Long-time residents of Portage la Prairie remember the energetic Christmas banquets put on by Portage (now Prairie) Alliance Church through the 1990’s and into the 2000’s. At its peak, our banquet ran for eight nights over two weekends, just to accommodate all the guests who lined up outside our doors early on an October Saturday to purchase tickets. Contrary to popular assumption, the event was never a fundraiser, but a labour of love by dozens of volunteers over hundreds of hours and months of rehearsals. The banquets became known for magnificent music and drama, marvelous meals, and delightful decorating throughout the building. For many guests, the ambience of Christmas sights, smells, and sounds provided their kickoff of the season.
Although usually involved on some level, I’d never had to lead the whole production. Until 2003. Previous leadership had moved away, and it fell on my shoulders to steer the team in gifting our community with another creative Christmas experience. We chose a 1950’s theme called Christmas at Velma’s Diner. It turned out to be our biggest undertaking and probably the most fun one yet.
I was scared stupid.
One of the smartest things we did, though, was recruit prayer partners. We asked members of our congregation to “adopt” one person who would be serving all the nights of the banquet—musicians, actors, technicians, etc. They agreed to pray for that person every day for a month leading up to and throughout the banquet nights, and find ways to encourage them. Each “adoptee” knew they had someone to call if they needed prayer for their health or anything else.
I hit the jackpot when my friend Susan Beauchamp adopted me as her prayer partner. I knew she would faithfully talk to God about me. What I didn’t know was:
a) how challenging the event would become;
b) that during that busy season, my husband would take a fall on the ice while working hundreds of miles from home and fracture a bone, putting him off work for a month and increasing the stress to a whole new level; or
c) that Susan would bring me a gift each week leading up to the banquets. By the end of the stint, I had collected a set of four adorable “Christmas Pageant Bears.” How appropriate!
|Photo courtesy of G.Loewen Photography|
Lined up together, the little bears were reminiscent of children presenting the Christmas story on stage. Each day when I saw them, they reminded me someone was praying specifically for me and for each of my teammates.
Eventually, PAC’s Christmas banquets ran their course and we moved on to other ways of blessing our community. But I still delight in unwrapping my pageant bears every December and displaying them—a wonderful reminder of the power of prayer, of God’s sustaining grace through a stressful time, and of the loving care of a sweet friend.