Some believe that personal character has little to do with leadership. Do you agree? If so, then ask yourself these questions:
Do people of low character influence you and inspire you to action?
Do you have good relationships with people of low character?
Do you admire people of low character?
Would you welcome them leading you?
Like it or not, agree or disagree, character counts in leadership. Warren Bennis, who has studied and written extensively on leadership, says, “Leadership is character in action.” “Ninety-nine percent of leadership failures are failures of character.” (General Norman Schwarzkopf)
The greatest character quality is integrity. Integrity is what people will remember about you more than your brilliance, ingenuity, competency, and energy. Integrity (or lack of it) is your legacy, what people remember about you.
Daniel, an Older Testament leader, incarnated integrity. As a Jewish teenager, he was exiled to Babylon. In Daniel 6, at the age of 80, he’s a leading official in the godless Persian system. Darius the Persian king appointed 120 managers (satraps) to run his kingdom and over the managers were 3 administrators (or, Vice Presidents). Daniel was a VP, a top-level position, just under the king. Power was at his disposal. He had respect and elite status. The king could trust Daniel. Over the years, he never lost his integrity in this God-hating Persian system.
Several things stand out. First, Daniel had a fabulous work ethic. “Daniel distinguished himself among the administrators and managers BY HIS EXCEPTIONAL QUALITIES and the king planned to promote him over the whole kingdom.” (Daniel 6:3) “Exceptional qualities” is literally “an extraordinary spirit.” Daniel stood out. He wasn’t like everyone else. He did his work well because he saw it well. His perspective shaped his work performance. Daniel excelled. When review time came, he was promoted.
How’s your work? Do you do it well? Are you the best leader you can be?
How’s your attitude? Granted we all have bad days, but is every day a bad day? Is the problem a bad day or a bad life?
Are you easy to work for or with? How would others rate your leadership performance? Are you a tough guy, the boss, control freak, or a servant leader who is considerate and respectful of others and their ideas?
How’s your spiritual perspective toward your leadership? Does God fit into your leadership role every day?
A MARK OF INTEGRITY IS EXCELLENCE ON THE JOB, BOTH IN PERFORMANCE AND ATTITUDE.
(To be continued)
Fred Campbell lives in Ovilla, Texas, just south of Dallas. He pastored two independent Bible churches for 40 years. Currently, he is the president of Living Grace Ministries, a ministry committed to helping churches develop servant leaders, following the model of the Lord Jesus. Fred has traveled to 29 countries and 15 states to lead the workshop. He received his ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary and his D Min from Phoenix Seminary. Fred is married to Carolyn and has a married son and two grandchildren. His web site is www.livinggraceministries,com and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Sunday, while feeding my horses before church, I set the buckets down, and glanced at my shoes. Laughing at the sight of my ‘Sunday Best’ atop a pile of muck. I attempted to dust them off, then hopped into the car with the notion of ‘Sunday Best’ still circulating in my mind.
What exactly is ‘Sunday Best’? I wondered.
Is it the clothing we put on that morning? Is it our accumulation of knowledge or our ability to use certain language with ease? Is it how much we give of ourselves? Is it the behavior of children? Or perfectly coifed hair, approving smiles and nodded heads as the message is delivered?
Is that our ‘best’?
I have always struggled with the notion of bringing my ‘best’. Failing to live up to whatever I believed that ‘best’ was.
First, I was a little girl who was fairly disruptive. I sang a bit too loud and I loved to use wild hand gestures for all of the songs. Often landing me on the receiving end of a few disapproving glares.
Then, as a youth, I lacked sound decision-making skills and for a while I failed to live up to the expectations of myself and the people around me. By then, the notion of ‘Sunday Best’ paired with those disapproving glares resided within me, and urged me to believe I wasn’t good enough for God or the church.
Nowadays, as I look around at the faces of the people I encounter, I can’t help but notice signs of this ongoing plight. I see weary expressions. People struggling day after day to bring their ‘best’ to those around them. Who seem exhausted from trying to live up to the arbitrary marks set for them by other human beings. I see slouched frames, heads hung low, creases and sometimes tears forming in the corner of tired eyes. Evidence of defeat is visible everywhere. From our church pews, to the streets outside and all of the other pockets and corners of our lives in-between.
And it’s strange, because the Message we have been given to carry out from our Sundays into the world, is not a message of defeat, but a message of provision. And unearned, undeserved love. Not because of what our best looks like. But because of Who we belong to.
We have the message of grace.
And as, a recipient of this audacious and underserved gift, I feel compelled to reframe what ‘Sunday Best’ represents. Repositioning it from an outward appearance and anchoring it as a constant posture of my heart.
The best I can bring on behalf of God in this world is humble gratitude of what has been done for me. And to be a living illustration of what it looks like to receive God’s love. Standing alongside all of the muck and mud of my lift and somehow still set apart and chosen as His treasured possession. And made holy not because of who I am or what I do, but because of Who lives through me.
The best of me is Jesus.
Karen is a former Bostonian who now resides on a small farm just north of Baton Rouge.
She loves scripture and her garden and often weaves both into her work as a writer. In 2017, Publisher’s Weekly described her debut memoir, Mustard Seeds and Water Lines as an ‘emotional and finely crafted’ account of her personal journey towards healing after The Great Flood of 2016, in their annual Book Life Prize review. And, as her story has made its way across the country, readers have consistently embraced her as an authentic voice with a message of hope in the wake of a disaster.
Karen is a wife, mother and weekly co-host of The Back Porch Book Club, a podcast designed to build community and conversation surrounding books about Spiritual Formation and the Bible.
You can find her on Instagram @karenmilioto or online at www.karenmilioto.com
Two days before I was born, my so-called father—I’ve always referred to him as “my mother’s husband”—left my mother, two young sisters, eleven and twelve years of age, and me, and he never returned. His departure put my mother in a difficult position. She had an eighth-grade education, came off the farm in North Dakota, and couldn’t get a job during the Great Depression in 1935. She became a maid and baby-sitter to earn money, and she had to put our family on welfare. We lived in a one-room apartment above a bar and hardware store, and I remember my mother getting $42.50 monthly from Ward County welfare.
Two times during this difficult period, my mother taught me a lesson that has stayed with me during my entire life. I saw my mother put on her winter coat, walk down a flight of stairs, and take back to the Red Owl and the Piggly Wiggly grocery stores 25 cents and 40 cents, because the clerks had given her too much change for the groceries she’d brought home. Her actions remind me of a poem by Edgar Guest.
I’d rather see a lesson than hear one any day I’d rather you walk with me than to merely show the way The eye is a better teacher, and more willing than the ear And counsel is confusing but example’s always clear The best of all the teachers are the ones who live the creed To see good put into action is what everybody needs I soon can learn to do it if you let me see it done I can see your hand in action, but your tongue too fast may run And the counsel you are giving may be very fine and true
But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do.
My mother always followed the advice of St. Francis of Assisi when he said, “Preach the gospel every day, and if necessary use words.” I saw other lessons in the life of my wonderful mother. Not once, after being abandoned, did I hear my mother talk negatively about the man who had walked out on us and never returned, never sent any money, never wrote. She never, drank, smoked, or used profanity. She was never bitter, angry, or ever complained about her situation in life. I learned from her that if you are looking for a helping hand, look at the end of your own arm.
My mother’s faith was unbelievable. She brought me to Mass and Communion daily — not just Sunday, but daily. For me, the daily trip to church was a ritual. To my numerous fake illnesses and attempts to avoid going, my mom’s response was always, “Get up, Son. We’re going to Mass and Communion.” I never slept in a bed the first 21 years of my life but the spirit that grew in that little one-room apartment we lived in, uncomfortable and cramped though it was, made it attractive and peaceful. I was blessed.
Being a small place, the apartment never provided any place for me to get away on my own. So at night, I often went to sit above the alley on the fire escape. One night, the faith my mother instilled in me deepened when I came back in from sitting out there. My mom asked me to sit in her little rocker.
She pulled up the footstool and said, “Son, I notice you go outside at night a lot. What do you think about when you’re out there? I said, “Mama, I think of two things. I think of travel.” (We didn’t own a car, a bicycle, or any other form of transportation.) “I think of climbing mountains.” (North Dakota is a very flat state, flatter than the top of a table.) That dream came true — I have been in 90 countries and climbed the Matterhorn.
My mother hesitated just a moment and then said, “You know Son, I’m embarrassed to tell you this, but I need to teach you a lesson. You know when these people come to pick me up to go baby-sit? I’m so embarrassed. There’s no husband in our house. We live in this little one-room apartment. I’ve just got an eighth-grade education. My clothes smell of mothballs.” (She bought her clothes at rummage sales.)
“So I’m so worried about my image when these big shots come to pick me up. I look up big words in the dictionary, and then all the way to their house, I inject these words into conversation to try to impress them. That’s called making an image. When you sit out there on the fire escape at night, it’s just you and God, that’s your true character. And Son, if you spend too much time polishing your image, you’ll eventually tarnish your character and be an unhappy man.”
That night, my mom taught me that being my true self was far more important than trying to impress people or pretend to be someone I was not. Your character is who you really are and your image is what you are perceived to be.
The Church’s Effect on Me No matter how financially tight things got, Mom always scraped together enough money for me to attend Catholic school. I learned a great deal over the course of the 12 years I attended a Catholic school. I learned that rules were important. I learned we all are on this earth to help each other.
Two particular lessons stand out in my mind. One morning, I was standing with two friends by the radiators in the hall at school, warming up. We had religion class before school every day at 8 a.m., and we were out there before class, talking about the things kids talk about. One of the guys said, “Yeah, the Salvation Army, isn’t that funny what they do? You know, they’re outside ringing the bell, and they’ve got that little pot.” Not really making fun of the Salvation Army, but sort of jesting, like kids do.
Well, the bell rang, so we went to religion class. Our religion teacher was Father Hogan. He called on the three of us who had been talking in the hall and asked us to stand up. He said, “You know, I heard you three boys out there talking about the Salvation Army. I wonder, do any of you guys know the motto of the Salvation Army?”
We each responded, “No, Father.”
Father Hogan continued, “Well, let me tell you what it is. It’s to love those who aren’t loved by anyone else. The next time you good Catholics are going to make fun of something, remember that.” To this day, that lesson about compassion and sensitivity has stayed with me. Every year at Christmas, when I’m shopping with my wife or daughter and we encounter a Salvation Army volunteer with a red kettle and a ringing bell, I walk over and put money in the pot. I also share with that volunteer what that wonderful priest taught me.
Father Hogan taught me a second lesson on the importance of being prompt. There are rules — and they are not meant to be bent, twisted, manipulated, or bartered with. The moment I learned this lesson is vivid in my mind. The sports teams at our tiny Catholic school played the biggest schools in the state. I thought I was a big shot athlete. I was the leading scorer in the history of North Dakota High School basketball. I broke the school record in the 440, and was a star on the football team. I thought I was something! Getting a little full of myself, I felt some of the rules didn’t necessarily apply to me.
Every Monday afternoon by 1 p.m., we had to turn in an eligibility slip to play sports that week. One Monday afternoon, I took my eligibility slip down to the office and laid it on the desk of our principal, Father Hogan. Holding my eligibility slip in one hand, he looked over the top of his horn-rimmed glasses at the clock on the wall. “Dale,” he said, “what time does that clock on my wall say?”
I had no idea where he was headed, so I said, “One-fifteen.”
He held my eligibility slip in front of my face and he said, “What time was this due?”
I said, “One o’clock.”
“Ah-hah, that’s good you can tell time. And you knew when it was due in my office.” He started ripping my eligibility slip into small pieces, then deposited the pieces in the wastebasket and said, “Now get back up in your classroom and start learning promptness. This slip was due at one o’clock. You’re not going on the road trip this week.” I thought he must be joking. After all, I was the superstar. Well, guess who didn’t go on the road trip?
Stay tuned for more next month, Getting Over the Four Hurdles of Life, with Coach Dale Brown.
True Leadership Brings People Together
If there was ever a moment in our history when leadership was needed, it is now. With all the greed, dishonesty, selfishness, evil, and bad things going on in the world, we need good leaders. A common quality of great leaders through the ages has been their mastery at articulating a vision of the future. They see something that is not yet there and can relay the image to others. In any leadership position, the most important aspect of the job is getting everyone to work together.
However, working together is only a beginning. The world needs leaders who find their strength in faith and character. Exceptional leaders will get their team members to feel they’re an integral part of a common goal. How is this done? This may sound odd, but the underlying theme of teamwork is our ability to convey a renewed sense of optimism. Teamwork doesn’t just happen – it takes a captain to steer it in the right direction. The role of the captain – whether it’s a coach, teacher, father, mother, or whomever – is to give the ship direction, purpose, and ultimately success.
“The role of most leaders is to get the people to think more of the leader. But the role of the exceptional leader is to get the people to think more of themselves.” — Booker T Washington
We need to make a difference, but we can do it only through the grace of God. I am convinced that we are capable of solving any problem, whether it’s race, crime, poverty, terrorism, pollution, drugs, or whatever plagues humanity.
You, with God’s help, are responsible for your future. You’re really free the moment you don’t look outside yourself for someone else to solve your problems. You will know that you’re free when you no longer blame anyone or anything, but realize you control your destiny and are capable of changing the world. People can be divided into three groups: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. We’ve got to decide which group we will be in.
The most important thing to God is our relationships with one another. He made us in such a way that everybody needs somebody. And God’s idea for success is a community, a group of people who are committed to each other and who strive to follow his will. Humans have not advanced a centimeter in the history of the world if we are still fighting, hating, killing, and cheating.
The only notable advancement humans have ever made is becoming brothers and sisters who labor toward a common goal. You see, the best potential of “me” is “we.” So the question in our life journey is not whether God can bring peace, love and happiness in the world.
Publisher’s Note: The September edition approached the faith-based genre of entertainment from Aristotle’s proposition that Art Imitates Life, in other words, the movies accurately reflect the daily struggles of today’s Christians. This month, the focus shifts to how in the last fifty years the secular, pop-culture-driven media pushed an agenda so that indeed Life Imitates Art; and, how technology actually gives the Christian community a chance to counter the secularist agenda by providing value-based, traditional entertainment.
Greg Gudorf, chief executive officer of Pureflix.com, is a former tech-guru turned entertainment executive. In an interview (with publisher Beth Townsend that you can watch in its entirety on the Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine YouTube Channel), Mr. Gudorf recalled nostalgically, “there was a time when you could watch a movie whether you were five years old or 95 years old. A lot of people don’t know that the church was actually involved with Hollywood in the early years helping to guide and shape the message of those movies. In the late 50s and early 60s the church began to pull out. In the mid-sixties you can begin to chart very dramatically the rise in language, sex and violence.”
Oscar Wilde, a leading 19th Century British intellectual, proposed the anti-mimesis. For 2400 years it was accepted that art imitates life. Wilde challenged that the opposite was true, e.g., life imitates art. Seventy-five years after his death, 20th Century technology advanced the influence of art definitively enough to support Wilde’s point. Television allowed “media art” to be distributed universally into living rooms. People became addicted to television to the point it was derisively referred to as the “boob tube”. Pop culture was born.
The media arts didn’t go from G to R-rated overnight. Dr. Charles Stanley (First Baptist Church, Atlanta) teaches that America’s culture was once moored in a safe harbor. Then it got loosed and set adrift. Gradually, our culture drifted further and further and further still from the core values that anchored it. If the drift began in the mid-1960s, when the church lost influence in Hollywood, by the 1980s advancing technology created a tidal wave of change.
The shift was first facilitated by videotape recording technology. The idea was simple. Record what you wanted to watch at your leisure and fast forward through commercials. There wasn’t much to record. Cable television was just starting to spread across the country. It was strictly regulated and programming choices were limited. Then Congress deregulated cable television in 1984. At the same time, film distribution changed dramatically when a Texas oil man started a videotape rental store, which became Blockbuster Video. At its peak, there were 4500 Blockbuster locations and thousands of competitive outlets. Anyone could rent pre-recorded movies. Video rental enabled people to view anything they wanted at home. (Arguably some they would not have seen at a theatre lest they be embarrassed by someone seeing them going in.)
Simultaneously, cable deregulation opened a Pandora’s box of new programs to both watch and record. In the guise of artistic freedom, television and movie moguls had license to weaponize programming to attack cultural norms. Cable television programs with explicit nudity, implicit sex, and realistic approximations of blood and gore, pushed commercial television executives on the network programs. Commercial television redefined family entertainment.
Gudorf shared some eye-opening data. “Parents’ TV Counsel did a survey recently and found that most of what passes for family content on normal TV — 81% is content of a sexual context and 94% of it has language issues,” he said. “Very different than what others might call family. At the same time the growth of media in our life can’t be ignored. There was a time when mom would just say, ‘Turn that off.’ Right? And that was the end of it. But now media is a part of our life. A child growing up today will spend six times more time with media than in school. Worse yet, 32 times more time with media than the time they spend with their parents. The stats are just scary. In 1970 the average age for a child to watch TV, interacting with media, was four years old. Today, they begin interacting with digital media at four months old.”
In pop-culture, life indeed imitates art. After 50 years of drifting, the results surround us. Profanity-laced conversation mirrors TV and movie talk. Dehumanizing gratuitous and graphic violence diminishes the value of life. Blatantly sexualized messaging robs youngsters of their innocence and leads to downright disrespect between sexes. Glorifying anti-heroes impacts any viewer, but especially the young people who are the most impressionable.
Ironically, however, if technology created the media age and helped fuel negative trends, streaming technology promises a potential solution through more and better choices. Fortune Magazine (Cord Cutting Isn’t Going Away, by Aaron Pressman July 24, 2018) reported that “an estimated 33 million consumers will have cut the cord by the end of this year, rising to 55 million in 2022.” The reasons are many, but simply put, streaming services allow consumers to make choices on programming they prefer.
Despite the perception that Christianity is dying in America, the potential audience for both faith-based and real family-friendly television is enormous. Gudorf shared surprising marketing numbers. “There are 125 or 130 million households in the U.S. Ninety million of them self report as Christians,” he said. “There are 20 million households that will tell you they make their choices, whether it’s their businesses, the restaurants they go to, the videos they watch — they make their choices based on how it aligns with their faith. Today’s word of mouth is social media. It’s digital. So Pureflix.com has been working hard in the social media to bring our message and encourage people on the positive trend and to try the Pureflix.com special offer of one month free. The question comes back to whether you cut the cord or not, the issue is to recognize that what we put into our minds and hearts is what comes out. We have to seek the good, the positive, the uplifting message. At Pureflix.com we don’t always get it perfect. But we always strive to give positive, uplifting messages on the platform.”
Therefore the success of streaming services with family-friendly and faith-based programs depends on the number of Christian households purchasing the services. There are a handful of streaming services that offer faith-based programs. As one of these, Pureflix.com thinks growth and success requires thousands of consumer choices on the platform. Pureflix subscribers can choose from thousands of programs. There is a wide variety from classic televisions series, such as old westerns like Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger, classic sitcoms like the Lucy Show, dozens of children’s series and movies, faith-based education, and popular theatrical movies like Fireproof.
Gudorf explains the growth of the service. “We’re continuing to grow the number of devices that we support,” he said. “You can now get Pureflix.com on Microsoft Xbox gaming platform. We’re always adding more content. We’re licensing programs as well as offering content we produce. For example, recently we added content from the Answers in Genesis organization. They intend to offer all their content on Pureflix.com. We have content that we’re working on in the way of originals. We have a Hope Opera — we were calling it a soap opera, but a friend said call it a Hope Opera. The first one was Hilton Head Island which had a successful first season. It features soap opera stars. The other is a situational comedy, Malibu Dan the Family Man. A second season is coming soon.”
The original program Faith Talk is a conversation-based program that came out of a dinner party where Gudorf and others discussed the difficulty of just good conversation in a sound-bite world. The show airs on Pureflix social media channels and it is archived in its entirety on the Pureflix.com site. It includes many well-known Christians, including Roma Downey of Touched By an Angel, Dr. Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Sadie Robinson from Duck Dynasty.
It seems evident that the Scottsdale, Arizona-based company has been blessed. Gudorf acknowledged this and summarizes its strength is outlined in their mission statement. “Pureflix as a company put forth their vision to be one who influences culture for Christ through media. That vision is very clear about what Pureflix should be doing. We’re focused on influencing culture for Christ. That’s a big advantage if a company has that sort of clarity for direction,” he said.
* You can see the interview in its entirety on the Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine YouTube Channel.
Fred Townsend is the husband of Beth Townsend, publisher of Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine. His 45-year career in marketing is an eclectic collection of work from political campaign consulting to television production and creative advertising and executive positions at two fortune 500 companies.
In the summer of 2016, Vicki Ellis had plenty of reason to be proud. The residential program she had founded for troubled youth was thriving. It had taken a decade of planning and fundraising, but Heritage Ranch Christian Children’s Home in Zachary was firmly established with its first five residents making great progress academically, behaviorally, and spiritually.
And then came the flood.
The 52-acre property, the office, the beautiful home where the boys lived with their house parents — all were under water now, damaged beyond belief. Ellis would have to start over. The ranch would have to be closed. But worse than anything, the boys would have to be sent home. Imagine Ellis’ disappointment and sadness.
Fortunately, Ellis is a fighter and was determined not to give up. Heritage Ranch had been a dream since she was a teenager, and she had poured her heart and soul into seeing that dream come true.
“The damage was estimated at $570,000,” she said, “but we rebuilt. The boys continued the program with outpatient counseling, and we were fortunate that so many people helped us by donating supplies, gutting buildings … completely renovating the ranch.”
Slowly, the broken pieces were put back together. Heritage Ranch officially reopened last January with a new group of boys who live with house parents Tori and Gage Caszatt, and residential advisor Kyle Sheppard. The program is designed for boys age 10 to 18 dealing with anxiety, depression and mild to moderate behavioral disorders. They are most often referred by schools, churches, counselors or law enforcement. Many parents say they were out of options and felt they had nowhere else to turn when they discovered Heritage Ranch.
Applicants go through a detailed screening process to ensure they will benefit from the structured model and Christian environment. Those with a history of violence or sexually inappropriate behavior are not accepted. With a focus on counseling and education in a disciplined environment, the hope is to reunite the boys with their families in a period of about 18 months.
The boys participate in school, recreational activities, family dinners, nightly devotions, youth group meetings and daily chores. They return home every other weekend and on holidays. “We expect them to do their schoolwork, get along with their peers and be respectful to others,” Ellis said. “We use a ‘choice and consequence’ model to teach them that their actions matter.”
In other words, along with love, praise and support in a family setting, the boys also understand that a refusal to follow rules results in a loss of privileges.
“They understand this concept,” Ellis said. “If they act out, they know that the consequence might be extra chores or an early bedtime. In their homes, they might have yelled and screamed and pushed their parents until they gave in, but that doesn’t happen here.”
Many parents are conflicted about sending their children to a residential program, often because they feel as if they are giving up. But one of the program’s most appealing aspects is family counseling that involves the parents, siblings and anyone else who participates in the raising of the child.
Josh Atwell is the development and marketing director at Heritage Ranch. He promotes the program through social media, annual reports, an E newsletter, and a soon-to-be produced podcast. He also helps with fundraising by working with local businesses, donors and churches in the community.
“The Heritage Ranch program is a journey of small victories and defeats,” he said, describing an adolescent in the program who refused to engage with the staff. At first, the boy wouldn’t come out of his room, and when he finally did, he refused to wear the appropriate clothing. For a time, he refused to participate in group activities. But in just a few days, his attitude changed. One morning, he joined the other boys for a game of basketball, and they cheered and welcomed him. “These were all small steps,” Atwell said, “but they were steps in the right direction.”
“What we’re doing here is life-changing. It’s transformative,” Ellis said. “We want the kids to experience the love of Christ and instill in them the values Christ modeled for us. We want them to know that the people in our lives may hurt and disappoint us … but God is always here for us and he loves us unconditionally.”
Ellis’ master plan is to eventually have 10 houses that serve 60 boys and girls – and to provide counseling for 200 to 300 family members. Considering the work she is doing and the difference she’s making in the lives of so many families, it will certainly be worth the wait.
“This isn’t easy work,” she said. “It requires the Lord to work through us in order to be successful.”
There are many ways to support Heritage Ranch. Volunteers are welcome on the first Saturday of each month. Anyone interested in volunteering should visit the website at hrbr.org to apply. The website also includes more details about the program and its staff, and opportunities to donate. You can also call (225) 658-1800.
When a young Ascension parish girl threatened suicide late one night, a concerned acquaintance reached out to Crime Stoppers, where connections were quickly made with law enforcement and medical personnel. Help arrived in time to save her life and provide links to ongoing support.
Tragedy can be averted, crime can be thwarted, fugitives can be caught – because somewhere, somebody knows something. The philosophy of the Greater Baton Rouge Crime Stoppers program is simple: Provide an anonymous way to report information about felonies and an incentive to do so.
The remarkable success of the Crime Stoppers program is both a reflection of the decades-long growth in crime and the willingness of the community to step up with information. With 13,447 crimes solved and more than $34 million in stolen property and illegal narcotics recovered since its inception in 1982, Greater Baton Rouge Crime Stoppers attributes much of its success to visibility through the media and outreach in places where people come together.
Crime Stoppers Executive Director Sid Newman is hoping more schools and churches will open their doors to inform and train the community to report tips: “If you see something, say something.”
For example, when a $60,000 statue went missing from the Mississippi River levee, Crime Stoppers plastered images on Facebook, setting off a ripple effect in the local media. Someone saw the statue and called Crime Stoppers. By the next morning, the statue – part of a collection on loan from an Icelandic sculptor – was recovered from a parking lot on River Road, and an anonymous caller picked up a $1,000 check.
People want to do the right thing, but they don’t want to get personally involved, often because of fear or just plain apathy. Crime Stoppers was designed to address both issues.
“The first incentive would be total anonymity,” Newman said. “They’re scared to death that they’ll have to go to court and testify, then have the fear of being sued or other forms of retaliation.”
“So, when they call, we don’t track and trace the telephone lines. We don’t want to know who they are when they give us information,” Newman said. Texts also go through a computer program that blocks the number. “They’re automatically assigned a code number and we never come in contact with that person.”
Then, there’s apathy. “We offer cash rewards, anywhere from $50 dollars up to $5,000,” Newman said. “And we pay that anonymously as well, which is a unique feature of Crime Stoppers.” Crimes can be reported – and rewards arranged – among the 2,500 Crime Stoppers programs worldwide.
“They call us to confirm that their tip was, in fact, good and led to an arrest,” Crime Stoppers Coordinator Lt. Don Stone explained. “We tell them to write on a piece of paper the words ‘Crime Stoppers,’ write their code number and we make up a code word.” Cash is picked up at a local bank drive-through window. “They send it through the tube – cash money. We’ve been doing that since 1982, and we’ve never identified one person who’s been paid.”
“Nationally, we’re the only organization that is allowed to pay anonymous cash rewards without having to report that information to the IRS,” Newman said. “I get audited every year. We get called into court all the time: ‘Who did you give the money to; did you pay a reward – how much?’ We don’t know. We know we paid a reward, we don’t know who we paid it to. And we don’t want to know.”
Crime Stoppers is funded through private donations or grants, plus a small fee from crime convictions. “If you get convicted of a crime – and that could be running a stop sign – the court can assess you an additional $2, and that $2 can only go to a certified Crime Stoppers program and only used for catching bad guys,” Newman said.
Crime Stoppers is hoping to increase awareness of its Campus Crime Stoppers program for middle and high schools. Student texts or calls have been key to thwarting potentially dangerous situations. “Say someone’s going to bring a gun on campus tomorrow. A parent gets the information at 5 or 6:00 at night. Who are they going to call?” Newman asked. Crime Stoppers can bring together law enforcement and school contacts to intervene before the student gets to school. “Maybe it’s the bus exchange or somewhere else. People will be there to make sure nobody gets hurt and check them out.” Crime Stoppers only responds to felony crimes or threats.
Once students find out about Crime Stoppers, they tend to apply the connection to their neighborhoods. After a student safety fair, Crime Stoppers received a tip that led to the location of Baton Rouge rapper Samuel “Mista Cain” Nicholas, a fugitive who was later arrested by U.S. Marshalls in connection with a homicide case. He was subsequently acquitted.
“We’re in the process of working with LSU on hazing,” Newman said. The anti-hazing campaign deals with potential or committed felonies and is expected in high school and college campuses by Christmas.
Pastors who have explored the program like what they see, according to Crime Stoppers Coordinator Don Stone. He has reached out to inner city pastors to build public participation. “If you go to church on a regular basis, you trust what your pastor’s going to tell you,” he explained. “If he tells them this is a good program – that they can acknowledge criminal activity and contact people – I guarantee you they’re going to do right.”
“Anybody could have information on an unsolved crime, or a crime that’s getting ready to take place,” Newman said. It’s not unusual for callers to report criminal activity by friends or family members – but Crime Stoppers is careful to remove anything that might connect the caller to the person in question. Through its partnership with WAFB television, The Advocate and Talk 107.3 radio, Crime Stoppers has received tips that led to fugitives, many of whom turn themselves in after their names or pictures appear in the media.
New electronic kiosks, the first in the state, are being placed in highly visible locations, including the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles. The kiosks feature fugitives, unsolved crimes and events such as the upcoming emphasis on domestic violence prevention.
It comes down to the Golden Rule, Newman said: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” [Luke 6:31]. Most people know someone who has been a victim of crime, he said. “What if that was you? Would you want everything done that could be done? That’s the principle.”
“We’re saving a lot of manhours which is a lot of tax dollars – that part is very refreshing,” Newman said. “Living in the community, you get a sense of satisfaction that crimes are being solved.”
Susan Brown began her career in radio news. She was news director for WJBO/WFMF radio and a journalism instructor at LSU. She holds masters degrees from LSU and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and served as a chaplain at Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women.
Christian Media Gains Momentum, Part 2: Behind the scenes
Christian Media Gains Momentum: Part 2
On her role in A Question of Faith… Being in the movie A Question of Faith was a dream come true for me. I had always wanted to act. I never really thought much about it because I knew my gift from God was singing and that is the path I’ve chosen. But this opportunity came about and I didn’t know if I could do it. I didn’t know if I’d be good at it. I was a nervous wreck.
At the time I was dealing with some vocal issues. I had nodules on both my vocal chords. That means a long rest! So when I read the role for Michelle, it talked about how she lost her voice, and she went through a really hard struggle of finding her identity. I know what that felt like, that you are supposed to be using your gift that God gave you. When you cannot use it at the moment and there is nothing you can do about it, you feel helpless. And you feel the depression setting in. I feel like I can’t do anything for God anymore because my gift is gone. By going through that situation, I learned that there were other gifts I could use for God. And I figured out that God does not need me to have his glory shown. I’m just a vessel. But if I’m open and willing to be used as a vessel, he can make his glory known to anybody.
A Question of Faith has been a blessing … an honor. The cast has become a family and we all keep in touch. It’s been an amazing journey and maybe someday down the road God allows me to do it again.
On her dream role… I would love to be a Disney princess in a movie … I want to do the voice. I know every Disney song, I have every DVD … We go there (Disney World) every year. We have season passes. I just love the family environment … I think it’s because it’s a happy place, it’s always positive. It was always an escape when I was younger. If I had a bad day, I could watch a Disney movie and escape for a little while and go to this magical place.
On reaching millennials…
I’ve talked to so many kids about this. Often times the church can seem so judgmental — there is just no better way to put it. Not all of them, but they can look at these millennials and this generation is so different. They are very opinionated. They study everything. There is information fed at them all the time, 24 hours a day. It never stops. There is the internet, TV, Facebook, Twitter, any social media. But no one is listening to them. And what I think we need more of is just sitting down with young people and hearing what they have to say. We don’t always have to agree, but at least if we are willing to just sit down and listen to them, they just might be willing to listen as well. I went to school and got a degree in counseling and I hope to get a master’s degree because I want to help kids who feel misunderstood … like nobody cares and nobody is listening. That is what God does for us. He listens. And that is why we pray to him because He does listen when nobody else does. And we are supposed to be that to other people.
On his faith…
My faith is unwavering. Sometimes we question our faith, but God is always there for me. When we go through trials and tribulations, setbacks and disappointments, I know who I can call on and who is always there for me. At the end of the road, He is the one who will give me that push so that I know I can make it through. You know that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. A lot of times we increase our faith and get stronger and stronger as life takes us through different situations.
On his upbringing…
We were born and raised in church, but one thing I thank God every day for is that my parents did not throw it in our face. They did not push us in our faith. They wanted us to know God for ourselves. You need to know God for yourself. A lot of times people think that they want to throw faith at their kids when they are like five years old … I had heard about Jesus when I was little but I didn’t know it for myself until I was fourteen. Then I knew for sure that God is real; there is a God out there. I thank God for my parents who let me understand so that I could make a decision for myself. It’s one thing to give children the information that they need, but it’s another to let them decide for themselves.
On his career…
My vision does not stop with oral surgery. God has so much in store for me to do to serve his people. Where did you want to take my career? As I was reading about starting a business, it was right there in Deuteronomy 8:18 — “Remember the Lord thy God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth … which he may establish his covenant which he shares with his Father as it is this day.” Once I realized he gave me that Word …. He gave me the power so I need to go out and reach what I need to do. And don’t just be a talker; go and do the work. If you say you are going to do something, do it. Don’t stop when it gets hard. You have to persevere, dedicate yourself. You’ve got to be very strong-minded in what you want to do. Faith without work is completely dead. We are not here to be served; we are here to serve. So if everyone would realize that we are here to help one another … we are here to bless others as we are also being blessed.
On her background…
My brothers and I grew up singing in church. My mom actually birthed that music and entertainment in our system by always pushing us in that direction. After many years of working in the music industry, I was running a record label for CeCe Winans (probably 2003). I envisioned getting into the television and film industry. Wrote it on my vision board. Started doing research on how to get involved. I took a Hollywood 101 class, which sounds so simple, but it helped prepare me for what I didn’t know was right around the corner. Because we’d been doing independent marketing for music for so long, the industry as a whole recognized what we did. A movie marketing company came to me and said, “You guys know everyone in this African-American faith and family space. Do you think you can lend your expertise?” Without even thinking about I said yes. That movie was very successful for us and from there the floodgates opened. So God really was the wind behind our backs.
On living in God’s will…
Where God has you in life, especially if you are participating in His plan, it’s for a reason … and He needs you to be in certain positions, certain stopping points so He can show Himself strong. It’s the children of Israel at the Red Sea. If they had taken a left turn or a right turn, you miss the whole opportunity for God to do something incredible — to part the Red Sea. A lot of us try to run from our story and from our situation. But if you just stay the course, that story will turn into one of the great stories of all time. And that story turns into one of the movies we’ve seen today. It’s important to own your truth, to own your story, to be comfortable in it, to not compare yourself to anyone else’s journey. Then you get to where God needs you to be so that He can absolutely flourish what He’s planted in you.
CASA volunteer Isaac Hammond began his journey with Capital Area CASA Association in March of 2017. During the Sunday worship service at Neely United Methodist Church, there was a message about the mission of CASA and the need for volunteers to be advocates for abused children in the community. Hammond, the pastor of the church, said it was then that the Lord placed on his heart a desire to reach out. He is now in his eighth month as a CASA volunteer.
“I feel that I was called to be a CASA volunteer because in my ministry, I deal with a lot of children with issues in their community and homes,” he said. “I have always had a love for working with children whether it is in Sunday school, Vacation Bible School or coaching the youth basketball team. I love to see children succeed in life and go on to be productive citizens in society.”
Hammond says he wanted to help a child who might not have had all the benefits in life that he did. “There might be something they must overcome to reach the goal that God has called for them,” he said. “So I believe if I can do anything to help someone along the way in life, then my living will not be in vain.”
Volunteers often develop a close relationship with their CASA child. “The biggest payoff of all is seeing a smile on a child’s face … displaying the feeling that they are experiencing someone who is sincere with them.”
Hammond encourages others to get involved with CASA. “God calls us to reach out to help those that may be in need of help,” he said. “It’s our job to fulfill the Great Commission to go out into the world and lead people to a successful life and to happiness.”
His religion has played a role in his participation, Hammond added. “It’s our job as Christians to participate in services (such as CASA) that God has created to help society. It’s our job as Christians to be there, to speak up, and to look out for those who cannot do this for themselves.”
Capital Area CASA is always looking for volunteers to step up and be the voices for abused children in East Baton Rouge Parish. Men and African American volunteers are especially needed. To learn more about CASA. visit www.casabr.org call (225) 379-8598. You can also visit the office at 848 Louisiana Avenue in Baton Rouge.
It was a defining moment. Though I’d been a Christian for years, the question loomed in my mind for days. “Do you believe in the goodness of God?”
The pastor even made the statement that if in all of our Biblical knowledge and years of study we still doubted the “goodness” of God in our own lives, we needed to go back to Christianity 101. It is the foundation of all other beliefs.
We struggle with that belief because of the bad things that happen in our lives or those of our loved ones. “If God is good, why did He allow this to happen?” While a valid question, we must believe that He is at work in all circumstances, both good and bad to bring about His will.
What is goodness?” In Galatians 5, Paul lists the fruits of the spirit. As the Holy Spirit works in our lives, our character changes. Where we had harbored selfishness, cruelty, rebelliousness, and spite, we now possess love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and selfcontrol. Everything in the list reflects the character of God, and goodness is one that relates directly to morality.
Bad things have happened in my life and yours. Bad things have happened to people I love. That has caused heartache and I’ve cried out to God, asking “why?” Sometimes I get a glimpse of understanding, yet in many situations I can simply lift those concerns to the throne of grace and choose to trust God to bring about something that brings Him glory.
It’s easy to see God’s goodness in the lives of others. Yet behind every door is a story; a mom on her knees, a father praying for guidance, or a family in turmoil. We all need grace. We all need healing. We all need direction. We all need God.
Is God good? Yes! He is goodness. He is forgiveness. He is grace. He is redemption. He is healing. He is wisdom. He is Love. He is savior and Lord. He is good. Let Him have your heart and teach you about His goodness in your life and how you are to be goodness in your world.
Years ago, my husband Fred and I were in a paddle boat in the middle of our neighborhood lake fishing with our two young children. We were using “stinky bait” to catch catfish. Let me just tell you, stinky bait stinks!
My husband laughed when I said, somewhat befuddled: “To think I wanted to be a television talk show host,” as I wiped my hands, failing to get the stink off. That goal of being the Christian version of Oprah Winfrey was not in the cards! It seemed stinky bait and raising babies detoured my plans.
We all had dreams when we were kids. For many, it was the dream to escape, to prove our worth, to establish an identity — that brief moment in time when being a rock star seemed a real possibility. Then life seems to happen, and the older we get, the less we dream. Bills, commitments, jobs, families and other priorities become front and center, and all of a sudden, year after year, we have forgotten that potential is still a thing and dreams are still very much a reality.
The Bible has much to say about humility. One, it’s a fruit of the Spirit. Which means if we have Jesus, we have humility! Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life. (Proverbs 22:4 NIV)
As a believer, humility is a healthy and reverent fear of the Lord. It is trusting God with what is, what was, and what is to come. We can look back in regret over things that didn’t happen. We can linger into the future in hopes of what may happen. But right now — today — this is the day the Lord has made! This is the day set before us to trust Him to speak to us about His miraculous plans for our lives.
Pride is usually considered the opposite of humility. Often referred to as our mortal enemy, it can certainly wreak havoc in our lives. Yet being confident is different. We are gifted by God to do His will, therefore we get to be great at something! (1 Corinthians 12)
Therein lies the confusion. Pride says we can do it ourselves. Confidence says we trust in God to do what He said He would do. He put each of us here for a purpose and gifted us uniquely to live that purpose out, surrendering our agendas to his as only He knows what is best for us.
I’ll admit, I’d still like to be the Christian version of Oprah Winfrey and host a talk show to share the amazing testimonies of God at work in the lives of his people! But for now, that is STILL not in the cards. God has instead blessed me with a marriage of 24 years, two grown children, one grandchild and a ministry that I love. And I would not trade those “stinky bait” days for anything, for those are treasured memories.
Humility includes trading our desires for His perfect purposes. I still believe in God-sized dreams. Do you?