Geaux Life, September 2018

Sky is the Limit, Wings of the Spirit

The Sky is the limit

God Had Other Plans! This groups very first Mission of Peace (to Guatemala) included pilot Gerald Huggins and videographer Daniel Waghorne. But an accident ended the trip after just four days. Even so, WOTS worked through their doubts and ultimately found success.

BY: lisa tramontana

Tim Dixon, “I felt life God was preparing me for this ministry-the first mission trip, the pilot’s license, the move to Baton Rouge, and finally meeting Ryan. God put people and situations in my life according to his perfect timing and will.”
Gerald Huggins, “Working with this ministry has been so rewarding. We all have the same values and the same heart-to help others, to plant the Word, to water it and see it grow. When I met Ryan, he really pulled everyone in and kept us focused. Best of all, he let us share in is vision.”
Ryan Williams, ““I don’t know what the future holds,” Williams said. “I just know that when we let the Holy Spirit lead the way and guide us along the journey, amazing things happen.”

When Ryan Williams tries to explain how Wings of the Spirit went from a dream to reality, even he has trouble believing it.

Three men, unknown to each other, all wrestling with an idea God had placed on their hearts. Each man needing something to make God’s desire come true, but not knowing where or how to find it. And then one night at a church gathering (and by coincidence), the three men happen to be in the same room and everything starts to fit … like a puzzle waiting patiently for the final piece that brings the “big picture” into view.

Williams had just returned from a mission trip in Central America, and came home feeling that God wanted him to get his pilot’s license. Gerald Huggins, who owned an airplane maintenance shop, was dreaming of visiting his native Guatemala to distribute Bibles to people in remote villages. Tim Dixon had just moved to Baton Rouge from Ashland, Kentucky, where he had left behind his small plane. In the months before he moved, he had gone on a mission trip and felt called to combine his pilot skills with his mission work.

At the church meeting, through handshakes and overheard bits of conversation, the three men began to feel that they had been intentionally brought together. Within hours, Dixon offered to let Williams use his plane for flying lessons, Huggins agreed to help Dixon bring his plane back from Kentucky, and Williams began to envision an aviation ministry that would become Wings of the Spirit …

To say that the ministry got off to a bumpy start (see sidebar) would be an understatement, but by the spring of 2016, WOTS was literally flying high. On their “Mission of Peace,” volunteers visited four countries, covered 4,500 miles, and distributed 1,400 Bibles. God’s favor and blessings were apparent, Williams says, as the group’s needs were met at every turn, new relationships were built, and seeds of hope were planted.

In the two years since, the organization has branched out. When the Great Flood of 2016 caused so much destruction and heartbreak in the Baton Rouge area, WOTS volunteers immediately went to work helping local residents (and each other) clean and gut their damaged homes and get back on the road to recovery. They raised funds to donate 400 coats to Livingston Parish children. When a tornado touched down in Petal, Mississippi, the group mobilized a team to deliver water, tarps and supplies to the area. WOTS made at least five trips to Texas after Hurricane Harvey devastated the state last year.

“When our first mission didn’t go as planned,” Williams said, “we questioned whether we were doing the right thing. We had a lot of doubt, but it faded quickly as God began to show us the next steps. One thing we learned is that as the hands and feet of Christ, we were able to “serve where we stood.”

And so the group has gotten involved in outreach projects and disaster relief, some far away, but many close to home. Just last month, a group of volunteers drove a special trailer carrying three washer/dryers to a homeless community in New Orleans. For the men and women living beneath an interstate and wearing the same dirty clothing every day, this offer to wash their clothes was an incredible act of kindness and an acknowledgment of their dignity. The WOTS group also served meals and spent time with their homeless brothers and sisters.

“Our struggle now,” said Williams, “is to cast a wider net. There are so many opportunities to serve, and people are so grateful when you show them love and compassion. In order to see a change, you have to be the change, and we are willing to do that.”

To that end, Williams’ next dream is to build a “base camp” in Baton Rouge, from which to mobilize volunteer groups from local churches, providing them with the tools to serve in disaster relief and outreach projects. Many people want to serve, but are understandably hesitant because of the logistics involved.

“Our base camp would be a safe place,” Williams said. “A place to house 12 people. Beds, bath, meals … it would give volunteers the security and confidence to say ‘yes’ when the opportunity to help others arises.”

Wings of the Spirit has roots in Journey Church of Central, where its founders worship. But the ministry is open to all faiths. If you would like to know more about the organization, make a donation, or view videos of recent mission trips and relief projects, visit the website at wingsofthespirit.org. If you would like to serve as a volunteer, call Williams at (225) 773-4009.

“I don’t know what the future holds,” Williams said. “I just know that when we let the Holy Spirit lead the way and guide us along the journey, amazing things happen.”

Recipients find comfort in the Bible and a helping hand from the ‘Wings of the Spirit” Ministry.
Sharing with others and praying with people is very important to the team .
Faith Life, September 2018

S.T.A.R.S. Local Pilots Teach Kids to Soar

The rainy morning did not stop the flights!
Pastors Alber and Adraine White of Abounding Love Ministries, Inc. is the church behind the S.T.A.R.S. Camp.
The Kids enjoyed the experience.
Most were all smiles, some flying for the first time.
The leaders had as much fun as the children.
Right after the flight!
Pilots Gabriel Rincon, Albert Rutherford, Edgar Blevins, and Scott Barrow gathered to support the aviation education through the S.T.A.R.S. program. (Smith Thomas not pictured)

S.T.A.R.S: Local Pilots Teach Kids to Soar

On a steamy morning, a small plane taxies onto a runway at Baton Rouge Metro Airport. An elementary school-age youth climbs out of a passenger’s seat. “I was flying!” he says.

It’s a lesson in courage and trust that local pastors and pilots hope will inspire a new generation to think beyond the ordinary – to explore limitless possibilities.

Five local pilots recently volunteered to take kids on their first flights – an aerial tour of the Mississippi River, the state capitol grounds, LSU and Southern University. The excursion marked the end of an eight-week S.T.A.R.S. course in aviation basics with a Biblical application. For 14 years, S.T.A.R.S. (Students That Are Reaching Success) has employed a no-boundaries approach to teach kids to soar spiritually as they excel academically.

S.T.A.R.S. founder Albert White of Abounding Love Ministries, with the support of pastor/wife Adraine, partners with the YMCA and BREC to provide education, enrichment experiences and recreation every Saturday, plus an eight-week summer camp at Saia Park on North Donmoor Avenue. During the academic year, they also offer after-school tutorials and preparation for standardized tests along with instruction in social skills and strategies for coping with challenging life situations.

“It’s just amazing to see what God has done,” White said. Through the Soaring Stars element of the curriculum, he is hoping to awaken a passion for flying and show kids that their dreams are achievable. The five pilots – Bishop Calvin Emery, Scott Barrow, Edgar Blevins, Smith Thomas and Gabe Rincon – immediately agreed to the idea.

“I’m glad to help children get a different perspective on life,” pilot Scott Barrow said. “It gives you a different way of thinking, a different perspective. I’m hoping they’ll get excited about learning how to fly.”

“As a kid I always wanted to fly,” said Dr. Edgar Blevins, a pilot and mechanical engineering professor at Southern University. “All kids love airplanes and cars. So we thought this would be a good way to introduce the kids to aviation and the Word at the same time.” He and fellow pilot Dr. Calvin Emery, pastor of Times of Refreshing World Outreach Ministries, designed and served as co-instructors for the aviation curriculum.

“For each of the aerodynamics, from communications to flight characteristics to going places, there is a Bible verse and technical side,” Blevins said. “We taught them about the first principles of flight, the aerodynamics of the plane: lift, weight, thrust and drag,” Emery said. “God wants to lift you; the wings want to lift you.”

“One of the forces acting on a plane is drag,” Blevins said. “The drag can slow down the airplane – affect its flying characteristics.”

“God wants to thrust you, but drag is trying to come against you,” Emery said. We linked that to people that you shouldn’t be around – non-positive individuals,” Blevins said. “All kinds of things – sex before marriage – that stuff will pull you down.”

“A lot of kids pass by the airport; they don’t know what happens on this side of the fence, especially low-income African-American kids,” Emery said. “They see another African-American, a male, doing the thing that they might like. They realize that if he can do it, I can do it.”

Personal examples make the difference, according to fellow pilot Albert Rutherford. He shared an interest in airplanes with his father, who took him to watch the planes on weekends. “At eight years old I remember peering through the fence and seeing the magnificent men in the flying machines, knowing at that time – I’m going to become a pilot,” he said.

Some 20 years later, a pilot stopped and asked him, “Do you fly?” When he replied, “No, but one day,” the pilot challenged him. “He said, ‘You’re the only person that can make it happen. You’ve got to make the money and find the time. But until you do that – make that decision – it’ll always be “one day.”’ Now in his 42nd year as a pilot, Rutherford lectures and shares a documentary on the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the African-American squadron known as one of the most highly esteemed fighter groups in World War II.

It’s that sort of motivation that camp director Ella Sue Evans hopes to inspire in kids – because kids don’t dream big dreams until they’ve been introduced to big ideas. And rather than selecting a few children to hold starring roles – as schools tend to do – the camp involves many children in a wide spectrum of activities including Spanish and chess classes. The results can be surprising.

“Our children have hidden talents that need to be exposed to the community and so this is an opportunity for them,” said Evans. At the end-of-camp finale, everyone performs. “Everybody gets an opportunity, because sometimes their parents don’t even know that they can sing, don’t know that they can dance, sometimes don’t even know that they have this gift inside of them.”

“We wanted to make sure that we prepared the children for the next academic school year, so that’s one of our biggest goals for the summer,” Evans said. Under the strategic leadership of program director Yvonne Bey, kids are involved in academics, enrichment and recreation. The camp, attracting as many as 200 kids, is funded in part by a state grant.

The influence of the camp and its mentors is far-reaching. Some former students return to pour into the lives of other kids. “We have the opportunity to impress so many young people,” Evans said. “I get fulfillment just seeing them come back. It brings joy to my heart that my work has not been in vain.”

“It really helped establish who I am as a person,” said former camper Suzanne Hartford. A graduate of University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Hartford now runs Studio 29:11 and teaches dance at the camp. “The creed we learned talks about being a star and being a student who is reaching for success all the time – in the community, at school and at home.”

“That’s my mindset,” said Emery. “That’s why I became a pilot. I wanted to fulfill the dream I had since I was a kid. That can take you from doing something destructive to something constructive. It’s about doing something you never thought possible.”

Through the Soaring Stars element of the curriculum, the instructors hope to awaken a passion for flying and show kids that their dreams are achievable. The pilots, including Edgar Blevins, Gabriel Rincon, Calvin Emery, Smith Thomas and Scott Barrow donated their time and planes to offer the campers an unforgettable experience.







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 Seminary, and served as a chaplain at Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women.