The 2016 Governor’s Prayer Breakfast was held on March 23
at the River Center in Downtown Baton Rouge
photos by Beth Townsend
Do What is Right and Just … The Blessings Will Come.
Tex Morris is has been a financial advisor with Edward Jones for 17 years and enjoys helping his clients with their financial needs. He has built his practice on the principle that it is highly important to do what is right and always explain things honestly to clients when asked questions regarding their finances. Years ago when he attended Auburn University, Tex never imagined he would be in this industry — he had always been involved in sports, and his dream was to one day become a coach, but God had other plans.
During his time at Auburn he had a mentor by the name of Paul Nix. Nix was like a father to Tex, and while he was hard on him, he had high expectations for all that Tex could accomplish. He told Tex that he should not pursue coaching because he simply believed there was another field more suitable for him. As it turns out, Nix was right.
One Scripture that immediately comes to mind regarding Tex’s relationship with Nix and the insight given to him during those years is found in the Book of Jeremiah:
“… For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.” – Jeremiah 29:11-14
Many years later, Tex can truly say without a shadow of a doubt that his marriage to Cindy, his wife of 31 years, and their mutual Christian-Catholic values and faith has carried them through career moves and financial challenges, and has been the firm foundation for all the good that has come to them. They attribute their prayer life, their support system through the church, and the belief that God will see them through any situation, as the reason why they made it through the difficult times when they needed to be sustained beyond what the world could offer.
Q: Would you please share about how you met Cindy, and how your shared Christian faith has helped both of you in your marriage and parental roles?
A: Cindy and I met at Auburn through a mutual friend when she was a freshman and I was a junior. We started studying together, and during that time Cindy invited me to attend church with her. I had not been to church since I was 14 years old and all of a sudden my family just stopped attending the Baptist church that I grew up in as a child in Columbus, Ga. I never understood why we stopped going and still do not know why today.
Life is quite different today, and I owe a lot of it to Cindy inviting me to Mass. I remember sitting next to Cindy at Mass and it was time to go to communion, but I knew since I was raised Baptist I could not partake of the Eucharist. Cindy gently placed her hand on my knee — I believe it was her way of making me feel accepted and comfortable even though I was not Catholic. The following week, I decided to convert to Catholicism. We shared the same core values in terms of how we would want to raise a family and approach life, so it just felt right. In 1985, my Catholic faith experience began as a convert and it is still very strong today.
Cindy and I are also very thankful for the impact Father Jerry Martin has had in our lives as well as our children’s lives. We met him at St. Thomas More and then followed him to St. Patrick’s. He always sent personal notes and clippings of anything he read in the newspaper about one of our children, and Cindy has kept all the notes and clippings he mailed to us over the years. He even encouraged me to run for pastoral counsel, which I agreed to do. One Sunday while in church, I read in the bulletin, “Tex Morris – Pastoral Counsel – unopposed,” which was just another step in my faith journey.
Q: When you and Cindy got married, you lived away from Louisiana — please share about the turning point in your life where as a couple your faith truly was the glue that held things together during a major life change.
A: My career after college began in the auto-finance business. It was my desire to become CEO one day and run the company. We moved many times for career reasons from Louisiana to St. Louis to Washington D.C. Cindy was a consultant making a very lucrative income, and I was doing well in my field. So, life seemed good, until the snowstorm — yes, a snowstorm made us reexamine our priorities and ultimately led us back to Louisiana.
While living in Washington D.C., Cindy had our first child. During that snowstorm, Cindy and I had trouble reaching our day care provider, and we were both stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. We felt helpless. The day care provider brought our child to church and we finally got there to pick our child up. Later that evening, we had a true awakening. We wanted to be available to our children; we wanted to be hands-on parents. Uncertain of what to do, I decided to just pick up the phone and make a call that changed our life’s course, though it required a leap of faith.
That phone call helped us out of having to face snowstorms, but it did make us face a storm of another kind — change. Change can be scary, and that is why most people choose to stay in situations that are causing stress, unhappiness, discord and other emotions because it is what he or she knows. Yet, change can also be looked at as a chance for a new beginning, a fresh start. Today, we are examples of what facing change did for my family, career and faith.
Q: Who did you call that helped re-route your career?
A: For some reason, I was led to call my broker at Smith Barney, and he assisted me in the career change process. I began to interview and take tests based on his advice and landed a job at Smith Barney. This career change led us back to Louisiana. During that time our income was affected by two-thirds, and Cindy was eight and a half months pregnant with our second child. People would probably say we were fools to make such a major change at that time, but Cindy and I stood firm on the decision and began to prepare for our move.
Q: The move was probably just as eye opening as the snowstorm in Washington D.C., because though you were out of the cold, what some would deem a hot mess occurred during your move. Would you share what happened that could have given you second thoughts about this change?
A: The moving van had all of our valuables in it and the van caught fire and 80 percent of our items were engulfed in flames and destroyed. As I was retrieving what I could from the moving van after the scorching occurred, I grew madder and madder. My wife was pregnant with our second child and to have a fire destroy almost everything — I would not say it was a particularly joyous time. It certainly was not what we expected, yet there was one particular item that we removed from the van to discover in a sense, a sign, that God was there us in the midst of a tragic situation. There was a chest of drawers I took out, and I opened the middle drawer to discover a hand-sewn baptismal gown, a baptismal candle and a Bible. The gown was in a Ziploc bag and all of those items were untouched by the blaze.
We saved what could be salvaged, laid mattresses on the floor of our home in Sherwood Forest and began a new life in Louisiana. I could not believe the friends that came out of nowhere upon hearing of our situation. We had been away for five years, but these friends showed up and helped meet our needs.
What a testament to the Scripture, Matthew 25:35-36, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
One may ask, what was the purpose in moving? After all, we lost most of our possessions. It’s simple: Cindy and I wanted to raise our family and be there for our children’s birthday parties, sports outings, holidays and every important milestone, and Louisiana is where we landed and it’s been very conducive to the lifestyle that we imagined.
Q: As a Christian businessman, how can the body of believers become more unified?
A: Christian leaders tend to believe their way is the right way. We need to remember that we all believe in Jesus. He came, He died, He rose from the dead. Faith is divine; religion is human. The Bible is our daily guide.
I like to think of the body of Christ like a sports team. For instance, as the catcher at Auburn, I had to be there when the pitcher threw the ball. Cindy played basketball and she had to learn to trust the other teammates to be in their positions, just as she needed to be in her rightful position. The weekly Bible study I attend at Istrouma is sports-related in a sense, and I am reminded how important it is to work together as a team and work toward the same goal.
We all need to remember to “always be humble and kind,” too. Cindy and I have made this our life mantra. Love is also very important — love covers all and it does help bring people together; love puts others’ needs before our own.
Q: Cindy has been by your side in this faith journey since you met at Auburn, but what can you share about your parents and how they helped shape you into the man you are today?
A: My dad, James “Tex” Morris, was a military sergeant in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. He did three tours in Vietnam. My mom, Murial Morris, was a legal secretary. Together they instilled the values to my siblings and me to do what is right and act in a mannerly way. Their influence in my developmental years is why I still hold the door for my wife and all women today. Though my dad stopped going to church all of a sudden one day, I was with him when he fell ill toward the end of his life. Cindy and I witnessed his faith return, and he would ask us to pray with him and sing songs. For a man who was not keen on showing his emotions, this was truly a gift. We also witnessed my mother’s faith as she stood by and took care of my dad while he was ill.
Q: What has helped you become a successful Edward Jones financial advisor?
A: My faith, my marriage, my three children, Claire, Joshua and Noelle, and my family and friends are the cords that comprise a strong support system. And, I attribute a lot to my first client. In my office, I have a picture of my first client holding up a bass fish she caught. I served as her broker for 20 years. I was broker of the day back when I was starting out, and she called the office and wanted to buy a savings bond. We had a business relationship, but she also became a friend. When she passed away at 97 years of age, I was asked to be a pallbearer at her funeral. These are the kind of relationships that can form when you remember to be honest, just and look out for the best interest of the client.
I also have a wonderful staff — Mary Bachman has 21 years of service with Edward Jones and has been with me for 17 years. Laura Guarino has been with us for five years.
Q: Would it be correct to say your faith serves as a plumb line for the way you conduct business?
A: I would say my faith plays a major role in my approach to business. Doing the right thing in business is paramount. Sometimes emotions come into play when dealing with people, but emotions can cloud things at times, and it is important to remove the emotion and remain professional. If one explains clearly to a client why a particular decision or transaction must be made, when he or she understands the why, trust forms, and the relationship can be one that becomes long lasting.
Q: What charities are you involved in other than your participation and involvement at church?
A: Hallowheel is a charity tournament put on by the Baton Rouge Wheelchair Tennis Association to help raise funds for the Cajun Classic. The players in Hallowheel are all able-bodied individuals. On the other hand, the Cajun Classic is a 100 percent wheelchair player tourney. All entrants are wheelchair players, and the event draws the top professional wheelchair tennis players from 21 countries. Cindy and I are personally involved with Hallowheel and get a lot of satisfaction by being able to help.
Tex Morris took a leap a faith, landed in the Lord’s will, and is still going strong with Edward Jones today. What a testimony to God’s faithfulness!
Tex Morris’ Edward Jones office is located at 7147 Jefferson Highway, Baton Rouge, La. For more information about his financial advising services visit his website https://www.edwardjones.com/texjames-morris or call the office number (225) 928-8659 to set up an appointment.
For young people, the first year or so of college is often filled with challenging transitions and a flurry of decisions about the future, both immediate and more distant. What’s your major? Have you chosen a concentration? Are you planning to ‘rush’? Maybe they’ve come from out-of-state and are wondering how they’ll fit in at a large state school or how they’ll make friends.
Many of those incoming students soon find themselves trying to get involved on campus and make connections, and that’s where Young Life is stepping in. Millennials are different, in a good way, and no one knows that better than other millennials. It’s often difficult to explain exactly who they are (if they’ve even figured that out yet), and the negative generalizations that have been projected on them by others certainly don’t help. But, collegiate Young Life leaders get it, especially those here at LSU.
Louie Bernard is a recent graduate of LSU and a member of Young Life LSU’s college mission staff. Bernard attended St. Thomas More High School in Baton Rouge, and said that’s where he first experienced what Young Life had to offer. “My junior year of high school I went to a camp called Woodleaf. I saw people alive in their faith like I really hadn’t seen before. I saw and heard the gospel talked about with love, this love that, while I knew a ton about God, I [realized] I didn’t know anything about that love,” Bernard said.
“Hearing about the love – I just wanted to come alive in my faith,” he continued. However, as it does for many, the transition into college provided a challenging environment for fostering his newfound faith. Bernard said he remembers and can identify with those trying moments many students face early on. “I was struggling with adjusting to freshman year of college, making mistakes. I felt like something wasn’t right with my faith, like I was just acting,” he said.
“I wanted to be a better version of myself,” Bernard said. So during the summer following his freshman year, he went to Lost Canyon, a Young Life camp in Arizona, and spent three weeks with 52 complete strangers. It was upon his return to LSU for his sophomore year that he realized what he had been missing all along was community.
“I wanted community really badly,” he said. But at the time, Young Life did not have a presence on LSU’s campus. He began seeking out ways to bring this same sense of community and belonging he had found in Arizona to campus, when he met Scott McClain, one of the Baton Rouge area Young Life leaders. Bernard said that McClain began pouring into him in ways no one had before, and most importantly, he showed Bernard what it meant to be loved.
“It was just authentic,” Bernard said. “It wasn’t about growing the ministry or the things that we were doing, it was just about the fact that he loved me and he chased after me, and in the midst of my struggles with college and not knowing how to live as a Christian and not knowing Christ as I wanted to, he just loved me unconditionally.”
Bernard was not alone in his longing for love and connection through community – in the first three years since its return to campus, the Young Life leadership team at LSU has grown exponentially, and they’re focused on bringing young people to Jesus through relationship building.
“I’m focused on building relationships with students on LSU’s campus. I’m aiming to reach people who don’t want anything to do with the church; who don’t know Jesus and don’t necessarily want to know Jesus,” Bernard said. He said that Young Life has a unique opportunity at LSU to reach parts of the campus that the church can’t reach because the reality is that there are parts of the student body that don’t want to be a part of the church for one reason or another — but they’re willing to be loved.
Bernard said that it’s important for Christians to realize that, especially with this generation, people just need to be loved. They need the voids in their lives to be filled with the love of Jesus, and love from the Christian community, or they’ll turn to anything and everything else to fill that void. The common denominator with young people really seems to be an innate desire for connection.
“A person longs to connect with their friends, so they’re going to seek out avenues(no matter the consequences) to do that,” Bernard said. They’re often fearful of being left behind – and we’re sitting on the sidelines blaming the person and the decisions they’re making, but failing to realize the root cause of these decisions is the deep need for connection and community – something many are starting to find through Young Life.
Young Life is also training kids who have been in similar situations (running from/not wanting anything to do with God/the church) to go out and form relationships with other kids who are in a place they once had been. Because the desire to be in the “in crowd” often dominates decision making, Young Life is trying to promote a similar culture of inclusion by showing students that they can be a part of something positive, and it just might give them what they’re looking for.
“Do you know that God loves you? Wouldn’t it be enough to have that and be a part of that?” Bernard said. “We’re offering them a chance to be loved, unconditionally.” He described the uniqueness of reaching millennials by saying that it’s similar to the story of the Prodigal Son – the father loved him enough to give him the freedom to make the mistakes he needed to make, and when he came back broken, the father loved him anyway.
“I’m no expert on the human heart, I just know mine is broken,” he said. “We live in an impulse driven world – we are used to having everything at our fingertips – why can’t fun, pain, etc., be solved with the same type of impulse? Everyone is looking for a quick fix, but what I think kids are starting to figure out is that it’s a little bit of a slippery slope.”
One thing he’s found that works is keeping it simple. “Christianity at its base is a lot like breathing; you breathe in and then you breathe out. Jesus didn’t ask us to go and change the world; what he asked us to do is to be one with Him and one with the Father, and when you do that, it’s as easy as breathing to go and change the world,” Bernard said.
“People need to be loved in order to love other people. [What’s most important is] letting people know that they’re called to unconditional love, and Jesus is enough,” he said. And Young Life does just that. They currently run six different ministries in the Baton Rouge area that encompass every age group from middle school to college, and they even have a ministry dedicated to loving and serving young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, called Young Life Capernaum.
For those involved with Young Life, authenticity looks a lot like walking with others through their daily trials, the good, the bad and the ugly, and loving them through it all. Bernard commented that Oswald Chambers said it best, saying, “The beauty is, if you’re authentic, then what darkness and brokenness does is it draws us into the light.” Being authentic is just a sign that you’ve learned to understand that God loves you in your brokenness, and that your brokenness is not something to be ashamed of.
“The work we do is only our love for Jesus in action,” Mother Teresa said in her Fragrance Prayer. It’s about that relationship first and foremost — all other things will come when our actions toward others are based in our experience of being loved by Jesus.
For more information about how to get involved with Young Life at LSU or the various Baton Rouge area Young Life programs available, visit the website www.batonrouge.younglife.org and contact a member of the Young Life leadership team.
Ordinary people expect normal things. Faith is based on what is seen, not what is believed. Expectations and blessings are centered on people, instead of trusting in God. Success is valued through material things, foregoing the fact that money is not our most valuable asset. Both character and integrity matter. Some may wait on perfect conditions without realizing that such a goal will never be obtained. Are you ordinary? Or are you a believer?
We have to trust this journey even though we may not understand it. As witnesses for God, we are believers. We look beyond what we see and proclaim to many what God has promised to us. It’s not about what we have or what we don’t have today. We need to be content with plenty or little (Philippians 4:11-12).
True believers will still have the ability to praise no matter what they go through. True believers know challenges and adversities may come, but they will still be able to say God has been good. True believers follow servant leadership. Just as the Bible, the greatest best seller, surpasses all, the servant leadership style will never dissipate. Servant leaders are followed by the masses. Servant leadership – we must serve first!
ARE YOU A SERVANT LEADER?
A servant leader is not tossed or blown about by every wind of new teaching (Ephesians 4:14). We are not moved by the shenanigans of reality television. Deciding not to follow us on Facebook or other social media outlets will not be the fate of how successful or loved we are. These things don’t matter and are pale in comparison to being spiritually healthy. Does it come with a cost? Sure, what doesn’t?
We cannot be free and struggle spiritually. We cannot claim to be Christians but be unwilling to serve others. Serving God, the church, family and others should come naturally. But often times we need to be reminded of our purpose. We sometimes decide to do things our own way or choose not to utilize the gifts God has given to us. Your spouse and children look to you for guidance and companionship; however, we are often too busy with the other obligations of this world. We choose not to take time for a conversation or to lend a listening ear. Quality time is worth far more than rubies and nothing you desire will compare (Proverbs 3:15-16). Our employers and colleagues depend on us to do a job. However, some may choose to be rebellious and conform to what society deems as just or worthy. God’s principles never change. Servant leadership is a commitment.
LAUGH ON CREDIT
It’s amusing how people tend to look at where you are today and believe your future is over. I often think back over my own life when many people questioned how a single mother, struggling to make ends meet, could feel blessed in that situation. The world may have stripped me of my self-esteem and confidence back then, but the world could not take away the plans God had intended for my life (Jeremiah 29:11). I had some experiences that caused me to rethink things. I realized that regardless of everything I had gone through, I was blessed because I still had a dream and a vision. Even with all of its problems, this is still a land of opportunity, and we all need to claim our part.
Fast-forward 17 years; I now have two college degrees, various certifications and work as a licensed Certified Public Accountant in the state of Louisiana. My son is college bound in 2017 with scholarships and recruiting opportunities on the way. The professional designations behind my name are secondary. The primary designation is being a Christian.
Laugh on credit! Because we know God for whom he is — He comes through all the time. The God we serve uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
BRINGING LEADERSHIP BACK
As a Christian, our walk is not easy; believers and non-believers alike test us daily. Servant leadership is doing what God has called us to do. We can do great things with our gifts. The question we have to ask ourselves is, “How bad do I want it?”
Bringing Leadership Back, LLC was founded with the vision of helping aspiring leaders grow. With the right guidance and direction, others will look to us and be amazed (Habakkuk 1:5). Who would’ve known the advice I give through teaching at speaking engagements and writing for publications would primarily be based on my life experiences? God did. There is favor no matter what our past is or what we’ve done. We don’t have to be what some people expect us to be. Prove people wrong and stand up for our God. If we work the word, the word will work for us.
We cannot sit on our gifts and let them wither away. There is room for all of us to be successful and prosperous. Let’s continue to encourage and testify to one another. Continue to be servant leaders and lead for Christ. We possess the ability to change the world one person and one motivational word at a time.
Leadership starts with us. Set the standard, and others will follow. Be blessed! Someone is counting on us to BRING LEADERSHIP BACK.
About Bridget: Bridget Kaigler, CPA, CGMA, CMA, MBA is the founder/president of Bringing Leadership Back (BLB), LLC. She resides under the leadership of Kelvin and Dr. Carla Gaines at Miracles by Faith Interdenominational Outreach Ministry. Bridget is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), licensed in the state of Louisiana. Bridget holds certifications as a Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) and a Certified Management Accountant (CMA). Bridget holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accountancy and a Master of Business Administration from University of Phoenix. She serves on several committees promoting the CPA and tax profession. Bridget is a frequent speaker and a freelance writer on the topics of leadership and Christianity. She is a motivator, an encourager and your friend.
If you would like to book Bridget for a speaking engagement or to write for your publication, you can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bonnie Weissman, now 63, an Army veteran, mother and grandmother, had been active her entire life. While stationed in the Netherlands, Bonnie served as a captain and taught other officers classes. One day while teaching, one of her students began to notice that Bonnie was not looking very well. It was then that she realized she felt a little off, and after a blood test, her doctor informed her that she had high blood pressure.
She then recalled that while she was grading papers, her vision seemed blurred and distorted. Doctors had found the root of her problem; Preeclampsia — which can cause your blood pressure to rise, and put you at risk for brain injury and other serious health problems. Bonnie was 31 years old and pregnant at that time, and she decided to take extra precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of her baby. It was then that Bonnie realized she needed to have proper nutrition and exercise to maintain good health.
After being deployed, Bonnie continued to live a life of diet and exercise. She had two lovely daughters and an admirable husband. Bonnie stumbled upon the Y when she first moved to Baton Rouge with her family several years ago. Bonnie joined the Southside YMCA at the age of 60 and was looking to strengthen her problem areas. Bonnie began to train with Gina Stonich on an exercise system called the TRX suspension training system, which was originally developed by the Navy Seals.
This being somewhat familiar to Bonnie due to her military past, she decided to try it. TRX Suspension training targets bodyweight exercise that develops strength, balance, flexibility and core stability. Bonnie began to see immediate progress, but said that she could not have done it without the guidance of her trainer.
“Three months ago, I could barely hold one minute of a plank. I was angry, and in self-doubt. Gina constantly pushed me to do more, but kept in mind that I have a bad foot. Over time, you begin to do exercise the correct way. Trainers at the Y notice your mistakes, and help you better yourself in every sense of the way,” Bonnie stated. Bonnie also mentioned that she is an avid cook, painter, traveler and grandmother of two small boys, and without the help of Jesus Christ and Gina, she would not be able to do the things she loves to do.
“At the age of 63, if I can do this, other people can at my age. I hired a personal trainer to help guide and motivate me, but along the process we developed a friendship. Gina and I regularly get lunch together, and we are both active Christians in our community,” Bonnie said.
Gina of the Southside YMCA is an outgoing, bubbly and strong-willed versatile trainer. She is able to create several client-trainer based relationships and assist them with what they are seeking to accomplish, whether it is fitness, nutritional or personal needs. Gina not only had the passion to assist Bonnie in her active life, but helped Perry Ferand find an appropriate way of exercising that accommodated his needs as well.
Perry, 86, joined the Southside YMCA three years ago after deciding that it was time he got out of the comfort of exercising in his home after tragically losing his wife. “After losing my wife, I needed a woman to boss me around, that’s where Gina chimed in,” Perry said. Gina had to program each machine individually with Perry’s appropriate age because the machines only went up to the age of 80. Perry uses a heart monitor while he exercises on the treadmill and elliptical. It keeps track of his heart rate and Gina helps to ensure that he is not overworking himself.
Instead of just walking on the treadmill at home, Perry said one of the main reasons he decided to step out of the comfort of his home was to come to the Y to immerse himself in a social setting. “The other reason why I love to come to work out at the Y, is because I do not want to risk injury if I am working out alone. There are trained people here who could immediately take care of me if something bad were to happen. If I just came here to simply just workout, then I would revert back to walking on my treadmill at home,” Perry stated.
Perry continued, “I come to the Y to see Gina, and to interact with other people. Even if it’s to talk about the most random things, I feel the sense of community and that makes me always want to come back. I don’t know how it is for other people, but for me it is the easiest thing in the world. If it weren’t for my active lifestyle, traveling would not be possible. I love to travel. September of last year, I traveled to France, viewed Neolithic paintings and even went inside historical caves. I was able to walk around just fine. When my wife and I retired we traveled to Europe sometimes up to 5 times a year.”
“At the Y, I have established not only a better sense of community, but a long lasting friendship with my trainer Gina. We have weekly lunches, and celebrate each other’s birthdays. Here at the Y, I have been given happiness and hope after losing my wife, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without Gina,” Perry said.
As evidence shows, Gina impacts her clients in other ways than just being a trainer. She deeply cares about the connections she forms with her clients. Gina began training at the Southside YMCA because she loves to help those who are actively seeking guidance and assistance throughout their workouts as well as their personal well-being. She not only monitors heart health, diet, cholesterol, and overall physical health. She truly helps her clients produce desired results, and makes them feel comfortable and cared for throughout the process.
Gina trained Bonnie because she knew how passionate Bonnie was about her desire for an active, healthy lifestyle. She knew exactly what exercises Bonnie preferred because she knows Bonnie, not just on a transactional level, but on a personal level. They have formed a bond so strong, that they are able to spend time together outside of the Y. Gina trained Perry because she was moved by his past and wanted to continue to help him live his life, not only in a healthy manner, but to help him achieve a sense of community.
She wanted to make sure he felt the need to always come back to the community that the Y has to offer. She gave great emphasis as well on the fact that she is not only channeling her fitness expertise, but furthermore, actively pursuing her Christian lifestyle by helping those who need her help. Gina fosters ample friendships with her clients, which makes her feel a sense of achievement in regards to aiding others. Gina did not sign up to just be a trainer at the Y — she became a trainer because she felt it was her calling to help others through diet, exercise and cultivating friendships that will last her a lifetime.
Gina defines perfectly what we try to achieve at the YMCA. At the Y, we desire for others to be happy, healthy and belong to something more than just a gym. The Y is a loving community that is always willing to provide more than just fitness, but fulfilling friendships that will truly last a lifetime.
Average life expectancy in the United States has risen to nearly 79 years. That’s good news and a significant increase from decades past. The not so good news is that people who are living longer are dealing with chronic medical issues far longer than in years past. These diseases – obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. – can take a toll on the body.
“As you age, your risk for being diagnosed with diabetes increases considerably, especially for people who are over 45 years old,” explains Dr. Eric Ravussin, who serves as associate executive director of clinical research at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. “That’s especially true for women going through menopause. These women often experience weight gain as their estrogen levels decrease.”
That gain in weight—often around the midsection—causes a spike in the risk for diabetes and other diseases such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
“We know that extra weight carried around the midsection is particularly dangerous since it sits so close to vital organs such as the liver and the heart,” said Ravussin.
To help improve the quality of life for women as they age, Pennington Biomedical has undertaken a new project called the RISE research study. This study aims to investigate whether a current post-menopausal treatment will improve how the body responds to insulin and burns calories from fat.
Ravussin and his colleagues at Pennington Biomedical and Tulane University are testing whether a generic version of an existing U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug currently prescribed for the treatment of postmenopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, dryness and osteoporosis may also be able to improve insulin sensitivity and potentially decrease body fat in postmenopausal women.
“If research can help us find ways to improve insulin sensitivity and help these women avoid some of the normal consequences of menopause, then we can substantially cut their risk for a diabetes diagnosis,” said Dr. Kara Marlatt, who is working with Ravussin on the study.
“A lot of the women who have already volunteered for this study are really interested in learning more about their health and they want to help contribute to science that supports the creation of better treatments and a better quality of life in the future for their daughters, nieces and for their whole community,” said Marlatt.
For this study, participants receive health information and insight to share with their primary care physicians, including a body composition scan that shows the percentage of muscle, fat and bone in the body, as well as an MRI to measure fat deposits in tissue and organs, lab work and study-related medication at no cost. Additionally, participants will receive compensation for their time.
For more information on the RISE research study and how to participate, go to www.pbrc.edu/healthierLA or call 225-763-3000.
On Wednesday mornings at the crack of dawn, teenagers from St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church are hitting their alarms, getting dressed and making their way to the Jones Creek McDonald’s for a weekly 6 a.m. Bible study. Yes, a weekly Bible study … at McDonald’s … at 6 a.m.
It’s certainly not traditional, but it’s effective and this particular group of high school students wouldn’t miss it for the world. The Bible study is led by St. Andrew’s the Rev. Darryl Tate, who used the same model when he was pastor at a church in Rayville, La.
“A young girl asked me one day, ‘Pastor Tate, if I bring some of my friends to meet you at McDonald’s one morning, will you feed us … not just breakfast, but spiritual food as well?’ That’s how it started,” said Tate. “There were five youths at that first meeting, and by the time I left Rayville, the group had grown to about 70. The ladies behind the counter would greet their customers, saying ‘Welcome to the Church of the Golden Arches.’”
As soon as Tate arrived at St. Andrew’s last summer, he worked with Youth Director Veronica Dudley to continue the McDonald’s tradition. The group is growing fast here in Baton Rouge, and includes students from at least five high schools, including Parkview Baptist High School, Catholic High, Runnels and St. Joseph Academy. Kids begin arriving as early as 6 a.m. and can order whatever they want for breakfast (St Andrew’s covers the cost). As they drink their coffee and unwrap their sausage biscuits, they prepare to hear Tate’s message.
Smiling and soft-spoken, Tate begins with Scripture and a discussion of biblical lessons and how they can be applied to real life. Next is devotional prayer, in which the teenagers share their concerns and special intentions. “Some ask to do well on a test,” Tate said. “Others pray for their parents’ health. One young man recently asked us to pray for a friend who had died of a drug overdose.”
Many of the young people at St. Andrew’s attend different high schools across the city, so the Wednesday morning meetings allow them to reconnect during the week. “I like seeing my friends from church,” said Chapman Cooper, a senior at St. Joseph Academy. “We can share what’s going on in our lives and hear Scripture together. The messages we hear are positive and help us deal with the day ahead.”
Heath Moser, 16, agrees. The Runnels student said he finds the McDonald’s meetings encouraging and refreshing. “It centers you,” he said. “It helps you focus your mind on Christ and how you can be a better person and an example to others.”
Tate has a strong connection with his young audience. He gets emotional when asked why ministering to youth is so important to him. “I’m filling a void,” he said. “Young people are falling away from church. Only 25 percent of them go to church anymore. If we don’t gather them and nurture them, some other entity will grab them and set them on the wrong path. We have to be flexible. Because of the life our young people are living today, there have to be different entrance points for getting them connected to the life of the church.”
The Wednesday morning gatherings draw parents as well, many of whom take seats at nearby tables while they wait to take their children to school. Beyond those tables, customers drift in and out, listening to Tate’s message.
Tate has similar Bible studies with at least four other groups, held at several CC’s Coffee House locations in the city. Clearly, he is willing to go the extra mile to build relationships, minister to others and share the Gospel. In essence, although he leads a church of about 1,200 people, he is also willing to take church directly to the community.
Evangelism has been in his blood since he was 12 years old and accepted Christ, he says. He knew that he would one day be a pastor. At 15, he was teaching Sunday school. At 17, he was already a minister and was sent to St. Martinville to help restore a church that had only three members left. Originally from New Iberia, Tate went to LSU and studied business administration, then theology at Fairfax University. Later, he attended Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology and earned his master’s of divinity. Over the years, he has led churches in Donaldsonville, Lafayette, New Orleans, Plaquemine and St. Martinville.
Aside from youth ministry, Tate is also deeply committed to disaster relief. For eight years, he served as president and CEO of the Louisiana Disaster Response team for United Methodist Council on Relief, which eventually helped rebuild 125,000 households destroyed by hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav. Those years revealed some very important truths, he said.
“In times of disaster, all the walls melt away,” he said. “No matter what denomination you are, it doesn’t matter. When we truly need each other, we all become the body of Christ.”
For now, Tate is focused on St. Andrew’s, which has proved to be a good fit for his personality, skills and leadership style. “My heart has always been to be a pastor,” he said. “To help the least, the last and the lost. I believe that you have to work at building relationships, that you have to bring the light of Christ to people by setting a good example, and that if you give people spirituality and hope, you can make a real difference in their lives.”
The connection isn’t obvious at first, but once you think about it, it makes perfect sense. It’s a connection that some veterinary students understand completely … the desire to bring glory to God through their profession. Christian Veterinary Missions helps them do just that.
CVM sends missionary vets all over the world, not just to provide much needed vet services to underserved areas, but to build relationships based on God’s word. Our relationship with Christ asks us to love and serve others with the skills and talents given to us. In doing so, we can introduce others to Christ. Interestingly, veterinarians have unique access to places that might not typically welcome foreign missionaries.
Think about it. In small villages, especially in Third World countries, animals play an important role in the survival of individuals and families. In terms of income, nutrition and farm labor, animals are extremely valuable — from the hen that lays eggs to the donkey that provides transportation. As the CVM website states, a healthy animal can literally make a life or death difference for an entire family. This is why veterinary professionals are welcome in the farthest corners of the world.
At Louisiana State University, vet students are fortunate to have an active and successful CVM presence. The student branch is called Christian Veterinary Fellowship (CVF), and it provides an instant bond among students that is strengthened by their shared faith. The group hosts weekly Bible studies, Christian video series, and book discussions of works such as “Forgotten God,” by Frances Chan, and “Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus,” by Kyle Idleman.
“Being part of this group has really helped me,” said Sam Sotrop. “Vet school is challenging and it’s comforting to be around other students and faculty who are faith-minded. It’s good to know that we have God with us through this experience. It’s a reminder that everything we do is related to God’s plan.”
The group also participates in outreach programs that provide free medical care for animals that belong to low income families. One example is a program that was held in New Orleans recently and was coordinated by Church of the King in the Mandeville/Northshore area. Vet student Michael St. Blanc was part of the LSU group that attended.
“We conducted wellness exams, administered vaccinations, treated basic conditions, and performed heartworm and flea prevention for pets in the program,” he said. “The hands-on training is valuable. But we also took prayer requests from the owners as they came through. Praying with them was an important way to bring the faith element into the experience.”
St. Blanc has been involved in CVF-LSU, along with his wife Alissa, since he started vet school. He says it has centered him. “I like being with other people who openly profess their faith, both students and faculty. It’s great that I’ve found a way to use my profession to minister to others in a meaningful way.”
CVF-LSU’s next project is a two-week trip to Honduras, which will include 20 vets, students and technicians. Amanda Wolff, who went on the same trip last year, is this year’s coordinator. “It was such a blessing to be able to use the skill set I’ve developed in school to help others,” she said.
The trip offers students the chance to gain experience spaying and neutering animals, and providing basic medical treatments. Last year’s patients included cats, dogs, horses, cows and even goats, Wolff said.
“Each day, we visited a different rural village,” she said. “We gathered with the local people, prayed with them and shared God’s word. We passed out Spanish Bibles and often, local pastors from area churches would greet us and thank us for our service. For me, the trip wasn’t just about the vet work. It was about establishing relationships with the people of Honduras.”
The Honduras trip will take place May 21 to June 4. The group will fly into the capital city of Tegucigalpa and then drive about six hours to their base camp, Rancho el Pariso, which is located in Agalta Valley. CVF-LSU partners with an organization called Honduras Outreach International (HOI), which coordinates various medical and mission groups coming in and out of the area each week.
To help offset the cost of travel and supplies used during the trip, CVF-LSU hosts several fundraisers each year. Donations are also accepted and are tax deductible if designated specifically to the LSU group.
“Vet school is a demanding program; from the sheer volume of information we are required to learn, to the taxing test schedules and the lack of time to do it,” said Wolff. “It’s easy to become overwhelmed and anxious about it all. My involvement with CVF-LSU has been my ‘breath of fresh air’ and has allowed me to set aside the trials of the world and focus on God and what is really important. It has provided me with a home group that encourages me and has helped grow my faith.”
The CVM website says it best:
Animals are a bridge to relationships. Whether at a pet clinic in urban America or a farm in the countryside of Mongolia, relationships are formed over the care of an animal. Trust is built, hearts are shared, and a seed is planted for the Kingdom of Christ.
For more information, call (225) 572-8839.
The word “disciple” is defined as “learner.” In the church this is especially fitting since Jesus is often referred to as “teacher.” And again, in the church we think of each person as a disciple of Jesus, since it is Jesus whose message opens for us a clearer picture of God at work in our lives, and whose mission and ministry gives us a better understanding of God at work in our world. All we need do is put into practice what we are taught; indeed this is what makes us truly followers of Jesus.
Herein lies the challenge: all too often to be a learner means we are called to go where we don’t want to go. Sure, we like to talk about being disciples and all, but the truth is that for many of us being a disciple means only doing it when it is convenient for us. This is precisely why we have a savior who sacrificed for us his own life, and who understands us, and our weakness in the face of temptation.
Chief among the many powerful and motivating characteristics of Jesus is that of grace. Jesus taught about the grace of God by both his words and his actions. The early church taught that to be like Jesus was to model grace. And today, in the modern church, we teach that grace is “getting the break we don’t deserve” or “getting forgiveness we have not earned.” It follows that being a true disciple of Jesus means that we not only experience the grace of God for ourselves, but that also we are guarantors of this grace in the lives of those around us.
Now, let me ask a question: When was the last time you made sure that those not like you, maybe from a different part of the world, maybe without full bellies, maybe living in such a way as to take honor away from others, maybe unclean and unkempt and unruly — when was the last time that through your actions and words you made sure these persons knew about the grace of God?
I suspect for many of us that question leads to a qualified answer, or perhaps even more questions. I am reminded of Matthew 25, the passage where Jesus sums up his teaching on the judgment of the nations by saying, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” (The Wesley Study Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Matthew 25:45b.)
It seems a fair interpretation that to be a disciple of Jesus truly is learning to live out God’s grace that we have experienced for ourselves by extending it to others, ALL OTHERS. Doing so requires patience on the part of God, and courage on our part. Living in such a way is not for the faint of heart.
About Lee: Lee McKinzie is retired from the Louisiana Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, although he serves part-time as the pastor of the Nesom Memorial and the Montpelier United Methodist Churches. Throughout his career he published several articles and study guides, was honored with numerous awards, and held positions of leadership in both the Annual Conference and National Church. He is married and he and his wife have one child.
It happened with lightning speed. The bull had a reputation for flinging cowboys off his back in record time. But the self-described arrogant Texas A&M rodeo champion thought the bull had met his match. Donald Tabb was headed for a “one second conversion.” The life change would land him on the Billy Graham crusade team, and eventually, in Baton Rouge to become founding pastor of the Chapel on the Campus. He has since become widely known for his phenomenal command of scripture and commitment to multiply Christ’s kingdom by investing in others: a rancher turned shepherd.
But first, he had to come face to face with the idea of his own mortality, in the face of a bull known as “Vern Elliot’s 33.” “He was a very wiry bucker and would come out, spin about five or six times to the left, then he would reverse his spin. That’s usually when he’d get everybody, on that reverse spin,” Tabb explains. “I had broken my shoulder the week before at a rodeo in Waco. I had it in a flexible cast and I couldn’t throw up my arm, and I lost him at seven seconds.”
That was only the beginning. When the rodeo clown was unable to get between Tabb and the bull, “Vern Elliot’s” attacked. “He hooked me and he tromped on me and he butted me and he rolled me around like a rag doll,” Tabb says.
“Well, that night, I’m lying in bed feeling very, very sorry for myself. In a sort of semi-conscious moment I thought, ‘Where would I be if that bull had stepped on my head?’”
He suddenly recalled a verse of scripture that his college roommate, Jack Frey, had tricked him into memorizing two years before: “And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life and this life is in his Son. He that has the Son has life and he that has not the Son of God has not life.’ (1 John 5:11, 12). “It just sort of popped into my head like a neon sign – bing! And I said, ‘Well, God, that’s what I want.’ And I went to sleep,” Tabb says.
The next morning, as he was walking through the Texas A&M campus, a Gideon handed him a small, green New Testament. He read it from cover to cover. “When I got to the end, it said, ‘If you want to become a Christian, pray this prayer,’” he recalls. That was December 7, Pearl Harbor Day, 1952.
“God puts up road signs, here, there, everywhere, by the word of God,” Tabb explains. “Two elements that will radically change your life, equip you to be who God wants you to be, fulfill his command, [and] accept his calling are to spend time in prayer and hide his word in your heart.”
At critical points in his life, God sent people who took God’s word and their own commitment seriously. In their “last fling” before entering the army, Tabb’s roommate talked him into exploring a Christian conference in California.
“I was confronted by some real heavyweights in the Christian world with the proposition of following Christ, and it made a deep, deep impression on me,” he says. Among those heavyweights was Dawson Trotman, a lumber worker and founder of The Navigators. Trotman was drafted by Billy Graham to design a system for teaching local leaders to disciple the enormous number of people coming to faith through his crusades. After two years of intense service as an airborne ranger in the 82nd Airborne division, Tabb joined The Navigators in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Then, tragedy struck. A seven-year drought devastated the cattle business in Texas, including the 55,000-acre ranch owned by his stepfather. Already suffering from cancer, his stepfather committed suicide in 1957. “I sort of got mad at God and said, ‘If you’re going to play that way, I’m picking up my marbles and going home,’” Tabb says. He left The Navigators to return to the cattle business.
“I lost money in every phase of the cattle business. God was not going to let me run,” he says.
In the meantime, God had brought him a gifted, steadfast partner – a fellow Navigators worker – Mary Alice Noyce. They planned a large, elaborate wedding – that didn’t happen.
“I got altar-falter, chickened out,” he says. “But due to my marvelous persuasive powers, I talked her into coming out to Texas about eight months later, and we eloped.” “She’s been the dominant praying, loving factor in everything,” he says. Both took seriously Jesus’ mandate to encourage and disciple other people.
After a brief stint as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Seymour, Texas, he worked for the Methodist Foundation, and then managed Lost Valley Ranch, a Christian guest ranch in Colorado. He was invited to work with the Billy Graham team in 1965. He began seven years of counseling and follow-up training for the crusades, including a stop at LSU’s Tiger Stadium.
But life on the road took its toll. He was home only three days a month while Mary juggled family life and her career as an English instructor.
“My wife, as you know, is a very unusual person. She taught at LSU for 27 years but in addition to that she raised five children – born from 1960 to 1978. It’s more her story than mine,” he says. “The tip of the spear sometimes is what nicks the flesh, but the shaft and the head of the spear and the base and all of that, well, that’s been my wife.” After living in cities from New York to California, he and Mary chose Baton Rouge as their home base, with airline access to wherever the Graham Crusade traveled.
“Considering that I was gone all the time I began to pray, ‘Lord, do you want me to trample those that love me the most to get out and save the world?’ And I kept getting this kind of reverse missionary call.” In July 1972, he received a call to help start The Chapel on the Campus.
He was ordained for the ministry at The Chapel on Fir Hill in Akron, Ohio, a large, interdenominational church.
“We were sort of pioneers,” He says. “I’d always believed that if you really wanted to be used of God, just go where the Spirit is blessing.” The flood of people newly committed to Christ in the local Billy Graham Crusade presented a dilemma and an opportunity.
“People were all jammed up in the Protestant-Catholic controversy. Somehow, I believed that our church was instrumental in bringing that down … I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” he says. “There were a lot of independent churches started all over the city as a result of The Chapel on the Campus.”
“For some reason the Spirit of God hit a nerve and we grew exponentially,” Tabb says. “Three years later we had 1,500 people in the Chapel, and then we discovered that we could petition LSU for property on the lake that had been designated for religious organizations.”
After 30 years, Tabb stepped aside to become Pastor Emeritus and to support Senior Pastor Dr. Dennis Eenigenburg (2001-2011) and current Senior Pastor Kevin McKee. He continues to teach at The Chapel, travel and invest in future leaders. He has helped plant new churches in Lafayette, LaFourche and Covington, and has opened the Jabez Foundation, which provided some 38,000 meals to police, doctors and helicopter pilots after Hurricane Katrina.
“The key to growth, the key to fulfilling the Great Commission of Christ is to disciple believers at home, at work, everywhere. ‘And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also,’ (2 Timothy 2:2). Whether you feel you’ve been called or not, you’ve been commanded (Matthew 28:18-20).”
Most importantly, he says, do whatever it takes to memorize the Word of God. “Get you a plan. The secret is review. Use it, then you won’t lose it. Have the word where the Spirit of God can call it to your mind anytime – as you go.”
Lord, I’m on my knees calling out to you. Can you hear me? Where are you? I need you? I can’t do this alone. I’ve tried it my way, it didn’t work. I have no guidance. I can’t figure this out. I want to trust you. I want to have faith. I want to renew my strength and identity in the likes of you but …
This is where a lot of people become stagnant. They wholeheartedly want to trust God, but fear stands in the way of faith.
There are several types of generational curses. Generational curses are behaviors that have been passed down from generation to generation and are prevalent in homes today. We all believe in a higher power, but others my call it something different according to how their generation was raised.
One type of generational curse is the behavior of non-compromising in relationships. Maybe you’ve noticed behaviors that seem not to be removed no matter what you’ve tried. There are things in your life that are not your fault. For example, my mother’s mother and father were divorced when she was young. So, naturally, my mother and father divorced when I was young and guess what, my first marriage also ended in divorce … it seems a pattern has developed. When you go to your mother and father for advice about your marriage, what are you being told?
Maybe for your family it’s teen pregnancy. Often, teens become parents because their parents were also teen parents. Or maybe it is a chronic communication issue of some kind — some men weren’t taught to talk about their feelings. They were taught to be strong and to be good providers, but not good husbands. And that’s because their fathers were taught to be good providers and to be strong, and that those things were the elements of a good husband. But if you ask any wife, that is not enough to classify someone as a good husband.
Another generational curse could be striving to be something that you just don’t want to be (career-wise). You feel the need to carry on the family legacy, which might be practicing law, because your grandfather was a lawyer and your dad and brothers are lawyers as well, but you’d rather be a fireman. Being a lawyer is their destiny not yours. So you must learn to go against the grain in a positive way in order to construct your life the way it was meant to be, which is following in the footsteps designed for you by God, not your family’s legacy.
Sometimes the foundation you have isn’t your fault. Some of those generational curses date back so far that you’re still fighting your ancestor’s demonic spirits. But all of that can change. When you are in your prayer closet, you must declare that all generational curses are broken. You don’t have to be what your parents were — you can be whom you were created and designed to be.
I know you’re wondering if you’re strong enough to break the cycle. The answer is yes, but only with God’s watchful eye. Do you believe in God? Do you have enough courageous faith to see the process through to the end? Everything in life worth having is worth praying for. So get on your knees, cry out to God and tell Him you want to receive what He has already promised you; because you’re not who your mother or father was, you are so much greater than that. Sure, things will get rough but don’t throw in the towel. Believe in yourself and create your own journey.
If you are the parent of a daughter, you know that the cultural climate is extremely confusing for girls. On the one hand, statistics show that girls are doing well these days—many are excelling in school, in sports, and in their pursuit of advanced degrees and careers. On the other hand, many girls are struggling. We are seeing increases in serious mental disorders like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-injury, and substance abuse in girls. So yes, girls are doing well in reaching external goals, but at what cost to their development and mental health?
Part of the problem is that if a girl is tuned in at all to popular culture, she is learning a toxic definition for success: that her worth should be based on her appearance, her ability to gain attention and approval, and her ability to produce a long list of accomplishments. Specifically, she is learning:
These pervasive pressures seem overwhelming, but parents don’t have to stand by and just accept this as the status quo. You can make a significant difference in how strongly your daughter will be impacted by these pressures. I describe many parenting strategies to help girls stay resilient in my book: “Swimming Upstream: Parenting Girls for Resilience in a Toxic Culture.” For now, here are a few ideas:
I recognize that these are not easy tasks. To help your daughter stay resilient in spite of cultural pressures, you will have to be willing to do things differently from what others families might be doing — which will often make you an unpopular parent! That’s okay; stick to your convictions anyway. Decide to stand strong and to do what is necessary to help your daughter swim upstream in the ocean of today’s toxic culture.
About Laura: Laura H. Choate, EdD, LPC, is Professor of Counselor Education at Louisiana State University. Choate was awarded the 2013 Best Practices Award by the American Counseling Association and is a former editor of the Journal of College Counseling. She is the author of three books: Girls and Women’s Wellness: Contemporary Counseling Issues and Interventions (2008), Eating Disorders and Obesity: A Counselor’s Guide to Prevention and Treatment (2013), and Adolescent Girls in Distress: A Guide to Mental Health Treatment and Prevention (2013). She has 40 publications in journals and books, most of which have been related to mental health for girls and women. Choate lives in Baton Rouge with her husband and preteen son and daughter.
[i] Robyn Silverman (2014). Am I Like-able? Teens, self esteem and the number of likes they get on social media. Retrieved from: drrobynsilverman.com.
[ii] Girls Life Magazine, October/November issue, 2014.
Love comes along like a popular song
One day in November 1947, a tall, lanky young man strode into Sterling Department Store in downtown Little Rock, Ark., and was smitten by a beautiful girl with a big, bright smile working behind the counter.
He was 26 and she was 16. He asked her to go out with him, and she agreed.
“He had a nice car and dressed quite well,” Verlia Mae “Mae Mae” Kennedy Hogg said about Thomas Medford Hogg, known as “T. Med” or “Med” to his many friends.
“We just hit it off from the beginning,” Med said during a visit to their spacious home in Westminster subdivision. He sat up straight in his recliner, pointed to his bride across the room and broke into a popular song from the 1930s sung by Bing Crosby.
“I found a million dollar baby in the five and ten cent store,” he crooned. It made her smile. (Search it on You Tube.)
They were married on July 30, 1948, and will celebrate 68 years together this summer, she said. He is now 94 and she is 85, and their eyes still sparkle when they’re talking about each other.
Both were raised in Christian homes and in church — she was Pentecostal and he was Disciples of Christ. The Christian principles of faith and family are central to Hogg family values.
Med grew up in Poplar Bluff, Ark., the son of a store-keeper and butcher who left Med’s mother and brothers, went bankrupt in the Great Depression and committed suicide.
“I wanted to be different [from him],” Med said. That’s why he worked hard, was faithful to his wife and provided for his five children.
She grew up in the Florida panhandle with five sisters and a brother.
“Daddy was a sharecropper,” she said. “We were very poor but we never went hungry.”
Her father was also a Pentecostal preacher who couldn’t read. Her mother would read the scriptures and he would preach, Mae said.
His gift of healing was so powerful, she said, “He’d pray for people and their cancers would fall off – literally!”
Now she uses her own gift of powerful prayer to close out son Jim Hogg’s syndicated, country music radio program, “Hogg Heaven,” that airs each Sunday morning.
“I mean – she calls down the power!” Jim, 60, said. “Sometimes I think she’s going to break out in tongues!”
“Our commission as being born again in Jesus is to tell others,” Mae says with a smile. “We’re to be used of Him.”
When Med and Mae were married, he was clerking for the Missouri Pacific Railroad and they drove his 1946 Plymouth Sedan – the one she liked so well – from Arkansas to his new posting in Phoenix, Ariz. The railroad moved him back to Arkansas in 1950 where their first son Thomas “Tommy” Edmund was born. Tommy passed away from a lengthy illness on July 22, 2014.
God’s grace pulled them through the grief of his death, Mae said. She quotes Romans 8:28, “‘And we know that all things work together for good to those that love the Lord and are the called according to His purpose.’ No matter how hard it is you just hold on.”
Med changed jobs over the years, and they lived in New Orleans awhile then settled in Baton Rouge. They always attended church as their family grew: Judith was born in 1952, Jim in 1956, Trudy in 1960 and John in 1966.
Med has written five books, one of which is poetry, “The Cornbread Poet.” He credits his writing talent to his Scotch-Irish heritage and a 1700s relative, James Hogg, “the Shepherd Poet” of Scotland. “Tales from the Hogg Pen,” a collection of 39 short stories relating to many of his experiences, is witty and interesting.
For their 20th anniversary, he wrote a poem to Mae that she quotes from memory decades later:
“Twenty years ago today/We got married and rode away … We may not be wealthy in money/But we have blessings more than a few/One of them is ‘I love you,’” she says with a smile.
A musician in her own right, Mae yodels so well, “she should have been on the Grand Ole Opry,” son Jim says.
Jim credits his mother’s musical voice and his father’s ability as “a wordsmith” to his own son, James Linden Hogg, 15, who was named the best fiddle player in Louisiana in the 2015 Northwestern State University’s Folk Festival. James, who is home schooled by his mother Linda and specializes in early American history, performs in Revolutionary War garb with his father who strums a guitar.
James also plays a tin flute, drums, guitar and banjo, and recently released a CD of his music titled, “College Fund, Vol. 1,” available on his website: www.jameslindenhogg.com.
“I’ve learned a good bit about politics from my grandpa,” James says about Med. “I wouldn’t be interested in history in general, and Scottish history in particular, and would not have pursued the fiddle as heartily as I have.”
Jim is proud of his Hogg heritage and the family values his parents lived.
“I saw their sacrifice – both of them – give and take,” Jim said. “When I was growing up, when dad was out of town on business, she ran the house. I’m sure it was tough for her [but] they hung in there.”
“At the end of the day we’d sit around the table and hold hands and my dad would pray and ask God to bless us and bless the food,” Jim said. “He would always spend as much time with us as he could, playing catch [or] taking us to a ballgame. Mom would do anything she could to help us in our schooling. I had a good childhood — it was wholesome and safe. I want a safe home for my family — as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”
So what advice do Mae and Med have for young couples?
“We disagreed on some things, but we agree on most things,” Med said. “We worked it out.”
“Let Jesus be number one in your household,” Mae adds. “You have to forgive and give and take – go to church together – raise your children together as a family.”
“We’ve had a good life. God has blessed us with a good family, all of them are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Mae said. “That is the best blessing we could have.”
For many low-income families, receiving emergency food assistance is less embarrassing than it once was. Thanks to HOPE Ministries’ Client Choice Food Pantry, clients can select items in a grocery store-style atmosphere that lets them keep their dignity intact.
The Food Panty, which serves about 15,000 clients each year, is just one of HOPE Ministries’ many programs that address homelessness and poverty in the Baton Rouge community. Founded in 2003, HOPE Ministries promotes self-sufficiency for individuals and families, and educates the community on the causes of poverty and its far-reaching effects on the Baton Rouge area as a whole.
“There are different kinds of homelessness here,” said Kelli Rogers, COO of HOPE Ministries. “That might surprise some people, but it depends on how you look at it. There are the ‘street homeless,’ people we see literally on the street — and then there are those with housing instability — inadequate housing or inadequate access to a place to live.”
These are individuals forced to stay with friends (“sofa surfers”) or families that send their kids to live with relatives off and on, mainly because they can’t afford long-term housing of their own. “Many people are already in crisis by the time they come to us,” Rogers said. “And there are many reasons for it … eviction, domestic violence, or job loss, for example.”
Case managers at HOPE Ministries work hard to put these families in crisis on the road to self-sufficiency, first by addressing their most immediate needs of food and shelter, then by offering job training programs like The Way to Work, which teaches lifestyle behaviors that ensure their success.
Dick Stonich is a member of The Way to Work team, which is designed to help clients overcome barriers to employment and build skill sets that make them valuable in the work force. He has collaborated in developing the curriculum for a 40-hour workshop, Going Beyond, which has made a huge difference in the lives of participants. This workshop, along with case management, forms the core of The Way to Work program.
The lifestyles and behaviors of people who have been raised in poverty are very different from those of people who come from other socio-economic backgrounds, Stonich says. “For someone who lives paycheck to paycheck, their priority (as related to time) is now. They are focused on survival. They are not future oriented. They don’t look down the road or think of things in the long-term.”
The Way to Work team teaches students how to write a resume, interview for a job, handle finances and relate to supervisors and co-workers. Using case studies and role-playing, Stonich helps students reach their potential both personally and professionally.
“The rewards for me are immeasurable,” Stonich said. “It makes me happy to help someone see their value … to discover the talents and abilities they already have … to see them grow and prosper and achieve.”
Over the course of the program, Stonich said the class bonds with each other, and he bonds with the class. “We become friends,” he said. “We are equals. The only difference is that in my life, I have been given more opportunities.”
The Way to Work program also offers a professional development seminar (Understanding Your Workforce) to help employers understand how poverty affects job performance. For instance, an employee who is often late to work might be relying on city bus transportation because he doesn’t own a car. Understanding Your Workforce educates managers and business leaders so they can help employees find solutions rather than firing them from their jobs because of conditions they can’t control.
In addition, HOPE provides a workshop called Understanding the Dynamics of Poverty to educate the community on the challenges of growing up in generational poverty.
Since its founding, HOPE Ministries has fostered a great deal of understanding and collaboration among families, volunteers, local businesses and the community in general. The organization has held a special place in Rogers’ heart since she began volunteering in 2005.
“I grew up in Baton Rouge,” she said, “and moved away for about 10 years. When I came back, I saw the city in a different way. The problems of our community were more visible to me. I have children and a family here in Baton Rouge, and I want to leave them with the kind of community we all want to live in. My work here isn’t about ‘serving the poor,’ it’s about doing my part to strengthen our whole community.”
Rogers is also committed to raising awareness among the city’s more affluent population. “There’s more to poverty than what some people see,” she said. “These are families working really hard to raise their kids and provide a good life for them — the same as anyone else. We all depend on each other. The entire Baton Rouge community is directly affected by how each part of it grows and changes.”
Volunteers are very important, too, and are especially needed for the Food Pantry, which is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. Volunteers stock shelves, help clients find food items, and take groceries to clients’ cars. On Thursday mornings, volunteers are needed to unload the food truck when the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank makes its weekly delivery to HOPE.
HOPE Ministries is located at 4643 Winbourne Ave. For more information on programs and services, or to make a donation, call (225) 355-0702 or visit the website at hopeworksbr.com.