BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The National Woman’s Missionary Union in Birmingham, Ala., hosted 2015 training for more than 160 coordinators and leaders of its Christian job corps ministry sites.
The Christian Women’s Job Corps (CWJC) and Christian Men’s Job Corps (CMJC) national training offered sessions on topics including leadership styles, workforce development, conflict resolution and working with those in poverty.
Seminars and round-table discussion focused on fund-raising basics, nonprofit issues, participant recruitment, volunteer training, curriculum evaluation, effective mentoring, leadership essentials and other specific issues related to the job corps ministry.
Seasoned coordinators and leaders lent their expertise by teaching practical skills lessons. Eva De La Rosa, executive director of California WMU and founder of California’s first CWJC site, reminded attendees of their usefulness as she taught a skill development session.
“In our ministry, people are our focus,” De La Rosa said. “Why we’re drawn to this is because we love people. We’re moving people where they are to where God wants them to be.”
This event also targeted those with specific skill sets. Leaders of CMJC followed a special track of conferences focused on ministering to men, while CWJC/CMJC trainers were offered recertification courses.
Attendees work at the 174 CWJC/CMJC job sites in the U.S., which offer training in life skills, job skills, mentoring, and Bible study in a missions context, with women helping women and men helping men.
Lena Plunk, CWJC/CMJC coordinator, said the job corps ministry addresses the participant’s whole self, including physical and spiritual components.
“Christ is the foundation of what CWJC/CMJC is. That makes it different than other job programs,” Plunk said. “Our goal is not just to prepare participants for jobs; we want them to see the freedom and wholeness they can have through Jesus Christ.”
The CWJC/CMJC sites have helped men and women improve their lives, National WMU Executive Director Wanda Lee said, adding that training events such as the Aug. 5-7 Birmingham gathering are essential.
“One of the joys of serving is seeing lives changed by the power of the Holy Spirit and the relationships that develop through ministries such as these to encourage and help those who are seeking to improve their lives,” Lee said. “But this kind of work requires an ongoing infusion of encouragement and learning as the needs of people, and the possibilities of assistance, change every day.”
For Letha Pidlaoan of CWJC of Greater Columbus, Ga., the national event afforded her an opportunity for certification in coaching techniques as a CWJC trainer. She also spent time collaborating with other site leaders from across the nation.
“We can reconnect, reflect, refresh and share experiences with one another,” Pidlaoan said. “It’s an opportunity to receive advice on areas that are challenging.”
One challenge many site coordinators face is how to minister to those coping with traumatic experiences. Specific seminars focused on the concepts of post-traumatic stress disorder and highlighted ministry tools and practical response ideas such as Bible storying.
Sara Hester, a board-certified chaplain at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, spoke at the general session about the issues victims of trauma face.
“Feeling that you have something to contribute, can contribute and are worthy to contribute are just some of the things that trauma victims may struggle with,” Hester said.
By pointing out the effects of trauma, Hester helped site coordinators and leaders identify ways to respond to their participants’ needs.
“Never underestimate the value of listening,” Hester said. “Listen to people’s stories. … Listen to people’s pain. … Listen to their hope.”
As site coordinators learned how to overcome obstacles, the WMU Foundation encouraged the leaders’ continued efforts and commended those who have made an exceptional impact in their site and community this year. David George, president of the WMU Foundation, recognized winners of the CWJC awards.
Sybil Bentley Dove Award
Xzondra Boyd of CWJC of Middle Tennessee received the Sybil Bentley Dove Award, given annually to an outstanding CWJC participant and accompanied by a $2,000 grant. Through her time at CWJC, Boyd has obtained a GED, graduated from CWJC’s computer and job skills training program, secured a full-time job and enrolled in college to earn a degree in social work.
Boyd said her life changed through CWJC.
“Now I go after my goals and know I will accomplish them. No matter what the circumstances are, I have the self-esteem that I can do it,” she said. “I have learned that you have to pray and trust God and have faith in Him. Before joining CWJC I didn’t even know how to pray. Now I pray every day. My children have also learned to pray and have learned about God.”
Tracey Gholson, program director of CWJC of Middle Tennessee, said throughout Boyd’s four years of involvement with CWJC she has developed as a student, mom, and follower of Christ.
“Xzondra is a single mother of two children, one with autism, but she strives to keep a positive attitude through it all,” Gholson said. “One of her goals is to make her children proud. I can say she has already done that and will continue to do so as she moves forward.”
CWJC site award
The WMU Foundation recognized Hands UP Outreach of Rankin County, Miss., as the recipient of the CWJC site award and a $2,500 grant to help fund a project or special need.
The site will use the grant to provide access to a GED training program, allowing students to study for the test and increase their scores. Hands UP participants pass their GED tests around 75 percent of the time, and the grant makes it possible for participants to complete online study programs.
“Many of our participants are ex-offenders, so getting a GED is mandated by some judges,” said Mary Callahan, Hands UP site coordinator.
Hands UP also offers computer classes, parenting classes, life-skills training, support groups, Bible studies and mentoring.
Allen Stephens, Rankin County’s associational director of missions, stressed how important the ministry is in Mississippi.
“Many Mississippians need a diploma or GED to go on to college or to get a good job,” he said. “This ministry is committed to restoring the whole person.”
The WMU Foundation awarded $1,000 Dove education scholarships to Ashley Benningfield of New London, Texas, and Christine Shaffer of Fort Smith, Ark.
While spending a year in a transitional shelter, Benningfield graduated from both the shelter’s program as well as the CWJC of Rusk County. Today she is an honor student in her sophomore year of college, with plans to complete a four-year degree with a double major in human resources and social science. Benningfield lives in New London, Texas, where she is active in London Baptist Church and is continuing her mentoring relationship with her CWJC mentor.
“As I look back on my life, it’s like I don’t even know that old person,” Benningfield said. “My heart’s desire is to spend the rest of my life focusing on parenting, becoming a godly woman, and giving back to the ministries that have given me so much. May mine be a story of hope!”
Shaffer is a graduate of the CWJC program at River Valley Christian Life Corps. Her road to success included many challenges, including an accident in which a dump truck destroyed part of her home, leaving her, her husband and four children living in a small hotel room for several months.
Shaffer is enrolled in college, pursuing a degree in marriage and family counseling, and mental health. She is already helping other women by volunteering as a mentor at the same CWJC site where she graduated.
“It is my hope that I will be able to give the same kind of love and friendship that I have gained from CWJC to other women,” Shaffer said. “Most of all I want them to know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
New training program
The national event followed the July 1 launch of Develop, WMU’s online, on-demand leadership training program, which features an introductory course on CWJC/CMJC for future site coordinators. This course serves as an entryway for those desiring to take the next step of involvement.
In addition, WMU is offering training for site coordinators seeking Level 1 and Level 2 certification. The training will be held at Mills Home Baptist Children’s Home in Thomasville, N.C., Sept. 28–Oct. 2.
For more information on how to become involved in CWJC/CMJC, visit wmu.com/jobcorps.