Saturday, February 19, 2011

Love Around the World

My first order of business back on Guam was planning and coordinating a Valentine's banquet at my church. The banquet was a fundraiser for the mission trip I am planning to Manila this summer for 10 youth and 7 adults. We will be spending the week working in an orphanage and teaching English to small kids there. Given the international focus, our theme for the evening was "Love Around the World." I arrived on Guam with 11 days until the dinner and immediately hit the ground running.

On our 8-hour drive from Pensacola to Houston, my mom gave me some great fundraising ideas. I am so lucky to have one of the best strategists in my corner. The first task was to create some Valentine-type raffle prizes to entice people at church on Sunday. That way, anyone could take part in the raffle (and adding to the pot) even if they weren't coming to the banquet.  I put together a few wine baskets, picnic sets, and tea baskets, mostly with stuff from around the house that I never used. And one lady at church who sells Mary Kay put in a gift certificate. All in all, a pretty good showing. We raised well over $100 through raffle ticket sales.

We ended up having about 36 people attend the dinner. Once everyone was seated, I led everyone in an icebreaker that involved going around the room and finding your "match." Each lady was given a card with a word on it in another language. That word translated to love in some language. The men were given cards with corresponding languages and everyone had to wander around the room until they found the word for love that corresponded with their language. Matches introduced each other to their spouses and we went around the room sharing names and enlightening each other on the word Love in other languages. The winner of the game was the pair that ended up with "mahal kita" which means "I love you" in Tagalog, the language of the Philippines.

Next up was food! The youth who are going on the trip were our servers for the evening. They had a great time taking and fulfilling orders and delivering requests. Each table had a menu, a trip fact sheet, and a love offering envelope. We decorated each table with heart confetti my friend Kate helped me create. Along with candles, decor included vases of fresh herbs from my garden and flowers from the jungle. That's the great thing about Guam. If you see flowers growing on the side of the road, they're free for the taking. They will grow back in no time!

One of the big hits during the evening was the very simple appetizer I made ahead of time: toasted bread and homemade herb butter. I had several people ask me for the herb butter recipe. It's so simple. Mix a few cloves of garlic together with handfuls of various fresh herbs and blend them into a butter spread. For this batch, I used parsley, sage, rosemary and Thai basil (we don't have thyme or I would use that just to be lyrical). All mixed together, the butter it turns a little green, but the flavors are incredible.

Our first course was salad. We decided to get away from the boring lettuce tomato number and opted for spinach salad with mandarin oranges, dried cranberries and feta cheese with raspberry vinaigrette. While guests ate, we entertained them with jokes and door prizes. We were also providing childcare that night, so while the parents were mingling, we had the kids complete a Valentine's Day mad lib. We read it to the adults while they were eating. Lots of laughs from this no cost entertainment!

 Speaking of entertainment, we were so fortunate to be able to provide live music! We have some musically talented youth who pulled their band together for the evening and prepared some fabulous songs. They even changed their typically punk music style to be appropriate to our audience. A week before the guitarist asked me if Eric Clapton's "You Look Wonderful Tonight" would be a good song for the evening, since one of the other band members suggested it and he'd never heard of it before. And here we have it, reason #293 my job makes me feel old.

The evening's main meal was capellini with seasoned meatballs, smothered in marinara and garnished with fresh basil sprigs. So, yes, it's a fancy way of spelling out that classic church spaghetti dinner, but the details made it seem just a little fancier.

To get more bang for our buck, we asked parents to contribute goodies for our Chocolate Extravaganza dessert bar. Delish!

While our guests ate their main course, I took the evening up a notch and did a short message to everyone about how important this mission trip was to our youth. Of course, I tied in the whole love theme from Valentine's Day and the banquet. But I also did something a little bold and read from my journal. The passage I chose was from when I was 17 years old participating in a mission trip in Texas and experienced Christ in a very real way for the first time:

"After this week, I have never felt so close to God. I have never known what the word close meant until now. God right now has taken over and he's filling me with these wonderful thoughts of what it's like to be His. His arm is around my shoulder and He's smiling at me because He's accomplished His goal."

It's been ten years since I wrote those words and I still remember that moment and that evening in great detail. I've used my journal before to connect to youth. It's one thing to hear churchy stuff preached by someone twice your age. It's another thing to hear that person's exact words and thoughts from when they were your age. I always get nervous reading from my journal, but I also believe there's a lot of power behind these messages. So I clear my voice, take a deep breath, and go for it.

Me & Doug, the other youth director & chef
Shortly after my message, we collected a love offering from those in the crowd while they stuffed their faces with chocolate and listened to the youth band play some great songs. The other youth director, Doug, and I waited until after the evening was over and everything cleaned up to sit down and count our winnings from the night. Last year this banquet raised just over $300. I was hoping to raise that number to $500 and my secret stretch goal was to get it to $765 - the cost of one youth to go on the trip. I was completely floored when we totaled it up and it came to $948! And over the course of the weekend, an anonymous donor put in the extra $52 to raise it to the even $1,000 mark. Pretty amazing for one night of fellowship among a group this small!

Pastor Jeff & I decked out in red
I was on Cloud 9 all weekend, writing thank you notes and just plain glowing from the fabulous success the dinner was. It wasn't the dollar amount, per se, that had me so excited. It was the confirmation from our congregation that they feel like this trip is important, and worth all the work we are putting into the preparations. I was also excited because there are some youth who simply will not be able to go on this trip unless we raise all of the money for them to go. It seemed like a lofty goal when I first set out, but so far I have nothing but nods from all directions that this trip is a go. What made me feel most special was when personal friends of mine, even a friend here on Guam who has nothing to do with our church, made a donation for the dinner.... just because it was something that mattered to me and seemed like a worthy cause. Thank you, friends :)

Aaaah young love
Follow-up from the dinner has been fantastic. I certainly enjoyed the opportunity to flex my event planning muscles. But my favorite piece of feedback so far was from one of the parents of a youth who was originally signed up for the trip but ran into a conflict with summer travel. Her mom said after hearing my journal entry, she and her husband both agreed they would do everything they could to try to make their daughter's schedule work so she could go on the trip with us. They didn't want her to miss out on that kind of opportunity. I am thrilled, since I don't want her to miss out either!

I had the opportunity to take part in many service trips when I was growing up. Even in my adult years, it has been those weeks out of my normal, everyday life spent serving others in a faraway land that helped me realize how privileged my life is and how little others have. As we prepare for this trip between now and June, it is my prayer that our youth will come to understand a little more how God works in this world. And I hope that this understanding will be transformed into creativity, compassion, and love. And there we have it: Love around the world :)


  1. Way to go, Peyt! They are lucky to have a creative, thoughtful, smart girl like you running these things!!

  2. While I want to say "WOW!!!!" I am not the least surprised to hear how successful your dinner was, you have been such an amazing influence on LCG and the kids, you certainly are a blessing to them!!!


Hey there! This blog is no longer active. If you write a comment, I will receive it, but may not respond right away. Thanks for stopping by!