Monday, September 16, 2013

GEMS Annual Benefit Banquet

September is time for GEMS (Gospel Express Ministries South) Annual Benefit Banquet. We have been so blessed the last 6-7 years to have Candice Nissley on board to plan and decorate for these banquets. And she did a SUPER job!!
 Well, Candice has 5 kids, she home schools and is just a very busy lady! She recently asked to step down from the board to put more time and energy into her kids and their education. Who can't appreciate that?

But what that meant for GEMS is that we had to take all the roles she filled and divide them among the chaplain families and board members. It was eye opening to me how much work she did! Wow!!

So I agreed to take on the decorating part of the banquet. I planned very simple decor (because I'm not gifted at the elegant stuff!) :) and Candice allowed us to use her table covers and a few other items.

Chair covers would have added a lot...I realize in hindsight, but do you know how much quicker tear down went?? :)

10 of the table had Mums on them.

5 had a set of candelabra's

And 3 had a smaller candle with damask ribbon sitting on a glass mirror. Don't think I got a pic of that one.

Danny & Tamara lighting the candles about the time the guests could start arriving.

A new thing we started last year was having a dessert auction. We asked friends and church family to donate baked items and then the guests bid on them either to share with their table or to take along home.

My friend Yolie made 3 pans of her yummy cinnamon rolls. :) 

There were so many yummy looking desserts!!

Bill & Dot Slabaugh (board members) checking out the available desserts. :)

The stage!
 Each chaplain was supposed to bring an item to auction off. The money raised went to that family. We were blessed to have our friends, the Gillis' donate two Oak Leaf Hydrangea's for our family. The money raised will hopefully help get Dan's Jeep fixed! :P It has problems, though to what extent, we are not sure yet!

The chaplains and board members served the meals.

Dan and Ken Stoner getting cups of ice to set out on the tables....

The yummy salads we were served!!

Karen Smith is a former inmate I met in Gadsden CI. She was released about a year ago and has been reunited with her children. Her two oldest were along to the banquet and her son Ben gave his testimony including a little what life is like having an incarcerated parent. 

Doug Gingerich, board chairman.

We had two other planned testimonies from former inmates.

This young man, Antwan (AJ) Fisher, was an inmate at Gulf, where Dan works. He is one of the many men that Dan had the opportunity to mentor and teach and he has an amazing testimony of God's healing on his body after he had a stroke in prison that left him partially paralyzed and blind.

~ Dan & AJ ~ 
This is what makes prison ministry so worth it.....stories of men (and women) who take the truth of God's word BEYOND the prison walls when they are released!

Chaplain Smith's family sang one song for us. :)

Chaplain Dan Nase was the keynote speaker. He brought up 3 more former inmates and had them share their testimonies. It was such a blessing to hear each one and the stories they had of going from being lost and lonely to finding Jesus in prison and then taking what they learned with them when they got released. One lady who shared, lost her mom at age 2 and had a really rough life. When it was time for her to be released, she got a letter from an older couple who wanted to adopt her as their daughter. She had never been called "daughter" before and was overwhelmed by their offer and Love for her!!

I think this was one of the best banquets ever. It reminded me again just how blessed I am!!

Please keep praying for prison ministry around the country.
And pray for our family as we minister, that we can be the Hands and Feet of our precious Jesus!!

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