April 2018, Pastor's Perspective

Pastor’s Perspective: Forgiveness, Healing, and the Resurrection by Rev. Charles DeGravelles

Forgiveness, Healing and the Resurrection
By the Rev. Charles deGravelles

Charles DeGravelles is a deacon in the Episcopal Church.

People are crammed into every corner of the room. They spill through the open door into the street. Some have pushed into the crowded room only to listen and be lifted in spirit; after all, the Teacher’s words make all things seem possible. But by now, everyone has heard that the Master can, with a word or a touch, cure any condition or infirmity, and many have come with a secret prayer for healing—for themselves or someone they love. Among those on the street is a paralyzed man who nurtures in his heart such a hope. The two friends who carry him on a stretcher, determined to make this happen, somehow get him onto the roof and, after removing some of the thatching, lower him to the feet of Jesus.

The paralyzed man, his friends, and all who have watched this astonishing sight are disappointed by what Jesus says: “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” Where is the healing in this, they think? Others are offended: “Only God can forgive sins. Does this man think he is God?” (Luke 5:18-25.)

As always, Jesus’ words are a lesson about the Kingdom of God and what it takes to live in it. Forgiveness, the Master is teaching, is an indispensable part of the true healing required to live in God’s Kingdom. It is a deep healing of the soul that transcends the physical. He teaches this lesson over and over again. His answer to Peter’s question – how many times should we forgive – may seem cryptic, “seventy times seven, but what he means is we should forgive a limitless number of times. In the parable Jesus uses to explain this difficult lesson, a king generously forgives the great debt of a man who then refuses to forgive a much lesser debt owed to him (Matthew 18:21-35). The point? God, who sees and loves us as we are, forgives our innumerable shortcomings and expects us to do the same with one another. Lest we think Jesus is exaggerating the importance of forgiveness, among his dying words on the cross are forgiveness for those who condemned, tortured and killed him: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  (Luke 23:34).

In over twenty-five years of ministry—in prisons and in the “free” world—I’ve witnessed the pain, turmoil and despair that we can cause one another, and I’ve also seen many times, even in the most extreme situations, the miracle of healing that forgiveness brings. I’ve experienced it in my own life and that of my family.

Some denominations, including my own, use the season of Lent these days before Easter as a time for deep reflection and self-sacrifice. For some, it is a time of “giving up” something that, in however small a way, reminds us of what Jesus suffered and gave up for us. As we walk with Jesus through his most difficult days, we may want to reflect on where, in our own lives, forgiveness may be called for. Instead of (or, if you like, in addition to) making a vow to give up chocolate or soft drinks or meat, why not make an honest assessment of your shortcomings that may have caused others pain, and also the resentments, angers, or grudges towards others that you are carrying. Ask for God’s forgiveness and for help in forgiving others. The resurrection of Easter will be for you, as it was for the paralyzed man who picked up his mat and walked, a time of healing and new life.

Charles deGravelles is a deacon in the Episcopal Church. A long-time prison minister, he helped found The Chapel of the Transfiguration, an Episcopal congregation at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, and was a spiritual mentor to a death row inmate there. He is a graphic artist, composer and writer whose biography of the LSU football legend, Billy Cannon: A Long, Long Run (LSU Press), won the Louisiana Library Association best book of 2015. He and his wife, Angela, are the proud parents of three and grandparents of two.

Cover Story, September 2016

About the Cover

About the Cover

SeptCoverPictured: Nathan D’Gerolamo and Ian Smith

This picture represents a new-found friendship between two young boys that was sparked through their intentional efforts to learn to understand one another, accept their differences, search for similarities and hold tight to common bonds.

As one of the young boys arrived at a Christian day camp this summer worried about fitting in and wondering if he would make new friends, so did the other. And thus the week at camp began for these two boys and their small group with some fear, mistrust and misunderstanding of one another. But with the support and prayers of camp counselors, church staff and family members, and a creative idea that a rainbow loom bracelet and a hug can be given as a peace offering, the tensions were lessened and friendships and bonding began to take hold.

At the end of a week of challenging yet wonderful experiences, these two boys, with arms comfortably resting on one another, represent a coming together of this small group of kids from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, who finally learned to understand and love one another through their common faith.  The seeds of friendship have been planted that can be further nurtured and developed over time.

If a small group of young boys can forgive one another and find common ground peacefully, then let them be an inspiration to the rest of us …

About the Camp, From Lisette West:

The Chapel has partnered with Pine Cove to host Camp in the City – a week of summer day camp loaded with crazy fun and Christian fellowship. Registration is open to K-5th graders all over Baton Rouge and we make special effort to include students from our Kids Hope USA mentoring program with the Chapel’s school partner, Wildwood Elementary.”

Camp is a time of water games, rock climbing, laser tag, etc. -  led by a counselor staff that is passionate about Jesus. They share Jesus’ love with each camper in these activities and Bible study, club time and more. It is with joy and expectancy that the hope of Jesus is extended to transform lives in the community.”

“Pine Cove exists to be used by God to transform the lives of people for His purposes and His glory.”
— Pine Cove Mission

Faith Life, September 2016

Lt. General Russel Honoré: Identifying Our Current Afflictions and Creating a Vision for Our Path Forward

by Beth Townsend
 General Honore

General Honore

When it comes to managing conflict, Lt. Gen Russell Honoré is an expert. Whether commanding National Guard Reserve forces in matters of national defense or stepping in as Task Commander after Hurricane Katrina, he knows a lot about bringing people together to accomplish a mission.

He watched the news after the Alton Sterling shooting — “Like most, I was trying to process what happened. The question of ‘did we shoot too quick?’ came to mind. It’s during these events we have to find words that bring peace. More violence doesn’t help in a situation like this.

Later, he said he was moved when he saw the testimony of the Sterling family on the news. “You could not get a Hollywood script to write the emotions of the aunt and son. They loved him; that boy loved his daddy.”

Social media was quickly flooded with images, opinions and pictures. “Because of the videos and posts, the images of what people were speculating about went wild.” Honoré decided to quit speculating and get involved. He wanted truth and justice, and he wanted his city to come together. That led to his involvement with Together Baton Rouge. Speaking with Jim Davis of the Chamber of Commerce and other leaders, the first order was to keep peace.

“We first needed to get this young man buried,” Honoré stated. “It then became evident upon involvement of the FBI in the investigation that it would be months or years before this would be complete.”

It was time to look further down the road to reconciliation. Honoré held up both hands. “Do you know what a rookie officer makes? [Nearly] minimum wage – $31,000 a year – less than $15 per hour. Then we ask them to go out on the street and be police officers, plus be a counselor, a role model for kids, play basketball with kids, go in some home where a mom has an adult child that is out of control, get in between spouses’ [issues] or between a boyfriend and girlfriend,” he said. “That police officer is under stress because now he has to do overtime to make a living wage. He or she wants to send his kid to a good school and live in a house, so they often come into work stressed.”

A Tale of Two Cities

“There’s one [story] on this side of Florida Street where houses are being torn down and rebuilt, and a big shopping center is going in just off of Bluebonnet Medical Center. Yet, in the shadows of the capital in North Baton Rouge, it’s like they stopped building in the 1950s. Many left and went to the River Parishes, and others went to Prairieville chasing better schools. Now the majority of residents in North Baton Rouge are unemployed.”

This problem is not sudden; it’s happened over a period of years. “Every adult in Baton Rouge watched this happen, but it was not ‘our problem’ per se. I’ve said since Katrina that poor people are not really free, because when you are poor, you don’t get to pick what doctor you go to. You don’t get to pick where your kids go to school or what dentist you see, so you learn to make do. In this case, when the former governor said they were going to tear down the Earl K. Long Medical Center, all the people like me living on the south side of Baton Rouge said, ‘Oh, that must be part of some bigger business plan.’”

From the perception of people in North Baton Rouge, they respond saying, ‘They tore our hospital down!’ Two years later, ‘They closed our emergency room!’ When the lights get turned on to our larger issues and we find ourselves talking about the Sterling death, questions arise. Why such anger so quick? It comes from the perspective of people feeling like they have not had a fair shake at social justice.”

“Everybody thinks these are somebody else’s issues. A lot of the ‘haves’ in town say ‘they’ need to work harder; that the poor need to apply themselves. How? When you have the second worst schools in America and they are not getting any better — these kids need help!”

Honoré is clear about the opportunity at hand. “That emotion that was demonstrated recently was by and large peaceful. That is a reflection for most adults of what they went through in the 1960s. We got to a point where everyone was comfortable with race relations and we moved on. It is like burying the hatchet and leaving the handle sticking out. We did not finish what had been started. We are in the 21st century dealing with last century’s problems.”

Thankfully, Together Baton Rouge has a team filled with a list of ‘Who’s Who,’ faith based and charitable groups that have come together. “Now we have to speak about the unspeakable. We are a great nation, but we are not a perfect nation,” Honoré said. “I want to be known as this ambassador of freedom, the place others want to come. I don’t want to be known as the country of the gun! Most of the world is not looking at us as the land of freedom, they are now looking at us as the land of the gun. Why? Because 30,000+ people a year are killed by guns! In Louisiana, we passed a law to open carry — while we are talking about supporting our police, how about [we talk about] leaving your guns at home?”

“We all have a right to protect ourselves, I understand that, but we don’t have a moral right to carry a gun any place, any time,” he said. “I have guns at my house. I was in the infantry, spent 37 years in the military and know and respect what they are for and what they can do. Yet, the idea that you can carry a gun anywhere at any time is a bankrupt idea.”

“To put it in context, when someone called 9-1-1 on Sunday to say there was a guy walking on Airline Highway with a gun, there might have been 50 people that passed him and said ‘There is a man carrying his gun. He is a demonstrating the open carry law.’ But one good citizen said, ‘He is not only carrying a gun, but he has a mask on – that looks a little weird.’ And we know the rest of that story.”

He continued, “What people in Baton Rouge need to understand is that if we don’t invest in kids and they’re not reading at a fourth grade level by the time they are 10, particularly boys, they have a 50 percent chance they will have a run in with the law by the time they are 14 — that is right from the Children’s Defense Fund data. We need to make sure schools are fully funded, even if we have to put 2 teachers in every classroom. I would rather over-spend on K-12 and not have a dime for TOPS.”

“Over 75 percent of the people in Angola can’t read on a third grade level — there is a direct relationship. Currently we have very few mental health services for children. Fifteen percent of our population has some type of disability, and it is like we have not paid attention enough to recognize that.”

A lack of funding has brought many programs to a complete stop, Honoré said, “We are the second largest energy producer, but the second poorest state. We have to fix our state business. This city has a lot going for it with all the industrial development – that is a positive.”

“The future we feared is here, we must use this moment, this is a huge opportunity for our city. We don’t have time to kick this to the next generation. The violence we have in south

Louisiana, particularly Baton Rouge and New Orleans, is horrendous. We have to value life better then that.”

Realizing we can’t value life for others, teaching that skill can seem impossible. You can’t make others suddenly value life because it would help our city. However, Honoré believes we can reach kids earlier with better options than street life.

“The best sports fields in our city are where? I live off of Bluebonnet and most in that area are world class. Yet you have to stretch to the other side of Southern University to find anything like it. If you go near where this young man was killed, there is a little park down there, but it doesn’t even have a basketball goal.”

“We have to get involved. We need to get the federal government involved. We have outstanding 4-H programs, and we could have an urban 4-H program that the federal government would pay for. Our universities can [also] become engaged,” he said. “When I speak across the country, I tell people that leadership requires sacrifice. Choose to be that successful business person who finds someone to mentor —if you’ve done well, give back! Our churches have done well, but [the church hour] is the most segregated hour in Baton Rouge. As we enjoy our congregations, we need to think about how to bring new people in. We have become too comfortable with it being segregated.”

“We are all part of this problem. We can’t have the majority of the people living in the parish living in poverty. Those that have good jobs have moved to places with better schools. How did we end up with sub-par schools in the first place? I have lived in Virginia and they have good public schools — we are missing that opportunity.”

Moving Forward as One

Establishing priorities in a huge plan and seeing years of hard work ahead can seem daunting, but we must get to work, and Honoré is ready to help lead.

“Number one, recognize that we have a problem – we – this is our house. We don’t just clean the front of the house and not the back of the house. We can’t leave this for the next generation to try to figure it out. Take the 50 percent unemployment rate — we have to collectively offer hiring opportunities to people out of North Baton Rouge.”

“If we can send a missionary to Cameroon, then we can send one to North Baton Rouge,” Honoré said. “We have a lot of people that are trying to do good things, but people have to take if further. Not go in for a day, but create relationships that become friendships.”

People ask him regularly, “What can we do, General? I say, ‘Go teach a kid in a poor neighborhood how to read or swim.’ It is going to take leadership — it is going to take sacrifice, it is going to cost you time and talent.”

Many have asked him about running for public office. He laughed and said, “I am as deep as I can get. But no, I don’t wake up in the morning with aspirations to be the governor or [serve in] any other office. My best place, and where I spend most of my time, is with me and my little team working on environmental justice.”

Russel L. Honoré is a retired Lieutenant General who served as the 33rd commanding general of the U.S. First Army at Fort Gillem, Ga. He is best known for serving as commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, responsible for coordinating military relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina-affected areas across the Gulf Coast, and as the 2nd Infantry Division’s commander while stationed in South Korea. He served until his retirement from the Army on January 11, 2008.

Pastor's Perspective, September 2016

A Call to “Life Changing” Action


by Elmo Winters

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Matt. 11:28, KJV 

Elmo Winters
Elmo Winters

To say that our city, state and country have faced some of the most heart-wrenching events over the past seven weeks would be an understatement. Too many have lost their lives in what can be described as an awakening of the proverbial “white elephant” in the room that no one dared to deal with. For decades we have tip-toed around the mammoth issues of race relationships, bigotry, discrimination and the like, deceiving ourselves into believing they were no longer relevant. But now we are confronted with the very things we thought had gone away or at least been minimized.  And who would have thought that our city, Baton Rouge, would be at the forefront of raising awareness of just how bad things really are?

Some would say that it all started with the tragic death of Alton Sterling on July 5, 2016, and escalated into the deaths of police officers in Dallas and subsequently in Baton Rouge.  However, the truth is, this all started a long time ago with the first murder where one brother killed another because of a bad heart condition. What happened on the streets of Baton Rouge and Dallas, and what continues to happen daily in America and throughout the world, is the result of the same bad heart condition. The prophet Jeremiah said it best in chapter 17, verse 9, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (NAS). The unthinkable acts that are being played out among us everywhere are simply what happens when the hearts of people become so depraved and callous.

Now you may wonder, how then can we fix the problem?  The truth is, we can’t! Only God can fix the problem of a bad heart condition. It is obvious we cannot legislate a fix or create laws that will repair our “sick” state. People can’t be forced to have a change of heart by passing equal rights mandates or promoting activities that will bring the masses together. These things and many others have been attempted and have failed miserably. Protesting, picketing, not even boycotts will ever produce changed hearts or equality among individuals.  They simply give us a sense of feeling good until the next crisis.

Real change can never happen until there is a genuine, total regeneration of the heart.  Anything short of this is foolishness, simply a waste of time and effort. Romans 10:10 explains, “For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous  being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God],” (AMP). It is not until we truly have a heart that believes in Christ that we experience change in our behavior, mannerism and in our lives. This is an undeniable fact.

In the wake of the killings over the past few weeks, we have seen countless prayer vigils, community meetings, memorial services and other calls to action. And although these have some merit, I question rather if any of these have lead to a change of heart in those who have participated? Sure, we are all nicer to one another and we are talking more to each other, however I believe this will pass in time, and we will return to our lives as usual.  Negative race relationships, bigotry and general inequalities will soon return, even in the religious community.

I believe the time has come for life changing action to occur. I believe we are well overdue for genuine heart changes in Baton Rouge and throughout the world. If nothing changes, we will continue to decline as a people and nation. I publicly appeal to the people of this city, state and nation to take a stand for real change that must start right here in Baton Rouge. Will you join me as we start a grassroots revival for national and worldwide change for the betterment of all mankind? I speak not of church sponsored revivals, but instead of revivals that will take place in communities, in workplaces and homes. If you are seriously interested in seeing real change, call or text me today at (225) 305-3006, or email me: elmow1@att.net. An exploratory meeting is tentatively planned for late September. Will you join us?

Man on the Street, September 2016

What is Your Goal for Reconciliation in Our Community?

by Jehan Seals


Learning For Life, September 2016

Rev. Elijah Zehyoue On Reconciliation, the Church and Loving Our Neighbors

by Susan brown

Editor’s note: This interview took place before the tragic killing of three law enforcement officers and wounding of three other officers in Baton Rouge. In light of these events, Rev. Zehyoue would like to add the following thoughts: “I would like to note that my condolences and prayers are with the families of the slain officers. I pray that our commitment to reconciliation and to peace continues to inspire us to move forward. I pray that the same compassion we have for the families of the slain officers can be shared for Alton Sterling’s family. I also pray that our commitment to each other motivates us to still justice in the case of Alton Sterling, and we don’t allow this tragedy to push us to ignore our neighbors and their continued cries for justice.”

Elijah Zehyoue
Elijah Zehyoue

Having experienced God’s miraculous intervention in his own family, Elijah Zehyoue is confident that the Spirit of God can bring together communities – and the nation – under the divine mandate to love justice, show mercy and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). It will take prayer. It will take faith. But he’s seen God work.

Born in Liberia in 1989, the Rev. Zehyoue views his path to the United States as a series of divine interventions. His father, Anthony Sr., moved ahead of his young family to Baton Rouge to pursue a doctorate in chemistry at LSU. In the meantime, civil war broke out in Liberia, dislodging families and making travel virtually impossible. He lost contact with his wife and children for a year. His mother, a devout Catholic, caught the eye of a priest who was impressed by her devotion to prayer. The priest happened to be sent out of the country to New Orleans on furlough. Soon, he was sitting in her husband’s living room assuring him the family was safe and well.

From one side of the world to the other, the family was reunited. With the help of the church, they moved to Baton Rouge when Elijah was 2 years old. He graduated from Catholic High School and also found spiritual nourishment at University Baptist Church where his experience blossomed into a call to the ministry.

Now, after serving churches in Chicago and Washington D.C., Rev. Zehyoue works for reconciliation through the New Baptist Covenant, an organization founded by President Jimmy Carter in 2008 to work on historic racial and theological divides among Baptists.

Rev. Zehyoue returned home to Baton Rouge after the shooting of Alton Sterling in the hope of helping the family of faith see into the souls of its neighbors. He believes the church is uniquely positioned to lead communities to true reconciliation.

“We have the resources for hard conversations that say we can hang up our privilege and consider ourselves in the shoes of somebody else,” Rev. Zehyoue said. He believes it’s all about relationships. After all, there is one Body of Christ. We are family. And families love and support each other.

So, what would Jesus do? Rev. Zehyoue said Jesus calls his people to work for reconciliation in several practical ways. They include:

Ask: How are you feeling? Reflect on their reply, not our own agenda. “I think that folks need the space, the face space, where they can talk about why they’re angry; they can talk about what really affects them,” he said.

“When my wife and I were dating, she would say, ‘I don’t feel like you’re listening to me,’” he explained. “And I wasn’t really hearing because I would either glance over at my phone or think about how I would respond to her. And the times when I’m listening is when I [realize], wow, I really did hurt you.”

“We can offer responses later,” he said. But to really understand, there is importance in “first letting it linger, letting it sink in a little bit – wow, our neighbors feel this way.”

Elijah and wife Lauren.
Elijah and wife Lauren.

Provide a ministry of presence. “It would be really powerful if evangelical pastors were to go out on the corner of Fairfield and North Foster,” Rev. Zehyoue said. “Offering to say, ‘we’re willing to pray for you.’” He also recommends deliberately setting aside time to talk about your own work in the community with others. Through the New Baptist Covenant, the pastors of two racially different churches in Macon, Ga., discovered that they held Easter egg hunts a week apart on the same plot of land. The resulting joint Easter egg hunt led to combined youth trips, and an eye-opening conversation about the fears black parents have for their children.

Create an environment for crisis conversations. As a youth minister in Chicago, Rev. Zehyoue opened the church to teenagers stunned by the random shooting death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, a high school majorette from King College Prep School, and one of the performers at President Obama’s inauguration. Many of the youth at University Church (Disciples of Christ/United Church of Christ) were friends of the victim.

Rev. Zehyoue provided microphones, joined in their impromptu rap contest and, most importantly, made himself available to listen. He told them, “‘I’m going to be a big brother for you because I know you don’t have a lot of other spaces where you can just be kids.’ I think that was a start for us.” The effort began an enduring conversation about issues such as bullying.

Explore our motivations. Why do people want to tell the stories of those whose lives have ended violently? “Even as a pastor, it’s really hard for me,” Rev. Zehyoue said. “But I tell the stories because I believe that it doesn’t have to happen again if only we tell enough people and we, together, are moved to compassion.”

Examine where you stand in relation to your neighbors. “As neighbors we advocate for justice for our brothers and sisters, particularly those on the margins and those who are the most vulnerable right now,” he said. “The work of peace has to be the priority of the church but to get there via justice. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God,’” (Matthew 5:9). Again, relationships are key. Rev. Zehyoue advocates deep reconciliation through a national conversation between poor Black communities and law enforcement, including efforts to “evaluate the probably very legitimate fear that they feel going into certain communities.”

Recognize that reconciliation takes time: commit to the long haul. “It’s too often viewed as something that happens immediately, as opposed to taking work and effort,” he said. “I get so much inspiration and encouragement from Scripture that shows us relationships are powerful. Scripture tells us that you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. I think truth is a first step to reconciliation. I think doing something sacred with the truth is a second step. Justice can be to say that we will repent for our sins, we will apologize for our sins, we will work so that you feel I’m not sinning against you anymore,” he said. “Reconciliation is being reconnected back to God and being connected back to each other.”

“I think we’re living in a big moment,” Rev. Zehyoue said. He believes the self-examination and actions that result from these crises will have a lasting impact on the Christian church. “The church asks itself so many questions about its future, about its budgets, about its ability to speak to society, about why not as many young people want to participate, about its relationship to culture. I think all of those questions will either be answered or will become less significant to us if we respond in a big way as neighbors.”

Rev. Elijah Zehyoue served as associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. before becoming Director of Programs and Communications for the New Baptist Covenant. Rev. Zehyoue makes it clear that these are his thoughts, not necessarily those of his church or the organization for which he works.

Feature Story, September 2016

After the Storm

Comforting Words for Turbulent Times

by Lisa Tramontana

Star Hill Church members are active in community improvement programs. Rev. Jetson, center, calls such programs ‘Kingdom expansion’ projects.
Star Hill Church members are active in community improvement programs.
Rev. Jetson, center, calls such programs ‘Kingdom expansion’ projects.

As a pastor, the Rev. Raymond A. Jetson’s focus is on his congregation, but his compassion and concern extend far beyond the walls of his church and deeply into the community. Whether he is leading a youth group activity, repairing a home or counseling a family, Rev. Jetson is always aware that he is part of something larger than himself.

This became painfully clear when violence in Baton Rouge made national headlines this summer. When Alton Sterling was killed in a scuffle with two police officers, local citizens and outside groups held protests throughout the city. Rev. Jetson was leading a Bible study at Star Hill Church two days later and decided his group should participate at the protest being held at the site of the shooting. It was only a few blocks away, so he and his students walked, Bibles in hand, to the Triple S Food Mart where Sterling had died.

“We prayed for healing,” he said. “And we spoke with many of the people there. That evening, as Christians, there was no other place we should have been.”

Just a week later, six police officers were shot (and three of them killed). Tensions were high in the following days, and many looked to their spiritual leaders for guidance. Star Hill’s congregants were no exception.

“It has been a time of great uncertainty,” Rev. Jetson said. “The rhetoric and tenor of the conversations in our community divide us more than unify us. We have become a people of extremes. Everyone’s in one corner or the other. But truth and reality are somewhere in between, and that’s the direction we need to move toward. I have hope that we will come together.”

This willingness to engage with the world is at the core of Rev. Jetson’s being. Some might call it “divine providence.” In November 1983, his father was elected to the Louisiana Legislature but died just a few months later in 1984. So Rev. Jetson himself ran for office and was elected State Representative of District 61 that same year, serving until 1999.

In spite of a busy legislative career, he felt called to the ministry. He became pastor at Star Hill in 1994 and under his leadership, the church grew to more than 1,500 members. In spite of his full-time responsibilities at Star Hill, he was willing to do more. For three years after Hurricane Katrina, Rev. Jetson made a huge difference in the lives of many Katrina survivors. As CEO for the Louisiana Family Recovery Corps, he helped families connect with loved ones and matched individuals with resources needed to move on with their lives. He also served as deputy secretary for the state’s Department of Health and Hospitals.

jetson-2His philosophy as a leader and a community member is simple. “We have to be people of love and forgiveness, care and compassion,” he said. “It must begin with us. Instead of looking at the differences among us, we should focus on who we are in Christ. We have to learn how to work together and meet the needs of the least, the last and the left behind.”

Rev. Jetson leads his church according to three basic missions or goals: congregational support, youth development, and community engagement. And in living out this mission, he challenges his congregants to become “spiritual entrepreneurs” and engage in important community issues.

Congregational support means taking care of basic needs, including financial help, family counseling, or support for single mothers. Youth development includes mentoring services, youth activities, and Bible studies for teens. Community engagement means connecting with local residents by hosting events such as fitness classes, health screenings and a blight reduction program.

“This way of living and serving is what we call ‘Kingdom expansion,’” Rev. Jetson said. “It’s the way we identify the God-given resources of the people in the pews every Sunday and mobilize them to become active and make a difference all the other days of the week.”

The “Kingdom expansion” idea can be applied to the entire Baton Rouge community, whose identity was completely altered by the events of this summer. The consequences will play out over the coming months, and possibly years, and hopefully, will lead to true reconciliation.

“Our current circumstances are an opportunity for believers to demonstrate before others what we say we believe,” said Rev. Jetson. “Those who profess to be Christians must demonstrate it through their actions.”

Rev. Jetson is married and has two adult children, J’Erica Nicole and Jeremy Louis. His wife Tammy is very active in the church. Star Hill is located at 1400 N. Foster Drive. For more information, call (225) 925-3133 or visit the website at starhillchurch.org. You can also join a live video stream broadcast of Sunday services and Wednesday Bible studies.