crew of around 150 to 200 people help every year.
Hott directs the "Journey to Bethlehem" program at Grace Community Church. It's a live action nativity experience that last year put 15,000 people on the trek Mary and Joseph took that's reduced to 13 guided stops on a mile path winding through a church field.
"I used to just get goosebumps every time I go in that manger, to see and hear people just like not even knowing the story, just they want to give their life to Christ," Hott said.
On 10 a.m. Sunday, Hott learned a trailer housing most of the costumes for the program had been stolen out of the church parking lot.
Pastor James Burbank, who was at home recovering from surgery, was undaunted when he got the devastating word.
"It was one of those things where I still believe God doesn't bring you to something or through something without it being better on the other side," Burbank said.
To that end, with no trace of the trailer or suspects, there's just a focus on what can be done to replace 200 costumes by opening day on Nov. 29.
"If you need something let us be here for you," Burbank said in a message to the thieves. "You don't have to take, all you have to do is ask."
If you would like to help grace church recover enough in time to still be able to put on "Journey to Bethlehem" you can click here. If you'd like to mail in a donation, you can send it to P.O. Box 2707, Ceres, CA 95307.
Program directors are looking at scheduling some sewing days in September. You can call the church at 209-531-1902 to help with that as well.
If you know anything about the theft of the costume trailer, CHP Modesto would like to hear from you.