Faith Matters: Mz. Yvette tells girls they can overcome

Even when she found herself pregnant as a teen, Yvette Brunswick of Baker found all the help she needed in a faithful mother and a faithful God.That experience is one of the main reasons behind Brunswick’s ministry, workshops and her two books focusing on girls ages 8-16.

“That group has really captivated my heart,” said Brunswick, better known as “Mz. Yvette.”

Brunswick, 47, said when she got pregnant 30 years ago, she had a relationship with her mother.

Not so much with God.

“I knew of God at that time,” Brunswick said. “To say that I had a personal relationship at that time, I wouldn’t say I did. I knew that if I needed him I could call on him.”

Brunswick said she never “panicked” because she had an assurance from God that she was going to be OK. And it has been OK. Her son is a minister of music for a church, and she has found a satisfying career, still working her way through college and serving as an author, workshop leader, motivational speaker and radio talk-show host.

“God has been faithful to me, regardless of what happens in my life — whether it be my own doing or whether it was something God allows — he’s always been there for me. When I think of God, I think of faithfulness,” she said.

Her mother also stood by her side, Brunswick said.

“I was tremendously blessed that my mother stepped in,” Brunswick said. “I thank her for doing what she did for me. She did not raise my child for me; she taught me how to be a mom.”

Brunswick, a member of Redeeming Life Fellowship Church in Baker, shares with youth that they can overcome any “challenge” in life, even pregnancy.

“I want girls to know that even if you have done this, it’s not the end … My son was not a mistake. God knew the plan for my life. I didn’t know it but he knew it … I believe it’s time for kids to know they are important. They’re special and they don’t need to be left out and think they can’t do a certain thing because of maybe their race or gender or where they come from.”

It’s important not to give up on any child, Brunswick said.

“I don’t count any kid as lost,” she said. “They may be out of the box a little bit. They may be out in left field when they should be in right field … As long as there’s breath in your body — and that’s with adults as well — there’s still hope.”

Brunswick shares her faith — without being overbearing.

“I’ve learned that you don’t always have to say the Bible says,” she said. “I can take a scripture from the Bible and put it in everyday language where they can understand, and they never know it came from the Bible.”

In addition to her two books — “A Girl’s Guide to Successful Living” and “From a Woman’s Point of View” — Brunswick also is busy holding workshops, teaching Sunday school and producing an online magazine and newsletter. Reach Brunswick at mzyvetted@outlook.com; go to mzyvetteandagirlsguide.weebly.com or call (225) 337-5420.

Mission accomplished

Students at St. Cecilia Catholic School in Broussard had a special mission for the past two years: to help a group of local missionaries and villages in Honduras.

The mission was accomplished recently when the students raised enough money to go toward a 2012 truck for Honduras missionaries to use to transport food, medicine and medical personnel while running a clinic in the remote village of La Fortuna.

The students raised nearly $20,000 through almsgiving for two Lenten Missions to purchase the $26,000 Nissan Frontier. The Sacred Heart Church Parish added the balance for the truck.

“We help our children in school to draw closer to Christ. It was very rewarding to see them actually sacrifice in ways that brought them joy,” said Glenda Serio, the school’s religion administrator.

Serio said the students raised the money in a variety of ways, including running snowball and lemonade stands and giving up their snack money.

“It wasn’t a bad experience to them. Yes, they did have to give back, and they did have to make sacrifices, but the joy in doing true service far surpassed the sacrifice they had to make,” she said.

In mid-August, St. Cecilia students formally presented the truck to Honduran missionaries during a video conference with the school’s 500 students in the gym.

“The electricity that was in that gym it was just awesome. The people of Honduras had prepared for us and we had prepared a song and things for them,” Serio said.

The inspiration for the students’ mission was the Sacred Heart of Broussard’s three medical mission trips to Honduras in January and July of 2012, and July 20-27 of this year. After each trip, the mission workers shared their experiences with students and challenged them to assist.

‘How Shall They Hear?’

One of the most liberating experiences for a minister can be found in preaching to prisoners, says a longtime prison ministry leader and author.

“Over the years in various prisons across the nation, I have seen preachers transformed in terms of their own personal attitudes and even fears about ministering in prisons,” the Rev. Anthony Kelley writes in his new book “How Shall They Hear?” (Townsend Press).

Kelley is the pastor of the Greater First Church Baptist of Baker. He is also the founder of the Prison Ministry and Criminal Justice Commission of the National Convention USA.

“I have left prisons many times with this satisfying feeling of having actually handled and shared my religion beyond the walls of my church,” he writes.

Unfortunately, there are far too many churches that do not share Kelley’s passion for the prison ministry, he says.

“Despite the positive aspects of this challenging outreach to prisoners, there may be some congregations that do not view such involvement and evangelistic possibilities as benefits to their growth, but as challenges to their status quo,” he writes.

Kelley has some strong words for churches who don’t understand the crisis of mass incarceration — particularly for people of color — and the need for prison ministry and concerns about criminal justice to be at the forefront of church mission and outreach.

“Too many people are suffering, and the church is silent on life and death. She is still preoccupied with her internal life, and often matters that have no continuity, concern, or character with the mission and mandate of the church,” he writes.

Louisiana has a recidivism rate of 40 percent for those released and returned to state prisons within three to five years, Kelley writes. The longer an ex-prisoner goes without community involvement, the more likely they are to return to prison, he says.

Kelley’s other books include “Jailhouse Religion: The Church’s Mission and Ministry to the Incarcerated” and “A Strange Silent from the Pulpit: The Prophetic Role of Pastors in Prison Ministry.”

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