God prevailed and I was able to go to the GEMS 2015 Leadership Conference in Pennsylvania, despite all the enemy’s attempts to make it not happen. Pretty much everything that can go wrong in a week for my “sister” Tami & I did. She even had to have a wisdom tooth extracted the day before we flew across the country! But, we made it, and we were blessed!
We flew together from Seatac to Baltimore. We always have a great time and travel well together…and this time we even chose wisely in our food selection. We are both still talking and thinking about that fruit & cheese tray! (Yes, I am talking about airplane food that was NOT overpriced and was VERY delicious. I love Alaska Airlines!)
We rented a car, and in the process decided that she & I would very quickly be eliminated from The Amazing Race if we were to team up…and that became the running joke for the entire week…and it is very sad how true it is.
We went exploring in downtown Baltimore and found the inner harbor, walked around, and ate more delicious food!
I had an amazing chicken, pear, strawberry, feta salad with a berry dressing…poor Tami had to eat chowder because of her whole wisdom tooth thing…but I’m sure that was good, too.
It was my first time at a Bubba Gump, so I had to take a picture of the Run, Forrest, Run sign.
We then headed north to Pennsylvania and we were welcomed…
I was glad Tami was driving during that welcome!
We made it to Messiah College in Harrisburg, PA and found our dorm and headed to bed. It had been a very long day!
In the morning, we were off on a tour of:
Now I just have to say here that while we had a great day in Hershey…it was not really what I expected. When I heard “Hershey Tour”, being from the west coast, I expected a tour of the Hershey factory. Um, no. Those don’t happen. But Chocolate World is truly a fantastic runner-up to the actual factory.
See what I mean?
First up was our trolley tour, which was awesome. And really, it was totally awesome.
We rode on that trolley all around the actual city of Hershey, PA and were entertained by these two:
The trolley guides pretty much put on a show that rivals Disneyland and I’m pretty sure that if high school drama stars don’t end up on Broadway after receiving a college degree in theater arts, they end up on a trolley tour at Hershey! They were so good and so funny and told the history of the city Hershey, Milt Hershey himself, and Hershey chocolate and I was entertained the entire time and I don’t even like history!
The free chocolate at various points throughout the tour didn’t hurt, either.
And also, there was singing. I didn’t know all the songs, but it was seriously a hoot.
Throughout the tour, the male guide got on and off and came dressed as a new character in the history of Hershey. Here is is playing Milt Hershey’s mother and I believe those are Reese’s in that basket
he she he is holding there.
After the trolley tour, we spent more time in Chocolate World, making our purchases, eating lunch, and riding a ride that “simulates” the factory. That’s as good as it gets. It’s very much like “It’s a Small World” or the Winnie-the-Pooh ride at Disney, only smaller and cornier, but with free chocolate at the end!
Singing cows. But the cool part about this being so corny is that now I remember that Milt Hershey was the first person to put milk in chocolate!
I do not like Twizzlers, and I did not know they were a Hershey product, but I would be remiss if I did not admire this giant King Tut head made entirely out of Twizzlers…
After Chocolate World came time at the botanical gardens that are part of Hershey Park. It was nice…but it was really hot…and we were tired…so we walked over to Hotel Hershey.
It was beautiful, and air-conditioned. We got some chocolate and coffee, strolled through the shops, trying to pretend we were actual guests at the hotel.
And we even explored the spa area…
I love chocolate, but I’m not certain I would enjoy all of those spa treatments.
Then it was back to the Messiah College campus for dinner and the start of conference – our favorite thing!
While we were eating dinner, we had a HUGE thunderstorm – raining SO hard and the lights went out! Pretty weird to eat dinner in the dark with 500 other people! It quit raining long enough for us to walk over to the performing arts center for our wonderful Women’s Night of Worship – during that (but unbeknownst to us) there was a tornado warning! We were in a basement, so it really didn’t matter that we didn’t hear about it until on our way out. We were thankful the rest of the campus was still standing! And the rain was good for the weather, too – much less humidity for the rest of the conference!
The Women’s Night of Worship was so, so, good for the soul. Some precious moments. Some fun moments. Some reflective moments. Some celebratory moments – all worshipful moments for me.
There is nothing so good for a woman in the GEMS ministry as attending the Women’s Night of Worship at conference for rejuvenation, rest, and joy.
The rest of conference did not disappoint either. Speakers, praise & worship, fellowship, workshops, prayer, laughter, hugs, crafts, updates, seeing old friends, meeting new ones, learning and sharing…all of these were part of my experience at conference 2015.
My favorites: Lenae & Alecia.
The view of the college center & dining hall from the performing arts center. Messiah has a truly beautiful campus.
The performing arts center.
Speaker Anita Keaggy shared her story – so powerful, especially in light of the news surrounding Planned Parenthood this summer. If you don’t know her story, a very brief version is here. She did not actually consider abortion, but the pain of being 17 and pregnant is so very real in her story.
My AZ BFF attended Messiah College, so I had to take several campus pictures for her!
Then came theme night!
Tami makes a better librarian than I do.
This is the room that I gave my workshop in – quite nice! The curtain moves to reveal the projection screen with the touch of a button on a screen! Crazy! I think my workshop went well – at least, I received good feedback. I think the people who don’t like your workshop usually don’t tell you.
Another speaker – Annie Downs! She was great. My favorite thing about her is that her favorite color is glitter! And she also had a great message about the labels that God gives us versus the labels the world/we give ourselves.
And hello? A covered bridge on campus? LOVE that!
A panoramic picture of their pretty track.
Looking towards the bridge from farther down the “river” that goes through campus. I enjoyed this on my Scripture & prayer walk the last morning of conference.
Our Women’s Night Out was Women’s Night In this year with a game show host and lots of game shows. It was hilarious, but I made sure to sit in the middle, away from the aisles, and to never accidentally wave to someone for fear of appearing to volunteer to go on stage…
It was hard to say goodbye to sweet friends.
Tami & I made it home, and while we might not have won The Amazing Race on the return trip, we may not have been eliminated quite so quickly.
Thank you, 2015 LCC and the GEMS staff and everyone else for a wonderful GEMS conference. I came home blessed and refreshed.