Our class at Columbia (MS) High School was the first to be desegregated. Years later I learned that it was apparently a “big deal” through a random Facebook post. Like most of my fellow students, I had no clue.
My siblings and I were raised by a single mom. The five of us had some tough hurdles early in life. We lived off a rural highway with few other houses around; it seemed it took forever to get to our house from our small town. Across the highway were several African-American neighbors who faced similar struggles to our own.
This was our village. While we had friends in town, those neighbors helped raise us. We played with the kids whose moms took care of us while our mom worked. If we got out of line, those ladies would put us back in line, and I mean quickly. My mom trusted them with her kids.
By high school graduation, you’d have never known ours was the first class to integrate. It just wasn’t talked about. Not because it was taboo, but because it was a non-issue, at least to the students. I do not recall one incident that was a result of racial tension. From the football team to the student body government to the homecoming court, we were diverse, and our friendships were as well.
Yet, at the town square, I recall Ku Klux Klan rallies. Those white robes are hard to forget. You couldn’t help but see them because they would stand outside the town square right in the center of everything. It wasn’t until years later that I began to understand what that meant.
There will always be extremists. Those rallying for division will always speak loudly. No matter what culture or city, as Christians, our duty is clear: love and accept others, while at the same time standing firm for what is right. The Body of Christ must lead the way in the dark world, and we must do it together if we are to be effective.
It’s easy to look out into the world and assume the worst. Often it’s simpler to assume there is nothing that any one person can do to affect change. That is a lie from Satan himself. We have the power of Christ within us. By way of the Holy Spirit, we have been empowered and anointed to go boldly into the world. None are here by accident. We were placed here by a Holy God for a Holy purpose — to bring Him glory and make his name known.
Let’s do this! We can be that city on the hill. Matthew 5:14 (ESV) says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Let’s shine so brightly we show the world it can be done. Let’s put aside our differences and let Christ be our bond. There is an opportunity before us, and together we can do great things.
We hope you’ll enjoy this special edition. We are thankful for the many who shared with us, and hope our call to action will produce warriors for Christ and evoke saints in the city. God help us as we seek ways to heal and be healed.
This picture represents a new-found friendship between two young boys that was sparked through their intentional efforts to learn to understand one another, accept their differences, search for similarities and hold tight to common bonds.
As one of the young boys arrived at a Christian day camp this summer worried about fitting in and wondering if he would make new friends, so did the other. And thus the week at camp began for these two boys and their small group with some fear, mistrust and misunderstanding of one another. But with the support and prayers of camp counselors, church staff and family members, and a creative idea that a rainbow loom bracelet and a hug can be given as a peace offering, the tensions were lessened and friendships and bonding began to take hold.
At the end of a week of challenging yet wonderful experiences, these two boys, with arms comfortably resting on one another, represent a coming together of this small group of kids from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, who finally learned to understand and love one another through their common faith. The seeds of friendship have been planted that can be further nurtured and developed over time.
If a small group of young boys can forgive one another and find common ground peacefully, then let them be an inspiration to the rest of us …
About the Camp, From Lisette West:
“The Chapel has partnered with Pine Cove to host Camp in the City – a week of summer day camp loaded with crazy fun and Christian fellowship. Registration is open to K-5th graders all over Baton Rouge and we make special effort to include students from our Kids Hope USA mentoring program with the Chapel’s school partner, Wildwood Elementary.”
“Camp is a time of water games, rock climbing, laser tag, etc. - led by a counselor staff that is passionate about Jesus. They share Jesus’ love with each camper in these activities and Bible study, club time and more. It is with joy and expectancy that the hope of Jesus is extended to transform lives in the community.”
“Pine Cove exists to be used by God to transform the lives of people for His purposes and His glory.” — Pine Cove Mission
When it comes to managing conflict, Lt. Gen Russell Honoré is an expert. Whether commanding National Guard Reserve forces in matters of national defense or stepping in as Task Commander after Hurricane Katrina, he knows a lot about bringing people together to accomplish a mission.
He watched the news after the Alton Sterling shooting — “Like most, I was trying to process what happened. The question of ‘did we shoot too quick?’ came to mind. It’s during these events we have to find words that bring peace. More violence doesn’t help in a situation like this.
Later, he said he was moved when he saw the testimony of the Sterling family on the news. “You could not get a Hollywood script to write the emotions of the aunt and son. They loved him; that boy loved his daddy.”
Social media was quickly flooded with images, opinions and pictures. “Because of the videos and posts, the images of what people were speculating about went wild.” Honoré decided to quit speculating and get involved. He wanted truth and justice, and he wanted his city to come together. That led to his involvement with Together Baton Rouge. Speaking with Jim Davis of the Chamber of Commerce and other leaders, the first order was to keep peace.
“We first needed to get this young man buried,” Honoré stated. “It then became evident upon involvement of the FBI in the investigation that it would be months or years before this would be complete.”
It was time to look further down the road to reconciliation. Honoré held up both hands. “Do you know what a rookie officer makes? [Nearly] minimum wage – $31,000 a year – less than $15 per hour. Then we ask them to go out on the street and be police officers, plus be a counselor, a role model for kids, play basketball with kids, go in some home where a mom has an adult child that is out of control, get in between spouses’ [issues] or between a boyfriend and girlfriend,” he said. “That police officer is under stress because now he has to do overtime to make a living wage. He or she wants to send his kid to a good school and live in a house, so they often come into work stressed.”
A Tale of Two Cities
“There’s one [story] on this side of Florida Street where houses are being torn down and rebuilt, and a big shopping center is going in just off of Bluebonnet Medical Center. Yet, in the shadows of the capital in North Baton Rouge, it’s like they stopped building in the 1950s. Many left and went to the River Parishes, and others went to Prairieville chasing better schools. Now the majority of residents in North Baton Rouge are unemployed.”
This problem is not sudden; it’s happened over a period of years. “Every adult in Baton Rouge watched this happen, but it was not ‘our problem’ per se. I’ve said since Katrina that poor people are not really free, because when you are poor, you don’t get to pick what doctor you go to. You don’t get to pick where your kids go to school or what dentist you see, so you learn to make do. In this case, when the former governor said they were going to tear down the Earl K. Long Medical Center, all the people like me living on the south side of Baton Rouge said, ‘Oh, that must be part of some bigger business plan.’”
From the perception of people in North Baton Rouge, they respond saying, ‘They tore our hospital down!’ Two years later, ‘They closed our emergency room!’ When the lights get turned on to our larger issues and we find ourselves talking about the Sterling death, questions arise. Why such anger so quick? It comes from the perspective of people feeling like they have not had a fair shake at social justice.”
“Everybody thinks these are somebody else’s issues. A lot of the ‘haves’ in town say ‘they’ need to work harder; that the poor need to apply themselves. How? When you have the second worst schools in America and they are not getting any better — these kids need help!”
Honoré is clear about the opportunity at hand. “That emotion that was demonstrated recently was by and large peaceful. That is a reflection for most adults of what they went through in the 1960s. We got to a point where everyone was comfortable with race relations and we moved on. It is like burying the hatchet and leaving the handle sticking out. We did not finish what had been started. We are in the 21st century dealing with last century’s problems.”
Thankfully, Together Baton Rouge has a team filled with a list of ‘Who’s Who,’ faith based and charitable groups that have come together. “Now we have to speak about the unspeakable. We are a great nation, but we are not a perfect nation,” Honoré said. “I want to be known as this ambassador of freedom, the place others want to come. I don’t want to be known as the country of the gun! Most of the world is not looking at us as the land of freedom, they are now looking at us as the land of the gun. Why? Because 30,000+ people a year are killed by guns! In Louisiana, we passed a law to open carry — while we are talking about supporting our police, how about [we talk about] leaving your guns at home?”
“We all have a right to protect ourselves, I understand that, but we don’t have a moral right to carry a gun any place, any time,” he said. “I have guns at my house. I was in the infantry, spent 37 years in the military and know and respect what they are for and what they can do. Yet, the idea that you can carry a gun anywhere at any time is a bankrupt idea.”
“To put it in context, when someone called 9-1-1 on Sunday to say there was a guy walking on Airline Highway with a gun, there might have been 50 people that passed him and said ‘There is a man carrying his gun. He is a demonstrating the open carry law.’ But one good citizen said, ‘He is not only carrying a gun, but he has a mask on – that looks a little weird.’ And we know the rest of that story.”
He continued, “What people in Baton Rouge need to understand is that if we don’t invest in kids and they’re not reading at a fourth grade level by the time they are 10, particularly boys, they have a 50 percent chance they will have a run in with the law by the time they are 14 — that is right from the Children’s Defense Fund data. We need to make sure schools are fully funded, even if we have to put 2 teachers in every classroom. I would rather over-spend on K-12 and not have a dime for TOPS.”
“Over 75 percent of the people in Angola can’t read on a third grade level — there is a direct relationship. Currently we have very few mental health services for children. Fifteen percent of our population has some type of disability, and it is like we have not paid attention enough to recognize that.”
A lack of funding has brought many programs to a complete stop, Honoré said, “We are the second largest energy producer, but the second poorest state. We have to fix our state business. This city has a lot going for it with all the industrial development – that is a positive.”
“The future we feared is here, we must use this moment, this is a huge opportunity for our city. We don’t have time to kick this to the next generation. The violence we have in south
Louisiana, particularly Baton Rouge and New Orleans, is horrendous. We have to value life better then that.”
Realizing we can’t value life for others, teaching that skill can seem impossible. You can’t make others suddenly value life because it would help our city. However, Honoré believes we can reach kids earlier with better options than street life.
“The best sports fields in our city are where? I live off of Bluebonnet and most in that area are world class. Yet you have to stretch to the other side of Southern University to find anything like it. If you go near where this young man was killed, there is a little park down there, but it doesn’t even have a basketball goal.”
“We have to get involved. We need to get the federal government involved. We have outstanding 4-H programs, and we could have an urban 4-H program that the federal government would pay for. Our universities can [also] become engaged,” he said. “When I speak across the country, I tell people that leadership requires sacrifice. Choose to be that successful business person who finds someone to mentor —if you’ve done well, give back! Our churches have done well, but [the church hour] is the most segregated hour in Baton Rouge. As we enjoy our congregations, we need to think about how to bring new people in. We have become too comfortable with it being segregated.”
“We are all part of this problem. We can’t have the majority of the people living in the parish living in poverty. Those that have good jobs have moved to places with better schools. How did we end up with sub-par schools in the first place? I have lived in Virginia and they have good public schools — we are missing that opportunity.”
Moving Forward as One
Establishing priorities in a huge plan and seeing years of hard work ahead can seem daunting, but we must get to work, and Honoré is ready to help lead.
“Number one, recognize that we have a problem – we – this is our house. We don’t just clean the front of the house and not the back of the house. We can’t leave this for the next generation to try to figure it out. Take the 50 percent unemployment rate — we have to collectively offer hiring opportunities to people out of North Baton Rouge.”
“If we can send a missionary to Cameroon, then we can send one to North Baton Rouge,” Honoré said. “We have a lot of people that are trying to do good things, but people have to take if further. Not go in for a day, but create relationships that become friendships.”
People ask him regularly, “What can we do, General? I say, ‘Go teach a kid in a poor neighborhood how to read or swim.’ It is going to take leadership — it is going to take sacrifice, it is going to cost you time and talent.”
Many have asked him about running for public office. He laughed and said, “I am as deep as I can get. But no, I don’t wake up in the morning with aspirations to be the governor or [serve in] any other office. My best place, and where I spend most of my time, is with me and my little team working on environmental justice.”
Russel L. Honoré is a retired Lieutenant General who served as the 33rd commanding general of the U.S. First Army at Fort Gillem, Ga. He is best known for serving as commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, responsible for coordinating military relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina-affected areas across the Gulf Coast, and as the 2nd Infantry Division’s commander while stationed in South Korea. He served until his retirement from the Army on January 11, 2008.
Roger Butner is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has been working with adults, teens and couples for many years. He says that he enjoys helping those who battle addiction – whether it be alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, or any other type of addiction – because he understands what it’s like to struggle with addiction on a personal level.
In August 2007, Butner was in a dark place as he dealt with the stronghold that alcohol had placed on his life. While his wife Chemaine was out with a friend, he consumed more than he should have, and later found himself lying in bed when the Lord spoke to his spirit saying, “Son, if this is really how you want your life to be, then so be it, but I will lead you out of this pit if you take my hand.” Butner says this was not the Lord’s first attempt at reaching him, but something caused him to listen that night, and it was like the fog lifted and he was ready to change.
Butner says he was overwhelmed by God’s love and the realization that the Lord still showed up and wanted to change him and use him despite his addiction. Butner shares how he “faced the truth,” and how we must all face our own truths as we work toward reconciliation within our personal lives, homes and our community.
Q: What type of upbringing did you have and how has it shaped your life and career?
A: I was born in Little Rock, Ark., and lived there until second grade when my family decided to move out to the country to begin raising parakeets – my parents later became the largest producers of parakeets in North America. I was raised in the Church of Christ, and my family was the type that went to church any time the church doors were open. When we moved to Searcy, Ark., we joined a church with a much smaller congregation, where we were one of about a half a dozen other families that were considered the backbone of this small church.
I remember how my dad always had a Bible and Bible commentary on our table at home, and we had devotionals and Bible studies regularly. I was raised to “know the Bible,” and I am sure that is what led me to attend Harding University where I majored in psychology and minored in youth ministry.
While at Harding, I began seriously dating Chemaine (whom he met in Baton Rouge one spring break – she was there visiting her sister, and Butner just so happened to be in town). When I returned to Harding in the fall, I ran into Chemaine on campus. I sought her out, began a serious relationship with her, and after graduation we were married. We moved to Abilene, Texas where I pursued my doctorate in marriage and family therapy. I took a job working in Birmingham, Ala., for two years and later accepted a position in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where I worked for an additional two years.
However, my wife desired to be back home in Baton Rouge, and when a job opened up at South Baton Rouge Church of Christ, I took the position as their counselor on staff and family minister. I worked a lot at the student center near the LSU campus, and I realized that I loved working with teenagers and their families, but also felt something needed to change so I would not burn out. I ventured into private practice at the Baton Rouge Counseling Center at First Presbyterian Church, which later led me to open my own practice thanks to guidance from Murphy Toerner, who had Murphy Toerner and Associates for many years.
Q: When did your own alcohol addiction begin,and how do you help others with addiction?
A: Believe it or not, my first enjoyable taste of alcohol was at a Texas State Marriage and Family convention. About five of us went out to a sports bar for dinner, and I ordered a margarita and loved it. I thought beer and wine were unappealing, but that frozen margarita tasted great. My wife and I would drink wine occasionally, which I am sure was a factor, but when I tasted Black Jack bourbon, I loved its smoky flavored goodness and was hooked.
I did not think I had an addiction, but over time, things rose to the surface. I would get convicted, especially after a hangover, because here I was counseling others, but my life was full of shame. I was essentially a fraud, but it took me a while to get to the point of admitting it. I was talking to God and sincerely rededicating my life to Him and heard God’s voice again saying, “Roger, that is all great, but what about the drinking?” I told God we could talk about it later. Alcohol had become an idol in my life.
God’s word clearly states in the commandments to have no other God before him, but alcohol had become a stronghold in my life. During the incident in August of 2007, I wondered if I could go to hell over my addiction. I remember telling God, “Well send me to Hell with a bottle in my hand, I am not ready to give it up.” Yet, it was that evening that I had that powerful encounter with God who lifted me out of that yucky mire, and I got up and told my wife the truth about my addiction.
That evening, we bagged up all booze, crystal and wine racks in the house, and chunked it. A week later, I began meeting with friends on a regular basis to see how they stayed sober, and they have helped me stay on the path of sobriety. I believe I am a better counselor now after my experiences, because I am free without the shame of sharing my story. I can share with those battling addiction that there is hope, help, and he or she can overcome.
Q: What part of recovery did God help you with, and what part was your own hard work?
A: The story of Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus – when the scales fell from his eyes – well that is me. The scales fell away, and I saw things in new ways like I had never seen before. I read books, prayed and stayed in a supportive group with those who had walked a path much like mine. I tell people, you have to jump in when becoming part of a support group and get over your pride.
I often share the story of Naaman in the 2 Kings, chapter 5. He had leprosy, and the prophet, Elisha, sent a messenger to say to him, “Go wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River and your flesh will be restored, and you will be cleansed.” The King of Israel asked Naaman, “Why go to that disgusting river?” Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you have not done it? How much more then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed!’” So, Naaman went to the River Jordan and was healed.
Sometimes, when we are in a place of disgust, we may not feel like God hears us or that anything will work, but remember this encouraging story of Naaman. One has to be willing. Naaman was restored, and today, you can be restored.
Q: What are your thoughts on racial reconciliation?
A: Honesty is essential. We must be honest with our thoughts; with ourselves. We cannot pretend with each other when sharing our thoughts with those of a different ethnicity. Compassion is another quality we need more of in our society. It is important to take time to listen to others. Take time to think – “Where is this person coming from?” – without judging the individual before he or she finishes sharing. I love what the “Prayer of St. Francis,” says when dealing with reconciliation — seek first to understand, then to be understood.
Q: How should the Body of Christ deal with this racial divide?
A: Jesus has called us to go to those places that are uncomfortable for us. We need to go out of our way to welcome others wherever we may be, in church, at a barbecue, at a community gathering, at school, etc. We live in a diverse world. We need to become comfortable building relationships with others that are not exactly like us. There is a stranger danger fear in our society, but we must not let fear consume us. We can take practical approaches to get to know others from different cultures.
One practical way to do this could be by inviting someone new over for dinner. Connections happen when one is invited into another’s home. So, during the next gumbo gathering you have, invite some new neighbors over. We are about to enter football season, and the holidays are right around the corner, so make an effort to get to know others. Change starts in the home.
Dr. Roger D. Butner, Ph.D., LMFT is a Christian counselor for teens, parents and families. He is married to Chemaine and they have one son, Shepherd “Shep” who is entering seventh grade. They attend the Chapel on the Campus. His counseling practice is located at 17170 Perkins Road. For more information, call: (225) 753-4766 or visit his website, www.hopeforyourfamily.com.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Matt. 11:28, KJV
To say that our city, state and country have faced some of the most heart-wrenching events over the past seven weeks would be an understatement. Too many have lost their lives in what can be described as an awakening of the proverbial “white elephant” in the room that no one dared to deal with. For decades we have tip-toed around the mammoth issues of race relationships, bigotry, discrimination and the like, deceiving ourselves into believing they were no longer relevant. But now we are confronted with the very things we thought had gone away or at least been minimized. And who would have thought that our city, Baton Rouge, would be at the forefront of raising awareness of just how bad things really are?
Some would say that it all started with the tragic death of Alton Sterling on July 5, 2016, and escalated into the deaths of police officers in Dallas and subsequently in Baton Rouge. However, the truth is, this all started a long time ago with the first murder where one brother killed another because of a bad heart condition. What happened on the streets of Baton Rouge and Dallas, and what continues to happen daily in America and throughout the world, is the result of the same bad heart condition. The prophet Jeremiah said it best in chapter 17, verse 9, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (NAS). The unthinkable acts that are being played out among us everywhere are simply what happens when the hearts of people become so depraved and callous.
Now you may wonder, how then can we fix the problem? The truth is, we can’t! Only God can fix the problem of a bad heart condition. It is obvious we cannot legislate a fix or create laws that will repair our “sick” state. People can’t be forced to have a change of heart by passing equal rights mandates or promoting activities that will bring the masses together. These things and many others have been attempted and have failed miserably. Protesting, picketing, not even boycotts will ever produce changed hearts or equality among individuals. They simply give us a sense of feeling good until the next crisis.
Real change can never happen until there is a genuine, total regeneration of the heart. Anything short of this is foolishness, simply a waste of time and effort. Romans 10:10 explains, “For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous —being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God],” (AMP). It is not until we truly have a heart that believes in Christ that we experience change in our behavior, mannerism and in our lives. This is an undeniable fact.
In the wake of the killings over the past few weeks, we have seen countless prayer vigils, community meetings, memorial services and other calls to action. And although these have some merit, I question rather if any of these have lead to a change of heart in those who have participated? Sure, we are all nicer to one another and we are talking more to each other, however I believe this will pass in time, and we will return to our lives as usual. Negative race relationships, bigotry and general inequalities will soon return, even in the religious community.
I believe the time has come for life changing action to occur. I believe we are well overdue for genuine heart changes in Baton Rouge and throughout the world. If nothing changes, we will continue to decline as a people and nation. I publicly appeal to the people of this city, state and nation to take a stand for real change that must start right here in Baton Rouge. Will you join me as we start a grassroots revival for national and worldwide change for the betterment of all mankind? I speak not of church sponsored revivals, but instead of revivals that will take place in communities, in workplaces and homes. If you are seriously interested in seeing real change, call or text me today at (225) 305-3006, or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. An exploratory meeting is tentatively planned for late September. Will you join us?
Millennials have the power to change the world. But like pebbles on a beach, we sometimes lie motionless while the tide of life knocks us back and forth. When that happens, our trepidation and self-consciousness render us helpless, and we begin to feel incapable.
It is only when we reconcile our faith with our shortcomings that we can reach beyond ourselves and make a difference in other people’s lives. However, that is not always easy. Life is a steady stream of potential letdowns and obstacles, and it takes faith and tenacity to tackle the hurdles head on.
Abby Ter Haar is a typical millennial. She jogs for fun, has ambitions of attending graduate school and is busy trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life. But, beneath that veneer of normalcy bubbles the spirit of a woman set on making a difference.
Ter Haar is one of 7 million Americans and 147 million people worldwide who suffers from alopecia areata — an autoimmune skin disease that results in varying degrees of permanent baldness. For 17 years, she has lived without a single strand of hair on her body. According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF), the disease’s trigger is unknown, and there is no effective treatment to combat its symptoms.
Ter Haar has lobbied congress alongside the NAAF to help increase awareness and funding for alopecia research since she was 8 years old. Despite the challenges of her disease, she has taken up the mantle of activism and steered clear of bitterness. “I can see how God used [alopecia]. I wouldn’t be the person I am if it hadn’t happened to me,” she said.
Hair loss can be emotionally crippling for alopecia suffers. They sometimes become reclusive and detached from their careers, friends and families. For those people, having a wig to wear often means the difference between psychological healing and emotional collapse.
However, wigs are not always easily accessible. “Wigs are super expensive. They can be thousands of dollars and only last for two to three years. One of the things we’re lobbying for is Medicaid funding for wigs,” Ter Haar said.
Meanwhile, some people with alopecia quickly come to terms with their hairlessness and do not feel the need to hide it. Ter Haar only started wearing a wig when she was 19, and even then it was a spur of the moment decision.
Ter Haar admitted she partly started wearing a wig because of the social pressures she faced in college. “It hasn’t always been easy. I struggled a lot. It’s important that people realize that. There were days when I couldn’t go to class because I was crying,” she said.
She studied at Texas Christian University — a campus with less than 10,000 students — and occasionally her schoolmates made cursory judgments based on her appearance. It was entirely different from her experience in high school, where everyone understood and accepted her disease. “College was the first time I really noticed people treating me differently because I looked different,” she said.
Now a college graduate, Ter Haar takes life as it comes. Some days she is fully confident. Others, she needs a little self-motivation to get going. “Everyday can be different. Sometimes you feel totally fine, but sometimes you can feel awkward,” Ter haar explained.
Ter Haar is a poised woman whose outward beauty is enhanced by her bubbly personality and energetic charm. Nevertheless, it has not always been easy to reconcile her alopecia with self-assurance. “It’s taken me a long time to get here. I’ve had to make my own way,” she said.
Her advice for someone facing an obstacle, physical or otherwise, is to keep your eyes on the bigger picture. “If you have to go through things like that, face adversity of any kind, you’re a stronger person when you grow up,” she said. “You don’t see it when you’re 12, but as you grow you’ll realize you’re more resilient and can handle bigger problems.”
Ter Haar’s alopecia helped foster her unique strength and confidence, and it helped her realize the importance of giving back. During her last year of college, she wound up going to India to teach English at an all-girls school. There she was faced with a patchwork of complex cultural hurdles, which she navigated bravely.
With only a basic understanding of the local language and Indian social norms, she tried to have a positive impact on her students’ lives. Ter Haar has a passion for women’s rights, and India became a place where she could actively engage in discussions about international public health. “There are a lot of issues for women in India. For example, there’s a huge sex-selection abortion problem,” she explained.
While abroad, Ter Haar spent her time working hard to effect positive social change. Part of her effort was based on empowering local girls and women to take advantage of the new opportunities slowly becoming available to them. “We made this really cool video for International Women’s Day. It was a great conversation to start. That was probably my favorite thing we did,” she said.
She was always sensitive to the social nuances that separated Indian culture from her American point of view. Ter Haar focused on encouraging kids to think about the world differently, and helped them consider fresh perspectives. She never told people what to believe, only encouraged them to engage in the broader global conversation.
It has been a few years since Ter Haar last lived abroad. Since then, she has worked on bringing awareness to disenfranchised groups, volunteered for nonprofits and focused on building her skill set. After Labor Day, she will be heading back to India for 10 months.
Ter Haar said she looks forward to taking part in the dynamic progress sweeping Southern Asia. Indian millennials are actively working to better their communities, despite facing powerful financial and social barriers. Many of them come from extraordinarily poor socio-economic backgrounds but manage to start some of the world’s most innovative nonprofit organizations. “It’s really inspiring. Things are changing so quickly,” Ter Haar said.
It is increasingly important to make an effort to explore the world around us, even if that means simply interacting with people from a different part of our city, parish or state. “Getting outside our own comfort zone is really important, because it helps us understand ourselves better,” she said.
Now more than ever, we need to engage with one another. Most of the social antagonism battering the globe is the direct result of individual complacency. “Especially in the current political environment, a lot of the conflict comes from us just not getting out of our personal bubbles,” Ter Haar explained.
Volunteering is a brilliant place to start if you are interested in reaching out to your community. For those looking to have a positive impact, Ter Haar suggests doing some research on local charitable organizations. “There are a lot of great nonprofits that work in Baton Rouge,” she added.
For Ter Haar, charity work is not about receiving recognition or praise. Her philanthropy is based on meeting people exactly where they are and loving them. “If we remember how Jesus treated people, it makes it easier to want to work with everyone and see their point of view,” she said.
As the surge of life’s difficulties rolls over us, we must strengthen ourselves with resolve, stand firm in the midst of the fray and press forward. God has supplied us with the power to overcome every challenge, but we have to be willing to use it. He has called us to reach beyond ourselves and engage with the world around us – all we have to do is embrace our potential and put it to use.
Editor’s note: This interview took place before the tragic killing of three law enforcement officers and wounding of three other officers in Baton Rouge. In light of these events, Rev. Zehyoue would like to add the following thoughts: “I would like to note that my condolences and prayers are with the families of the slain officers. I pray that our commitment to reconciliation and to peace continues to inspire us to move forward. I pray that the same compassion we have for the families of the slain officers can be shared for Alton Sterling’s family. I also pray that our commitment to each other motivates us to still justice in the case of Alton Sterling, and we don’t allow this tragedy to push us to ignore our neighbors and their continued cries for justice.”
Having experienced God’s miraculous intervention in his own family, Elijah Zehyoue is confident that the Spirit of God can bring together communities – and the nation – under the divine mandate to love justice, show mercy and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). It will take prayer. It will take faith. But he’s seen God work.
Born in Liberia in 1989, the Rev. Zehyoue views his path to the United States as a series of divine interventions. His father, Anthony Sr., moved ahead of his young family to Baton Rouge to pursue a doctorate in chemistry at LSU. In the meantime, civil war broke out in Liberia, dislodging families and making travel virtually impossible. He lost contact with his wife and children for a year. His mother, a devout Catholic, caught the eye of a priest who was impressed by her devotion to prayer. The priest happened to be sent out of the country to New Orleans on furlough. Soon, he was sitting in her husband’s living room assuring him the family was safe and well.
From one side of the world to the other, the family was reunited. With the help of the church, they moved to Baton Rouge when Elijah was 2 years old. He graduated from Catholic High School and also found spiritual nourishment at University Baptist Church where his experience blossomed into a call to the ministry.
Now, after serving churches in Chicago and Washington D.C., Rev. Zehyoue works for reconciliation through the New Baptist Covenant, an organization founded by President Jimmy Carter in 2008 to work on historic racial and theological divides among Baptists.
Rev. Zehyoue returned home to Baton Rouge after the shooting of Alton Sterling in the hope of helping the family of faith see into the souls of its neighbors. He believes the church is uniquely positioned to lead communities to true reconciliation.
“We have the resources for hard conversations that say we can hang up our privilege and consider ourselves in the shoes of somebody else,” Rev. Zehyoue said. He believes it’s all about relationships. After all, there is one Body of Christ. We are family. And families love and support each other.
So, what would Jesus do? Rev. Zehyoue said Jesus calls his people to work for reconciliation in several practical ways. They include:
Ask: How are you feeling? Reflect on their reply, not our own agenda.“I think that folks need the space, the face space, where they can talk about why they’re angry; they can talk about what really affects them,” he said.
“When my wife and I were dating, she would say, ‘I don’t feel like you’re listening to me,’” he explained. “And I wasn’t really hearing because I would either glance over at my phone or think about how I would respond to her. And the times when I’m listening is when I [realize], wow, I really did hurt you.”
“We can offer responses later,” he said. But to really understand, there is importance in “first letting it linger, letting it sink in a little bit – wow, our neighbors feel this way.”
Provide a ministry of presence. “It would be really powerful if evangelical pastors were to go out on the corner of Fairfield and North Foster,” Rev. Zehyoue said. “Offering to say, ‘we’re willing to pray for you.’” He also recommends deliberately setting aside time to talk about your own work in the community with others. Through the New Baptist Covenant, the pastors of two racially different churches in Macon, Ga., discovered that they held Easter egg hunts a week apart on the same plot of land. The resulting joint Easter egg hunt led to combined youth trips, and an eye-opening conversation about the fears black parents have for their children.
Create an environment for crisis conversations. As a youth minister in Chicago, Rev. Zehyoue opened the church to teenagers stunned by the random shooting death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, a high school majorette from King College Prep School, and one of the performers at President Obama’s inauguration. Many of the youth at University Church (Disciples of Christ/United Church of Christ) were friends of the victim.
Rev. Zehyoue provided microphones, joined in their impromptu rap contest and, most importantly, made himself available to listen. He told them, “‘I’m going to be a big brother for you because I know you don’t have a lot of other spaces where you can just be kids.’ I think that was a start for us.” The effort began an enduring conversation about issues such as bullying.
Explore our motivations. Why do people want to tell the stories of those whose lives have ended violently? “Even as a pastor, it’s really hard for me,” Rev. Zehyoue said. “But I tell the stories because I believe that it doesn’t have to happen again if only we tell enough people and we, together, are moved to compassion.”
Examine where you stand in relation to your neighbors. “As neighbors we advocate for justice for our brothers and sisters, particularly those on the margins and those who are the most vulnerable right now,” he said. “The work of peace has to be the priority of the church but to get there via justice. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God,’” (Matthew 5:9). Again, relationships are key. Rev. Zehyoue advocates deep reconciliation through a national conversation between poor Black communities and law enforcement, including efforts to “evaluate the probably very legitimate fear that they feel going into certain communities.”
Recognize that reconciliation takes time: commit to the long haul. “It’s too often viewed as something that happens immediately, as opposed to taking work and effort,” he said. “I get so much inspiration and encouragement from Scripture that shows us relationships are powerful. Scripture tells us that you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. I think truth is a first step to reconciliation. I think doing something sacred with the truth is a second step. Justice can be to say that we will repent for our sins, we will apologize for our sins, we will work so that you feel I’m not sinning against you anymore,” he said. “Reconciliation is being reconnected back to God and being connected back to each other.”
“I think we’re living in a big moment,” Rev. Zehyoue said. He believes the self-examination and actions that result from these crises will have a lasting impact on the Christian church. “The church asks itself so many questions about its future, about its budgets, about its ability to speak to society, about why not as many young people want to participate, about its relationship to culture. I think all of those questions will either be answered or will become less significant to us if we respond in a big way as neighbors.”
Rev. Elijah Zehyoueserved as associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. before becoming Director of Programs and Communications for the New Baptist Covenant. Rev. Zehyoue makes it clear that these are his thoughts, not necessarily those of his church or the organization for which he works.
Twin sisters Kourtney and Kayley Williams are self-proclaimed “kids at heart.” That’s why landing summer jobs as YMCA camp counselors was the perfect fit. The Y prefers to call its counselors role models, a title that fits Kourtney and Kayley well. Both sisters said it is important for role models to be respectful and understanding of the campers. “I try to be myself and encourage the kids to the same,” said Kourtney. At such a young age, kids are very impressionable. “The kids look up to us and almost always want to copy what we do. That’s why it’s important to be good examples, good role models,” Kayley said.
Although they were interviewed separately, when each sister was asked who her role model was, she immediately named her mother. Kourtney and Kayley’s mother is their symbol of strength and perseverance. She became pregnant at the young age of 20, but never let it slow her down. After giving birth to two beautiful baby girls, their mother returned to school to finish her nursing degree. As college students themselves, Kourtney and Kayley said they admire their mothers’ hard work, determination and unconditional love.
Both twins attend Southeastern Louisiana University and are on track to graduate soon. Kourtney is a mass communication major and hopes to one day be a television reporter. Kayley is an early childhood education major with dreams of becoming a teacher following graduation. She says working with the children at the Y has been great practice. “She’ll be a great mom, too!” chimed in Brieya, a camper in Kayley’s group.
This is the sisters’ second year serving as role models at the Y. The girls are identical twins and joked saying that both years, the adults have had more difficulty telling them apart than the campers. “They’re very attentive; they usually can tell us apart by our nail color or book sacks,” said Kourtney. Even though they are in charge of different groups, (Kourtney has boys ages 4 and 5, while Kayley has girls ages 6 and 7) the sisters enjoy working together and love to exchange stories at the end of the day.
“I want to do my best to give the kids a memorable summer,” said Kayley. “It’s important to me that they have as much fun as possible.” The twins said they both enjoy regular camp activities like swimming and field trips, but their absolute favorite is a game called “Drip Drip Drop,” a spin on Duck Duck Goose, reserved for Fun Fridays. Instead of patting each other on the head, the campers take turns dripping water on one another, but the “goose” gets a real cool down when the whole cup of water is dumped on him or her. “The kids look forward to it all week, and so do we,” exclaimed Kourtney.
Even when they’re not at work, Kourtney and Kayley like to hang out with their co-workers, or as they affectionately call it, “the Y fam,” and every Wednesday, the twins spend time with their real family, too. “We all go to our great-grandmother’s house, and she cooks for all of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. It’s great quality time together.” Like many other college girls, they also enjoy watching TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Gossip Girl on Netflix during their down time.
The YMCA’s Christian Principles are defined as love, respect, honesty, responsibility and service, something the twins were drawn to when initially looking for summer jobs. “We want to be the best role models we can be, so that the kids will be the best they can be.”
It often takes decades to develop new medications, test their safety and effectiveness, clear regulatory hurdles, and get them in the hands of doctors and patients who can benefit from them.
The time that it takes to bring a new drug from the research bench all the way to the consumer is often a decade or more. As the rates of chronic disease in the United States are skyrocketing, federal processes are constantly being refined in an effort to speed the path of getting new, promising drugs into the marketplace. Likewise, there is also room for refinement along other portions of the drug development pipeline.
With the health and wellness of patients in mind who yearn for treatment options and alternatives, researchers at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center are working to speed up the very first steps in the lengthy process of drug development.
Drs. Richard Rogers, Gerlinda Hermann and Jason Collier were recently awarded a LIFT2 grant from LSU to develop a means of screening potential new medications much quicker than was previously possible. Currently, a screening (or assay) for new drugs takes about two days to perform, but the new test they are working on may allow researchers to shrink that two-day period to a mere two hours.
Currently, one in 10 people has diabetes and one in three is at risk for the disease (and many do not know they are at risk). In Louisiana, one in two children is considered overweight or obese — a risk factor for developing diabetes, heart disease or metabolic syndrome, all conditions that in the past have characteristically affected people who are middle age and older.
Not only will this new test that Pennington Biomedical researchers are working on speed up the development of much-needed new treatments for diabetes, but it could also lower costs and increase the speed of evaluating therapeutic models or disease models right at the time when the need is most dire for people suffering from this all too common chronic disease.
That new, faster test will help determine the ability of pancreatic beta cells to respond to blood sugar and secrete insulin. The test will also assess the ability of certain tissues in our body to respond to insulin.
“I’m excited for this opportunity,” said Collier. “Anytime we are able to speed up research and development it can benefit people who are working to manage diseases like diabetes, and ultimately that’s why I go to work every day.”
Rogers, Hermann and Collier also hope that this new LIFT2 grant will allow them to transfer the technology from an experimental platform to that of an easier-to-use system that will make the test ready for commercialization and wider use.
“Our researchers are developing new and unique ways of combatting the chronic diseases that affect so many in our population,” noted Dr. David Winwood, associate executive director of the Office of Business Development and Commercialization at Pennington Biomedical. “Funding like this from LSU can provide the key ‘proof-of-concept’ resources needed to move those ideas from the lab bench to the patient’s bedside.”
*Dr. Rogers holds the John S. McIlhenny Endowed Professorship in Nutritional Neuroscience.
With 100-Pound Weight Loss, He Gains New Perspective
by Lisa Tramontana
Pedro White is a changed man. Just a year ago, he was 100 pounds heavier, completely out of shape and depressed about his health. Today, he feels great and has a positive outlook on life.
As a young man, White’s weight was normal, but over the years, his lifestyle and eating habits had caused a slow but steady weight gain. When he was brave enough to finally step on the scale, he saw the number 290 staring back at him, and was shocked. He decided it was time to take control of his life before he ended up with a heart attack or stroke.
A delivery driver for SAIA, White’s job kept him on the road all day long, every day. During his breaks, he often sat in his truck and ate fast food and more sweets than he could count. “Fried chicken, fried fish, cookies, cakes, pies … it was doing me in,” he said. “It got harder to get in and out of the truck. I was having trouble climbing stairs. I was out of breath all the time. I hated feeling that way.”
He was also on medication for his cholesterol and blood pressure, and at only 38, hated the idea of it. “I was too young to be on medicine,” he said. “I just decided I was tired of it,” he said.
His solution was simple. He cut all fried foods and all sugar from his diet. It was a sacrifice, he said, but he started seeing results immediately. He first noticed it when his clothes fit more loosely. Then he felt motivated to start working out. Four months into his diet, he started going to the YMCA to exercise on a regular basis. He preferred the elliptical and did 35-minute cardio workouts every day. “It really kept me motivated,” he said.
His diet was a work in progress. As he lost more weight, he became more interested in eating healthy. He educated himself on simple and complex carbohydrates, learned how to decipher food labels, and started substituting healthy alternatives for the foods he enjoyed.
These days, a typical dinner is a grilled chicken breast with steamed vegetables and brown rice or roasted potatoes. He has grown to like his new diet and has even started experimenting in the kitchen with new recipes.
“I feel so much better now,” he said. “I feel stronger and healthier. I have more energy. And people tell me that I look like a different person. I know I feel 10 years younger.” The medication is also a thing of the past, he added.
White is most proud of the fact that he was able to lose the weight naturally. “I did it on my own without any pills or cleanses or special products,” he said. “I didn’t sign up for some trendy Hollywood diet. I just made up my mind that I was going to do it, and then I started being smart about what I was eating. It really has changed my life.”
He admits there was a significant fear factor in the back of his mind. “Several of my relatives have diabetes,” he said. “One of my cousins actually lost her eyesight at 35 because of diabetes. I saw what it does to people and I didn’t want to go through that.”
White says his new lifestyle is no longer a sacrifice, and he encourages others to get healthy whether that means losing weight, quitting smoking or starting a fitness routine. “The way I look at it now, if it doesn’t benefit me, I’m not going to do it,” he said. “If it can help me be a better person, I’ll give it a try.”
As a pastor, the Rev. Raymond A. Jetson’s focus is on his congregation, but his compassion and concern extend far beyond the walls of his church and deeply into the community. Whether he is leading a youth group activity, repairing a home or counseling a family, Rev. Jetson is always aware that he is part of something larger than himself.
This became painfully clear when violence in Baton Rouge made national headlines this summer. When Alton Sterling was killed in a scuffle with two police officers, local citizens and outside groups held protests throughout the city. Rev. Jetson was leading a Bible study at Star Hill Church two days later and decided his group should participate at the protest being held at the site of the shooting. It was only a few blocks away, so he and his students walked, Bibles in hand, to the Triple S Food Mart where Sterling had died.
“We prayed for healing,” he said. “And we spoke with many of the people there. That evening, as Christians, there was no other place we should have been.”
Just a week later, six police officers were shot (and three of them killed). Tensions were high in the following days, and many looked to their spiritual leaders for guidance. Star Hill’s congregants were no exception.
“It has been a time of great uncertainty,” Rev. Jetson said. “The rhetoric and tenor of the conversations in our community divide us more than unify us. We have become a people of extremes. Everyone’s in one corner or the other. But truth and reality are somewhere in between, and that’s the direction we need to move toward. I have hope that we will come together.”
This willingness to engage with the world is at the core of Rev. Jetson’s being. Some might call it “divine providence.” In November 1983, his father was elected to the Louisiana Legislature but died just a few months later in 1984. So Rev. Jetson himself ran for office and was elected State Representative of District 61 that same year, serving until 1999.
In spite of a busy legislative career, he felt called to the ministry. He became pastor at Star Hill in 1994 and under his leadership, the church grew to more than 1,500 members. In spite of his full-time responsibilities at Star Hill, he was willing to do more. For three years after Hurricane Katrina, Rev. Jetson made a huge difference in the lives of many Katrina survivors. As CEO for the Louisiana Family Recovery Corps, he helped families connect with loved ones and matched individuals with resources needed to move on with their lives. He also served as deputy secretary for the state’s Department of Health and Hospitals.
His philosophy as a leader and a community member is simple. “We have to be people of love and forgiveness, care and compassion,” he said. “It must begin with us. Instead of looking at the differences among us, we should focus on who we are in Christ. We have to learn how to work together and meet the needs of the least, the last and the left behind.”
Rev. Jetson leads his church according to three basic missions or goals: congregational support, youth development, and community engagement. And in living out this mission, he challenges his congregants to become “spiritual entrepreneurs” and engage in important community issues.
Congregational support means taking care of basic needs, including financial help, family counseling, or support for single mothers. Youth development includes mentoring services, youth activities, and Bible studies for teens. Community engagement means connecting with local residents by hosting events such as fitness classes, health screenings and a blight reduction program.
“This way of living and serving is what we call ‘Kingdom expansion,’” Rev. Jetson said. “It’s the way we identify the God-given resources of the people in the pews every Sunday and mobilize them to become active and make a difference all the other days of the week.”
The “Kingdom expansion” idea can be applied to the entire Baton Rouge community, whose identity was completely altered by the events of this summer. The consequences will play out over the coming months, and possibly years, and hopefully, will lead to true reconciliation.
“Our current circumstances are an opportunity for believers to demonstrate before others what we say we believe,” said Rev. Jetson. “Those who profess to be Christians must demonstrate it through their actions.”
Rev. Jetson is married and has two adult children, J’Erica Nicole and Jeremy Louis. His wife Tammy is very active in the church. Star Hill is located at 1400 N. Foster Drive. For more information, call (225) 925-3133 or visit the website at starhillchurch.org. You can also join a live video stream broadcast of Sunday services and Wednesday Bible studies.
We are not in a race war, we are in spiritual warfare with the enemy, and some of you are playing right into his hands. Let’s pray for more God-sent, holy-ghost filled, on-fire for the Lord, not conforming to the way of the world, determined, non-wavering, non-power regulated, level-headed, kind, patient, intelligent leaders to rise up and do what God intended. The Bible tells us that history shall repeat itself. We can learn from the past – violence didn’t work then and it isn’t working now.
In the midst of this I began to pray, “With calamity all around us, what must we do Heavenly Father?” He answered saying, “Keep your eyes and hearts focused on me, the author and finisher of all. The enemy has come to distract believers. I am God almighty, and I will take care of my people. Please keep your eyes focused on me. Don’t allow the enemy to detour your faith and strength. It may look like I’m silent through the test, but I am omnipresent as I have always been. Please don’t focus on the events, focus on me. I promise I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Do you know what it means to be a living epistle? 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 says, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” A living epistle is your heart-felt, living letter of Christ and how His light shines within your life. Your heart, feet and hands are symbolic of a journey; the more wear and tear on them, the more detailed the journey. As we walk down the street looking to the left and right of us, we see turmoil and hellish acts. But I’ve come to remind all of you to look forward. When you look forward you can see God’s footsteps in front of you leading the way.
As one body of Christ, I challenge all of us to have compassion for all of God’s people; to carry forth His messages of prayer, healing, helping and the Holy Spirit. Stand with me and make this declaration today:
I declare to be a living epistle for my family and in my community. I declare that I will carry God’s message to others. I declare war on the enemy to take back our city through spiritual warfare. I declare to help guide God’s lost into the kingdom. I declare to live a blessed and highly favored life. I declare to have compassion for all people. I declare that my faith will not waver because of current events. I declare a prominent attitude toward the kingdom and others. I declare that I won’t lean unto my own understanding, but I will lean onto the Lord. I declare that no weapon formed against me and my household shall prosper. I declare that we are the head and not the tail, we are above and not beneath. I declare that the report of the Lord is true, and His word will not return void. I declare that I will stand in the gap and pray for those who are not strong enough to pray for themselves. I declare peace within my heart and to follow the Lord until the day I die, and no devil in hell is going to stop me.
If you’ve made this declaration, you‘ve decided to be a living epistle. As we pick up the pieces and explain the current events to our children, teach them how to be a living epistle; to love and let love. But most importantly, teach them how to pray, heal, help others, and about the anointing that the Holy Spirit brings.
Twins Eric and Daniel Guiffredaare examples of character, commitment and compassion
by lisa tramontana
You won’t find many brothers who are closer than Eric and Daniel Guiffreda. Originally from Ponchatoula, they grew up doing everything together, and today at age 32, are fellow firefighters who have answered many calls to serve and protect others.
“You rarely come across men who are so genuine and have such character,” says colleague Stephen Gibbs. “They have helped a lot of people. Their influence and service goes way beyond the walls of this fire station.”
That’s because the Guiffreda twins have followed a career path that has included military service, first responder status and pastoral care. As they are both fond of saying, the best way to show your love for God is to love other people.
When they were still in junior high, Eric and Daniel joined Young Marines, a program that promotes character, leadership skills, community service and good citizenship. Their involvement with the group, along with being raised in a Christian home, shaped their personalities and hopes for the future. After high school, they joined the U.S. Marines. Eric had never wavered in his decision to enlist, but Daniel wasn’t sure until the last minute. “I had decided not to go,” he said. “And then right before the deadline, I called them up and said, ‘I’ll do it if we can ship out on the buddy system’” (together).
Active duty ended in 2005 and included deployments to Iraq. When the young veterans returned home, they were drawn to careers as firefighters. Daniel received his training in St. Angelo, Texas, and Eric trained at LSU Fire & Emergency Training Institute. Today, (both married with young children), they are paramedics with the Gonzales Fire Department – trained healthcare professionals who provide emergency first aid to fire and disaster victims.
As if their spirit of service weren’t enough, they are both chaplains as well, offering comfort not just to the injured, but to their fellow firefighters whose day-to-day responsibilities can be physically and emotionally overwhelming.
“We’re all extremely close,” said Daniel of his colleagues. “We spend just as much time with each other as we do with our own families. We see a lot of bad things together, and sometimes, you just want to be able to talk to someone who can relate. Eric and I know from our own experience that personal struggles at work can spill over into family life. We know exactly how difficult things can be.”
Eric and Daniel are also members of the Critical Incident Stress Team, affiliated with LSU, and provide mentoring to first responders who need counseling. “They might help someone who is having trouble processing a tragedy or someone who thinks they are at fault in a particular situation,” said Gibbs. “Eric and Daniel have a way of talking to people that calms them and makes them see the value of what they do.”
Dealing with disaster victims is another opportunity for the Guiffredas to practice their faith. Especially as paramedics, they are sometimes faced with death. “Some people just know they are not going to make it,” Eric said. “We pray with them and make sure they know they are not alone. The hardest part of the job is having to tell the family that a loved one has died. In that case, we have to just be there and listen to them, whatever they need to get through it.”
Through their work and their ministries, some basic philosophies have emerged. One of the most important is that every individual is valuable in God’s eyes.
“Some people might have trouble feeling sympathy for a drug addict,” Eric said. “But that person is worthy of love and compassion like anyone else. The way I see it, that person is in bondage. In his heart, this is not what he wants for his life. Think about that and you’ll see the humanity that is there … in everyone.”
And there is only one race … the human race, says Daniel. “The colors of our skin might be different, but we are all created in God’s image. No one is above anyone else.”
Jesus set this example, Daniel added, when he cut through the cultural rules and racism of his time by engaging a Samaritan woman in conversation and meeting her at the point of her deepest need.
“We believe our calling as Christians is to do the same by meeting those who are hurting and directing them to ‘the God of all comfort’ who truly cares about them and who alone can bring them lasting hope.”
It’s really simple, though not easy, the brothers say. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your strength and your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.
“When you see a need, try to meet it,” Eric said. “Every single one of us deserves dignity and respect. And that’s why we should treat each other well. If everyone focused on that, all of our prejudices would fall away.”