'Faith Matters' for Jan. 12, 2013

By Terry Robinson

Advocate staff writer

Photo provided by Mirror of Grace Outreach -- Lori Davis teaches a computer class in November at Mirror of Grace Outreach, 921 N. Lobdell Blvd., in the Harrel Building.
Photo provided by Mirror of Grace Outreach -- Lori Davis teaches a computer class in November at Mirror of Grace Outreach, 921 N. Lobdell Blvd., in the Harrel Building.

Don’t be fooled by the name — Mirror of Grace Outreach in Baton Rouge — as many have.

“We’re a faith-based organization, but we’re not a church,” Chief Executive Officer Patricia A. Harrel said.

Harrel, who started Mirror of Grace in 2010 with her own personal funds, considers the church label a high compliment.

“I asked God what could I do to my community to give back, and he gave me the vision of Mirror of Grace as a reflection of his grace,” Harrel said. “When someone says it’s a ministry, I get chill bumps. I get excited, because it is my ministry. And I didn’t put the label on it; people did.”

And helping people is the goal of Mirror of Grace, 921 N. Lobdell Ave., in the Harrel Building.

Harrel said the primary objective of the operation is serving as a resources center and providing educational service to the community, including at-risk youths, low income, unemployed and people with special needs.

The center’s main emphasis has been on computer training.

“A lot of people are unemployed, and they don’t have the skills basically to find a job,” Harrel said. “You used to just fill out the application and it’ll take a minute. Now everything is done online. It just became a need, because so many people are applying or want to advance on the jobs they have and they don’t have the computer skill set.”

Free computer classes are taught by certified instructors. Since its inception in 2011, more than 120 computer students have completed the program.

In addition to helping with job applications and r é sum é s, people can get help using the Internet to apply for jobs at the Department of Children and Family Services or applying for such services as Medicaid or SNAP (food stamps).

The center is also expanding its services to help youth through after-school tutoring and computer programs, Harrel said.

Harrel said Mirror of Grace isn’t averse to helping people with their spiritual needs. She said one of the computer instructors is a minister.

“We have praying going on in here. That’s not what we advocate, but when someone is in need, especially of spiritual guidance, we can connect them with different ministries and ministers. I love the Lord and I’m always willing to share a word or listen to anyone that comes to the door with a problem, issue or a worry,” said Harrel, a member of First Baptist Church of Richmond Park.

A native of Baton Rouge, Harrel left for nearly 30 years before returning home about three years ago. Most of her time away was spent serving as a youth counselor in California. She also lived in Atlanta and has run businesses and worked as a cosmetologist.

Harrel said the success stories she’s experienced since founding Mirror of Grace have made the effort worthwhile.

“My faith has given me encouragement to give back and the individuals that need skills appreciate it, because they come in all the time,” she said.

Mirror of Grace operates through grants, sponsorships and donations. For more information on computer classes or Mirror of Grace, call (225) 300-4528 or go to http://www.mirrorofgrace.com.

Hearing ‘God’s voice’

Learn how to “discern God’s voice within” at a retreat offered by the St. Joseph Spirituality Center in Baton Rouge.

The retreat led by the Rev. Mark Thibodeaux is set for 9 a.m. to noon Jan. 19 at St. Joseph’s Academy Mary Alice Hall, 3080 Kleinert Ave.

Thibodeaux will teach on “how to access our own spiritual intuition and help us understand that the most trustworthy wisdom comes from God working through us,” according to an email promoting the retreat.

“(The retreat) is for anyone really that is trying to discern in their lives what God is calling for them to do,” said Dianne Hanley, executive director of the St. Joseph Spirituality Center. “How do you know if it’s God call for you?”

She added that the retreat is “not just for Catholics. It’s something that people from any different faith tradition can benefit from.”

Thibodeaux, 42, is a native of Church Point. He is the novice master of the New Orleans Province Jesuits in Grand Coteau. He is also a spiritual director, retreat director and high school teacher. He has degrees in psychology, philosophy and theology from Loyola University of New Orleans and Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass.

Thibodeaux has written two books: “God, I have Issues” and “Armchair Mystic.”

Cost for the retreat is $40. For more information, call (225) 383-3349 or go to http://www.stjocenter.org.

Leadership keys

Getting married — to God — is one of the keys to being an effective spiritual leadership, says Bishop Rickey Washington, pastor of Higher Ground Outreach Church in Baton Rouge.

Having a committed and covenant relationship with God is one of the 15 principles for leaders that Washington shares in his book “Going Higher: Keys to Becoming a Generation of Leaders” (Lyrically Pink Publishing).

“God is calling for it all: everything you have,” Washington writes. “He is demanding a total commitment. He is demanding a marriage with you. If you are going to be a new generation of leaders, your commitment to God, to the commitment of the pastor, and to your leadership assignment has to be one of marriage, owning this call on your life and working to complete it at all costs.”

God wants his children to be leaders, requiring some people to step out of their comfort zones, Washington said.

“You are living in a time where your very decisions to lead — or not to lead — can and will affect the next generation. Sure, that’s a heavy burden to bear. But, rest assured knowing that the Holy Spirit will help guide you as you press forward in your anointed assignment,” Washington writes

“Higher Ground” is an insightful and empowering book with a large dose of scriptures. The 139-page book is broken down in an introduction and the 15 keys that are followed by a “challenge” from Washington.

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com.