By Susan Powell
Our annual gala on March 22 was a beautiful night of celebration. 140 people came from 11 different churches. Sherwood Oaks donated their space, Crumble Coffee & Bakery and Quarrymen Coffee Roasting Company donated coffee and dessert, and Kroger even donated flowers. The programming included donated live music by local supporters Tyler & Anastasia Kniess and a special appearance by Joy Ike, a singer/songwriter on tour from Philadelphia.
Our leadership council worked hard to make the evening run smoothly, and where their work left off, the Holy Spirit’s work began in a way that put all our planning into perspective. The speakers for the night included Hosting Parent Jessica Manuel, Referring Parent Kandice, Retired Leadership Council Member Susan Powell, and Pastor Tim Woodcock from Genesis Church. Their contributions were all uncoordinated beforehand, but the themes that emerged as the evening unfolded were woven beautifully together.
We began with a documentary video about a recent hosting in our community. In the video, Julia Rademacher, a host parent and leadership council member, highlighted the way Safe Families relationships ultimately inspire and encourage our volunteers just as much as those who come to us in need of help. The referring mom in the video described how it felt to have a family where there had been none before. It’s true–Safe Families makes beautiful extended families grow as hosts and guests build connections with each other.
Jessica spoke next, sharing the history of her involvement in Safe Families work–even when it felt like it wasn’t the “right time,” reflecting on her realization that there is no right or wrong time for this work. She spoke of her own limitations and fears, and how transformative these experiences of love have been for her. Next, Kandice, a long-time referring mom told us her own amazing story of hope and courage, sharing how her host family has become her family: how she discovered that she was worthy of love because of their love and hospitality, and how her connection to them over the years has transformed her life and the lives of her kids with the love and presence of Jesus. After Joy’s first song–an inspiring call to “Hold On” when life throws you curveballs, Susan’s themes picked up where Jessica had left off, telling the story of a placement that happened in her home at the “wrong time” and how she came face to face with her own selfishness. She described how re-imagining her love for her Safe Families kid as love for Jesus himself made all the difference in transforming her own heart. She encouraged us to be a team of eager love-bringers, seeing Jesus in each other and in everyone we serve. Our director then recognized past and present Leadership Council members, the launch team and current supporters.
As the evening came to an end, Tim challenged us to give generously, reminding us of Jesus’ words “Whatever you do for these least of these my brethren, you do it for me.” He highlighted Micah 6:8. “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Joy’s closing song “Walk” was her own exploration of Micah 6:8, and there were grins around the room as she brought the evening full circle, echoing Jessica’s observation: “There’s no waiting for the right time to move.”
We raised over $10,000 at our gala, which is close to 25% of our annual operating budget. We hope you were able to celebrate with us that night. But if you weren’t, there are still so many opportunities to get involved right now. There’s no wrong time to give, as Jessica and Joy reminded us, so please consider how God might be moving you to partner with us. We are especially in need of family coaches, and we are always on the lookout for more family friends and host families. Even partnering with us financially plays an integral role in our community of love-bringers. We hope that you will feel the transforming power of Jesus’ love as you give in your unique way in His name.