By Norman Jameson
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (ABP) — Those unemployed long-term suffer from more than loss of a paycheck.
Being jobless shatters certainty and puts at risk every level of security a person has worked to accumulate. Joblessness assaults self worth, psychological stability and emotional health.
To combat those issues and to raise both hope and practical expectations Woman’s Missionary Union created Christian Women’s Job Corps and Christian Men’s Job Corps and is working with state WMU chapters to implement that service of hope in 200 locations around the country.
Woman’s Missionary Union is a national organization established in 1888 to support missions. Its headquarters is in Birmingham, Ala., and state WMU chapters relate to the national organization but are not operated by it.
WMU created Christian Women’s Job Corps in 1997 as a response to poverty and in 2004 added a Christian Men’s Job Corps component.
Jean Roberson, who directs the program for WMU, said sites nationally graduate about 2,000 persons. Graduates learn not only how to search for jobs and how to present themselves to a potential employer, but they learn life skills that many declare are more important even than the jobs they eventually find.
Christian Women’s and Christian Men’s Job Corps involve more than 17,000 people, almost all of them volunteers, across the country. The states with the strongest number of sites are Texas, North Carolina, Mississippi and Tennessee.
“A lot of people come saying I’m here to learn a skill, learn computers, or to get a better job, but in the process of being there they realize a lot of what they needed was support, encouragement and coming face to face with God,” Roberson said.
Job seekers do not have to be Christian to participate and CWJC is not a “behavior modification program” Roberson said. Volunteers just emphasize that God loves them, and they conduct Bible studies to help reveal by study and their own actions the God that loves them.
“Lots of participants say that is what kept them coming and keeps them hopeful,” Roberson said. “They say we’re loved and we realize we need that rather than just head knowledge.”
WMU produces the training materials and state organizations conduct the training for site volunteers — about 15 a year, most often in the southeast.
Virginia has four sites, including Hope Builders in Roanoke, where Shirley Mullins helped for seven years before starting another site at Troutville Baptist Church two years ago. After 30 years working in a funeral home, and owning two Curves franchises Mullins brings practical expertise to clients on writing resumes, and doing job interviews.
Volunteers also teach parenting skills, boundaries, parenting, computer skills and lead Bible study.
”I just love working with other ladies and helping them achieve their ambitions and goals for a better job and a way to improve their families,” said Mullins, 69. “I just like doing mission work.”
She can cite Rebecca, who finished classes and secured jobs first as a teacher’s aide, then in security. Another graduate continued on to college and became a dental assistant and others have found work in nursing homes and other places.
WMU of North Carolina sponsored August training sessions both for persons starting new Job Corps sites and for some who have been at it awhile.
Sandra Nash, who manages a site in Mississippi, encouraged others with the example of Shaneta, 17, who lived in a two-bedroom apartment with her three children, mother and grandmother. The CWJC trainer didn’t think she could help Shaneta.
Nash knew that escaping the gravitational pull of poverty requires someone willing to walk with you. She gave Shaneta a wind up alarm clock so there were no excuses to miss appointments.
After Bible study on the fifth week of class Shaneta, “looked me right in the eye — for the first time — and told me, ‘I want to meet this Jesus,’” Nash said.
That afternoon she said she had to move out of the house because her mother was selling crack and she didn’t want her kids to be around that. She didn’t want to go to a shelter, and volunteers worked with her. Today Shaneta is in her own apartment, supporting her children.
Each site recruits its own volunteers. “You’ve got to spread the knowledge,” Nash said in the Thomasville training. “Keep telling the story of how you’re seeing God work.”
She advised volunteers to take special care to enlist an advisory council that includes people with personal resources to invest in the ministry.Cara Lynn Vogel, who leads CWJC and CWMC for North Carolina WMU, emphasized the importance of placing responsibility for success with the individual. Volunteers facilitate, but if the client does not own his or her future, success is unlikely.
To that end, volunteers help clients discern between vague dreams and specific goals, utilizing the acronym SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
Without such specifics, clients have a tendency to “self-sabotage” their efforts because subconsciously they know success “will change everything in their life,” Nash said.
Working with a client base that often has been surviving on the generosity of others, volunteers often find clients “feel entitled” to the help and expect opportunity to be handed to them.
“That’s the point where you have to say that’s not the purpose of this organization,” Vogel said. “You have to say goodbye and bless them on their way.”
While admitting that is hard, she said, “If someone is not ready to make their own changes, we can’t do it for them. We can literally burn ourselves out trying to take care of them.”
Such burnout can be avoided with prayer support and she encouraged every site coordinator to enlist a group of prayer supporters.
To learn more about CWJC or CMJC or how to establish a site in your area, visit here .
Norman Jameson is reporting and coordinating special projects for ABP on an interim basis. He is former editor of the North Carolina Biblical Recorder.
Source: Associated Baptist Press (www.apbnews.com)