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Christian Women’s Job Corps marks 3rd anniversary, with 120-plus sites

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–Lives are being changed. That’s the bottom line. As Christian Women’s Job Corps, a ministry of Woman’s Missionary Union, marked its third anniversary March 1, 2000, leaders could celebrate that more than 1,350 women have taken steps to move from homelessness, hopelessness and joblessness to lives that include jobs, financial security and self-sufficiency.

But perhaps a better term than self-sufficiency would be God-sufficiency, because CWJC bases its assistance to women on a solid foundation of Bible study and spiritual mentoring. Leading women to know Christ as personal Savior and to build their new lives on him is the core of this life-changing program.

Since national WMU launched the ministry March 1, 1997, CWJC has spread to 34 states with more than 120 sites presently in operation. Women from Montana to Florida are being mentored and nurtured toward independence as they also are taught the Bible and receive God’s love through Christians dedicated to providing this help in a missions environment. Recently two international sites have been established with plans for more in the near future.

Meeting women where they are is the beginning point for every CWJC site. Sometimes that means dealing with emergency needs, such as housing, transportation and childcare. For women who are unprepared for employment, job readiness classes build job skills and train women to know how to find jobs and be the type of employee who excels at work.

Jackie Johnson, site coordinator at Farmington, N.M., says the women who come to that site want a better life for themselves and their children, but they are often surprised that anyone would have confidence in them and their potential for success. Julie Busby says the first change she sees in the lives of women who attend the CWJC site in Tupelo, Miss., is the smiles on their faces as they begin to create or revive dreams of a better life.

But social services abound in today’s society. What makes CWJC any different or any better? Site coordinators for the numerous CWJC ministries scattered throughout the United States are quick to answer that question. “It’s the Christian setting, mentors and Bible study,” says Jackie Johnson. Diane Garcia, site coordinator for CWJC in San Antonio, Texas, replies, “When God changes the women’s lives, they become better mothers, persons and employees, motivated to do the best job they can.”

A major element in the success of CWJC is the one-to-one mentoring requirement of every site. Clients are paired with Christian women volunteers who commit to mentoring the client through all the stages, whatever it takes, to move toward a better life. Sometimes mentoring means simply being a friend. At other times it means guiding, teaching, facilitating, spiritual mothering, encouraging, listening or just “being there,” coordinators say.

This mentoring experience is not only beneficial to clients, says Jackie Johnson, noting that mentors refer to their involvement in another woman’s life as being life-changing for them as well.

Another key component of CWJC is the networking that site coordinators do with other agencies in the community to provide a wide variety of assistance for their clients. Many clients attend classes at local community colleges, especially for job readiness instruction. Social agencies and service agencies such as the Salvation Army, homeless shelters, YWCAs and federal housing authorities provide a network of established benefits from which CWJC can resource to meet individual needs of clients. Local churches also provide assistance, donating everything from copiers to Bibles to CWJC sites.

Each site also has an advisory council made up of community leaders drawn from various fields, including pastors, educators, social workers, government officials, business leaders, lawyers and health-care professionals. This governing body provides direction and leadership for development and oversight of the individual program.

While “running to catch up with the success of Christian Women’s Job Corps,” Trudy Johnson, national coordinator for the ministry at WMU in Birmingham, Ala., reports that CWJC is preparing to move to the “next level.” Like the local level, she also works with a national advisory council whose members continually evaluate and look for ways to enhance the ministry.

“CWJC has been successful in helping many women move from poverty,” she says, but “they have only moved into the category of working poor and still lack adequate income and skills to be truly self-sufficient.”

The next level of CWJC will focus on meeting the “advanced needs” of women, she explains. The added focus will concentrate on working with women who exhibit potential for moving into higher-level careers or completing college and advanced degree programs. Plans also are being made to further address the needs of clients’ children through intervention and prevention, when necessary. The ministry is also being implemented in women’s correctional facilities across the nation.

In addition to directing the ministry, the national advisory council also is working to endow it. Three funds have been established with the WMU Foundation and contributions currently total more than $30,000. The funds and their purposes are: CWJC Endowment Fund, grants to sites; the Sybil Brantley Dove Endowment, grants to CWJC clients; and the CWJC Operations Fund, grants to the national CWJC office. Grants are awarded from the earnings on each fund. For more information, write the WMU Foundation, P.O. Box 11346, Birmingham, AL 35202-1346; or call 1-877-482-4483 or (205) 408-5501; or e-mail [email protected].

For more information about beginning a CWJC, contact Trudy Johnson at P.O. Box 830010, Birmingham, AL 35283-0010; call (205) 991-4972; e-mail, [email protected] or visit www.wmu.com and click on “ministry opportunities.”

Barstow is a freelance writer in Northport, Ala.

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  • Sammie Jo Barstow