March 2016, Reading For Life

A review of: Earning My Wings and Weeds in My Garden

RFL.March16

March 2016, Witness at Work

How He Makes it Work: Be Authentic and Set Parameters

Q & A with Scott Gaspard – Realtor, Husband and Father

by Sharon Furrate Bailey

image1-2Scott Gaspard, realtor with the successful Gaspard Team, shared insight into how he manages his busy real estate career while still finding time to spend with his wife, Jessica, and be an attentive father to his growing young family. He has a house full of blessings—11 children! “Children are a blessing from the Lord,” Scott says.

Scott shared many special stories about his family and career that may help others understand that balance in life is maintained by setting parameters and knowing who you are in Christ.

The RE/MAX First Gaspard Team is comprised of Linda Gaspard, Scott Gaspard, Carol Cotten and Janice Dubios (Sisters Tak’n Care of Business), Mary DiBenedetto, and Ashley Terrell Ferrer. Scott and his mother have worked together for 18 years, and the team is still going strong. Last year, The Gaspard Team sold 224 homes and has been the number one real estate team in Louisiana the last three years. Their new tagline is, “selling a house every 36 hours”— it is clear they are doing something right.

This family team of realtors is very grateful for its successes but realizes that one must be relationship-focused and not transaction-focused. In other words, they are in the business of people. That mindset is something Scott gleaned from his mother, and the team continues to maintain that mentality today.

Scott shared about his career, family and spiritual life and gladly opened up about what he feels are the keys to the blessings he has experienced. “I do not live for myself,” he commented. “I know God will provide by setting certain parameters and my confidence comes from God.” Apart from God, there is nothing.

Scott shares what he hopes will assist others who are trying to learn how to manage their “to-do” list in a world with so many distractions:

Q: How have you learned to not get caught up in work while running a business and balancing the business with family time?

A: “Jessica, my wife, is a gentle reminder. She lets me know in a respectful manner when I need to be available or fully present. We have worked out a schedule that seems to help our daily life. Parameters are crucial and so there are a few I have set, and I stick to them. For instance, Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays are days that I have set aside for family time or at least part of the day, but Sundays are solely spent with family. On Tuesdays, I get to the office around 12:30 p.m. On Fridays, I take off around 3 p.m. On Sunday, the work clock is completely off. Sunday is family time. When Jessica and I worked on formulating parameters, this was what we came up with together. In my initial client meetings, it is important I let them know up front my schedule, then there are no expectations during the times I am off the clock.”

When he set those parameters, he was ready to accept whatever happened. Yet God blessed his family and business after that conscious decision was made. So, when he is at the office, his sole focus is working for his clients. “When you are on, you have to be fully on,” Scott says. “You cannot be on the fence. However, since I am part of The Gaspard Team, if something is a major concern to a client, another team member will help out.”

Q: Can you recall a time when your parameters were challenged?

A: “As I mentioned, it is important I share in my initial meetings that I do have my client’s best interests at heart but at the same time there a few parameters that are set in my life so I can maintain the various roles in my life as realtor, husband and dad. It actually builds respect if one is honest up front so there are no unrealistic demands or expectations. Honesty helps to maintain one’s integrity. However, there is a neat story that comes to mind regarding the parameter issue and it involves a couple that was with Campus Crusade for Christ and was re-locating to Baton Rouge.”

“I spoke to both the husband and wife together in our meeting regarding their home search and shared my schedule with both of them. They both heard me share that I do not work on Sundays but was happy to help them find a home. Well, the husband happened to call me one Sunday and I did not answer the phone. Later, the wife told me she was happy I did not answer that Sunday because she felt it showed that I was a man of my word. Setting boundaries are so important. It does help me to be client-focused when back at work. It helps me to be a better realtor because the time I have with my family is quality-time and it eliminates anxiety while at work because my family knows when I am available to be fully present with them.”

“When I am with my wife, eight sons and three daughters, I am in the moment. Jessica home-schools our children so it is important I am there to help and be an active dad. In addition, there was a time in 2008 that I felt led to eliminate television in our household. The market tanked in 2008 and aside from the market crash, the negativity on television did not help matters. It wasn’t like a major “Moses and the burning bush” experience, like I heard some loud voice say to turn it off, but Jessica did not seem to mind getting rid of the TVs in our home. Now, we do have one television, but we enjoy picking what we watch. As a family, we like to sit around, enjoy some popcorn together and live stream movies. This decision was also part of learning how to set parameters so my personal time is about family.”

“He who finds a wife, finds favor with the Lord,” Proverbs 18:22. This proverb is so appropriate when you speak about Jessica and your family time, which leads in to the next question: 

ScottJessicaGaspard-2Q: Would you please share about how you met Jessica, and how your shared Christian faith has helped both of you in your marriage and parental roles?

A: “Believe it or not, I first noticed Jessica in second grade. We went to the same school and Jessica stood out to me with her long, curly, flowing hair. All the other girls had straight hair, so maybe that is why I noticed Jessica. We still laugh today that we are actually married and it has truly helped us understand fully God’s providence.”

“Before venturing into the real estate business, I enlisted into the Army. Jessica actually shaved my head before I went off to serve my country. I remember sitting on the end of my bed one day while in the barracks and prayed to the Lord about my future wife. Little did I know that my wife would end up being Jessica.” Scott says he prayed this exact prayer, “God, if you could provide me with a wife with the character qualities of Jessica, I will give you my life.” Scott and Jessica married in 2000, and one day in a church service under pastor Kevin McKee, the message was on the providence of God.

“While listening to his sermon that day I recalled that specific prayer while in the Army and understood how His provision felt. God’s provision has been experienced both in my marriage and business life and it is something I will always remember. We have the same values, and our faith grew while attending The Chapel on the Campus. It was important to both of us to meet other couples with the same values, and by attending The Chapel we have gained a great network of friends that are supportive and have been mentors to us both.”

Q: As a Christian, what would you tell other business owners in our city, and as a church, what can we do better?

A: “I would share that authenticity is crucial. Be yourself. I have to remind myself who I am in Christ in order to be authentic. Also, our world seems to be made up of extremes, which constructs barriers. There are too many haves and have-nots. We need to allow people to be different. Listen to people and try to hear what they are saying. It’s time to slow down, stop and take time to have genuine conversations with people.”

“I feel that all of us that comprise the Gaspard Team work at being good listeners, and we take time to hear what our clients need. Ninety percent of our business is from referrals, so I like to believe it’s because those we have helped to buy or sell a have had a good experience. My mom taught me a great lesson when I first became part of the Gaspard Team. She said, ‘Scott never watch the dollar or focus on only the transaction.’ So, we are in the business of serving others and that is what I would like other business owners to remember. If you provide customer service, word will spread and the people will come.

GaspardFamilyPhoto-2Q: Can you recall a recent time where you felt you were a good witness or example to someone?

A: “If you did not realize it, there are two Scott Gaspards in Baton Rouge. People often confuse me with the attorney, so occasionally I will get a phone call from a person who believes he or she is calling the Scott Gaspard, attorney-at-law. One day I was at the office and received a phone call. The man mentioned he was selling his home because he was going through a divorce. I was not sure who this man was on the other end of the line, but I kept on listening. Later in the conversation, I knew he had confused me with the attorney.”

“However, he was trying to decide whether or not to sell his home, so I remained on the line. I asked him what he needed from me and he said he would decide to sell his home or stay in it depending on what I said to him. So, I finally let him know he called the wrong Scott Gaspard, but that maybe I could help him in another way. I suggested he contact a marriage counselor first and gave him some names. Who knows, he may have listened and somehow maybe I did help him at least really think about whether divorce was really the only option. My hope is that he and his wife are still together, so I like to believe my advice that day may have helped him.”

Q: What last thought would you like to share with other business owners?

A: “Be true to your word, honest with your clients and make your family a priority. God will take care of the rest if you put your trust in Him.”

March 2016

Understanding Seasons

by LaTangela Fay Sherman

FullSizeRenderEcclesiastes 3:1-8 KJV

1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and time to dance,

5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 A time to search and a time to give up; a time to keep and a time to throw away;

7 A time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak;

8 A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.

 

With every season, there comes change.

With every change there comes an adjustment.

With every adjustment there comes another level of sacrifice.

With every sacrifice there comes another reward.

With every reward there comes yet another testimony of how you conquered defeat.

The decisions you make today will place you a step closer to the destiny to be fulfilled by your desires. Will you sell yourself short by giving in to a choice of instant gratification or stay on the course, which may require longsuffering, test your endurance or even your faith?

We live in such a microwave generation that we want everything at our fingertips right now! Don’t be fooled into thinking that modern technology has given us the right now luxury. Long before microwaves, cell phones, FaceTime and there being “an app for that,” my God gave His word of being a right now God.

Hebrews 11:1 KJV says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Now faith . . . Now faith . . . Now faith. Serving a right now God, the God who did it for Daniel in the lion’s den is the same God that can work your miracle for you RIGHT NOW!

Trust the process, better yet, pray and ask God to teach you to trust Him through the process. Ecclesiastes 1:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” I’m here to tell you God has not forgotten about you in this season. Those tears of pain had their season. It’s the season for tears of joy.

Those nights you walked up and down the halls worrying are over. Give it to God and go to sleep.

Proverbs 3:24 says, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” It’s your season to rest and watch the fruit of your labor come to harvest. The season of being last . . . you knew God wouldn’t let it last, it says such in His word. “So the last will be first, and the first will be last,” Matthew 20:16 KJV.

Luke 20:43 says, “Until I humble your enemies making them a footstool under your feet.” Fix your crown, it is your season to birth visions, nurture generations and be the example. Before you begin understanding seasons, you first have to understand who and whose you are. You are a child of God, the almighty king.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End,” Revelation 22:13 KJV. He said you were created in His image. My God is great; it is your season to walk in greatness. I encourage you to put one foot in front of the other and keep stepping until you step right into your dreams. Pray for guidance, pray for wisdom and pray for understanding this season.

About LaTangela: Entertainment is the pulse of LaTangela Fay. Singing is her first passion, being born into a musical family, her Grandfather, was a Gospel Singer and Baptist Minister. Her book, “A-Z, Lord Let It Define Me,” will be available soon. Among LaTangela’s accomplishments, she began her career as a radio personality at 15, for one of Louisiana’s leading Hip-Hop/R&B stations. She is also the Production Director and PSA Director. She has been awarded Women in Media’s Female Personality of the Year and represents many charitable organizations, including The American Heart and Stroke Association where she was awarded the Ambassador of the Year. LaTangela’s journey has been long but is nowhere near complete. God is not finished with her yet.

March 2016, Pastor's Perspective

Prophecies of Our Generation

by Rev. David Goza

DavidGozaPIC[1]There is no prophecy more important than the one found in the ninth chapter of Daniel. God sent his messenger Gabriel to explain to Daniel the consummation of the world.

I want to point out a few things about this chapter, which confound the biblical critics. They say that this book was written during the Maccabean rebellion in about 165 B.C. instead of 535 B.C. when Daniel was alive. These critics claim that this is not a prophecy concerning future history; rather it is already completed history that a forger made look like prophecy by putting Daniel’s name on it. It is supposed this would encourage Jews who were fighting for their lives during the Maccabean revolt. This is how liberal and many moderate pastors and theologians interpret Daniel. There are two things about the prophecy in chapter nine that refute this liberal position.

First, this prophecy predicts that the temple in Jerusalem is going to be destroyed. Let me ask you this, would such a prophecy encourage the Jews fighting for their lives? This is exactly what the Jews in the second century B.C. were fighting to keep from happening. Second, this same prophecy predicts that the Messiah is going to die. This was also unthinkable to the Jewish mind.

This is one of the most comprehensive yet concise prophecies to be found in the Bible. God sent Gabriel to explain to Daniel the future death of the Messiah and the later consummation of the world. In four verses all of human history is summed up, seventy sevens means 70 times 7 or 490 years.

In Daniel 9:25, “From the going forth of the command…to Messiah being cut off,” there will be 7 + 62 weeks = 69 = 483 years (360 day year). Nehemiah rebuilt the wall and city with the permission of the Persian King Artaxerxes. Thus from 444 B.C. to 33 A.D., we have exactly to the year when Jesus was crucified; “cut-off.” Sir Robert Anderson an investigator with Scotland Yard over a century ago wrote a classic book, “The Coming Prince.” In it he calculated by the use of astronomical calendars and charts that the day of the Messiah’s coming was April 6, A.D. 32.

Theologians throughout history have used this prophecy to prove the inspiration of God’s word. One of the greatest theologians in America, Jonathan Edwards wrote this:

“The Prophet Daniel is more particular in foretelling the time of Christ’s coming than ever any prophet had been before. He foretold, that it should be seventy weeks, i.e. seventy weeks of years, or seventy times seven years, which is four hundred and ninety years, from the decree to rebuild and restore the state of the Jews, till the Messiah should be crucified. This must be reckoned from the commission given to Ezra by Artaxerxes, whereby the very particular time of Christ’s crucifixion was pointed out, which never had been before.”

It is clear that Daniel’s Seventy Sevens is a sweeping prophecy that foretells the death of Jesus Christ and the coming tribulation period known as Daniel’s Seventieth Week. It is a prophecy that reveals the end of the world. When Jesus was asked how many times one should forgive a brother who wronged him . . . seven times? Jesus said, no, but, “seventy times seven,” a clear reference to Daniel chapter nine. In other words Jesus was saying, you must keep on forgiving your brother until the end of the world.

The apostle Paul went from city to city, to synagogues and he reasoned with them from the scripture. He no doubt showed them the prophecies of Daniel and the other prophets and explained how Christ fulfilled them all. That is why the church grew like it did. Only a closed-minded skeptic can deny Christ when faced with this kind of overwhelming proof.

What of our day? What of the future?

holy_bible4 unique prophecies to our generation that point to the soon return of Christ:

  1. “The Great Falling Away” (2 Thess. 2:3; 1 Tim. 4:1; Rev. 3:14-22). Most of us are already aware of the death of the church in Europe. Based on recent polls, most of us also know about the decline of Christianity in America. The great falling away has already fallen.
  2. Technology Explosion (Rev. 13:16-18). This is implied in the passage where John reveals that the Antichrist will have the ability to monitor the buying and selling of every human on earth through something called the Mark of the Beast. The advent of the computer age has made this possible for the first time in human history. No Roman emperor or middle age king or industrial age president could have accomplished this prophecy. The boat that took Xerxes to Greece to fight the Peloponnesian war was basically the same boat that brought the pilgrims to the New World 2000 years later. Today we are soon to send men to Mars!
  3. Population explosion: (Rev. 9-13-16). This again is implied in the passage where John states the King of the East will cross the Euphrates river with an army of 200 million men. For one country to field an army of 200 million there must be a much higher number in the general population. This was an outrageous claim in the first century; there were not 200 million people in the entire world. Today of course we know that China boasts of their ability to field an army of 200 million.
  4. Israel: The Bible predicts that Israel will be dispersed throughout the world and in the end times become a nation once again (Hosea 3). The Bible also predicts that Israel in the end times will be the source of the world’s problems. The whole world will gather against them. They will be like a stone around the world’s neck (Zechariah 12:3).

All four of these prophecies are unique to this generation! No other generation in human history has experienced this. Jesus said, “When you see these things begin to come to pass, then look up for your redemption draws near.” So what should we do? How should we live knowing that Christ can return at any time?

About David: Rev. Dr. David Goza, senior pastor of Jefferson Baptist Church, Baton Rouge. Dr. David Goza was born in Midwest City, Oklahoma, March 29, 1972. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Oklahoma, a Master of Divinity with emphasis in Biblical Languages from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Philosophy in Church History from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

He was licensed to the ministry by Country Estates Baptist Church, in Midwest City, Oklahoma, and ordained to the ministry by Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas. He was senior pastor of Davis Boulevard Baptist Church, North Richland Hills, Texas, and also served at Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas, and First Baptist Church, Euless, Texas. He has been married to Dana Campbell since 1998 and they have four children: Nathaniel, Alexander, William and Anna.

Healthy Life, March 2016

The Y is Giving Kids Their Best Summer Ever

by Kristen Hogan

YMCAMarchTrading stories and sharing a favorite book or song with a new friend; being greeted with smiles and high-fives from staff and teammates after scoring the winning point; always fitting in, just for being you—This is what the Y’s day camp is all about, and we are ensuring kids get more out of summer: more learning, more exploration and more achievement. For parents and guardians who enjoy seeing their child’s face glow when retelling a camp story, and want to see their child accomplish things, the Y encourages you to enroll them in the Y’s day camp.

The YMCA of the Capital Area day camp offers a mix of fun and educational activities aimed at improving kids’ well-being, such as swimming, health and wellness activities, arts and crafts, sports and more. Our program centers on three areas proven to impact kids’ development: friendship, accomplishment and belonging.

Working with SEER Analytics to find out how camp benefits kids, the Y recently surveyed nearly 30,000 parents and caregivers with kids enrolled in camp at nearly 190 Y associations nationwide. Ninety-two percent of parents/caregivers said they agreed the Y’s day camp program helped kids make new friends. In addition, 83 percent said they agreed the program helped their kids discover what they can achieve, while 87 percent agreed their child felt a sense of belonging at their Y camp. The Y’s day camp activities help kids grow socially, emotionally, cognitively and physically.

As a leading nonprofit committed to strengthening community through youth development, the Y offers so much more than a place to play and have fun. Through a holistic approach to youth development, the Y nurtures the potential of children and teens from birth to career to help them achieve in school and life. Through day camp and other youth development programs, the Y is working to keep kids active and address gaps in learning when school is not in session.

To learn more about the YMCA of the Capital Area day camp program, visit ymcabr.org/camp

March 2016

WATER: Back to the Foundation of True Health

Using water to speed up your weight-loss program, ignite your metabolism, and boost your energy levels.

by Ricky Pampo DTR, CSCS Holistic Nutrition/Sports/ Lifestyle Specialist

20160211_121254-2“Don’t you dare stop, you have 10 more reps left to change your life forever! Pain is temporary, success is forever!”

Has anyone ever inspired you with these types of words? Being in the health industry for two decades, I recall using similar challenging and inspirational phrases to get my clients to go beyond their comfort zone.

And here we go again — another year in the books and one in front of us. Have you written out and started your goals for 2016 yet? A better you, more blessings, better health, slimmer waistline, more workouts, better finances, etc. Whatever these goals are, keep them realistic, specific and focused.

Instead of discussing the latest health trends and fad diets, let’s get back to the true foundation of health: water. Water and proper hydration is a vital health topic often neglected and misunderstood. Our bodies are composed of 75 percent water, and to function properly water must be consumed daily. Most health professionals recommend consuming half your body weight in ounces.

According to top water experts, 75 percent of North Americans are chronically dehydrated and with mild dehydration, metabolism is reduced by as much as 3 percent. A lack of water is often the primary cause of daytime fatigue. Severe dehydration has been linked to constipation, depression, obesity, confusion, and mental fogginess.

Whether you need to lose weight or not water is vital for the body’s functions. Here are a few of its roles:glass-of-water

– Assists with digestion, absorption and assimilation of food nutrients

– Aids in excretion of waste from colon and kidneys

– Regulates body temperature

– Assists with distribution of nutrients around the body through the blood, which is 92 percent water

– Helps flush out lactic acid and other metabolic waste from body

In this day and age, proverbial Americans rely on bottled water for their primary hydration needs. When in fact, bottled water is extremely acidic and oxidizing to the body. According to tests conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council, 25 percent of bottled water tested contained bacteria, arsenic and chemicals that exceeded the FDA’s recommended levels. For this reason, it is extremely important for Americans to consume the right type of water.

The healthiest societies around the world have consumed a special type of water for decades that has super hydrating, highly anti-oxidant and alkalizing properties. The Japanese have led this group of the healthiest countries according to the World Health Organization. Since the 60s, Japanese scientists and medical clinics have implemented special water technology that cleans and ionizes tap water to create “Kangen” water, which means, “return to origin.” According to Dr. Hiromi Shinya, inventor of the colonoscopy, “Kangen water is an alkaline-rich water (pH of 8-9) and is considered the very best drinking water because of its incomparable powers of hydration, detoxification and anti-oxidation.”

So as you begin your wellness journey to achieve the best you, remember to start with the optimal amount of the best type of water. As you return your body to its origin of health through proper hydration, your body will reap the maximum benefits from your workout and nutrition plans.

Fore more information visit http://www.kangenfitpro.yourbodyiswater.com and contact Ricky Pampo for free samples.

About Ricky:

Pampo Wellness, Founder. Holistic Fitness Trainer/ Nutritionist /Hydration Specialist. Ultra-runner, Natural Pro Athlete, Chief Karate Instructor LSU Karate Club. “Your Partner in True Health and Wellness”.

Healthy Life, March 2016

5 Things Dietitians Order at Restaurants

by Stephanie Ryan Malin

Family-Meal-TimeWe’re three months into the new year – are you still sticking to that resolution to eat healthier? Whether you’re going strong in the nutrition department or you’re struggling to stay on track, chances are at some point you’ve encountered the challenge of a restaurant menu. It can be difficult to navigate tasty menu options when you’re away from home, so the registered dietitians at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center compiled a few of their favorite options for dining out that are full of flavor but low on calories.

Mexican: While you might be enticed by the fried options, one flavorful choice with a fresh twist is grilled fish tacos. “The grilled fish is a good lean protein choice, and it typically comes with fresh slaw, pico de gallo and a bit of guacamole to put on top. It has the added benefit of some extra nutrients from the veggies and healthy fat from the avocado,” said registered dietitian Renee Puyau.

Greek or Lebanese: A lighter selection that packs plenty of flavor is a chicken shawarma meal. The grilled chicken is an excellent low-fat lean protein lunch choice that can help keep you full until dinner. You can double up on the salad as a side item to make sure you are getting plenty of fiber, plus you will still have room to enjoy pita bread without consuming too many carbohydrates.

Breakfast: A great on-the-go option offered at many fast food restaurants is oatmeal with fruit or nuts on top. It’s a favorite for dietitian Cathy Carmichael when she’s traveling. Oatmeal can help you feel fuller longer, so you may not be tempted to snack before lunchtime. Topping it with nuts can provide additional protein and healthy fats. Some added fruit ensures a little sweetness while offering antioxidants and vitamin C.

Coffee treat: It’s easy to forget how many calories some beverages can contain, but it’s not difficult to shave off the calories in your favorite early-morning or mid-afternoon coffee indulgence. Try the low-fat versions that are often offered, such as a low-fat café au lait, and ask for 2% or skim milk as an alternative to full-fat milk. At many coffee houses, you can get a large café au lait with skim milk for the same calorie count as a small version of the full-fat drink. Who doesn’t want extra coffee for fewer calories?

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Louisiana classics: Sometimes you just can’t pass up the original. If that oyster po’boy is calling your name or you’re craving shrimp étouffée, it’s fine to splurge once in a while. The key to not falling off the bandwagon with delicious Louisiana classics is to order healthier side dishes—instead of french fries, try a side salad with light dressing. Instead of a loaded baked potato, opting for a fresh vegetable mix can help keep the calorie count low enough to leave the restaurant guilt-free.

When friends from Boston visited and wanted to try authentic New Orleans gastronomy, Carmichael ordered blue crab beignets for the first course, but saved on calories with later courses. “I balanced our appetizer choice by ordering beef tenderloin for my entrée, and then I decided to pass on dessert,” she said.

If you know ahead of time that portion sizes will be large, ask for a to-go box when you order and stash half of your meal away for later and avoid the temptation to overeat.

Pennington Biomedical offers quarterly nutrition and wellness classes with community partners. To find out details on where and when they’ll be offering free educational opportunities, follow them on Facebook (Facebook.com/PenningtonBiomedical) and Twitter (@penningtonbiomed). For more on how you can participate in Pennington Biomedical’s health research, visit www.pbrc.edu/healthierLA.

Learning For Life, March 2016

LSU Cru Helps Students Build a Relationship With Christ

by Lisa Tramontana

Young people are faced with big decisions regarding their careers, their relationships, and their education. But perhaps the most important decision is the one that often gets pushed to the background.

Faith.

What do I believe? What is my purpose? What is God’s plan for me?

cru.lsu team 2015These are the questions that LSU Cru staff members try to help young people answer — through prayer, reflection and reading God’s Word. Cru offers spiritual guidance, resources and programs tailored for people from all cultures and walks of life. Its ministries include athletic outreaches, church partnerships, family and marriage outreaches, and programs that address poverty and other social issues. Cru is also responsible for 6.5 billion exposures to the Gospel through “The Jesus Film,” which has been translated in more than 1,300 languages and shown all over the world.

Cru officially started as Campus Crusade for Christ, founded in 1951 by Bill and Vonette Bright on the campus of UCLA. It quickly became an international organization training thousands of young people in evangelism and discipleship. Today, the organization is comprised of 29 different ministries and projects in 173 nations around the world.

At the college level, Cru creates partnerships between U.S. campuses and those in other parts of the world. LSU’s “sister” college is the University of Bologna in Bologna, Italy, and an LSU group makes the trip there each summer for four to six weeks. A Cru staff team of eight is based there year-round. “Our purpose is to help others build a relationship with Christ, engage with their Creator, hear God’s Word and grow spiritually,” said Ali Enos, a senior staff member who has worked with LSU Cru for 16 years.

In Bologna, young people are very open to the idea of hearing God’s Word, Enos said, and there are many opportunities for Cru members to connect with them. A daily lunch on campus creates a friendly atmosphere for the Italian students to talk about their culture and show off their city to their American visitors. But more important, Enos said, is that young Italians are very relational, eager to debate, discuss and share their opinions in a tolerant, respectful way.

cru..italian cafe“We have a movie night once a week,” Enos said, “and the film we choose always has some redemptive theme, giving us an opportunity to discuss the spiritual aspects of our lives and invite the Italian students to learn more. There is also a daily ‘aperitivo’ in the evenings when people enjoy appetizers. It’s another chance for us to make new friends and introduce them to our thoughts on having a personal relationship with Christ.”

Enos finds her work gratifying because she knows firsthand what it is like to be young and in search of a purpose in life. “I was the typical college student who liked to go out and party,” she said. “But I was looking for meaning in all the wrong places. I would come home, stare at the ceiling and ask myself, ‘Is this all there is?’”

Eventually, a friend introduced her to the Gospel and Enos became a Christian. “I fell in love with Jesus and what He did for me,” she said. “My life changed. My friend taught me the difference between religion and having a true relationship with Christ.”

cru.italian friendUntil then, she said, she had looked to other people for her identity. She cared too much about what others thought of her. “When I became a Christian, I found my identity through Christ. Other people’s opinions of me didn’t dominate my thinking and it was very freeing.”

Enos is proud of the relationships she has formed and the students she has influenced over the years. “You don’t need a degree in theology to bring people to Christ,” she said. “And you don’t have to go to Africa to be a missionary. You can do God’s work wherever you are. I am grateful that God has used me the way he has. Over the years I’ve had students (and their parents, too) come up and thank me for sharing God’s Word. I don’t have children of my own, but I have ‘spiritual’ children, which makes me really happy.”

Cru has been life-changing for many others as well. Vicky Benton says that during her college years at LSU, the Word of God came alive because of the training and opportunities provided by Cru.

cru.sorority bible study“I was blown away with the joy I experienced seeing God work through me to impact the lives of others,” she said. “I experienced the power of the Scriptures as I heard many outstanding speakers teach in a way that I’d not heard up to that point. I was able to rub shoulders with and be mentored by some of the most exceptional people I have ever known. Their impact lives inside me today.”

Benton later earned a degree in counseling — partly, she says, from the discovery that she loved investing in the lives of others. “Cru’s recruitment motto to join them full time after graduation was ‘Come help change the world!’ But really … I’m the one who was changed, and I will be forever grateful!”

For more information on Cru’s ministries, programs and activities, visit Cru.org.

Geaux Life, March 2016

To Give is to Receive

Visit to Navajo Reservation Enlightens CHS Students

by Lisa Tramontana

The CHS guys at Window Rock, the capital of the Navajo NationFor the young men of Catholic High School who have participated in the annual mission trip to Klagetoh, Arizona, the memories are positive and powerful. But one experience stands out. It is a powerful Native American ceremony designed to cleanse and purify both mind and body, and it is the culmination of the missionaries’ week on a Navajo reservation.

The sweat lodge ceremony is central to the spiritual life and culture of many Native American tribes. Participants are seated shoulder to shoulder in a small igloo-shaped structure that is airtight and pitch black. Heated rocks are brought into a pit in the center of the lodge and water is poured over them, creating a hot steam bath effect. Conducted by a Navajo spiritual leader, the ceremony is a physical form of prayer that includes discussions about spiritual beliefs, struggles and life goals.

“It makes an unforgettable impression on our students,” said Scott Losavio, CHS campus minister. “It’s the perfect way to end an amazing week.”

Junior Jake Schexnaildre gives a piggyback ride to a very happy Bible schoolerSt. Anne Mission in Klagetoh was established in 1927 by the Franciscan Friars to serve several communities on the Navajo Reservation. In the early 1990s, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart and the Dominican Sisters became involved, sending mission groups throughout the year to provide sacramental ministry and to promote spiritual growth and development. The mission features a food bank, AA counseling, a youth program and other services designed to uplift and empower a population that struggles with poverty, poor education and alcohol abuse.

At Catholic High, eight students are selected each year to participate (along with six students from St. Joseph Academy). “It is a bit selective,” said Losavio, “because we can only take a very small group.”

Orientation begins on the day the group arrives, with a special Mass, followed by a hike through a national park. A focus on nature, a key component of Native American beliefs, is an important part of the mission trip experience, Losavio said. The week also includes a visit to Gallup, New Mexico, known as the Native American capital of the world.

CHS religion teacher Scott Manning has chaperoned the trip for nine years. “Our students help lead activities during a weeklong vacation Bible school,” he said. “This includes songs, Scripture lessons, arts and crafts, and outdoor games.” (And over the years, the local children have come to expect non-stop piggy back rides from their Catholic High visitors.)

Senior Ethan Treigle with one of the youth from the missionForty to 50 children of all ages participate in the Bible school, some who live in a housing development near the mission, others who live on family property surrounding the area. Evenings are spent with elderly residents, playing bingo, sharing meals, or just talking and visiting.

“We don’t go there to teach Catholic doctrine,” Manning said. “We talk to the kids on a fundamental level about God. We want them to know that God loves them and that they are special. We want them to come away from the experience knowing that someone truly cares about them, accepts them, and wants the best for their lives and their futures.”

Manning says Klagetoh is a special experience for him because he has personally witnessed some of the Navajo children growing up. “I’ve had the opportunity to see some of them go from 5 years old to 14,” he said. “It’s rewarding that they come up to me and remember me from past years. We’ve made a real connection.”

Junior Taylor Empson helps out with arts and craftsThe effect on Catholic High’s young missionaries is remarkable as well. “For a short time,” Manning said, “they give up the comforts of their lives at home in Baton Rouge, and they gain a better understanding of what it means to answer the call to serve and what it means to be a faithful Christian.”

The students agree. “It allowed me to connect with a group of amazing people from Catholic High and St. Joseph’s, and it showed me how little things are sometimes the most important (like piggyback rides),” said junior Caleb Dugas. “The daily interactions with the kids on the reservation has stayed with me. Just spending time playing with them was a blessing. With the beautiful scenery, daily activities, and my experience in the sweat lodge, I was able to see the world in a different, peaceful way.”

Senior Breton Green talked about the interpersonal connections. “The kids got used to us very easily and vice versa. They treated us like family. They appreciated us. The trip has forever changed me because I now realize how important it is to ‘be present’ for others and I see how much it means to people when you show you care.”

The entire mission group with some of the youth on the last day of Bible schoolJake Schexnaildre, a junior, says he has changed as well. “Playing with kids who were raised in a different culture and lifestyle gave me a new appreciation for the life I have had. The children’s innocence and constant joy inspired me to look at life with a different outlook. Every child’s innocence and joy can be found if they receive the attention they deserve.”

For information on the annual mission trip to Klagetoh, Arizona, contact Manning at smanning@catholichigh.org.

Family Life, March 2016

It Takes Forgiveness and the Lord to Make a Marriage Work, Bilberrys say

by Mark H. Hunter
Rev. Dr. Jesse B. Bilberry Jr., and his bride of 63 years, Verta Lee Hamilton Bilberry, hold hands while sitting on the couch in their Glen Oaks neighborhood home. photo by mark h hunter
Rev. Dr. Jesse B. Bilberry Jr., and his bride of 63 years, Verta Lee Hamilton Bilberry, hold hands while sitting on the couch in their Glen Oaks neighborhood home. photo by mark h hunter

The first time the Rev. Dr. Jesse Bernard Bilberry, Jr., senior pastor of Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, asked Verta Lee Hamilton to go out with him she refused.

One of Baton Rouge’s more prominent Christian couples, they celebrated 63 years of marriage on Dec. 23, 2015. He is still preaching at 86, and involved in local, state and national issues of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. She is 83, and only recently, due to health issues, retired from decades of playing the piano for church children’s programs and teaching music at the Louisiana State School for the Blind.

It was 1948. He was a sophomore and she was a freshman at Southern University. They’d seen each other in high school but never met.

He played basketball for Farmerville high, which used the court at her high school in Monroe, 29 miles away. Later they rode the train – but not together – from Monroe to Vicksburg, Miss., to Baton Rouge and back.

They were introduced by a friend of hers who encouraged Verta Lee to date him. After all, he was tall and athletic and was a popular actor in the River Bend Players drama club.

“When I found out he was from Farmerville, I told him, ‘No, I don’t want to go with no country boy!’” she says with a laugh during a visit to their comfortable home in the Glen Oaks neighborhood. “I was a city girl. No indeed! No country boy for me!”

In between classes he worked at the School for the Deaf and she was a music major who practiced piano in a building he often walked past.

“So, I’d speak to him nice, and he’d say ‘hello’ and ‘how are you doin?,’ and I’d say, ‘Okay – but I got to practice now and I can’t do any talkin’,” she says with another laugh.

She even gave him a false name neither can now remember. Maybe it was Doris, she says.

Finally they went on a Friday night date to the movie theater.

“I don’t know if we paid too much attention to the movie,” he says with a big smile and she laughs.

They both became Christians at an early age and regularly attended church.

BRCL Bilberrys family 3 pix mhh-2Jesse is the firstborn son of a Baptist pastor – but that was a problem for her in dating him and later in their marriage.

“I told him when we first started courting that if he was going to be a preacher like his daddy we can cut this off right now ‘cause I don’t want no preacher. I loved dancing!,” she says. “I never smoked, didn’t drink, none of that – but dancing? I do that all day and all night!”

He never planned to be a pastor, he told her. He graduated from Southern in 1951, with a degree in social studies and English.

They got engaged, she was a junior, and he got drafted into the Army. His unit went to Korea but he was assigned to Germany. “They all said, ‘Bilberry – you lucky stiff!’” he says with a big grin.

Upon his honorable discharge and return to the states, he picked her up in his car at school, drove to Monroe, and they got married Dec. 23, 1953.

“I didn’t want a big fancy wedding, that wasn’t my thing,” she says. They had a simple service in her parent’s house performed by his father with relatives as witnesses.

BRCL Bilberrys fireplace mantle portrait mhh-2For awhile they worked in different school systems and had to live apart. She taught music at Jonesborough and he was principal at Tensas Rosenwald High School, a segregated school in St. Joseph, 140 miles away. “That was a rough time,” he said. When a music position opened in his district they got back together.

“She was a good teacher and didn’t interfere with my administration – it was a beautiful thing,” he said. I didn’t know the Lord was getting us ready for another experience.”

He attended LSU for two summers, earning his master’s degree in education in 1957. He was the only black male student on the still-segregated campus.

Daughter Cassandra was born in 1958, and she now runs Mt. Pilgrim’s children’s programs.

They moved to Baton Rouge when he was hired at Southern University as director of the Freshman Complex, then promoted to the High School Relations Office, and then to director of the Admissions Office. She taught music at the School for the Blind, retiring in the 1990s.

They began attending Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church in 1975, and he was voted a deacon. In the early 1980s, while driving to Natchez, Miss., they survived a head-on collision that, he says, clarified God’s call on his life.

“People who saw that station wagon said, ‘Nobody got out of there alive,’” he said, “and I’m standin’ there lookin’ at that station wagon sayin’ how in the world did we come out of that still alive?”

He told Verta Lee that God was calling him to preach and she didn’t like it. “If I’d wanted to marry a preacher I would have,” she said.

“I started talkin’ to the Lord,” he says, ‘If you called me to preach and you hear my wife how she’s carryin’ on if I start preachin’ – He told me and made it plain, ‘you do what I called you to do and leave your wife in my hands.’”

Six months later, while on a SU recruiting trip to Florida, Verta Lee purchased a book for him, “Why the Church Must Teach,” a signal of her acceptance.

“I started reading that book and said, ‘Lord have mercy,’” he says with a big smile.

He was ordained as an associate minister at Mount Pilgrim and was elected by the congregation to the pulpit on Jan. 16, 1984.

“She is an excellent pastor’s wife,” he said. “The congregation loves her more than me!”

When she was asked about it, she sat back and waved both her hands in praise. “Ooooohhh Lord! I didn’t think I wanted to be one but – really – the Lord has really blessed me.”

“He is the pastor and I pray for him every day for the Lord to give him wisdom and the understanding he needs to be able to teach all of us the Bible,” she said.

SO WHAT’S THEIR SECRET?

Cassandra Gail Bilberry joins her parents, Rev. Dr. Jesse B. Bilberry, Jr., and First Lady Verta Lee Hamilton Bilberry on the couch in their comfortable Glen Oaks neighborhood home. photo by mark h hunter
Cassandra Gail Bilberry joins her parents, Rev. Dr. Jesse B. Bilberry, Jr., and First Lady Verta Lee Hamilton Bilberry on the couch in their comfortable Glen Oaks neighborhood home. photo by mark h hunter

“In marriage some things will happen that you don’t like but you have to be strong enough to understand that there are gonna be some times that everything’s not gonna be peaches and cream all the time,” she said. “We are together so we must do things together. If you make a mistake I have to forgive you and if I make a mistake you have to forgive me and let’s go right ahead.”

“You got to have a third person. You got to have the Lord in your marriage – you can’t do it without Him,” he adds. “Marriage belongs to God. He has already defined marriage. I just go by the book.”

Family Life, March 2016

God’s Mercy

by Tonya Woodridge-Jarvis

PicutureThere’s an old song that says, “God’s mercy kept us so I wouldn’t let go!”

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness,” Lamentations 3:22-23.

He hung, bled and died for our sins. He gave his only begotten son for our sins. They whipped him all-night long for our sins. They pierced his hands and feet for our sins. He went through all of that so we could continuously win.

In the 1962 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Harper Lee, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a well-respected white lawyer defends a black man against fabricated rape charges. The trial exposes children of both races to the evils of racism and stereotyping.  In this era, blacks and whites were segregated in some parts of the world. But as the story goes, the well-respected white lawyer represented a black man and won. While this could easily be a piece about courage, think about the adversity they both faced during this time. Think about the mercy and compassion the lawyer clearly had for his client, and the trust the client had, which would have been quite difficult during this era. They threatened his family and threw burning bricks into his home, but he took the case anyway. This book sparked so much controversy that it was banned in some places.

In today’s society, we are still faced with racism and various adversities on a daily basis. But in the Kingdom and on judgment day neither creed nor color will matter when God says, “well done.” God extends his mercy to us through his love. Shouldn’t we do the same for all of God’s creatures? He provides for us when we’re not worthy; he protects us when we’re not worthy, and he keeps giving us chances to start over with another day.

So tomorrow when you start over, ask yourself, “Since God grants me mercy through his love on a daily basis, whom shall I grant the gift of mercy to today?” If God saw fit to redeem you, shouldn’t you see fit to redeem someone else? Show God’s love in action on a consistent basis not only to people you know but to strangers as well. After all, you can’t live to your fullest potential without God’s gift of mercy and love.

Faith Life, March 2016

To Change a Life: The Miraculous Story of Michael Panther

by Beth Townsend

tigerstadiumgradHow does a sick child in a Sudanese refugee camp become Homecoming King at one of the largest university campuses in the country?

“My story is possible because of them,” Michael Panther says as he nods knowingly at his adoptive family. Tears welled in every eye in the room as he continued, “I would not be able to tell my story if they had not listened to God. This is a God-story and a complete miracle. If this family were going to choose a kid to adopt, they could have chosen from 100,000 kids that are less dependent. Why did they choose me? It is something every night I look back and see that God has a purpose in my life.”

Dr. Timothy C. Mead and his wife Jana had already chosen the route less traveled. As missionaries, originally from Michigan, they currently live in the Philippines where they are helping open a new hospital. Jana laughed and added, “I married Tim for his money, then he decided to go into missions!”

In 2005 while working in Kenya with Cure International, they met Michael. He was born and spent his younger years in South Sudan during its civil war. When he was 10 years old he become so ill that he could no longer run. Seeking medical treatment during that war was nearly impossible. Unable to find help, a divine appointment would soon offer miraculous hope.

michaelandmeadfam“One night a small plane landed in that area doing humanitarian work. Someone asked if they could take me to Kenya,” Michael recalled. “They don’t take a lot of people because there are so many in need. They made an exception to bring my father and I along. We looked for treatment, yet no one knew what was wrong. I was getting weaker and sicker. We heard that doctors were coming from Nairobi and that they were going to see patients. Thankfully, they saw me and said they would bring me to the hospital and do spine surgery.”

The Meads ran outreaches in seven or eight areas around Kenya. The refugee camps had been there for 10 years with approximately 100,000 refugees. As an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Mead explained Michael’s situation.

“He had a tuberculosis infection eating away the vertebrae of his upper back. The trachea was damaged and very restricted. He was paralyzed and had a big abscess that required surgery. Plus the TB treatments last for nine months.” The surgery was the beginning of a long process.

“We put a tube in his chest the first day and he quit breathing. He went into cardiac arrest. They put a trach [tracheostomy tube] in,” Dr. Mead explained. Proper treatment required extensive planning. After reaching out to numerous experts, the Meads were left with few options due to the risks involved. Refusing to give up, Dr. Mead decided to perform the surgery himself.

“We did the surgery, got his breathing regulated, [and] then he had trouble with scar tissue,” he recalled. “Once that was corrected, his motor functions came back and he was walking with crutches. Then he had a spinal cord stroke and he went paralyzed again.”

From his wheelchair, Michael nodded as Dr. Mead continued, “We would love to have his walk back. Yet, he was so sick, we never thought he would live through this. Our spiritual team would come and pray over him every day. He learned to speak English and we all became good friends.”

homecomingkingqueenMichael had been able to witness the thread of miraculous events. Though he was aware he had defeated the odds by making it through the illness and surgery, he still was paralyzed. He began to fear what lay ahead.

“I asked God, ‘Why did you do this to me?’ So I could look forward to suffering in a wheelchair in the refugee camp? It gave me a lot depression,” Michael said.

Jana recalled those moments saying, “Michael would call us when he was not doing well, so I came to visit him. Then I heard Jesus. He said, ‘I want you to take care of Michael.’ As Michael was talking to me from across the room, I was talking, in my mind, to Jesus saying, ‘but I don’t know Michael!’ He kept saying to me, ‘I want you to take care of Michael.’”

She decided to talk to her husband about it, informing Tim that, “God told me that we have to take care of Michael.” She continued saying, “Tim said, ‘Ok, if God said we have to take care of Michael, then we will take care of Michael.’” Jana began the process of looking for schools with the help of another missionary friend. Michael had no prior schooling other than a bit of “under the tree” writing in the dirt in South Sudan, which required a three-mile walk.

They began to look for a school that would take him in seventh grade, finding only one that agreed. “It was a school for kids with mental and physical disability. The conditions are sad. We cried when we saw how they live,” she recalled. “He did well, but when we would visit he was skinny because they would just serve rice. We would fatten him up when he would come home and send him back.”

“He went half the year in seventh grade and the whole year in eighth grade,” she continued. “He had to take an exam to qualify to get into high school. If you got 250 out of 500 you passed. If you got 300 you were doing great. If you got 350 you could go to any high school you wanted to; he scored 394.” Michael was enrolled in Hillcrest Secondary School in Nairobi, Kenya.

Michael’s family, still in Sudan, came to visit, but due to the lengthy recovery they could not stay. Once his father realized that he was going to be able to go to school and get the help he needed he gave written permission for the Meads to become Michael’s legal guardians.

Michael came to live permanently with his new family when he was 16-years-old. During his senior year in high school he visited the U.S., to begin considering a college education. The Meads had long-time friend, Alicia Hoard, in Baton Rouge, and it was determined that Michael would attend LSU.

michaelandaliciaHoard says that she has loved having Michael as part of her family. “On a daily basis, he demonstrates trusting in a God without limits. I am a single mom with two adopted children from Kazakhstan. Lexie and Michael love and look up to ‘Big Michael,’ as they call him, as their big brother,” she says. “He provides a living example of all things being possible with God and that a thankful heart is a joyful heart! I have never heard Big Michael complain about anything. These are valuable lessons, not just for my kids, but also for me and for all who have the privilege to encounter him.”

Recently, he graduated with a degree in economics. His plans are yet to be finalized, but Michael is confident that the same God who directed his steps is still leading. He smiled saying, “That is a God-thing. He always has his plan and I am looking forward to what he has for me next.” Michael attends The Chapel on the Campus where he is involved in the International Ministry as well as the Refuge college ministry.

One of the highlights of Michael’s time at LSU was his election as Homecoming King. He was also president of the International Student Association. Michael says that being involved in student government offered him many experiences. He laughed saying, “In the middle of the semester people started nominating me for homecoming court. I was like, ‘I am not one of those kind of people who do this. Look at me!’’’

happygradMichael continued saying, “I didn’t want to do it, but many said, ‘Go for it, give it a try.’ So I applied then was selected for an interview. From the interviews they select three seniors, then the student body votes. They don’t announce it until halftime at the homecoming game. I heard my name and I was surprised. It was such an honor!”

The family came to celebrate his graduation from LSU. Jana beamed at his accomplishments as she thought back. “Our older three kids were out of the house when we took Michael in. Our youngest, Abbey, was still there so for her it was a transition,” she explained. “Yet, they consider Michael their brother. We have given him a home with siblings. He missed out on that with his biological siblings; he was the oldest. It has been good and a lot of fun.”

When asked if she would recommend this route to others, Jana smiled confidently then answered saying, “Sure, but only if God tells you. If we do it in our own strength it doesn’t work. It is interesting how God supported us financially for the cost of the high school and college. We feel privileged to see what God is going to do in his life.”

Dr. Mead summed it up saying, “It has to do with Lordship. Our experience with Michael started back when I was in private practice 15-years before we became missionaries. We went to Kenya in 1997 for our ‘once in a lifetime trip,’ never to be repeated, for one month. The Cure Hospital was not even built, so the founder stayed with us and started sharing the vision.” Soon after, they became missionaries.

excitedgrad“We are excited to see how God will use Michael,” Dr. Mead continued. “If he had fully recovered from TB he would be back in Sudan now. That was not God’s plan. He will have opportunities to share some of the struggles of being disabled. It has shown us just how difficult it is, even in a state school — how much is not handicap accessible.”

The Meads are a unique family of faith. Jana recalled with tears, Michael’s will to live when they first met him. She turned to her son and proudly said, “Even before you got sick, you were determined, walking three hours to get to school. You wanted an education and had determination; you were going to make it. God planted that in you from the beginning. You just graduated [from] LSU! I am very proud of you.” The room was clearly filled with the spirit of love as Dr. Mead added, “It is worth it to change a life.”

March 2016

Returning Home: Michael and Patricia Bryan Share the Gospel with Jews in the Promised Land

by Susan Brown

589F7049-5400-4EC0-90BF-611E49BE381DMichael Bryan never thought he’d move to Israel to work in a Christian church. But God’s call through circumstances and world events has drawn him back to the promised land, a small personal step in what he sees as the unfolding fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy.

Raised in a Reformed Jewish home in the U.S., he learned to keep the High Holy Days and recite the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might…”[1] He was taught that belief in Jesus as Messiah was meshuga – just crazy.

Now, as a believer, he brings the richness of his Jewish heritage into a traditional Passover Seder that points to Jesus as the Christ. It is an opportunity to experience the Passover celebration as Jesus and his disciples experienced it just before his crucifixion.

The Messianic Passover Seder is planned for Saturday, April 23, 2016 (16 Nissan 5776 on the Jewish calendar) at the Embassy Suites Hotel. Bryan and his wife, Patricia, plan to return to Baton Rouge from Israel, sensing God’s call to use their gifts of teaching and hospitality. Some 110 people attended the Seder last year.

Messianic.SederGraphicThe event is hosted by Wild Olive Branches Institute of Christian Studies, King’s Harvest Fellowship Church in Walker, Grace & Truth Church in Baton Rouge, Lighthouse Church in Grand Isle, and Crossroads Church in Belle Chasse, among others. The cost is $48 for adults and $26.50 for children under 12.

“It will be a time of refreshing and celebration of Yeshua (Jesus) as our Passover Lamb-Redeemer and Coming King,” Bryan said. “We welcome all who want to know more about prophetic scripture.”

“As followers of Yeshua, Israel is our measuring line,” Bryan explained. “If we in America as a nation stand with Israel, we will stay under God’s umbrella of blessing and protection: ‘I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you’ (Genesis 12:2, 3). God means what He said in His Word.”

On God’s timeline, Bryan explained, Israel’s feasts (Leviticus 23) represent both milestones in Israel’s history and God’s work through Jesus. Four prophetic feasts have been fulfilled in world history: The Feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread represent Jesus’ redemptive blood and the harvest of souls fulfilled in his crucifixion. The Feast of First Fruits was fulfilled in Jesus’ resurrection, as the Bread of Life and the male lamb without blemish.

97377114-C88F-48F5-8524-109ACA5E9946“The Feast of Shavuot (Festival of Weeks) was fulfilled at Pentecost after which Peter preached and 3,000 Jews gave their hearts to Yeshua (Jesus),” Bryan said. It commemorates the annual wheat harvest and the time the Lord gave the Torah (Word) to the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai.

“We’re waiting. At some point we’re going to hear a trumpet blow, there’s going to be a day of judgment and then we’re going to dwell with the Lord for a millennium. And that picture is the last three feasts,” Bryan said. In the meantime, believers should be encouraged because God is always up to something.

“Doing nothing is impossible with God. He is actively doing something,” Bryan said. “God can work through the unrighteous, through the situations. We believers get our eyes on the natural more than we should. Instead, we should be focusing on the promises of God. If God says give thanks in everything, then give thanks.”

While the role of the Jewish people has always been to bless the nations, the role of the Gentiles is to provoke them to jealousy – a desire for God, Bryan said (Romans 11:11). Their personal experience illustrates these roles. While working for Dow Chemical in Houston, Texas, he and Patricia became friends. Then, Patricia’s mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was amazed at the peace and security her family felt as her life neared its end. “They had perfect peace, because mom was going to be with Jesus,” Bryan said. “I couldn’t get my head around it, I couldn’t.”

4E0EC3B2-F54A-419B-809D-CFEF64887ED2-1Patricia, who was saved at age 9, was a member of an Assembly of God church in Houston. She quickly asked God to remove him from her life when she realized he did not believe Jesus was deity. “And the Lord said to me, ‘but I love him and I want him, and if you will be still, I will have him.’ Those words went into my heart – how much he loved the Jewish people.”

The next day, he called and asked to go to church with her. “I was provoked to jealousy and in my arrogance I didn’t care what the truth was – either Jesus is the Son of God or he’s not, I don’t care much which it is, I just want to know,” Bryan said. After church one Sunday, the congregation joined hands to sing worship songs, forming a circle around the couple who remained seated with a sleeping 6-year-old.

“I was an unbeliever and I knew the Spirit of God was in that room,” he said. He asked God for a sign – a very Jewish thing to do – and soon afterwards, sitting in the car, had an unexplainable experience that removed all doubt.

Since then, Bryan has pastored churches in Houston, Texas and Maryland. When the couple returned to Patricia’s Baton Rouge roots five years ago, Michael resumed work as an accountant and conducted Messianic Awakening Seminars. Their youngest son, Chad Holland, who was sleeping in his father’s lap that day, is now the senior pastor of King of Kings Community, a large messiah-centered church in Israel.

BE5E84FB-49A2-4D4A-8F72-CE67061ABDD7Last summer, they received an unexpected call. Would he take an administrative role at his son’s church in Jerusalem? The Bryans see this new role as partial fulfillment of end times prophesy.

“God’s word tells us there will be a regathering of his ancient chosen people, the Jews, before Yeshua returns for his bride. Many Jews from all over the world have been going home to Israel,” he said, partly as a result of the threat of terrorism demonstrated in recent events in London and Paris.

“More Jews ‘made Aliya’ [return] to Israel last year than in the last 25 years because anti-Semitism is rising again in Europe. And they’re not going to sit around and go to the ghettos or the camps. It isn’t going to happen.”

“Because Israel is predominately a secular society, it’s a very fertile mission field,” Bryan said. “I’m going to work a job for my son in the administration of that community, but I don’t think that’s why God is sending us. He’s sending us to be us, to meet people and engage them to share the good news. Hopefully, to let the light of Yeshua shine through us.”

IMG_1196To arrange speaking engagements or receive the email newsletter, contact the Bryans at michaelandpatriciaisrael@gmail.com. For information about Messianic Awakening Seminars, contact Pastor Jim Woodard, The Crossroads Church, at jim@mycrossroads.com.

[1] The complete Shema is found in Dt 6:4-9, 11:13-21; Nu 15:37-41

April 2015, Faith Life

Manners of the Heart

by Susan Brown

Group1A quiet revolution is beginning to take hold in schools across the nation, a reaction to an avalanche of disciplinary issues including disrespect, rebellion and disregard for the well-being of others. Manners of the Heart takes a set of universal life principles and applies them creatively to a child’s world. The curriculum is based on the core concept that good behavior is not just a set of rules, it’s a matter of the heart.

“We do a lot of work to engage children’s imaginations because we believe that if you unlock the heart, the mind will open,” said Founder/Executive Director Jill Rigby Garner. “It’s an attitude of the heart that’s self-giving, not self-serving; it’s open hands, not closed hands; it’s what you give, not what you take.”

According to a 2013-2014-research study conducted by Southeastern Louisiana University, schools that implemented MOH saw a 28-30 percent reduction in discipline referrals. Teachers saw a significant decline in conduct problems and hyperactivity. They reported significant improvements in prosocial behavior including strategies to remain calm, influence others and react appropriately to unexpected situations.

Schools in the study gained at least 15 points on their school performance scores. Significant gains were reported in academic achievement measured by standardized test scores and report cards. In addition to five-day-a-week instruction in the classroom, MOH offers Professional Educator Development, and Professional Parent Development. “Throughout the years, time and time again, a principal will say that they’ve witnessed as much change within their faculty as they did with their students,” Garner said. “It’s changed all of us.”

Manners of the Heart has also blossomed into popular parenting books penned by Jill including: “Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World,” (with small group study guide) and “Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World.”

© Jason Cohen Photography
© Jason Cohen Photography

“I really believe Manners of the Heart is my mother’s legacy,” Garner said. Her mother, Evelyn McDonald, grew up in dire poverty outside of Natchez, Miss., in a home with five daughters who used tree stumps for chairs. She walked along the railroad tracks into town, past white-columned antebellum mansions and dreamed that one day she would have a little girl who would become a “lady.” Although she didn’t have money, she was equipped with respect and compassion. She knew how to behave in ways that honored the people around her. In other words, she had manners.

“Sometimes when you’ve come out of the most difficult circumstances it will either harden you or it will soften you,” Garner said. Her mother’s combination of hard work, self-discipline and compassion made an impression on her children.

“I started out life in the playpen of a diner where she was working” [in Vicksburg], Garner said. Her father left when they discovered she was pregnant. Garner and her mother moved into a rented room above the Downtown Vicksburg diner.

“She would come down and open the diner for breakfast at 4:30 a.m.,” Garner said. “They took a table out of the corner booth, put a playpen in it and called it the princess booth. Mother would do the breakfast shift, then go down the street and work at the furniture store all day, then come back and do the supper shift.”

“When school started and report cards came around, she always looked at the conduct first. If there was any tiny mark, we had to go to the school and talk to the teacher,” Garner said. “More times than not she didn’t look at grades. She was most concerned about your conduct and who you were, [and] how you treated others, because she firmly believed if you could get that right everything else would take care of itself.”

Learning_RespectGarner grew up to marry her college sweetheart, a physician, and moved to Baton Rouge. It was the height of the self-esteem movement, 1986-1987, and parenting books were coming into vogue. Garner filled her mind with the idea of empowering children, giving them choices and allowing them decision-making authority.

“When the boys were in first grade, we went to a little birthday party,” Garner said. A friend called the next day to say her boys were out of control. “She said, ‘Because I love you so much, I have to tell you that if you don’t get a grip on those boys they’re going to be in jail before they’re 10 years old.’”

Heart-broken, Garner decided her friend was right. “I radically changed the way I was raising my boys and of course quickly realized that if I do all the things my mother told me, maybe we’ll hit on a good thing,” Garner said. “I didn’t want to squelch their personalities but we learned that respect for others is what comes first.” Then, at their principal’s request, Garner took on the out-of-control cafeteria scene, teaching considerate behavior through table manners.

© Jason Cohen Photography
© Jason Cohen Photography

The summer between her sons’ fifth and sixth grade years was life changing. After her husband left to start a new life, she remembered her childhood prayer to become a missionary. With the belief that God would correct her if she kept moving, she continued to teach Bible studies and served on the worship team at First Presbyterian Church. She asked God to make his direction really, really clear.

After seeing a Woman’s Day article on the decline of manners, she combined her interior design background and school experience to promote her ideas to the National Education Association. It was a step of faith. Whereas many people ask God to open doors, her prayer was for God to close opportunities that were not appropriate. Schools began to call.

“Up to this point we’ve been in at least 900 schools around the country,” she said. This year, with the support of East Baton Rouge Parish School Superintendent Warren Drake, they started the curriculum in 15 schools in EBRP, with a plan to be in every local elementary school within the next two years. The five-day-a-week curriculum is most successful when classroom teachers provide the instruction and guidance counselors reinforce it. The EBRP school board funds part of the curriculum, individual schools provide a small percentage, and the rest is raised by her nonprofit. First Presbyterian Church, which offers space for local nonprofits, has provided room for office and production needs. The arrangement allows all donations to be used for materials, Garner explained.

MOH.GraphicGarner currently spends significant time traveling to promote the curriculum, and speaking to Christian women’s groups. She is married to Nick Garner, who insists that MOH must remain her first commitment.

Garner describes her life experience as God’s funnel. “God keeps pouring into your funnel – the good, the bad and the ugly,” she explained. “The reason God’s doing that is so that it all comes out into one place” – your life’s purpose. Garner has appeared on the CBS Early Show, CNN, Focus on the Family and more than 350 radio shows across the country.

For more information, explore Mannersoftheheart.org or call 225-383-3235.