When Margaret Roland talks about the life-changing impact of Christian Women’s Job Corps (CWJC), she speaks from personal experience.
Roland, now a CWJC site coordinator in Florence, previously was a CWJC participant seeking to gain practical skills to better equip her for life.
She was among more than 130 women and men who gathered for training and fellowship at the Aug. 1–3 Christian Women’s Job Corps/Christian Men’s Job Corps (CWJC/CMJC) National Meeting hosted by national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega.
“I grew up in poverty,” Roland reflected candidly. “By the time I was 13, my mother kicked me out of the house. That opened up the door to drugs and homelessness. … At the same time, I still was able to graduate from high school.”
Although she made a profession of faith in Christ at age 16, she said she didn’t understand the need to change her lifestyle to match her newfound faith.
By age 19 she was pregnant and single with little hope for a stable or successful future.
‘Here’s your reason’
Asking God to give her a reason to quit using drugs, Roland said her pregnancy became that motivation. “God was like, ‘OK, here’s your reason to stop.’ That’s when I quit doing the drugs. I wanted to be a better mother for my child than what I had growing up.”
At the same time, Roland said she began visiting area churches “searching for God more on a deeper level.” That led to a church member introducing her to CWJC.
Going through the program twice at the CWJC site in Guntersville, Roland acknowledged that she still struggled at times.
She eventually moved to Florence, got a job at an area hospital and discovered that through her CWJC classes, mentoring and Bible studies, she had “gained the tools that I needed to succeed.”
Working at a hospital as a phlebotomist for five years, “I was able to save up enough money to work on my credit to be able to buy a home,” Roland recounted.
“Once I was able to sign the contract on my home is when I decided that I wanted to help other women overcome the same obstacles that I have. That’s when God started putting Christian Women’s Job Corps on my heart. That was in 2016 and now we are going into our second year of classes.”
One of the primary goals of CWJC/CMJC is to “equip men and women for life and employment,” said Lena Plunk, WMU’s ministries consultant for mobilization and national CWJC/CMJC coordinator.
Roland is “a picture of the continual cycle of change that can happen in the lives of those this ministry serves,” Plunk said.
“Her life has been changed and she now wants to share that change with others in hopes that their lives are also transformed through Christ,” Plunk said. “This is a pattern that has the potential of being ongoing and reaching the lives of many other people for years to come.”
For Roland, one of the most inspiring aspects of CWJC “is seeing what all gets poured into this ministry from the volunteers, the instructors, the mentors, the site coordinator — the work, the tears, the prayers — all of that has impacted me on another level. Having someone believe in me and not giving up on me as a participant has got me to where I am.
“It has strengthened my relationship with Jesus and just being able to be more successful.”
Roland admits she doesn’t feel “qualified” to serve as a mentor and leader, yet God uses her anyway. “The more I feel that way, the more I see that God does not always call the qualified,” she said. “Seeing that I can relate to the participants on a whole different level has given me the ability to keep going.”
Relating to others
As a site coordinator, Roland enlists church and community leaders to provide such resources as Bible study, mentoring, job readiness and computer skills to encourage and benefit participants in the program.
Encouraging other individuals and churches to consider hosting CWJC or CMJC ministries, Roland said, “If your heart is in helping others, this is a ministry to get plugged into.”
It’s simply a matter of being available “to give a hand up to someone in need” — just as someone did for her. (Trennis Henderson/national WMU)
For more information about Christian Women’s Job Corps and Christian Men’s Job Corps, visit www.wmu.com/jobcorps or contact Lena Plunk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CWJC is ‘road map’ for helping people
Why travel from South Africa to attend a ministry training conference in Alabama? For Patricia Ihlenfeldt, the answer is “to be encouraged and refocused and reenergized.”
Ihlenfeldt, director of the women’s department of the Baptist Union of Southern Africa, said participating in the Christian Women’s Job Corps/Christian Men’s Job Corps (CWJC/CMJC) National Meeting hosted by national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega on Aug. 1–3 allowed her “to network and to tell people our story” as well as “invite people to come and see what the Lord is doing” in South Africa.
In South Africa, a country where income equality is a significant issue, Ihlenfeldt said it is a challenge to reach out in Christian love to the community. CWJC has provided a way to reach and empower women, she said.
“My desire has always been to equip local women in local church communities to use the facilities and the skills they have to empower and to encourage and to make a difference and to improve the quality of life of people in their community,” she said.
Ihlenfeldt was first introduced to CWJC in 2008 through a ministry partnership with North Carolina Baptist churches. South Africa currently has three CWJC sites, including one that works primarily with refugees.
In addition to teaching business skills, discipleship and life skills such as baking and sewing, Ihlenfeldt said one unique program is making “Good News dolls” which she described as “a tool that we’ve been using in our country to teach our children to share the gospel. The dolls are made in different colors with different cultural dresses and hair. We’ve been selling the dolls and ensuring some kind of employment for those refugee women” while providing them a sense of dignity, worth and purpose.
Affirming the ministry impact of CWJC, Ihlenfeldt added, “You have a desire to help people, but you don’t always have the tools or the know-how of where to actually start. That’s what appealed to me about Christian Women’s Job Corps in that there is a road map which you can use as to how to proceed with a ministry.”
National WMU has 191 certified CWJC/CMJC sites in the U.S., Mexico and South Africa plus 12 international sites where leaders are unable to disclose the locations because of security concerns.
“Within the United States, we have sites in 25 states,” said Lena Plunk, WMU’s ministries consultant for mobilization who serves as the national CWJC/CMJC coordinator. “In 2017, we served 3,830 people collectively” through high school equivalency diploma preparation, English as a Second Language classes, computer classes, Bible study, mentoring and job readiness skills. Alabama has 16 certified sites. (Trennis Henderson)
For more information, visit www.AlabamaWMU.org/cwjc or contact Alabama WMU at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 292.
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