All posts by Sharonda Cawthon

The editor was was raised as a pastor’s daughter in the city of Chicago and now resides in southern Illinois and is married to a minister. Don’t mistake her roles as a preacher’s kid (p.k.) and a preacher’s wife (p.k.) as a lack for awareness for what happens in the life of the average woman. She has had acquaintances and friendships over the years with women from all walks of life and the one thing that she has had in common with them all is her faith. Through those relationships she learned that everyone has moments of doubt, discouragement and even triumphs. The key is to have a connection to other believers so they can encourage each other through the ups and downs of life. That is what inspired her to create Nouveau Exposure Magazine. She has purposed to find other believers with testimonies of success after struggle, dreams coming to fruition by applying faith and action as well as lessons on self love. email address: SharondaCawthon@nouveauexposure.org

Jason Fredericks: Life Goes On

Jason and Kevin Fredericks [source: Facebook]
I first learned about Jason Fredericks from viewing videos on YouTube such as “How To Shout In A Black Church” by the comedic group known as the Playmakers (consisting of Jason, his brother Kevin and their friend Anthony Davis).  Later on I became more acquainted with his individual style of comedy through a Periscope line up that he, Kevin and their friends Cheryce Thompson and Sheri Anderson would do when Periscope was a huge craze and Facebook/Instagram Live were ideas for the future. You may know him from social media as well or if you have ever conducted any scheduling for Kevonstage, chances are you have communicated with Jason. Jason Fredericks is much more than a comedian, a writer, a businessman and the brother of Kevonstage. He is a husband, father, basketball coach and a cancer survivor.

On July 12, 2017 Jason took to social media asking for prayer stating “I’m going in for a biopsy today. They are checking for a cancer in my bone marrow called Multiple Myeloma. If you see this post stop and say a quick prayer for your boy. Thank you. I appreciate it.” Twelve days later he shared an update that there was cancer found in his plasma and it was attacking his bones. He had stage three cancer and was looking at six months of chemotherapy treatments and a possible bone marrow transplant. But let’s rewind a bit and go behind the social media updates and find out exactly how things unfolded.

For months upon months Jason suffered from back pain. He sought professional assistance for his back pain from the chiropractor and massage therapist. He went to appointment after appointment and finally relief was occurring after a year. As life would have it, Jason and his son, Julian a.k.a. JuJu, were involved in a car accident. Due to complaints of headaches from his son they made a trip to the emergency room to be examined, as a precaution. He went to get a quick check up because of a car accident, but that quickly changed. After medical examination for both Jason and his son the doctor advised that Julian was well but expressed concern with Jason’s X-rays. Jason’s bones appeared as bones of a man sixty years of age or older. The doctor could see that Jason was not an elder gentleman but 37 years of age and wanted to do more examination on him. After additional X-rays and an MRI the doctor advised Jason that they needed to admit him to the hospital. At this point Jason grew curious of what was happening and asked the doctor if the situation was truly serious enough where hospital admission was necessary.

Jason receiving his treatment (photo courtesy of Jason Fredericks)

At that moment, in front of his son, Jason learned that the back trouble he was experiencing for over a year was due to his bones eroding and he could have cancer. He was immediately admitted to the hospital and unknown to him at the time, he was admitted to the oncology floor of the facility.

When asked about his initial reaction to his diagnosis Jason thought about his health practices and actions over the years. He stated “I questioned why it had to happen to me and I didn’t know how to deal with it.” Multiple Myeloma is not typically a form of cancer that young adults are diagnosed with, but more commonly diagnosed to older individuals. Jason, just as many others, was living his life with an understanding that life is what it is and he would do everything he could to make the best of it and eventually, one day when he is old God would take him on to heaven. With this bombshell announcement in his life he was now open to a new outlook on life.

Everyone handles things differently and when it came to how to handle this news he made a decision to share with his followers and friends via social media. It was not for attention. “I didn’t want it to be one of those things where something happened to me and later down the road people say it came out of the blue,” said Jason. He knew from the onset that there would be a testimony and from the moment he began to share on social media, in regards to his medical diagnosis, he received much more encouragement, testimonies and prayers than he anticipated and for that he is grateful.

Jason has pulled from his faith and scripture to help get him through this new journey. One scripture he referenced during the interview was Luke 22:42 when Jesus prayed for God to take the cup from him just before he was crucified and in his next breath a prayer of acceptance that if it was God’s will, so be it. Jason has grown to see Multiple Myeloma as his cross to bare and he will try his best to work through it. 

“It [cancer] has strengthened a lot my relationships with my family. It has put a lot of things in perspective of what matters and what doesn’t matter,”said Jason. His time with his wife, children and other family hold more value than it did before because he treats each moment as if it may be the last time that he can have with them. Not because he doesn’t believe he won’t live a long life, but because immortality is more of a reality to him now than it was before he received his diagnosis.

“I don’t understand why it had to happen to me, but I thank God for giving me the strength to endure everything that’s been going on with me.” While Jason wouldn’t choose to go through life with this experience, for whatever reason he is and he wants God to get the glory.

Terence Lester: Going Beyond the Walls

Terence Lester
[source: Facebook]
“I would tell anybody, to this day there are a lot of people doing philanthropic work. Is your heart in it? Can you do it when nobody is there? Can you do it when nobody shows up? Can you do it when you are only affecting one?” These are the things that drive Terence Lester to go on for his organization Love Beyond Walls day after day. His desire is to make sure that he is leaving a legacy that not only his children, but others will follow. He has witnessed people waste their lives being distracted by bad relationships, failed obstacles and other challenges. Terence is determined not to allow anything to distract him from striving on a daily basis to do all that he can to contribute to humanity.

In 2013 Terence Lester accepted the challenge to sleep on the streets and experience life like the homeless in his city during the Christmas holiday season. He took to social media sharing a gofundme campaign to raise money to launch his now flourishing organization, Love Beyond Walls. Love Beyond Walls is a non-profit organization based in Atlanta, GA and it was founded by Terence to be an aid to those who have ended up on the streets for reasons anywhere from job loss to runaways.

So exactly how does Love Beyond Walls operate? Well, some years ago, Terence met with mentors and he learned that every organization or company focuses on data. He wanted to do something where his measures of data were not focused on the number of volunteers or donations but his success was about reaching one person and making a difference in their life. Every life is important. While speaking Terence referenced the scripture Matthew 18:12 when Jesus mentions a shepherd who will leave 99 sheep to search for one. That is Terence’s focus today, reach one, and he believes that if his measure marks were not different from other organizations he would have quit a long time ago.

#HireMark [source: Instagram]
This was recently proven through a campaign that was led by Terence and Love Beyond Walls using the hashtag #HireMark. Love Beyond Walls has helped a ton of people over the years. Mark’s story was that he was adopted as a child, ended up in corporate America and became homeless. Terence promised Mark that if he went the distance that he would do the same in return to get him employed. Terence wanted to show Mark the power of collective support and how many people would be able to identify with Mark’s story. Mark was involved with volunteering with Love Beyond Walls and in turn they kept Terence’s promise. They helped Mark gather all of his identification documents, connect with family, and moved forward with the campaign. It was launched using the hashtag and Terence stood with Mark wearing a sign with the words “Hire Mark” painted on giant boards hanging over his shoulders. Mark was recently hired back into corporate America, moved into a housing space and open a bank account in less than a month from the campaign launching thanks to social media and word of mouth. This was a successful outreach for one but it affected thousands. That’s the magic of Love Beyond Walls.

Love Beyond Walls
Map18
[source: Love Beyond Walls Website]
Love Beyond Walls is gearing up for it’s next campaign known as MAP18 (March Against Poverty 2018). You may recall seeing Terence in the media during MAP16 when he walked from Atlanta to our nation’s capital in Washington, D.C. This year Terence will begin walking on March 3rd from the Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum in Atlanta to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. Terence should arrive in Memphis by April 4th. The day he is set to arrive will be the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.  The focus this year is to bring attention to poverty and racial division in honor of Dr. King and two of the triple evils that Dr. King marched for during his life. This is a way to bring people together in a non-violent way. They have the endorsement of the NAACP as well as the SCLC. Terence believes this march will be one of the most historic campaigns that Love Beyond Walls has participated in.  The campaign will be turned into a documentary film on racial reconciliation. “It will be creating the moral courage that we need,” said Terence. He believes this is something that america desperately needs. If you would like to learn more about MAP18 or Love Beyond Walls and how you can help visit their social media (@lovebeyondwalls) and website.

 

Crystal Perkins Trusting God with Goals

A little over 2 years ago I was scrolling through my timeline on Facebook and came across a video of a young woman sharing her testimony of God answering her prayers and blessing her family with a vehicle from a total stranger. That woman was none other than the Faithful Chics founder and owner, Crystal Perkins. After watching that video I was encouraged as a woman of faith and an entrepreneur and began following her and her brand. So, when she accepted our invitation to be interviewed for this issue of Nouveau Exposure I was ecstatic. If you aren’t following her, you need to! She truly is a faith filled chic and involves God in every aspect of her life.

– Only God Can Do It –

Crystal’s testimony of God bringing her through trials and tribulations may sound a bit cliche,` but it is the truth. Several years ago she had lost her father and grandfather and her family began experiencing hardship after hardship from losing employment to losing their home. On top of that her marriage was on the verge of divorce. Crystal and her husband have known each other since 9th grade but married life wasn’t coming to them as the union they hoped it would. Things were rocky. One day she was driving and talking to God and she heard God speaking to her saying he was going to restore everything that she lost and what he required of her was not to give up and to share her testimony with everyone she came in contact with. At the time she couldn’t see it happening because she and her husband were a dark space in their lives. In Spite of that, she pulled over immediately and called her husband to share with him what God had given her saying, “We can not give up, God wants to use all of this for his glory.” They made the choice to fight for their marriage.

Their fight wasn’t physical or mental, it was spiritual. Counseling sessions didn’t really work for them. They realized that they had to find themselves in Christ before they could work on healing their marriage. As they learned to pray with each other and open up the line of communication between them by offering vulnerability they began to see a change in their marriage. These changes taking place in their individual lives and their marriage was the foundation for God to begin to bless them and open doors that he had promised.

– Faithful God –

Faithful Chics Boutique Arkansas Location

Crystal eventually began Faithful Chics while working as a counselor for those who were blind or visually impaired. Her days typically consisted of her having her time with God, going to work, coming home to prepare dinner, spending quality time with her daughter and husband and as they shut down for the night she was working on anything related to Faithful Chics from design and planning to packaging and shipping. While her days and nights were long and full, she loved her job and she loved her business/ministry.

One of her coworkers shared a word with her that God revealed to them that her ministry was growing so fast and she was going to have to make a decision soon about pursuing it full time. After some time God began to reveal those same things to her and before she knew it she found herself at work one day hearing the voice of the Lord say that she could not return to work the next day. With tears in her eyes and an obedient spirit she began packing her personal items and went to let her boss know that she would not be returning after the day was over. She received her confirmation during that conversation. Her boss let her know that at the time when Crystal began working for the organization they were losing faith in God and it was ignited seeing Crystal’s faith in action and witnessing her relationship with God. While Crystal thought her assignment was having the job to be there for her clients and the favor of being able to grow and operate her business while working, for her boss it was to inspire them to renew their faith in God.

The next morning after leaving her job she logged into her website for Faithful Chics and said “Here I am God.” Two weeks later she received a call from a new outlet mall in her area in Arkansas. They found her company on the internet, loved her brand and wanted to offer her space at the mall. She opened a kiosk located outdoors during early fall of 2015. She prayed to God for an indoor location due to the weather changing and God allowed her to have her first indoor location by November of 2015. Later her company left indoor location at the mall for her own storefront location by January of 2016 known as the Faithful Chics Boutique. Crystal remembers thinking “If I would have stayed at my job, I would have missed out on all of this.”

Her ministry and business began growing and thriving. Faithful chics boutique was not your average store. Part of the policy to open the store was to pray and worship before the doors opened. The boutique became a sanctuary for customers. They were welcome to come there and be free to talk about their struggles, be emotional, pray, worship and more. Crystal was witnessing the promise God gave her from years prior coming to past.

-On to the Next –

When it comes to what God has in store for the Perkins family you should always be waiting for more. By spring of 2017 Crystal announced via social media that God had given them the assignment of uprooting from Arkansas and moving to Georgia. It wasn’t a real surprise to Crystal for God to have them do this. God had already shown her in visions that a move was going to occur and as she put it, “Every time he [God] gives me a vision about something, it happens.”

 

Perkins Family

 

Because of her faith and obedience she was ready to move. She admits that it was hard to leave family and let go of the boutique. She prayed and prayed for God to make a way for the store to remain open. It wasn’t for the financial benefit of having a physical store versus an online presence and pop up shops but for the customers who loved the environment of the store and all that it offered as a sanctuary to them. Finally God answered her saying if she could not let go of the boutique then it had become an idol to her. After that she stopped trying find ways to keep it open and followed God’s instruction. It was an emotional process leaving everything that they knew, but she and her family came to terms with separating from everything they loved about Arkansas to establish residency in the Atlanta, Georgia.

 

The transition itself was easy. Crystal has experienced God’s provision for the vision over and over. He hasn’t failed her yet and she doesn’t doubt for one second that he will. While they don’t have a physical store in Georgia at this time God has provided for them in other areas from blessing them with their place of residence to their ministry and business continuing to thrive. At this time their residence is the operating site for Faithful Chics but they are bursting at the seams and currently praying for the best location to launch their boutique in a new city. She believes a physical location is in their future within the next six months to a year. In the meantime Crystal has launched a new opportunity for individuals to become licensed to sell Faithful Chics apparel. Along with the licensing they will be receiving one one one coaching sessions with Crystal and tools to help them become successful entrepreneurs. She and her staff received and reviewed over 200 applications and recently contacted the first group that was selected for this experience. Be on the look out, you may have a licensed seller in your area to see for all of your Faithful Chic Apparel.

 

Crystal has not allowed herself to be defined only by the label of her company Faithful Chics. She is branching out and becoming a serial entrepreneur by launching her latest business, God and Goals. God and Goals is a consulting company founded by Crystal to show other entrepreneurs how to move forward in business with hard work, perseverance and faith. She didn’t start doing this out of thin air. She began doing faith and purpose consultations a couple of years ago. But God began to pour into her and show her how to develop God and Goals. Her desire is to teach others to keep God at the forefront, pray over their business and seek God with decision making. God and Goals is the tool to allow her to accomplish that desire. There are services for the general public to sign up to receive and membership perks as well. Services not only involve consultations, but also include branding and marketing assistance, workshops, brand audits, and access to apply for scholarships and grants.

 

There is a special customer that Crystal has been serving lately and that is her beautiful daughter. Crystal’s daughter Kennedy (8 years old) has already come to her parents on her own with a business plan and a mission. She has witnessed her parents apply faith and hard work for their businesses and she is taking notes for her own endeavors. It will not come easy. Her parents are teaching her to that the development of a brand and business takes time. She recently did chores to earn funds to have a logo created and moving on to the next step. Talk about legacy!

– Penny For Your Thoughts –

Crystal did share a few words of wisdom with us for someone who may be going back and forth with making the decision to launch a business. “There is never a perfect time. The right time is when God confirms that it’s the right time.” She has learned from experience that life is never going to stop and when God gives a vision and confirms it, it is time to fulfill it. “You need to literally drop everything and be obedient. I obey God flat out. I don’t try to negotiate with God. I do it.”  if you only take one thing away from reading this, Crystal hopes that it’s to make sure that your dreams/goals are aligned with God’s will. Remember in all the hustle and bustle of making business decisions to keep God at the forefront of all decision making. And last but not least, stay humble.Increase, influence, prosperity comes in stay hungry, don’t get so comfortable that you feel like you have reached the final level of success. You should never stop growing, never stop grinding and never stop working hard.

New Duo One Reason

Name a male gospel duo that has hit the scene since Dawkins and Dawkins. I’ll wait. (insert crickets) That’s right, you probably can’t name any. Well, now you can add One Reason to your list.

 

Lamarr Lyons and DJon Johnson have had a whirlwind of a year in 2017 and they aren’t letting go of that momentum. Together they have close to 20 years experience in the gospel music industry. Lamarr began singing background at the age of seven from choirs to gospel and country artists as well as arranging music. DJon connected to the music industry at the age of 16. He gained experience doing background vocals and assisting with production.

 

Lamarr and DJon began working together in 2016 singing background as well as writing, arranging and producing. Earlier this year they found themselves working on a song for an artist and God began to deal with them both about embarking on a new journey and recording the song themselves. How many of you know when God gives a call, you should be obedient and answer with yes?! Lamarr and DJon gave God a yes! They purposed to keep it real with their lyrics, break boundaries with their sound and produce music that will change your life as well as please the ear. They agreed to record the song, and just this past summer they released their debut single, “You Are.” This song has not only played in the United States, but has streamed internationally in countries such as the United Kingdom and Nigeria.

 

It has not been a fairytale full of rainbows and sunshine. They definitely went back and forth on going forward with moving together as One Reason versus continuing alone on the paths they were already on. Eventually they did make the choice to work together. The connection between the two of them and the balance that each one brings to the other from a creativity to personality is what makes everything come together so well. Have they had challenges? Yes. Has it been easy? No. Do they work through those moments? Of course! They both learned something from this new endeavor. DJon’s advice to others, “Don’t ever second guess what God is trying to tell you to do.” He believes that God doesn’t intend for you to be defeated. God’s direction is a set up for something greater. “What you think you aren’t qualified for, is what God can give you the tools to accomplish,” said Lamarr.

 

They haven’t dropped the ball. They have been very busy. Check out their crazy and comedic moments on their YouTube show OneReasonTV. They share from their adventures in L.A., performance appearances and more. Keep an ear our for their mixtape, “Loyalty”, set to release just before the holiday.

 

Fight For Your Fairytale w/ Stacy Ike

O! M! G! Have you heard of the phenom who is none other than Miss Stacy Ike? This young woman has captured the attention of thousands between her YouTube channel, red carpet interviews and most recently her appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) show OWN Tonight!

The​ ​Who,​ ​What​ ​&​ ​Why…

She is a native of Houston,Texas who began her journey as an adult when she left Texas to attend college at the University of Missouri with a major in Journalism. She hit the ground running after graduating with her bachelor’s’ degree, but felt as though she wanted more. By January 2014 she took a leap of faith and moved to the city of Los Angeles, California with nothing but dreams of what could be. Stacy knew what she desired to do but honestly did not have a clue what it looked like in reality. She learned what she had a passion for by thinking about all the things she didn’t want to do first. As Stacy put it, “Before you leap make sure your passion is in the right place.”

Stacy, like many in the entertainment industry, has worked restaurant jobs and taken acting classes. During her first year in Los Angeles she met so many great people. She set off to prove to herself how much she wanted the career she desired and it became a challenge to leap and go for her dream. Her determination and faith has helped drive her to push forward every day since she made the choice to move to L.A.

She isn’t ashamed of sharing how instrumental God has been in the opportunities that she has been blessed to have. Stacy was raised in the church. Both of her parents have been and still are heavily involved in church. They taught her how to develop a relationship with God. But, as Stacy put it, you can’t depend on the relationship that your parents helped you to build. There has to be development based on personal interaction between yourself and God. Stacy has definitely had some faith stretching moments since she made a faith move in 2014. She has been able to witness the attributes of God and has learned that other than relationships with her parents and close friends this is the one positive relationship she can depend on. God will always have her front, back, side and everything else.She has developed a confidence in her relationship with him and she has learned from situations when he is moving or not.

The​ ​When​ ​&​ ​How…

Stacy recalled a time where she was offered a job but didn’t’ quite feel right about it in her spirit. She turned the job down. A few days later she was presented with an even better opportunity with SmashBox Cosmetics to do a talk series with influencers. That job was exactly what she was working towards and led to other opportunities for her career from Baller Alert and Regal Cinemas to Tribune Publishing and the Hollywood Reporter.

Interview after interview and assignment after assignment afforded her opportunities of speaking to hundreds of individuals from Snoop to Oprah Winfrey. So how did this young woman go from being the new girl in town working for free to being on OWN Tonight? She was observed doing her craft and was simply asked to come to do just what she practiced doing all the time on a different platform. Yes, it was just that simple. You never know what opportunities God will allow you to be presented with. She was honored by the invitation. Of course she accepted the opportunity to host a show on a network founded by one of her role models.

It was a fun experience getting to ask questions that fans at home wanted to ask the characters of the hit show Greenleaf. She herself being a fan and experiencing the angst from watching the show genuinely had a passion for interviewing the actors and celebrity fans. She shared on the excitement through her social media accounts that the goat, Larry King, contacted her to congratulate and share some wisdom with her. When asked what she has taken from her interaction with Larry and Oprah that she will carry with her throughout her career she stated that they shared with her where she is today is because she worked hard and it was preparation meeting opportunity. It has nothing to do with luck. “While you’re working you have these moments where you think to yourself why am i doing this?,” said Stacy. C.S. Lewis said it best, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different.” Stacy has found that she is living her fairytale.

Her fairytale wasn’t achieved solely on her own strength and knowledge. She has learned over these last few years the importance of being surrounded with people who know more than she does so she can learn from them. She has been willing to partner and network with others. Stacy still has more fairytale to fight for as her journey continues. She wants to put her acting classes to use as well as complete projects of service work and inspire women through her organization NAOMILiving (Not Afraid of My Imperfections). She wants everything that she does to point back to the purpose God has given her. She even aspires to have her own production company. If something doesn’t point back to a higher purpose than herself then it doesn’t have a point.

The​ ​Golden​ ​Nugget…

Stacy shares nuggets with her followers on a weekly basis doing a segment titled OTS Tuesdays via her YouTube channel and Instagram page. Be sure to check out her blogs from time to time on her website www.stacyike.com. During 2017 she has gone as far as hosting events in person and via social media to share these nuggets as well. When asked if she had any words of wisdom to share with you, our readers, she shared on the importance of starving insecurities and feeding the greatness God has placed within you. Never allow fear of the unknown and unseen to keep you from achieving the purpose that God created you to achieve. Fight for the fairytale!

Like A Boss

The phrase “like a boss” comes to mind when thinking about Delores Balogun. She is vivacious, innovative and chic. This serial entrepreneur is on fire and it’s just the beginning.

Delores is a professional event planner by trade. She studied event planning during her undergraduate career at Illinois State University. The beginning was a little on the rocky side. By her second semester she was failing her classes and placed on academic probation. She didn’t understand how she could go from having a 3.2 grade point average in high school to failing out of college before college really began. Her years of primary and secondary education had not properly prepare her for college. After a meeting with the president of the university, Delores was able to continue attending ISU. After completing her education at ISU she became an event planner for National PTA. It was her responsibility to plan the annual convention and other major events. One event in particular was a bit different than the others. The keynote speaker was former Flotus, Michelle Obama. Her staff took notice of how meticulous Delores was when it came to every detail for the event. So much so, that they inquired if she would be interested in joining an advanced team working the Mrs. Obama planning her events. Two weeks later Delores was working for Mrs. Obama!

Fast forward a bit to 2012 when Ellen Degeneres and Michelle Obama joined with JCPenney to help several hundred girls of military families get ready for prom. Delores was assigned the task of helping these individuals get everything they needed. While interacting with them she couldn’t help but think about how this was a rare experience for the participants. That, paired with her passion for working with girls, inspired her to take action and start iGlow Mentoring in her hometown, Chicago. Delores had planned her first event expecting maybe about 20-25 girls to register. Her expectations were exceeded. She had over 500 girls to attend. iGlow mentoring has taught Delores that there is a strong need for the presence of organizations for girls. Five years later the organization is still going and growing.

The organization recently expanded to a 1,100 square foot office in the downtown area. If you know about urban real estate, that’s a hot commodity. They are currently in the developing stages of Glow boxes as part of the for-profit arm which is a social enterprise to bring money back to iGlow mentoring. There are so many participants in the mentoring program, that they are no longer able to do one-on-one mentor to mentee relationships. They have adopted peer-to-peer mentoring and there is still a waiting list. There are different locations throughout the city of Chicago where the participants come together to meet every other Saturday. iGlow mentoring deals with social/ emotional health, bullying, self esteem, college preparation and exposes the girls to things that aren’t necessarily normal opportunities. The mentees have been exposed to the Joffrey Ballet and visited the McDonald’s headquarters in Illinois. They also have been fortunate enough to have interns. Just this summer, there were 25 paid interns. Delores shared on social media, in excitement,“I love that we hire high school and college girls to work for iGlow during the summer months. For some working with me will be their first job experience. After working for me, they can work for ANYONE!!! Sooo honored to be their leader!!”

You have learned that Delores is an event planner and founder of iGlow, but did you know she has Pumps and Power, which is an organization for faith based for entrepreneurs. The tagline is “Where women, the bible and spirituality meet.” This organization was birthed when Delores started interacting with women who were powerhouses but were beyond disconnected from the church and she believes that the church is the heartbeat of God. The Holy Spirit began to show her what to do about this. She thought it would be something small, as if she hadn’t learned her lesson with iGlow. It started with a couple of dozen women and grew from there. It went from a small group to an organization. They come together once a month and have strategy sessions to reconnect their faith to what they are doing in business. Delores brings in experts, who are believers and nonbelievers, to train them about increase, net worth and business strategies.

At this point you may be wondering what is her secret? Life, sometimes, is the best teacher. When Delores was working in her field as an event planner, she could feel God tugging at her to pull her into entrepreneurship. She wanted to do it, but thought she was still too young and maybe in her late 30’s or 40’s she would that jump. Well, here she was employed for a university in Chicago. She was a hard worker and over achiever who was fired…yes, FIRED. They gave her a nice package of several months salary, but for someone who thrived off of staying busy and completing tasks, she was hurting. “Sometimes when you love God so much and you’ve literally molded your entire life around pleasing, serving and loving God when things happen to you that feel unfair and unjust you feel like how did you let that happen to me,” said Delores.

She was looking for something to do. God was trying to show her that her wealth was inside of her but she wasn’t listening. Everything she applied for, she was either overqualified or asking too much for salary. iGlow was a well oiled machine and didn’t need her for any day to day operations. Everyday she would wake up quoting scriptures. God began imparting wisdom and doing character changes for the next level he was moving her to. Eventually, she found another job working for a mega ministry with multiple churches world-wide. She was running events and knew this was what God called her to do. She was getting people together for the kingdom. After seven months, they had to lay her off due to budget issues. While they couldn’t afford to keep her on salary, they offered her a position to stay on as a consultant. After toying around with the idea for a while, Delores declined. As she began to make moves as an entrepreneur, God began to bless her with a $20,000 contract here and an $80,000 contract there. Delores’ nature was to make plans and focus on the details. She really just wanted God to share the plan with her so they could work on it together. She quickly learned this was an area where she was going to have to learn to trust God and put on her blinders.

Things became clearer for Delores last year. In 2016 she stayed off of social media for six months. She zoned in with God and shut out the noise. She began attending therapy and spending time in devotion. She read books addressing things she struggled with such as rejection and abandonment. This was the turning point for her and the more she became focused on the purpose God had given her to inspire girls and women globally, she was able to say no to the things that were not relative. Delores has had some big no’s. She doesn’t share them all, but this year, she turned down an Executive Pastor position for a well known ministry in the United States as well as a major corporation who requested to meet with her to hire her as the Senior Vice President of event planning. Could life get anymore exciting? Delores put it best, when you are anointed, favor will chase you down. When Delores learned to turn things down, things began to change for the best.

Delores simply feels unstoppable. Her experiences have shaped her thinking to another level. She has employees, interns, clients,mentees and more who are looking to her. She believes the purpose God has given you, can protect you from what you can’t see and keep you from falling down a path that isn’t ordained for your life. People hit bumps in the road and choose if they will and will not recover. Delores knows that life is a fight. She wants people to know that because you love Jesus and he loves you doesn’t mean it won’t be a fight, but it’s a fixed fight.

 

Yasira Sonnier Moving Forward

What once was a title to be had in shame is now raised on a banner in hero status and that title is being a single mother. Yasira Sonnier knows all too well the tale of being a single mom. Her first marriage resulted in divorce and she found herself being a single mother of two young boys. She found herself being a college graduate without work experience because she was a stay at home wife and mother.

At the age of 28 her first job paid seven dollars per hour. To make budget for bills and other finances Yasira found a second job that paid eleven dollars per hour. Their father was active in their lives, but she was the primary caretaker and desperately wanted to be all things to her children. She struggled with not being enough for her children. The new responsibility of providing for her own home as well as her children was a curve ball of emotional distress. She wasn’t prepared.

Not knowing where to turn, she decided to run from the discomfort. She and her children moved around bouncing from Texas to New York and North Carolina. She moved around hoping each time things would get better and it would be a come up, but things only seemed to get worse. She didn’t have the assistance from a community of family or friends for her children and lost employment because of absences due to caring for her children. She recalls one instance when she and the boys were all ill with the flu and had to be hospitalized.

Eventually Yasira found herself moving back to Houston,Texas and slowly piecing her life back together. She was able to create a family through friends and began attending Lakewood Church with senior pastor Joel Osteen. “Joel and Victoria say give them a year of your life and they will change everything. I was able to commit to God and work hard,” said Yasira.

After some time she rejoined the dating scene but was careful not to bring anyone around her children and home if it were not serious. After some time she befriended a gentleman and as a year passed, their relationship blossomed. Yasira observed his actions and how he cared for her children. She felt that he cared for them as if they were his own. He even waited for her children to be comfortable with their relationship before asking to marry her. They have been married for two years now.

She experienced quite a few challenges trying to tackle life on her own and harnessing emotions within. Doing so only caused her to be withdrawn from the world. Once she began to let go and welcome others into her life, God was able to heal her heart from hurt and she was able to love again. She strives now to share her testimony with other women to encourage them during those rough moments that she knows all too well.

Yasira has done different workshops for women in her community to teach various topics, from the importance of having a spiritual relationship with God and self love to managing finances and sharing about single parenting. She helps them find resources for different services that they need and encourages them to continue to move forward with their lives as they experience the ups and downs of being a single mother. She is currently working on a how to book for single moms to share many of these tips from her workshops and will soon be leading a group for single mothers at her church.

Yasira’s advice to women who are in a difficult season of their lives and don’t see their way out is to pray and trust that God has a way of timing everything. You may never know the reason why but later God will reveal why he allowed things to work out the way that they did.

LaKeisha Bowling, Wounded to Wonderful

Domestic Violence…. Two words labeling actions that many of us have experienced or know of someone who has experienced it. BUT, WE DON’T DISCUSS IT! We talk about sex, drugs, divorce, dating, debt, politics, traveling and who knows what else. For some reason, abuse is a topic that too many churches leave untapped.

I was recently granted the opportunity to chat with a domestic violence survivor, LaKeisha Bowling, who has found the courage to share her testimony this year after holding back for over a decade.

-How Did We Get Here?-

LaKiesha was raised in a very small town in the state of Virginia. Just to let you know how small, she says it only had one stop light. She was brought up in a two-parent home until, her parents divorced when she was eight years old. Clearly not long enough to witness the ups and downs of a relationship and the love that bonds a couple together. As an adult, she mentally revisited that time in her life and realized that she felt abandoned. Her mom found other interest and her father was distant. She felt as though she was left in the cold. Well, you can imagine the next line… she was looking for “love” in all the wrong places.

LaKeisha was looking for love to be shown to her in some way from someone and because of the lack of foundation being taught and shown love through word and action, she accepted what was given to her. She didn’t know what a healthy relationship looked like and went from broken relationship to broken relationship. By the age of 18 was involved in a cycle of being in an abusive relationship with someone who physically abused her time after time.

-Destined Duo-

At the age of 22, during the second abusive relationship in her life, she was living in the state of Virginia. Needing childcare for her children she found the home day care of Pam Fisher. Little did she know, God had set a divine appointment.

The irony of LaKeisha and Pam meeting is that, just prior to her settling into a new life, Pam had been praying for God to open a door to sell her home, and purchase a larger residence for her home daycare. She had a realtor, but couldn’t find a house to her liking. After some time, God answered and told her to run her business in home as she already had. Her instructions were to extend into her garage. Pam followed the leading of God. Little did they both know; their lives would change after meeting each other.

LaKeisha recalls being frail at this time. She was a mother of two now. She would come to the daycare wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants in summer weather and would keep her sunglasses on inside to cover up bruises. She remembers moving slowly at times because she would be sore from an abusive episode from the night before.

She doesn’t believe that her children witnessed her abuse visually, but thinks that they may have heard it. Even with her efforts of going as far as stuffing a sheet or towel at the foot of her door to muffle the sounds. “Listen, it is a craft to learn how to scream silently. Inside. When someone has put your hand inside of a drawer and slammed it on your hand and you have to scream within yourself, you become a master of those things so you won’t wake your children, so you won’t scare them,” said LaKeisha. So many times, she thought she would lose her life and her children would come home and find her dead.

Pam didn’t impose on what was going on with LaKeisha. She didn’t tell Pam what was going on. Growing up in a home where physical abuse occurred, Pam noticed the signs. As a childcare provider, Pam has learned that the behavior of the child usually signals activity that takes place in the home. The real tell was witnessing the behavior of LaKeisha’s children at the daycare. One of the children would have constant episodes of hitting and yelling.

Pam simply took an approach of loving on LaKeisha and her children as God gifted her to do. She complimented LaKeisha by letting her know she was beautiful, she gave nuggets of support and encouragement as moments would allow. Pam was very careful not to constantly hammer her with statements like “when are you going to leave him,” or “don’t you know you deserve better.”

LaKeisha credits Pam for being a loving friend to her and her children during this season of her life. She could feel the love radiate from Pam. As time went on, their friendship blossomed and Pam was there for her in those moments when she would get fed up with the abuse. Pam has shown up at Lakeisha’s home and stood between LaKeisha and her abuser (professional athlete) telling him to leave her home. LaKeisha recalls a time when Pam and other friends came to her home to help her and her children gather their items to put in storage and move. LaKeisha had no place to go, so Pam opened her home to them in their time of need.

Pam became LaKeisha’s best friend. She stuck by her to help her through the moments of loneliness. For instance, there was a time when LaKeisha showed up at Pam’s’ front door with her children in the middle of the night so she wouldn’t go back to her abuser because she longed for companionship.

-Renewed-

LaKeisha’s family introduced her to Christ during her childhood but during her time of healing she had to get through her emotions of anger and disappointment towards God. LaKeisha witnessed Pam moving forward in her life and took queues and moved forward on her own spiritual journey. Pam had recently made a vow to be celibate until marriage and was growing in her daily walk. She takes joy in knowing that God was able to use her journey to inspire LaKeisha and show her that a relationship with a man cannot fill a void the way God can.

 

After some time LaKeisha began watching Christian television programs and reading Christian books. She felt that God’s presence made her feel a way that no one else could make her feel. Eventually she found a church and began attending services. She recalls an encounter with the Pastor when they told her “you are in a pit and the dirt is over the top of you.” The pastor was speaking to the hurt that LaKeisha had inside of her. LaKeisha couldn’t understand how God had allowed her to be in three abusive relationships. She thought maybe God didn’t love her. She didn’t know what she had done to keep attracting men who treated her the way that they did.

Over time God began to deliver LaKeisha from the hurt she had experienced and the feeling of loneliness. She was able to gain strength from God’s unconditional love. LaKeisha’s self-esteem increased and she no longer looked for men, children or anyone else to feel a void in her life. She had the love of Jesus.

-Inspired to Inspire-

A little over a year ago LaKeisha married and decided to take a break from social media for a year. God began to deal with her about sharing her testimony to be an encouragement to others. LaKeisha wanted to empower men and women who have been in or are in similar situations and let them know, “You don’t have to stay in this situation, love is out here and it comes from yourself. You have to get your healing and deliverance.” She knows that you may feel invisible, but you can fly. Whether it be domestic violence or even a struggle that you are trying to overcome, you can do it.

In just a few months LaKeisha has gone from telling her testimony of domestic violence through a Facebook live video to coming across a request from a woman who was looking for stories of domestic violence survivors to get them compiled for a book. She responded, and now her story along with others will be released in a book titled Wounds to Wisdom…The Survivor Series Volume 2 on October 7th. There will be a gala held in Atlanta, Georgia in celebration of the release.

 

Lights, Camera, Action

The entertainment industry can bring out the best and worst of the people involved from singers and dancers to actors and athletes and everyone in between. The “church” has a way of demonizing anyone who isn’t specifically working for a Christian organization, but let’s face the reality of it all. We are not of this world, but we do live in it. While we are being realistic, let’s keep it 100 and admit that our televisions and stereos tune in to plenty of sitcoms, movies, reality shows, and musical recordings that aren’t produced by a Christian company for a Christian audience. Whether you’re a fan or not, by now you have at least heard of the hit show on FOX network, Empire. The show has casted a catalog of actors, from Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson to Nia Long and Phylicia Rashad. Antoine McKay was blessed with the opportunity to play the role of Bunkie Williams on Empire and yes, he is a Christian.

Mr. McKay is a native from the Detroit, Michigan area. Did he always want to be an actor from childhood? No. Mr. McKay attened Eastern Michigan University and started out studying Forensic Science. For a moment, he considered studying Political Science to become a politician but, with humor, stated he didn’t want to be assassinated. He was bitten by the acting bug when he witnessed his brother perform in New York for the musical Oklahoma and the audience gave a standing ovation. Mr. McKay jokingly admitted he wanted to act to get the same reaction. He joined the Theatre program and studied under Uta Hagen. Uta Hagen had an intense program that Mr. McKay called “crazy hard,” but he appreciated the training that helped him prepare for his now 27 year acting career. That’s right, 27 years.

Mr. McKay has lived the typical life of an actor working several jobs at a time including waiting tables as he auditioned for opportunities to share his craft. He was eventually accepted as a part of Second City, a satellite theatre, in Detroit. He was invited to Chicago for their shows as well. He accepted the offer thinking he would become a famous actor in Chicago and eventually earn an Oscar. That’s the dream…right?

– Rising Action –
His acting career began to take off the way he hoped. He landed a role on Prison Break, but while his professional career was approaching the runway for takeoff his personal life was experiencing turbulence. You see, Mr. McKay wasn’t saved at the time. It wasn’t that he was ignorant of God or even “un-churched.” He attended church for 17 years during his youth but he didn’t know that Jesus was God.

He recalls getting drunk all the time. It was at this point in his life when his wife, Rebecca, gave him an ultimatum. She and the children were attending church on a regular basis and she was becoming strong in her faith walk. He had to choose the life he was living without her or get his life together, stop the drinking, attend church as a complete family and be present for the children. It was then that he promised God, “If you get me out of this I will serve you.” How many of us have prayed that prayer?

It was shortly after that that he made the decision to turn his life over to God and change his habits and actions and he became the youth pastor at his church. He served for 5 years with his church in this role of leadership and he considers that time one of the most rewarding experiences of his life. Talk about restoration!

– The Climax –
10 years ago, when Mr. McKay and his family moved to Chicago he hoped that his career would fly off like a rocket and he would be up for Oscar nominations. While he has had some diversions to his dream his film career is really taking off. Many may recognize him as Bunkie on Empire, but since that time he landed a role on the Amazon series, Patriot, as Gregory Gordon. He has also acted on the movie He Sends Rain as Arthur Sims, which can be viewed on Pure Flix or Amazon.

Mr. McKay has taken in as much as he can from all the experiences he has had while working with different actors. He mentioned, “People can get star struck and fold and mess up but you realize when you’re working with them that they are human.” He makes it a practice to remind himself of the saying in the bible to fear no man but to fear God.

When he does this, he can shake off the nerves to focus on working. He recalls an instance when he was doing lines for Empire and was standing in a circle with Taraji, Terrence, Lee and Gabby and while he was struck knowing that everyone in the circle but himself had Oscar nominations he still spoke up and gave his opinion on things that were being discussed to make the scene performance as amazing as possible. Mr. McKay stated, “You have to be focused, they are great. They can carry a whole show.”

Mr. McKay credits every opportunity he has had to God. He exclaimed, “Jesus is real man!” He feels that there isn’t a reason in the world why he, a person from Michigan should be presented with the opportunities he has been aside from anyone else. He believes that God put an individual in places and they can grow.

– What’s Next? –
“Theatre is my first love, obviously, but T.V. pays more,” said Mr. McKay. He and his wife, also an actor, began teaching an acting group, McKay Art, in their home six years ago. They simply chose a room in their home, painted all the walls black and went for it. He finds it to be an amazing form of ministry. Mr. McKay believes that acting can teach an individual a lot about their likes, dislikes, areas they are willing to compromise on or not and more. They offer classes for children up to adults.

Through McKay are they put on sketch comedy and plays. Currently they are working on an original play titled The Unspeakable Gift and written by Veronica Stoffa. Mr. McKay shared that the play shows the characters experiencing real and transparent struggles on their faith walk. It will be opening in October 2017. They will also have a comedy sketch, Hot Lava, coming in October 2017. Be sure to mark your calendars and catch a show if you are in the Chicago area.

– The Dilemma –
When an actor lands a role, they are hoping that the ratings do well for the project and that their performance is so great that it will help them land the next job. But wait, if it’s a Christian actor they are thinking about how this role may affect their family and their witness as a believer. Mr. McKay has been presented with decisions like this time after time.

During his acting career, he has developed a couple of rules that he will not bend for the sake of having an income. He and his wife, of 12 years, agreed years ago that there would not be any roles where he would do kissing or intimate scenes. He also takes into consideration what performances his six children can observe him doing. While Empire has been a bit racy, he has recorded the show and they watch his scenes and then turn the show off. There have also been times where he has had to simply turn a job down. An example is the sequel to the Harold and Kumar movie. While the opportunity could have proven to have a huge impact on his acting resume, the film was a bit egregious and he did not want to be a part of the cast. There has even been an instance where the script had a last minute proposed change that Mr. McKay wasn’t comfortable with doing. Thankfully, he was asked about his comfort level with the changes and when he spoke up that he was uncomfortable, the changes were not made to the script. Whew! God is faithful. Mr. McKay admitted that he “understands that the time will come where I will toe the line one of these days,” as his screen acting career progresses. But never the less he will continue to remain true to his ethics and choices for his craft.

Faith Fueled

DeAndre (Relentless) Holmes and Richaun Holmes are two of the four sons born to Richard and Lydecia Holmes. They were raised in a Christian home, both parents are pastors of Morning View Word Church on the south side of Chicago. They are a true testament of what can happen when your faith and work ethics drive you to pursue your dream.

Today DeAndre is a rapper on the rise, recently releasing his latest single “Rise Above It,” and Richaun is an up and coming NBA player from the Philadelphia 76ers roster. Both share so many similarities when it comes to their outlook on applying faith to works, because faith without works is dead.

DeAndre was first inspired to become a rapper during his teen years. He would battle rap all the time and was so talented that he received offers to sign. While considering taking a deal he went on a trip to Houston, TX where he witnessed some pioneers in the Christian Rap community take the stage and own it, Canton Jones and Pettidee. While at that concert God began to speak to him and tell him that this is how he wanted him to use his talent. DeAndre says he responded, “God, if this is what you want me to do for you, I don’t want my lyrics to be wack.” His parents were a little concerned. Christian rap wasn’t as widely accepted then as it is today and what they knew about rappers and rap music did was not a testament of the gospel. Over time his parents began to see the ministry in it and that it was more of what the lyrics were about and the message of the songs he created.

DeAndre didn’t accept the offers he received. He went on to attend college and study his word. He hadn’t developed a good flow, he was used to doing battle rap but not ministry or testimony through rap. The more he began to read the bible and pray God began to open his thoughts to write. By 2013 he released his first album, “The Alarm Clock.” He has been blessed with the opportunity to work with Delmar Lawrence III, known in the music community as Mr. Dell, and minister through rap and the word as God opens the doors.

As he grows in Christ and has more life experiences his gift develops even more. DeAndre and his wife experienced a faith growing challenge a couple of years ago when she, Kassy, went to the doctor for a normal pre-natal visit only for them to learn from the doctors that something was wrong with the baby and the baby was not expected to live. While the initial shock was there, DeAndre remembers putting everyone out of the room and telling his wife “the weapon is formed, but it’s not going to prosper.” They stood on the promises of God and kept the faith and today they have a healthy and active toddler who is nicknamed Mr. Unstoppable, which inspired one of DeAndre’s songs “Unstoppable.”

DeAndre isn’t the only one reaping a harvest on his faith and works in the Holmes family. His brother, Richaun, is as well. Richaun is the youngest of his four brothers. He is also married, to Allexis, and they have a toddler as well. The Holmes family is growing and growing.

Richaun had the dream of playing professional basketball since the age of five. He said, “I never saw myself doing anything else.” Richaun, like his brother, developed a talent but his more on athletic side. Because of his love for the game of basketball he participated in the sport as soon as possible and never stopped. He attended basketball camp every year until he aged out. Because of his hard work and practice, he was chosen and added to the 76ers roster. He has been a part of that organization for a couple of years now. It’s a surreal feeling for him. He remembers being a bit star struck the first year from the excitement of being able to meet athletes that he grew up watching.

Richaun recently just experienced hosting his first basketball camp focusing on teaching fundamentals of the sport. He hosted in his home town in Lockport, Illinois and his fan base home in Philadelphia, PA.
His biggest influence is his faith in God. His faith is what drives him to put in as much work as possible and he credits the rest to God. He makes it a point to read his bible and pray every day because he was taught to put God first. His dreams are not capped, he desires to achieve all that he can.

DeAndre and Richaun have an amazing support system from their wives, brothers and especially their parents. When asked how she felt about witnessing everything they have accomplished so far their mother Lydecia responded “It’s really fun to watch because I know the struggle that came with it. Now to see where they are, I am very proud of them.” She credits them for never stopping and continuing to pursue their dreams.

Human Trafficking: Where is the Church?

You may think you know what human trafficking is, but do you know what you can do about it? I surely didn’t, until I began doing research for this article. A misconception about human trafficking is that the victims are girls who are runaways or tourists in a foreign country that are lured away by a stranger and taken captive. Do these situations happen? Yes, they do happen. But, this is not the only way human trafficking occurs. Just recently there was an incident that made nation-wide news in the United States about a deadly human trafficking issue in San Antonio, TX. A truck was found with over two dozen people (adults and children) and several of those individuals were deceased. Did you see this story? Did you think to yourself, well that’s only in urban areas or that only happens near the border and that’s why we need President Trump to build the wall?

Well, I recently had the opportunity to speak with a couple of individuals who have found themselves on the end of doing their part to help those in need and assist to gain survivors of human trafficking. Benjamin Grasmeyer of A21 is the Global A-Teams Mobilizations Coordinator stationed at their California office. A21 is a 9-year-old organization that was founded by Christine Cain and her husband. They began the organization to aid in the rescue of victims of slavery, yes…slavery. Benjamin became involved with the organization through volunteering while residing in Sydney, Australia. He and his wife learned about the organization. His wife would volunteer several days a week and he would volunteer to assist with events. They moved to California to be a part of their church ministry there and through connections from A21 Benjamin was offered a position at the California office.

One of the things he is focused on now, just as others from A21, is the Walk for Freedom that will take place on October 14, 2017. The purpose of the walk is to draw awareness to human trafficking by individuals gathering together in their city to walk in a single file line while being silent. They have been doing this walk for a couple of years now. Through the attention from the walks and social media they can bring focus to a horrible act. To find out if there is a walk registered in your local area you can visit their website at www.A21.org/walk and enter your zip code. If there isn’t a walk in your area you can register to host.

Benjamin was kind enough to educate me on human trafficking and the areas that A21 participates in such as reporting, rescuing and training. There are five types of trafficking acknowledged by the government. Those are child labor, bonded labor (a worker is in debt to the trafficker and must work until their debt is paid), forced labor (forcing someone to work for little or no pay while held in captivity), involuntary domestic servitude (forcing someone to live and work in the same place non-stop) and sex (forced or coerced commercial sex acts).

According to A21, “Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, generating more than $150 billion USD every year.” It has been found that most victims are from sex trafficking, but it is believed that labor trafficking is one of the top in the United States. The isolated incident from San Antonio involving the truck driver was related to labor trafficking. According to www.humantraffickinghotline.org the top industries in the United States to have workers through labor trafficking are domestic and agriculture services. There are times when individuals may believe they are answering a job post for a position in another country and when they arrive they learn that it wasn’t what it appeared and they are caught up in a trafficking scam.

Sex trafficking is what most people are familiar with from media and depictions through entertainment sources such as television and movies. It seems dangerous and horrible and we see the character who comes in like a secret spy and rescue the girl. But, on the realistic end of things there are teams of people and organizations along with law enforcement. This is something that Kara Doan learned as she began to feel a tug at her heart from God to become involved. Her story is a little different from Benjamin’s.

Kara was volunteering in a soup kitchen a few years ago in her local area after a tornado hit a nearby town. Someone walked in while she was serving and boisterously asked how they could become involved with helping victims of human trafficking. Kara confessed that she thought to herself she wants nothing to do with it, but when the words crossed her mind she felt a pinch at her heart. A little over a year later God had turned her world around. She and her husband left their local area and moved to the city of Chicago based on the leading of God, not knowing why he was moving them but understanding there was a ministry assignment there for them. A year passed and God didn’t have them doing anything different from what they were doing in their old city of residence. She began to ask God why he had them move. Shortly after she began receiving emails from her church and noticed an announcement attached about attending an abolition summit. While she tried to ignore it, God kept tugging. Eventually she, her husband and the small group they were leading from church went to visit the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, MO. While there, they visited the organization hosting the summit and decided to attend the summit after all. A scripture that has been with she and her husband since that time has been Isaiah 61. From then, they left saying “How can we know and do nothing.” You see, Kara has a testimony of “knowing what it means to be helpless, and what it is to be shameful.” She also knows what it means to be redeemed and delivered. Because of that, she knew she had to do something.

They began a non-profit organization, Restoration61. They are currently in their second year of outreach. They receive resources and work with several other organizations such as Exodus Cry, Agape international and Elijah Rising. As a matter of fact, they did outreach at the super bowl this year with Elijah Rising to bring awareness to commercialized sex trafficking and help rescue those who were being used for consumers interested in their sexual services. Kara states, “The things that we are initiating are things that we have seen other people doing well and we are tweaking to work in the Chicagoland area.”

The outreach that they do through Restoration61 varies. They do outreach via phone calls, text and E-outreach by responding to advertisements for sexual services and then turning the conversation around to offer help and a way out. They have not done street outreach yet, they are preparing to do so and want to ensure that they are covering an area that is not already being covered so it doesn’t appear that organizations are being territorial. They also do hotel awareness by providing training to staff when requested.

Both A21 and Restoration61 do trainings. They discuss anything from internet safety to trafficking. Benjamin shared a successful story of a young woman who had attended a training. She believed she had encountered someone through the internet who was not a legitimate employer. She reported it to her local authorities. They kept the communication going to see if the lead would show that the person was involved in human trafficking. It turns out that they were involved and law enforcement was there to arrest the individual.

It is not a common practice for organizations to allow volunteers to assist in the hands-on process of rescuing a victim from where they are being held. The organizations work with the law enforcement in the area because they are more equipped to handle the situation should danger arise. They ensure that law enforcement understands while the people may be doing something illegal they are being forced through human trafficking and the victims can be taken to a shelter that they have and provide different resources from social workers and counselors to job placement.

There are reporting hotlines available all over the world for people to call at any time of day and day of the week. Those tips are turned in to law enforcement departments. If someone who is a victim of trafficking calls they respond as quickly as possible with law enforcement to complete the rescue. Now that you know more about human trafficking my prayer is that you will find a way for you and your church to be active in helping to end it and rescue victims.

 

 

Carrington Nakwaasah: Tale of A Daddy’s Girl

Carrington and her Father, Kirk Franklin.
Photo provided by Carrington.

Through reality television and social media, we have been welcomed into the lives of so many people, from the average Joe and Josephine to Mary Mary and John & Aventer Gray. There is one person who has made their mark on the hearts of many through song and word. They have drawn the attention of the churched and unchurched from all over the world. Who, you may ask? Your cousin, your nephew, the living legend… Kirk Franklin. While he has yet to have a reality show, he has offered transparency through countless testimonies and song for over 20 years. Through social media he has welcomed fans and foes into his life experiences. One thing you can gather from paying attention to the things he shares with the public is that his family is important to him.  Who better to share about the impact he has had in their life than his daughter, Carrington Nakwaasah?

Carrington is the eldest daughter in the Franklin family. She truly cherishes the relationship she has with her father. While the world may see him for his gifts, talents and fame; she sees him as daddy. Carrington knows that God has been able to use her father’s music to have an impact on the lives of others and just as many of you, she has been in awe of how amazing those moments have been.  Over the years his music has impacted the lives of so many people. His influence surpasses that of the gospel music industry. Carrington recently heard Chance the Rapper mention that her father had an influence on his life and music. She even shared a memory of a performance her father did when she was about 10 years old. English was not the native language of the audience, they needed an interpreter. When her father began to sing, the audience knew every word in English.

Because of the fame that Mr. Franklin’s music has brought him Carrington and her siblings have been afforded experiences that many dream of having. As expected, the level of fame he has reached and the amazing impact of his ministry worldwide comes with some ups and downs. For those who have been a fan of Mr. Franklin’s music for more than a decade you may recall an album titled The Nu Nation Project. The first track on the record is “Interlude: The Verdict.” When listening to the track, you can hear the criticism of the music that Mr. Franklin produced. While comical, this was truly art imitating life.  Has Mr. Franklin ever really been charged with “tearing down the walls of religion” or “making gospel music too secular”? No. But, Carrington shared that there have been occasions when time together has been disrupted by those who are excited fans and those who want to… let’s just say, share their disagreement on some things. In the age of social media people are not fearful of expressing their opinions through comments, statuses and tweets. Carrington says she “has learned to remain humble and personable when dealing with certain situations with people.”

Carrington has learned so much from how her father handles himself in all areas of his life. She has never had the desire to be a performer as her dad, despite the assumption of others that she wants to be a singer. The closest she has come to being a singer is singing on demos for her dad. However, she does aspire to become involved in the music industry as a writer.  What she admires the most about her father is his business savvy. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Carrington is a creative in her own right and as an entrepreneur, she has a graphics design company offering services from creating snapchat filters to designing logos and websites. She does merchandise for Anthony Evans Jr. and Priscilla Shirer while they are on tour. She recently did a little free hand word art on a chalkboard wall in her father’s office with words from a saying of his, “God is the writer. We are the pen. The world is the paper.” How dope is that?!

Instagram : Word Art by Carrington

 

Carrington admits that as a child she had moments where she wondered why her father had to be so honest about things and share so much about his personal life. As a young adult, she believes that people can connect with him and learn from his testimonies, including herself. “My dad’s transparency has helped me in a lot of ways. It’s taught me that in order to achieve any type of healing that you have to be completely honest,” said Carrington. Her father’s truthful approach in life has taught Carrington to be truthful in all things. She confessed that she is not the person to come to if you want the response sugar coated, she believes in lovingly telling the truth and applies that to every relationship from friendships to marriage.

 

In October of 2016 Carrington said I do to Maxx Nakwaasah. Carrington mentioned, “my husband, Maxx, actually mirrors my dad in more ways than I realized before marrying him.” She desired the characteristics of integrity, care and honesty in a spouse and she received that and more. She feels that her father’s personality helped to prepare her on how to interact with her husband.

via Instagram – Daddy/Daughter Dance
Photo Credit: Pharris Photos

Her father is someone she turns to for sound and godly advice. He offers her a safe place to be herself. He is one of her biggest cheerleaders. Her father is her friend. The emotion and energy of their friendship was displayed by them both on Carrington’s wedding day. It was truly a testament to the dynamic of their relationship. Carrington and her father wowed the world last fall when videos of their father/daughter dance from Carrington’s wedding reception went viral on social media. The dance was everything you could imagine from the creative duo. Carrington and her dad were originally planning a typical dance number until they realized people were anticipating something that would be different and exciting based on their relationship and personalities. They went back to the drawing board and in a matter of minutes they choreographed the dance. The next day the videos recorded by wedding guest were viral. While the world saw Kirk Franklin and his daughter doing the latest dance moves and enjoyed the moment for the excitement brought during those few days it was viral, for Carrington it was a moment within a day that she will remember for a lifetime. To her Kirk Franklin isn’t the famous living legend whom she idolizes and crazes over usies with him for likes, shares and comments. He is her role model, her friend and her father.