BRCLM Lagniappe, June 2015

Finding True Wealth and Happiness Through Memories

2ec45ccAdapted from Bic Media Solutions Update, May 2015 by Earl Heard, with excerpts by McKenzie Moffett

I recently received an email from my daughter that said, “Thanks for helping create memories. Love, Dane.” There was an article attached to the email written by Chris Riotta, a writer for Elite Daily, explaining how people who invest in making memories are happier than those who focus on buying material possessions. Thankfully, my siblings and I learned this decades ago when our parents, who did not have a lot of material wealth, took us on family outings. We took at least one summer vacation each year, and we went to picture shows regularly. This quality time spent together making memories strengthened our relationships with one another.

In today’s world where instant gratification is promoted by advertising and social media, it is easy to be lured into believing acquiring things will make us and those we care about happiest, but this is untrue. Research has proven time and again that investing our money toward travel, sharing life experiences and making memories pays off. Research conducted by San Francisco State University found people do in fact understand life is about the memories we create.

Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has looked at the connection between money and success, said, “New things may make us happy, but only for a while. We are excited at first, but then we lose this excitement and search for something new.” One important thing I have learned over the years is even when we invest in something material for ourselves, a loved one, a co-worker or friend, it seems to be much more appreciated when it is connected to a milestone or a memorable event such as an anniversary or birthday.

Dr. Gilovich told Fast Company Magazine, “Our experiences are a bigger part of our lives than material things.” Possessions come and go, but experiences are parts of us that last for- ever. In fact, I believe we are the sum total of our experiences. There are 79 million millennials in the United States, which is about 3 million more than there are baby boomers. Most baby boomers have already learned the priceless advantage of investing hard-earned money into travel, education, memorable events and helping others.

It can be easy for families to get caught up in the many distractions faced each day, especially while trying to keep up with the Joneses. We can quickly lose touch with each other and often take for granted spending the kind of time together that creates meaningful experiences and lasting memories. Jesus warned us about this struggle in Luke 12:15 when He said, “Be careful and guard against all kinds of greed. People do not get life from the many things they own.” Our challenge is to find the balance between the two, both enjoying the material things we’ve been blessed with, and using those things, no matter how big or small, to make our time count with those we care about most!

Faith Life, June 2015

Homeless to Hopeful

How the Christian Outreach Center is helping rebuild lives 

through the power of the Gospel

by Susan Brown


DSCN5074 (1)Jamal Hunter takes life one day at a time. And today has been a good one. She holds up the key to her new apartment, flashes a smile, and explains that after decades of living “here and there,” battling addiction and mental illness, she has found hope and purpose through her new “family,” at The Christian Outreach Center.

“I started out with nothing and all of a sudden I’ve accomplished a whole lot. I didn’t do it. God did it,” she says.

“Our vision,” explains COC Executive Director, the Rev. Brian Sleeth, “is to tackle the barriers of homelessness and get traction in people’s lives – in a very real sense to take people from square one to self-sufficiency.” The COC meets immediate needs by providing one-time financial assistance, meal packages, hygiene kits and clothes. But the heart of the program is a commitment to life change through mentoring, addiction recovery groups and Bible studies. They serve a diverse clientele including single mothers, the elderly, the disabled and those who are homeless. As many as 10,000 requests for assistance have been met through the Main Street location.

The Christian Outreach Center is funded primarily through the Purple Cow thrift stores on Jones Creek Road and Perkins Road at Acadian Thruway. Support also comes from churches committed to investing in the downtown area: First Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church, First United Methodist Church and St. Joseph’s Cathedral.

The comprehensive work provided by the COC makes the difference, according to Sleeth. Rather than piecemeal solutions that can falter in the face of overwhelming difficulties, the COC staff engages in life coaching for the total person – physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Keeping Jesus and the Bible at the center of their work is critical. “Unless he renews the mind then people are going to remain trapped,” Sleeth explains. “I’ve seen many times, people get something good going on and they’ll either fall back or they’ll sabotage it on purpose because they’re scared of the change or they’re more comfortable – out of fear – with what they have, as dysfunctional as it is.”

DSCN5077For Hunter, it hasn’t been easy. By her calculation she spent at least two decades in the haze of drug addiction, a quick fix for the lingering pain of abuse, rape and rejection she endured early in life. The downward spiral of drugs and instability left her with damaged family relationships and health concerns. Jamal explains that she still carries a bullet close to her spine, the result of a street encounter with a teenaged assailant that resulted in the loss of her unborn child.

After detox, she spent 6 months in Alliance House, a program for those recovering from substance abuse and other co-existing disorders. A Bible-based addition recovery group offered by the COC opened her eyes to the real possibility of making a break with her past.

“I got to the point where I just cried out, told God to give me the desire of my heart,” Hunter explains. “And He said this is what I give you. You’ve got to continue it.”

Since taking over the program in 2013, Sleeth has expanded the staff and begun a two-pronged approach to meeting needs. The COC began the first local “Jobs for Life” class that meets twice a week to teach participants how to find – and keep – a job. The COC connects people with existing jobs, including construction, landscaping and work at Tiger Stadium. A big break came last fall when a substantial number of workers were hired to set up the new Belk department store in Denham Springs.

To overcome the transportation barrier, Sleeth set up Christian Outreach Transitional Employment Services that now provides a van to take workers to job sites daily. Their 2015 wish list includes at least one more 15-passenger van.

DSCN5083While meeting the immediate need for stability and temporary work, the COC begins the transition to long-term employment. The staff – two case workers and a counseling intern – helps clients construct long-term goals and take steps to accomplish them.

Hunter is currently working as a dietary assistant and is setting her sights on becoming a Certified Nurse Assistant. She wants to be close to those who can’t help themselves and hopes her story will reveal a path for people in similar situations.

“The Christian Outreach Center helps you along your way,” Hunter explains. “If you still want to continue your recovery they would be there for you. Totally. Everything.” For Hunter, that includes continued weekly counseling and even dental work through a connection with Owens Family Dentistry in Zachary.

“What we were powerless to do, only the gospel can do,” Sleeth says. “Despite all these things that have happened – abuse and losing children and being the victim of a violent crime – she stays hopeful and she just keeps her eyes fixed on Christ. And she has a smile on her face.”

Faith Life, June 2015

Recharge and Refocus

Bethany Church’s weekly businessmen’s luncheon seeks to unify local business leaders

through fellowship and a focus on biblical business principles

 by Susan Brown

IMG_0929“Life is a hurdles race. You run, hurdle, run, hurdle…you’ve got to get over every day – there are going to be trials.” But meeting together strengthens and recharges men to face the stress, the temptations and the cultural onslaught they face daily, according to Bethany Church Associate Pastor Hank Henagan. The church draws up to 150 men each Wednesday at noon for a businessmen’s luncheon at the South Baton Rouge campus off Siegen Lane and I-10. And it’s growing.

“Ninety percent of the men who come to this do not go to Bethany,” explains Henagan. “They’re from all denominations. It’s the men around the table, the relationships that they have bonded with over the years.” Bethany pastors teach a business lesson based on biblical principles. Discussion follows around each table with a chance for men to work on practical applications to their own situations.

A key principle is ordering priorities according to biblical standards: “God, Christ, you, your family and your vocation,” says Henagan. “If you aren’t right, nothing below you is going to be right. Your family isn’t going to be right, your vocation isn’t going to be right. And the world flips it. My vocation, my vocation, my vocation.”

Instead, Henagan says, spiritual commitment should guide a man’s life and work. He encourages men to be faithful in their churches and to be light to their communities and workplaces. He has a special interest in mentoring those without fathers in the home. Henagan believes that keeping families intact and in church is part of rebuilding the spiritual strength of America in the same way that God prompted Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. A spiritually strong family and nation needs fathers who are strong in faith and lead with God’s Word rather than the opinions of the prevailing culture.

IMG_0969Henagan encourages men to be open to what God is doing in their lives even when it is not what they expected. As part of his ministry at Bethany, he helps young people decide what they want to do in life by identifying the things they most enjoy. He encourages men to take their interests and skills seriously instead of suffering through a vocation for which they have no enthusiasm. Sometimes, that can mean a career change. “Put God first and follow your heart. What He’s put on your heart to do, go do. Follow your passion, not your pension.”

As part of his mentoring ministry, Henagan wants to pass along what he’s learned to those exploring their career options. After earning a degree in marketing he went to work for a bank – and hated it. “I said there’s got to be more to life than this.” At a downtown bookstore, he came across a self-help book, The Magic of Thinking Big by Dr. David Schwartz (1959). “Other than the Bible, that book changed my life,” he says.

The book teaches that those who have great expectations and a positive attitude tend to accomplish more by visualizing things not as they currently are – but as they could become. Henagan went on to start and sell three businesses, run political campaigns and work for Mayor Tom Ed McHugh. Now, he uses those life lessons to invest holistically in the work and lives of young men and businessmen, following a prompting he received from God as a teenager to serve in the ministry.

IMG_0994Sitting in the back of a church in Singapore in 1993 with Pastor Larry Stockstill and others, he first heard about the concept of cell groups – small groups that foster Christian community through discussion and accountability. He sensed God’s direction to start a cell group in his home. The group was multiplied eight times. By April 1995, he was on staff at Bethany where he helps men write business plans, engage in addiction recovery and train to mentor others through Bethany College.

The midweek break provides a time to replenish and refresh men in Christian community, Henagan says. “Food, fun, fellowship. Teach a lesson.” And they learn to help each other. “The world beats you down but they can come in and just be an encourager. That’s anybody.”

Family Life, High School Perspective, June 2015

Bridging the Gap

The critical role of communication between teens and families

11149422_388752624630535_7988127740119689027_nby Julia Summers

Often when people hear the word summer, thoughts of sunshine, the beach and freedom enter their mind. High school students can be stereotyped by others who assume that during summer the mind of a teenager revolves entirely around having fun. However, this is not always the case, as thousands of teenagers around the world struggle with anxiety and depression even in this typically happy season.

A few summers ago when I was around thirteen years old, I faced a difficult period in my life. My best friend at the time had moved on to another friend group, and I emerged into a period of extreme loneliness. I faced depression and began to think of all the things that I could have done differently that might have made her stay friends with me. I mentally beat myself down, causing even more pain, and I shut my family out when I needed them most.

Although the majority of that summer was hard, it was also the summer I grew closer to God than I had ever been before. I formed a deep relationship with my youth leader, Rebecca Blair, who helped me to develop an even stronger relationship with the Lord. God was my comfort during that hardship. One verse that stood out to me during that time was Isaiah 41:10. God said, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Not all teenagers lose friends, but nearly everyone goes through something difficult. Katie Clark, a rising senior at The Dunham School, explained how connecting with family during a tough time in life helped steer her in the right direction.

“During my parent’s divorce I grew closer to my mom and my sister, Holly. My sister really helped lead me to God,” she explained. “My faith was tested throughout the divorce, but it forced me to rely on God. My mom and my sister supported me, and we were all there for each other.”

Brooks Jones, a rising sophomore at The Dunham School, also commented on the importance of his family’s support during severe stomach issues in his early childhood. While the illness has since gone away, he said he knows the role that family played was vital.

“I realized how significant that time of my life was,” Jones said. “My family’s support got me through it, and I believe that one of the main roles of your family is to be your support team.”

As the summer season nears, I would advise teenagers who are struggling to talk to their family. Having a connection and relationship with your parents and your siblings is vital. I did not have healthy communication with my family when I was struggling, which only made things harder. Communication is key; learning how to talk to your family is an awesome start to a trusting relationship.

Also, challenge yourself to think about what God has planned for you this summer, and how he can use you. Keep Jeremiah 29:11 in your heart: the Lord said, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Family Life, June 2015

Faced with Family

Picutureby Tonya Woodridge-Jarvis

 In high school, I remember my friend Katie’s family being the modern day “Leave it to Beaver” type. Her mother and father had been married for 20 years and had three daughters. They were always having family time and involved in each other’s lives. The older girls would sit and braid each other’s hair and share stories, and I truly desired to have that.

My family on the other hand was a bit dysfunctional. My mother and father were divorced by the time I was 13 after having two daughters and a son. Mom worked all the time, and my father lived in another city out of my reach. My sister and I were always on opposite ends of the universe, and my brother was off somewhere playing with dirt and bugs. I didn’t quite have the same as what Katie had.

The word Family in the Webster’s Dictionary is defined as: A basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not. It was later in life that I learned the following phrase, “we don’t choose our families we are born into them.”

This means that in life, you have to play the instrument that you’ve been issued. Your family may not look or act like a “TV” family, but you still have great one. Families will have issues until the return of Jesus, but it is how you overcome those issues that will keep your family thriving.

I know that this is sometimes a hard concept to abide by, so here are a few tips to help you do so:

  • Do not hold grudges! Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree. Remember that they are still your family, and you love them no matter what.
  • Love them as Christ loved the church.
  • Don’t discuss things while you’re angry. Take a moment to Listen, Process and then React. You will find that if you stick to this method some things won’t warrant an emotion or response.
Family Life, June 2015

What Families Teach Us About God

VickyBenton.FamilyLife.Headshotby Vicky Benton

God is sometimes hard to figure out. Like why didn’t God have His image bearers create families the same way He created in the very beginning? You know, have a man and a woman somehow breathe life into a pile of dirt: Voilà! An adult child with an already completed debt-free college degree!

But He did the baby thing. Creating little creatures that need total care, utterly helpless and in need of caring, capable adults.

A lot could be said about this but maybe one reason was to make some points about Himself. Consider what we learn about Him with the various familial metaphors we see in Scripture.

Although God is always described in the Bible as male, He borrows from the masculine and the feminine roles to reveal Himself.

  • Male Metaphors – God picked words like “Father, Bridegroom, Husband” to give us a picture of His relationship with us.
  • “Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. . . .” Mt. 6:9 (NLT). He has eternally been the Father to the Son. Jesus makes clear He is ours as well!
  • “For your Maker is your husband-the LORD Almighty is his name. . . .” Is. 54:5 (NIV)
  • “. . . God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.” Is. 62:5b (NLT)

It grieves Him when we do not relate to Him these ways. “I looked forward to your calling me ‘Father,’ and I wanted you never to turn from me.” Jer. 3:19b (NLT).

  • Female Metaphors – God is never described as female but the Scriptures do use motherly metaphors to help us grasp His role with us.
  • “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you. . . .” Is. 66:13 (NIV)
  • “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Words of Christ in Luke. 13:31 (ESV)
  • “He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.” James 1:18 (NLT).
  • Child Metaphors – Christ is eternally the Son. We, by our faith in Christ, get adopted into the family.
  • “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’” Rom. 8:15. (NLT)
  • “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children. . .” 1 Jn. 3:1 (NLT)
  • “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Eph. 5:1 (ESV)

Although God is sometimes hard to understand, He has made clear that He wants to be known. Earthly family relationships, though always imperfectly experienced by us, give us a glimpse of how He intends to be known by us. He gives us loving care in both “masculine” and “feminine” ways, and we are the dependent, and deeply loved children.

[one_half]Vicky Benton is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Baton Rouge. Her practice is with adults – college and beyond – in individual therapy. She recently wrote a Bible study, The Emotions of God: the foundation for understanding our own and keeps threatening to write one on her favorite Biblical metaphors. She can be reached at 225-273-0106 or via email vickybenton58@bellsouth.net[/one_half]

Healthy Life, June 2015

What Our Shape Indicates About Our Health

by Stephanie Ryan Malin

When it comes to health, the number you see on the scale does not always have the last word. New research is showing that your body shape may have a bigger impact than your weight on overall health.

Take a moment to assess your body’s natural shape—does your extra weight tend to collect around your hips, thighs and buttocks? If so, you fall into the pear-shaped category. If your extra weight finds a home in your abdomen and around your waist, then you can consider yourself apple-shaped.

In large part, we can thank our parents for the body shape we inherited, since our genes predispose us to store fat in different parts of our bodies.

While health comes in all shapes and sizes, studies have shown that people who carry the majority of their weight around their waist have a much higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome and related diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. These apple-shaped physiques often have significant amounts of fat surrounding vital organs, which can be dangerous. Fat accumulation in other tissues and organs that are not meant for fat storage—such as the heart, liver or muscle—often results in negative health consequences.

What about pear-shaped people?

“Individuals with more fat below the waist have a much lower risk of developing obesity-related diseases,” explained Dr. Ursula White, a researcher at Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

Why exactly is the pear-shape healthier?

“When the hip and thigh regions can effectively store fat, this may prevent it from going to the abdomen and other unhealthy places, like the heart and liver,” said Dr. White. “We also know that fat cells from different areas of the body do not behave the same way, and the reasons for these differences require more research.”

Now, White and her colleagues at Pennington Biomedical are in search of answers about why fat cells from various regions of the body are different. In a pioneering research study called “Apple & Pear,” they are exploring differences in the formation of new fat cells between belly fat and thigh fat and how this may influence health.

“Ultimately, we want to use this information to develop new therapies for people who struggle with extra weight around their waists. One day, perhaps, our sons and daughters will have better treatments for excess weight that can be hazardous to health,” White said.

White is looking for women who may be interested in learning more about their health through participation in the Apple & Pear study.

“We are really excited because we have the opportunity to share this world-class research with people in our own backyard,” said White, adding that women who qualify for the study are not only contributing to innovative research, but also have the opportunity to learn more about their fat distribution and health. Additionally, they will receive weight loss and nutritional counseling at no cost to them.

To see if you are eligible to participate in the Apple & Pear study, call Pennington Biomedical at 225-763-2862 or visit www.pbrc.edu/healthierLA.

Healthy Life, June 2015

Father’s Day Began at the YMCA!

by Kristen Hogan

senoraMore than a century ago, Sonora Louis Smart Dodd aspired to create a holiday to honor fathers. Dodd, the daughter of a single father and Civil War veteran, was inspired by a Mother’s Day sermon and wondered why there was no holiday for fathers. After securing support from ministers in Spokane, Washington, her idea came to fruition with the first Father’s Day celebration at the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910.

On Sunday, June 15, the YMCA of the Capital Area joins the nation in celebrating Father’s Day and recognizing the impact fathers and adult male role models make in children’s lives. Nationally, one out of three children lives in a home without their biological father, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Societal factors such as unemployment, work-life balance or a lack of resources can affect a father’s ability to seek support in strengthening their parenting skills and more fully engaging in the lives of their children. A leading nonprofit in fostering positive youth development, the Y remains dedicated to providing resources and opportunities for fathers to further involve themselves in the well-being and development of their children.

“One way to improve child well-being is to increase the proportion of children growing up with involved, responsible, and committed fathers and adult male role models,” said Kristen Hogan, Marketing Director, YMCA of the Capital Area. “Father’s Day reminds us why it’s important to provide fathers with the support they need to be the best parents and caregivers they can be.”

 

Studies show that children with close relationships with their fathers and other adult male role models have more self-confidence and exhibit less depression, perform better academically and engage in significantly less drug and alcohol use.

The Y provides many opportunities for families to spend quality time together. Parents can volunteer as a coach and coach their child’s sports team. Families can participate in several of our family wellness classes such as family yoga, family Zumba®, family aqua and more. The Y also offers splash nights, flick and floats, family nights and other activities to bring families together. The Y encourages families to live a healthier lifestyle. The Y provides many tools, tips and resources on their website; visit ymcabr.org/healthyfamilyhome for tips on how you can create a healthy family home.

In communities across the country, the Y is committed to ensuring that the 9 million children and teens in YMCA programs reach their full potential by helping them grow—physically, mentally and socially—from young children into active, engaged members of their communities. To learn more about programs and activities available visit ymcabr.org.

June 2015, Learning For Life

Rachel Seidel: Living in the Fullness of Youth and Faith

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12

by Krista Bordelon

219_seidel 2A large part of the battle for parents, mentors, pastors and teachers when it comes to raising up the next generation is how easy it is for the older generations to discount the younger ones, to lump them all under a label that is “less than” what we once were ourselves because of the challenges they are facing.

Perhaps that’s the way it’s been since the beginning of time, but losing sight of what this next generation is capable of, choosing to see them all as “lost” rather than seeing what it is they are actually doing, is the biggest mistake we could make.

For every horror story we see when we turn on the news or open a paper, there are many more stories of young, godly teenagers willing to be a light in their world. When we take the time to listen, their stories and experiences truly are exceptional witnesses. In fact, they are the generation that will be raising up the next. So the question we should all be asking is: What can we do to encourage them in their faith?

Rachel Seidel, a graduating senior at Central High School and Central’s Student of the Year, is one of those girls who has always exuded strength, grace, and godliness. Born and raised in Baton Rouge, she has been a lifelong member of Istrouma Baptist Church. She describes her life as one in which God was always a major aspect; so becoming saved at the age of seven was not really a surprise. However in 2007, Rachel’s youngest brother, Sam, suffered a near fatal drowning accident in the family pool that left him unable to walk or talk.

“That was when I realized it wasn’t going to be easy, that Christianity wasn’t going to be about how I was when things were good, but how I was when things were really, really hard,” she explained. A couple of years later while attending camp with her church youth group during her 6th grade year, Rachel was baptized in the ocean at Panama where she decided to rededicate her life.

“It wasn’t that the first time didn’t matter, but there was something so powerful about this [second] time,” she said. “It was a decision that I had made completely for myself, not because someone told me I should, or because that’s what everyone was doing. I was growing up, and it became my decision.”

_MG_0459Rachel had attended private school at St. Luke’s until her freshmen year, when she made the difficult decision to switch to the Central Public School System where her mother, Kahne Seidel, is a teacher.

“I was really nervous, I had no idea what to expect. All of my friends that I had grown up with were going to be continuing in private schools. I was going to a public school, and I wasn’t going to know anyone.” Rachel continued, “I knew it was going to be overwhelming, I was coming from a class of 17 people. To say moving to Central was just a transition is an understatement for sure.”

In fact, Rachel was really nervous about how she was even going to make the transition, so she spoke with her youth minister, Mark Cole.

“I told him that I was really scared to even share my faith in this new environment,” Rachel said. “His advice to me was, ‘The more you do it, the more comfortable you will be.’”

Rachel’s number one piece of advice for students is, “Be wise with whom you choose to hang out with. Find the right group of people because they determine if your experience will be positive or if it will be negative.” As simple as it sounds, she explains how that had the biggest impact on her life and her witness throughout high school.

“I chose to hang around with people who would go to people’s houses to swim instead of going to people’s houses to drink,” Rachel explained. She was also involved in soccer, cheer and continued to remain heavily involved in her church’s youth ministry. She had many good, strong mentors in place, as well as a good relationship with her parents to help keep her strong in her walk even if she was now attending a school without the Christian influence she had once had.

“I can see how it would have been very easy for me to stray away without all of that,” she said. “I had to have people holding me accountable.”

“Teachers may not be able to tell you with their words about Jesus, but it was easy to tell who is a Christian, and that was comforting,” she shared. In fact, it’s something Rachel has talked about a lot with her mom since Kahne teaches 11th grade.

“You just show them through your actions instead of being able to stand up and share your testimony. You give them grace and help when they need it,” her mom said. Rachel said teachers would sponsor Bible Studies with local pastors, so you always knew who would be supportive of you in your Christian walk.

Something as small as buying donuts for a before school meeting left a big impact. Even if they couldn’t talk to you about it, it was nice having them there, but it was still a hard transition when coming from a setting with weekly chapel and standard Bible classes.

“It was good though, I found that I was able to grow up.” There is a mutual respect among those with different beliefs,” she said. “You learn to appreciate other beliefs but learn to stay strong in your own. In fact, it taught me a lot about why I believe what I believe by seeing what it is others believe. It was more like the real world.”

FullSizeRenderRachel’s biggest “faith tester” came when her grandmother, Peggy Kendrick, was hit by a car while walking to a Central High football game during Rachel’s senior year.

“That was definitely a major curveball for my life. I was super close to my grandmother, she was my spiritual role model,” she explained. “It’s so difficult to wrap my head around why. She had such a strong faith, and it was hard to understand why God would allow that to happen to her.”

Rachel continued, “There are times in life where it is very hard to be thankful, but I am thankful that I don’t have to go through these times alone. God has provided us with the most incredible support system. My friends, my teachers, my church, the whole community has been so supportive.” In fact, Rachel’s senior prom was a bitter sweet moment as it was both a celebration of what was to come and also a remembrance of her beloved MiMi who passed away early that morning.

Rachel’s support system was in full force, wearing ribbons on their wrists in honor of their friend’s family. It’s proof that Rachel truly took her own advice to heart and found the right group of people.

Navigating the school setting in a godly manner is becoming more and more difficult for teens in today’s world, and we need to be aware of the challenges they are facing, but perhaps we don’t give them enough credit in how they will be able to handle it all and still remain strong. All-in-all Rachel says she is ready to begin her new season of life as an LSU Tiger in the fall.

IMG_2071“I feel very prepared. It doesn’t feel nearly as overwhelming to me as the transition did my
freshman year of high school.”
She added, “My prayer continues to be that I can be in this world, but not of it, and I feel like I will be able to continue to do that thanks to all of those who have shown me how.

Uncategorized

Rachel Seidel: Living in the Fullness of Youth and Faith

Rachel Seidel: Living in the Fullness of Youth and Faith

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12

by Krista Bordelon

219_seidel 2A large part of the battle for parents, mentors, pastors and teachers when it comes to raising up the next generation is how easy it is for the older generations to discount the younger ones, to lump them all under a label that is “less than” what we once were ourselves because of the challenges they are facing.

Perhaps that’s the way it’s been since the beginning of time, but losing sight of what this next generation is capable of, choosing to see them all as “lost” rather than seeing what it is they are actually doing, is the biggest mistake we could make.

For every horror story we see when we turn on the news or open a paper, there are many more stories of young, godly teenagers willing to be a light in their world. When we take the time to listen, their stories and experiences truly are exceptional witnesses. In fact, they are the generation that will be raising up the next. So the question we should all be asking is: What can we do to encourage them in their faith?

Rachel Seidel, a graduating senior at Central High School and Central’s Student of the Year, is one of those girls who has always exuded strength, grace, and godliness. Born and raised in Baton Rouge, she has been a lifelong member of Istrouma Baptist Church. She describes her life as one in which God was always a major aspect; so becoming saved at the age of seven was not really a surprise. However in 2007, Rachel’s youngest brother, Sam, suffered a near fatal drowning accident in the family pool that left him unable to walk or talk.

“That was when I realized it wasn’t going to be easy, that Christianity wasn’t going to be about how I was when things were good, but how I was when things were really, really hard,” she explained. A couple of years later while attending camp with her church youth group during her 6th grade year, Rachel was baptized in the ocean at Panama where she decided to rededicate her life.

“It wasn’t that the first time didn’t matter, but there was something so powerful about this [second] time,” she said. “It was a decision that I had made completely for myself, not because someone told me I should, or because that’s what everyone was doing. I was growing up, and it became my decision.”

_MG_0459Rachel had attended private school at St. Luke’s until her freshmen year, when she made the difficult decision to switch to the Central Public School System where her mother, Kahne Seidel, is a teacher.

“I was really nervous, I had no idea what to expect. All of my friends that I had grown up with were going to be continuing in private schools. I was going to a public school, and I wasn’t going to know anyone.” Rachel continued, “I knew it was going to be overwhelming, I was coming from a class of 17 people. To say moving to Central was just a transition is an understatement for sure.”

In fact, Rachel was really nervous about how she was even going to make the transition, so she spoke with her youth minister, Mark Cole.

“I told him that I was really scared to even share my faith in this new environment,” Rachel said. “His advice to me was, ‘The more you do it, the more comfortable you will be.’”

Rachel’s number one piece of advice for students is, “Be wise with whom you choose to hang out with. Find the right group of people because they determine if your experience will be positive or if it will be negative.” As simple as it sounds, she explains how that had the biggest impact on her life and her witness throughout high school.

“I chose to hang around with people who would go to people’s houses to swim instead of going to people’s houses to drink,” Rachel explained. She was also involved in soccer, cheer and continued to remain heavily involved in her church’s youth ministry. She had many good, strong mentors in place, as well as a good relationship with her parents to help keep her strong in her walk even if she was now attending a school without the Christian influence she had once had.

“I can see how it would have been very easy for me to stray away without all of that,” she said. “I had to have people holding me accountable.”

“Teachers may not be able to tell you with their words about Jesus, but it was easy to tell who is a Christian, and that was comforting,” she shared. In fact, it’s something Rachel has talked about a lot with her mom since Kahne teaches 11th grade.

“You just show them through your actions instead of being able to stand up and share your testimony. You give them grace and help when they need it,” her mom said. Rachel said teachers would sponsor Bible Studies with local pastors, so you always knew who would be supportive of you in your Christian walk.

Something as small as buying donuts for a before school meeting left a big impact. Even if they couldn’t talk to you about it, it was nice having them there, but it was still a hard transition when coming from a setting with weekly chapel and standard Bible classes.

“It was good though, I found that I was able to grow up.” There is a mutual respect among those with different beliefs,” she said. “You learn to appreciate other beliefs but learn to stay strong in your own. In fact, it taught me a lot about why I believe what I believe by seeing what it is others believe. It was more like the real world.”

FullSizeRenderRachel’s biggest “faith tester” came when her grandmother, Peggy Kendrick, was hit by a car while walking to a Central High football game during Rachel’s senior year.

“That was definitely a major curveball for my life. I was super close to my grandmother, she was my spiritual role model,” she explained. “It’s so difficult to wrap my head around why. She had such a strong faith, and it was hard to understand why God would allow that to happen to her.”

Rachel continued, “There are times in life where it is very hard to be thankful, but I am thankful that I don’t have to go through these times alone. God has provided us with the most incredible support system. My friends, my teachers, my church, the whole community has been so supportive.” In fact, Rachel’s senior prom was a bitter sweet moment as it was both a celebration of what was to come and also a remembrance of her beloved MiMi who passed away early that morning.

Rachel’s support system was in full force, wearing ribbons on their wrists in honor of their friend’s family. It’s proof that Rachel truly took her own advice to heart and found the right group of people.

Navigating the school setting in a godly manner is becoming more and more difficult for teens in today’s world, and we need to be aware of the challenges they are facing, but perhaps we don’t give them enough credit in how they will be able to handle it all and still remain strong. All-in-all Rachel says she is ready to begin her new season of life as an LSU Tiger in the fall.

IMG_2071“I feel very prepared. It doesn’t feel nearly as overwhelming to me as the transition did my
freshman year of high school.”
She added, “My prayer continues to be that I can be in this world, but not of it, and I feel like I will be able to continue to do that thanks to all of those who have shown me how.

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Foundation of Faith

Foundation of Faith

Modeling Christ as a Family in Tough Times

by David Melville

IMG_1207I want to brag a little bit about my family but not for the usual reasons. My wife Melanie, four grown children, and their spouses have made me so proud with their academic, financial, vocational and non-vocational accomplishments. In an article like this, limited in length, you’ll have to take my word for it when I say they are very bright, talented, driven and responsible. I am blessed.

But in this issue of the magazine centering upon family, I want to talk about something more important than my family’s successes: I want to talk about the bad times. Those times are when each member has shown his or her true colors and character. It has been during the difficult days that my family has modeled what is most important. Only when your family has been tested will a parent or pastor be able to say how your family – or how you hope your family – will be a family.

Even with success, we have had stress. We have known periods of estrangement, experienced arguments and felt death’s sting. We have dealt with decisions regarding separation, divorce, abortion and debt. Each of us has made mistakes and each of us has hurt or disappointed one another at some point in time. And I am not proclaiming that we have always made the right individual or collective decisions, or rendered the right reactions to complex circumstances. Families are complicated!

I have been both parentally and pastorally proud that thus far I have watched love, support, forgiveness, kindness and patience prevail in the end. In the good times we can only assume or hope for such an outcome. But it is during the tough times that we will find out about such gifts of grace.

Any success we have achieved in the areas mentioned above can only be attributed to the miracles and mystery of prayer, and to the fact that each family member has had some form of spiritual foundation to undergird and instruct them in the worst of times. We are not perfect Christians, but from April 21, 1973 – when this particular family was started – onward, God has been known and could be turned to. We have been our best selves during the tough times, when we turned to the Lord. So in the end, I brag about Him and not about us.

My prayers are for you and for your family during the bad times, more so than the good times. Without the former, you likely won’t experience the latter. When we were at our lowest we learned that, through God, all things are possible.

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Jennifer Maggio: Finding Freedom

by Beth Townsend

11257653_10205415969976654_2059597895_nJennifer Maggio, founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, is a woman of purpose with a posture of certainty. While her story is compelling, she shares it with ease and conviction.

Meeting a need for a significant portion of the population, Maggio’s story is the foundation of a rapidly growing ministry, due to a gaping need in many families. Less than 1 percent of Christian churches offer anything formal for single moms, yet it’s the fastest growing sector of the population. Two-out-of-three single mothers are not going to church anywhere, yet few churches are mobilizing ministries.

“It’s a huge disparity,” Maggio sighed. “Research supports that this number will continue to grow, yet many churches are struggling with what to do,” she continued. “Even those with the heart to do something don’t know what to do.”

“I share my story with transparency because God’s totally set me free, and I carry no shame,” Maggio said. “Also because my story is so much more common than many would like to acknowledge.”

Dressed professionally with impeccable style in an office with phones ringing and people going about ministry, she appears, like many, to have it all together. Yet as she shared her story, it became evident that God had His hand on her difficult life, and her dependence on Him has become her identity.

Maggio’s family was fragmented early due to tragedy. Her father raised her, as a drunk driver killed her mother at the age of 32.

“You can imagine that my dad was devastated,” she said. “He used alcohol and women to medicate. He was married six times and had girlfriends and mistresses all the while. My home was just not a safe place.”

It was then that the abuse started. Jennifer began being sexually abused at three years old, and it lasted nine years. Her father was not one of her abusers, nor did he know about it.

“I never really spoke about it publicly until after he died,” Maggio explained. “It was then I had the freedom to talk about it because I never wanted to disrespect my family.” After years of dysfunction she became disillusioned as to what a family was supposed to be.

“I just had a warped view of what a family home looks like,” she said. “My dad was a deacon in the local church for over 20 years. Every time he remarried, we moved, then no one knew how many times he had been married or the abuse that was going on behind closed doors.” Jennifer’s father worked away a lot, which meant she was left in the care of stepmoms.

“I began being beaten when I was young,” she said. “Forced to steal as a little girl, I remember getting up in the wee hours of the morning to steal newspapers for coupons.” She laughed as she recalled what had become her norm. “I would steal yard art from neighbors and we would put it out like it was ours. I was forced to view pornography from the time I was little, being held down and forced to view that with stepmoms.”

“Many things that have happened in my life can be hard to stomach, I know,” she was clear that her story was heavy, with many illustrations of pain and devastation. Through the cloudy past, Jennifer recalled her childhood Sundays clearly.

“Because we were in church every Sunday it adds an entirely different facet to the story,” Maggio said. “For me, church was the only time during the week when we were normal. We cleaned up well. We sat on the pew together. We smiled. For that hour each week, it was like we were normal.” Recalling the contradiction of those Sundays from the reality of the balance of her week was evident in Jennifer’s expression as she shared the pleasantness juxtaposed against the rest of her childhood experience.

“Yet somehow I always felt I would never measure up,” she explained. The people in the church seemed so perfect, and their lives were nothing like mine. I was never going to measure up to that. So I had a great deal of low self-value and esteem.”

Moving on from her family life, Jennifer recalled her life as a teenager and the various ways she struggled to fit in and search for some sense of independence. She is from the Ferriday-Vidalia area and graduated from Ferriday High School.

“When I was thirteen I started having sex outside of marriage, I was a baby. It breaks my heart now as a mom of teenagers how little I thought of my value,” she explained.

single momms“I went from one relationship to the other hoping somebody would give me value. I got pregnant twice in high school. I entered into a seven-year relationship when I was in ninth grade. We had two children, but I got pregnant [a total of] 4 times.” Maggio continued, “I had two miscarriages in high school I didn’t tell a soul about. I graduated high school six months pregnant and not a soul knew. I was valedictorian and stood on the homecoming court; class president, you name it.”

Trying to create self-respect through performance and portraying a respectable image, she recalled that drive to prove something to the world.

“Part of the story is that perfectionism is bondage. We know addictions can be bondage; to pornography, drugs or money,” she stated. “I was a straight A student! That was all a way to try to give myself value while hoping someone would finally say, ‘great job.’”

With such great grades and extra curricular accomplishments came opportunities to further her education and prepare for a solid future. Yet what was not on her transcript or resume was that she was pregnant. While she was offered scholarships all-across the country, she had to redirect her future and plan for a child.

“When I finally called my dad to tell him I was pregnant, he said, ‘have a nice life,’ and hung up on me,” she recalled. “I remember it vividly because it was almost like a relief in some way. I had lived in such a violent home that I didn’t know if he would attempt to kill my boyfriend or something crazy like that.” Maggio continued, “Then I lived in the back of my car, I had nothing. I wasn’t even permitted back in my home to get my clothes. I literally had one outfit, and my body was growing out of that one.”

Once people began to understand what was happening, assistance came. Jennifer moved in with one of her closest friends as her parents had agreed to accept her.

“It was very difficult,” Maggio explained. “It was the first time I was separated from my twin sister; the first time I’d been separated from my family.” After discussing how her dreams of a healthy family life were in shambles, she shared her disappointment with candor.

“Nothing in life had turned out the way that I had hoped. It was the hardest time of my life,” she said. Though that season was difficult, it was about to become even more complicated.

Maggio recalled, “My boyfriend also got another girl pregnant and married her when I was seven months pregnant.” Facing humiliation in the small town where she lived, Jennifer was certain that the whole world knew what was happening.

As things continued to crumble around her, she could no longer make sense of how her life could possibly turn around. That small glimmer of hope had faded and she faced her new reality.

“It was like my whole world crashed around me,” she said. “I remember that night so well because I scared the people I was living with because I was just screaming in agony I hurt so bad.”

With no time to lose, Jennifer had no choice but to pull herself together and push forward, alone and afraid, yet desperate and determined to make a life for her and her new baby.

“I gave birth to my little boy, and ten days later I got my first job and moved into the projects,” she explained. “We lived on food stamps and welfare. I worked all day every day and enrolled in community college at night. It was just survival for three straight years.” Still young and insecure, she could not seem to let go of that unhealthy relationship that had been a part of her life for so many years.

“My boyfriend came home on college break and I got pregnant again with my daughter who is now almost 18,” Maggio explained. “He was still married, though he never lived with her.”

Maggio held nothing back in sharing her story.

“The reason I’m so transparent is simple, if you arrive at single parenthood because your husband cheated on you or left you and you had no part in the demise, it’s something that happened to you,” she said. “Perhaps you are a single mom because you are a widow. Those kinds of stories are difficult, but they clean up well.”

Maggio explained how her ministry is different from many others out there.

“Even though the church has struggled to minister to single moms, I think it’s often easier to have a divorce care program, particularly for moms who had no fault in it,” she stated. “It’s just easier to minister to people who didn’t play a role in their single parenthood.”

When hearing her story, it’s easy to assume that some of Jennifer’s decisions were exacerbated by the traumatic childhood she endured. She had a tough upbringing filled with abuse with very little foundation on which to build a life for herself, yet her take is not what you’d expect.

“When I think of my dad, it’s just sad. I had a brother that died when he was 17 due to being born with a heart defect. My dad watched his son die over two long and devastating years, she said”. “His brother [Maggio’s father] had been murdered; there is so much back story that played a role in who he was. My birth was the result of an affair, so you uncover layers and layers of generational issues and dysfunction,” Maggio explained.

“For a while I harbored resentment towards my dad, but now I just feel sad.” Her compassion for her dad was evident, though it’s after years of a healing process that has been intentional.

Getting ready to birth her second baby, she described that time in her life when she was working hard to simply keep afloat.

“I had my daughter on a Friday and I went back to work on Monday,” she said. “I had no medical coverage, no vacation time, and if I didn’t work they didn’t eat, it was that simple.” Recalling an in-home day care, Jennifer smiled as she described a woman who helped her through that time, “She was a godsend.”

She now had two babies and was struggling to make ends meet.

“My turning point was a decision to go back to church. I had no money, no friends and very little hope.” She continued, “My boyfriend had come over on a Saturday night, trashed my apartment and abused me. I was feeling like my life could not get any worse at that moment, yet I decided to go to church the next morning.”

As she shared how her life began to make healthy turns for the better, Jennifer smiled and laughed about new beginnings.

JM.TLSM2“Slowly over the next couple of years God started to change my life. It wasn’t this miraculous one-time event where God plucked me out of the depths of the devastation,” she said. “It was over a series of months and years where I made the decision to keep going back. Even when it was hard, even when I felt like I didn’t belong, even when I felt like no one understood, I just kept going.”

She continued, “The Lord has used this season, because when any single moms say they don’t fit in anywhere, I can say, ‘that really doesn’t matter,’ it’s about you and getting your healing.”

After returning to church, another new season emerged in Maggio’s life.

“I began to tithe which is another big part of my story. After I went back to church I felt like the Lord was prompting me to tithe, and I was making about $500 a month,” she said. “When I started, I was still living in the projects, still driving a car that left me on the side of the road once a week, I mean it was pitiful.”

“I wrote out the checks almost begrudgingly, like how dare God want my money? But I did so because I felt it was what I was supposed to do and knew God was prompting me,” Maggio explained.

Still broke and struggling, she was excited to share how a new job presented itself just in time to prompt yet another positive change.

“Then I wound up landing a job that was a miracle, I mean, I stumbled upon it,” she said. She was offered a sales position, and sales became her niche. That was when her climb up the corporate ladder began. A key component to her newfound independence came by making a difficult yet important decision.

“Through the course of those two years, I also had the strength to finally leave that seven year relationship,” Maggio said. “I had two children with him. I never had the white picket fence and a happily ever after, so I wanted my kids to have that. I held on for far too long.” She said she felt as though she had been set free by God to leave that relationship, she knew it was a supernatural delivery. As she recalled that moment her thankfulness was noticeable.

“The corporate job that I landed, [is where] I wound up meeting my current husband, and he adopted my two children,” Maggio explained. “Their biological dad signed his rights away. Now as adults, they have more of a relationship with him than they ever had before.”

New seasons continued as her family grew.

BA8A8144“Eight years ago I thought I would retire in corporate America, but God would not let me forget what it was like to be alone and have nothing. So I went into my local church, Healing Place, and asked if they would let me start a single moms group.”

Maggio continued, “I started a support group at my house with three moms. It grew in about six months from three moms to about seventy-five. It never stopped growing, and eight years later it continues to be one of the nation’s largest single moms support groups in the church.”

The growth of the ministry has be staggering, further evidence of the need. When The Life of a Single Mom Ministries started in 2010, almost 5 years ago, the plan was to help one additional church start a ministry, then another. It grew into hundreds, and now they are in a total of 1,545 churches in 19 countries.

“I didn’t know what I was doing, and often times today I say I don’t know what I’m doing,” Maggio laughed. “I just get up in the morning and try to do what God’s called me to do.”

Maggio continued, “We are the only national organization focused solely on planting single moms ministries in churches. God has really given us a huge platform. I am burdened with it because I know what it feels like, and I know the perception many single moms have about the church. Even mamas who have been sold out for Christ and have been serving for 20 years, when they go through a divorce, everything changes.”

Recalling those moments when she has personally walked with women through such pain, she went straight back to the beginning.

“That is what spear-headed the movement, not wanting single moms to walk alone,” she explained. “We want the body of Christ to understand the magnitude of the problem. We see the problem, now let’s address it.”

The Life of a Single Mom Ministries does exactly that. They are currently preparing to host their first national conference in June, at Healing Place Church.

Since December 2007, they have ministered to more than 46,000 single moms.

“Eight years ago God laid on my heart to do a national conference but the timing was not right. To pull off a conference of this magnitude, it’s expensive,” Maggio said. “It has to be God’s timing because to be able to survive the amount of work it takes to do this, His hand has to be on this.” Her passion for reaching women is amazing and she’s built a team that supports their mission.

“We announced the conference in February and within the first 30 days we had women coming in from a dozen states,” she said. “Today we have women from 28 states that have registered. You have to think about the mom that would be in California or Maryland who would say, ‘I’m going to make this commitment.’ I don’t care who she is it’s a huge commitment to arrange childcare, travel, get off work, etc., and many [of these women] will be in Louisiana for the first time.”

The planning has been carefully crafted to maximize the time they have to reach those attending. They are flying in experts from around the country to teach. Workshops cover everything from financial planning and parenting to learning how to pray, and even healing from damaged emotions.

There will also be a session that will teach how to establish a career and move off of government assistance. Additionally, a career fair is going to be set up during the conference where there will be local vendors sharing services as well as national ones. “Plus amazing worship,” Maggio added.

No conference in Louisiana would be complete without an after party, which will feature Cajun dancers, music, and free food!

“This conference is about empowering women for two days,” Maggio said. “They will leave emotionally and spiritually filled. The hope is that there will be trickle effect; that they will go back and start a ministry in their church and share what God has done in their life,” She smiled.

Having a local church behind her has been critical as this ministry has taken shape and grown so much in just a few years.

TSLM.TeamPic“Healing Place is servant and outreach minded,” she explained. “When I sat down with them eight years ago to talk about starting this ministry, it was never a no, it was a ‘let’s pray about this, let’s see when God opens that door.’” She discussed how the process evolved over the years and the freedom she has been given to do what God has called her to do.

“They have trusted that I’m a daughter of this house and that I’m going to honor my pastoral staff. Their generosity has never been about only Healing Place moms,” she said. “It’s never been about growing their church and getting their name out there. Because of that, God has blessed the ministry on such a large scale. They were also one of the first to come on board with financial support.”

In discussing the fact that so many kids come from broken and dysfunctional homes, she admitted it can be difficult to get a healthy start in life and make sound decisions when so few were modeled early in life.“It’s difficult, it is.” Yet the hope she professed didn’t stop.

“Our God is far bigger than any statistic. He is bigger than any socio-economic status, your birth parents, your story, or what side of the track you were born on and your skin color. The denominational lines we sometimes draw, our God is much bigger than that,” Maggio stated.

“My central message is this: Once a kid or a 55 year old adult, whomever it is, once they fully understand that Christ didn’t just pay for salvation, which would have been enough, He paid for freedom,” Maggio said. “Once people fully get that, they have the courage, strength and the fearlessness to move into that plan that God has for them.”

She continued, “That for me was the break through—I have the freedom to be who God has called me to be. I have the freedom to share my story without any shame. Freedom is most important part of my message.“

We can help by encouraging women to attend this conference and support the single moms in their life. This conference is open to all women, not just single moms. Maggio encourages other women to attend with a friend; pay her way, buy her ticket. Maybe she doesn’t have the money and doesn’t want to tell anybody. Go stand with your friend.

“There should be bulletins and fliers in every church across this city. Churches, please tell others about it! Pay for them to get there, it’s only $39 for a two-day conference,” Maggio exclaimed. “We were strategic about making that thing as affordable as possible.”

“In addition, others are coming alongside to help. Lamar Outdoor Advertising has generously put up billboards in three states (Ala., Miss., and La.), for free,” she said. “Not only that, but Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden has made that weekend, June 19-20, citywide single moms weekend! Our city is behind us to say, we stand with our single moms.”