August 2018, Cover Story

Cover Story | Zoo Director Phil , Conservation and Christianity

Conservation and Christianity

For Phil Frost, the two go hand in hand

Phil Frost

Baton Rouge Zoo Director Phil Frost knows where a poison dart frog is hiding. He lifts a tiny rock-shaped tent in his office terrarium, and it hops away. “I often find God in small and simple things,” Frost says. The Central and South American frogs – famous for their striking yellow and black coats – are also deadly. “Seeing my frogs reminds me each day to be careful what choices I make and what paths I take.” They are also a reminder to consider the value of each creature. The toxins secreted from the frogs’ skin, once used on the tips of warriors’ arrows, is now the subject of medical research into its use as a muscle relaxant, heart stimulant and anesthetic.
Frost delights in the creatures he oversees. To him, conservation and Christianity go together. “I think that in my interpretation of Genesis and creation, this was made, and we were supposed to take care of it and take care of each other,” he says. “I truly feel that I was called to do what I’m doing.”

After a difficult, devisive debate over the relocation of the zoo, Frost is wholeheartedly stepping into the next phase: renovation of the zoo at its existing location. He expects responses this month to his call for renovation proposals. The BREC Commission voted against the push to move the zoo to a new location at its March 22 meeting following opposition from residents of the area who cite the historical and economic importance of the current location in north Baton Rouge.

“We’ve got a lot of improvements down the road that we’ll be planning, and that’s all starting now, so it’s exciting,” Frost says. “How can we make this the best it can be, sitting right here in Greenwood Park in north Baton Rouge? That’s our charge.” That process will include efforts to restore accreditation by the prestigious American Association of Zoos and Aquariums, lost this spring due to the aging infrastructure at the 48-year-old zoo.

“To me it’s more than just about a zoo. It’s about people, it’s about education, it’s about teaching people the importance of saving wildlife and wild places,” Frost says. “We wish every kid could go to Africa. We wish every kid could go to South America and see those frogs in the wild. But we know that’s not going to happen.” Seeing animals like the Golden Lion Tamarins – some of the rarest monkeys in the world – helps people realize that animals have problems that humans can help solve.

“All of a sudden, zoos have been able to get involved in conservation efforts around the world. We’re involved in programs that deal with frogs in Panama, elephants in Kenya and tigers in Malaysia and Sumatra,” Frost said. He now serves as chair of Species360, a software company that connects more than 1,100 zoos in 90 different countries to collect and share animal records and genealogy. That allows zoos to look at bloodlines and bring potential mates together to conserve struggling species. “If it had not been for the captive breeding at the New York Bronx Zoo, we would not have bison today, because they had been brought down to such a low number,” Frost says.
The big challenge today is adapting to new knowledge about animal habitats and educating the public about realistic methods of conserving endangered species. Zoos around the world – including the Baton Rouge Zoo – are choosing to house a smaller variety of animals in favor of preserving sparse species. For example, eight different cat species were previously housed at the local zoo in what is now the Realm of the Tiger.
For the same reasons, zoo officials are considering whether to replace the 46-year-old elephant, Judy, who died in 2013, and her companion, Bozie, who was transferred to the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Recent studies revealed that elephants are social animals and need to belong to a herd, preferably in the wild where they reproduce best. For rescued elephants, the cost is enormous. While Buckskin Bill raised $6,000 for an elephant exhibit, that amount would not even cover food for a year at today’s costs, and it would take $10-15 million dollars for the exhibit and animals, Frost says. A bird building, at a quarter of the cost, attracts visitors for 25-30 minutes versus a typical five second viewing at an elephant exhibit. “I think that’s what this master planning process is about, bringing the community together and saying what’s really important to them,” Frost says.

Frost sees a zoo as unique gathering place for the community because it appeals to all generations. He wants every child to experience the animals and develop a sense of concern for them, just as he did. His father, a Free Methodist minister, made a point of stopping at the Evansville, Indiana zoo each time they traveled from their home in Illinois to visit grandparents in Kentucky. Frost became fascinated with the tiny prairie dogs but also acquired lessons in responsibility from the time with animals. Missionaries also visited their home and brought information and toy replicas of exotic animals from places like Africa and China. He learned that the best way to solve problems is by equipping the people who live among them.
“And so, in many cases, the conservation programs we’re involved in help fund projects that are already on the ground by the people who live there, who know the culture, who are very well established,” Frost says. “We’re supporting those programs with dollars that people donate to us through our Friends of the Zoo.”
That sense of responsibility also finds its roots in the beliefs of the Free Methodist church, a denomination that split from mainstream Methodists in the mid-1800s over issues including slavery and free seating at church during a time when wealthy families paid for pews near the front of the sanctuary. “All my life I’ve been raised in a family that truly saw the value in all people,” Frost says. The Frosts are now members of First United Methodist Church in downtown Baton Rouge.
His upbringing also informs his understanding of creation and the natural world. “I am a biologist, I am a scientist, but I’m also a Christian. And sometimes those don’t go together,” he says, in reference to the debate over the origin of the universe. “God created it,” he says. “I just believe it, and that’s the way it is. And I’m comfortable with that.” He points to an experience with a minister friend in Tennessee during a tour of the “Rise of Life” exhibit at Grassmere Wildlife Park that Frost helped develop in Nashville.
“The fact that there were Smilodon, or Saber-tooth cats, there 2,000 years ago, the fact that it was under water several million years ago because you can find Mosasaurus skeletons which is a fish, big whale-like fish in all the sand – it was obvious that a lot of things had changed in the last many, many years.” The exhibit referred to the [Big] Bang. “It’s not a fact; it’s a theory,” Frost said. His minister friend remarked, “Yeah, my God could have done it that way.”
“And I thought, we don’t have to sit here and argue that’s not how it is. My God did it. And that’s kind of the simplicity that I’ve had,” Frost said. “The science mentality is we’ve got to prove it. I think that’s where faith comes in. You just can’t prove faith.” One of his favorite scripture verses is, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all thy ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5, 6).

“We can make a difference in the world. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed. I think that’s the beauty of what zoos do today,” Frost said. “One of the challenges that zoos have is just being a megaphone, if you will, to people about things that we can do.

Mike Rase for BRCLM
August 2018, Witness at Work

Mike Rase: Building Relationships, Our Key to Success

Mike Rase: Building Relationships, Our Key to Success

Mike Rase for BRCLM

By Rachele Smith 

The year was 1995. It was a time when “Still in Love” by East to West topped the Christian music charts, the World Wide Web was taking flight, and kids, both young and old, were flocking to theaters to see Walt Disney Picture’s Toy Story surge in popularity “to infinity and beyond.”  

But closer to home, Mike Rase, the vice president and general manager of Paretti Jaguar Baton Rouge, was just starting out in the car industry, and he was about to experience something that still influences both his personal and professional life today. 

Rase’s story begins with a man driving a Harley Davidson motorcycle onto the lot of a Jag dealership. According to Rase, the man had a dog on his back, sported a long ponytail, and was wearing a T-shirt that said “Satan Sucks.” As the first new sales person at this car dealership in 18 years, Rase was selected to help him.  

“Being young and not one to be a typical car guy, I wanted to treat him like you are supposed to treat a fellow human being, so I waited on him,” said Rase. “He asked some questions and then left. I thought it was all over, but then he came back a few hours later, and said, ‘I want you to know I’ve been to a lot of different car dealerships and nobody would wait on me. You were the only person that greeted me today.’” The man returned later and purchased a car. 

Through the years, that same customer has continued to return and has purchased additional cars. “He just doesn’t want to deal with anyone else in the car business,” Rase said. “He is an extremely religious man and does a lot of mission work. He takes in people who have had drug addictions and gives them jobs fixing motorcycles and gets them up and running and back out into society. He’s a gentleman, and I consider him a friend.” 

For Rase, the lesson learned that day was instilled in him through his Christian faith: human dignity. And by doing what he knew was right and just, a lifelong connection was made. The experience also helped Rase realize his basic business intuition was correct.  

“Certainly, there is a stigma with people (working) in the car business,” Rase said. “When I came into it, I wanted to be different. I didn’t want people to see me as that typical car guy. Every day, since the day I started, I’ve tried to not let anybody see me in that light.” 

Rase has extended that business idea to his employees at Paretti Jaguar of Baton Rouge. “That means being up front and honest and making friends with the folks, understanding their families. We have a lot of repeat business, and I think that’s because we take care of customers at the end of the day,” he said. 

Building relationships is key, according to Rase, who was named general manager of Paretti Jaguar when the Paretti family of dealerships in Metairie expanded to Baton Rouge in 1997.  

“My father-in-law said, ‘We gotta do this (move to Baton Rouge); go make this happen.’ I was a baby in the business. In hindsight, I can’t believe he (my father-in-law) went out on a limb and really fought for me to be able to become the general manager here,” he said. 

Back then, the local dealership had only six employees, including Rase. Today, 36 employees are needed to run the company, which also includes a state-of-the-art Jaguar Land Rover facility. And in February, the Baton Rouge team earned the coveted 2018 Land Rover Pinnacle Award for outstanding overall business performance, one of just 16 dealerships across the country to do so. 

“It’s an all-encompassing award,” said Rase. “It’s not just about how many cars you sell. (That’s) great because it’s not an award for me. It’s an award for everybody here, for 36 people who all equally won that award, and that’s pretty nice.” 

Rase lives in Covington and has commuted to the capital city for 20 years. He admits he is a “people person” and said he enjoys the personal interaction with his customers. “It’s fun for me to hear what’s going on with their families, and I’ve seen the kids grow up and now we’re selling the children cars, and then it’ll be the grandchildren. We grow with them as time progresses,” he said. 

In today’s world of cell phones and emails, it can be hard to maintain that personal connection, but Rase believes there is power in that one-on-one relationship with people. 

“It’s really (about) that connection. Did I make your day or not? Can I surprise and delight you somehow today? (Anything) to be different than that phone going off,” he said. 

Stacey and Mike Rase
Stacey and Mike at the annual Michael J.Fox Kickin’ Parkinsons VIP Gala in New York City

As the father of four children, Rase knows it can be tough finding the right balance between work and family. But he credits his wife with helping him keep it together. “I will say without Stacy, none of this is possible. Having that lengthy commute, I’ve missed an awful lot not being at home. My wife has made it all happen on the home front,” he said, noting his four children, all raised in the Catholic communities around St. Anselm Catholic Church in Madisonville and St. Peter Catholic Church in Covington, have all been successful students in and out of the classroom.  

“Mom takes care of business. She’s the enforcer of a lot of things,” he noted, but when things go really bad, he said, Dad gets a call. “I enjoy being ready and able to go out and tackle whatever that problem is.” 

As his children get older and head off to college and beyond, Rase is realizing he and his wife are very close to that next stage in life. “We’re about to be empty nesters in two years,” he said. ”We’re probably five years before having grandkids, and the best years of our lives are in front of us. I certainly do look forward to it.” 

Rase family
The Rase Family, Shelby, Mike Larry, Stacey, Hadley and Landry at Larry’s HS graduation May 2018




Pinnacle Jacguar Award
In February, the Baton Rouge team earned the coveted 2018 Land Rover Pinnacle Award for outstanding overall business performance, one of just 16 dealerships across the country to do so. “It’s an all-encompassing award,” said Rase. “It’s not just about how many cars you sell. (That’s) great because it’s not an award for me. It’s an award for everybody here, for 36 people who all equally won that award, and that’s pretty nice.”
August 2018, Learning For Life

A Beautiful Mind

On the day he accepted a full scholarship from Southern University, Elijah could hardly contain his excitement.
Surrounded by family and members of the Southern University administration, Elijah poses for photos.
Elijah Precciely with his parents and two sisters, Brejena and Brianna.

A Beautiful Mind
by Lisa Tramontana

Elijah Precciely was literally the answer to a prayer — his father’s.

Steve Precciely was the last male in his family’s line, and after two daughters, he and his wife Pamela desperately wanted a son. They would have to wait 11 years. “At one point, I felt God say to me, ‘What is more important? My desire for you to do my will or your desire to have a son?’ I realized that I needed to be happy doing God’s will … that the situation was beyond my control … so I accepted that it might never happen, and I felt a burden lifted.”

And not long afterward, the Preccielys learned they were expecting. Elijah came into the world weighing 9 pounds, 6 ounces — a big baby destined for big things. “When he was born,” said Steve, “I heard God say, ‘Name him Elijah, for he will be a prophet to the nations.’”

At 11, Elijah is already a published author, host of a Christian radio show, and owner of five patents for several inventions. This month, he will become a licensed minister of The Church of God in Christ, and next spring, he will be a full-time student at Southern University, where just last month, he was offered a full scholarship to study physics and mechanical engineering.

Elijah is a true child prodigy and his parents say they are humbled by God’s grace. “We really believe he’s going to change the world,” said Pamela. “And we want to facilitate what God is doing in his life. We give the glory to God and we let the Holy Spirit lead us.”

The Preccielys’ faith is strong. Steve is pastor of Grace and Truth Church in Baton Rouge, while Pamela has served in many ministries throughout their marriage. They home-schooled all of their children and raised them in a godly household. At just 5 years old, Elijah was so comfortable talking about Scripture that he stepped up to the altar and preached his first “message.”

But his parents knew he was gifted long before that. At just 18 months, his daycare teacher told the Preccielys that he should probably be moved up with the 2- and 3-year-old children. This became a pattern. By age 3, Elijah’s parents were amazed by how quickly he soaked up information. “We had posters on the walls, lists of all the things he had learned,” said Pamela. “The planets, the presidents, the continents, all of the times tables. We couldn’t hold him back.”

Television and video games were limited, while books and musical instruments were encouraged. Elijah has played piano, guitar, the recorder, the violin and the drums. “I want to be a jack-of-all-trades,” he said, and a master of all!”

By age 6, he was flipping through college level textbooks, and by 7, he was learning about science and law, and was elected president of his class at Camp CEES. Through a program called TeenPact, he increased his knowledge of government and civics, and was elected governor among his peers. His parents took a Hebrew class and brought their son with them. Elijah learned Hebrew right alongside them. By age 8, Pamela says she had to find help and looked to nearby Southern University, where a professor suggested he enroll in classes right away.

“At that time, Elijah was doing experiments, every day using things from around the house,” Pamela said. “I was always looking for something that had disappeared from my kitchen.”

“I would ask my mom, ‘can we get some liquid nitrogen, some dry ice and some north and south magnets? Please?’” Elijah said. “I just had so many ideas and I didn’t want this information to just sit on a shelf in my brain! When I get thoughts and ideas in my mind, it’s … pop, pop, pop … like popcorn!”

The classes at Southern University opened up a new world for Elijah. For the past three years, he has taken one or two classes every semester, mostly math, science and engineering. One of his parents attends every class with him, and they say he is certainly not shy about discussing the material with his instructors. If anything, they have to remind him to let the other students engage in discussions as well. “His hand is always up,” says Steve.

As for faith, Elijah says he loves praying and speaking to God. “Someday, I want to use my academic knowledge and show how it’s tied to the stories and lessons in the Bible,” he said. “I want to explain that the Bible is the truth. If there is ever an opportunity to minister to someone, that’s what I’m going to do.”

He prays and talks with his parents to get ideas for his radio show. “Sometimes, I’m filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit,” he said, “and I speak in tongues. The Holy Spirit speaks through me and gives me solutions to problems, and shows me how things happening in the world can be used in my radio show. It’s not just a brainstorm. It’s a God-storm!”

Dressed smartly in a coat and tie, Elijah is all smiles as he shakes my hand when we meet. He is articulate and funny, modest and well-mannered. When we mention video games, he talks about their adverse effect on gray matter in the brain. When we mention a Bible verse about fear, he segues into a discussion on the chambers of the heart. When he talks about his love of cooking, he ends up explaining the difference between saturated and trans fats. It’s easy to forget that this little boy with so much encyclopedic knowledge is just 11 years old.

“As you can see, we have our own in-house scientist, doctor, dietitian …,” said Pamela. “You know that phrase — like a kid in a candy store?’ Well, Elijah is like that in a science lab or a library. He looks around and is so excited by the opportunity to learn new things.”

Steve and Pamela are clearly outstanding parents, and it’s easy to see the closeness they share with their son. Seated between them, Elijah smiles as they tell stories about him and occasionally reaches over to rub their arms or hold their hands.

“The key for us as parents was to pray every day,” said Steve. “And we got him into the Word of God early on. His faith in Christ is his foundation.”

“And you two,” says Elijah, looking at his mom and dad. “I couldn’t be who I am without my parents. They are my foundation, too.”


Elijah is often asked to speak at academic, community and religious gatherings. If your group would like to schedule an appearance, contact Brianna Craig at (225) 733-9245.

August 2018, Founders Forum

Founders Forum

Founders Forum, Scott Gaspard, As for Me and My House….

The Gaspard Team, Mary DiBenedetto, Scott Gaspard, Linda Gaspard, and Cindy Carroll

It’s fitting that Scott Gaspard and his wife Jessica have a plaque in their home informing guests and visitors that … As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. The scripture takes on an even deeper meaning when you consider that as a realtor, Gaspard is in the business of matching people and homes, and he views his profession as another way to serve the Lord.
The search for a realtor is often tied to a life-changing event such as a divorce, a move to a new city, the death of a parent, a new marriage, or a financial setback. The reasons to buy or sell a home can be happy or sad, Gaspard said, but there is usually an opportunity to connect spiritually. Gaspard doesn’t advertise his faith when he’s with clients, but neither does he hide it.
“Guiding people through big decisions gives me an opportunity to get to know them over time. People tell you about their family, their finances, their dreams. Sometimes, this leads to a deeper relationship that happens naturally. There have been occasions when I’ve prayed with my clients on a very personal level. But even if we never connect in that way, I know that my work is still a blessing to them.”

Gaspard understands that faith is sometimes a long and winding process. He attended church growing up, but pulled away from religion during his high school and college years. At one point, he went to live with his brother, who had given his life to God. “I saw how it absolutely changed his life,” Gaspard said. “It created a lot of conversations between us, and eventually I professed my faith as well. My wife, Jessica, also drew me closer to God. She knew that she wanted a God-centered marriage, and I knew that I wanted her to be my wife. I was blessed tremendously that she came into my life.”

Today, the Gaspards have 12 children — yes, 12. “We sleep very little, we work very hard, and we love a lot,” he says. “It’s not as difficult as it might seem. We didn’t have them all at the same time, you know. Managing such a big family works for us because everyone contributes and we live our lives according to our family motto: God-centered, others-focused, seriously fun!”

Gaspard works with his mother Linda, who has been in the real estate business for more than 30 years. The Gaspard Team also includes Mary DiBenedetto and Cindy Carroll, and the firm has been a supporter of Christian Life Magazine since its beginning.

“I think it’s important to share our faith when we can,” Gaspard said, “and it’s good to know that Christian Life Magazine is shining a light on our city and showing people what God is doing here in Baton Rouge day in and day out as he moves through our community. We need to hear those kind of stories.”

August 2018, Creative LIFE

Creative Life

Brushstrokes of Love … Thoughtfully Placed

John K. Lee

Q: Describe your journey as an artist.
A. My journey is unique. I was born and raised in Baton Rouge. When I was 20, I moved to New York City where I studied business at NYU and worked as an analyst for an advertising conglomerate. After living in NYC for five years, I moved back home and worked as an accountant for a local nonprofit. I did not stay very long. In 2012, I ventured out to southern California where I studied at Fuller Theological Seminary and obtained my Master of Divinity. I enjoyed the dynamic city of Los Angeles. During my time there, I discovered my love for pop culture and my affinity for the arts. After living in California for five years, my journey led me back to Baton Rouge. Throughout most of my life, I worked in financial and administrative roles. But after discovering more about myself and my artistic gifts, I wanted to be an artist.

In the summer of 2017, I painted to discover who I truly was in the Lord. Throughout my childhood, it was difficult to love myself — the ideas I had about myself were false. Life’s challenges gave me wounds that made it hard for me to see myself as worthy of love. But over time, God revealed to me my true identity in Him. He revealed that I was intimately made, made in love, and made in his image. This is true for all of us. Only humanity was formed in this special way. As Erwin Raphael McManus says in The Artisan Soul, “While all creation declares the image of God, we humans bear the image of God.” Being an artist for me is declaring and living out my true identity as God’s child.

I believe in a sense that each of us are artists. God is the main artist. He is “Creator” and because we were all created in God’s image, we’re all fundamentally creative beings. Most people may think they have no artistic talent, but we all have creative abilities that we use in our daily lives. For example, a chef uses his culinary skills when cooking and creating beauty on a plate.

As an artist, what I care about most is how a person sees himself or herself. My desire is for others to know who they are in God, especially younger people. There are so many false messages in media and throughout our society, and it is important to find a confidence in knowing God’s love.

The medium I enjoy using now is mixed media. I enjoy acrylic paint and spray paint on canvas. Abstract art is something I enjoy doing because it uses the deepest recesses of my imagination. Having lived in some major metropolitan cities combined with my southern Louisiana upbringing, I feel that my southern Louisiana upbringing and the fact that I’ve lived in some major metropolitan cities impacts my art, making it contemporary but also intimate and down-to-earth.

Q: What are some of your favorite paintings and why?
A: One of my favorite paintings is Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. There’s such a peace and purity in Monet’s paintings. Another painting I like is Vincent Van Gogh’s Café Terrace At Night. I love the light in it. As for my own art, well, it remains untitled, but it’s a piece that has actual leaves on it from my parents’ backyard that I spray painted. It makes me think of this verse: 1 Peter 1:24-25: “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

My second favorite is called Home. There is great peace in being home after being away for ten years. The white around the image or “blankness” represents starting over and how everything is “blank” in a sense. But even though there’s this blankness, there’s texture in it. The texture represents the experiences I’ve had throughout my journey — smooth terrain and bumps in the road, so to say. They’ve added “texture” or layers to my life. Even though I’m back at square one, those life experiences remain.

Q: Creativity is a spiritual gift. How is painting spiritual to you?
A: Painting is naturally spiritual to me. My parents’ garage is my studio. God is in there and I experience His intimacy while painting. Additionally, I am very passionate about evangelism. The false views and perceptions of God bother me. So many see God as this domineering figure who is judgmental, rigid and mundane. God is quite the opposite, and art gives me a way to draw people close to Him or at least seek the God I have come to know. God is dynamic, diverse, loving, personable, and down-to-earth. God is humorous too. We can see the reality and beauty of God in things like art, food, movies, music, fashion, and sports. This outlet, or rather new beginning, helps me to present God and his attributes.

Q: What is your favorite Scripture and why?
A: One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 139: 13-15: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”
This scripture shows just how special and how thoughtfully God created us.

Q: Where can readers find your work? 
A: In August, some of my art will be displayed in Magpie Café on Perkins Road. I also have a few pieces in Rue Beignet on Highland Road and I hope to display my art in more local businesses. Mid City Rising and Re-stabbed in the Art are local art events where I have showen my work. One can find my art on facebook ( and Instagram @artbyjohnklee.

Q: Describe your faith life and the people who have influenced you.
A: I became a Christian when I was a freshman in college. I grew up going to church, but I never had a personal relationship with God. At LSU, a good friend named Phil Koch told me how I could have a personal relationship with Jesus. Before this, I always thought being a Christian was about following rules and trying to be a really moral person. One evening in my dorm room, I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my life. I found true fulfillment in life. Because of my experience, I’m passionate about ministry. If it is the Lord’s will, I want to start a church one day and help others have an intimate relationship with God who does hear us, sees us and loves us.

Aside from art, I work as the Connections Coordinator at The Chapel on the Campus. My role is essentially to help welcome and connect people into our church community. Two of my heroes are my mom and dad. My parents have owned a drycleaning business in Baton Rouge for over 30 years. They are the hardest working people I know and the purest example to me of Christ’s sacrificial love. One of my all-time heroes is Erwin Raphael McManus, pastor of Mosaic Church in Hollywood, California where I attended when I lived there. Erwin is an amazing pastor, but he is also a fashion designer, filmmaker, writer, speaker, and artist. His book The Artisan Soul literally changed my life and influenced my views about art.

My dream is to be an influential artist in the world who uses art as a platform to speak about beauty and the Gospel. When people see my art, I want them to see love.

Sharon Furrate  Bailey grew up in Alexandria, LA and moved to Baton Rouge to attend LSU. She earned a B. A. in English Literature in 1990. She attends Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church. Sharon has been in the field of marketing, sales, and public relations since 1996. She is a gifted artist and has been a columnist since 2005. She can be reached at 

August 2018, Family Life

Family Life

Is Your Marriage Built on the Right Foundation?

Alton and TaShawnda Jamison are the founders of The Empowerment Zone, a ministry designed to “empower people for everyday life” through products, events and messages. In addition, they are the pastors of The Empowerment Zone in Baton Rouge, a church plant that will launch this fall. The Jamisons, who have two children, have been sharing the gospel together for over 17 years. They recently completed their first book, Purpose, Passion & Prosperity: 3 Keys to A Godly Marriage. For more information, visit

The Bible reminds us in Hosea 4:6 that people perish for a lack of knowledge. Marriages are also destroyed for a lack of knowledge. In our current society, people separate and divorce quicker than you can imagine. Marriage has become like cell phone service carriers … if you don’t like the service, you switch to someone else.

I submit to you that knowledge is the main ingredient missing in most marriages. Knowledge of what? Knowledge of the Word and its power. The Bible tells us in Genesis 2:24 that “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Most couples fail because they never become one flesh. One flesh is more than just sharing a house or a joint bank account. One flesh means that we both die to self and join in a way that no one can separate. One flesh means that even on our worst days, we find a way to push through because we our joined together both spiritually and naturally. In a social media society, marriage advice shouldn’t solely come from a Facebook post or an Instagram picture of your favorite celebrity couple. It must come from God’s Word, especially if you are going to build your marriage on a solid foundation. The Word is direct in its command in Joshua 24:15. “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

When the Word of God is paramount in a marriage, then your household will be in order. Why is the foundation of the Word so critical? Well, Jesus illustrates to us in a parable in Matthew 7:24-25. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”

When your marriage and family are built on the Word of God … when the rain, floods and the winds of life come, your marriage can endure. Your marriage may look good on paper, you may have the prettiest kids, a large home and the finest of cars. But if your foundation is not built on God’s Word, then nothing else matters. We are challenged in Mark 8:36 with the profound question, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” If you want your marriage and family to be strong, long-lasting and legacy-making, then exchange the world’s way and embrace God’s way. Storms will come in your marriage and family, but as a friend once said, “The good news about storms is that they all end at some point.”
Be encouraged and start building!

August 2018, Publisher's Letter

Knowledge is Power

Publisher Beth Townsend

Knowledge is Power, by Publisher Beth Townsend

People-watching can be an excellent teacher. Recently while working out at the YMCA, I noticed in my peripheral vision a young man preparing for his workout. He racked not one, not two, but three huge weights. Just looking at that bar made me hurt. He wasn’t very big, so I couldn’t help but watch as his activity unfolded.

He walked around the weights, appearing to psych himself up. Once mentally ready, he reached down to lift. No can do. Not going to happen. Leaving them on the floor, he took a longer walk around, turned his music up, danced a bit and tried again. No can do. Another failed attempt. Now I’m hooked, silently rooting for the poor guy but realizing somehow, scientifically, this mathematical equation just does not add up. His third try, after more music and walking, attempting to muster up whatever it was going to take to lift those weights, he fails again. His body language said it all. No more walks. Sagging shoulders. He quietly unpacks the weights, puts them away and leaves. No more pep in his step. He’s defeated, sadly by himself.

Pressure and anxiety are often self-imposed by trying to do too much too quickly. As Christians, patience is necessary in living by faith. While life can be demanding, we must carefully guard against rushing ahead of God’s plan. Pushing towards our potential produces growth. However, we must choose to trust the pace of our circumstances in God’s hands as he grows us into who we can become.

It would be my bet that the guy from the Y struggled the rest of that day. Why didn’t he just reduce the weights and try again? Because he had set his sights too high. The real defeat was present before he racked his weights. Only he couldn’t see it.

As Believers, we must pursue our passion while trusting God with our purpose. Getting ahead of God is much like trying to lift weights that are beyond our strength. It is only in His strength and timing that we can accomplish great things.

Is Knowledge Power? Yes!

That is especially true for those who have invited God into their lives through Christ. We have the spirit of God at work in our lives by way of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, our knowledge is to be based on trust that God is at work in our lives to bring about His will.

That Knowledge is Indeed Power!

August 2018, Cooking for LIFE

Cooking for Life

Sloppy Jeauxs

Here’s a recipe that takes just minutes to prepare and is sure to please the entire family.


1 lb. lean ground beef or turkey

1 cup Seasoning Blend (onion, bell pepper, celery)

1 can diced tomatoes

2/3 cup BBQ sauce

½ cup + 1 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. salt

2 tsp. all-purpose flour
Hamburger buns

smoked cheddar cheese

Diced purple Onion


Brown ground beef and seasoning blend. Drain and return to pot. Stir in tomatoes, BBQ sauce, ½ cup water, garlic powder and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together remaining 1 Tbsp. of water and flour. Add to meat mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes or until mixture has thickened.
Toast buns and top with meat mixture, diced onions and cheddar cheese. Enjoy!

Recipe submitted by Lori Layman, follow Lori on Facebook at Food Junkie!
August 2018, BRCLM Lagniappe

Faith Life

In the Name of Jesus, Turn It into A Church

By Leslie Paul Wilbert

Leslie Paul Wilbert

Thirty-eight years ago, in Addis, Louisiana, I was talking to Ted Berthelot, Chief of Police, about the increasing crime in that once peaceful town. Chief Berthelot was sharing with me that he knew it was because of two bar rooms. Looking and pointing at one of the bar rooms, he told me, “In the name of Jesus, I’m going to turn this bar room into my police station.” I thought to myself, if he could pray and ask Jesus to change that bar room into a police station then I could pray and ask Jesus to change the other bar room into a church.

While driving to church in Baker one Sunday morning with a friend and fellow believer, Yancy Guerin, I shared with him my conversation with Chief Berthelot. Being new believers and having been taught that prayer changes things, Yancy and I started praying that God, in the name of Jesus, would turn that building into a church. On one occasion, we drove into the parking lot of that building, got out of our vehicle, laid hands on the building and prayed for God to turn it into a church. For the next 18 years, several times a week, as we would pass the building, we would point to it and pray aloud, “In the name of Jesus, turn it into a church!” As we grew in the Lord and started understanding more about the authority we had in Christ, we would boldly pray, “Jesus, don’t let anything succeed in that building except a church.”

During these years, a friend of ours was being saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. This man of God felt a call on his life and spent several years in Bible School and serving other ministries preparing himself to fulfill his call to pastor a church. One Sunday afternoon in 1997 as he and his wife were traveling through Addis, they were asking the question, “When we pastor a church, where do you think it will be located?” Immediately, their attention was drawn to the Addis water tower by a large, brilliant flash of light that went off directly above the tower. On the tower they saw the giant, bold words “ADDIS.” Knowing it was a sign from God, they looked at each other, laughed, and said “No way, not Addis!?”

Two years later, in 1999, under the direction and timing of the Holy Spirit, the church was started in that very building in Addis where the two believers had prayed for it to become a church! It just so happened to be directly across Louisiana Highway 1 from the Addis Water Tower where the brilliant light had flashed two years earlier!
The name of the church is River Ministries International and it is pastored by Butch LaBauve and his wife Susan. For the past 19 years, River Ministries International has been a thriving, life-giving, Holy Spirit-filled church spreading the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to West Baton Rouge, its surrounding communities and the nations of the world. It was really no surprise to the praying believers what God did, because for years God had shown Himself faithful through many other answered prayers.

Leslie Paul Wilbert was born in Plaquemine, LA into a family in the funeral service business, which was established in 1850. He has worked in the funeral home, cemetery, burial vault manufacturing, monuments and life insurance companies. Most of Leslie’s working life has been in the financial services business selling property and casualty, life insurance and investments. Currently, the Senior Wealth Strategist with Ozark Insurance in Baker, LA.