BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–Melissa Motley dropped out of high school when she became pregnant with her first child. She married and then had two more children, but within a few years her marriage dissolved.
“I just felt like nobody cared about me,” Motley said, even though she pulled her life together enough to earn her GED. Then a friend suggested she visit the Christian Women’s Job Corps site in Marshall County, Ala.
“I needed some computer skills but didn’t know where to get them,” Motley said. “But I got more than just computer skills at CWJC.
“I realized that I am more than nothing. God put me here for a reason, and I will be somebody someday by the grace of God.”
Motley plans to transfer to Jacksonville (Ala.) State University after her initial studies at Snead State Junior College.
“Things have gotten easier since I’ve learned that I can look up and get my strength,” she said. “I’m going to finish school, and I’m going to be a nurse in four years.”
Motley’s story is all too real for hundreds of other women throughout the country who have been aided by Christian Women’s Job Corps, a ministry of Woman’s Missionary Union, SBC, now celebrating its fifth year.
“This is ministry evangelism at its best,” said Debbie Snyder, church and community ministries director of Shelby Baptist Association in Birmingham, Ala., where the first CWJC site was launched in 1997.
Exemplifying CWJC’s growth in scope, the Shelby County outreach has expanded to a partnership with the county Department of Human Resources and Central Alabama Skills Center for GED classes and job training and placement.
“We didn’t reinvent the wheel with our program,” Snyder said. “We use the resources around us, and we all work together.”
In the last 10 months, a local auto mechanic school has become involved in the effort by doing repair work on 19 automobiles that have been donated to the site.
“When women were given jobs, they didn’t even have enough money to go out and buy even the cheapest of cheap cars to give transportation to and from work,” Snyder recounted. “Several people have donated their cars, and women are able to hold down jobs because they have secure transportation.” Shelby County Baptist Association has committed to paying insurance for the first six months the women have cars. After then, the new owner takes over the insurance payments.
CWJC was founded by WMU in 1997 with the purpose of providing a Christian missions context in which women help women in need become equipped for life and employment. Participants in a typical CWJC program, in addition to training in life skills and job readiness, are involved in Bible study and are matched with a trained Christian woman who will be her mentor as she moves from dependency to self-sufficiency.
Other CWJC volunteers may help in preparing meals, teaching classes, ministering to family members, hosting celebrations, providing transportation or child care and basic office duties.
About 135 CWJC sites have been established in 36 states, and coordinators are now in place in more than 40 states, including Alaska and Hawaii. Information about CWJC — including how to launch a CWJC site — can be accessed on the Internet at www.wmu.com/ministry/cwjc.
National Certification Training is offered several times a year to potential CWJC site coordinators. July 23-26 sessions in Philadelphia took on a special multiethnic flavor, with training provided and translation in Spanish provided to volunteers from Hispanic, African American, Filipino, Korean, Haitian, Ukrainian, German and Anglo backgrounds.
The history of CWJC is recapped in the video “There is Hope: The Continuing Story of Christian Women’s Job Corps” and the book “No Longer Forgotten: The Remarkable Story of Christian Women’s Job Corps.” Those and other resources, such as the CWJC newsletter, The Connection, can be ordered from WMU Customer Service at 1-800-968-7301.
Each site is responsible for its own funding. The funding can be very minimal if the site is staffed by volunteers or it can entail a budget for salaries and facilities. Information on grant writing and grant sources is covered during National Certification Training provided to local leaders. Donations also can be made to the Christian Women’s Job Corps Special Fund to bolster the ministry’s financial future, in care of the WMU Foundation at www.wmufoundation.com or 1-877-482-4483.
At LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn., Betty Jaudon is among several employees serving as CWJC volunteers.
“I was worried that there would be a huge generation gap,” Jaudon, a copy editor in LifeWay’s childhood ministry publishing department, said of the 25-year-old single mother she is mentoring. “But there really hasn’t been. I can actually relate to some of the parenting issues since I am raising my granddaughter.
“I just pray I can help give her a leg up in the world,” Jaudon said of the single mother. “I just try to use the resources I have to assist her. I’m not solving her problems. I am simply encouraging her. She is so brilliant and tenacious, and she just needs a little guidance sometimes.”
Jeanie Reynolds, senior training specialist in LifeWay’s human resources department, said the CWJC participant she has mentored has been “a joy to work with. She was totally devoted to her family, and she loved her three children as much as I love my own. She just had a lot of struggles with little things that seemed routine for me, such as medical issues and transportation.”
Reynolds said it was enlightening “to see life through someone else’s eyes. The things we take for granted were the very things that caused daily struggles for the women in the program.” The mother she mentored had strong values, Reynolds added. “She had such a strong sense of family” and wouldn’t think of acting irresponsibly by “pushing her loved ones off on others.”
“I got back so much more than I gave,” Jaudon said. “Every woman who has a heart for women has something to give. You can find time, no matter how busy you are. God works out all of the details. This program made my life so much fuller.”
Lia Scholl, a CWJC coordinator in Birmingham, Ala., told of one participant, Jennifer Hilburn, who said her goal was “to be the kind of person that her mother would be proud of.”
“I have watched this young woman as she has become the kind of person a mother could be proud of — singing in the choir at church, being sober and becoming a mother,” Scholl said.
Compiled by Art Toalston from reporting by The Alabama Baptist and Brandy Campbell.