Geaux Life, September 2018

Sky is the Limit, Wings of the Spirit

The Sky is the limit

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

BY: lisa tramontana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A high school student’s memoirs of the 45th annual march in D. C.

by Rachel Malmberg

I was given the opportunity through my high school, St. Michael the Archangel, to march for life with my fellow students at the 2018 National March for Life in Washington D.C. The day was cold but beautiful. The atmosphere was uplifting. Marchers smiled and I felt truly inspired by the 100,000 plus people who walked alongside me. Abortion usually gets the majority of attention, and it’s because abortion is the genocide that is taking humanity quickly but quietly. As student activists, we were not only marching for children not yet born, but for those who have suffered at the hands of combat, those who have suffered at the hands of others, such as victims of the Holocaust, and the elderly who deserve a chance to live out the journey God planned for them. We marched for all life, because all life is good in the eyes of God and we must protect and defend its nature at all costs.

Rachel Malmberg attended the national March for Life which took place on January 19, 2018. January 22 is the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that changed the course of history. The first March for Life began the year following that decision.
The reflection of students walking to protect life is shown in the vietnam veterans Memorial.

Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patron of all mothers; many Catholics pray to her in advocacy of mothers faced with abortion.


Rachel is a senior at St. Michael the Archangel High School in Baton Rouge. After she graduates with honors in May of this year, she plans to attend LSU.

December 2017, Geaux Life

Christmas Around the World

Christmas Around the World

Christmas is one of the most important celebrations among Christians throughout the world. it is both a religious and cultural celebration most often observed on December 25. Traditions range from gift exchanges and family meals to Christmas trees and Nativity displays. At its heart, however, Christmas is a time to recall the beautiful story of Christ’s birth, to draw near to family and friends and bask in the peace and serenity of the season.

Midnight Mass:

For many religions in the U.S. and abroad, Midnight Mass is a highlight of the year. Celebrated on Christmas Eve, it is a peaceful tradition filled with prayer, reflection and music to herald the arrival of the Christ Child

Joyeux Noel:

In France, the families gather on Christmas Eve for Reveillon, the holiday meal that typically includes roast turkey with chestnuts, oysters and a variety of cheeses. Nearly every home is decorated with a Nativity crib filled with clay figures of the Holy Family, Wise Men and angels. A Yule log burns in the fireplace through the night.

Peace in China:

Only about one percent of China’s population is Christian, so holiday trees and decorations are rarely seen. However, those who are Christian attend special church services, and in a rapidly growing tradition, give decorated apples to friends and family. Symbols of peace, the apples are wrapped in colored paper and are exchanged on Christmas Eve (called Ping’an Ye), which means “peaceful evening.”

Midnight Mass at the brompton oratory in London.
A popular tradition in China is to exchange decorated apples.

German traditions:

In most German homes, families display Advent calendars as they prepare their hearts to receive Christ in the days leading up to Christmas. On Christmas Eve, the family reads the Bible and sings songs. In families with young children, mothers secretly decorate the Christmas tree while the children are asleep.

Just about every Christian family in the U.S. displays a Christmas tree decorated with ornaments and lights.
An Ethiopian Christmas Card illustrates the birth of Jesus.

Procession of candles:

In Ethiopia, the Christmas celebration is called Ganna, and since it is based on the Julian calendar, it is celebrated on January 7. Most people dress in white cotton garments called shammas and attend Ganna services at 4 a.m. Each churchgoer is given a candle, then takes part in a solemn procession, circling the church three times as they contemplate Christ’s birth.

When in Spain:

The streets come alive in Spain on Christmas Eve. People attend midnight services, then walk through the streets carrying torches, singing, and playing guitars and tambourines. On January 6, the Epiphany is celebrated with the Festival of the Three Kings. On Epiphany Eve, children leave their shoes on windowsills or balconies and find them filled with sweets, walnuts and small gifts the next morning.

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Geaux Life, October 2017, Uncategorized

The Cajun Army Soldiers on…to Texas Volunteers Help Victims of Hurricane Harvey


The Cajun Army Soldiers On … to Texas

Volunteers Help Victims of Hurricane Harvey

Just over a year ago, Christian Life Magazine interviewed Chris King of the Cajun Army, which helped thousands rebuild after Baton Rouge’s devastating flood of 2016. At that time, King, along with brothers Nick and Josh Loupe, had founded the group after volunteering on rescue missions with the Cajun Navy.

In early September, King found himself traveling to Texas with his army of volunteers, this time to help victims of Hurricane Harvey, which caused catastrophic flooding along the Texas coast. It was a painful reminder of Nature’s destructive powers, but also of the amazing goodness in many people’s hearts.

The Cajun Army has established three bases of operation in Texas, including Port Arthur, Pasadena and Magnolia, where volunteers collect and distribute supplies, cook meals and assist local communities with relief efforts. The Cajun Army has committed to a three-to-six month plan, and will collaborate with other groups in the coming weeks.

“I don’t want to take credit for the work we’re doing,” King said. “The credit goes to God. Our people are working around the clock, and I’m just thankful to have a front-row seat and be able to watch what God is accomplishing through us. People ask why we do this and all I can say is that personally, I get great joy in doing what Jesus Christ asked us to do … to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

King encourages others to consider how they can contribute as well. “There are people who have lost everything, who are crushed beyond comprehension,” he said. “Everyone here in Louisiana needs to ask themselves, ‘what am I doing to help?’ The local and national media will eventually move on to other things, but people will still need our help. We can bring hope to them. Believe me, when you help change people’s lives, it’s worth your time and effort.”

To get involved, go to or visit The Cajun Army on facebook.

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Geaux Life, Septermber 2017

River Adventure – Teens do their part to change the world


River Adventure

Teens do their part to change the world

by susan brown

Matt rens and Jesse richard spent the summer kayaking the Mississippi river – all 2,320 miles – while raising money for a water/sanitation system in a third World country. it was a dream that took hold as Matt kayaked with his father from the Minnesota river to the Mississippi.

Rens, 19, and Richard, 18, launched their adventure at the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Itasca, Minnesota on June 11 and passed through Baton Rouge July 29-30 on their way to the Gulf of Mexico. The two-month journey took them through 10 states of winding water that includes some six miles of rapids. “There are really specific, strange, dangerous places on the river, but they’re pretty random,” Rens said.

“My dad did some research on the trip. He was really excited about it. He was the only one who actually thought I was going to do it,” Rens said. When his father passed away last April, Rens recounted their dream to friends and family. “They started a GoFundMe ( and without them we wouldn’t have the kayaks or any of the gear.”

Wenonah Canoe is Minnesota provided a substantial discount as part of its commitment to support worthy causes.

Lifewater International is a Christian non-profit that builds wells and teaches sanitation in Third World countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda and Cambodia. “For $6,000 they set up a full well, and $12,000 sets up the well and sanitation for the village for generations,” Rens said. “They really work on education, not just supplying the water. So we thought it was really important.” Through the Activewater branch of the Lifewater organization, athletes can attempt to run, walk, kayak or otherwise raise funds by asking donors to pledge a certain amount per mile.

“Each Tuesday we’ll try to do as many miles as we can, and then on Wednesday we remind

The teenagers started their journey in itaska, Minnesota in early June.
The two-month journey took rens and richard through 10 states.

people that we’re doing this for a cause and, if you can, give a dollar, 50 cents, a nickel for every mile we did yesterday. It forces us to go farther, it pushes us,” Rens said. “At the end of the whole river, we’re asking people, ‘Would you give me a penny for every mile?’ That’s 23 dollars. If enough people do it, we can reach our goal. The number that we fundraised will go to those places that don’t have water and need it.” (

Weeks of kayaking and camping on the banks of the Mississippi have taught them the value and challenge of obtaining clean water. “We’re filtering the river water – and it doesn’t taste great,” Rens said.

“It’s taught me more than enough about patience and about just not quitting,” Richard said. “It’s a cliché – you put your mind to something and it can be done – but you never really know it until you do it. It’s just been a really cool trip.”

“The more and more I’ve seen of the river, I cannot deny the existence of God,” Rens said. “It is more and more easy to see exactly where it works and how small I am. It’s so vast, so big and so beautiful, there’s no way that God’s not there.” Both Rens and Richard are members of Hillside Church in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Rens is a sophomore at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, SD. Richard graduated this year from Jefferson High School in Bloomington, MN where he was captain of the swim team. He is headed for the U.S Air Force.

Read more about their remarkable trip on Facebook at fromsourcetosea.


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

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August 2017, Geaux Life

Spreading The Gospel Through Healthcare



Through Healthcare

by Trapper S. Kinchen

photos provided by Erica Rogers

Rogers meeting children in the mountainous village of Kabale, Uganda

Erica Rogers is—in every sense of the word—a nurse. she has held the hands of men without families as they lay dying. she has wept with newly widowed women and comforted their children. she has rejoiced with people who have been made well. and, through it all, she has spread the Gospel of Christ’s love through healthcare.

Rogers grew up in a large service-oriented family from Laplace. She was raised Catholic and said, when she was a child, she “had the knowledge of Jesus, but didn’t have a relationship with Him.” That changed when she was twenty-one. While attending Southern, she found salvation at Living Faith Christian Center and, from that moment on, she has passionately pursued the will of God.

After graduating from nursing school, she spent nine years working for M.D. Anderson in Houston. During that time, Rogers got married, battled through a difficult divorce, and learned to lean into her faith. She eventually moved back to Louisiana and quickly became restless. So, she started fasting. She prayed, “God, I know there’s something you want me to do, but I just don’t know what it is.”

During that period of supplication, Rogers began receiving unsolicited emails from international service organizations seeking medical professionals to volunteer in the third world. The emails caught her off guard. She had never considered going on the mission field but, the longer she thought about it, the more her heart was drawn to Africa.

One day, she got an unexpected phone call from the founder of the World Health Organization. She said, “He called me, and I didn’t answer. He called me again on a different day and left me a message. Finally, I prayed about it, and I called him back.” He wound up inviting her to join his team on a trip to Uganda.

Rogers immediately agreed to go, but the World Health Organization required that she buy her own plane ticket. At the time, her finances were tight, and she wasn’t sure she would be able cover her travel costs. She said, “I wasn’t working, I had just moved back home with my parents, and I think I might have had like ten dollars.” But, with help from friends and family, she was able to raise the funds she needed to fly to Africa in March of 2014.

Erica and the Braveheart medical mission team straddling the equator near Kisoro, Uganda.
Children walking to collect a day’s worth of clean water.
Braveheart medical missionaries on the job.

When Rogers returned home, she settled into her current job as a cardiac ICU nurse and fell into a daily routine. She soon started getting emails from contacts she made in Uganda, desperately asking for her help. After a great deal of prayer, she decided to take action. She kept thinking, “I don’t know how to run a medical mission, and I don’t know what to do.”

But she conducted a mountain of research, stepped out in faith, and organized an international medical expedition in November of 2016. Rogers said, “I ended up recruiting five people to go on that first mission trip.” Her nonprofit organization, Braveheart, was born of that experience, and she and her team have returned to Uganda several times since their initial journey.

Braveheart is a faith-based missions organization focused on ministering through healthcare. It operates as a peer-to-peer medical support network in the United States, and, abroad, it serves as a foundation through which long-term healthcare initiatives are developed. Braveheart’s international efforts are mainly based in Uganda—the place where Rogers first fell in love with missions work.

Rogers telling stories to children in Kampala, Uganda

Uganda rests on the northern shore of Lake Victoria, and is situated between Kenya and the Congo. It is home to roughly 39 million people, and—according to statistics compiled by UNICEF—roughly 103,000 of the country’s children die before their fifth birthday every year. With an average annual income of only $440, the typical Ugandan lacks basic access to essential medical services. Rogers’s goal is to help fill the void in Ugandan healthcare and, by doing so, enhance the population’s general quality of life. She said, “The greatest needs in Uganda are healthcare, sanitation, education, and business development.” As a medical organization, Braveheart currently focuses on improving Uganda’s hospitals, educating local doctors, and providing important supplies.

Her ambition is not just to offer sick people medicine but also to share God’s love through individualized care. Rogers endeavors to make a spiritual connection with every person she serves—at home and in Africa—no matter the circumstances of their illness. She said, “It’s not just about care, it’s about quality care.” Braveheart’s ten-year global plan involves restoring a centrally located hospital in Kyantale, a village in the southwestern corner of Uganda. Instead of starting from scratch, Rogers and her team concentrate on using existing infrastructure to build functional medical facilities. She said, “I focus on helping them rebuild what they already have in terms of healthcare. They lack the most basic medical resources. Right now, they can’t even properly diagnose illnesses.”

Each time she visits, Rogers sets up mobile clinics. She said, “When I go, I bring medication, equipment, and all the supplies we know we’re going to need.” She and her team travel extensively during every mission trip, reaching as many towns and villages as possible.

Here in the United States, Braveheart devotes much of its resources to providing emotional and spiritual support to people battling cancer. Rogers loves teaching patients how to holistically approach their recovery by focusing on the relationship between spiritual and physical healing. She said, “It’s not only about chemotherapy and drug related treatments, but also about the mind, body, spirit connection.”

As of September, Braveheart is launching a new American initiative called The Heartbeat Community. Rogers said, “It’s a peer support network for patients on the journey of receiving heart transplants. It’s about educational and psychological support.” She partners people who have successfully gone through transplants with patients waiting to undergo the same operation.

Braveheart’s patient support networks focus on sharing important advice and encouraging people to lean into Christ. As a cardiac ICU nurse, Rogers is especially familiar with the difficult process faced by transplant patients. She said, “Waiting for a heart can be a very lonely and distressing journey.”

Over the next twenty years, Rogers wants to see Braveheart’s organ transplant and cancer ministries grow nationwide. She also hopes to see functional Braveheart clinics operating throughout Africa. She said, “I would love for Braveheart to keep growing and striving to teach holistic healing. I want the organization to be a people’s organization.”

If you feel led to support Braveheart, you can easily do so by visiting Money, medication, and volunteers are always needed and greatly appreciated. Click on the website’s “donate now” link to make a financial contribution, and check out the “be a Braveheart” page for
more information on how to volunteer. Everyone is welcome to participate, because Rogers believes all Christians are called to serve “the least, the last, and the lost.”

All it takes is a little motivation to make a tremendous impact. By simply surrendering to God’s calling, Erica Rogers’ ministry has led to an international outpouring of healing and hope, love and encouragement. Her work with Braveheart often comes at the expense of her personal life. But she says it’s worth it, because her efforts go towards expanding the Kingdom of God. Think about how much good the Body of Christ could do if each of us, like Rogers, decided to step out in faith and follow our hearts.


Trapper was born on the lip of Lake Pontchartrain. He was raised there, reading in the salt-flecked breeze on a splintered wharf that jutted into South Pass. Never bored, he divides his time between trying to raise organic chickens in the Livingston Parish piney woods, traveling to different time zones, and exercising his mind by steadily learning as much as he can. He graduated from LSU in 2013 and Wayne State University in 2015. He is a busy fiction writer and contemplative naturalist. He has a great time living life.

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Geaux Life, July 2017

COMING HOME Missionaries share Cambodian experience



Missionaries Share Cambodian Experience

Photos provided by Jennifer and Donald Hartung

In our January 2016 edition, we shared the story of two young missionaries who chose to begin their future together on the mission field… “Jennifer and Donald Hartung were still newlyweds when they packed their belongings, left their Baton Rouge families, and headed to Phnom Penh, Cambodia in December 2014. They were on their way to work as missionaries through their church, River Ministries international, based in Addis, La. Preaching the gospel was a shared dream, but one that started with separate callings.” since that story was published, we wanted to update our readers. Recently, Jennifer and Donald came home to Addis to update their supporters, visit with family and continue to raise awareness of the needs and accomplishments of their work in Cambodia.

From Jennifer: “since our last visit in 2015, a lot has changed. • The village churches are now pastored by a local Khmer pastor. • We moved to a new city. • We have been part of the birth of an international church.
God is doing such great things. We’ve seen missionaries grow to a place in their relationship with God they never knew possible, locals come to know the living God who hears their prayers,

and business people find a deeper purpose in their work through this church. We’ve put a priority on personal evangelism and discipleship. everything we do is for the end goal of new souls heading towards the Kingdom and helping those precious brothers and sisters along that path. This past year, we’ve taught 2 semesters of english to the local community 18 years and older. These classes have turned into a small church body in and of themselves. shy students who started out unwilling to participate are now

boldly sharing the gospel to new students. it’s really amazing. Through these classes we’ve seen the need for a teen ministry. so, when we get back in June, that will be one of the first things we get started on. Revival is coming to Cambodia and we are so excited to be a part of it. if you’re ever in southeast Asia, we’d love for you to visit The River siem Reap. you can find us on Facebook or email us personally at”

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Geaux Life

Geaux LIFE

December 2016, Geaux Life

Be a Missionary Across the Globe or from Your Home

Friendship Paves the Way for Conversations About Christ

by Susan Brown
Rev. Rick Wright wears traditional Chinese dress during his 2010 trip to China to visit former international students.
Rev. Rick Wright wears traditional Chinese dress during his 2010 trip to China to visit former international students.

Imagine you are far from home, navigating a new world without family or friends. Everything is unfamiliar: the city, the culture and perhaps even the language. The stakes are high in your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Then, American friends come along, offering practical advice and giving shape to the rapid, quirky pattern of life in the U.S. The cross-cultural experience can be mutually transformative.

Some call connecting with internationals in Baton Rouge our best, missed opportunity. “Our prayer is not for a program, but a movement across the city to love them, accept them and learn about their culture,” said Valerie Gastinel of First Presbyterian Church.

“Three billion people don’t have access to the gospel yet, and many of them are coming here to study,” said Steve Elworth, International Outreach director for The Chapel on the Campus. “These students are the best, the brightest, the richest, the most well-connected. And they are going to go back to their countries and lead. So, it’s incredibly strategic to be involved.”

“Around 50 percent of internationals in the U.S. are from unreached people groups,” Gastinel explained. At LSU alone, there are students and visiting scholars from China, India, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Brazil, Ukraine and Cameroon – to name a few.  There are many immigrants establishing a new life. There are refugees in survival mode after leaving a home country disrupted by conflict or natural disaster.

Rev. Rick Wright at a temple.
Rev. Rick Wright at a temple.

“There was a young Nepalese from a caste of farmers – very gifted. He came to the U.S. after the earthquake. He is Hindu and prays an hour before his many gods,” Gastinel said. His parents worried about his safety and ability to handle life outside their family-oriented culture. Gradually, a relationship developed with the Gastinel family who nicknamed him “Charlie.”

Then came the August flood and the loss of her sister-in-law’s home. “He had gone through the earthquake in Nepal and was so moved by the loss here,” Gastinel said. Charlie joined the family in gutting and cleaning the home. For Nepalese Father’s Day they received gifts and a request for their prayers of blessing.

“The number one need in my opinion, and what internationals crave the most, is friendship. It’s that simple,” said the Rev. Rick Wright, pastor of the Church of the Nations and Minister of Missions for University Baptist Church. “Just hang out with them and invite them to your home. That’s the number one, most powerful thing you can do.”

Conversation over coffee led to a strong friendship between Elworth and a man from the Middle East. When the Elworths moved to a new home, their new friend followed their trailer packed with furniture and boxes. Along the way, he noticed a flat tire on the trailer, but efforts to signal the Elworths were unsuccessful as the trailer bounced along the road. Concerned that their belongings were damaged, they opened the trailer to find only one box of books had fallen over. On top was an Arabic Bible.

“I asked if he’d be interested in reading it,” Elworth said. “He asked how I knew he wanted to read the Bible. I said I didn’t but clearly God did because he just threw an Arabic Bible at you.” He began to read the book of John. The next week, they met at Coffee Call.

“With tears in his eyes he was just talking, recounting the gospel as he read it in the book of John. He said, ‘At the end, I saw that Jesus was willing to die for me and it made me realize that there’s nothing I shouldn’t be willing to give to him.’ A couple of weeks later, he decided to give his life to Jesus,” Elworth said. “I got a chance to study the Bible over the last couple of years with him. I love that story because it just shows that God doesn’t need us and he can do whatever he wants. He’s always looking for people that are willing to step into it.”

Some Americans are hesitant to relate to internationals, for fear that their own lack of cultural knowledge or religious traditions will offend someone. “Just be willing to learn and to say ‘sorry’ quickly,” said Gastinel. “It’s surprising how easy it is for them to open up.”

“One of my personal rules is not to blast any other religion,” Wright explained. “Generally speaking, I don’t edit myself. I make it very clear that this is the Christian faith, this is what the New Testament says.”

Americans also fail to understand the need for intergenerational friendships. “They miss their parents,” Gastinel said. “Many Muslim women are used to living in a hierarchy with an older woman. They feel protected. They are very honored to have an older woman as a friend.”

“A lot of it is plant seeds, open doors, start a process. Not infrequently, we minister with someone for six months, a year, two years and they leave, but later, they become a Christian,” Wright said. “Occasionally it’s, ‘I believe, I want to be a Christian, but I cannot say so openly.’”

In 2010, Rev. Wright visited China to reconnect personally with former international students and scholars. “I met with 79 people. And that’s a large fraction of all the Chinese people we knew when they were here.” To his surprise, the visit brought an opportunity to make new friends and connect people with each other. “Sometimes the results are larger and more subtle than we ourselves recognize,” he said.

Cindy and Jim Barker, members of The Chapel, opened their home to international guests in need of room and board.
Cindy and Jim Barker, members of The Chapel, opened their home
to international guests in need of room and board.

“One of our driving motivators is to be mobilizers, making ‘world Christians,’” said Jim Barker, a member of The Chapel. “By that I mean helping others understand the big picture that God is moving through history to establish his name and glory to the ends of the earth, and that we are all invited to be participants with Him in that journey, which I believe is the central theme of scripture.” While volunteering with ESL classes, the Barkers partner with others who are spreading the gospel abroad. For 26 years, they have supported a couple working with Wycliffe Bible Translators who recently published the New Testament and Genesis in the heart language of a people group in Senegal, North Africa.

But it doesn’t end there. The Barkers have opened their home to a mother and child from Bolivia while the child underwent treatment for Spina Bifida. When they learned of an exchange student from Ukraine who needed a new place to live, they became her surrogate family.

“It was only two or three years after the Soviet Union had fallen. Everything faith-based was very new for her because it was forbidden in Communist times,” said Jim Barker.

“We got to share the gospel with her and share our lives with her,” Cindy Barker said. “After she got home we got a lovely letter from her mother saying all of this had been lost in her country and thanking us for sharing something about God with her daughter.”

“Almost everything that is important and effective and purposeful in ministering with internationals applies very neatly to ministry with Americans,” Wright said. “Slow down, speak simply. Come to my house for lunch. Let’s be friends.”

“Our job is to equip them to go home to their own culture – one friendship at a time,” Gastinel said. “I stand in awe of what God is doing.”

Geaux Life, July 2016

Bike Ministry Helps Build Bridges

by Lisa Tramontana
A young boy gets on-the-job training at the workshop.
A young boy gets on-the-job training at the workshop.

Like the Pied Piper, Dustin LaFont had children following him just about everywhere. It started with a young neighbor who needed help fixing his bike, and pretty soon, there was a steady stream of kids in LaFont’s front yard with flat tires and broken gears. He didn’t know it at the time, but he was building a ministry, one that would become a full-fledged nonprofit organization that teaches important life skills, builds character and encourages a strong work ethic.

The path to Front Yard Bikes began when LaFont was 23 and had just graduated from LSU with a master’s degree in education. He needed an inexpensive place to live and ended up in the West Roosevelt neighborhood between Nicholson Drive and River Road. He noticed some of the kids in the area rode bikes that were practically falling apart. One child was literally riding around on metal rims. One day, 13-year-old Rejay Wilson showed up on a squeaky, broken-down bike and asked LaFont if he could help repair it. Of course, LaFont obliged. It didn’t take long for LaFont and his young neighbors to realize they needed each other.

“At that point in my life, I had been looking for some avenue to help people and inspire positive change,” LaFont said. “And then one day, as I looked at all these kids in my yard, I said, ‘God, why have you brought all these kids here?’ Then it dawned on me.”

LaFont made a deal with the kids who sought him out. He would instruct them, but they would have to help make the repairs themselves. Initially, his landlord was uncomfortable about the situation — all those kids working with tools on his property — but he began to see the value of what was happening. “I was on the verge of being evicted,” LaFont said. “And instead, my landlord had a change of heart and ended up giving me a workshop in the same neighborhood.”

Dustin and Kim with their young friends in the early days of Front Yard Bikes.
Dustin and Kim with their young friends in the early days of Front Yard Bikes.

It was a dark and dusty place made of wood and tin … no electricity, but just $300 a month. And right away, it was buzzing with activity. Within minutes of unlocking the shop on weekday afternoons, kids started appearing. They learned how to use tools. They took old bikes apart and built new ones. And with LaFont as their mentor, they learned about respect, hard work, leadership and teamwork.

“I began to feel a sense of destiny in all this,” LaFont said. “Baton Rouge has so many racial, social and economic barriers that keep people apart. I felt like our bikes were building a bridge and bringing people together.”

LaFont was working as a social studies teacher during this time and could only get to the shop a few times a week. But a private donor who heard about the program offered to pay his salary so he could work at the shop full-time. “There’s no doubt God had a hand in this,” LaFont said. “Here was an opportunity. I had to walk through that door and not be fearful.”

Dustin shares credit for Front Yard Bikes' success with his wife, Kim. 'When I met her I fell in love with her heart,' he says.
Dustin shares credit for Front Yard Bikes’ success with his wife, Kim. ‘When I met her I fell in love with her heart,’ he says.

The next coincidence was even more incredible. LaFont was making small talk with a stranger and happened to mention Front Yard Bikes. He was completely unaware that the man he was speaking with was a BREC employee, and that BREC was looking for a community project that involved one of its parks. That conversation led to Front Yard Bikes opening a second facility at the Terrace Street Park. Participants can repair or build their own bikes, “earn” a bike by working in the shop for “credit,” and enjoy Friday bike rides to local parks, museums and libraries.

“On the days we meet, we always start with a moment of thanksgiving and a prayer,” LaFont said. “Then we have everyone tell a little about themselves. It’s an ‘identity shaping’ exercise.”

For newcomers to the group, this identity shaping can be life-changing. “We basically remind the kids that they are special in God’s eyes,” LaFont said. “I pray over them. I say, ‘God, thank you for bringing to us these wonderful kids in south Baton Rouge. They are so skilled, so talented, so smart. They have such bright futures ahead of them. I am so proud and grateful that they have joined us today.”

BikesWhen they arrive at Front Yard Bikes, some children may not feel special or loved or valued. But they certainly do by the time they leave.

LaFont’s wife Kim, a teacher at Terrace Elementary, is also a big part of Front Yard Bikes. The couple met through AmeriCorps, and LaFont says he “fell in love with her heart.” They have an 11-month-old son named Abram. Life is good.

“Sometimes, you just know you’re in God’s favor,” LaFont said. “I feel like he put me in a position to make certain things happen. But then so many other things just fell into place. I hope to continue this ministry, but I know that ultimately, God is in charge.”

Geaux Life, June 2016

Parkview Baptist: Global Missions Start at Home

School and Church Join Forces to Strengthen Mission Trips

by Lisa Tramontana
Pastor Rich Mayfield led a group of 25 students and adults to Nicaragua in March.
Pastor Rich Mayfield led a group of 25 students and adults to Nicaragua in March.

Not many experiences have the power to bring young people together like a mission trip. Encouraging them to share their faith while serving others creates a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for spiritual growth. Taking them out of their comfort zone gives them a fresh perspective, a new world view, and an instant appreciation for the blessings they take for granted in their daily lives. Leaders at Parkview Baptist School understand this, and have worked hard to help as many students as possible participate in the missionary experience.

In the spring of 2014, Parkview Baptist School and Parkview Baptist Church launched a strategic initiative to partner with each other on several mission trips. The idea was to enrich opportunities for students and their families to participate in church activities.

After all, the school is the largest private Christian school in Louisiana with nearly 1,300 students representing 90 churches and 13 denominations. Combining school and church resources strengthens both. A good example, according to Superintendent Don Mayes, is the recent trip to Diriamba, Nicaragua, which included a team of 25 adults and teens.

Nicaragua – Spring 2016

Students bonded with the Nicaraguan children during the trip.
Students bonded with the Nicaraguan children during the trip.

The group was hosted by Nicaragua Christian Outreach, an organization that works with about 25 teams each year. In Nicaragua, the team participated in house building, community feeding, and worship.

“It was a great experience for everyone,” said Rich Mayfield, associate pastor of Student Ministry, “but especially for the youth members, who were able to work side by side with the adults and even see their teachers in the act of service. We went door to door and fed 125 families. We prayed with them and worshipped with them. As for the people we helped, we built relationships that are just priceless.”

Students bonded with the Nicaraguan children during the trip.
Students bonded with the Nicaraguan children during the trip.

Mayes, Parkview’s Superintendent since 2013, adds that the relationships among the Parkview students are just as meaningful. “It’s a true bonding experience,” he said. “It makes our student relationships stronger than ever. It brings together students who normally would never cross paths with each other. It creates instant friendships among the kids.”

Parkview hosts several mission trips each year, and every single student is invested directly or indirectly. Even the kindergarten classes help raise money and donate gifts and supplies for their schoolmates who are preparing to visit another country. Teachers incorporate the mission trips into their geography and social studies lessons. The young missionaries share their experiences with the school after they return home.

Jamaica – Winter 2016
One trip that is reserved for high school students is the annual mission trip to Jamaica. During the winter break, 15 PBS high school students shared that experience. Their first lesson was an eye-opening realization that Jamaica is a country of extremes. Just past the beautiful resorts so predominant in glossy travel magazines — are the poverty-stricken neighborhoods where residents live in squalor with poor housing and inadequate access to clean water. The Parkview team ministered in St. Mary Parish, the poorest area on the island.

Before a gathering storm, the group holds hands and prays together.
Before a gathering storm, the group holds hands and prays together.

Mayes, who is also a 1988 PBS graduate, was a leader on the trip, and in his online blog, expressed his pride in the students who went through a number of challenges, including a missed flight that created a 22-hour trip just to arrive in Jamaica, and a rained-out beach day at the end of the trip. He wrote:

Our students treated each other with respect, participated in work tirelessly, worshiped honestly, were extremely flexible to the very end, and cared deeply for those they served. They came back with the satisfaction of putting in hard work and with an appreciation for what they have. I believe God used the trip to plant many seeds and to form many perspectives in our staff and students that will produce a harvest of growth and unity on our campus.

New York City – Spring 2015
Some mission trips take place here in the U.S. Just last spring, Mayfield led a mission trip to New York City and students helped the homeless and shared the Gospel. “Every trip we make really opens their eyes,” he said. “It has helped me realize new things as well.”

Mayfield stresses that all of the school’s mission trips combine discipleship and evangelism. It’s an important distinction. As Christians, he said, the team members are disciples sharing their faith. As evangelists, they are reaching out to non-believers and hopefully bringing them to a relationship with Christ.

A Vision for the Future
Although the student ministry program is already strong, Mayes would like to see it grow even more in the coming years. “I have a vision for the school,” he said. “I want our students to look beyond themselves and be sensitive to other cultures. I want them to be grateful for what they have. I want them to be thankful for their parents. Mission work makes them better people, better Americans, with the right attitude and perspective. I want our students to have service and love for Christ in their DNA.”

It looks like that is already happening. On the school website, there are photos and videos of students immersed in their global movement to spread the Gospel, live a life of service, and practice their Christian values.

For more information about Parkview Baptist School, call (225) 291-2500 or visit

Geaux Life, May 2016

Vet Students Combine Faith and Career as a Way to Serve God

by Lisa Tramontana
The CVM group poses with villagers during last year's trip to Honduras.
The CVM group poses with villagers during last year’s trip to Honduras.

The connection isn’t obvious at first, but once you think about it, it makes perfect sense. It’s a connection that some veterinary students understand completely … the desire to bring glory to God through their profession. Christian Veterinary Missions helps them do just that.

CVM sends missionary vets all over the world, not just to provide much needed vet services to underserved areas, but to build relationships based on God’s word. Our relationship with Christ asks us to love and serve others with the skills and talents given to us. In doing so, we can introduce others to Christ. Interestingly, veterinarians have unique access to places that might not typically welcome foreign missionaries.

Think about it. In small villages, especially in Third World countries, animals play an important role in the survival of individuals and families. In terms of income, nutrition and farm labor, animals are extremely valuable — from the hen that lays eggs to the donkey that provides transportation. As the CVM website states, a healthy animal can literally make a life or death difference for an entire family. This is why veterinary professionals are welcome in the farthest corners of the world.

Members of the mission group attended church with the local residents.
Members of the mission group attended church with the local residents.

At Louisiana State University, vet students are fortunate to have an active and successful CVM presence. The student branch is called Christian Veterinary Fellowship (CVF), and it provides an instant bond among students that is strengthened by their shared faith. The group hosts weekly Bible studies, Christian video series, and book discussions of works such as “Forgotten God,” by Frances Chan, and “Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus,” by Kyle Idleman.

“Being part of this group has really helped me,” said Sam Sotrop. “Vet school is challenging and it’s comforting to be around other students and faculty who are faith-minded. It’s good to know that we have God with us through this experience. It’s a reminder that everything we do is related to God’s plan.”

The group also participates in outreach programs that provide free medical care for animals that belong to low income families. One example is a program that was held in New Orleans recently and was coordinated by Church of the King in the Mandeville/Northshore area. Vet student Michael St. Blanc was part of the LSU group that attended.

Amanda Wolff, left, and Sarah Beth Redding perform a neutering procedure on a dog.
Amanda Wolff, left, and Sarah Beth Redding perform a neutering procedure on a dog.

“We conducted wellness exams, administered vaccinations, treated basic conditions, and performed heartworm and flea prevention for pets in the program,” he said. “The hands-on training is valuable. But we also took prayer requests from the owners as they came through. Praying with them was an important way to bring the faith element into the experience.”

St. Blanc has been involved in CVF-LSU, along with his wife Alissa, since he started vet school. He says it has centered him. “I like being with other people who openly profess their faith, both students and faculty. It’s great that I’ve found a way to use my profession to minister to others in a meaningful way.”

CVF-LSU’s next project is a two-week trip to Honduras, which will include 20 vets, students and technicians. Amanda Wolff, who went on the same trip last year, is this year’s coordinator. “It was such a blessing to be able to use the skill set I’ve developed in school to help others,” she said.

The trip offers students the chance to gain experience spaying and neutering animals, and providing basic medical treatments. Last year’s patients included cats, dogs, horses, cows and even goats, Wolff said.

“Each day, we visited a different rural village,” she said. “We gathered with the local people, prayed with them and shared God’s word. We passed out Spanish Bibles and often, local pastors from area churches would greet us and thank us for our service. For me, the trip wasn’t just about the vet work. It was about establishing relationships with the people of Honduras.”

Kathryn Duris holds three puppies that have just received medical attention.
Kathryn Duris holds three puppies that have just received medical attention.

The Honduras trip will take place May 21 to June 4. The group will fly into the capital city of Tegucigalpa and then drive about six hours to their base camp, Rancho el Pariso, which is located in Agalta Valley. CVF-LSU partners with an organization called Honduras Outreach International (HOI), which coordinates various medical and mission groups coming in and out of the area each week.

To help offset the cost of travel and supplies used during the trip, CVF-LSU hosts several fundraisers each year. Donations are also accepted and are tax deductible if designated specifically to the LSU group.

“Vet school is a demanding program; from the sheer volume of information we are required to learn, to the taxing test schedules and the lack of time to do it,” said Wolff. “It’s easy to become overwhelmed and anxious about it all. My involvement with CVF-LSU has been my ‘breath of fresh air’ and has allowed me to set aside the trials of the world and focus on God and what is really important. It has provided me with a home group that encourages me and has helped grow my faith.”

The CVM website says it best:

Animals are a bridge to relationships. Whether at a pet clinic in urban America or a farm in the countryside of Mongolia, relationships are formed over the care of an animal. Trust is built, hearts are shared, and a seed is planted for the Kingdom of Christ.

For more information, call (225) 572-8839.

April 2016, Geaux Life

Making His Voice Heard

Slater Armstrong Uses His Musical Gifts to Create Hope in Sudan

by Lisa Tramontana
Slater Armstrong
Slater Armstrong

At one point in his life, Jack “Slater” Armstrong dreamed of a career in the mainstream music industry. A talented singer and songwriter, he wanted to share his voice and connect with others through his music. In time, Armstrong realized his dream, but not in the way he imagined. He became a missionary committed to the people of war-torn Sudan, giving them a voice they could not find on their own.

Shortly after graduating from Loyola University in New Orleans, and still in his twenties, Armstrong was at a conference in Colorado trying to make professional contacts to jumpstart his career. But then God called … and everything changed.

One of the speakers at the conference was discussing Christian artists and where the industry was headed. “I heard a clear call from the Lord,” Armstrong said. “I went back to my hotel room and prayed. I told God that I could see the shallowness of my ambition. I said, ‘Lord, you know my heart is to serve you. Show me what you want me to do.’”

The next day, Armstrong met a woman who introduced him to an organization called Youth With a Mission, and he ended up working with the group as a missionary for the next eight years. “It changed my life,” he said. “It transformed me by opening my eyes to the world’s Christian movement.”

Children in the Nuba Mountains are victims of what Slater Armstrong calls 'the most neglected human rights crisis on the planet.'
Children in the Nuba Mountains are victims of what Slater Armstrong calls ‘the most neglected human rights crisis on the planet.’

During that time, he set aside his music ambitions, but it remained a very important part of his life. In 1997, another twist of fate would bring his passion, his musical gifts and his purpose into clear focus. He met the late Rev. Mark Nikkel, a missionary to Sudan, who shared his powerful testimony about the brutal treatment of Christians in Sudan.

After hearing about the atrocities experienced by the Sudanese people, Armstrong was brought to tears. “Again, I asked the Lord, ‘What can I do to help? I have no money, no power, no influence.’ And I recall vividly his reply. He said, ‘What is in your hand? What do you have that I have given you?’ And the answer was music. God wanted me to use my musical abilities to make sure that people in the West could know what was happening in Sudan … and He wanted me to let the world hear the joy in their praise and the indigenous music of their culture.”

Armstrong recorded the worship music of the Sudanese people, blending their sound with the sounds of American and Celtic music, and translating the words of their choirs into English verse. The result was an album called “Even in Sorrow.” The project brought him to the attention of Integrity’s Hosanna! Music, and he was featured on the release “Intimate Worship.” He sang five songs on the album, which was distributed nationally and internationally over a 7-year period.

Slater Armstrong poses with a group of church leaders and a pastors in the Episcopal Church of Sudan in the village of Kurche.
Slater Armstrong poses with a group of church leaders and a pastors in the Episcopal Church of Sudan in the village of Kurche.

Since Armstrong’s first trip to Sudan in 1999, he has returned five times, most recently last January. His focus is on Christians in the Nuba Mountains, a place that harbors, in his words, “the most neglected human rights crisis on the planet.”

The Nuba people are an indigenous ethnic group that has been the victim of atrocious war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by forces loyal to the government of Sudan. This includes a state-sponsored campaign of famine and starvation, aerial and ground assaults on Nuba communities and a blockade of humanitarian aid.

Through his work, Armstrong calls attention to the country’s genocide and through his organization Joining Our Voices, delivers relief items to those who live there. This includes medications, soap, salt, sugar, cooking oil, rice and lentils. He has been involved with the Sudan advocacy network in the U.S., participating in rallies, walks, conferences and other events. He has also helped to co-found two coalitions (ACT for Sudan in 2011 and End Nuba Genocide in 2012).

When he is not traveling to Sudan, Armstrong works as a worship leader for two Baton Rouge congregations — Holy Cross Anglican and Trinity Episcopal — with their contemporary worship services. He is also a substitute teacher at Episcopal High School.

Even when he is home in Baton Rouge, Slater Armstrong's heart is never far from the people of Sudan. Photo courtesy of Darlene Aguillard
Even when he is home in Baton Rouge, Slater Armstrong’s heart is never far from the people of Sudan. Photo courtesy of Darlene Aguillard.

“In a way, my life has come full circle,” he said, “because I’m at a point in my life that I need to pursue my own music again, but not for myself this time. Through my songs inspired by the church in Sudan, I want other people to join their voices with me to bring about good in Sudan. The worship component is at the heart of this. It’s central to who I am.”

Armstrong is also working on a documentary on the historical and biblical significance of the people of Sudan. “I’ve done a lot of studying of the history of this civilization that developed along the Nile. It has helped me gain deeper understanding of God’s heart for these people.”

For those who would like to know more, Armstrong has a website and Facebook page. Visit for more information. Joining Our Voices is a partner with the Nuba Christian Family Mission, and both groups are affiliated with End Nuba Genocide Coalition. The website features information on donations, and mission and volunteer opportunities.

To hear his music, go to and on iTunes, search Slater Armstrong. He is also available for concert performances and can be contacted through the website above for additional information.