Head to Grand Lake for this adventure of Biblical proportions

5 minutes

Bill and Linda Goldner have created a destination for animal adventure of Biblical proportions. Photo by Stacy Gough Phorever Photography

Near the shores of Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees four miles east of Disney, awe-inspiring entertainment and furry fun await at the Oasis Animal Adventures and Picture In Scripture amphitheater.

This two-in-one travel destination came about in an unexpected way: with a bit of divine intervention. Founders Bill and Linda Goldner began the first arm of their ministry in 1984, during what she describes as a “God moment.”

“Bill was driving across the dam early one morning and thought he saw a young woman walking alone,” she says. “At that moment, he felt God impress upon him that there are many girls without homes or hope. That is when we decided to build a home for girls.”

The girls’ home provides solid life skills and hope for a better future. Known as New Life House, it later was renamed Teen Challenge of Oklahoma in 1996.

In 1985, to help them fund the home, the couple decided to put Bible stories into live productions by constructing the Picture In Scripture thousand-seat outdoor amphitheater across the road—a natural fit for Linda, whose background is in education and theater.

Picture In Scripture, similar to Eureka Springs, Arkansas’ Great Passion Play, presents Christian music concerts and scripted plays from the Bible, along with state-of-the-art pyrotechnics and lighting. Concerts occur throughout the summer, while the theatrical productions run from the end of June through the first weekend in August.

Bill drafted the first play, The Man Who Ran, Jonah’s story of overcoming wavering faith. The second play, The Elijah Factor, was written primarily by Linda, along with their newest production, Damascus Road, detailing Saul’s conversion. Bill provides narration throughout the plays and works behind the scenes. The Goldners just needed to bring in some lively cast members.

“The Great Passion Play had camels, so I had to have a camel,” Linda says. “We found our first camel, Bogie, in the classified ads.”

Soon, the couple found themselves acquiring creatures of all types through auctions and donations, beginning with a herd of miniature horses that came from a friend. As the animals began to find their way to the Goldners, the couple needed something to do with them in the off season.

“That donor suggested that we consider starting an animal therapy center,” Linda says.

In the fall of 2013, a local program for adults with special needs asked if they could bring clients to meet the animals. Sierra the mustang, Magic the donkey, Simon the camel, and company soon began to work their therapeutic magic on everyone who came to visit, and from there, Oasis Animal Adventures took flight.

“Immediately, people with behavioral issues became calm around the animals and were able to focus on brushing or whatever they asked to help with,” she says.

The facility was licensed to operate by the USDA, and Linda later worked through the O.K. Corral Series to become Equine Assisted Learning certified. With these qualifications came opportunities to welcome educational field trips, animal therapy to work through trust, fear or abuse issues, casual family visits, and even birthday parties.

“We have had school groups come to visit, and kids with behavioral issues left as totally different kids,” Linda says. “The animals are a gateway to the heart.”

The Goldners’ long-term goals focus on developing curriculum that would offer students school credit and also enhanced family therapy. Lawnie Hess, a licensed therapist from Chelsea, assists them in the therapy sessions and provides input on action plans.

“We have a heart to serve the community,” Linda says. “If our animals can help someone come to a happy place or find peace, that is our goal.”

Brushing a yak, running with a mini pony, laughing at a lemur, reading a book with a kangaroo, or just spending time together as a family watching an inspiring Bible story: At Oasis Animal Adventure and Picture In Scripture, a good time actually can do some good in the world.

Oasis Animal Adventures and Picture in Scripture, 36656 South 510 Road in Eucha, (918) 435-8207 or pictureinscripture.com
or oasisanimals.com.

Written By
Katrina Hine

Katrina Hine