Monthly Archives: August 2015

Reflecting on Katrina: A community journalist’s narrative

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By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

Aug. 29, 2005, is an unforgettable day for Louisiana residents who were embroiled in or escaping the path of Hurricane Katrina.Katrina family

At the time of Katrina’s wrath and its aftermath, I was a general assignment reporter for The Orange Leader, then a daily newspaper in the southeast Texas town of approximately 20,000. While rather small in size,  residents of Orange provided heaping help to evacuees. And for approximately three weeks, stories of all sorts flooded the newsroom – from an evacuee giving birth in a local hospital to a pet owner being reunited with a missing dog.

As a journalist who had a part in covering Katrina, the experiences I encountered were somewhat different from those of major media outlets, maybe because these were the people who got out of dodge. However, while they were not on the roofs of their homes being rescued or trapped in the Superdome, there was a sense uncertainty. Although they were out of harm’s way, most of the people I spoke with were in a strange place and worried about their homes.

In situations like these, people just need someone to listen to them; that was my role for the hours I spent at the rest stop. For a journalist, it was a dream; stories flowed with emotion flowed. As a Christian, I was more than willing to provide an empathetic ear and show compassion. They didn’t care that I was a reporter, they just needed someone to listen to them. And on Aug. 29, that was the role God appointed to me. Coincidentally, many southeast Texans, myself included, found themselves on the run from a hurricane, as Hurricane Rita made landfall nearly one month later near Sabine Pass, Texas, on Sept. 24, 2005.

It was heartwarming to witness a community pulling together – regardless of their faith, race, and background – to compassionately uplift others (Colossians 3:12). Orange churches such as First Baptist, First Presbyterian, and North Orange Baptist opened shelters. Many other congregations held prayer services for evacuees and the community.

One of the last stories I covered before Rita interrupted the lives came from caring soul who willingly open her home to evacuees. Joel (pronounced Joe-L) Wilridge, who was a shower-maintenance worker for the Flying J Travel Plaza on Interstate 10 in Orange, “adopted” several Katrina families literally camped out at the truck stop for days.

“I wanted to do my part to help them,” Wilridge told me in September 2005. “I wanted to bring a family home with me. God has definitely brought us together.”Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Wilridge not only opened her own home to evacuees, she recruited her mother, her sister, and adult daughters’ to serve as hostesses. LeRoy Franklin, Claire Brown, Edruth Segura, and Latara Brown, all of New Orleans, sought refuge in the home of Wilridge’s mother, Muriel Julian.

“The people here are very compassionate and friendly, and that goes for the white and black people,” Brown said. At the time of the interview, Brown was a social service counselor for the state of Louisiana.

It was sad that former Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco and former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin had to rely on the federal government to decide whether or not to evacuate thousands when a major hurricane churned in the gulf. Despite it all, the nonprofit organizations, churches, and caring citizens helped those who were able to escape Katrina’s wrath. Katrina is a clear reminder that can get along and help each other in these situations despite our differences. Let’s not wait until a natural disaster to prove what we all know is inside of us. May God bless you and keep you safe.

Cutline: “We are family” is one of several stories written by Tonya Andris, former general assignment reporter for The Orange Leader. Orange, Texas, a city of 20,000 in southeast Texas, was one of several Texas cities along Interstate 10 that welcomed evacuees of Hurricane Katrina in late August 2005.

Tonya Andris is managing editor of Inside The Pew. She is a former newspaper journalist and resident of Plano, Texas. You may reach her at pewnews@aol.com.

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Thompson: Seek God’s guidance before leaving a church

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By Nina Thompson
Special to Inside The Pew

First of all, we must be clear why we have chosen to attend church. For me, it was simply that something was missing from my life and I wanted more of God. I wanted to understand God, and have help in navigating my life and making decisions. I also had learned that we all have special gifts and talents given by God, and I dearly wanted to know what those were and how I should use them to serve God and others. I didn’t want to go to the graveyard “full” as they say (1 Peter 4:10).

There are indeed some situations, though, where we should stop attending a particular church because it has become detrimental to our spiritual health. In thoseChurch Hurt Ain't No Joke by Nina Thompson instances, pack your bags and ask God to lead you somewhere else or show you what the next step is.

However, you do not want to leave a church before you have obtained what God sent you there to give or get, so my overall suggestion is that you ALWAYS seek God’s guidance before leaving a church. Remember that you are there to begin or strengthen your relationship with God. When you decide that you want more of God, expect that all sorts of things will come up against you moving forward – friends who ask you to do things on the day you planned to attend church or study the Bible, people seemingly staring at you or talking about you in church, horrible memories of church as a child – the list goes on and depends on where we are most vulnerable. So keep your eyes on the benefits of the journey.

While we can definitely have a relationship with God without attending church full-time, the community of church forces you to grow and mature spiritually, as you deal with the myriad of issues that always come about when working with people. So it is a good idea to have some type of relationship in a setting with others who are trying to more fully discover and interact with God, whether it be a church, ministry group, organization, etc.

In my book, Church Hurt Ain’t No Joke, I also offer very practical guidance for becoming a true disciple of Christ and maintaining your focus on your relationship with God. However more importantly, the book outlines steps that can be taken to move past the feelings of hurt or pain and toward a God-led and God-ordained life.

Here are tidbits from some of those steps that you can take right now that will help you to heal and reconnect with both God and the church. Be prepared because it takes WORK!

  • First and foremost, pray and ask God to send you to an environment that while it may have its faults, will be a place that focuses on teaching individuals how to expand their relationship to God, and not simply to follow leadership. Just say it in plain English and watch God lead you to an environment in which you can grow. It will still hurt, but it will be pain with a purpose. Understand that you are responsible to God and others.
  • The God-given charge focuses on our responsibility to God and those we have been assigned to. Our commitment is first to our relationship with God, and secondly, to our relationship with man. (Matthew 22:36-39). Love should be the basis for all that we do or we can do irreparable harm to ourselves and others. In the book we discuss how focuses on love can turn our actions into acts of worship to God, as opposed to empty, public gestures.
  • Pray daily but don’t just ramble. In the book, we highlight the best way to use this time in prayer so that you can begin to receive direction and guidance from God. Sometimes simply jotting down words, images, perceptions while you are sitting in the presence of God is what will help you obtain guidance.
  • Feed your spirit material that helps it to grow. At the end of the book, there is a list of books and publications that help me grow tremendously. The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson is one of the best, but there are many others that will definitely cause a growth spurt. I’ve read many others as well since the book was published but the lesson is to study to show thyself approved (2 Timothy 2:15).
  • Read and study the Bible, especially scriptures that heal you. Examples include Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 23:11-14, and 1 Peter 5:7. It may be hard to memorize but read it aloud and it will get into your spirit. The scriptures will come to you almost miraculously at times at times when you need them if you read and study often.

Be diligent and persistent in your participation.  You can’t learn if you aren’t present to be taught.

Nina Thompson, DMin., has more than 25 years of experience in Public Relations and Communications. She has been published

Nina Thompson extensively in local, state-wide and national magazines, journals and newspapers, and has served as a magazine editor and writer, a newspaper columnist and a newspaper reporter. She lives in Missouri where she has operated NICHE Public Relations and Communications since October 2004 and serves as an adjunct English instructor for several colleges. In July 2011, she helped to launch Wellspring United Methodist Church in Ferguson, where she served as church administrator for four years, and helped to establish and now leads the college-age ministry, “Yes to God.” She also serves as Executive Director of the Gateway Board for Mission and Growth of the United Methodist Church, and Executive Director of Rose of Sharon Ministries, Inc., which she established in 2014. Thompson is available for workshops, speaking engagements and book signings for both of her published works, Church Hurt Ain’t No Joke and Why Yes to God: Essays on Life and God by Young Adults.

 

I am Second short film highlights Jeff Fisher’s walk to salvation

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Nonprofit, Pepsi MidAmerica collaborate to give fans VIP game-day experience with longtime NFL head coach

By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

When NFL fans think of Jeff Fisher, the moustache and cool sunglasses come to mind.

But now, Fisher has provided an enduring image of himself – son of the Almighty.

In a bonus short film released by I am Second, Fisher, who is entering his fourth season with the Rams, takes his place on the ceremonial white chairI am Second Jeff Fisher to detail the walk that eventually lead to his commitment to our Savior.

The Plano-based nonprofit announced Aug. 17 it is collaborating with Pepsi MidAmerica to offer fans the opportunity to win a VIP sideline experience with coach Fisher. Fans can enter the text-to-win and online contest between now and Sept. 30. Four winners will be chosen to receive a VIP prize of two suite-level tickets to a St. Louis Rams game, hotel accommodations, a meet and greet with Coach Fisher, a stadium tour and Saturday field passes. Entries are being accepted now at http://www.pepsimidamerica.com/iamsecond/.

“We are excited to be partnering with Pepsi MidAmerica for the first time to offer fans an inside look at NFL life from a coach’s perspective,” said John Humphrey, director of communications. “We want to give viewers a never-before-seen perspective via the film but also help create an experience they will never forget.”

In his testimony, the coach candidly admits a hurtful event that took place in the pews when Fisher was approximately 8 years old.

“I had this moment in church which I think really, really turned me off,” he said.

Fisher recounts how monsignor corrected his behavior with a hint of aggression and little explanation.

“It terrified me; I was in complete shock,” he said. “This is where my journey began.”

The spiritual void remained with Fisher, as he experienced success in collegiate and professional football as a player with USC and the Chicago Bears, respectively. Fisher’s coaching career – his 20th – isn’t exactly shabby either, as he spent 17 seasons as head coach of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans. Fisher’s Titans played the team he now coaches, St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV.

“In my world, there’s never time to figure out what is, in fact, missing,” Fisher said.

In 2010, Fisher’s life was about to change for the best. One day, a friend asked Fisher an important question: Do you honestly believe that Jesus Christ is his Lord and Savior?

At the opportune moment, Fisher was rescued from the drudgery he experienced, the part of him that longed for more than a successful NFL coaching career.

Sadly, according to Nina Thompson, author of Church Hurt Ain’t No Joke, what Fisher experienced happens to children and adults. She said she hasNina Thompson encountered many people who are the way Fisher used to be: they avoid Him and church out of fear of being hurt again.

“Church hurt is anything other Christians do to interrupt others’ closeness to God,” the Ferguson author said. “We need to be very careful that we are not concerned with the pettiness while, at the same time, we maintain structure, process, and ceremony in the church.”

After viewing Fisher’s I am Second testimony, Thompson said the chastising Fisher encountered as a child is an example of the pettiness she discusses in her book.

“Why chastise him for something as small as that?” she said. “Church became unattractive to him, solely because of one bad experience. Why become associated with something that brings pain?”

Thompson said she is grateful that Fisher’s friend opened that door of knowledge of God.

“Early on, he didn’t get that God is his helping mate and that he doesn’t have to exist in his own strength.”

Humphrey said Fisher’s reaction to the events that happened one day in church is not foreign.

“It is sometimes common for people to form an opinion like that based off those experiences,” he said. “Jeff’s story is an honest portray of a new believer who is sorting how to grow in the walk with his Father.”

Brown: What is stewardship?

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By Chris Brown
Special to Inside The Pew

When you think of stewardship, what comes to mind?

Maybe fundraising or a capital campaign. Possibly taking care of the environment. Or maybe you think it’s just a stale old word you’ve seen in history books. Maybe, if you’re being honest, you’re not really sure what it means.

The reality is that many people today, including lots of Christians, don’t understand the true meaning of stewardship. And that’s a tragedy. Why? Because stewardship is our ultimate calling asChris Brown Christ followers.

It’s the first assignment God gave the human race in Genesis 1:28. That’s when God told Adam and Eve to “have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (NKJV).

Stewardship is managing God’s blessings God’s ways for God’s glory. See, the Bible tells us in Psalm 24:1 that He owns it all: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (KJV).

And if He’s the owner, that means we’re not. Instead, we’re His stewards—His managers. God commands us to be stewards over everything He blesses us with. Everything. That means our time, talents, treasure, relationships, jobs and, yes, stuff. It’s all God’s, and He trusts us with it.

Did you catch that? We get to manage all of the Creator’s stuff. How awesome is that? It’s both an honor and a serious responsibility! When we get that in our spirit, well, it changes things. It changes our perspective on our family budgets, our daily decisions, even our purpose in life. When we understand true, biblical stewardship, the trajectories of our lives change with every decision we make.

We begin to build a legacy of stewardship in our families. We treat our spouses and kids differently. We approach our work with a new sense of purpose. We become grateful for everything we have. We live within our means. We have more money to give. And we have hope for the future.

I’m here to tell you that I want to reclaim the word stewardship in the church today. But it’s up to all of us to make sure every believer understands God’s role as owner and our role as stewards. When we get to heaven and have to give an account of how we managed God’s resources (1 Corinthians 4:2), I hope God will reply to all of us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Chris Brown is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, pastor, and dynamic speaker carrying the message of stewardship and intentional living nationwide. Available on radio stationsChris Brown logo across the country, Chris Brown’s True Stewardship provides biblical solutions and sound advice for questions on life and money. You can follow Chris online at www.stewardship.com, on Twitter at @ChrisBrownOnAir, or at www.facebook.com/ChrisBrownOnAir.