October 2018, Witness at Work

Witness at Work, Medical and Spiritual Healing

Medical and Spiritual Healing

Dr. Gray Bailey combines both

by Rachele Smith

Dr. Gray Bailey with his team

Dr. Gray Bailey is good at making people smile. And that’s not just because he’s been a dentist for the past 17 years.

Since opening Absolute Quality Care Family Dentistry in 2001, Bailey has helped thousands of patients with both preventative and emergency dental care. But while this graduate from the LSU School of Dentistry believes in providing the best medical care possible, he also knows about the complete healing that comes from God’s love and compassion. It’s why on any given day, you can find Bailey in his Prairieville practice not only building crowns or performing some of the latest laser technology in dentistry, but you can also find him sharing the love of Christ, both in spoken and unspoken ways.

“We do things differently here,” Bailey said, explaining that the direction of medical care and insurance in our country is unfortunately forcing some people to make difficult decisions when it comes to their health. “I’m not working for insurance companies, though. I’m here to just take good care of my patients.”

And for this civil engineer turned dentist, that means combining work and faith.

“I have pulled teeth for free,” he said, explaining that showing love to others is paramount to who we are with Christ. “The more you give, the more Christ keeps giving to you.”

Five years so, his attitude was much different.

Bailey always focused on the best care for his patients, but his faith life was struggling. Then one day at work, he developed severe pain. An ambulance was called, and on the way to the hospital, Bailey unmistakably found what he was looking for. “I had a talk with God about how I didn’t want to see him just yet because I didn’t think he would be too proud of me. I asked him for another chance,” Bailey said, softly.

Then just as the ambulance neared the hospital, something strange happened. The pain mysteriously began to subside. After some tests, Bailey was able to go home that night. It was believed the intense pain was from a kidney stone.

“That night, I was on my hands and knees in the shower,” he said, pausing as the intensity of those feelings returned. “I thanked God for that second chance and I asked him to show me his love.” Bailey remembers feeling that God “just scooped me up and held me.”

During the next two weeks, Bailey’s life totally changed. He described that time as a spiritual journey, noting that he hasn’t been the same since. “For me to share Christ with people now is an honor,” he said. “It’s not hard for me to do. I’m not ashamed of it. I love my God.”

Surrounded in Jesus’s love, he sees church today, not as a building of believers, but rather as the living hands and legs of Christ working to bring Scripture to everyone. “I asked God to show me what to do,” he said. “And he did.”

By focusing on Matthew 25: 35-46, where Jesus is found in those who are hungry, thirsty and in need, Bailey said he was led to start an organization called “Love They Neighbor.” As a ministry, the organization brings Bibles, food and clothing to anyone in need. It’s also why on any given weekend, Bailey, his wife, Beth, and others go into various neighborhoods and cook a huge pot of jambalaya (using a prize-worthy recipe he secured from his father-in-law). He explained that they are happy to physically and spiritually feed all who join them. “We’re there for anyone,” he said.

The father of three grown children and the grandfather of one, Bailey and his wife live on a farm with several animals, including a dog and chickens. But there are other critters, literally, buzzing around: lots and lots of bees. Originally, Bailey said he became interested in the insects for medicinal purposes as bee stings have often been associated with helping arthritic pain.

Today, thanks to his free services in trapping and removing unwanted bee colonies, Bailey now has 40 hives on his own property.

So, what does he do with all that honey?

Just as it was a sign of health for Samuel in the Bible, Bailey uses his honey to gift others. In the end, it’s just another way to keep people smiling.

Volunteers join Dr. Bailey to cook jambalaya for local residents through his “Love Thy Neighbor” ministry
Dr. Bailey and his wife Beth with Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards
Mike Rase for BRCLM
August 2018, Witness at Work

Mike Rase: Building Relationships, Our Key to Success

Mike Rase: Building Relationships, Our Key to Success

Mike Rase for BRCLM

By Rachele Smith 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

Witness at Work, Devotional Days Bring the Team Together

Devotional Days Bring Team Together

Leslie Wilbur, Pastor Butch LeBauve, Andy Bishop, and Kevin Carbo gather after their weekly devotional

It was a busy lunch hour at the offices of Baker Printing. Unlike most days, upon entering there were signs pointing to the large gathering in the back of the building. Wednesdays are devotion days, and most employees as well as special guests are starting to gather in anticipation of this weekly ritual. This week’s guest speaker was Pastor Butch LaBauve, Senior Pastor of Rivers Ministries International.

Located in the heart of Baker, Baker Printing (known as The Printing People), has been having a positive impact on the city since 1962. It was founded by Jack and Martha Bishop and has grown to become one of the largest and most prestigious commercial printers in the state of Louisiana.

The list of political dignitaries who have made personal visits to the offices is almost as impressive as the long list of awards. The company has been recognized for various kinds of professional excellence. Among them are:

  • In 2002, they were honored with the Douglas Manship Torch Award for Business Ethics
  • In 2003, the Better Business Bureau awarded them the International Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics
  • The company received the James C. Dobson Award from Focus on the Family for communicating the positive message of family.
  • The Eagle Award (one of their most treasured) was presented by Liberty Cards. This award is normally given to a division within their own company, rather than an outside vendor.

The team at Baker Printing is also known for civic and humanitarian accomplishments. Representatives have served in leadership roles in various community organizations such as the Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors Printing Industry of America South, Ad Federation of Baton Rouge, Rotary Club of Baker, Baker Chamber of Commerce, Associated Builders and Contractors, Louisiana Family Forum, Sales and Marketing Executives (SME), Cancer Relay for Life and the Better Business Bureau 2004 judges panel for the International Business Ethics Award in Virginia.

Their facility is one of the largest and most modern in the state with more than 21,500 square feet of working space and an additional 8,500 in offsite warehouse space. In-house they have pre-press, press, bindery, business mail processing, signage, digital printing, letterpress departments, and offices for management and sales associates.

The team is most proud of the strong roots they’ve built in the community. Their goal is to keep challenging themselves to stay on the leading edge of technology so they will be we ready to meet all of their clients’ needs.

Kevin Carbohas been attending the Bible studies for 26 years, and says it has made a huge impact on his life.

“I’ve learned that I didn’t know what I thought I knew about God. It wasn’t until much later that I found that man’s laws are not necessarily God’s laws. Follow the Bible, follow God. Don’t call yourself Catholic, Baptist or Methodist. Call yourself a Christian, a believer. Over the years, I’ve grown tremendously. I’m getting old and I try not to be grumpy or short tempered, but when I am, I try to slap myself in the face and say, ‘hey wait a minute!’ Then and I go and apologize if I’ve offended someone. But it’s all good and it’s all because of God.”


Breyana Wheeler was all smiles after the recent devotion. She recently moved from Ohio and has worked for Baker Printing since December. She was quick to offer kind words about the warm environment.

“I worked at a Chick-Fil-A before I moved here, so the Christian environment has definitely been amazing! My future father-in-law works here and that is how I learned about this job. I started working part-time during the holidays, but I loved the environment and they loved me too. Thankfully they gave me a full time position. This was an answer to prayer because I was came here with no Louisiana experience at all. Since then, I’ve been getting closer to everyone.”


Catalina Wilkinsonhas worked at Baker Printing for 29 years.

“This is like my second family. I came here after I got divorced, and it was the best move I ever made. I’m from Baker, and it’s like coming home.”


May 2018, Witness at Work

Founders Forum

Founders Forum

Juban Insurance was an early supporter of Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine. Company president, Phillip Juban says when he saw the opportunity to support the magazine, he agreed right away. He believes that when you dedicate your work to Christ, He gets involved with every decision. He becomes the chairman of your board. And He gets the glory!

The Power of Faith…
“As a follower of Christ, my faith affects my relationships, my attitude and my decisions both in my personal life and in my business. My attitude has to be that of a servant. I must remember that no matter what my position, there is always someone over me in the chain of command. I’m not alone in my decisions. God has a much higher perspective than I do. He planned every day of my life and of this agency long before I was born …

When One Door Closes …
The insurance industry is actually a second career for me. My first career was in a family construction and retail lumber business that my dad started in 1946 when he returned from the war. The business was successful until the recession of the late 1980s and early 1990s. At the time it closed its doors I was president of the company, so I took the closure very personally. I asked the Lord to lead me in the right direction and he led me to the insurance business. Dudley May, a close friend, gave me an opportunity that I will always be grateful for. Since then, God has blessed me with a wonderful staff and has provided me with close personal friends who have advised me and held me accountable.

The Desire to do More…
I’ve come to understand that God wants us to use the specific talents he’s given us. Otherwise, why do we have them? I recall reading the biography of R.G. LeTourneau, a noted Christian businessman and philanthropist who exemplified what a Christian businessman should be. Although he dropped out of school at age 14, he had a tremendous ability to invent and build road construction equipment that others had never thought of before. By 1919, his business had grown to be very successful. But as a Christian, he felt the desire to do more for God.

In Partnership with God… 
LeTourneau believed that anyone who was wholly committed to Christ had to become a pastor or a missionary to fulfill his purpose. After deep prayer with his pastor, he was shocked to hear the words that guided him for the rest of his life. “God needs businessmen too.” This was a revelation and LeTourneau immediately began to consider his business to be a partnership with God. His company continued to grow and allowed him to found LeTourneau University along with many other Christian causes throughout the world.

Still a Child of God…
Although I have been a believer for more than 50 years, I am still a child in God’s sight. I don’t think there is any such thing as a mature Christian. I stumble, I fail, I make mistakes and yet my heavenly Father comforts me and says, “Let me help you, son.” Isn’t that what a dad is supposed to do?” Again and again, God shows me His incomparable love.”

Juban Insurance is located at 4319 Bluebonnet Blvd. For information, call (225) 291-0405 or visit the website at jubaninsurance.com.

February 2018, Witness at Work

Faith Can Be a Key to Success

Faith can be a Key to Success

by Lisa Tramontana

Jeffrey Welsh and Carol Poche formed their business in 2006.

It’s funny how you can look at something for weeks, months, even years … and not really see it. Jeffrey Welsh experienced this years ago when he was trying to decide which direction his life and career would take. Speaking with a pastor about his search for a meaningful ministry, the pastor pointed out that Jeffrey had already found it. In fact, it was right there in plain sight if he only cared to look. But we’ll get to that later.

Jeffrey and his partner Carol Poche are leaders of The Keyfinders Team at Keller Williams Realty. They might spend their workdays in the real estate world, but their careers are founded on a commitment to serving God. They believe their shared faith is what brought them together professionally.

Carol joined Keller Williams Realty in 2002 after 16 years operating Mamacita’s Restaurant with her husband. A year later, Welsh brought his property management company to KW and began to focus on the sales side of real estate. He and Carol became friends right away and their friendship deepened when they worked closely together after Hurricane Katrina, helping a wave of New Orleanians find homes in Baton Rouge.

Not many people know it, but Keller Williams Realty International, founded in 1990, is based on Christian principles. The company’s belief system is God, Family, Business – building careers worth having, lives worth living, businesses worth owning, and legacies worth leaving.

It’s this kind of philosophy that helps people see a company or business in a new light. The real estate field wouldn’t seem to have any Biblical connection, but Jeffrey disagrees. “I’d say that the

The key in the company logo creates the shape of a white cross.

first real estate transaction was when God gave Adam and Eve the Garden of Eden and told them to tend to it.”

In any case, Jeffrey and Carol formed The Keyfinders Team in 2006 with the support and encouragement of their spouses Pam Welsh and Gerry Poche. Since then, the two have become top producers in their market, averaging 100 transactions per year. Best of all, their team has become a family affair with 10 employees, many of them spouses, grown children and in-laws.

Quite simply, they have formed a “marketplace ministry.” The term describes a belief that one’s work IS one’s ministry, that every profession provides opportunities to practice evangelism, help others, and spread the Gospel. Although Jeffrey has long been familiar with the term, it took a pastor friend’s insight to really make it come alive.

Although he was practicing his faith and finding success in his work, Jeffrey wanted to do something more meaningful with his life. “I began feeling called to the ministry,” he said. “And one day, I was having lunch with Pastor Larry Norman asking for his guidance. When we got back to my office, he looked at my sign and said, ‘Jeffrey, this business is your ministry. The proof is right here.’”

Before coming to Baton Rouge, Jeffrey had worked with his mother at the property management company she founded in the 1980s. She had also designed the company logo which featured a red key. When Jeffrey looked closely at the key, he could clearly see the shape of a white cross in the design.

“All those years, I had never seen that cross,” he said. “I took it as a sign, and I started to seek God on a different level. I was fired up.”

Carol and Jeffrey look for opportunities to connect with their clients on a deeper (spiritual) level. “In this business, you often find yourself sitting at people’s kitchen tables talking about the changes in their lives or the losses they’ve suffered,” said Jeffrey. “It gives us the chance to minister to them, to be peaceful and patient as they share their feelings, and to offer them our friendship.”

Carol agrees. “It’s such an honor to play a role in bringing a young family to a new home where they will welcome their firstborn, celebrate holidays, and live life to the fullest,” she said. “It’s a gift to us, and one that we treasure. Every sale is so much more than that. It’s a family we are serving and a life we are enriching.”

The Keyfinders Team

Admin./Exec. Assistant Jillian Argrave

Buyer Specialist Stephanie Pierce

Buyer Specialist Bryan House

Buyer Specialist Neal Francois

Buyer Specialist Claire David

Transaction Coordinator Gerry Poche

Buyer Specialist Brandon Baird

Buyer Specialist Laura Obier

Baton Rouge Christian Life MAGAZINE


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December 2017, Witness at Work

Nicholas Valluzzo The Power of the Personal Touch

Nicholas Valluzzo

The Power of the Personal Touch

by Susan Brown

“When you think about leadership and Christian values, it starts with understanding your relationship with God and having faith in him to lead you in the right direction when you’re dealing with people.”

Valluzzo, with wife Rebecca, says family is his life and passion, and cites a strong family as key to his own success. Their son, Carson, is five years old and daughter, Jane, is age two.

Life is full of coachable moments, according to Nicholas Valluzzo, vice president of Valluzzo Companies, the family-run business that owns 50 McDonald’s restaurants in Louisiana and Mississippi. “I’m always on the lookout for how we can directly impact society,” he said. “Are you making that customer’s day better, whether they recognize it or not? You’ve got that opportunity to change the trajectory of the day.”

It’s a set of values he and his brother, Michael, and sister, Christina, learned from their father, John Valluzzo. He hopes to pass along those principles to his children, five-year-old Carson and two-year-old Jane. “My dad always preached, ‘Speak your mind, don’t do things because I’m doing them, go where your heart’s going, do what God’s telling you,’” Nick Valluzzo said. That includes valuing people, investing in them and working wholeheartedly at everything they do.

Valluzzo emphasizes hospitality among employees and customers. “You’ve got an opportunity within ten seconds to make that customer really, really happy and make an impact on their life. That’s our goal.”

At age 14, Nick worked the counter at the McDonald’s on Jones Creek Road. “It was my dad’s first restaurant. That was my training ground,” Valluzzo said. It is one of five restaurants Nicholas now owns. After attending St. Thomas More, he graduated from Catholic High where he played baseball and football. He continued his baseball career at the University of Southern Mississippi. At Catholic High, the team wore Philippians 4:13 on players’ t-shirts, a verse that continues to guide Valluzzo: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

“There was not a better saying for me at that time, or any time,” Valluzzo said. “You shouldn’t have fear because you know God is walking right behind you. That should give you the next step forward.”

“I was raised in a strong Catholic family,” Valluzzo said. “I think a good, strong household was key. God was very present in our lives. Every single Sunday we were in church. Currently, I’m at First Presbyterian. We got married there in 2011, so we both joined that church and really enjoyed the whole aspect of what our pastor, Gerrit Dawson, gives us.” Valluzzo said he thrives on a men’s Bible study that meets at 7:00 every Thursday morning.

“There was a period of time in my life from my senior year in high school into college where there were so many opportunities to be distracted. I really let that take over my youthfulness. I don’t want to say I left the church, because I never left God. Then one day, when I met my wife [Rebecca], she brought me back. She brought that holistic view of God as the center point of everything we do. I thank her every day for it – without her knowing – but I do,” he said. “Rebecca and the children are my life and passion.”

He takes a life lesson from Jesus who connected personally and profoundly in order to coach the people around him. “I think not only as a business leader but as a Christian it’s your duty to pass that candle-torch to the next person,” Valluzzo said. Part of that commitment is meeting all of their employees. 

“Sometimes they need guidance. Sometimes they need not only God but a kind of adult in their life. They need someone who will tell them, ‘Shake my hand, tell me hello, look me in the eyes.’” he said. “I’m a millennial. It’s an interesting dynamic. I sit back reflecting on myself and I understand; I get it.”

“My brother and I never want to be behind a curtain or behind a screen,” he said. “We’re not going to hide behind phones.” That includes a personal no-texting strategy. “We’re out there in our restaurants; we’re out there in the community. And if you live by the example God gives us, the Ten Commandments, you understand your God and His mission. We’re two brothers who are two years apart, so we have our good times and we have our challenging times, but it’s never not fixed. We believe you can’t go to sleep mad.

“I try to stay focused on, ‘What would Jesus do?’ How are we going to get from the opportunity to the positive side?” He uses the iconic burger as a model for building people up through positive coaching. The top layer of the “meat sandwich” represents the good you see in people. The “meat” is the opportunity to improve. “You end on a positive – how are we going to get from the opportunity to the positive side? We help create the plan.”

“We try to take a deep dive into everything we do. Our philanthropy look is not related to budget. If we’re passionate about something – looking at it from a mission statement from God to how it directly affects people – we sit down and have a good conversation about it. There are some things that we do for philanthropy personally and some things that we do through the business.”

Their commitments include “Dreams Come True,” an organization that meets the wishes of children who are terminally ill. They also support veterans, the Tiger Athletic Foundation and Junior Achievement, among others.

“What’s more important than investing time in the future?” Valluzzo said. Their Vision 2020 will bring a new look and a new level of service to McDonald’s. “Everything’s going to be modernized by the end of 2019. You’ll see kiosks inside where you’ll be able to touch and make your own burger. It’s really neat.” 

“Within this experience we really take a hard look at hospitality. So, you’re no longer going to be greeted by somebody behind a counter. You’re going to be greeted by somebody in the lobby. It’s a culture change for our people and also a culture change for our customers. We’ve launched it in a couple of restaurants already, and it’s been a phenomenal success.”

Valluzzo believes that lessons in hospitality – diminishing barriers – apply to the community, as well. “I love Baton Rouge. I wouldn’t change where I live for anything. At some point, we have to get past the hate. I pray for it every day,” he said. “We’ve got to get behind each other and stick our nose right in the middle of it and go talk it out. As long as you’re shedding that light and have faith in what God’s doing, I think we’ll be in a far better place than we were yesterday. I have faith that God is going to lead us down the right path.”

Susan Brown600

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.

Baton Rouge Christian Life MAGAZINE


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November 2017, Witness at Work

Positively Powerful Earl Heard’s “meaningful media” inspires and uplifts


Earl and Bodi Heard celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year.

Positively Powerful

Earl Heard’s ‘meaningful media’ inspires and uplifts

by Lisa Tramontana

Earl Heard vividly recalls the moment his priorities changed. It was August of 1997 and he was on one of his many business visits to Houston when he was carjacked at gunpoint and beaten into unconsciousness. He remembers believing that every breath he took would be his last. “My first thoughts were of God and my family,” he said. “I feared I would die before I got help, and as I went in and out of consciousness and eventually made it to the hospital, I kept promising God that if he would spare me, I’d devote the rest of my life to being a better Christian and to sharing his message of love and forgiveness with others.”

Heard made good on his promise immediately and in 2005, founded BIC Media Solutions, a company that produces “meaningful media,” including books, films and speaking events that help people find peace, happiness and success. If anyone knows about the search for those elusive virtues, it’s Heard, whose 50-year entrepreneurial career has been filled with more ups and downs than most people can imagine.

He began his career with Ethyl Corp. as an operator in 1965, and left in 1980 to launch a training video production company. Unfortunately, the company folded in just two years, and nearing the age of 40, Earl found himself starting all over again. He founded Business & Industry Communications (BIC) Alliance in 1984, but it was a struggle to make the company a success. He admits that the 1980s were a time of great hardship for himself, his wife Bodi and their daughter Dane. In his book It’s What We Do Together That Counts , Heard describes the difficulties he has faced – crushing debt, family problems, career setbacks, the death of loved ones, physical stress, a business partner issue, tax problems, and insults from others who belittled his ideas and doubted his ability to overcome adversity. “But in the end,” he says, “all of those things made me more determined and brought me closer to God and my family.”

BIC Media Solutions has produced 3 feature films.

Indeed, Heard can rest easy these days. At 75, he and Bodi now have three grandchildren and celebrated their 50th anniversary on Valentine’s Day this year. Their son-in-law Thomas Brinsko is at the helm of Heard’s multi-faceted business BIC Alliance (which includes BIC Magazine), IVS Investment Banking, and BIC Media Solutions. The Heards are grateful that they now have more time to dedicate to family and worthy causes in the community.

Best of all, Heard can focus on the “meaningful media” branch of his company, which continues to grow. BMS has published 10 books and three films, all with messages of hope and inspiration. In the last few years, Heard has especially enjoyed the filmmaking aspect of the company.

Rock Bottom and Back – From celebrities to ordinary people, this film chronicles the personal stories of people who have overcome remarkable adversity – abuse, drugs, alcoholism, etc. – and are now giving back to society and living Christian lives.

A Gift Horse – Torn apart by the loss of her mother, Amanda spends time at a ranch where she develops a special bond with an unloved and rejected horse named Misty. Amanda turns Misty into a true champion and restores her own happiness in the process.

Urban Country – A troubled young girl decides to move to her family-owned horse ranch in a small town and care for her dying mother. The trailer is complete and the film will be released in coming months.

BMS projects not only spread a positive message, but they are partly produced with local talent, including scriptwriters, authors, filmmakers and production assistants. Heard says he is also proud of the partnership between BMS and New Orleans Mission, which provides food, shelter and spiritual guidance to the homeless in New Orleans, and in a new program, is giving them opportunities to train for film production work.

In everything he does, Heard looks for ways to help others, focus on the positive, and be a better person. In fact, that’s the topic of his most recent video, Becoming a Better Person , which can be viewed online at BicMediaSolutions.com.

“I really believe happiness is a choice,” Heard said. “And I think most people want to be happy and make others happy as well. This begins by becoming a better person. How? First, you have to make that decision and commit to it. Second, you have to list all the things you need to change in your life. Third, you have to clean house. Get rid of temptations. Sometimes, it even means letting friends go. If they are pulling you down, they shouldn’t be in your life.”

Being a better person also means looking for ways to be of service and help to others. “If you have hit ‘rock bottom’ and you’ve been able to lift yourself up, that’s a great joy,” Heard said. “But if you can help another person do the same, it’s an even greater joy!”

The time to make changes in your life is sooner, rather than later. After all, no one knows how much time he has …

“Train yourself to always think about God and family first and foremost,” Heard said. “We are all going to leave a legacy … after we are gone, we will be measured by what we did to make the world a better place.”

For more information about the BIC Alliance companies, including BIC Media Solutions, check out BICMagazine.com, BICMediaSolutions.com, or call (800) 460-4242.

BIC Media Solutions has published 10 books and 3 films since it was founded in 2005.

JULY 2015

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August 2017, Witness at Work

Serving Faith, Friendship and Soul Food


Serving Faith, Friendship and Soul Food

by Lisa tramontana

On Sunday mornings, starting at about 7 a.m., Angie Stewart-Chapman is cooking up a storm at her Cortana Mall restaurant, hoping to greet a large lunch crowd on their way home after church services. “My prayer is that after they receive spiritual nourishment at their places of worship, they will come here for physical nourishment and break bread with their families and friends.”

Angie Stewart-Chapman specializes in old-fashioned home-style cooking at the Café in Cortana Mall.

To that end, she offers a Soul Food Sunday Dinner special every week at her business, called simply The Café. The small restaurant is a lifelong dream come true and she credits God for making it happen. “God gave me favor,” she said.

The Café serves the kind of old-fashioned home cooking that Stewart-Chapman cooked for her family when she was growing up. “I remember being 5 years old and baking biscuits with my mother in the kitchen early in the morning,” she said. As a young girl, her cooking abilities grew to include southern fried chicken, jambalaya, red beans and rice, fried fish, cabbage, rice and gravy, smothered pork chops, mustard greens and more. By the time she was a teenager, she could cook just about anything.

Cooking with her mother is a happy memory, but it didn’t last forever. During her teenage years, her mother left the family and Stewart-Chapman found herself caring for her two younger siblings and her grandfather. She worked two jobs to help support them, while still in high school — delivering pizzas in the evenings and stocking shelves in the middle of the night at a grocery store. Somehow, she graduated from high school and even went to college for a short time. But in a life filled with ups and down, there was more struggle to come.

By the age of 31, she was a single mother with two toddlers, living in a homeless shelter, and dependent upon food stamps for her survival. But she knew it would be temporary. The staff at the shelter led group sessions in which the residents talked about their hopes and dreams, and Stewart’s honesty was met with sarcastic remarks. “When I told them I wanted to have my own restaurant or catering business someday, the other women laughed and mocked me. ‘Oh really? How’re you gonna do that? Where are you

Stewart-Chapman is usually cooking by 7 a.m. each day.

gonna get the money?’ But I was willing to work hard and I knew in my heart that things would get better.”

One day, she decided to stop accepting the food stamps. “I thought to myself, ‘I’m living a good life. The Bible says that God will provide ‘seed to the sower and increase his harvest’ so I’m going to put my faith in that. The Bible also says ‘I have been young and now am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or His children begging bread.’ If I was accepting food stamps, I was begging bread and I didn’t want to do that anymore. I prayed on these scriptures and I believed in them.”

Not long after, she was able to rent a stall at the flea market on Florida Boulevard and began selling plate lunches three days a week. It wasn’t the restaurant she dreamed of … but it was a start.

By 2013, she was able to open The Café in the Cortana food court. She serves daily lunch and dinner, and with the help of her 7 employees, delivers additional lunches to employees at the local chemical plants. She also caters special events for the National Guard, the Army Reserve and local businesses. (She also operates a second store, Decadent Creations, next door to The Café.)

On a recent weekday, the Café’s entrees included fried chicken, barbecued ribs, fried fish and shrimp etouffee.

Stewart-Chapman’s cooking skills provided her with not just a livelihood, but with a ministry as well. On delivery runs, she always takes a few extra plates and hands them out to the homeless or anyone who looks like they might appreciate a good meal. At The Café, she enjoys connecting and visiting with her customers. More than once, she’s been told that she has a “glow.” “That’s my open door,” she said, “to share my faith.”

“God has truly blessed me,” she said. “And one of the things I make sure to do is tithe. Ten percent of everything goes to my church so I can do my part to thank God and to help other people.”

Though her children are grown now and she is remarried, Stewart-Chapman is still juggling work with parenting. For the last four years, she has fostered a young boy whose mother is struggling with drugs and other personal problems. During our interview, it’s her sister Saundra Stewart who shares this information.

“She won’t tell you about that,” said Saundra, “but I think people should know just how much she cares about other people … how hard she works to take care of everyone around her. I don’t know what would have happened to our family if it hadn’t been for Angie working so hard to keep us all together.” (The siblings have since reunited with their mother.)

Stewart-Chapman practices her faith at Full Gospel United Pentecostal Church, and has advice for Christians who occasionally struggle with their beliefs. “I pray,” she said. “Every morning when I come in to cook, I start with a prayer. And throughout the day, I look at other people to remind myself of all the blessings I have. And I don’t complain … because I know that my life is full.”

“When I told them I wanted to have my own restaurant or catering business someday, the other women laughed and mocked me. ‘Oh really? How’re you gonna do that? Where are you gonna get the money?’ But I was willing to work hard and I knew in my heart that things would get better.”

Lunch rush is always a busy time.

Soul Food Sunday Dinner Special Every Sunday, 11:45 a.m.-5:15 p.m. the Café at Cortana Mall (entrance 4) Buy 4 plates and get a 5th for free.

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June 2017, Witness at Work

Remodeling Business driven by Desire to Help Elderly


Remodeling Business

driven by desire

to help elderly

Danny and Brenda Leblanc bring a lot of experience and wisdom to their work. Aside from their large family and their Christian faith, they own eZ Baths, a company that specializes in customized bathroom remodeling, including walk-in tubs for those with mobility challenges.

Danny is a pastor at heart and worked as a hospice chaplain for many years. In his work, he cared for many elderly patients and was keenly aware of their needs, both physical and spiritual. He also counseled family members as part of his job.

In 2012, he was ready for a change, and he and Brenda decided to start their own company. “The walk-in tubs and bathroom renovation was an idea that evolved from my work with the elderly,” Danny said. “Losing mobility is a life-changing issue for the patient and the family. They worry about falling down and getting hurt. They fear that they’ll have to go to a nursing home or assisted living. It’s an emotional issue for everyone.”

The Leblancs decided on a bathroom remodeling company, but there was no name yet. “And one day, I was riding down the road, and the Holy Spirit just dropped the name into my head,” Danny said. “EZ Baths. I went home, did some research, and found that the name was available, so I bought the rights and we started making plans for the new company.”

Brenda is the chief financial officer, handling accounting, finance and payroll for the company’s 11 employees. As Christian business owners, the Leblancs pride themselves on integrity, honesty and fair pricing for their products and services. They never pressure customers to make a purchase and they listen to their customers to determine their needs and present affordable options.


Walk-in tubs are appropriate for seniors, the disabled, and the handicapped. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls occur in the bathroom more than any other room in the home, and about 2/3 of all bathroom injuries happen near the tub or shower – usually when stepping over the tub wall or slipping on a wet floor. These type of accidents increase after the age of 65 when eyesight starts to fade and many people have less mobility and balance.

“At the end of the day, I like to keep everything in the right perspective,” said Brenda. “The most important thing in business is the relationships that you have with people. Loving people and focusing on the love and grace God has shown me, helps me give that back to others … employees and customers.”

Many homeowners have less than perfect experiences with remodelers, but the Leblancs pride themselves on their commitment to quality and excellence.

Their tubs are Americanmade, high-quality, and come with a lifetime warranty. EZ Baths will send a representative to the customer’s home, present several options, go over pricing, and then let the customer make up his/her mind about which services and products are best for their family.

Some renovations can be done in just one day with minimal disruption, and all work is completed by expert installers. EZ Baths also offers bath wall surrounds, bath accessories, replacement tubs, spas and whirlpool tubs. The company is licensed and insured. Reliable service and honest business dealings are second-nature when your business is guided by Christian principles. But like anything else, faith takes work.

Reliable service and honest business dealings are second-nature when your business is guided by Christian principles. But like anything else, faith takes work.

“To keep my faith strong, I stay connected to the Word and to my church family,” said Brenda. “Danny and I teach a home group together and I teach a ladies’ group. That connection to the local church always encourages and strengthens me.”

Danny agrees, and he has advice for those who struggle in their faith. “I think it comes down to a simple principle – go back,” Danny said. “The story of the prodigal son is not a story for unbelievers, but believers. When a believer finds himself struggling, our Heavenly Father waits for them to come back to Him. When we pray, His presence gives us peace in the struggle.”

EZ Baths is located at 12504 S. Choctaw Drive in Baton Rouge. For details on their services, call (225) 400-5444.

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June 2017, Witness at Work

On the Cuban Mission Field


Joe Juban, Philip Juban, and Tom Harrison

On the Cuban Mission Field

Philip and Joe Juban bring the promise of Christ to those in an irreligious nation

by Trapper S. Kinchen
photos provided by Philip and Joe Juban

The world is a vast place, and the spaces between cultures can seem incredibly wide. Yet, across the gap, stretches a hope strong enough to unite every race, tongue, and nation – the promise of salvation through Jesus Christ. That unification is made possible by the faith of those who humbly answer God’s calling and share the Gospel.

Dr. Tom Harrison is the executive pastor at Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, and the Lord has given him a passion for mission work. Recently, he led a trip to Cuba— one of many he sponsors throughout the year—and was accompanied by two Baton Rouge brothers, Philip and Joe Juban. Their objective was to provide financial and material aid to the Havana Baptist Theological Seminary, located in the heart of Cuba’s capital city. Harrison said, “Our goal was to take resources to help raise the educational level at the seminary, so they can get the Gospel out.”

The Havana Baptist Theological Seminary is the oldest Evangelical institution in Cuba. Dr. Moses Nathanael McCall, an American missionary from the Southern Baptist Convention, founded it in 1906. The school’s main building was built in the 1950s, and was designed to accommodate 40 seminarians. Now, there are around 300 students enrolled at the Havana campus, and resources are stretched to maximum capacity.

The Cuban Communist Party is formally atheistic and discourages all forms of organized religion. So, in the decades since the revolution, the once staunchly Catholic island is now mostly irreligious.

Colorful old, cars for tourists to admire.

Despite financial limitations, the school’s mission has remained steady for over a century: to provide people with a strong Biblical education and the spiritual foundation to effectively spread the Gospel. In total, Marrero is responsible for more than 500 students and 70 professors. Funded in part by donations from American Christians, the seminary is constantly

The seminary’s president, Barbaro Abel Marrero, said, “We cannot have all the students on campus at the same time. We have to teach a group Monday-Tuesday and another group Wednesday-Friday. Also, we can only provide lodging for students who live outside Havana and its surrounding areas.”

View of Havana from the seminary rooftop.

growing. It has even expanded beyond Havana, and operates eight campus extensions in the western provinces of Cuba.

Havana is one of the oldest cities in the Americas, founded in 1515 under the crown of Queen Joanna of Castile. It served for nearly 400 years as the unofficial administrative seat of Spain’s American Empire. Once famous for its intricate Iberian architecture and colorful cityscape, most of the capital’s impressive buildings have badly deteriorated since the communist revolution of the 1950s.

A building in the city.

The political upheaval that accompanied the revolution took a deep and lasting toll on Cuba’s Christian population. Fidel Castro seized leadership in 1959, after overthrowing the island’s democratically elected government. According to Harrison, “When Castro came to power, he put every religious leader in prison for seven years.”

After the 60s, the Cuban government prohibited American mission work on the island—in effect, establishing a religious embargo that lasted deep into the 20th century. As a result, many Cuban churches wound up shutting their doors. Marrero said, “Since the 60s, we have struggled in many ways, but the Lord has always provided miraculously.”

For the 68 percent of Cubans unfamiliar with Christ, the Havana Baptist Theological Seminary exists as a critical spiritual lifeline. However, it is still difficult to minister in Cuba. According to Harrison, sharing the Gospel outside the four walls of a church is outlawed. He said, “You are not allowed to evangelize in the streets. It’s illegal.”

The Cuban Communist Party is formally atheistic and discourages all forms of organized religion. So, in the decades since the revolution, the once staunchly Catholic island is now mostly irreligious. In fact, according to a 2015 article in The Washington Post, 44 percent of Cubans identify as unreligious, 27 percent as Catholic, 13 percent as Santeria or Order of Osha (a religious combination of Catholicism and pagan ritualism), 2 percent as protestant, 2 percent as something else, and 9 percent gave no answer.

Sadly, Cuba is also economically underdeveloped. According to the World Bank, the average Cuban can expect to earn less than $8,000 per year. That’s $21,000 less than the average American brings home. As a result, most Cubans struggle to maintain suitable housing and depend on the Communist Party for even basic essentials. According to Harrison, “They live on allotments. They have egg, bread, potato, and meat lines where people wait to have food distributed to them by the government.”

During his visit, Joe Juban took close notice of the poor living conditions in Havana. He said, “I’d stand up on the roof of our hotel and look out. There was a building across the street, and you could see where people were living on the rooftop.  They had a tent set up, and there was cooking paraphernalia. That’s how those people lived.”

Marrero and his team, like the rest of Cuba, are forced to make the best out of a tough political situation. They provide for their students as well as they can, relying on donations from missionaries like Harrison. Even though circumstances might seem bleak, the students and staff at the Havana Baptist Theological Seminary are filled with the joy of the Lord. Joe Juban said, “They are incredibly resourceful and full of energy. They love the Lord, smile all the time, and they all have such a joy to be there.”

Philip Juban was astounded by the passion the native Cubans have for sharing the love of Jesus with their countrymen. He said, “They are so anxious to get out there and start spreading the Gospel. It’s exciting that  the school is training indigenous people to go out and spread the Word.”

According to the CIA’s field listing on international literacy, 99.8% of Cubans can read and write. Therefore, even basic access to a Spanish Bible can promote a wider understanding of the Word and potentially lead people to Christ. But, like everything else on the island, Bibles are expensive and in short supply.

The American dollar goes a long way in Cuba. The amount of good that can be done through simple donations is remarkable. Joe Juban said, “$350 a year will educate somebody at the seminary. So, if you give $350 a month, you’ve just educated twelve students for the year. That’s just one quick example.”

For Philip Juban, educating people back home about the importance of international mission work is a priority. He believes if more people knew how to contribute, places like the Havana Baptist Theological Seminary could really prosper. He said, “We don’t realize how much our dollar can do down there. It’s left up to us to educate people at home about how they can help.”

The Juban brothers’ experiences on the Cuban mission field had a powerful effect on their individual perspectives. Both men returned

Tom Harrison with seminary president Barbaro Abel Marrero and travelers from Shreveport’s Broadmoor Baptist Church.

home with a renewed since of humility and appreciation. Philip said, “As Americans, if we don’t have a good meal, we’re unhappy. For Cubans, they expect nothing, but they’ve got a smile on their face. All because they’ve got the Lord.”

Harrison thinks everyone could benefit from participating in mission work, and he’s hopeful more people will get involved in places like Cuba. His organization, Tom Harrison Pastoral Ministries, fuels missions in China and Mexico, as well as the seminary in Havana. Wherever the need is greatest, that’s where they provide aid. Harrison said, “God has given us the opportunity to get into strategic places where there’s a desperate need for ministry.”

Sadly, Cuba is also economically underdeveloped. According to the World Bank, the average Cuban can expect to earn less than $8,000 per year. Most Cubans struggle to maintain suitable housing and depend on the Communist Party for even basic essentials. They live on allotments. They have egg, bread, potato, and meat lines where people wait to have food distributed to them by the government.

If you feel led to join Harrison on a mission trip or contribute financially to his ministry, contact him at (318) 469-4181 or send an email to tomh@broadmoor.tv. You can also mail a donation to Tom Harrison Pastoral Ministries at P.O. Box 5104, Shreveport, LA 71135. There are no administrative costs, and all donations are put to direct use through mission work.

So often, the mission field is something from which we feel completely detached. It exists somewhere else, across an ocean, out of sight. But the Lord has called each of us to do our part in sharing His love with the world. We are responsible for taking a look deep within ourselves, listening to God’s calling, and acting accordingly. If you’ll do that, there’s no telling how great an impact you can have on the Kingdom of God.

World map in the chapel at the seminary, depicting their vision of the gospel going out to all the world from Cuba

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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February 2017, Witness at Work

Eric Lane: Arms Wide Open

Eric Lane:  Arms Wide Open

Story by Sharon Furrate Bailey

IMG_6114 2
Eric Lane, President of Gerry Lane Enterprises, began his career in the car business alongside his dad 31 years ago. Eric’s father, Gerry Lane, who began selling cars in 1966, left quite a legacy in Baton Rouge. One piece of wisdom he left Eric was to always do the right thing.
In his early teens and 20s, he played AA baseball, had a steady girlfriend, drove a Corvette, and many other things filled his life. Yet he said he still felt a deep emptiness inside. To outsiders, Eric appeared to be on top of the world, but inside, he says he still felt the notoriety was simply not enough.
He remembers sharing with his parents while at a baseball tournament that he was tired of being a hypocrite. He knocked on their door and told them he decided to truly follow Jesus. On June 7, 1985 in Jackson, Miss., Eric dedicated his life to Christ. Although his parents baptized him and he was raised in the church, it was during this time in Jackson that he experienced a deep conviction to walk in the love and mercy of Christ.
In 2009, Eric faced numerous trials. He said that his life for the most part up to that point had been easy, however during that time he learned much about the Lord’s provision.
The scripture that comes to mind when hearing Eric speak about his faith as it stands today having come through the other side of the storm in 2009, is from Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” Additionally, Matthew 19:26 appropriately aligns with his choosing to surrender the circumstances to God, “But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”
Q: Would you please share some defining moments in your life that helped shape you into the believer you are today?
A: While I accepted Christ in 1985, one thing people may find interesting is that I have been baptized four times. My parents baptized me as a baby in the Episcopal church that we attended on Sundays. My uncle Bud, a man that I respected very much, attended the Church of Christ and I got baptized again there, really to give him peace of mind. Later, after I was married and we had children, I joined Istrouma Baptist Church and was baptized there. It took me a while to join a church because I just wanted to be known as a Christian and not be defined by any particular denomination. Then, in 2011, my brother David arranged a trip to the Holy Land with Mike Huckabee, and during that trip I was baptized in the Jordan River.
As a believer, this was the ultimate experience. It was a defining moment that I will always remember. In addition, it was awesome to see the places I’d read about in the Bible like the Mount of Olives, the Dead Sea and the Gates of Hell – which I learned is an actual place where the Temple of Pan is located. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the Gates of Hell cannot stand against it.” This scripture has a new meaning to me having learned that the Gates of Hell is an actual place.
Q: The year 1985 when you were still playing baseball seems to have been a significant year for you. Could you please share what affected you that year?
A: I was playing baseball that year, and was rooming with two of my teammates, Todd and Tommy. During the off-season, Tommy moved to Dallas. He did not know anyone there, he was working an unsatisfying job, and his fiancé dumped him. He became downtrodden and was in a dark place, but when Tommy returned to spring training, he was carrying a Bible and talking about Jesus. Most people were running from Tommy, but I considered him a friend and could not shun him.
We ended up being roommates again, which turned out to be a good thing! When I would leave our RV (we were living in it), Tommy would take my rock music out of the cassette player and put in one of his Christian tapes. When I would come back in, Christian praise music was playing. Although it started out as a joke between the two of us, it fed my spirit so much that I eventually decided to chunk all of my rock music tapes and began purchasing Amy Grant and David Meese tapes. I had more joy than I had ever felt in my life during this time of growth in my spiritual life.
My brother encouraged me to go and get “The Survival Kit for New Christians,” by Ralph W. Neighbour. He encouraged me to start doing a daily quiet time, which truly helped get me grounded. I started with five minutes of quiet time, and it took time to increase my time in the morning with the Lord, but today, I spend 30 minutes. I have a system in which I get up in the morning and I think about what I did for Jesus yesterday – then I write it down. This system helps me stay accountable and keeps me on the lookout for opportunities to serve Jesus. I start by reading the Bible, and then I read three daily devotions: Men of Integrity (the Promise Keepers version that speaks to specifically to men), A Closer Walk Ministries, and then a generic one that I like. I meditate on what I read, and then I thank Jesus for all the things in my life and I pray for forgiveness and then for people that have prayer requests known to me.
Q:  2009 was a difficult year in your life that truly made you depend on Christ. Please share what happened and how it shaped you:
A: Jesus broke me. It was a traumatic year in several areas of my life, and it was the perfect storm that made me surrender to Jesus completely. I literally lifted my arms up to the Lord and said, ‘God, take over, you do it. I cannot handle all of these trials.’ My two biggest lenders went bankrupt, we lost four out of eight of our franchises, and we had just spent $10 million building our new dealership that featured Hummer, Saturn and Saab, which General Motors did away with. All of my franchises in Baton Rouge were gone, my dad had cancer and was suffering from dementia, my son tore his shoulder in baseball and had to have major surgery. Everything seemed to be crumbling around me.
Out of the blue, General Motors gave us Cadillac to replace Hummer, and Mitsubishi replaced Saturn, and we did not have to pay for it. I could literally see the hand of God moving and restoring things bit by bit. My dad began recovering in January 2010, and we discovered that his medicines were messing with his mind and needed to be adjusted. He became cognizant again following the adjustments — it was truly miraculous.
Q: How did those trials affect you personally, especially at home?
A: Well, I can say I was not a nice guy to live with at the time due to the stressors. My wife and I were fighting all the time, but things began healing in January 2010 on New Year’s Day. My wife agreed to have my dad move in with us, which was truly a sacrifice on her part and a selfless move, because my dad was still struggling with dementia issues. He was getting up in the middle of the night and needed constant care. During his stay with us he truly got to know my wife, and it allowed me to tuck him into bed at night. He was not a man who asked for help, but he needed our help, so we came together and gave him the care he needed. He became lucid again thanks to Dr. Susan Nelson and was able to move out five months later to his home where he lived until he passed away two and half years later.
Q: How is the Holy Spirit active in your life today?
A: Every day I pray to the Holy Spirit to give me answers to daily situations. Most of my life I made impulsive decisions. Now, I ask the Holy Spirit to direct me and to help me be obedient. I started asking for the Holy Spirit’s direction three years ago and honestly, it changed my life. The biggest piece of advice give to any Christian is to be obedient to the Holy Spirit despite what it may look like to others.
For example, some people think I am a bit too generous or different in regards to a decision I made about the two buildings located next to our dealership.
Clint Barry, Pastor of Feed my Sheep church, uses one of the buildings to hold services on Sunday. On the other side, in what used to be the Saab showroom, Ernie Sikes started an Anglican Church. I have had people ask me why I do not charge them rent, but my answer is simple: The Lord told me to allow them to use these buildings for their different ministries.
Q: What would you say to others regarding how we can bring our city together, and to business leaders about Baton Rouge?
A: First, I would say I do not feel that Baton Rouge is divided. It is one of the most giving communities of people, and I have lived all over the country. There are more people willing to help other people here. Recently, with the flood, there were blacks helping whites and vice versa – Baton Rouge people work together. The flood showed the true Baton Rouge. People did not push their own agendas. It is also a wonderful city due to it being the state capital, which brings in lobbyists and many people from out of town. Plus, we have the mighty Mississippi River, which brings business. Our city has some excellent restaurants too, and we all know people love good Southern food and the hospitality of our people. There is so much good. Downtown Baton Rouge and the Mid City area have attracted new businesses, and it has been experiencing continued revitalization throughout the past several years. There is art, music, festivals and many other attractions that keep Baton Rouge on the pulse in a positive way. I am Baton Rouge proud!
Q: What legacy has your father left you personally?
A: My dad always tried to do the right thing. He was half American Indian and never discriminated against anyone. He promoted the first black salesman on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and he placed the first black sales manager in Pascagoula, Miss. He always tried to treat people equally. He may not have spoken openly about his faith, but he was greatly influenced by his mother whose Bible was filled with notes and highlights. He lived out his faith and affected our community positively, and his legacy lives on today.
Eric says he is thankful today for all of his blessings and gets up every morning to give all the glory to God for sustaining Gerry Lane Enterprises, his marriage, and showing him what can happen when one truly lets God control their life.
To learn more about Gerry Lane Enterprises, visit its website, www.gerrylane.com.
November 2016, Witness at Work

There is A Reason to Smile

Mission Trip to Costa Rica

by Sharon Furrate Bailey

img_0584Dr. Farrell Frugé Jr., has been serving the Baton Rouge community as a dentist for 30 years. Farrell met his wife, Karen (a dental hygienist), in 1986 when he was in his 4th year of dentistry school at the LSU School of Dentistry in New Orleans. They are knit together by their faith and family which includes three children – Trey, Erica and Camille.

Recently, he decided to use his expertise in dentistry to help those in dire need by taking a mission trip to Costa Rica. Trey wants to become a dentist, so when Farrell heard about this mission opportunity, he thought it would be a great trip to take and bring his son along on. Dr. Frugé’s wife and daughters also wanted to attend, so the mission trip quickly became a family affair. During their time there, the discoveries they made were ones that surely helped their faith grow even stronger.

So many people in Costa Rica are unaware of the importance of dental care, and Dr. Frugé and his family quickly recognized the great need present. The Frugés travelled to Costa Rica on May 26th and stayed through June 2nd. Farrell and Karen felt that this experience would be life-changing as they exposed their children to the needs in a country where dental care is not as accessible as it is in America. Dental care is not affordable for the average resident, so this mission trip was one in which certain lives were truly touched by receiving proper dental care.

Karen and Camille shared how a young boy who needed serious dental treatment left a real impact on their lives. They were both shocked at what they witnessed in this 2-year-old boy’s mouth, but it also allowed them to educate his parents and other parents on how to properly care for a young child’s teeth. The family was concerned about his discolored teeth and the fact his teeth were decaying at such a young age. The dental team met with the family and uncovered the reason for the decay – the parents were giving their baby a bottle of milk or juice at bedtime in his crib.

img_0617This gave Farrell the opportunity to share that though it may seem like the right thing to do for the child at bedtime, it was actually not the best thing for the child’s teeth because the sugars in the milk or juice pooled in the child’s mouth at night resulting in cavities. Farrell and Karen thought that other parents might be doing the same thing, so they encouraged the pastor of the local church to make an announcement that would help educate parents on the high risk of tooth decay from putting children to bed with any such liquid.

The Frugé family truly grew in their faith by serving those less fortunate, and at the same time they felt love from those they served. During the mission trip, Farrell and his family served the parishioners at the United Methodist Church in La Carpio along with pastor James and his family. Additionally, they served the parishioners at the Platanares Church in Moravia along with pastor Christian and his family. Though the language barrier was challenging at times, it did not take them long to learn a few Spanish words to make their dental treatment a success. In both of the communities they visited, the pastors’ wives cooked and served lunch to the Frugés. “We were so thankful and appreciative of the meals they served our family,” says Farrell. “We knew that they were taking care of us, just as much as we had gone to take care of the families that came to seek dental treatment.”

img_0614As a strong Catholic family, the Frugés have always believed in giving back. Every Sunday they attend mass at St. Thomas More. They have always been active in their home church and Farrell and Karen have led by example to their children in terms of community service and the importance of being connected to others that are less fortunate right here in Baton Rouge. The Frugés cook and serve meals every 3rd Tuesday of the month to the men at St. Vincent de Paul. In addition, each member of the Frugé family has been active in some way at their home church.
Trey and Erica were altar servers from 5th to 12th grade. Their youngest daughter, Camille, continues to altar serve and will be confirmed at St. Thomas More on October 19th. Karen has served as a vacation Bible school teacher and Come, Lord Jesus! leader. Farrell was chairman at our St. Thomas More parish festival. In addition to their church involvement, it is very important to them that they spend time with their extended families. On Sundays, the Frugé family takes up two rows of pews at church including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sunday has always been a special day for the Frugé kids because they get to see other family members and hear God’s word.

img_0574Their bonds with other St. Thomas More families are tight as well. Farrell and Karen believe that their children’s desire to serve began at St. Thomas More School and grew even stronger at St. Thomas More Church. “We have taught our children that it is important to not only ‘give back,’ but ‘to pay forward’ — that is to give to others before there is a need,” says Farrell.

1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. The Frugé family understands what this means and probably even more so after they returned home from serving in Costa Rica — one’s gifts are to be of service to others.

September 2016, Witness at Work

Dr. Roger D. Butner Offers Help and Hope for Families in Crisis

by Sharon Furrate Bailey
Roger, Chemaine and Shep.
Roger, Chemaine and Shep.

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.

IMG_6991Q: 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.

June 2016, Witness at Work

Kelli Knight: Graphic Designer, Author and Mom

What the World Needs Now

by Sharon Furrate Bailey
Kelli Knight, owner of Illuminated Designs Studio. Photo by Tina B. Photos: www.tinabphotos.com
Kelli Knight, owner of Illuminated Designs Studio. Photo by Tina B. Photos: www.tinabphotos.com

Kelli Knight has been a graphic designer for 21 years. She started her graphics business, Illuminated Designs Studio, after serving as the public relations assistant for the American Red Cross in Southeast Louisiana for two years. She worked for the ARC while living in New Orleans, but while out on maternity leave with her son, there were many management changes implemented by a new CEO. The dynamics of the local operations had been reorganized and were no longer a good fit.

Kelli says she felt this was a sign from God that it was time for a new direction. Her husband took a job with LSU and her family moved back to Baton Rouge where she decided to begin her graphic design business. Kelli says that she feels blessed to have each of her clients and to be designing and assisting them daily with their graphics needs because not only has her career allowed her to be creative, but it has also allowed her to be a hands-on mom to her two children, Aidan and Lilli. To her, being a mom is her most cherished job.

Kelli believes what the world needs now is patience and kindness, two attributes that she truly believes have helped her maintain long-lasting relationships with her clients. Through word of mouth she continues to build her clientele, which is partly due to her ability to exude patience to others. When one is dealing with a client’s marketing needs, it is paramount to listen to that person and strive to get the project completed to his or her specifications.

Kelli shared a motto she lives by, “If someone is asking for help, it means that person needs help.” This is the reason that she volunteers her time, and another reason that people are drawn to her both as a friend and designer. Kelli and I have also worked together on graphic design projects over the years and her patience is like a salve to those working with her. She has the ability to soothe and calm clients and make one feel at peace, as well as an uncanny ability to assure clients that all things will work together.

Kelli currently has a number of projects in the works for various clients, some new and some old, but the blessings continue to find her. A little more than one year ago, Beth Townsend, publisher of Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine, found Kelli, and she has been designing the magazine since its inaugural issue.

Kelli is a witness to others and here is her own personal story of faith:

Q: As a Catholic, what do you feel has impacted your life over the years and what makes the Catholic faith so special for you?

A: I was raised in the Catholic faith and there are many things about being Catholic that keep me fulfilled. St. Jude is my parish and the main thing I like about being part of the congregation is the sense of community that it brings to my family and me. Every morning I recite the rosary. I have a strong connection to the Blessed Mother and feel that this meditative time is a positive start to my day. I feel she and her son are watching over my family and me. I attend mass regularly and feel the Liturgy of the Word and homily speak to me differently each week. Mass reminds me of the true purpose of our life, and that is to “serve our neighbor.” The readings remind us to follow Jesus and His divine plan, which makes me reflect on one of my favorite scripture verses:

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20 

I have found this scripture to be one I can depend on when work and life are tough. It reminds me to stay strong in my faith. The intimacy that connects me to Christ is not only found in this verse, but also as I receive the body and blood of Christ through the Eucharist at Mass. After receiving communion, the connection with Him is more intimate. He is in me, with me and beside me, and my faith lets me know without a doubt that all things are possible to those who believe.

Q: As a professional graphic designer, which is a competitive field, to what do you attribute your success, and can you share about some of the clients you assist?

The anniversary edition of Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine designed by Kelli.
The anniversary edition of Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine designed by Kelli.

A: My goal with any client is to give them amazing artwork as well as to build a long-lasting relationship. I do take on clients that may need help with a single project, but my hope is to create a connection. Patience and kindness are two attributes I have heard from others that I extend to my clientele. As long as I can give clients the time, understanding, and effort they deserve I feel it will help maintain the success I have had over the years.

Currently some of my clients include: The Silver Sun, S & S Printing, Planet Coupon, The Middleburg Institute, City Bucks and Tiger Bucks coupon books and Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine. I’ve even had clients as far away as Australia. I created the logo for Loss Response Restoration Service in Australia. Another client I have enjoyed assisting is Rhymes ‘N’ Times, Turner Educational Products. It’s an international company, and I had the opportunity to design the entire series of books (in English and Spanish) and created “Sherman,” the interactive character for their DVDs. I still am friends with Anita, the owner/developer of the company.

I also have to share about when Beth reached out to me to do the design and layout of the magazine. A few years back, prior to her contacting me, I had attempted to create a Facebook page that shared positive news and thoughts, but it never took. When Beth called me to share about her endeavor to produce a magazine filled with Christian-based, positive, encouraging and life-changing stories. I was very excited and eager to be a part of BRCLM. The magazine has now been out for over a year, and every month is filled with amazing testimonies to the good that is happening here in our city and beyond. The advertisers are very loyal, and the content in the magazine is the type of news I was striving to share on Facebook. This project helps me remain creative and also share positive stories from others.

Q: Have you encountered a time when one of your clients encouraged you or helped you in some way on your faith walk?

A: Carol Thomas, publisher of City Bucks and Tiger Bucks, has been a client of mine since the late 1990s. Carol’s faith has inspired me because she literally never gives up on something she feels called to do. She has been fervent in prayer and her belief in God which had guided her in her career. Tiger Bucks is still going strong, now run by her daughter, Jennifer, and City Bucks, a book full of restaurant offers, is used as a fundraising tool for schools in the area.

City Bucks came about after trying for many years to get another publication off the ground. As we sat in the printer’s office one day, I remember she led us all in prayer while working on her publication. (The other coupon book was never produced though there was lots of interest and materials in place to launch it.) Out of that situation, City Bucks was birthed and it has been a phenomenal tool for the schools in this area that sell it.

Q: How can the body of Christ be more unified?

A: Praying for one another is something we can all do whatever your denomination is. Prayer is how we all can speak to God, touch others, and prayer is powerful. In my own personal life, I have found that if a prayer is not answered in the way I wanted or asked, it tends to get answered in a better way.

Q: What charities or organizations are you involved in and why?

Kelli with (L to R) son Aidan, French exchange student Charles Druguet, and daughter Lilli in summer 2015.
Kelli with (L to R) son Aidan, French exchange student Charles Druguet, and daughter Lilli in summer 2015.

A: St. Jude is my church and I’m active there in various ways. I lead St. Jude’s Children’s Liturgy of the Word. We take the children, ages pre-k through second grade, during mass and read the readings and give the homily at a level that helps them to understand the message being conveyed. Secondly, I am actively involved in Girl Scouts. My daughter, Lilli, was a Girl Scout, and I like that the girls learn responsibility and we emphasize how to be kind to each other. It can get harried at times when a bunch of girls are together, but they are learning how to be kind despite disagreements or differences.

Currently, I am a Girl Scout Service Unit Administrator over nine troops. I assist the troop leaders throughout the year with activities such as our camping trip, our daddy /daughter dance, and our awards ceremonies.

My family has also been a host family for French exchange students during the last three summers. It’s very difficult to find families to take these kids into their homes, but it is a very rewarding experience. We become family to the kids that we’ve hosted and we love doing it.

Q: Besides being a graphic designer, you have also written books and have had them published. Share with us about your books.

A: One of the books, “Cookie the Christmas Cat,” is very special because Lilli illustrated it. She and I are huge softies for animals and melt when we see pets needing homes. One hundred percent of the profits go to organizations that find forever homes for pets.

"Love for Dunces," written by Kelli. She also designed the book cover.
“Love for Dunces,” written by Kelli. She also designed the book cover.

“Love for Dunces” is my other book. It was written based on my own high school band crush, and I just love, love, love this story. I think it is relevant to so many women and girls because so many of us have had band obsessions. If you ever dreamed about meeting your celebrity crush, you will totally get “Love for Dunces.” It’s also very wholesome and stresses family bonds and friendships. So, for anyone with a teen daughter, this one may be the book to order. You can find both books on Amazon.com or at kellissimo69.wix.com/kellissimo or facebook.com/kellissimeaux

Q: What would you like to share as a word of encouragement to those reading your personal faith journey?

A: One of the stories I read in Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine had a quote in it that has never left my mind: “Our gifts are not from God to us, but from God THROUGH us to GIVE to others.” Writing and designing seem to be a couple of gifts God has given me, but patience and kindness are gifts we can all give to others, and we can use them daily to help people have a brighter day. To me, it is what the world needs now.

Check out her handiwork at illuminateddesignsstudio.com or facebook.com/illuminateddesignsstudio or contact her at illuminatedds@cox.net.