BY JORDAN WASHER
It’s a Tuesday morning around 9:00AM. I’ve just dropped my youngest daughter off at her Mother’s Day Out class at First Baptist Church, where she is loved on and encouraged to excel, have fun and use her imagination. Downstairs in Room 101 a dozen other women - moms, daughters, grandmothers - meet for a session of Christian Job Corps, seeking to prepare for the GED, acquire job skills, and ultimately get out of a life of difficulty and distress.
The teacher is having the ladies call out “lanes you get stuck in.”
“Homelessness,” “Addiction,” “Anger,” “Unforgiveness,” “Discouragement,”
“Felonies.” While I can relate to a couple of these, there are a few that I myself have never had to deal with. I am suddenly overwhelmed with a mix of gratefulness and embarrassment at my lack of gratitude for all I have been given.
I sit here in this class with a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree. While these accomplishments have allowed me to hold multiple jobs as an adult, I am now lucky enough to have the privilege of being a stay-at-home mom while my loving husband is at a job making a living for our family. These are blessings to be thankful for, but also blessings and experiences that many of the women in this room have not experienced. How truly grateful am I? How often do I take my lifestyle for granted? And how willing am I to come along side these women through prayer and encouragement?
For Jeri, mother of eight and a high-school dropout, the circumstances I’m so used to would absolutely change her life for the better. She said her kids occasionally attend First Baptist Church with their uncle, and she herself attends another church when she can. However, life at home is chaotic, to say the least. She is currently going through a marriage separation
and is overwhelmed with the responsibilities and work it takes to be a mom to six children who still live under her roof.
“I deal with anxiety and depression a lot,” Jeri shared. “With going through a separation and
my lifestyle right now, I’m trying to make it a little better. I plan to take the GED and get my education so I can show proof to my kids, ‘if I can do it, you can do it.’ Especially the ones in high school who want to give up on things. No, you’re not going to give up. If I can’t give up, then you can’t give up.”
She learned about Christian Job Corps through Amarillo’s director, Kim Zimmer.
“When my kids got baptized, I met Kim, and she’s been trying to get me to take these classes for a couple of years, and I’ve just been pushing it back. Finally, I decided, you know, I’m just going to do something positive with my life and just jump in it.”
Christian Job Corps is a 10-week program for both women and men. Those in the program take classes such as money management, health and nutrition, high school equivalency diploma preparation, as well as practice mock interviews, work on their resume, and attend a Bible study. They complete a total of 140 hours of coursework throughout the program.
Jeri is 3 weeks into the program and is looking to make a big change in her life. “I haven’t had a job in twelve years. I’m a stay-at-home mom. My husband always did the working and wanted me to stay home. It’s just going to be something different, but I want to be independent again and do that for myself. I just want my life to be different.”
“I feel like I’ve gotten closer with God.
I hope they see a change.”
Seven weeks later on a Wednesday evening, the Christian Job Corps Graduation is finally here. I have been praying for Jeri since I met her back in September, not only for the Lord to work in her life, but for her to complete the Christian Job Corps program. It is amazing how
God works because three days prior, I ran into Kim Zimmer at First Baptist Church. I asked her how Jeri was doing in the program because I planned to speak to her at graduation. Kim shared with me that not only would she be graduating, but Jeri would also be sharing her testimony at the ceremony!
I found Jeri downstairs in Room 101, where we met seven weeks before. She was nervous about her testimony, but excitedly claimed she was going to “rock it.”
“I have never been more proud of the goals
I have set up for myself.”
“I’m glad that I achieved my goals,” Jeri added. “I had set so many goals, and I achieved this one, which was one of my biggest ones.”
Jeri’s kids, mom, sisters, as well as other family members, were all waiting in the sanctuary to celebrate her accomplishment.
“I feel like I’ve gotten closer with God. I hope they see a change - a happier person, less depression, less anxiety.”
Kim Zimmer opened up the graduation ceremony with an encouraging word to the graduates: “God shows up every Monday and Tuesday, and He does big things, and He does little things. So while, yes, it is a celebration of your success and finishing this program, this really is a celebration of our God who loves us enough to find you wherever you are, whether it be through Facebook, through a letter in prison, or on the streets, and he sees you and he has a plan for you, and so this evening is to celebrate all that He has done.”
The Christian Job Corps program not only prepares the participants for the workplace, but sets them on a path in seeking the Lord in every area of their lives.
Jeri shared a wonderful testimony about her experience with Christian Job Corps. “It has opened up doors for me to new and better things. I am no longer afraid to get out of my comfort zone. I have never been more proud of the goals I have set up for myself, and I’m looking forward to my future as I have come a long way. I no longer doubt myself. I no longer feel depression or anxiety as God has lifted it all off my shoulders and opened up a new beginning for me as I walk with Christ.”
As I listened to Jeri’s testimony, I felt like, in a very small way, I played a part in her journey through Christian Job Corps. But do I stop there and go on my way? Or do I find a way to volunteer my time and effort to both men’s and women’s Christian Job Corps in another facet? Will I pray for not only the participants, but for the director, Kim Zimmer, and the many teachers and mentors who daily walk through the program with those in it? Will I volunteer to provide breakfast, snacks or lunch, which the participants receive every Monday and Tuesday? Or will I settle back into my own life of comfort and forget about those who may have taken, by their own choice or not, another path in life than I?
Trevor Brown, Associate Pastor at First Baptist, concluded the evening’s graduation ceremony with a convicting and encouraging reminder for those in Jeri’s shoes as well as my own: “What a gift to hear the graduates’ stories and to be reminded that at the foot of the cross each of us receives endless second chances and countless new beginnings.”
WANT TO SERVE?
Each semester the Christian Job Corp of Amarillo program welcomes a new class of men and women to be equipped for life and employment in a Christian context. Mentors, teachers, and volunteers are vital to meeting this goal. If you can serve as a part of the next session, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact our church office.