BRCLM Istrouma Bapt Church
Faith Life, March 2018

Time to Go! Istrouma takes Christ into the community

Time

to

Istrouma takes Christ

Go!

into the community

by Lisa Tramontana

BRCLM Istrouma Bapt Church

Metaphorically, it’s a day when the church “leaves” the building and takes the love of Christ directly into the community. It’s Go Day, a special event organized by Istrouma Baptist Church and now in its seventh year.

Wearing T-shirts that say GO … and make disciples, several teams will fan out across the Baton Rouge area on Sunday, April 21 to clean housing complexes, hand out cold water at bus stops, throw block parties in underserved neighborhoods, conduct sports clinics for children, and wash cars at area police and fire stations. There is even a Laundry Love component, in which volunteers show up at local laundromats with rolls of quarters and offer to pay for customers’ laundry.

BRCL Image Time to Go1
A young girl has her face painted during a neighborhood block party.

Building bridges
Clearly, while all of these projects are taking place, people are connecting … talking … sharing … on many different levels. Each Go Day project provides an opportunity to not just perform an important “service,” but to also share the Gospel and build relationships among the community.

“As the church, it is easy to gather contentedly within our four walls,” said Lead Pastor Jeff Ginn. “There’s certainly a God-given priority for worship and fellowship, but we can never neglect the Lord’s command to ‘go’ into the ‘highways and hedges’ (Luke 14:23). That’s why we have Go Day — to share the love of Christ in practical ways with the people of our community.”

“The Christ-exalting, family-centered approach has led my kids to understand the value of competing with others on the field, while learning discipline, structure, and steadfastness. Craig Lindsay, coach

Good sports
One of the busiest Go Day projects is called “A Ball for All,” in which volunteers conduct free children’s sports clinics, including soccer, football and basketball, to name a few. After a morning of sports fun and exercise, each child receives a complimentary lunch and his or her very own piece of sports equipment, usually a ball or glove. The clinics are often led by local coaches and athletes.

“Originally, this part of the program was called Operation First Base and we reached about 125 children,” said Coach M.L. Woodruff, Minister of Sports Outreach. “Our goal at that time was to just focus on baseball, but eventually our vision expanded to include other sports. This year, we may have as many as 1,000 children involved.”

A Ball for All would not be possible, Woodruff said, if not for Istrouma’s partnership with Baton Rouge Recreation (BREC), which provides five locations* for the event. DeVeta Webb, a BREC program coordinator, says she is touched by

“For this one day, these children know that there is one other adult in this world who knows them and cares for them.”DeVeta Webb

Volunteers help clean a flooded home at last year’s Go Day.

How to help
You don’t have to be a church member to participate in Go Day or A Ball for All. If you’d like to volunteer, (225) 295-0775. You can also visit the website at istrouma.org.

*Locations include: Ben Burge Park (Elvin Drive), Gus Young Park, Hartley/Vey Park at Gardere, Saia Park, and City Brooks Park at McKinley Middle Magnet School.

BRCL Image Jeff Ginn

“We can never forget his command to go into the ‘highways and hedges.” Pastor Jeff Ginn

Giving Kids a Sporting Chance

BRC: Image Coach ML Woodruff
Minister of Sports Outreach M.L. Woodruff, right, and Sports Ministry Assistant Nathan Strong.

Coach M.L. Woodruff remembers when he got the idea for Operation First Base, now called A Ball for All. He was on a plane returning home from a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, where he and his team had conducted free sports clinics for local children and left them with donated balls, gloves and other sports equipment. Jotting down his ideas on a napkin, he wondered if there was a way to do the same for children here in Baton Rouge.

In his seven years at Istrouma Baptist Church, Coach M.L. Woodruff has been instrumental in the growth of the church’s sports program, one of the most dynamic and comprehensive in the city. The Istrouma Sports Organization (ISO) provides year-round opportunities for children in flag football, volleyball, softball, baseball, basketball, soccer, and dance. ISO is focused on quality coaching, an encouraging environment and a Gospel-based mission.

“Sports is the bridge that brings us all together, but the Gospel is the thing that can transform and unify our community,” said Woodruff, who coached high school baseball at Parkview Baptist for 27 years before coming to Istrouma. “We try to teach that sports is a gift given by God, but one that we must give back.”

If your child is interested in joining a team, or if you are interested in volunteering or coaching, contact Woodruff at (225) 295-0775 or at mwoodruff@istrouma.org. Istrouma is also in need of volunteers, greeters, cooks and equipment donations for its upcoming Go Day activities.

Baton Rouge Christian Life MAGAZINE

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Family Life, February 2018

The Lord is Their Shepherd

The Lord is Their Shepherd

55-year marriage is a gift from God

by Lisa Tramontana

Congratulations to Milton and Leola Lee, who recently celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary. The Lees have two children and eight grandchildren, and are lifelong members of New Pilgrim Baptist Church in Zachary.

Milton and Leola were high school sweethearts at Northwestern High School in Zachary, where Milton played football and Leola performed in the band. After marrying in 1962, Milton worked as a lab technician at Copolymer Corporation and retired after 40 years. Leola was a Motor Vehicles Officer at the State Police Headquarters for 33 years.

They keep a positive attitude by staying involved in hobbies and church activities. At least once a week, Milton plays golf and Leola competes in a bowling league. He is active in the Zachary Men’s Club, and she has long been a member of the East Baton Rouge Women’s Auxiliary. At church, they have both served in various roles, including choir, Bible study, and social committees.

They agree on the secret to their long and happy marriage … God.

“God is in our life and always has been,” said Milton. “Like all couples, we’ve had our ups and downs, but as long as we’ve put him before everything else, he has kept us together.”

 

BRCLM Image for Family Life
Milton and Leola Lee celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary.

Words of Comfort

Click to hear an audio recording of Leola Lee reading the 23rd Psalm from the Old Testament.

Leola says communication is another key to a successful marriage … with her husband and with God. “With Milton, I talk about whatever is on my heart,” she said. “With God, I pray … to keep my faith strong and to watch over the people I love.”

And when she needs comfort, Leola says, she goes to her Bible and reads her favorite Scripture, the 23rd Psalm.

Baton Rouge Christian Life MAGAZINE

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Faith Life, July 2017

Singing Her Way to Glory

Singing Her Way to Glory

Angela Wolf and her band, Soul Salvage Project, are divine messengers

by Lisa Tramontana

Her voice is deep, soulful and unforgettable, often drawing comparisons to Janis Joplin or Melissa etheridge. Her songs describe heartbreak, struggle, and the desire for redemption, all feelings with which she is intimately acquainted. Angela Wolf, lead singer of soul salvage Project, touches people with her music, a combination of Country, southern Rock and Delta Blues. Her style is based on the music of her youth, but the message has definitely changed. As the name of her band suggests, Angela and her bandmates are working to save souls.

She didn’t always have such noble aspirations. Originally from Virginia, Angela grew up with a talent for singing, and even studied classical voice in college. But she left school to join what she calls the “easy money music scene” as the lead singer in an ever-changing procession of pop, rock and heavy metal bands. Along with the easy money came a rebellious lifestyle. “My mother had a deep faith and wanted so much for me to be a strong Christian, but I was always disappointing her,” said Angela. “Even though I grew up going to church, I still got involved in drugs, sex, even criminal activity. At one point, I could have actually gone to prison. I guess I had this idea that my mother’s faith was so strong, her prayers would somehow get me into Heaven someday. God (and my mom) tried to get my attention so many times, but I just didn’t take it seriously.”

And then one day, her mother was diagnosed with cancer. At the time, Angela was living in Atlanta just trying to get by. “That’s when it hit me,” she said. “That was the end of my rope. I thought, ‘She won’t be here anymore. Who will pray for me now? Who else loves me like that? What will I do without her?’ I would have done anything for her at that time, and all she asked was for me to please go to church … any church … and just listen.” She went to one of the largest Presbyterian churches in the city — a church where she could be anonymous. She sat in the back row and listened, hoping to hear some remarkable message from God. But as the service was ending, she didn’t hear anything life-changing. And then the preacher reminded the congregation that ‘God loves you.’

“It was something my mother always said to me. And I started to think about what it really means — to know that God loves you in spite of everything you’ve done. It didn’t change my life that day, but the words stayed in my head and I found myself going back to that church every Sunday.” Eventually, Angela was saved and her life turned around. She met a wonderful man, got married and had a son. Her mother lived long enough to see Angela finally find happiness, and more importantly, find Christ. Angela and her husband had a second son and later settled in Hammond, La. when she began to feel the urge to perform again. But this time, her music was dedicated to Christ.

Today, she works with Bill Glass Prison Ministries (TX), Fly Right, Inc. (AL), and The Winning Edge (TX), flying to prisons around the country with other performers and speakers who share the Gospel with inmates, juvenile offenders, and individuals in drug and alcohol rehab programs. Soul Salvage Project is proud of the many people, inspired by their music, who have surrendered their lives to God.

Soul Salvage Project is not the stereotypical Christian band. Their sound is rooted in rhythm and blues, country and southern rock.

“When you look around and see how God is using you to help heal the brokenness and pain in people’s lives … when you see them opening their hearts … it sets you on fire and you don’t want to ever stop.”

Even though Angela is strong in her faith, it requires daily attention, including prayer and scripture study, she said. “I have found that it only takes a second to slip away from the Lord and His Church, so I am committed to being in church every Sunday, whether I am helping to lead worship or not. I make myself go even after an exhausting weekend of ministry because I believe in setting an example for other believers and I want to know what the Lord is going to reveal to me each week.”

She is also committed to setting an example for her sons. “Faith is the foundation that we return to when life gets crazy,” she said. “Thankfully, my sons have developed compassionate hearts and ‘kingdom eyes.’ They have been privy to the details of every evangelistic event in which I have participated and they have witnessed God’s incredible power. I’m convinced that the Lord is blessing my life not for my own fulfillment, but for the benefit of my sons’ futures … to someday do work for the Lord that will far exceed anything I have ever done.”

In spite of the challenges and the pain of her past, Angela is thankful that God never stopped pursuing her and that she finally surrendered to him. She understands, probably better than most people, the struggle to find meaning and happiness in life.

Soul Salvage Project, based in Hammond, La., includes musicians Russ McDaniel, Daniel Foster, Riley Blackwelder and Jason esler. For videos of soul salvage’s performances, and information on contacting the group, visit the website at soulsalvageproject.com.

“I have been in valleys more than I have been on the mountaintop,” she said. “When I find myself in these low places and cannot hear or see the Lord, I have been taught to praise Him. As difficult as it sounds, if you will thank the Lord for your hurts, challenges, and disappointments, He will begin to reveal to you His perspective.”

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:9.

Baton Rouge Christian Life MAGAZINE

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BRCLM Lagniappe, June 2017

Governor’s Prayer Breakfast

 

Governor’s Prayer Breakfast

Thoughts on Unity, Humility and Trust

by Lisa Tramontana

The mayor of Baton Rouge and the governor of Louisiana had a few pearls of wisdom to share with their audience at the annual Governor’s Prayer Breakfast, held April 11 at the Raising Canes River Center downtown. Their words, and especially their professions of faith, were comforting, considering what the Baton Rouge community has endured in the past year.

The annual Prayer Breakfast is designed to encourage leaders and citizens to call on their faith as they work to strengthen our community … not an easy task for a city that experienced everything from natural disasters to political unrest to senseless violence. Below are some comments from Baton Rouge Mayor President Sharon weston Broome and Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards, prompted by Scriptures that address the themes of unity, humility and trust.

(Psalm 33:12) Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance.


How humbling to know that we are chosen for God’s blessings. Mayor Broome says she has embraced this passage and has applied it to our parish. “I’m convinced that even in the midst of the challenges we have, our greatest breakthroughs will take place,” she said. “All we have to do is believe and be in agreement around that.”

In spite of what our community has gone through since last July, the mayor continues to feel blessed, and more important, “called” to do the work she is doing. “I never believe that what happens in our lives is coincidental,” she said. “I believe God has a purpose and a plan for each and every one of us to fulfill.  And the more Ithink about my life as an elected official, I’m convinced that I’m walking in his purpose.” (Isaiah 43: 1-2) “Now thus says the Lord who created you, oh Jacob, and who formed you, oh Israel: Fear not for I have redeemed you.

I have called you by name. You are mine … When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. In rivers, you shall not drown. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned. The flames shall not consume you.”

This passage, says Governor Edwards, is especially meaningful to him. “This covers every challenge that we’ll ever face,” he said. “Whether your life was turned upside down by the floodwaters or by the violence, God has called us each by name and we are his, so we should fear not. We should be confident and turn to him in prayer.”

Edwards says he has never before been able to “feel” people’s prayers as he has since he became  governor. And he adds that prayer is the key to unity. He finds it challenging that although he works with others who share his same concerns, goals, and motivations, “we just don’t see things the same way.”

“I have to do better,” he added. “I have to make sure that even when we disagree, we’re not disagreeable. If we are in good faith praying to the same God over the same problem, trying to figure out what to do, there’s got to be common ground in there somewhere. But if you don’t communicate, you won’t find it.”

As he recalled the unbelievable flooding that occurred last August, he encouraged the audience not to forget those who are still struggling, and to continue praying for their well-being. In spite of the hardships our city has endured, our prayers should focus on thanksgiving and our hearts should be reassured, he said.

“We are still blessed. God is with us. He is never going to leave us. I find myself asking for something every time I’m in conversation with him rather than thanking him for all that he’s already done for me. So let’s not wait until the fourth Thursday in November. Let’s go ahead and (offer a prayer of thanks) every day.”

Humility, unity, trust. They are all elements of faith, that proverbial shield that protects and empowers us as we go through life. And in Mayor Broome’s words, faith can grow according to a very basic idea: “When you know who has called you… and you know what you believe … and you know who you belong to.”

Baton Rouge Christian Life MAGAZINE

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Geaux Life, September 2015

Bringing Hope and Healing to Africa

by Lisa Tramontana

pyles3After a three-week visit to their hometown of Baton Rouge this summer, Scott and Lee Pyles were ready to return home … to Africa.

Africa has claimed their affections for more than 20 years, ever since they answered a spiritual calling that tugged at their hearts from 7000 miles away. As administrators of L’hopital de Meskine in Cameroon, Scott and Lee have helped to provide spiritual and physical healing to thousands of patients since the hospital opened its doors in 1994.

As a young couple with two small sons in the early ’90s, Scott and Lee had participated in several outreach programs through Baton Rouge’s Chapel on the Campus, but they thirsted for something more meaningful. When Medical Centers of West Africa was founded as a medical mission in sub-Saharan Africa, the couple could see their future taking shape.

“It was not an easy decision,” said Lee, who realized that the couple’s plans would affect their children’s futures as well. “We were very young, but we both felt strongly in our hearts that we wanted our lives to count for something,” she said. “We wanted to help the ‘unreached’ find Jesus. After a lot of praying, a peace came over us and we knew … we just knew.”

Cameroon is a French-speaking country that borders Chad and Nigeria in northwest Africa. It is populated mostly by Muslims, and the area is marked by extreme poverty and lack of education. The hospital was built in the village of Meskine and that is where the couple settled. Their sons Michael and Charlie were joined by a sister, Jessica, a few years after their arrival. “We always told our children … ‘you don’t get to have an ordinary life,'” said Lee. “You get to have an extraordinary life.”

pyles1As for medical care, L’hopital de Meskine was a light in the darkness, and people traveled long distances to receive treatment at the 120-bed facility. Today, an average of 200 patients per day visit the hospital, where physicians and nurses do surgical procedures, treat infectious diseases, deliver babies, and provide pediatric care. Prosthetics are also a big part of the hospital’s practice. The hospital has two operating suites and an outpatient clinic. Other services include pharmacy, laboratory, physical therapy and radiology. The medical team is always changing due to volunteers from all over the world who donate from two weeks to two years of their time as medical missionaries.

Medical services are available to patients regardless of their ability to pay. According to Scott, a “poor fund” helps those who are destitute, but in most cases, families will get together to pool their resources in order to pay their bills. “If it means selling a goat,” that’s what they’ll do,” said Scott.

pyles2MCWA’s medical ministry is just one side of the coin. The bedside ministry is the other. “We never force our beliefs on patients,” said Lee, “because we know there is some danger of persecution in this part of the world. But we do pray with them and share our faith. Some people are not interested, and we respect that, but others are drawn to what we have to say and want to embrace God.”

“There is so much hopelessness in this part of the world,” said Scott. “We’re teaching people how to rise above their hopelessness and find a new way of life that will continue long after we are gone. We have seen a lot of doors open for ourselves and for others. We see that the Word of God is a powerful thing.”

If any one thing has threatened their mission, it is the political landscape. Their corner of the world changed abruptly in 2014 when terrorist attacks and kidnappings became frequent. When the violence came within 10 miles of the hospital, Scott and Lee knew it was time to leave.

“We didn’t want our presence (as Westerners) to put the hospital or its patients in harm’s way,” said Scott. “And now we are certain that this, too, was part of the plan. The safest place to be is at the center of God’s will.”

Their departure has had a silver lining, as the Cameroonian employees have had to operate the hospital on their own in the past year. That, too, has always been part of the plan. Volunteers train the locals to take over their jobs once they leave so that the hospital can eventually stand on its own. That includes nurses, therapists, technicians, builders and administrators. It’s hoped that the hospital will be self-sufficient within five years.

When that happens, Scott and Lee’s work in Africa may be done. “We’ll know it when the time comes,” said Scott. “In the meantime, we’ll continue to be grateful for the opportunity we’ve had to make such a difference in the lives of the people here.”

MCWA offers many opportunities for those looking for a way to serve God. If you feel a calling within your heart, contact MCWA, which is headquartered at 9611 Siegen Lane in Baton Rouge. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call (225) 343-1814, or visit mcwestafrica.com.