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Work and faith, connected

"Work and faith, connected" Continued...

Issue: "Praying for rain," Aug. 11, 2012

The interviews also help others learn how to report their pasts. Carrie Johnson tells her interviewer that she stole from retail stores when she was nearly homeless-but she also says she took into her home six children, ages 3 months to 13 years, when their mom went to prison. Larry Bridgewater tells his interviewer, "I made mistakes and lost my family. Now I'm making better choices. I'm a changed man and a quick learner. Now I look to God."

Kathi Lakey learns from one interview to the next. Mock interviewer Al Barringer, a retired college administrator, gives her feedback about explaining why she has been unemployed so long: "A couple of sentences are enough: 'I had family priorities: My father was ill. Then I decided to go back to school." Barringer later comments that the interviews are "frightening for them. We are defined by jobs, and for people who care about being productive citizens, every day you wake up jobless is like a big black hole you can't fill."

But Barringer, who also interviews program applicants before they start the eight-day boot camp, says he sees a major difference between their first day and last days: "By the time they graduate, they are able to see their future."

Becoming craftsmen

By Susan Olasky

Some potential employers don't think people can change, but more than 1,000 have hired WorkFaith (www.workfaithconnection.org) graduates, largely with good results. Craftsman Glass in Houston is one of the businesses that plans to keep hiring them. The company-ministry relationship began before Scott Schultz, husband of WorkFaith CEO Sandy Schultz, started working at the company three years ago. The relationship has deepened as WorkFaith graduates like Artie Mayham, Don Cosey, and Bob Cox show they can do the job.

Artie Mayham, 50, inspects laminated glass doors at Craftsman's fabrication facility in Houston. He works surrounded by the roar of furnaces and autoclaves that transform jumbo sheets of glass into insulated, tempered, and bullet-resistant varieties-and he likes it: "I do glass doors. Inspect the doors, measure the doors. Make sure the hole location is correct. It feels good once you finish the job, knowing you had something to do with it."

Mayham, incarcerated in Tennessee, says he found at WorkFaith people "not concerned about your past. They're more concerned about you doing God's will." Mayham followed the advice WorkFaith had given him about dealing with his past in an interview: "I laid it out there. I'm trusting in God. Either they accept me and accept my past, or they don't." He became a WorkFaith trailblazer at Craftsman, with "the opportunity to either open the door for more people from WorkFaith or close the door. ... It seemed like I opened the door."

Don Cosey in the 1970s could type 102 words a minute, a skill he put to good use working for nine years at the Bank of the Southwest-until he started drinking and lost his job. During the next quarter century he spent time in jail: When out, he picked up cans and mowed lawns. Potential employers focused on his prison past and lost years. WorkFaith helped him see that the cleaning he'd done in jail was a valuable skill. The organization hired him to clean part time. When he showed reliability, Craftsman hired him in maintenance, and he has worked steadily for the past year and a half. He's seen the rewards: "I have a car. I have clothes. I can pay my tithe. I can take a vacation."

Bob Cox also had a background issue that made him doubt his ability to get a job, but WorkFaith classes helped the CPA move beyond bottling up his past. He learned to tell interviewers, "I made a poor decision. I have paid my time. Now I'm moving on. I'm trying to be the best person I can." Cox says the greatest benefit of working nearly two years at Craftsman is getting back his confidence and winning the trust of his employer: "That was the biggest thing before, losing the trust. It was demoralizing." —Susan Olasky

Money Box

• WorkFaith Connection expenses were $760,241 in 2010 and $1.23 million in 2011.

• Contributions in 2011 totaled $1.36 million.

• WorkFaith runs on 20 employees and 425 volunteers.

• Sandy Schultz's salary in 2010 was $58,083.

Listen to a report on WorkFaith Connection on WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It.

Vote for the 2012 winner and read profiles of finalists and winners from 2006 through 2012 on WORLD's Hope Award page.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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