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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BRCL Image Recovery
Faith Life, March 2018

Celebrate Recovery – Overcoming hurts, hang-ups and habits

Celebrate Recovery

Overcoming hurts, hang-ups and habits

by James Haase

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” — 2 Corinthians 5:17

With a foundation firmly established in the Bible, Celebrate Recovery is a 12-step program that offers participants a clear path to salvation — bringing hope, freedom, sobriety, and healing from whatever addictions or behaviors are controlling their lives.

Now in more than 30,000 churches, CR has changed the lives of thousands of people and reconciled them to God. James “Jimmy” Haase is one of them and he gladly shares his testimony:

“I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ. By following Him, I’ve been able to overcome a past of alcoholism, depression and drug abuse. I am

currently struggling with perfectionism, self-worth and control. I was born to a teenage girl and never met my biological father. I grew up in a blended family where I never really felt accepted. I had a stepfather, stepbrother, stepsister and other step-relatives, but I felt like an outsider.

When I was a teenager, I hung out with my friends smoking pot and drinking alcohol nearly every day. What started off as a good time eventually became more than a daily habit. It was what I lived for. Every moment was spent either using or looking for something to use.

I started being careless with other areas of my life, too. By 1999, I had been arrested several times on drug and/or alcohol-related charges, and was ultimately sentenced to six months in the EBR Parish Prison. Over the next decade, I had periods of highs and lows. By 2009, my whole world was spiraling out of control and I had no idea what to do.

The DNA of the CR Ministry

  • Christ is the one and only Higher Power. The program is a Christ-centered ministry.
  • The Bible* and CR curriculum consists of specific publications, including The Leader’s Guide, The Journey Begins, CR In a Box, Testimonies to Go, Life’s Healing Choices, and several others.
  • The ministry is “group based.” All groups are gender-specific and “The Five Small Group Guidelines” are implemented and followed every time.
  • There are no online groups; face-to-face meetings only. No lessons may be posted to Facebook, Youtube, Vimeo or any other public forum.
  • Groups are expected to be accountable to Christ, the local church, and the CR model.
  • CR is a ministry of the local church, so it does not try to dictate any doctrine or policy.

I was majorly depressed, and found my “god” 12 ounces at a time or through various narcotics. Things never got better, but seemingly worse. After two DUIs in less than two years, I lost my driver’s license, then my job, then my home. Shattered and broken, I fell further into alcoholism, substance abuse and depression.

A friend was attending First Baptist Church at Addis, so I began to tag along. It wasn’t too long that I walked down the aisle and accepted Christ as my Savior and was baptized. I continued to struggle with alcohol and drugs, but I was attending every church activity and event possible throughout the week. From a men’s group,

I learned the importance of accountability and allowing others to speak truth into my life. I was ultimately convinced by the Holy Spirit to lay down all my self-will and turn it over to Christ, who freed me from my addictions. Christ is my Lord!

For over 20 years, I struggled with alcoholism, drug abuse and depression. Today, only by His grace, can I now, celebrate recovery!

BRCLM Image James Hasse and Family
James Haase, right, with his wife Jennifer and their children Wesley, Olivia and Sophia

I have gained an education in the field of addiction recovery and worked for two years as an addiction counselor. I have learned that the key to life in recovery is balancing emotional, physical, mental, relational and spiritual health.

Today, I am blessed with a beautiful family that includes my wife and three wonderful kids. I am a locksmith by profession and I volunteer as a minister, serving at the Church at Addis as a deacon, Sunday school teacher, Director of Growth Group, and Director of Men’s Recovery Support.

To God be the glory!”

There are many Celebrate Recovery programs at local churches. For details, call Haase at (225) 218-5630 or email him at JamesHaase@churchataddis.com. You can also learn more at celebraterecovery.com.

Baton Rouge Christian Life MAGAZINE

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Faith Life, January 2018

Love Grows, Love Flows

Love GROWS, LOVE FLOWS

by Jack Fynch

In this month of Valentines, we often think of intimate relationships we have with others.  Intimacy in the sense that our society defines it is one thing, but intimacy in the biblical sense is another.

Biblical intimacy has two directions. It is, first of all, vertical. Intimacy grows out of a relationship of love. The Bible teaches us that we are made in God’s image, and that God is love. Thus, God first loved us, and because of this, we are able to love Him (the vertical direction). The second direction is our ability to love others (the horizontal direction).

This is perhaps best expressed in 1 John 4:10-11: In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Here we see both the vertical and the horizontal — God loving us, and us loving one another.  The love here expressed is sacrificial in nature. It means doing something good that benefits another, not oneself. Sacrificial love is the foundation for all other concepts in the biblical “love family,” including intimacy.

The above passage expresses God the Father’s love for His creatures through His Son’s death for our sins, and this makes possible our response of love toward God through faith. It is an intimate, personal and spiritual relationship of love with God that is begun at that moment.

Apart from that unique relationship to God (spiritual rebirth), there can be no biblical, spiritual relationship to God and therefore, no biblical, spiritual intimacy with another. First comes the intimate, spiritual relationship with God. That can then be shared with another who is spiritually related to God.

As for the intimate and spiritual relationship that a husband and wife may have in Christ Jesus … it is like nothing else this world can offer.

renew final Jack Lynch 8x12

Jack Lynch is an accomplished Bible teacher for Radio Bible Courses, Ltd., which meets every Sunday at 9:15 a.m. at Burden Conference Center. The public is invited to this amazing study of God’s Word. See the ad below for more details.

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Image Created for Intimacy
Faith Life, February 2018

Created for Intimacy

Created

for

Intimacy

by Sharon Holeman

I stood there in silence, taking a photograph in my mind. I wanted to take out my phone and snap a quick still, but it probably would not have been well received by the others in the room.

I wondered if they could see the beauty that was before them, for to most eyes it was nonexistent. But for me, a photographer by trade, it was almost framed up too perfectly inside my lens eye to ignore.  I resisted.  Hospital rooms are not pretty places.  The walls are bland, the smells are bad, and the temperatures borderline frigid.  However, that September day, down that particular hallway, with those four walls, intimacy was present.My father-in-law was a super likable guy. He was friendly – the life of the party, smart and successful. He was a happy person, and when he spoke with excitement about something, his voice would do a charming

Image Created for Intimacy
Love Tree by Sharon Holeman

Even though we as people do not know for sure where the Garden is located, we can find intimacy with God. He has gifted us with this simply for the asking. Our pursuit of Him will not fall short.

and unique soft squeak-crackle thing, a sound typically reserved for 16-year-old boys. I miss that crackle. He was also a handsome man to whom my husband bears an undeniable resemblance.

Pops, as he was lovingly called, lived a full life before the sickness took over. Like many of us, he had seasons of walking with God. Some of his seasons were full of involvement and some near seeming abandonment. I certainly can’t speak of his personal relationship with the Lord for that is forever between the two of them, but only what can be observed from afar… and across a room.

It is a strange thing to say, but the sickness, for all its horrors, was used by God for the good of Pops. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28) The perspective of Pops transformed. He began to long for intimacy with a newfound intensity.

He read books on miracles and spoke of them with his crackle voice. He came to church with us and talked of visions of angels rejoicing in the aisles. He told my husband and me that he now realized marriage, or rather love, was so much more than physical. He gave his testimony to a tent full of strangers. He humbly reached out to past wounds with the hope of forgiveness. He found joy despite the circumstances as he pursued intimacy.

Pops got it right. After all, isn’t that what we are created for? Intimacy – created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26) for a relationship with others – animals, other humans, and God Himself. Adam and Eve were granted dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28), and Adam was allowed to name the animals (Genesis 2:19). God shared His creation with His creation. How amazing is He! Such a good Father, initiating fellowship from the start. It is quite a thought – to freely walk in the Garden in the cool of the day; conversation among conception, surrounded by peaceful beauty, ultimate intimacy with God.

Even though we as people do not know for sure where the Garden is located, we can find intimacy with God. He has gifted us with this simply for the asking. Our pursuit of Him will not fall short. Jesus told us to “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened for you.” (Matthew 7:7)

Ask. Jesus did.  “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit who leads into all truth …”  (John 14:15-17) His abiding presence.

Ask. It is what Pops did that day in the hospital. After our visit was complete, he asked for pure, simple intimacy. It was time for us to leave so he could just be held. And as I watched his wife stretch her long, blue jean-covered legs atop the crisp white sheet, and lay her head next to his, beauty unfolded. The simplicity of intimacy was before me: extended time with someone who loves you unconditionally – where there is no agenda, no rush, just a peaceful, priceless moment together.

The fall from grace that happened after the apple was eaten had dire consequences, but God did not take away the wonderful gift of relationship. It is still our choice to pursue. It is available to us all. May we slow down enough to embrace intimacy – smell roses, walk in gardens, ask for hugs, carve out time for relationships, pray, sing, create, and see the beauty that is right in front of us.

Sharon-Holeman

Sharon Holeman is a writer and photographer living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She was the project creator, coordinator and co-author of the book Backyard Miracles – 12 American Women, 12 True stories, 1 Miraculous God. Previously published in Her
Glory and inspire Louisiana , she is now penning her first screenplay. Ministry Today
showcased one of her photographs on the cover and several others as article imagery. Sharon is a graduate of the University of Texas at san Antonio and The Art institute of Houston. she is currently attending Bethany College to further her pursuit of the Lord and His Word.

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Faith Life, January 2018

Connecting Women to God

Connecting

Women to

Lisa Tramontana

God

Christ’s message was about inclusion and acceptance.  A woman who wants a closer relationship with god doesn’t need to be anything more (or less) than she is right now. She doesn’t need to be any different than who she is today. god’s door will always be open for her.

Like the pebble that creates ever-widening ripples in the water, so is the Christian woman whose faith and love influences her family, friends, neighbors and colleagues. She is a role model and inspires those around her to be their best.

This is a fitting description of the members of Baton Rouge Christian Women’s Connection. Its mission is to connect women with God, each other, and their communities. The group subscribes to the philosophy that Jesus’ influence in a woman’s life can help her not only bring others to Christ, but strengthen the faith of those who are already committed to Christ. 

Lisa Russell has served as chairman of BRCWC since she moved to the capital city three years ago, but she has been involved with the group for 25 years. “We welcome everyone – from young mothers to grandmothers, from single women to widows. We look for the unsaved and we try to help them grow in a relationship with Christ,” she said. 

BRCWC’s Leadership Team includes (from left) Linnie Burks, Barbara Boudreaux, Priscilla oliver, Patricia estess, Mary Ann Sceroler, glenda Thomas, genelle Kora, Lisa Russell, Sherry edmonston, Suzanne Cambre and Nona Haynes.

“It’s a wonderful organization to be a part of. We show the love of Jesus and share our life experiences. The ladies in BRCWC are mentors and an inspiration to me.” – Sherry Edmonston

Those women could be anywhere — shopping at the grocery store, playing tennis at the country club, meeting with clients, or sitting in jail. They might be coping with loneliness, frustration or heartbreak. The women of BRCWC want more than anything to help those women build a path to God.

To fulfill their mission, the organization meets quarterly for a luncheon at Oak Lodge, which typically includes an inspirational speaker and a special feature (fashion show, music performance, or hobby discussion). Speakers are usually individuals who have overcome difficult challenges, such as cancer survivors, drug addicts, or victims of domestic violence. “They share their testimony with us and describe how God has helped them through the challenges or problems they faced,” Russell said.

BRCWC is affiliated with an international organization called Stonecroft Ministries, which according to its mission, meets each woman where she is and as she is. “It means that we take the gospel of Christ to each woman, wherever she is in her life,” said Russell. “Where she lives, works, plays or prays, no matter her circumstances or background.” 

Stonecroft has been bringing women closer to God since 1938. Volunteers in the U.S. and in more than 40 countries use the group’s resources, training and outreach programs to share the Gospel and join each other in meaningful prayer. Members recognize that each woman makes a unique and valuable contribution to her family and community as she celebrates God in her life.

 

BRCWC members celebrated the holidays with a Christmas party in early December.

The group was founded in California by a banker named Elwood Baugh. An employee whose mother had just died asked Baugh if she would ever see her mother again. That’s when Baugh spoke with his wife, who was a devout Christian and had a passion for sharing the gospel with others. Helen Duff Baugh planned a dinner to meet the woman and invited several others from her husband’s bank. The first Stonecroft group was established, and today, has become an international ministry.

Linnie Burks has been involved with Stonecroft and BRCWC for 43 years, and has served in countless administrative roles. “It has been such a blessing in my life,” she said. “I came to the group through a Bible study at a time when I knew nothing about it and had never even read it. I learned how much God loves me personally and it really strengthened my faith. Later, as a Bible study leader, I saw women coming to the Lord and I can’t tell you how much that means to me.” 

Locally, BRCWC has taken a special interest in the women of Iris House, a group that provides support to women who have suffered domestic abuse. “We invite them to our events and provide free childcare services so they can focus on the program and enjoy connecting with our members,” said Russell. “After the event, we follow up with them to invite them to our regular Bible studies or prayer coffees.”

Sherry Edmonston joined BRCWC 12 years ago and currently serves as Reservations Coordinator and Area Representative. “It’s a wonderful organization to be a part of,” she said. “We show the love of Jesus and share our life experiences. The ladies in BRCWC are mentors and an inspiration to me.”

All quarterly meetings are held at Oak Lodge, 2834 S. Sherwood Forest Blvd. and West Bricksome Avenue. The next quarterly meeting will take place Tuesday, February 13, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Guest speaker is Sharon Steen of Lafayette. If you’d like to attend, register by calling Edmonston at (225) 362-3588. Cost is $25 per person.

For more information, email Sherry316@cox.net, visit the website at batonrougecwc.org, or visit BRCWC’s Facebook page.

Genelle Kora and Nona Haynes

BRCWC Bible studies are open to everyone, regardless of religious denomination. They are appropriate for growing Christians as well as women who already have a background in studying God’s word.

Baton Rouge Christian Life MAGAZINE

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Faith Life, January 2018

The Miracle Day That Changed My Life

The Miracle Day That Changed My Life

by Lorraine Besson

In 2016, Lorraine Besson suffered a rare reaction to cervical spinal surgery – and an extraordinary opportunity to experience God’s hand at work through the medical community. Now, she shares her story to inspire others to faith and gratitude to God.

“I was rushed to the hospital, unable to breathe on my own,” Besson recalls. “I had gone into cardiac/pulmonary distress and had no airway.” Attempts to open an airway were unsuccessful because her throat was swollen from the surgery. Her family arrived at the hospital only to see her limp frame on a stretcher and a doctor performing CPR. “My daughter, Sheri, said she never wanted to see anything like that again. She just knew I was dead.”

An anesthesiologist succeeded in getting an airway for her by using a special scope, Besson said. “I was intubated, taken to surgery, placed in a drug induced coma for five days, in intensive care for 10 days, hospitalized for 24 days, and had 4 1/2 months of physical therapy.”

“I wanted to meet the people who helped save my life,” Besson said. That’s when she began to understand the miraculous encounters and timing that had taken place. She was told it was highly unusual to have an ER doctor in the ambulance, and that she was spared major brain damage or other physical effects that might have occurred. A tracheotomy could have been performed but was not. “I had a thyroid, arterial bleed with a hematoma completely covering my airway. If the doctor had [performed a tracheotomy], I would have bled out and died,” Besson said. “Oh, my Jesus!”

Besson said her third miracle was the ability to completely function despite dire warnings about her condition. “Praise You Jesus! I am not a vegetable! I am a child of God, daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, an aunt and a friend,” Besson said.

“I asked myself, ‘What gift do you buy for the doctors who helped save your life?” I found special beautiful white-washed standing crosses. I bought the same cross for myself, so I could remember who helped save me: Jesus and all the doctors.”

“There are some very important people in my life: God who gave me life, [husband] Bob, the love of my life, and all the wonderful people who helped saved my life,” Besson said. “Writing this account has been very emotional for me. It’s been 22 months since it happened, but it seems like it was only yesterday.”

“Jesus saved me so that I could help spread His Word of Salvation to the world. He also saved me so that I could continue to be a wife to Bob, a mother to Sheri and Brian, a mother-in-law to David and Rachel, and a grandmother to Tyler, Alex, Brent, Brian, Brice, Olivia, Elizabeth and Elena. God bless you.”




Lorraine Besson went out of her way to meet the people who saved her life after a difficult spinal surgery, including (left to right) paramedic Jeremy Landry, Dr. Alex Aitken, Dr. Lura Wight, and Dr. Martin Blake.

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December 2017, Faith Life

Profile of a Modern Day Apostle

 

Harry and his wife Nicole.

Profile of a Modern Day Apostle

by Sharon Holeman

photos by Sharon Holeman Photography/Praise First Media LLC

If you were to meet Harry Mitchell Jr. on the street, you would never guess he had been in prison. Or that he had used drugs, or came from a broken home. His joy is too great, his smile too easy. Standing 6 feet 2 inches tall and entering every room with an unexplainable delight, this modern day apostle is truly an example of walking out our Christian call to be the light in a dark world.

Born in New Orleans and raised in California, his parents divorced when he was 11. After the split, Harry and his siblings moved back to Louisiana with their mom. High school came and Harry began drinking, smoking marijuana, and eventually, using cocaine. Struggling with substance abuse, he was still able to function in the world. In 1981, four years after graduation, Harry got married. It was that same year that he gave his heart to the Lord at a local church, became a father … and went to jail.

The salvation at the church had been real, but his willing heart wasn’t enough. Harry lost connection with the body of Christ, remaining entangled in worldly relationships. Ultimately, he landed in a Thibodaux prison cell. One day, from the corner of his cell, Harry heard a man preaching and knew he needed to go listen. That day a conversation started between the two, and soon Harry had re-dedicated his life to the Lord. Harry even started to lead the group studies on days when the prison minister couldn’t attend. Things were changing for Harry and the other prisoners. Murderers were getting saved. Harry’s life had new purpose.

An early release from prison brought Harry, now divorced, an opportunity for change. He went to live with his sister in Baton Rouge and got a job. He was faithful and hard working. A friend introduced him to a sweet lady named Nicole. They fell in love and got married. A short time later, at the prompting of the Lord, Harry and Nicole stepped out in faith to turn a part time weekend venture into a full-fledged business. They were learning to follow the lead of God’s voice, sometimes blessing others when they were in lack, and continually seeing the Lord’s abundant replenishment in return for their obedience.

On a beach vacation in the fall of 2009, Harry got a word from the Lord. He was to do a major outreach to the homeless community. It was to be on a grand scale, larger than the ones he had already been doing. When he asked the Lord how he would fund such an extravagant venture, the answer was simple: “Use your money.” Again, Harry and Nicole stepped out in faith and found the provision of the Lord. As others heard about the outreach planned for a weekend in mid-December, help came in the form of volunteers and resources. The outreach offered a multitude of blessings, such as clothing, free haircuts, lunch, worship music and the Word. Tears of joy fell from those who were given bus tickets home for the holidays headed for places like Colorado and Florida. More than $3,000 worth of bus tickets were gifted. Most importantly, 75 souls were added to the Kingdom.

Mitchell was ordained by Pastor Jonathon stockstill in 2015.
Mitchell preaches at the December 2009 outreach to the homeless.

Harry expanded his ministry to include speaking at drug rehab facilities and prisons. Using his tests as his testimony, he began reaching out to those in whose shoes he had once walked. Actively learning how to live out his faith, he was personally mentored by Pastor Larry Stockstill for years, and eventually ordained at Bethany Church by Pastor Jonathan Stockstill in the spring of 2015. Today Harry marches on as a faithful soldier for the Lord. He oversees a powerful men’s meeting each week where they worship, study Scripture and build accountability relationships. He continues to minister to the homeless and speaks to those fighting the demons of drugs. He leads a prison ministry inside the walls of the East Baton Rouge Parish facility twice a month, seeing as many as 20 to 30 salvations each visit.

The world may look at someone like Harry and not understand how he can intentionally surround himself with atmospheres of darkness. They might wonder how he balances his time between these activities while running a successful business and maintaining a happy marriage and family life. The answer can be found in Harry’s life scripture: “ But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.(Matthew 6:33 ESV)

So the next time you decide to reach out to the poor and destitute, or those hurting in the world around you, don’t be surprised if while you’re on the street you run into Harry. He’ll be easy to pick out. He’s the one out there serving and sharing his testimony … that fellow with the joyful presence and the easy smile.

Sharon-Holeman

Sharon Holeman is a writer and photographer living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She was the project creator, coordinator and co-author of the book Backyard Miracles – 12 American Women, 12 True stories, 1 Miraculous God. Previously published in Her
Glory and inspire Louisiana , she is now penning her first screenplay. Ministry Today
showcased one of her photographs on the cover and several others as article imagery. Sharon is a graduate of the University of Texas at san Antonio and The Art institute of Houston. she is currently attending Bethany College to further her pursuit of the Lord and His Word.

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Faith Life, November 2017

A Question of Faith

 

A Question

of Faith

by Sharon Holeman

Underneath the marquee lights, among the movie posters, and surrounded by the enticing aroma of buttered popcorn, I met an intelligent and kindhearted man. He wore a cream colored blazer and spoke with a refined excitement as he shared his thoughts on the new motion picture, “A Question of Faith,” and how he sees the future of Christian media.

Dr. Cameron Lewis, a believer who is making his debut as a film producer with this project, has witnessed firsthand how God can open doors and give us more than we can hope for or imagine. An oral surgeon originally from Gulfport, Miss., Dr. Lewis makes it a habit to uplift and encourage his patients. But he wanted to do more – to reach more people with the love of God. He prayed and asked the Lord how he could take it to another level … and the answer was TV. He reached out to a producer, chose a script and the process began. After four solid months of revisions, production got underway on what the team thought would be a made-for-TV movie, but the Lord had other plans, and when given the opportunity to release the film in theatres, Dr. Lewis and crew agreed.

This is a movie that just about everyone can relate to and it covers timely topics that can be thought provoking and life changing. At its core, it’s a film about faith and unity. It’s touching and relatable. Dr. Lewis said he prays the film will give something back to the audience. He believes moviegoers want to see a film that is positive, that they can share with their family, and that will make them think about life in a deeper way. These are all reasons that he chose this project.

When asked about his life verse, Dr. Lewis quotes Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” His desire, he says, is to be a God conscious believer, to focus on blessing others, empowering them to succeed, and reminding them to be grateful for what they have been given.

What he seems to have been given with this film is an overwhelmingly positive reception and open doors. In fact, “A Question of Faith “made history by being the first faith-based film to be shown on Capitol Hill. While the showing was a huge success on both sides of the aisle, Dr. Lewis reminds us it’s important to leave politics out of the topic of unity, and remember that
regardless of our policy preferences, we all worship the same God.

In “A Question of Faith,” we watch three families face some of the toughest challenges in life. We see them question their faith and ultimately unite as the multicultural, multigenerational family of God we were designed to be. Starring Kim Fields, C. Thomas Howell, Richard T. Jones, T.C. Stallings, and Jaci Velasquez, the movie is well-acted, thought-provoking and captivating.

Gather your friends or take a small group on an outing to support this feature film that unites us as the body of Christ. For more information, visit aquestionoffaith.com.

Sharon-Holeman

Sharon Holeman is a writer and photographer living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She was the project creator, coordinator and co-author of the book Backyard Miracles – 12 American Women, 12 True stories, 1 Miraculous God. Previously published in Her
Glory and inspire Louisiana , she is now penning her first screenplay. Ministry Today
showcased one of her photographs on the cover and several others as article imagery. Sharon is a graduate of the University of Texas at san Antonio and The Art institute of Houston. she is currently attending Bethany College to further her pursuit of the Lord and His Word.

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Faith Life, October 2017

Patience in Our Prayer Lives

 

Patience

in Our Prayer Lives

by Becky Eldredge

Amid our day-to-day responsibilities and evergrowing task lists, it can be a challenge to fit in time for prayer. There is a holy tension between being patient about our prayer lives and being intentional about making time for the most important relationship in our life … God.

Any time can work

When we think about our prayer lives, let’s start with an important point: we can turn to God in prayer at any time and in any place. We carry an inner chapel — a sacred space — and we can call on God at any moment. God is a friend we can talk to throughout the day — as we wake, as we cook, as we eat, as we drive/commute to work, as we play and hang out with our friends. God is available to talk to us as we do laundry, change diapers, run carpool, shuffle kids to activities, oversee homework, and coordinate our families’ calendars. It’s important to remember that we can pray at any time because it’s easy to be seduced to believe otherwise.

We can stop frequently throughout our day to talk to God. It may take some time, but we can learn to be patient about when we can pray and let go of the guilt of having to pray a certain way. We can pray anywhere and any time. We have the greatest prayer tool within us — our own sacred space where only God resides.

Intentionality

There is a delicate balance between being patient with our prayer lives and being intentional about our prayer lives. To grow deeper in our relationship with God means we must spend time with God in prayer. Like all important relationships and responsibilities in our lives, we have to intentionally make time for the things we most value — our family, our friends, and our work. Prayer, too, needs this type of intentionality, and it needs supremacy in our lives. So how do we begin?

Time: We can look at the week and our day, and evaluate when it makes sense for us to commit to a daily prayer time. Once we know when that time is, we can put it on our calendar and commit to it.

Space and place: We can create a space and place for our prayer time. Where is the place we feel called to make a sacred space to come to for daily prayer? What would we like accessible to us in our space of prayer that supports us in showing up to prayer?

Method: What is the gift of prayer that God is giving us at this moment to come to know God? Is it praying with Scripture? Is it music? Is it journaling? Is it reading a devotional? Is it simply being quiet and coming to stillness before God? Whatever the method of prayer is at this moment — name it and claim it.

It requires patience as we grow in our relationship with God because our space, place, time, and method of prayer will change over time. God will invite us to experience Him and get to know Him in various places and times and through various avenues. It is to our benefit to listen as the Holy Spirit invites us to know God, to see where the Holy Spirit is inviting us to come to know God, and through what means we are being invited to get to know God.

Pray as we can, not as we can’t

When it comes down to it, each day we can pray. On days we might not be able to commit to our daily prayer time due to life getting in the way, we can still stop and turn our minds and hearts to God throughout our day. On many days we will be able to show up for our intentional prayer time. Patience is a fruit of the spirit, and this gift of patience helps us learn to pray as we can and not as we can’t.

PIC22

Becky Eldredge is an ignatian-trained spiritual director, retreat facilitator and author of the book, Busy Lives & Restless souls. she lives in Baton Rouge with her husband and three children.

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Faith Life, October 2017

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Laughter

is the Best Medicine

by Lisa Tramontana

photos courtesy Connie Saizon

Sometimes God has other plans.

Constance “Connie” Reed Saizon remembers her mother “dragging” her to church no less than four times every Sunday when she was a child growing up in Gulfport, Mississippi. “I recall sitting there one Sunday and telling God, “When I grow up, I’m not setting foot in another church!”

Well, He must have had a good laugh, she says, because against all odds, Saizon grew up to be a pastor.

Seeing humor in the world around her gives her ministry a special appeal. In fact, aside from pastoring at two local United Methodist churches, Saizon takes her spiritual comedy ministry to conferences, fundraisers, family reunions and special events. “I don’t stand there and rattle off joke after joke,” she said, “but I preach, teach and reach people by weaving godly principles
into my stories using humor as my instrument.” 

To that end, she has a few alter egos that show up in her sermons,

including Aunt Luty, an elderly woman who can get away with saying just about anything … because of her age, of course. Saizon occasionally uses props, too, such as the heavy bag of burdens she flings to the floor when she discusses letting go of worries and giving them to God … or the oversized boxing gloves she uses to fight the forces of evil.

At funerals, she’s been known to answer her phone at the beginning of a eulogy. While the mourners are usually stunned at her audacity, they quickly realize that she’s talking about their loved one now gone to the Great Beyond. She tells the caller, “Sorry, but he’s not here. He’s absent from the body, but present with the Lord.”

To be honest, it’s hard to believe that Saizon is such a joyful person. She came to Baton Rouge after losing everything in Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Two of her 

children (Kelli and Clarence) were grown by then, but her 23-year-old daughter, Courtni, was still living at home. Courtni happened to be at work at the height of the storm, and mother and daughter were separated. Saizon spent about three weeks not knowing what had happened to her daughter, who had been evacuated and bussed to Florida. “For a while, I was just numb,” she said. “I thought, ‘this has got to be a nightmare,’ but it wasn’t. Let me tell you … that storm had winds that bent me, but didn’t break me. My faith in God did not let that happen.”

Financially, Saizon had to start over, but she kept things in perspective and took things one day at a time, always trying to see the bright side of life.

A local reporter interviewed Saizon shortly after she moved to 

Denham Springs and was amazed by her positive attitude. He said it seemed as though she had laid down all her “baggage” and was “travelin’ light.” She liked the phrase and uses it today to describe her ministry.

During that first year after Katrina, Saizon worked with the Baton Rouge District of the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. In time, she was appointed to serve at two local United Methodist churches, and was eventually named senior pastor at Hughes Memorial United Methodist in Baton Rouge and St. Landry United Methodist Church in Gonzales.

Hurricane Katrina was a turning point in Saizon’s life and career, she said, but it was just one in a long line of many heartbreaks and painful experiences.

Saizon is thankful that God called her to the pulpit. “It’s a joy to serve such a mighty God,” she said. “I truly believe that God anointed and appointed me to do what I’m doing. I believe my sense of humor allowed me to experience and see things in a different light than most people. And this gift lets me connect with others and help them overcome whatever they are struggling with in their lives. It lets me encourage and lift them up. Sometimes, laughter really is the best medicine.”

 

“Stay in the Word! The more we say, pray, stay and obey the Word, the easier it is. To resist God only makes things harder. He has a plan for you … all you have to do is lean into that plan.” — Pastor Connie Saizon

For those who struggle with their faith, Saizon has this advice: “Stay in the Word! Like anyone else, I had to work at my relationship with God. Before I truly knew God, I had to pray and study His word. I had to allow  “Losing material possessions is hard for anyone, but I’ve also lost several very close loved ones in my life,” she said. “I’ve been faced with racial discrimination. I was married to an abusive husband for 17 years. I’ve been through a lot. Humor is a spiritual gift and it has helped me get through situations that would have driven anyone else crazy. But by the grace of God, I’m still standing.” that Word to build up my faith and transform me. In time, He strengthened me and I was able to trust in him. The more we say, pray, stay and obey the Word, the easier it is. To resist God only makes things harder. He has a plan for you … all you have to do is lean into that plan.”

Saizon says this with a big smile. “I really believe God wants us to be happy,” she said. “He wants us to loosen up, not worry so much, and not take everything so seriously.”

For more information on Travelin’ Light Ministry, go to the website at constancersaizon.com.

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Faith Life, Septermber 2017

Connections for Life – Women Find New Path to Follow

Connections of Life

Women Find

New Path to Follow

Cortney Bradley had served her time and was about to be released from the Madison Parish Correctional Center, but home was the last place she wanted to go. “I knew that I would fall back into the same problems that got me into trouble in the first place,” she said. “Drugs, crime, the wrong people. I didn’t want to go back to that lifestyle.”

Fortunately, she didn’t have to.

A new beginning

Instead, she applied to Connections for Life, an organization that helps women, especially those trying to build a new life after prison, with treatment facilities and battered women’s shelters. Connections for Life helps women transition to a healthy independence based on a 12-step program that provides housing, clothing, food, job placement assistance, finance classes and more.

“When I was interviewed for the program, I was told that the program was very strict … that there were a lot of rules. But that’s exactly what I needed,” Bradley said. “I was 24, yet I had no idea how to be responsible. Within a year, I got a job and a driver’s license. I bought a car. I got much-needed dental care. I started college. They helped me take  little

little steps one at a time that ended up changing my life.” Bradley is living proof that the program works. For three years, she has served as Program Manager at Connections for Life, uniquely positioning her to help new clients.

Determined to succeed

Executive Director Karen Stagg says the program is limited to 13 women. “We’re small on purpose,” she said. “We want to be able to provide oneon-one care and counseling so our clients can succeed. It’s very hard what these women are doing. They are really committed to making their lives better.” Stagg had a career in healthcare before she took the helm at Connections for Life. “The woman who founded the organization was retiring and she offered me this opportunity. I took it even though I had no training or background in this kind of work. But I had decided I wanted to live my life more intentionally, and this was a chance to do that.”

Each woman accepted into the program is provided a rent-free fully furnished apartment of her own, as well as food, clothing, and transportation until she can afford her own. “Giving them the key to their apartment on the first day of the program is a very big deal,” Stagg said. “Some of them have never had their own place before. It’s empowering.”

In return, participants are expected to hold a job and attend regular “recovery” meetings during their yearlong transition. They are also assigned a “sponsor” who encourages them and helps them form healthy relationships.

Fear and uncertainty

Judy Maechling is another success story. In her 50s now, Judy was sent to prison six times, usually on drug charges. More than once, she was offered an opportunity to apply to Connections for Life, but she was never ready, she said. “And then one day, I realized that I was tired of everything about my life … living on the street … struggling all the time. So I applied and they took me,” she said.

Judy says she was afraid to fail and lacked confidence. “I didn’t know if I could go through with it,” she said. “I got released and got on a bus

for Baton Rouge. The whole way, I wasn’t sure if I would get off at my stop or just stay on that bus and keep going … somehow, I made the right decision and I’ve had nothing but unconditional love and support. It’s been phenomenal. I’ve grown as a person and accomplished so much. I have a grown daughter and two grandchildren, and I know in my heart that I will see them soon and be able to have a relationship with them.” Judy now works in the Connections Thrift Store. It’s a simple life she leads these days, but in her words, “more than I ever dreamed possible.”

Community Support

One way to support Connections for Life is to shop at the Thrift Store, which carries furniture, books, clothing, household goods and more. Volunteers are needed in the store to help sort donations, tag merchandise, hang clothing, stock shelves, arrange merchandise displays, and greet customers. The store is located at 2286 Highland Road.

Another way to support the organization is to volunteer in the office by providing administrative assistance. If you have working knowledge of Microsoft Word and Excel, good communication skills, and can multi-task, your help would be appreciated.

“I am honored to be affiliated with these women and with this program,” Stagg said. “They work so hard to improve their lives. Watching them achieve independence and emotional healing is a beautiful thing to see.”

For more information about Connections for Life or about volunteer opportunities, call (225) 379-3640.

Karen stagg, second from left, poses with supporters of Connections for Life.
Women in Media volunteers participated in a clothing drive to provide clients with professional attire.

“The woman who founded the organization was retiring and she offered me this opportunity. I took it even though I had no training or background in this kind of work. But I had decided I wanted to live my life more intentionally, and this was a chance to do that.” – Karen Stagg

Cortney bradley, far left, and Judy Maechling are graduates and now employees of the Connections for Life program. Cortney credits the program with saving her life by giving her opportunities she never would have found if she had returned home. Judy says she received unconditional love and support that motivated her to be a better person and gave her confidence to make better choices.

Starting a New Life Has its Challenges

Every year, millions of men and women leave the country’s state and federal prisons and local jails hoping for a successful return to society. Most are returning to their families, many with children. because of this, their challenges moving back into the mainstream affect their families in many ways.

Family life

Housing is an immediate concern, and most prisoners end up living with a family member and depending on them for financial support. in most cases, family support is a positive experience. For women who return to children, however, the experience is difficult. Children whose parents are incarcerated go through more than disruption of their daily lives. they go through real trauma–separation from a loved one, feelings of shame and anger, and fear for their future. When a mother is released from prison, re-establishing the parent-child relationship is hard.

Employment

Imagine if a former inmate came to you for a job. Your first thought would be to wonder if you could trust this person. even if a boss or supervisor is willing to take a chance, co-workers may not be comfortable with the arrangement. released prisoners who are able to find employment often have to settle for low-skill and low-paying jobs such as food service, housekeeping, or maintenance and repair. And while finding a job is a step in the right direction, keeping it is a daily struggle.

Staying focused

Most women who leave prison are determined to never go back, but real life has its temptations, especially for those who were convicted of drug crimes. even those who manage to avoid repeating their offenses often are arrested for parole violations such as changing residence, possessing a weapon, leaving the state without permission, or failing to show up for a court appearance.

Community help

Karen stagg, executive Director of Connections for Life, has devoted her life to helping women achieve independence after being released from prisons, rehab facilities and women’s shelters. “i’ve seen how hard they work to change their lives,” she said. “Anything our community can do for them is appreciated.”

Connections for Life provides many ways to be involved in helping women at risk reach their goals, including donations and volunteer projects. Call (225) 379-3640 for information.

August 2017, Faith Life

A Ballerina’s Testimony

 

A Ballerina’s Testimony

by Pamela Gauthier

This story is about the self-control it took to wait on God for the fulfillment of a dream until it became reality. It all started when I was about seven or eight. My mom took me to a school of ballet to become a dancer, but the fear of being left there alone overcame the passion to dance. It seemed the opportunity was lost.

Around my freshman year of high school I began to feel the passion to dance again. I was in and out of modern dance programs throughout my high school and college years, but nothing became of it. I truly thought the dream had died. Years passed and I was now married with two girls, Jamie and Jessica. Naturally, I desired to put them in dance school. I’d recently accepted Christ and didn’t want to put them in any program that I felt dishonored God. Although this dream was very important to me, their purity was my highest priority. The girls eventually became teens and they danced in our church’s youth group. Later, my oldest son Joshua followed suit as a hiphop dancer for

the younger kids’ group at church. My youngest son Joseph was a baby at this time. My husband, Ronnie, and I were satisfied. We felt that since our children were also homeschooled, this involvement in the youth group was the perfect balance. Although I was happy my children were finally in decent dance programs, I still couldn’t shake my personal desire andpassion to dance. I wondered – was it too late for me? The opportunity still had not yet presented itself. Not long afterward, Cammie Manuel, the youth dance teacher from church, approached us and informed us that Joshua had a natural talent. Cammie owned a dance school and asked if he could dance in her academy recital as a guest hip-hop dancer. We were thrilled and supported him as a family. This opportunity led to him and the girls enrolling in her school, Divine Dance Academy, the following year. We had finally found the right fit! Then the unthinkable happened. Just when I thought it was over for me, my dream was resurrected. Cammie asked me to join the adult class at the academy. I was 49 years of age and had no ballet experience whatsoever. My whole world changed in that moment. I was able to dance with each of my children year after year at this school where the name of Jesus was lifted up with no compromise. Needless to say, bringing Him glory as a family unit fulfilled my dreams. Fast forward to today … my girls are now married with children. I’m now in my 10th year of dance and have come to realize the masterpiece God was making of our family. As for God, His ways are perfect and so is His timing.

ballet04

HeaRtune Creations Poetry, LLC., is owned by Pamela Gauthier. Pamela is a writer and poet, who has been writing for over 20 years. she formally started her poetry as a business in october of 2013. Pamela is a native Baton Rougean, who has lived here all of her life. she’s a wife, a mother of four, and proud grandmother of five. Pamela started her writing journey by writing poetry as a way to uplift the spirits of those in nursing homes and the like. this is still the goal today, to touch hearts and lives wherever encouragement is needed.

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August 2017, Faith Life

Chocolate Chip Cookies and the Fruit of the Spirit

 

Chocolate Chip Cookies and the Fruit of the Spirit

by Sharon Holeman

I admit it. I have a weakness for chocolate chip cookies. Warm and gooey with a little crunch — alongside a steaming cup of black coffee served underneath a covered patio. Through trial and error I have learned that this indulgence in my life must remain a mere occasional treat. My weekly allowance often takes the form of a homemade “Jesus cookie” served at my friend Karen’s house after a couple of hours on the tennis court. My aspiration to manage this sweet sensation may sound trivial but I believe it can serve as an intentional form of learning to have power over fleshly desires. By definition, Merriam-Webster says self-control is “restraint exercised

over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.” In fact, selfcontrol, a Biblical fruit of the spirit, is of great importance and affects just about every area of our lives. Often overlooked, self-control is spoken of many times in the Scriptures. It’s actually spoken of more than we might think. When defending himself in Caesarea, Paul spoke to the governor and his wife “about righteousness and self-control and the coming day of judgment … Felix became frightened.” “Go away for now,” he replied. “When it is more convenient, I’ll call for you again.” (Acts 24:25) Self-control is not easy or convenient. We need the Holy Spirit’s help to guard our hearts, to take captive our thoughts,

to control our tongues and tempers, to turn our eyes away from the entrapping of the world around us, but yet not to ignore the people who so desperately need the love of Christ just like us. Galatians talks about our freedom in Christ and living by the Spirit’s power. It says when we follow the desires of our sinful nature the results are clearly not good, but it is the Holy Spirit that produces fruit in our lives. And then it says something magnificent. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.” (Galatians 5:24) That’s powerful. We have been given victory and control and “since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” (Galatians 5:25) Yet, sometimes in the moment it can be hard to follow the Spirit’s leading, especially if we can’t hear Him over our impulsive responses. So, how can we take practical steps to hear Him and properly respond to life’s temptations?

• Pray. Prayer is the conversation that keeps us close to God.

• Presence. My day just isn’t right if I don’t start with time in the Word. Worship music helps keep my heart light.

• Pre-decide. If my decision is already made it’s an easy one. Respond in love, wait before speaking, and one dessert a week. You get the idea.

• Plan. Intentionally side-step stumbling blocks.

• Persevere. Forgiveness after failure is key … for us and for others. I recently heard a pastor say that we are never more like Jesus than when we forgive.

As Christians, we are to die to ourselves daily-to be selfgiving rather than self-focused, self-controlled and acting in love. We are to be faithful in the little so we can be faithful in plenty, even if it means having just one chocolate chip cookie at a time.

Sharon Holeman

Sharon Holeman is a writer and photographer living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. she was the project creator, coordinator and co-author of the book Backyard Miracles – 12 american Women, 12 true stories, 1 Miraculous God.
Previously published in Her
Glory and inspire Louisiana , she is now penning her first screenplay. Ministry today
showcased one of her photographs on the cover and several others as article imagery. sharon is a graduate of the University of texas at san antonio and the art institute of Houston. she is currently attending Bethany College to further her pursuit of the Lord and His Word.

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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.

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Faith Life, June 2017

Boundless Generosity

The Aldersgate Sunday school class at First United Methodist Church invests in the well-being of the local community.

Boundless Generosity

by Lisa Tramontana

Aldersgate is the name of the street in London where John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, was converted. It marks the spot where he stood when God spoke to his heart. It’s fitting then, that a local Sunday school class, known for its strong faith, also carries that name.

The Aldersgate Sunday School class at First United Methodist Church has been donating generously to HOPE Ministries for 20 years, making many programs and services available to local families and individuals in need. The class donates approximately $10,000 each year.

Louis Day is president and primary instructor of the class of some 20 adults. “HOPE Ministries is one of our longest-standing recipients,” he said, “and over the years, we’ve boosted our contributions to them for various needs. It’s because we believe in the programs they offer in our community. The students in our class all agree that as far as fundraising goes, we want to make sure we donate to worthy causes.”

That includes programs such as the Client Choice Food Pantry, which allows HOPE Ministries to feed about 13,000 people annually. The pantry features a grocery store setting, which lets clients select the foods that they need rather than feel as though they are receiving a handout.

“The Aldersgate class members have supported us for many years,” said Melissa Curtis, director of marketing and development at HOPE Ministries. “They’ve been especially helpful to us doing ‘intake’ with our pantry clients.

The Aldersgate donation also helps fund HOPE’s annual holiday programs, which include traditional meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas, holiday house parties, and a gift and toy collection for the community’s children. Gifts range from stocking stuffers for young children to gift cards for teenagers.

Intake is basically an interview in which we meet with clients to discuss their household size and their family members’ health and nutritional needs. It allows them to choose what’s right for them and it promotes the ‘dignity’ element of our mission, which is very important.”


Another program that benefits from Aldersgate donation is HOPE’s The Way to Work program. The Way to Work is a structured environment that helps people find and maintain employment, housing and financial stability. Services include life skills workshops, career coaching and job
training Additionally, The Way to Work partners with local business for training and support to increase retention and reduce turnover costs. It trains people to keep jobs and businesses to keep people.

“We’re very thankful for all this class has done for us,” said Janet Simmons, president and CEO

of HOPE Ministries. “They believe in what we’re doing and they take the opportunity to support us in so many ways.”

Members of the class also volunteer on an individual basis for clean-up days and other HOPE events. At their own church, they help sponsor youth mission trips and missionary work in foreign countries.

“We feel strongly that our donations should be spent on causes that Jesus would approve of,” Day said, “like helping the poor and feeding the hungry. We believe that we should practice what we preach and do good for others wherever and whenever we can … in our community and throughout the world.”

First United Methodist Church is located at 930 North Blvd. downtown. For information, call (225) 383-4777. To learn more about the church’s programs, visit the website at firstmethodist.org. For more information about volunteer opportunities with HoPE Ministries, visit hopebr.com.

Baton Rouge Christian Life MAGAZINE

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