Retirement from the ministry has afforded former Pastor Steve Rhodes the time to pursue more of his passion — mentoring men and helping foster the lives of youngsters.
"There's nothing more rewarding in the world than helping someone grow and identify who they are in God and Christ," Rhodes said. "I've poured myself into people. One of my strengths and one of my passions as a pastor has been men and men groups. … There's challenges for all of us, and if I could help in any shape or form through God's grace and through God's mercy, that really is my passion."
Rhodes, 66, is a western Pennsylvania native, Air Force veteran and former Presbyterian pastor who moved to Louisiana about 6½ years ago to become associate pastor at River Community Church in Prairieville for three years. He officially retired from the ministry in January.
But retirement hasn't slowed Rhodes. He has long been mentoring young pastors and still preaches on occasion. At the beginning of the year, he was searching to do more and found it as a volunteer at Capital Area Court Appointed Special Advocates.
"Retirement just opens up new opportunities," said Rhodes, who attends Church of the Highlands in Baton Rouge. "I don't have to work anymore; I could, but I don't want to as far as a 40-hour-a-week job goes. … Little by little, doors opened. CASA was one of them."
Court Appointed Special Advocates is a nonprofit association with community volunteers who are advocates for abused or neglected children living in foster care.
"I just have a heart for it," Rhodes said. "We have more kids now in foster care than we've ever had. It just presented a good opportunity. I have the ability to do it and the time to do it. … It's been a blessing because all children need parents, and it's sad that there are so many kids without stable homes."
Since its inception in 1992, the association reports that more than 1,200 volunteers have provided a voice in court for nearly 3,000 abused children in East Baton Rouge Parish.
"Most people aren't aware of how much the need is and how great the need is — how many kids are pulled out of their homes for all kinds of reasons," Rhodes said. "The system is so overloaded, and the social workers simply don't have the time. That's where we come in — to try to help fill some of the gaps."
His heart and faith compel Rhodes to help stand in the gap.
"In our particular case, as Christians, we see that those with the greatest need are those we are to help," he said. "That's what we exist for. That's one of the primary ways that we love each other and love our neighbors by working with those in most need."
Rhodes is the special advocate for a 13-year-old boy. Rhodes traveled to a group home out of town to meet with the boy for months before the boy was transferred to Baton Rouge.
"This young man is a wonderful young man. He's got a wonderful temperament. He loves sports," Rhodes said.
Rhodes has been meeting with the boy about twice a week and has been working to get him prepared for a new middle school. He relishes the father-figure role, which he said is critical in the life of a child, particularly boys.
"A child needs as much as possible both a father and a mother, a male and female, a man and woman both invested in their life," he said. "That's another reason to be involved in CASA. There's far too few men involved in CASA."
Though he has no biological children of his own, Rhodes is accustomed to the father-figure role. He and his wife, Margaret, are the adopted parents of three grown children, including one with disabilities (now 30) and two biracial (27 and 25). The couple adopted the children from birth from one of the largest Christian adoption agencies in the United States.
After raising three children and then retiring, Rhodes said his wife (who still works as a teacher) would like to travel and do activities. But being a mentor, volunteer and still being able to preach suit him just fine.
"There's probably a lot of things I could be doing," he said. "I did golf at one time. I do like golfing, but I'm not good at it anymore."
'Road to Paradise'
Frank Phillips' journey to paradise began with some "harsh encounters" and a faulty playbook.
In his new book, "My Road to Paradise" (Westbrow Press), the Baton Rouge Bible study teacher, businessman and author shares how a new playbook — the Bible — turned his life around.
Phillips, 75, will hold a book signing for "My Road to Paradise" from noon to 3 p.m. Aug. 24 at Barnes & Noble — Perkins Rowe, 7707 Bluebonnet Blvd.
"I was surprised to find that my new playbook totally restructured my priorities in life," Phillips writes in the introduction. "Spiritually, I finally woke, drove through the narrow gate, and merged onto a long, narrow, and winding road, my road to paradise."
Phillips, a member of Grace Life Fellowship, writes about how he strayed from his family circle as a young man only to realize its importance.
"The heart of God infused into the family circle," he writes. "This is the crown jewel of His creation and stand along as the most resilient institution ever introduced into the world. The family circle is not hereditary. The parents must first plant the seed, cultivate the relationships, and provide the uninterrupted opportunities for Christ-centered growth."
That was the type of upbringing Phillips had. His father was an Alabama preacher and farmer.
"It was built on godly principles and nurtured by both my parents. They encouraged me and promoted a way of life they knew would lead their family not only through this life on Earth but also to an eternal home in heaven, where there would be everlasting joy," he writes.
Chapters in the 117-page paperback include "The Family Circle," "The Table," "Blender," "The Wine Glasses" and "The Last Mile."
Phillips, an Army veteran and private pilot, is also the author of “Living Life."
Prayers going up
Jerome Davillier, of Slidell, envisions a great future for granddaughter, Aria, who is battling liver cancer at only 8 months old.
"She is a fighter," said Davillier, who is seeking prayers for Aria. "I believe that God is healing her, and she will grow up to be a beautiful young godly woman who will serve the Lord."
Another day. Another blessing.
Every once and awhile at least, take time to consider … God. Take a break or a timeout from considering yourself, your circumstances, your problems, your job, your bills, your spouse, your children, your friends and consider God. Consider the ways of God, the power of God, the love of God, the grace of God. He's God and no one or nothing can compare to him.
Job knew a little about God. Job went through hell but kept his faith in God and lived to tell about it. In fact, it was one of Job's doubting friends, Elihu, who actually said something that made a lot of sense in Job 37:14: "Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders." STOP and consider God's miraculous ways. Job needed a miracle to get out of what he was going through and didn't God bring him through?
When we stop or slow down and really think about God and consider God and think about how awesome God is in our lives, it changes our attitudes, mindset, even our ways. It changes our life. Consider the God of the universe. Take time to think about God and experience the revelations of the Holy Spirit.