Faith Matters for Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012

Expect a new twist but the same quality performance when Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge presents its annual “Twin Living Christmas Trees.”

Also expect some snow — the simulated kind inside the sanctuary that has been an anticipated part of the Broadway-style performances for years, and some real snow for the kids to enjoy outside.

“Twin Living Christmas Trees” performances are set for 7 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 8 and 3 p.m. Dec. 9 at the church, 9135 Jefferson Highway.

Jefferson music minister Alan Shoumaker, who started the performances 16 years ago, said the “Twin Living Christmas Trees” has become more than a church event.

“I take a lot of pride in the way the community has embraced us and thinks of this as their own tradition,” he said.

Shoumaker said the 1½ –hour performance features two 27-foot living Christmas trees with 50 to 60 choir members and thousands of computerized lights on each tree. There will also be a 50-voice children’s choir and a 25-piece orchestra, a parade of wooden soldiers, dancing bears and other special effects.

The performances will feature such Christmas favorites as “Winter Wonderland,” “White Christmas” and “Jingle Bells.” A series of stories and vignettes will tie all the songs together.

Providing the narration will be Randy Rice, who has participated in 14 of the event’s previous 15 years.

The event is the “ultimate outreach,” Rice said.

“It is such a thrill to be involved in something like this in bringing people to the church and bringing people to Christ,” Rice said.

The church’s emphasis on other areas of outreach and the economy have had an effect on the event, Shoumaker said. Performances have been cut from eight to four over one weekend.

But Shoumaker insists the show of mostly volunteers will continue to be top-notch.

“We try to keep the price ($12 tickets) manageable for families,” he said. “I think if you go to the Baton Rouge Symphony programs you’ll pay $40 to $50. A lot of players in our orchestra we have hired from the Baton Rouge Symphony, so it’s a very professional group of musicians.”

Price said money from the admissions goes back into the program.

After the final performance on Dec. 9, about 4 tons of snow will be available for play on the church’s front lawn.

“We’ve always had that Jefferson Baptist, 100 percent-guarantee of snow at every performance,” Rice said. “We’ve never done that (real snow) before … No matter what performance you’ve been to, bring the kids that Sunday and play in the snow.”

For tickets or other information, call (225) 926-0902.

Help of ‘The Angels’

Author Beth Gayle was back in her native Baton Rouge last week, sharing the story of a family miracle that strengthened her faith and taught her about the power of prayer.

Gayle held a book signing for her book “And Then Came the Angels: A True Story of Faith and Determination” (Whitman Publishing LLC). The book tells the story of her college freshman son Gip and his fight back after a horrific hunting accident in 2003 in which he was shot in the head.

“It was an amazing blessing to be surrounded by family and friends and even strangers who stopped by the book signing to share their take on how our family’s story had touched their hearts,” said Gayle, who was a member of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Baton Rouge before moving to Georgia 28 years ago.

Gayle said Gip wasn’t expected to survive the night after the shooting in suburban Georgia nine years ago.

Even then, Gip’s prospects of a normal life free of crippling brain damage was dire.

In the 266-page book, Gayle details the ordeal, the fight for life, the setbacks, the medical expenses, stress and the miracle of Gip’s recovery culminating with Gip’s graduation from college in May.

“It’s an opportunity to share lessons that we’ve learned the hard way and to show God’s grace carries you through tough times no matter how tough they are,” Gayle said.

Throughout his arduous journey, Gip became somewhat of a celebrity.

He became friends with comedian Jeff Foxworthy, who wrote a “You Might be a Redneck” joke in honor of Gip and held a “One for the Gipper” comedy show benefit in which nearly 8,000 people attended.

Gip also got to meet former University of Georgia coach Vince Dooley and Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro.

Gayle identified those celebrities and countless other people who aided Gip along the way — family, friends, neighbors, hospital staff and classmates — as the angels of the book’s title.

Gayle said she struggled to write the book.

“It was very tough for me to relive it and I fought it tooth and nail, but I felt God-led to write this book” she said. “It’s a way to give back and offer hope to others going through similar situations.”

The book is full of color photos and the stories are often told with the poignancy and raw emotion that only a mother could.

The book’s 47 short chapters includes “Holding on to Hope,” “Nurse Ratched,” “Journey of Forgiveness” and “Where Are You, God?”

The Gayle family, which also include husband Richard and younger son Taylor, live near Atlanta. Gip is 28. Taylor, 23, also graduated from college in May.

For more information, contact Gayle at bethgayle@bellsouth.net or ffharvey@gmail.com.

Season of hope

The holiday is not a joyful time for everyone.

The Season of Hope set for 3 p.m. Sunday at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church, 19421 Greenwell Springs Road, is targeting those families grieving the loss of a child.

“This time of year is very hard for people who have had miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths which the holidays can be really extra painful,” said Casey Meyer, of the support group Angels Among Us. “We have this service to kind of honor our babies and just let everyone know that you’re surrounded by people that understand.”

Angels Among Us is co-sponsoring the service with Threads of Love, a national sewing ministry founded by Greenwell Springs Baptist Church member Clinel “Sissy” Davis.

Friends, family and caregivers of all faiths are encouraged to attend.

For more information, go to http://www.threadsoflove.org or http://www.aaula.org/.

Faith Matters run every other Saturday in The Advocate. Reach Terry Robinson at (225) 388-0238 or go trobinson@theadvocate.com.