Feature Story, Online edition!

Miracle on VooDoo Mountain, by Susan Brown

The Boudreaux Family, Saintil, Micha, Jessica, Megan, Josh and Gabby



Megan Boudreaux never expected to return to Haiti. When she volunteered for a brief trip with Our Lady of the Lake Foundation, she came home overwhelmed. “It was crazy, and I thought I could never live here,” she said. But she couldn’t get Haiti out of her mind…or out of her dreams. 

At age 24, she sold everything and planted her life in Haiti, the most economically deprived country in the Western hemisphere, and the site of a devastating magnitude 7.0 earthquake only a year earlier. Her new home in Gressier was ten miles from the earthquake’s epicenter. Nearby,  Bellevue Mountain, also known as Voodoo Mountain, inspired fear in local residents for the ongoing practice of animal sacrifice. That was 2011. 

Eight years later, the nonprofit she founded, Respire Haiti, provides schooling for 540 children, 60% of whom are former child slaves. Some 140 Haitian employees run the school, medical clinic, counseling service and micro-finance program for small business development. 

After a year’s respite in her native Lafayette, and the birth of their daughter, Megan and husband Josh Anderson fly back into Port-au-Prince this week. They plan to expand the micro-finance program, and eventually, start a church that welcomes people affected by economic distress, abandonment and child slavery. Their strategy is simple: commit to obey God, and be quiet and listen for his direction.  

As soon as she took the first step of obedience in 2011, Megan met a child who would define much of her ministry. “I didn’t have a plan, but the Lord just kept unfolding these little things,” she said. On Bellevue Mountain, she saw a bird and a little girl with a bunch of rocks in her hand. “She was throwing rocks at the bird because she was hungry, and she was going to eat the bird.” So, Megan bought food, teamed up with a friend who cooked local dishes and handed out meals from the back of a flatbed truck. 

Later, she observed that the same little girl was constantly busy with chores. One day, she followed her from the market to her tent-house where she faced piles of dishes to wash. Megan googled “Haiti” and “slaves.” She was stunned to learn that there were half a million Restaveks – child slaves – in Haiti.  

“They are basically domestic workers, kids that have been given to other families or kidnapped or taken from their home, and they just do all of the work,” Megan said. “That was the moment I remember looking at this little girl and going – she’s not in school. She’s six years old and she doesn’t even know how to hold a pencil.” The next logical step was to start a school. 

When Bellevue Mountain was selected as the school site, one of the women helping with paperwork burst into tears. “She said, ‘We have gone up on this mountain every single Sunday for 12 years to pray for you,” Megan said. “Bellevue Mountain used to be where they would do voodoo sacrificing and ceremonies, and now it’s just this beacon of light and hope.” The school, medical clinic and sports programs cover the mountain, and efforts to nurture families and provide seed money for entrepreneurs encourage families to keep their kids, rather than send them away to work or to orphanages.

“About 80% of the kids that live in the orphanages are poverty orphans which means they have parents, but the parents can’t take care of them,” Megan said. “What we’ve been doing with our programs is showing them it’s actually cheaper to keep a child with their family and sponsor their school, help them eat at school and get their needs met through school.” All of the children live with their families, caregivers or foster families, a situation that promotes better emotional and psychological well-being in children. 

Megan and Josh have welcomed three adoptive children into their own family, including Micha, the little girl she first met throwing rocks at a bird. Micha’s sister, Jessica – also a Restavek –  joined their family at age three. Their son, Saintil, was adopted after walking a day and a half over mountainous terrain to reach the school. 

At Respire Haiti, children attend Bible classes and have the opportunity to ask questions about the Christian faith. Despite a strong Catholic presence and work by other denominations, Christian beliefs are often absorbed into culture and tradition. “There’s a lot of clouded confusion and voodoo in that, as well, and it’s kind of picking apart what do people understand about Christianity and what do they believe about having a relationship with God,” Megan said.

“My encouragement is – you don’t know how, or when, or where God is going to use where you are now,” Megan said. She had struggled with the idea of finding her purpose after college. As a marketing professional for Cajun Industries, she learned about building construction. “I remember thinking Lord, why am I here? She said. “Now I look back and I’m like, of course, and I know what rebar we’re using, and I know how we’re supposed to build.”

Some 70-75% of the local buildings toppled during the 2010 earthquake and powerful aftershocks, and the threat of future earthquakes makes residents nervous. Respire’s structures are an exception. “We have an incredible guy who has designed all of our buildings. They’re engineered correctly and seismically up to code,” Megan said. “He trained local workers, so they know the placement of the rebar and the quality of the block and sand that they use.” Their construction standards are having a trickle-down effect on new home construction.

As needs become evident, God keeps providing. Donations from The Chapel on the Campus provided seed money for the ministry. Recently, a proposal to expand the school to add 7-9th grades came with a steep cost. Twelve hours later, two young men visited Respire Haiti with the goal of building an orphanage. But after learning about the program to keep kids with families, they felt God’s direction to pay the exact cost: $125-thousand for the four additional classrooms. 

Megan’s number one request is for prayer. “The spiritual warfare, it’s intense. There are a lot of attacks on myself, my husband, my ministry. That should be expected – we’re built on an old voodoo site.” Her second request is for financial support, especially through student sponsorships that cover uniforms, books, medical care and mental health care.

Respire Haiti is a 501c(3) nonprofit. For more information: www.respirehaiti.org or Respire Haiti, P.O. Box 52845, Lafayette, LA 70505-2845.  






Susan Brown began her career in radio news. She was news director for WJBO/WFMF radio and a journalism instructor at LSU. She holds master’s degrees from LSU and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminar, and served as a chaplain at Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women.

Feature Story, Online edition!, Uncategorized

Are you “Leading with Integrity?” 4 good questions for growth.

A Leader of Integrity

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 fred@livingraceministries.com.

Online edition!

Are you getting excited about our online edition? Get ready to meet our writers!

We are about to begin introducing our team of writers. Meet Alton and TaShawda Jamison!

Alton and TaShawnda Jamison are the founders of The Empowerment Zone. This is a ministry designed to “empower people for everyday life”, through products, events, and messages. Alton and TaShawnda Jamison have been sharing the gospel together for over 20 years. They met in college on the campus of Old Dominion University and started teaching Bible Study together and the rest, they say, is history. God has gifted them in the areas of Families and Finances, and they have been blessed to be able to share their message around the country. They have recently completed their first book together: Purpose, Passion & Prosperity: 3 Keys To A Godly Marriage. Alton is the author of three additional books: Get Off The System: Moving From Lack To Abundance, No More Handcuffs: 5 Keys To Removing The Mental Handcuffs From Your Life, and Biblical Principles For Entrepreneurs. They have a genuine love for God and being transparent to others about their failures and successes. God has also blessed them with two beautiful children. For more information about Alton and TaShawnda or The Empowerment Zone, please visit: www.empowerlives.net

November 2018, Publisher's Letter

Our Last Print Edition, Final Publishers Letter

We have been so thrilled to get to serve our community for 43 amazing editions of Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine. Our goal to change the world, one story at a time has been successful and effective.

It’s been my personal pleasure to have the opportunity to share many stories of everyday people who have stepped into God’s call for their life and found God to be Faithful and True. Some of these stories have changed my life, so I know they’ve changed others, perhaps even yours.

There is nothing more powerful than sharing what God has done in your life. Sharing your own experience of the Living Christ with others is the most powerful opportunity God’s people have to spread the gospel effectively in today’s sound-bite society. While many in the world today may shun the validity of the Bible, it’s difficult to debate what God has done in your life.

What if a hurting person heard someone boldly testify of God’s goodness: “Because of the love of God, my marriage made it through a tough season.” Or, “When I prayed to the Lord Jesus in a moment of despair, I was able to begin my road to recovery from addiction.” So many need to hear this. “Because of the cross, I’ve been totally forgiven of…..adultery, abortion, promiscuity, lying, cheating, gossip, jealousy, the list goes on.” Or another big one: “God has given me a new identity and a sense of purpose.” One of my favorites is: “I was lost, and now I’m found. Jesus met me at my lowest point in my life and accepted me at my lowest.”

The world is hungry for authentic faith and a road map to fulfillment. Many are hurting and even more feel isolated and lonely. Because of this, many great people are wondering how to change the world via some vibrant ministry or large platform that offers significant opportunity. While that is a great goal, it’s in the everyday that we can have the most notable impact.

The real opportunity is right in front of us! So close we’ve missed it more times than we can count! Too often, we believe the continual cycle of bad news and too quickly fall prey to believing there is nothing you or I can do.

1 Peter 3:15 (NIV) says it best: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” In whom is your hope? In this world that shuns God altogether? In our government? In material possessions? If so, you have already been disappointed.

Believing in Jesus makes your life better, and He makes you better at life. His earthly plan was to offer all we needed to have a right relationship with our Father and Creator. God sent his Son Jesus to save our souls and offer eternal life. He fills us with His life, His Holy Spirit, so that we don’t have to wonder what to do next. We just ask, listen patiently, and then let Him lead.

It sounds so simple because it is! Jesus modeled a clearly communicated plan of salvation and way of life. The Bible is God’s love letter to help instruct us to a better way of life. Yet in our culture we have invited chaos and confusion by allowing so much hatred and division when the Bible clearly calls us to unity in Christ.

Coming together is the way to build a strong foundation that lasts. First at home, then in our churches and communities. That is clear in Mark 3:25 (NIV) “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” No wonder so many families are falling apart. We start by being one with the One and then one with others.

Thank you for reading! We will continue to publish online and will keep our social media sites active and updated. As we shift the way we reach the world one story at a time, stay tuned!

BRCLM Lagniappe, October 2018

Christian Media Gains Momentum Part 2, Behind the Scenes

Christian Media Gains Momentum, Part 2: Behind the scenes

Christian Media Gains Momentum: Part 2

Actress Amber Nelon Thompson is a Dove Award recipient and the third generation of the famed gospel singing family The Nelons, (founded by her grandfather Rex Nelon). In Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine’s September issue, Amber talked about her transition to acting and important observations about her generation.

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.

Dr. Cameron Lewis grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and practices oral surgery in New York. He felt called to use his talent in other areas and became the executive producer of A Question of Faith, which starred Heather Nelon Thompson. As a man of God, Dr. Lewis spends a great deal of time supporting charitable organizations, including the Mississippi Center for Autism, where Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine caught up with him for an interview.

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.

 

Michelle Duffie is the CEO of the D3 Entertainment Group in Nashville, along with her twin brothers. She is considered the premier liaison, deal-maker, marketing strategist and quarterback between the African American faith and family consumer and the corporate, entertainment and sports world. She has structured marketing strategies generating $1.3 billion in revenue for various companies. Born in extreme poverty just outside Chicago, Michelle credits the strength and faith of her mother, the support of her five siblings and the lessons from her mentors as the fuel for propelling her forward. In the midst of promoting her new venture as executive producer of the movie Beautifully Broken, she found time to talk with Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine.

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.