Features

Worship through work

"Worship through work" Continued...

Issue: "Effective compassion," Sept. 2, 2006

Six job-seekers graduated this summer at Wesleyan. Site leaders at the church wanted to keep the first class small in order to give one-on-one attention to spiritual growth and skills assessment. The church will begin its second round of classes this fall.

Kathy Richardson, a single mother of two teenage boys, completed that first semester and visited the job fair to talk with recruiters about finding a part-time clerical position. Richardson hopes to become a chemical dependency counselor. She was released from prison a few months ago after serving six years for selling drugs, and she said that her personal experience with addiction will help her "detour others from hurting themselves."

"Before I started the [Jobs for Life] sessions, I was looking for a job to no avail," said Richardson. "The job market has changed in the last six years, and no one wanted to hire me on account of my felony conviction, but over the last couple months, I've learned how to do my resumé, how to dress, improve my vocabulary, and overcome the obstacles in my life."

Jobs for Life maintains a network of "Business Partners," companies that have agreed to give priority consideration for employment to program graduates. Kim Baston, a recruiter with the staffing agency Greene Resources, Inc. in Raleigh, said that the enthusiasm of Jobs for Life graduates sets them apart from other applicants.

"We have the opportunity to capture the talent of these graduates who are at this point job-ready as far as technical skills, work ethic, life skills, and decision-making skills," said Baston. "The partnership with Jobs for Life is ideal in that everyone benefits: We hire excellent candidates and the community is stronger because of it."

As more ministries and organizations adopt the Jobs for Life curriculum-Raleigh's large Crossroads Fellowship will do so this fall-success stories already abound. Don Turner, a bearded, middle-aged man of imposing stature but soft demeanor, grew up with two alcoholic parents and said he used to be an "enemy of God." After years of suffering abuse at the hands of his father, Turner decided to leave home in favor of living in the piney woods of North Carolina. "I became homeless, but not the kind of homeless guys you see on the street," said Turner. "I didn't want to be around people. I had no faith in them and even less in me."

Turner spent a little over a year in the woods alone before freezing temperatures finally caused him to emerge. Without knowing the day of the week, Turner sat down on the steps of a church and discovered it was Sunday. He entered the chapel, sat through his first church service, prayed to God for a change, and spent seven months at a rescue mission. He met David Spickard, who became his friend and mentor.

Turner then went through a Jobs for Life semester in Raleigh and landed a job at an art supply store, where he began to purchase art materials. Today Turner is an award-winning professional artist who volunteers with homeless youth. "Jobs for Life taught me that one of the ways we can worship God is through the work that we do," said Turner.

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