Mark Hunter’s name has appeared on more than 1,000 articles in The Advocate since 2004, mostly on these religion pages.

Behind the byline was a dogged, skilled and unbiased reporter. Behind the prolific writer was also a loving husband, friend and man of faith.

Hunter died Sunday after suffering a heart attack at Istrouma Baptist Church. He was 61.

“I have very deep love for Mark and his wife, Linda,” said the Rev. Jeff Ginn, Istrouma’s senior pastor. “He was a very active member of Istrouma. He always wanted his articles to have a positive impact on people and their faith. That was very obvious to people who knew him.”

Hank Hanegan, of Bethany Church, said he has known Mark for about 10 years. Mark was a regular attendee at the Bethany Businessmen’s Luncheon, and the two also spent time together outside of that.

“If I could describe one word for Mark, it would be ‘faith,’ ” Hanegan said. “He was a blessing. He was faithful. He was faithful to his church, and of course, he was faithful to the Lord. He was faithful to his wife, Linda, and faithful to the businessmen’s luncheon.”

Ginn said Mark felt ill early in the 9 a.m. service last Sunday and was quickly attended to by church emergency personnel.

“He was in the balcony where he always sat,” Ginn said. “He’s worshipping, and he was standing up and lifting his hand up to heaven as we were singing the songs. He had his eyes closed, and he was obviously worshipping the Lord from the heart. And I think what happened next he opened his eyes in the presence of Jesus himself. That’s a pretty good way to go.”

Worship went on. Ginn shared the news of Mark’s death near the end of the service.

“It was bittersweet because on this earth we will miss him, but we’re so thankful he’s with the Lord,” Ginn said.

Mark, who has lived in Colorado and Alaska, had an “adventuresome spirit,” Ginn said. The pastor recalled the time Hunter rappeled down one of the tallest buildings in downtown Baton Rouge for a charity event.

“That’s the kind of things he loved,” Ginn said. “He was an outdoorsman. He loved to work with chain saws, and he rock climbed when he was younger.”

He also had a kind spirit, Hanegan said, recalling how Mark would go downtown to bring another man to the businessmen’s luncheon and take him back home.

“He loved the Lord with his whole heart,” Hanegan said.

Ginn said a memorial is set for 10 a.m. Thursday at Istrouma, 10500 Sam Rushing Drive. Visitation starts at 9 a.m.

Lending a voice

The issue of homelessness touches the heart of Cheryl Richard, a Baton Rouge family advocate.

Though not a formal singer, Richard is the driving force behind the Voice of Victory Gospel Fest set for 7 p.m. today at Mount Pilgrim Life Center, 9700 Scenic Highway in Baton Rouge.

Proceeds from the musical will benefit the Haven of Hope Housing, an organizaiton that helps the homeless in housing and shelter. Haven of Hope is an entity of Broken Vows Behind the Veil, which was founded by Richard in 2014.

Richard, 47, said she was homeless for more than a year after her husband abandoned her and her three children in 2011.

“We need to address the issue of homelessness. I am that voice, and I am that vessel who has a claim to victory,” said Richard, who attends Word of Life Christian Center in Darrow. “I knew (God) had a purpose for my life, and that is to help someone else.”

Richard said God brought her and her children through their homeless situation.

“When I was going through my storm, I always had the scriptures, which is what fed me and songs kept me,” she said.

Special guests for the Voice of Victory Gospel will be Gifted; the Williams Family; Evangelist Cornell Douglas; Minister Marcy Fisher and Highly Favored; pslamist Claudette Clay; and gospel recording artist Russell White, of Hobbs, New Mexico. The host will be local radio personality Kerwyn “The Voice” Feeling.

Tickets for the event are $15 at the door. Call (225) 330-1462 or (225) 978-3612.

“Whatever family we will release from out of the shelter, the funds will go toward that family that needs housing, furniture in their house, get lights turned on, whatever they need,” Richard said.

Empowering young Christians

Teaching young Christians to develop their relationship with Jesus Christ while enhancing their professional growth is author Cary J. Green’s goal in his book “Empowering Young Christians: Developing Bible-based Leadership and Soft Skills” (Dog Ear Publishing).

Green, a former longtime university professor and church youth group worker, offers the three Rs — readiness, results and relationships — to young people trying to chart their futures.

“Your personal relationship with Jesus is your most important relationship,” Green writes. “The quality of your relationships often determines the quality of your life.”

Results involve accountability, Green said.

“To be successful, take responsibility for your attitude, effort, behavior, work, and even for your mistakes. Christians are accountable to God and to fellow Christians,” he writes. “Be accountable to yourself as well, always putting forth your best effort, and always doing your best work.”

Green stressed the importance of a positive attitude.

“Christians should be the most positive and joyful people in the world ... Effective leaders are able to inspire people and see opportunities where others only see problems; this ability requires a positive attitude. Be realistic, but look first for opportunities rather than letting a poor attitude keep you from reaching your potential,” he writes.

Titles in the 189-page book include “Obey and Be Blessed,” “Recognize Your Stressors and Motivators,” “Down But Not Out” and “Everything is Not Important.”

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