Field Street Baptist Church’s jobs program gives women a second chance. “In all my life ... I have never been a part of anything where I’ve seen God at work like here.”

The Hands and Feet campus of the Christian Women’s Job Corps opened its doors in the Brazos Building behind Field Street Baptist Church in September.

One of 60 such facilities in Texas, it is a homey, functional haven. Women are referred there from churches and agencies such as the Cleburne Pregnancy Center, Family Crisis Center, Adult Probation and Child Advocacy Center.

CWJC has no connection to government, and it is not an employment agency. All staff members are volunteers. There are no salaries or fees to participants.

“In all my life as a Christian I have never been a part of anything where I’ve seen God at work like here,” said Becky Miles, a retired English teacher and office coordinator for CWJC.

CWJC is on the grounds and under the umbrella of Field Street Baptist Church, as a ministry of the Women’s Missionary Union. But other churches, businesses and volunteers are also essential to its operation.

“We have two semesters of classes a year with room for eight women per semester. We have five on our waiting list for next August,” said Delisa Parrish, CWJC site director. “Our classes run Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. until noon, consisting of Bible study, computer training, and life skills and job skills.

“Our mission is to offer hope, help and opportunity to women. Our two essential requirements are Bible study and one-on-one mentors. Participants are called mereas.”

Merea is a Hebrew word meaning friendship. A Christian woman agrees to meet personally once a week with her merea to give her prayerful encouragement.

The meaning of the chosen campus name is illustrated on the walls of their classroom.

Hands and feet

Handprints and cut-out shapes of the participant’s feet are labeled with a prayer or praise to God. Symbolically, all point upward, as they reach to God for guidance and then seek to follow.

Their Thursday luncheon is served on china donated by volunteers. Prayer is said while all stand in a circle holding hands.

“We depend on about 50 volunteers,” said Cathy Graff, prayer coordinator. “They teach, work in the office, drive the van or provide a lunch on Thursdays.

“Our computer instructor, Lorraine Ellison from Eastern Heights Church, presents Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. She also introduces the participants to e-mailing skills.”

Graff teaches Bible study each morning during the spring semester, with Georgia Gilliland teaching during the fall. This semester’s participants are taught health and nutrition by Rhonda Dillard, an RN; communication skills by Amy Snoddy; money matters by Mark Woods, and homemaking, table manners and crocheting by Jocelyn Morgan at First Baptist Church’s Heart 2 Heart Ministry.

Although the women are transported by van to FBC on Thursdays, they must provide their own transportation to and from the CWJC site. Hours enable them to drop off their children at day care or school, and the CISD school calendar is followed.

Debbie Van Dyke teaches personal finance math skills. Tom Worthley, counselor at Cleburne Bible Church, leads instruction in conflict and anger management and social boundaries. Family violence, home and self defense and avoiding child abuse are addressed by Paulette Black. Other volunteers this semester are Amy Karr, spiritual gifts; Barbara Hill, parenting skills; and Barbara Yoder, time management and art of language. Wilda Knight and Sharon Haley are office volunteers.

Splendid Lily, a three-room donated clothing boutique directed by Cynthia Jackson is located upstairs at Field Street Baptist Church. Clothing and shoes are displayed attractively on racks made available when Goody’s Department Store closed at Nolan River Mall.

“We wanted the girls to have some nice choices when they reported for job interviews,” Parrish said. “Shondell Sanders will demonstrate hair styles and color coordination. Anna Franks will teach resume writing; Lisa Ard, telephone and office etiquette, and Jennifer VanderLaan, interview skills.”

Splendid Lily reflects Luke 12:27: “Consider the lilies how they grow; they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

Neal Logan, who actively recruited the establishment of the program, will discuss integrity ethics and teamwork in the workplace. Lenariam Wallace will present Hill College opportunities.

Parrish plans to add a day to the curriculum next semester.

“We have a little corner devoted to physical fitness, but we think it would be great to let the women enjoy a workout at Booker T. Washington Activity Center on Fridays. The $10 yearly fee would be paid the first year from donations designated for the Merea Scholarship Fund,” she said.

Janna Foster, a class member from last semester, said, “After being here I am closer to God. I was basically homeless and deeply depressed when I started this class. A lot of people working with me taught me boundaries. I had some real thorns in my side. I came here for a job and I was introduced to the computer. Studying the Bible taught me what I needed.”

“Eight strangers became friends,” Diane Thetford said. “No one puts you down for what you’ve been through.”

Stephanie Thompson, a graduate, has begun her own cleaning service.

“When I came to the Christian Women’s Job Corps I didn’t have good self-esteem,” she said. “I had been in abusive relationships that should have left me dead. I had two children and was separated from my husband.

“Child Protective Services told me about the Job Corps. I didn’t know if I wanted to be a part of it, but God kept reminding me about it. I decided if someone called me from the program that I would go.

“I received that call and it changed my life. I thought I had to have a man to survive. I know now that God is all I need. My faith has been strengthened. More than once Delisa handed me $100 from an anonymous giver who didn’t even know me.

“I had a fear of sitting on the front row for some reason. I let go of all my fears. I saw that since God had created me I was a beautiful person. I knew that Delisa and Cathy were there to help me to become independent.

“I feel so good about starting my own business,” Thompson said enthusiastically. “Cleaning is the perfect job for me. I can be with my children and work around their school schedules.”

She paused. “Now I can witness to other women. They need to know that God has a way out.”

Larue Barnes may be reached at laruebarnes@yahoo.com.

The Christian Women’s Job Corps is supported by

tax-deductible donations.

616 West Wardville Street

Cleburne, TX 76033

For more information, call 817-645-9979.

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