Military veteran Thom Leonard is passionate about defending his faith and his country.

Leonard, 41, said he got a better understanding of the sacrifice Jesus made from “The Passion of the Christ” and he got a greater appreciation of the sacrifice our military makes by seeing it for himself.

“We really don’t understand the depth of the suffering (Jesus) went through and why he had to,” said Leonard, a member of Bethany World Prayer Center. “I think it’s the same with military people. Sure, they make sacrifices for us. But until we see it firsthand, it kind of takes a whole different meaning. I kind of take it personally.”

It got really personal for Leonard as a 19-year-old Navy cadet aboard the USS Iowa on April 19, 1989.

“I saw 47 men have their lives taken instantly in an accident that occurred during a gunnery exercise,” he said. “I had to pull those pieces of bodies - not even bodies but pieces of bodies. It could’ve been me.”

Leonard went on to earn his engineering degree from the University of New Orleans and started his own business after moving to Baton Rouge in 2005.

But it wasn’t until after one failed marriage, bankruptcy and another troubled marriage that Leonard committed to following the will of God in his life.

“I knew before you could fix your marriage or fix your wife or fix your home, you got to fix yourself,” he said.

Like many, Leonard said he knew of Jesus but didn’t have a relationship with him.

“That’s where I was,” he said. “I believed in Jesus Christ. I was still living a secular life. I was guiding myself. I wasn’t full of the spirit of God; I was full of the spirit of Thom and I’m still working on it.”

He doesn’t have to work alone, Leonard said.

“To earn righteousness is too great for any man to bear,” he said. “We need to strive for righteousness but understand that when we fall short, we have a savior who will be an advocate when we go in front of the father. We have Jesus to represent us.

“Again, that’s something many people need to be grateful for and live accordingly and not take that sacrifice so lightly.”

Our nation was founded on religion, Leonard said.

“Our forefathers prayed before they wrote the Declaration of Independence,” he said. “Thomas Jefferson said our liberties are a gift from God. When we take away the basis of the foundation of our liberties and our beliefs, it makes me fearful of where the country is going.”

?World Peace’ opens

Janie Guy Winter is set for her “grand opening.”

The Baton Rouge performer and author is inviting people to join her - with best ‘60s attire optional but requested - for a theatrical presentation from her book “World Peace: A Possible Dream.”

The event is set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Unity Church of Christianity, 15255 Old Jefferson Highway.

“I’m hoping I can make it fun and interesting,” Winter said of her third time doing the presentation but her first time in a public venture.

Winter, a member of United Church, said the event will include music, costumes, audience participation, refreshments and will close with a book signing. Admission is $10.

Winter’s first book, “World Peace,” shows that a peaceful existence will soon be realized once the world’s “pioneers of peace” are born, Winter said.

“I’m so excited about the idea ? presenting it in a hilarious and fun manner so they know what’s going on in the entire world.”

Winters hopes the book to be an awakening that “will lead to a new universal international mind-set, and this new universal international mind-set will overcome the current way of seeing war, forever deleting war as an option to solve anything.”

Winter, an LSU graduate with a humanities degree, moved back Baton Rouge 12 years ago after living in California, Florida, Texas, Hawaii, Nevada, Mexico, Spain and London.

She has acted before, appearing in a Hollywood production of Jean Genet’s “The Balcony” and also helped with the first production of “Hair.”

Contact Winter at or go to

?Dog is God’ backwards

Michael Ellerbe quickly makes it clear: He’s not comparing God to dogs in his new book, “Dog is God Spelled Backwards: Lessons I’ve Learn From my Dogs About My Heavenly Father (And Other Stories That Have Struck My Fancy)” Crossbooks Publishing.

“What I am doing is comparing the chasm of intelligence between me and God and that between me and my four-footed children, Biscuit, Catfish, Blueberry and Highway,” he writes.

Ellerbe is the director of the pre-release program for inmates at Dixon Correctional Institute. He is also a Baptist minister.

In his 139-page book, Ellerbe begins each chapter with a Bible verse and an explanation of how it has related to situations in his life.

Many has to do with his four dogs as all dog lovers can relate. Like the chapter “Don’t Drink the Muddy Water.”

Ellerbe opens with Psalm 23:5: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

Ellerbe writes about how Catfish walks past clean, fresh water in a water dish to go drink out of mud puddle.

“We do exactly the same thing ? Why do we bypass God’s banquet table and head for the mud puddle? Good question. Perhaps we don’t feel like we’re good enough? You’re right, but we don’t go there on our goodness, but rather the goodness of Jesus.”

All proceeds from book sales will go to Refined by Fire Ministries. The nonprofit organization was founded in 1995 by the Ellerbes - including wife, Elaine, and daughter, Ari - to provide religious programming in adult and juvenile corrections facilities.


Faith Matters runs every other Saturday. Contact Terry Robinson at (225) 388-0238 or email