October 2017, Publisher's Letter

October Publisher’s LETTER

October Publisher’s LETTER

Patience. Few claim to have it, many wish for more of it, and most long to see more of it displayed in our highly impatient world.

Much has changed over the last few years. Most of that change is driven by technological advances, which makes “the world’s information” available instantly. The other day I was frustrated that my computer took a few extra seconds to turn on. Did you get that? A few extra seconds?

Much has changed over the last few years. Most of that change is driven by technological advances, which makes “the world’s information” available instantly. The other day I was frustrated that my computer took a few extra seconds to turn on. Did you get that? A few extra seconds?

This is an important time to realize that Christians are to be in the world, but not of the world. We cannot fall into the vicious trap of daily frustration and impatience. It’s just not God’s way. While there is a sense of urgency to reach the lost, there is ample evidence in the Bible that He speaks to His people through His Word and in response to prayer. Nurturing intimacy in that vital relationship is critical to hearing His voice among the massive noise of the world. You can’t rush that.

When God spoke to many of our Biblical heroes, it took a long time until His word was fulfilled. For Noah, it took 100 years. For Abraham, 25, for Joseph, 13, for Moses, 40 years in the desert, for David, 13 years before he was crowned king. Mind you, they didn’t sit around twiddling their thumbs waiting on God to act. While none of these men were perfect, they were active. They kept about the business of God. They led productive lives and were accomplished people.

My dad was a brilliant man. His creativity was off the charts. There is no doubt God could have used his many talents for great things. Not only that, but my father was sure of the call on His life. He spoke boldly of his purpose and seemed an unstoppable man on a God-led mission.

He passed away years ago, but looking back to learn from his life, it is evident “waiting upon the Lord” was not part of his personal agenda. Unfortunately, he wanted to leap past life lessons. He, like all of us, had much to learn in order to fulfill His calling. However, his impatience led him to seek ungodly wisdom and make unwise decisions — straying far from the instruction of the Bible. While many tried to reach my dad, he wouldn’t listen. Unfortunately, our family suffered greatly.

We can’t ask God to guide our steps and then question the steps. We must surrender our lives to a loving God who has a plan for each of us. Did you know we are called to live stress-free lives? Not pain and trouble-free, but stress-free. When Paul says in Philippians to “be anxious for nothing” he meant it. He would not have given such clear instruction if, through Christ, we were unable to achieve it.

The only “quick fix” to patience is from Philippians 4:6, 7 (NKJV): “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

For those of us who are impatient, the part of that verse that can change our lives completely is “with thanksgiving.” Gratitude is the door to peace. Reading the Bible regularly is also an excellent reminder that God moves when God moves. We are to submit our agenda daily. His ways are higher than our ways, but He is faithful to work HIS plan out in our lives.

Patience? If you have Jesus, you have patience. Our job is to quit leading and be led.


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Cover Story, October 2017

Carolyn McKnight Leading the way to a transformed Community

Carolyn McKnight

Leading the way to a transformed community

by Susan Brown

“It’s all about making sure that we touch as many lives as possible for the good. And to build the community that’s broken, to unite a community that’s divided … it’s not just about parks and recreation. If we do what we’re supposed to do in the right way, for the right reasons, we transform a community.”

Carolyn McKnight, superintendent of the Recreation and Park Commission for East Baton Rouge (BREC), is serious about wellness of body and soul. True wellness takes commitment but also patience, a quality that she defines as perseverance under control. “Let’s take Baton Rouge to a place it’s never been. I believe that is what’s expected of us. And as a Christian, I serve a huge God,” she said. “That’s why it’s important to me.”

McKnight envisions a dramatic reversal of the trend toward declining health, a commitment that stems from a military background and a foundation of faith. Early in life, she traded traditional expectations for challenge and adventure. “When I

Forest Community Park summer campers helped with the groundbreaking for renovations.

first went into the Air Force, I worked with nuclear weapons and had the responsibility of programming the computers for the weapons system. We went down in the silos,” she recalled. “I learned so much about the military and what happens if you don’t have peace in a country … I learned so much about the devastation that can happen if good people stay silent and don’t do anything.”

“I try to think holistically about my life because I know this is the only vessel I’ve been given to operate in, and if I don’t take care of it, I can’t take care of the mission,” she said. “So, it’s about caring and being aware, not just sitting back and allowing things to happen.”

“For the most part it’s all about prayer,” she said. “I wake up every day with my husband and we do devotionals. We talk about it. We pray about it. We review the scripture. But it’s really about being in the word, and then how is this word going to guide us today?” She refers to Proverbs 3:5, 6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”

“So, Carolyn, stand down. Holy Spirit stand up. That’s how I try to operate each day, recognizing that I’m here for his purpose, not mine,” she said. After eight years in the military and a stint in parks and recreation management for the city of Dallas, McKnight brought her expertise to Baton Rouge in 2011.

At a Childhood Coalition meeting, she was stunned to learn that the obesity rate for children in Baton Rouge was so high that kids were diagnosed with hypertension at six and seven years old. She couldn’t stay silent. “It broke me,” she said. “I thought, ‘BREC had the solution to this problem.’ I took it personally. I took it as my mission to help do something about it. And so, we started working.”

Under her direction, BREC formed community partnerships to bring equipment and instruction to economically disadvantaged areas. BREC opened new basketball courts, splash pads, connectivity trails for bikers and hikers, and blueway launch areas for canoes and kayaks. Joint ventures followed, including the Knock Knock Children’s Museum and the Walk with a Doc program.

“We have probably the largest grant that we’ve ever received to help build trails in Scotlandville, the north Baton Rouge part of town,” she said. “We’re finishing the portion of the medical loop in the hospital district.”

Her current – and perhaps biggest – challenge is balancing community interests with the financial realities of a declining zoological park. After months of often heated debate, the EBR Recreation and Park Commission granted permission for BREC to explore potential new sites for a $110 million zoo, a move that McKnight believes would provide incentives for the necessary private donations, reduce the time needed for construction, and boost long-term attendance. Under the proposal, BREC would spend some $40 million to repurpose the existing site, adjacent to Greenwood Park, with additions that include a water park, amusement park and premier soccer fields.

“What I see, six years from now, is children running, engaging with animals, and enjoying the water park and the slides and the horse trails. In my mind, I see families smiling and picnicking – all of these things happening at Greenwood and at a new zoo. That’s the vision.”

“We currently know that our zoo is out of sight, out of mind,” she said. “If we were on I-10 or I-12, it would get hundreds of thousands of cars passing every day versus 6,000 on Thomas Road and maybe 28,000 or so on La. 19. We also know that if we’re able to put that zoo in a more sustainable place, we would be able to do it in five years versus 15 years.” (This is due to the difficulty of shuffling animals from one area to another.)

“It’s important to me to stand firm,” she said. “Imagine your grandchild being able to go to a facility when he or she is six years old, or when he or she is about to enter the first year of college. It’s just that simple. It’s going to cost me the same amount of money to build at a new location or the existing site. I’m going to make, like, three times the amount of money at a new location, a more sustainable location. I’m going to reduce the subsidy level from the taxpayer from 50% – what we currently have – to 20%. That’s a nobrainer. It’s arithmetic.”

The search for a feasible site is the first step toward consideration of a new zoo. Public forums designed to explore and address concerns, especially from the adjacent community, have been intense. “I’ve been cyberbullied, I’ve been physically threatened,” she said. But she sees each situation through the lens of scripture, a practice her mother instilled early in life. “She was just a walking Bible. Any problem you took to her, any situation, any circumstance, she would wrap the word around it, so I have no choice but to understand.”

“At the end of the day, I believe that people will be served. I believe that God’s will is going to be carried out, not Carolyn’s but His,” she said. That’s what’s keeping me in the middle of all of this, because I know for a fact that if you want something big, great and transformative to happen, it’s never going to be easy.”

McKnight believes that God is always speaking to her about patience. “Stop being frustrated, slow down, bring people along with you. Give people opportunities so they can grow. Help them see what you see,” she said. “Humble yourself, calm down, slow down.”

McKnight hopes her legacy will be a community park and recreation system that cultivates wellness. “I look at this experience like planting trees. I will never enjoy the shade of the trees,” McKnight said. “But people who are expecting babies today, and people who are expecting babies five years from now, they’ll enjoy it. And that’s what it’s about. Lives will be impacted for the good.”

BREC superintendent Carolyn McKnight says perseverance and patience are keys to wellness of the body and soul. ‘After all, who doesn’t want to be healthy?’
McKnight keeps a devotional book beside her desk to refresh her mind with scripture.

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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Faith Life, October 2017

Patience in Our Prayer Lives



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.


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.


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


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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Family Life, October 2017

Car Show Raises Awareness of Human Trafficking


Car Show

Raises Awareness of Human Trafficking

by Sharon Holeman          photos by Praise First Media, LLC

My friend speedy is a classic car enthusiast. He spends hours restoring things that might otherwise be disregarded. He repairs the broken pieces of an engine, replacing old parts and tweaking the rest, polishing and detailing until the metal shines and sparkles

The same loving care is then taken on the car’s interior – from floorboards and seating, to the dashboard gauges, to the exterior paint, tires and rims. Every detail is taken into account. It’s not a quick process. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It’s a process that requires patience and a lot of effort, but he does it knowing that the result will be worth the work. Doesn’t this sound like what our loving Father does for us?

Webster’s Dictionary defines patience as “the power of suffering with fortitude; uncomplaining endurance of evils or wrongs.” My goodness, I don’t think I ever realized how much Jesus looks like patience personified. “He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7 NLT)

The expanded definition from Webster’s reads “constancy in labor or application; perseverance.” I see Jesus in this description, too. His determination when it comes to the pursuit of our hearts and the restitution he offers through his loyalty in labor testifies of his great love for us.

This restoration, both in ourselves and in classic cars, is reflected in Cars at the Crosses, an event sponsored by Bethany Church. The annual car show benefits Trafficking Hope, an organization that aims to fight human trafficking on the frontlines of neighborhoods and communities. Founded in 2007 by Laura and Lee Domingue, the group partners with local and state law enforcement agencies, corporate and private sector groups and churches. Their C.A.R.E.S Initiative (Coalition, Awareness, Rescue, Education, Service) helps local churches combat the problem, and they even have a resource designed for small groups.

Restoration, both in ourselves and in classic cars, is reflected in the Cars at the Crosses event sponsored by Bethany Church.

According to a report from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the number of substantive calls received from Louisiana in 2016 was 334, which constitutes the 20th highest call volume of all 50 states and Washington D.C. Louisiana also reported 108 trafficking cases. As of June 30, 2017, the number of calls in Louisiana was 139 with 59 trafficking cases reported. These statistics sadly put us on target to exceed last year’s case count. That’s 59 daughters and sons in our state whose lives have been tragically impacted already this year, and possibly others who could currently be in despair.

While the figures are disheartening, we must not grow weary of doing good, for perseverance pays off. As an informed community, we can be better prepared to help stop this unthinkable crime, and through organizations like Trafficking Hope, reach out to victims with the expectation of healing and renewal through Jesus. It will take forgiveness and fortitude, commitment and strength, patience and time to see improvements. And while we know patience isn’t always easy, and restoration is rarely a quick process, it’s always worth the work.

For more information, visit the website at traffickinghope.org or attend the Cars at the Crosses event on Saturday, October 21, at Bethany Church off Siegen Lane, between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Although the show is raising money for a serious cause, Cars at the Crosses is a familyfriendly event complete with food trucks, live music, inflatables for the kids, and of course, some of the coolest cars in town. You’ll be able to donate to Trafficking Hope, admire some beautifully polished vintage chrome, and you might even run into my friend Speedy.


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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Family Life, October 2017

The Patience of Job

The Patience of Job

by Yvonne Thomas

Patience. Long-suffering. Forbearance. Whichever word you prefer to use, they all mean being tolerant and uncomplaining in spite of troubles, slow to anger, and able to show restraint. Patience is just one of the nine attributes of the “Fruits of the Spirit” that we should be actively presenting in our daily lives.

Take for example the book of Job. We have all heard the idiom, “You have the patience of Job,” a phrase that came about based on the extreme amount of suffering Job had to endure. He lost all of his children and his wealth in a single day. He then was covered in painful sores (Job 2:7). His wife encouraged him to give up, curse God, and die (Job 2:9).  In 

addition to that, his friends falsely accused him of wrongdoing and blamed his troubles on his unrepentant heart.Job was a believer. He did not know why so many terrible tragedies were happening in his life. But through it all, he patiently endured (Job 2:10). He never lost his faith in God, even though these circumstances tested him to his core. The Lord then blessed him with twice as much as he had before (Job 42:10). This is the patience that we should all have despite what we are going through. Romans 8:18 says, “Our pain that we are feeling can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.” God sees far more than we can see. He sees lessons that we need to learn that are beyond our understanding. He will bring us to places just to show us to trust Him. We may not know what He is doing in the background or how He is going to work it out, but we do know that nothing happens by chance. He is always present and always in control. His plan for our lives is always better than ours!

That term “the patience of Job” has been used on several occasions to describe how I have personally handled situations in my life. I may not have lost everything in one day (property, possessions and children) as Job did, but like so many of you out there, I have lost my home, my marriage, my job, my family, my friends, my possessions. I am also a domestic abuse survivor. I had to walk away from everything — my job, my family and friends and material possessions, to start all over in life after working so hard to accomplish all that I had. It took years to get back on my feet, struggling along the way as a single parent of three, and just as I thought I was finally doing well, I was once again in a similar position starting over again after yet another failed marriage with two more children in tow. The one thing that remained constant during these tests was my trust and patience in waiting on God to step in and work out my situation according to His will and purpose. The second time around was easier because I knew that if he did it once before, then He could surely do it again! I only had to be still and allow God to fight that battle for me (Exodus 14:14).

My faith has been tested countless times over and over again through the years. I have been through enough challenges and trials to have the strongest person depressed and suicidal. But I have come to realize that sometimes life puts us in these situations. We don’t always get to pick the situations we go through, but we can choose how we handle them. I continue to keep my head lifted up with a smile on my face, resting assured that “even though anxiety is great within me, His consolation brings joy to my soul” (Psalms 94:19).

The account of Job’s life is one that encourages us when we are facing discouraging and traumatic experiences, challenges and struggles, trials and tribulations. His story helps us learn to trust God patiently while waiting on Him to work things out in our life. Persevering and pushing forward, praising Him along the way until he shows up on time as He always does. Sometimes we may never find out exactly why we were put through so much suffering, but we must be patient and trust Him anyway because His ways are perfect. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). It is our responsibility to obey Him, trust Him and Submit to His will, whether we understand it or not. So ask yourself, will you be a person that is easily set off when things go wrong in your life or will you have the patience of Job and be able to keep a godly perspective in the face of life’s challenges?

yvonne thomas

Yvonne Thomas lives in Lafayette, LA, and is president and founder of the nonprofit Yvonne Thomas Foundation, which inspires, encourages and mentors young women through private sessions, guest speaking, seminars, and cooking and etiquette classes. She volunteers regularly for community events, and has authored two short stories — Letter To My Husband (released April 2017) and Letter To My Wife (to be released December 2017).

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Creative LIFE, October 2017

Monica Wood – Visual Artist SHAPING BEAUTY Treasures in Earthen Vessels

Monica Wood – Visual Artist


Treasures in Earthern Vessels

by Sharon Furrate Bailey

Q: What drew you to pottery as an artistic medium?

A: In 2008, several friends and I attended a Christmas shopping event in a south Baton Rouge neighborhood. When I saw the pottery created by local potter Becky Nash, I literally cried. In 2009, I signed up to take classes with Becky, thus beginning my journey into the discovery of working with clay.

Q: What would you say is your artist statement … why you create?

A: As an artist, my desire is to capture beauty, elegance and peace in my work, be it pottery, painting or floral design. I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t seeking a new creative adventure or learning experience.

I began my venture in the world of pottery in 2009 and found that I enjoy the creative process of hand-building works. I use stoneware clay and especially love working with white clay, as it brings out the brightness and pure colors of the glazes when fired. My pieces are thin compared to a lot of pottery, and I often incorporate metal leafing into the design. Both add elegance to the work.

Aside from my love of hand-building, I explored painting in watercolor and acrylics. Through this part of my journey, I discovered the beautiful world of oil paints. I was hooked and began serious study with professional artist Elayne Kuehler. I believe in painting from life whenever possible. No camera can capture all that the human eye can see or the emotions the heart can feel. The beauty of light, shadow and color in the natural world makes my heart sing and frequently brings tears of joy. Choosing items for a still life and setting up the composition are part of my enjoyment of the creative process.

As I continue my journey in discovering the artist within, my goal is to connect with the God of all creation, to express His beauty and bring Him glory in what I create. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – (Ephesians 2:10)

Wood says she enjoys making bowls that “evolve’”during the creative process.

Q: Do you feel sculpting and painting is a spiritual gift?

A: I believe God is the creator of all things and that man, being created in His image (Genesis 1), is given the gift of creativity. Exodus 31:1-6 tells us that God “filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts – to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.” James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” I believe any knowledge, skill, or ability I have is a gift from the Father through the Spirit.

I also believe the creative process is much more than artistic ability. It includes business decisions, organizing, managing a family, the way we love those that God brings into our personal world, and how we bring laughter and joy into the lives of others. Anyone who has the desire to paint or make pottery can learn to do so. All it takes is study, discipline and lots of practice. But it is most fulfilling for me when I connect with God in order to express His beauty and bring Him glory through the work.

Q: You are known for your pottery. Describe the types of pieces you create. What are your favorite pieces and why?

A: I make bowls, trays of various sizes, and vases. I enjoy doing pieces that “evolve” throughout the process. I might begin with a particular thought in mind, but as I manipulate the piece, certain curves and angles might take it in a different direction. I particularly loved a very large bowl I made this past summer. As I added and overlapped various pieces of clay, I began to “see” the final piece. It was a delight to have that “aha” moment! 

Two of my favorite pieces hang in my home. They were works of pottery attached to wooden panels and created for Transformation 2014 Visual Art Display , a group art exhibit at The Chapel on the Campus. The pieces are titled Beauty out of Brokenness and Lord, Shape My Soul.

Orchid and Angel vine

Q: You are talented at floral arranging and creating beautiful table displays. As a painter, what are some of your favorite flowers?

A: Yes, I love painting flowers! I love gardening and floral arranging. I actually “talk” to my flowers. I believe artists are frequently drawn to paint things they are familiar with or that make their heart sing on a regular basis. Some of my favorite flowers are tulips, peonies (which, of course, we cannot grow in the South), antique roses and orchids.

Q: Do you have a favorite book of the Bible or scripture?

A: I love the book of Habakkuk in the Hebrew Bible, three short but powerful chapters. Chapter 3:17-19 says, “ Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, YET I will exult (sing with joy) in the Lord. I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet (sure footed), and makes me walk on my high places.” In 1980 I wrote in my Bible, “God, let me meet all of life’s circumstances with a YET!” I don’t achieve it all the time, but it is my goal.

Lord, shape My soul

Q: What would you like our readers to know about your personal life and journey as a creative person?

A:  First and foremost, I am very blessed to be married to my biggest supporter and encourager, who is willing to do anything he can to help me succeed. I was almost 60 when I began to explore the world of painting and pottery. My journey to discover the artist within is a joy when all goes right and you have those “aha” moments, but there is also the battle with the inner voice that says “your work is not good enough” or “what makes you think you can do this?” when I struggle with a work. I have a perfectionist side, so I have to frequently revisit my artist statement and remind myself why I do what I do.

Q: Where can one find your pottery and paintings?

A: My pottery is available at Tay James Décor and Gifts (Highland Place). You can also contact me directly at monica.wood49@cox.net or at (225) 769-1131.

Sharon Bailey

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

JULY 2015

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Faces of CHRISTIAN LIFE, October 2017


CHristiAN PersPeCtives FroM ACross tHe WorLD

Want to share your story? Send your short story and a picture to reagan@brclm.com.  




We all have different foundations God lays down in our souls. To some, it may be freedom. To others, it may be wholeness. To me, it is peace. When i accepted Jesus, he laid a foundation of peace in my heart. Peace i had spent my whole life searching for and that comes only from him. i had a chaotic childhood, leaving me living life in “survival mode.” it’s really no way of living at all. Now that God has replaced it with a mode of peace, i am able to trust people, take chances, and do more things. if i fail, that is okay. Because peace is my fountain. My message to the world is that when you accept Christ, he’ll uproot negative things you’ve learned to live with and give you gifts from heaven in their place.


I had the privilege of going to Houston with a group of friends to help out with the flooding. it was life changing. Basically everyone living there had lost everything. I believe I saw God’s heart through all of the people there. Though there was more loss than most of us can begin to comprehend, the people were standing beside each other. Different races, genders, ages, and walks of life coming together to help each other. They seemed focused on all the blessings they had rather than the “curses.”  I went to help the people who had been suffering loss, but they helped me. They changed my perspective and attitude on everything that is important. Friends, pray for Texas.


For the past month or so, our church has been honing in on loving people. it sounds like such a cliché topic, but when studying it in depth and pursuing it with all of your heart, it starts to change you. My personality is very gentle and quiet … i am always being told how nice and caring and sweet i am. The last couple of weeks i have been challenging myself in that area. i have set my heart on love. Loving harder and deeper and stronger and more like Christ. i can already see the positive impact this is making in my life. My relationships are strengthening and deepening. Following the commandments of Jesus makes life truly rich!


Psalm 23, in my opinion, is the most powerful chapter in the entire Bible. i was a strong, active, established atheist. The first time i heard Psalm 23 was at the funeral of my 6-month-old brother. i was 20. When i heard the pastor read “He will lead you beside still waters, he will restore your soul,” God took over my heart and life with his presence. That scripture helped me instantly connect to God for the first time, and i have had unwavering and growing faith ever since. He is alive in prayer, scripture, and every situation

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Man Up for LIFE, October 2017

Serving Single Dads How the Church Can do more


Serving Single Dads

How the church can do more

by Todd Shupe

According to a recent post in the DailySignal.com, one in three children live in a single-parent household. This clearly presents challenges for the parent who is raising the children. A child needs an active father and mother in their life and when one is missing or present on a limited basis, it can be difficult for the child. Men face the same challenges as women in raising children, but some churches fail to offer programs and support for single fathers..

This issue is very personal for Mark May. During the day, he is the chairman and CEO of his own company. But his real job is raising his two boys, Caedan, 15, and Kamden, 13. May has been a single dad for four years, and he shares joint custody with his ex-wife.

Mark May with Caedan and Kamden
Peter Signorelli with Seth and Luke
Jermaine Maberry with Trinity and Tristan
JJames Haase with sophia and Olivia
Paul Murphy with Kara and Jaelyn

May says that when he sees a single mom, his instinct is to offer help and assistance, but as a single dad, he doesn’t feel the same concern from others. (Perhaps they feel that men don’t need help?) Or it could be that since most pastors have not been divorced, they are at a disadvantage in relating to the needs of single dads. They don’t have the necessary experience to relate to these men who tend to be quiet and low-key. As a result, church leaders tend not to develop ministries for them … the “squeaky wheel gets the grease” theory.

Single Dads Share Their Thoughts

“ it is important to remember that we are the church, the Body of Christ, and we are called to serve each other. The church has the opportunity to help single dads raise children as effectively as a single mom. The church can provide fathers with the confidence to know they can do it alone. ” – Erik Burns, Denham Springs

“ Churches need an engaged youth program to help children understand divorce and that God’s love is greater than divorce or anything created by man. ” – Peter signorelli, Prairieville

“ i would say the biggest struggle as a single dad was feeling the void that i imagine my daughter felt from the absence of her mother. ” – Jimmy Haase, Addis

“ Single dads need help to address the needs of young girls. Women in church can advise them on a number of issues and provide a strong faith-based woman in their lives. ” – Paul Murphy, French Settlement

“ Church and society seem to believe single dads can do everything alone and tend not to provide them with the assistance that they give single moms. ” – Pastor Jermaine T. Maberry, Crowley

A few close friends can make all the difference. May has a small circle of friends that he can meet with immediately if he needs parenting advice or emotional support. His circle is totally comprised of married men who are caring and very good listeners. They are a valuable resource because of their availability and willingness to help with any problem.

As for the children, an active church-based youth program is critical. Mark felt blessed by a youth pastor who was engaged in his kids’ lives and made sure they always felt welcome and had a good time. Because of an open door policy, the children felt comfortable talking with him about problems such as “Why are my parents getting divorced and what does this mean for me?”

Mark is passionate about helping the next generation of single and divorced dads. He does not want them to have to go through the same hardships he did. He says he “muscled through it,” but he encourages fathers to do more than that. “

“Keep your kids involved in youth programs at church and attend church on a weekly basis,” he said. “Engage them in Bible studies at home and reinforce God’s love for them. Show them God’s love with your actions as well as your words, and get a small group of friends or an accountability group that has open, confidential and honest communication.”

002 (3)

Todd Shupe is the President of Wood Science Consulting, LLC and served as a professor and lab director at LSU for 20 years. He is active in several ministries including his Christian blog toddshupe.com. Todd is the Secretary of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men, Database Coordinator for Gulf South Men, and volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, Iron Sharpens Iron, Open Air Ministries, HOPE Ministries food pantry. Todd is currently preparing to be a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men.

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BRCLM Lagniappe, October 2017, Uncategorized

This is the day to manifest the fruit of Patience

This is the day to manifest the fruit of Patience

by Joan Rougon

Oh, Lord, help us for this is the fruit That we often pray will always take root, Where people will see, no matter the condition Patience revealed in our disposition.

Though we lose it in a time of trial He always teaches us…with a smile, To become more like Him every day In all our actions; in all we say.

What a loving Father He is to all He gives Patience to the great and the small. So let us daily take His character and forbearance For by it He has given a glorious inheritance To all who will but obey and believe An eternal reward we will receive!

“….but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” Hebrews 6:12

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BRCLM Lagniappe, October 2017

Make an Impact!

Make an Impact!

by Brandi Harper

Sarah Nogueras is a smart, outgoing, God-fearing 20-year-old, but she hasn’t always been that way. Born in New York, sara is the oldest of six siblings, raised in a vibrant Christian home, and always there to help her mother take care of the family. she was homeschooled during her elementary years and always loved children.

As a young child, sarah was shy and lacked confidence in her ability to share the Gospel with others. But that changed when her mother took the family to a five Day Club (Backyard Bible Club), one of the foundational ministries of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). The Bible Club changed the course of sarah’s life, providing her with the opportunity to immerse herself in children’s ministry.

At nine, sarah’s family moved from New York to Louisiana, and sarah learned about another CEF ministry called CYiA (Christian Youth in Action). CYiA is a missionary training program held each summer to teach young people to lead five Day Bible Clubs. Participants present the Gospel to children in their own state and neighborhoods, and experience the joy of leading others to the Lord. it was a perfect fit for sarah, not just because of her love for children but because she lacked the confidence she needed to clearly present the Gospel. At 14, she attended her first CYiA training and felt the calling of God. she attended every summer throughout her high school years and has brought someone new to the program every year.

“The intensity of the program strengthened me intellectually and spiritually,” she said. “CYiA totally prepared me socially, so i could be brave and bold … it was such an encouraging environment and has helped me in so many ways.”

After high school graduation, sarah was selected to attend the next level of CEF training — a 12- week course at Children’s Ministry institute (CMi) located at CEF international Headquarters near st. Louis. After graduating from the CMi training program, she joined the state staff as the CEF Parish Coordinator for st. Tammany Parish and led the efforts there as an extension of the CEF New Orleans chapter.

sarah is currently a junior at New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary focusing on children’s ministry. it is her heart’s desire to help children who are deaf and to be a part of international children’s ministry. she has this advice for others: “Do something that makes an impact. We can sit around doing unproductive things or we can have an impact for the Kingdom! There are kids out there that need to hear about Jesus and we can do that.”

if you would like to know more, email ceflouisiana@gmail.com.



CEF is a Bible-centered worldwide ministry of born-again believers whose purpose is to evangelize children, disciple them in the Word of God, and establish them in a local church for Christian living. CEF is the largest children’s ministry in the world.

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BRCLM Lagniappe, October 2017

10 Tips to Being Your Best



to Being Your Best

The Lord handcrafts every one of us, and we are all made uniquely beautiful in His image. But developing a personal style that cleanly reflects your individuality isn’t always easy. so here are 10 practical tips from the stylists at i-Catchers Hair & Body spa designed to help you translate your inner charisma and confidence into a fresh look.

1. Dress with confidence

“Love yourself for who you are — starting today,” said Angelle Graham. “To feel your best, i recommend getting dressed and doing your hair no matter what you have planned. Always dress like you’re going somewhere special, even when you aren’t.” Graham has been a stylist for 19 years, and mascara is her go-to beauty accessory. “sometimes, there isn’t enough time to do full makeup,” she said. “But a couple of swipes of mascara can have a huge impact on your overall look.”

2. Use quality hair care products

“Washing your hair can make a big difference in how you look and feel,” said sara Richmond. “After a while, especially in Louisiana, the heat can make your head feel sticky. Find a shampoo and conditioner that works best for you. Products don’t have to be expensive to get the job done.” Richmond has worked as a hairdresser for 12 years, and one of her favorite styling products is heat protectant spray. “it protects your hair when you’re using a hot tool, and keeps it looking and feeling healthy.”

3. Stay on top of split ends

“Get your hair trimmed regularly in order to keep it as healthy as possible. if your ends are in good shape, your whole style will look much fresher,” said Cara spicer, who has been a hair stylist for six years. she recommends using a texturizing spray whenever you’re looking for more volume. “Texturizing spray makes your hair feel less soft and gives it some grit,” she said. “The spray helps a style hold its shape.”

4. Make brave style choices

“Be artistic with your style,” said Brittany Cason. “There’s only one you, so don’t hesitate to express yourself. For example, don’t be afraid to get that pixie cut you’ve always wanted.” Cason has been a hairdresser for four years, and she encourages her clients to use restorative oil as often as possible. “if you like to have fun with your hair, then it probably gets a little brittle,” she said. “Restorative oil helps repair and heal any damage from hot tools or color processing.”

5. Get to know your brows

“Pay attention to every detail of your look,” said Theresa vallery. “For example, your brows should always be properly groomed, whether you pluck them or have them waxed. Work with what you’ve got, and create the best brow shape for your face. And always remember that both of your eyebrows don’t have to look exactly the same. They’re sisters, not twins.” vallery has been an esthetician for 29 years, and to help maintain dewy skin, she suggests using a daily moisturizer. “To keep your skin looking good, everyone should use a moisturizer regardless of age and whether your skin is oily or dry.”

6. Liven up your lips

“Pay attention to your lips,” said victoria Files. “Choose lipstick colors that go with whatever you’re wearing. A bold lip can make an entire look come together — even if you’re just using gloss.” Files has been a hairdresser for two years, and she believes hairspray is the most important product you can have in your beauty arsenal. “Everyone should use it,” she said. “it’s a universal product for every hair type. it produces volume, smoothes frizz, and gives great hold.”

7. Avoid boxed hair dye

“It’s always a good idea to have your hair professionally colored. When people dye their hair at home, the color often comes out too dark or uneven. For the best color results, visit a licensed hairdresser,” said Brian McAndrew. A hair stylist for 30 years, McAndrew’s favorite hair care product, like Files, is hairspray. “Humidity is rough in Louisiana,” he said. “it helps hold down fly-aways and keeps a style in place.”

8. Make time for a manicure

“Nail polish helps a look come together,” said Hanna Faust. “if your nails are done, you’ll always look chic. Faust has been a hairdresser for three years, and she believes using a smoothing serum can make an incredible difference in the overall quality of your hairstyle. “it helps keep your hair smooth and sleek,” she said.

9. Simplify your morning routine

“When you’re getting ready, work smarter not harder,” said Missy Moya. “Make an effort without going overboard. it should only take about an hour to get ready in the morning. Anything longer than that is probably too much.” Moya has been a stylist for 11 years, and she recommends incorporating a cream-based makeup remover into your nightly cleansing routine. “if you have oily skin, a cream-based makeup remover won’t leave your face feeling greasy,” she said. “Plus, it wipes off really easily.”

10. Highlight your natural beauty

“Your goal should always be to look fresh. it’s never good when you go overboard with your makeup,” said Tammy Heard. “The more natural you look, the better. Just accentuate what you have.” Heard has been a hairdresser for 26 years, and for a natural look, she recommends using a tinted moisturizer. “it evens out your complexion,” she said. “A tinted moisturizer doesn’t cover anything up. it just enhances what you already have.”

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BRCLM Lagniappe, October 2017

A Life of Service


From left: Rosie Martina, Denise Terrance (st. vincent de Paul Dining Room manager) and Michael Acaldo (president of the society of st. vincent de Paul) welcome volunteers and guests as a meal is served in the agency’s dining room

A Life of Service

“Dear Children, let us love not in word or speech, but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)

When it comes to teaching children about sharing God’s love, do actions really speak louder than words? At 94 years old, Rosie Martina is proof that they do.

As a young boy growing up in Baton Rouge during the late 1920s and 1930s, Martina lived in an area off Highland Road that was often called the country. Today, most of this land is dotted with subdivisions and tree-lined driveways, but back then, it was mostly farmland.

“We lived in an old house. We were poor,” and Martina. “But we were rich in other ways.” Martina’s family always had plenty to eat, he said, and he watched as his parents shared their food with anyone who was hungry. Many times, that included strangers. Transients going from California to Florida to pick fruit would leave their trains and walk through the area searching for homes marked with a sign indicating the owners would provide food to anyone in need. “Sometimes we made cracklins’ during the wintertime and we would tell them to grab a paper bag and take all they wanted, or we would have cooked sweet potatoes. Now, that would bring people. You could always smell a cooked sweet potato a mile away,” he said. “My parents always gave what we had. We had homemade Italian bread, cheeses and figs. We would make sandwiches and wrap it up for them, put it in a knapsack,   give them a Mason jar of water, and they would go on their way.”

Watching his parents offer food to hungry strangers profoundly impacted Martina. “I knew I wanted to do better by my parents,” he said. And by all accounts, he has. Martina recently joined other community volunteers and leaders to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room. The group included Michael Acaldo, president and CEO of St. Vincent de Paul Charities, and Bishop Robert W. Muench of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

For Martina, the Dining Room has always been a special place. That’s because he was there when it first opened, and he has remained a driving force in feeding the hungry in Baton Rouge ever since. It was Martina — along with others, including his recently deceased wife, Laura, Vernon Broussard, Marvin Ourso, Alec Bourgeois, Bill LeBlanc, Claude Doucet, and Jewel Newman — who joined together to stop hunger in the capital city. Their efforts began in 1982 with the opening of the first dining hall for St. Vincent de Paul. They used a donated vacant house on 21st Street. The home wasn’t even air-conditioned, and volunteers could only serve 10 people at a time. But as each guest finished, another would come. Every day, about 20 to 50 people would show up for a hot meal. The menu was based on whatever food items were donated each day. Many residents had vegetable gardens and fruit trees and would donate surplus crops by dropping them off on the back porch of the house. Some local food businesses also helped.

But eventually, the need grew for a bigger dining room, and through the years, due to the generosity of others, including local contractor Fred Griggs, the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room expanded to its present location on what used to be 23rd Street, now aptly named St. Vincent de Paul Drive.

Through every stage of the Dining Room’s growth, and even today, Martina has remained a constant volunteer. With a humble attitude, he is quick to praise others for the success of the project and prefers to focus on his main job of procuring food from local businesses and making food pickups.

“Rosie is a great volunteer for us. He also helps coordinate other drivers in picking up food donations,” Acaldo said, adding that “Rosie’s Army,” an unofficial name given to these volunteers, is essential to the Dining Room, which last year served more than 246,000 meals.

One volunteer in “Rosie’s Army” is Martina’s daughter. Just as her father learned to live out his faith by watching his parents, Martina’s daughter has been quick to absorb the value of helping others. Now retired, she drives her father around town as he completes his volunteer duties. Together they are not only living out family values that began almost a century ago, but they are also living out their faith.

“God said, ‘Feed my people,’ and that’s what we’re doing,” said Martina, who says volunteering and serving others is key to finding purpose and passion in living. He encourages others to get involved. “See that television,” he said. “Forget about it. Get out of the house. Life is short.”

If you are interested in joining “Rosie’s Army” or would like to volunteer with St. Vincent de Paul, visit svdpbr.org.

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Millennial Life, October 2017

Experiencing Faiththrough Literacy

Experiencing Faith through Literacy

by Trapper s. Kinchen photos courtesy of Chance Wilson

Chance Wilson is a 17-year-old humanitarian whose young life is dedicated to teaching people how to read. He is the CEO of Wilson Global initiative (WGi), a charity he helped found when he was 14. The organization concentrates on spreading English literacy in parts of the world where educational opportunities are limited.

Wilson is from Baton Rouge and on the surface, he looks like a typical teenager. But when he speaks, he expresses himself so clearly and with such purpose that it hardly seems possible he is still a high school student. Despite his youth, he is a deeply compassionate and focused man of God. He was raised in the Baptist church, but considers himself non-denominational. He relies heavily on his relationship with Jesus and spends a great deal of time studying the Word. “Whenever I have personal struggles, my faith is the rock I lean on,” he said.

Sometimes, it’s hard to figure out where Christ fits into our chaotic tech-obsessed world. Wilson understands the complex struggle involved in embracing faith in an age of constant digital streaming. “It’s not always cool to believe in God, but that has made me really outspoken about my faith,” he said.

He constantly strives to be a Christ-like encourager. “I want to be a counterforce to negativity,” Wilson says. So he speaks out when he witnesses injustice and rushes to action whenever he sees someone in need.

Wilson’s determination and bravado are modeled after his hero, John F. Kennedy. He considers the late president one of the most socially innovative men of the 20th century. “JFK was filled with optimism and hope for America and the world,” he said.

“He wanted us to go to the moon, which was literally beyond most people’s understanding at the time. He understood that the world’s problems couldn’t be solved by skeptics and cynics.”

Even though he seems completely grounded in his faith, Wilson fights the same feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy that many others do. Like all teenagers, he is in the middle of the difficult transition from adolescence to adulthood, and he sometimes struggles with asserting his individuality. “My biggest battle has been with self-identity,” he said. “For a long time, I didn’t know what my purpose was and I felt alone. But faith has helped me get through a lot of that.”

When he looks beyond his uncertainty, Wilson is confident that God has called him to be an advocate for international English education. He first recognized the need for literacy support when he was a child. “I was in public school for a while, and I noticed a lot of kids couldn’t really read or write,” he said. “That inspired me to do something.”

WGI operates in North America, Asia and Africa with main offices located in Baton Rouge and Hong Kong. Its principle goal is to enhance people’s quality of life through education and its services have the potential to change the world’s geopolitical landscape.

Wilson believes teaching a child to read can lead to a closer relationship with Christ.

According to statistics compiled by UNICEF, at least 750 million men, women and children worldwide are unable to read or write. Most of us in the U.S. take literacy for granted, but educational opportunities are limited in most other parts of the world. In fact, a great deal of the world’s problems stem from the fact that nearly 17 percent of the human race can’t understand written language.

WGI concentrates its efforts on the fastest growing parts of the world — Asia and Africa. It devotes the bulk of its resources to educating people in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Tanzania and the Philippines. “In Asia, we provide free English classes to people who want to learn to read,” Wilson said. “And we provide food for people who show up for classes.”

After spending nearly four years on the frontlines of education advocacy, Wilson believes literacy should be made a top international priority. “There are plenty of charitable causes out there, but I think literacy is the one issue that can help solve the globe’s other big issues,” he said.

As a 17-year-old CEO, Wilson says leadership has to start with self-confidence. Anyone can alter the course of history if they believe they are capable of doing so. “A leader has to have a vision and understand what his ultimate goal is,” he said.

Wilson is an accomplished and opinionated young man, but he’s also a realist. He understands that life is about taking the good with the bad. “Sometimes I wish I was just a normal kid,” he said. “I’m not able to hang out with my friends on the weekends or go to prom because I’m so busy. I’ve had to give up a lot, but I know I’m following God’s purpose.”

According to UNiCEF, 750 million people worldwide can neither read nor write.

Even though his life isn’t typical, the time and energy Wilson invests in WGI yields incredibly far-reaching results. At 17, he is uncovering the sort of business skills and life experiences most people never get the chance to discover. “We have a lot of people on the ground who help coordinate projects and do the actual teaching,” he said. “I’m an organizer. I recruit people and give them assignments. I kind of think of myself as the glue that holds the organization together.”

Wilson thinks faith and literacy are deeply interwoven. The foundation of Christianity rests on the Word of God, he says, and we are able to strengthen our faith through studying the Bible. But in order to do that, a person has to be able to read. “More kids across the world need to be able to read the Bible, so they can have a better relationship with Jesus,” he said.

As global citizens, each of us is responsible for contributing to the betterment of mankind. “On a basic level, we all have to help make the world a nicer place,” he said. He is a wonderful example of how much good a person is capable of doing, regardless of their age, if they decide to follow God’s calling on their life.

In the near future, Wilson plans to dedicate some time between high school and college to self-discovery. He also hopes to travel to Asia and see firsthand some of the work WGI is doing overseas. His long-term ambition is to keep sharing the Gospel through literacy advocacy, and he prays for WGI’s continued growth. “We want to keep expanding and go into other parts of the world and teach.” 

In order to do great things in the name of Christ, one must be willing to make personal sacrifices. Wilson has given up an enormous chunk of his childhood for charity, and God has blessed his dedication. If you’re interested in contributing to WGI’s global literacy campaign, please visit www.wgihq.org. Click on the “take action” button for more information about how to chip in.


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, 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 thecajunarmy.com or visit The Cajun Army on facebook.

Baton Rouge Christian Life MAGAZINE


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