Maryland/Delaware churches host Night to Shine

Six Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) churches hosted Tim Tebow Night to Shine (NTS) proms for people with special needs on February 7: Cresthill Baptist Church in Bowie, Maryland; Emmanuel Baptist Church in Huntingtown, Maryland;  Faith Baptist Church in Glen Burnie, Maryland; First Baptist Church of Waldorf in Waldorf, Maryland; Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, Maryland; and Grace Baptist Church in Seaford, Delaware. Additionally, a team of nine volunteers from five BCM/D churches worked alongside One Church Comerio in Comerio, Puerto Rico, to host the special event.

Each church spent months of preparation and hours of work making their venue a beautiful, welcoming place where their guests would be grandly welcomed, loved, pampered, and made to feel special.

Church and school collaboration

Colonial Baptist Church partnered with William S. Baer School in Baltimore and the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Neurobehavioral Unit to sponsor Baltimore City’s first NTS at the William S. Baer School. Local news stations covered the evening.

Colonial Baptist Church had Baltimore city’s first Night to Shine at William S. Baer School. (photo provided by Colonial Baptist Church)

Over 100 volunteers from the church, community, and school worked together, rolling out the red carpet in the hallway and doing makeovers for the ladies in a classroom.

Guests enjoyed dancing, karaoke, creative technology, arts and crafts, balloon twisting, makeovers and shoeshines, dinner, popcorn, and cotton candy. Caregivers enjoyed a respite room and chair massages.

“We’re loving on the guests, we’re showing them God’s love,” said Alisha Williams, a Colonial Baptist Church missions action and evangelism coordinator, on a WMAR news broadcast.

Most importantly, one guest’s mother prayed to receive Christ.

Additional partners included Christian Liberty Church in Baltimore, several local colleges, and The Banquet Network.

On the shore

Grace Baptist Church hosted NTS at Heritage Shores in Bridgeville, Delaware, for the second time. Two hundred volunteers prepared for close to one hundred guests, almost double last year’s number. Guests, after taking their limousine rides, received a welcome on the red carpet that was complete with cheers, clapping, “paparazzi,” and lots of smiles.

Grace Seaford Church hosted their second NTS at Heritage Shores in Bridgeville, Delaware. (Photo provided by Grace Church Seaford)

While the guests enjoyed the food and dancing, parents, friends and caregivers relaxed in a respite area, chatted with others, and enjoyed treats, knowing their loved ones were having a blast with their buddies.

The church’s pastor, Larry Davis, sat with Richie, one of the evening’s guests, and Richie’s grandmother. “Richie’s buddy was an 18-year-old named Seth. Richie was so excited. This was his first time at Night to Shine. His grandmother said that Richie does not have a lot of friends. Richie was having an amazing night and he told his grandmother that he now had a true buddy,” he said.

“A true friendship had been formed and the buddy and Richie exchanged numbers. It gave the grandmother and Richie hope that people really do matter, and it allowed our buddy, Seth, to develop an ongoing relationship to better build on and share the Gospel in its fullest form,” Davis added.

Wicked weather didn’t stop NTS

“We had some crazy weather here in the morning, pouring rain, tornadoes, and wind. There were still traffic lights out which made some people’s rides longer, especially during Friday night rush hour traffic,” said Margot Painter, the NTS organizer for Cresthill Baptist Church, one of the first BCM/D churches to host the event.

Painter plans for throughout the year for each NTS. She evaluates each event and tweaks as necessary to make each year even better.

“There were so many extra things we did, but having the Naval Academy here with their military sword arch as people entered was definitely one of them,” said Margot Painter. (Photo provided by Cresthill Baptist Church)

Rather than the annual balloon drop, the church did a confetti cannon right after the crowning ceremony this year. “It cost a little extra to get one that didn’t make a loud noise, but it was so worth it,” said Painter.

“There were so many extra things we did, but having the Naval Academy here with their military sword arch as people entered was definitely one of them,” she said.

Ten midshipmen also volunteered to do the sword ceremony at Faith Baptist Church, another veteran NTS church.

“They did the ceremony each and every time someone came out of the limo and down the red carpet,” said NTS Coordinator Deanna Lechowicz.

“We had about ten guys from the Bayside Believers, which is a biker group. John Landry, the chaplain of the group, reached out and asked if they could volunteer. All the guys were buddies to our guests,” she remembered.

“We also had Bruster’s Ice Cream from Glen Burnie work with us,” she added. “They donated ice cream bars and served our guests and volunteers this year.”

This night is Gabi’s Superbowl.”

Emmanuel Baptist Church had a huge turnout, with 119 guests and 240 parents and caregivers.

“We did add a balloon drop this year, which was super fun, and we choose to worship together as a group for the first time,” said NTS Coordinator Christine Robinson. “This time of worship was truly the highlight of the night for me, and I believe for many others also.”

A volunteer styles a NTS guest’s hair at Faith Baptist Church in Glen Burnie.(Photo provided by Faith Baptist Church)

Robinson spoke to one couple the day after the event.”They just couldn’t stop thanking me for putting this event together,” she said. “Last night was also their daughter’s (Gabi’s) birthday.” Gabi was already talking about next year’s NTS. In her dad’s exact words, ‘This night is Gabi’s Superbowl.’”

Kings and queens of the prom

The crowning ceremony is always a highlight of NTS and churches do this in various ways. Many call individuals by name and crown them, with cheers from the crowd. Others, like First Baptist Church of Waldorf, made the ceremony more intimate as buddies crowned their assigned guests all at once. In both instances, the vast majority of guests were thrilled and jumped up and down with big smiles, some with their thumbs up.

Church members and friends donated prom dresses, tuxedos, and jewelry, which allowed the guests to visit the church prior to the prom to pick out outfits. Volunteers helped tailor the clothes for a custom fit. Port Tobacco Players Theater also provided help with the tailoring.

In the respite room, caregivers relaxed enjoyed food and watched their loved ones on a large-screen television.

Puerto Rico Night to Shine

One of the highlights of this year’s NTS events was a premier launch by One Church Comerio in Puerto Rico. A team of nine people from five BCM/D churches flew south to help this church plant give guests a night they and their caregivers will remember for a lifetime. Over 300 people attended the event at a local government-owned gym and basketball court in Palomas.  Guests came with their parents or guardians, some with grandparents or siblings, and a few with their entire family.

Dr. Bergina Isbell interacts with a guest and his caregiver. Photo by Sharon Mager

Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware Associate Executive Director Tom Stolle, a member of High Tide Baptist Church in Dagsboro, Delaware, led the team which included Jim McCaffrey, pastor of Gunpower Baptist Church in Freeland, MarylandDrs. Amir and Bergina Isbell, members of Maryland City Baptist Church in Laurel, Maryland; Ray and Diane Jenkins, members of High Tide Baptist Church; Kerry Day, a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Huntington, Maryland, and his daughter Kristen; and Sharon Mager, a member of North Glen Community Church in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Dr. Bergina Isbell and Jim McCaffrey are also both members of The Banquet Network.

The church put their cultural twist on the prom, starting with the transportation. “Here we have ‘party buses,’” said Rebecca, the wife of Jorge Santiago Reyes, the pastor of One Church Comerio. The bus, arriving with fanfare, had an escort of a police car and an ambulance with sirens wailing.

Guests walked the customary red carpet, thrilled with lively applause and cheering. Volunteers served fried rice and pork, potatoes, rolls, and sweets. It took a while for some to hit the dance floor, but when they did, they had a blast, dancing to fast-beat Latino music.

Stolle shared a short message in English, which a volunteer translated into Spanish. “You were invited to this banquet because you are worthy of love,” he said. “You were invited to this banquet because you are worthy of respect. You were invited to this banquet because Jesus died for you and in the eyes of God, you are priceless.”