"God hovers over this ministry and He reminds us of His faithful presence in [our] day-to-day activities."
For Mary Koehn, God's presence is evident in the Christian Women's Job Corps site she was instrumental in starting in Louisiana: Beauregard CWJC.
Pat Bryan, site coordinator of CWJC of Raleigh, N.C, said the outreach was an answer to prayer.
Bryan served 25 years as a North American Mission Board missionary in the Northeast and moved to North Carolina in 2004 to be near family after her husband's death.
"I began to pray that God could still use me in an ongoing ministry," Bryan recounts. "When the opportunity for this job surfaced, it really excited me. I believe God answered my prayer by opening this door for me at this difficult time in my life."
CWJC is a ministry of Woman's Missionary Union that seeks to equip women for life and employment through Christ-centered, holistic training. Each CWJC site is created and operated by a woman who has responded to the call of God to invest her life in other people.
Jean Cullen, WMU ministry consultant for CWJC and its Christian Men's Job Corps counterpart, notes that Koehn, Bryant and other CWJC/CMJC site coordinators "live daily with broken relationships, unpaid bills, violated probations, lost jobs and isolation and spiritual darkness that exist in the lives of participants. Meanwhile, they are responsible for securing ongoing funding, public relations, evaluations, and recruiting and training staff and volunteers.
"Still, they continue to believe and express to others that God desires to be in a relationship with each person regardless of decisions they have made and regardless of the circumstances in their lives," Cullen notes.
The sites led by Koehn and Bryan received special recognition and $750 grants during this fall's "Live the Joy of Missions" conference sponsored by Woman's Missionary Union. The awards were made possible by the Christian Women's Job Corps/Christian Men's Job Corps Site Award Endowment managed by the WMU Foundation.
Koehn said her site will use the award to upgrade its computer lab, noting that "being able to use a computer is a marketable skill sought after by participants and draws them to us."
Bryan said the award will be utilized in training workshops for CWJC mentors and for Bibles, Bible study materials and other resources for participants.
Koehn started Beauregard CWJC in 2004. The program offers two 12-week sessions each year with classes in a number of topics, depending on available volunteers, including career planning, health and nutrition, computer skills, conflict resolution (Bible study), parenting, financial management, personal development and tutoring for the GED.
Koehn said the Beauregard site is unique in the community for offering a personal Christian mentor for each participant, requiring participants to attend weekly Bible studies, providing GED tutoring and working with a local staffing agency for job opportunities for CWJC participants.
Bryan said what makes the Raleigh site unique in the community is its team mentoring approach in which participants receive support and encouragement from women with different gifts and personalities. One participant last fall was from a local homeless shelter. Today this woman has a fulltime job with full benefits and her own apartment. "She has a wonderful testimony of how God has provided for her through the love and care of women who have encouraged her," Bryan said.
Both site coordinators said they are thankful for the help of their local Baptist association, churches and WMU organizations which support their sites through various means including volunteer help, networking, fundraising and financial aid.
While the WMU grants will provide much-needed resources, both sites still have needs. In addition to the upgraded computer lab, Koehn said she also needs a television to show videos in the classroom and a laptop, projector and screen for classroom presentations. Bryan, whose site in Raleigh has moved to a community learning center, lists mentors as her greatest need currently.
"Many of the volunteers have stated they want to make a difference in another person's life, and they do," Koehn said. "One of the mentors stated, 'I came with the attitude of giving but instead I am the receiver.' I think that statement resonates for most of us. As we obey God and put another person's needs above our own, we become the ones who are blessed."
Amy W. Richardson is a writer for Woman's Missionary Union. To learn more about Christian Women's Job Corps/Christian Men's Job Corps, visit www.wmu.com/volunteerconnection/cwjc. To support the CWJC/CMJC Endowment, visit www.wmufoundation.com.
(c) 2007 Baptist Press. Used with permission. All rights reserved.