A Year of Firsts

Ed Graf Profile
Article by Ed Graf
Executive Director

"Almost as if nothing had happened, auctioneers and bidders resumed. Praise God! There was a buzz, the tents were packed, and everyone was so generous and smiling!"

This year was unlike any other in Gateway Woods history: it was the first time a live auction was delayed by a year (due to COVID), the first hybrid online/live auction, and the first ever tent evacuation due to weather. One thing remained the same: the amazing blessing of God’s provision displayed in real time.

It all started Wednesday morning, August 4th. You bid against other supporters online from coast-to-coast, trying to snag one of the 224 Online Silent Auction items. As those items closed on Friday night, your excitement was palpable, building for the day ahead.

August 7th started like any other Auction Saturday. The sun was radiant, although scattered thundershowers were predicted. Nothing completely out of the ordinary…except it would be. Everyone relished that we were here, on site, under the tents, praising God in song together, anticipating the day ahead. We celebrated the "blest tie, binding our hearts in Christian love" — your loving prayers that supported Gateway Woods through the isolation and hard work of COVID.

We shared about exciting opportunities coming later this year, which will help even more hurting young people. Then the auction started, and it started well. It seemed that nothing could dampen our spirits!

The predicted showers started gently — no big deal. We've weathered (pun intended) this before. We were ready to handle it. Then, out of nowhere, the rain increased beyond expected and it looked ominous, with high winds and hail a possibility. We watched and prayed, evacuation plan in hand, not wanting to act too soon…or too late. It was supposed to just miss us. But when we felt a brisk, cold wind in our faces, God gave us clear direction: "Get everyone out of the tents! Now!"

The storm lashed its fury, as most watched from shelters in the school and houses. A few brave souls stayed behind, ensuring everyone got out, then worked together to shed copious quantities of water pooling on the tents. Then, just as quickly, it was over. And a cheerful sun broke through the clouds.

Not letting a violent storm and the first ever evacuation dampen your spirits, you reemerged. Sledgehammers appeared out of nowhere, and the clang of hammers on stakes punctuated the air. Tents were resecured with the cheerful cacophony of care, a worthy percussion to the impromptu hymn singing that sprang up from the Teen Auction in the Green Tent.

Almost as if nothing had happened, auctioneers and bidders resumed. Praise God! There was a buzz, the tents were packed, and everyone was so generous and smiling! Over the course of the day, I indulged myself with my usual two pork chop sandwiches, and the always healthy, deep fried potato curl!

When the final item sold, it was another record year! $827,000 worth of your passion for serving young people and their families, helping them anchor their lives on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ. On behalf of the board, staff, auction committee, and kids, we offer you our heartfelt thanks, and look forward to seeing you again next year, in person, virtually, or both!

Ed Graf is currently the Executive Director of Gateway Woods. He has also worked as a Houseparent, Board Member, Child Care Supervisor and Residential Program Director.