HONOLULU (BP)–Chasing rats out of cupboards, painting bars on windows and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches might not be thought of as life-changing ministry, but Hawaii high school students found out differently when they helped an Oahu church start a Christian Women’s Job Corps.
Homelessness and poverty are as common to many people along Oahu’s Leeward coast as the sun, surf and sand. The First Baptist Church of Nanakuli, a 20-member church in the area, sees this firsthand every Friday as it feeds as many people as it can until the food runs out. Sometimes as many as 200 people receive food in just a few hours.
“They say, ‘Thank you,’ and they’re grateful, and we can feed them forever and still not get them out of poverty,” pastor Wayne Waterhouse said.
With many of the people being single women on welfare or homeless on the beach, the church wanted to provide more permanent help than just weekly food distribution. When Phyllis Waterhouse, the pastor’s wife, attended a Woman’s Missionary Union meeting for GAs in Alabama this year, she heard about the WMU’s Christian Women’s Job Corps and sensed God’s answer.
The ministry teaches women basic job skills, involves them in a Bible study and gives them a Christian woman to be a mentor. In the program’s five-year history, 256 CWJC ministries have been started across the United States. Phyllis Waterhouse, now a certified CWJC leader, is ready to start the first in Hawaii.
“If we can help some women get back on their feet and find Christ,” she said, “then we’ve done our work. This is one avenue that seems to really fit this community.”
But the church faced a problem. The building where the CWJC would begin had been broken into three times in the previous month by people looking for food. It was also in need of repair. With only about 20 people attending, the church was already operating on a limited budget. Without a secure facility, the church didn’t know how it could bring in computers and office equipment.
“It was my wife, Phyllis, who pushed ahead and said, ‘If God wants it, it’ll happen,'” Waterhouse said.
Money for materials was provided by the Central Leeward Oahu Baptist Association, but the church didn’t have the manpower or expertise to do the work. In stepped Hawaii Baptist Academy, a K-12 private Christian school started more than 50 years ago with the help of the WMU and the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.
When Southern Baptist missionaries wanted to start a school in Honolulu in the 1940s, the WMU of Virginia designated its Lottie Moon Offerings for the work, $125,000 over five years. For several years, Southern Baptist missionaries staffed HBA until the school was placed under the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention. Today, the state convention appoints the school’s board members.
HBA’s Christian activities director Rob Lockridge heard about the need at First Baptist Nanakuli and knew how he could help. In his first full year at HBA, Lockridge wanted to emphasize ministry among the Christian students on campus. Part of this effort included revamping a program called the Servant Group, beginning with its annual camp Aug. 22-24.
“This year’s Servant Group went back to its roots by becoming a group of servants dedicated to the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Lockridge said. “To be servants of God, Christians must not only know Christian theology and ethics, but also live out these beliefs daily.”
Lockridge, 83 students, several HBA teachers and staff members, and youth ministers from Hawaii churches devoted nearly their entire second day of camp to helping First Baptist Nanakuli.
“It was overwhelming, and what [the Servant Group students] did was tremendous,” Pastor Waterhouse said.
Under the supervision of David Hood from HBA’s physical plant, the students replaced termite-eaten doors with new steel doors, replaced old screens, installed and painted anti-theft bars on the windows, installed shelves, cleared out debris and pests and thoroughly cleaned the facility.
“The building is very old, built in 1963 — but they pretty much renovated the building in one day,” Waterhouse said. “And — it’s not only nice, but secure.”
With a secure building, Phyllis Waterhouse is currently recruiting mentors for the program and planning a January 2003 start.
In addition to building renovations, HBA students took peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pizza and cookies to homeless people on Leeward Oahu beaches. Others distributed microwave popcorn and invitations to church to people in the community and had opportunities to talk with and pray for many people who were not Christians.
“The students returned from camp knowing they had made a difference in many people’s lives,” Lockridge said. “The group traveled to minister to others but discovered that by ministering in the name of our Lord, they are doubly ministered to in return.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: POWERED UP TO HELP and DOORS FOR MINISTRY.