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Women’s job corps program: fast growth, new initiatives

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–Evidence for the success of Christian Women’s Job Corps is plentiful.

Consider these facts about the volunteer-operated CWJC outreach sponsored by Woman’s Missionary Union:

— CWJC has grown from five pilot sites in five states to 157 sites in 35 states in four years. While participation fluctuates from site to site, an estimated 1,500 women are involved in CWJC at any given time.

— In a recent survey, one-third of the sites reported 89 professions of faith — 75 women, 12 children and two husbands. (Reports from the remaining sites are not yet available.) This data does not include those who made recommitments to their relationship with Christ, although there are numerous stories and testimonies of those who have.

— In terms of employment, 47 percent of participants secured employment during the past year. Some sites record a 100 percent employment rate for participating women.

But CWJC is more than statistics. It is about relationships.

“CWJC has been successful because it does what Jesus teaches Christians to do — love your neighbor,” said Frances Shaw, chair of the CWJC National Advisory Council and director of the Florida Baptist Convention’s women’s missions and ministries department.

“Each woman becomes involved in one-to-one encounters with numerous individuals committed to walk alongside her as she develops life skills as well as work skills,” Shaw said. “The ministry shares God’s love [and] helps a woman accept herself and become self-sufficient.”

Sheila Rogers of Dallas would agree. She is a graduate of the Dallas CWJC site operated by the Dallas Baptist Association. Her story was featured in a Dallas Morning News article on Jan. 23 of this year.

Rogers was a drug addict who overcame her addiction through her relationship with God. After almost three years in a rehab house, she turned to CWJC to help her rebuild her self-esteem and fine-tune her job skills. That was two years ago. Today, she works for a furniture company in Dallas scheduling delivery appointments.

“I hadn’t worked in 12-and-a-half years and my self-esteem was at an all-time low,” Rogers told the Dallas Morning News. “The job corps made me realize that I do have value and they helped me to build my self-esteem and be more confident in myself.”

Sheila Rogers’ story can be told hundreds of times over, thanks to the commitment of thousands of volunteers who work in the ministry at the local level, said Trudy Johnson, CWJC director at WMU, an auxiliary of the Southern Baptist Convention based in Birmingham, Ala.

“The primary strength of the ministry is the commitment of site coordinators, mentors, volunteers, instructors and churches who work together in a ministry or CWJC program,” Johnson said. “Their partnership creates a safe and inviting place for these women to come and learn about themselves and improve their skills.

“Most important,” she added, “they learn about God and his love for them through Bible study and their relationships with the Christian women who serve as their mentors.”

Johnson’s overview was underscored by members of the CWJC National Advisory Council, who met in early March for their annual meeting. Their evaluations said the ministry is “strongly mobilizing volunteers to be on mission by meeting the needs of poor women throughout the United States.”

The success of CWJC continually opens new doors of opportunity for the ministry, Johnson noted. Begun by definition as a ministry to “women in need,” CWJC quickly grew beyond serving communities as a “welfare-to-work” ministry to include women who are part of the growing number of American’s working poor and their families.

Then in Orlando, Fla., the ministry was taken to women in the adult entertainment industry. Other sites are currently in development based on this model.

And during 2001, a pilot project at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women in Baton Rouge will be implemented by chaplain Gary Sumrall. Called “CWJC: Behind and Beyond Bars,” screened inmates will have opportunity to participate in CWJC for six months prior to their release, followed by an additional 12 months after their release.

Sumrall believes the ministry could “put me out of a job.” Speaking to the March meeting of the CWJC advisory council, he explained that his prison has an 85 percent return rate of offenders. He said he believes the return rate will decrease drastically when these women are trained for life outside of prison.

“Christian Women’s Job Corps can give these women the skills and support to start a new life when they are released instead of returning to the one that sent them to prison,” Sumrall said.

For more information on Christian Women’s Job Corps, contact Trudy Johnson at P.O. Box 830010, Birmingham, AL 35283-0010; phone, (205) 991-4972; e-mail, [email protected]; or visit www.WMU.com.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http:/www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SCRIPTURE & JOB TRAINING.
*Name changed for security concerns.

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  • Tanya Dawson*