BEAVER FALLS, Pa.—Thursday night The WorkFaith Connection, which helps some of Houston’s least-employable men and women find jobs, received WORLD’s 2012 Hope Award for Effective Compassion, which carries with it a generous donor’s check for $25,000.
WorkFaith CEO Sandy Schultz, accepting the award, referred to the way God changes the lives of many who have done shameful things, including criminal acts that put them in prison: “At The WorkFaith Connection, we try to protect men and women from giving in to the Enemy’s tool called ‘shame.’ If the men and women whom we serve never tell the story of who they used to be, then the brilliance and power of God will never shine forth as brightly as it could—because look at who they are now, strong men and women of faith, on fire for the Lord!”
Schultz said the realization that Christ changes lives is vital for former prisoners looking for work, because, “What’s the first thing you often have to do to get a job? Fill out an application. For so many of the men and women we are serving, putting the truth on an application can be painful. It reminds them of poor choices they’ve made in the past. It’s a vulnerable moment where the Enemy can step into their life and make people believe that they are still that person. But God uses The WorkFaith Connection to remind them that they are a new creation in Christ, that the old is gone. They are living proof, bright lights in the world. They bring Scripture to life.”
WorkFaith was WORLD’s South Region winner. Other regional winners this year, chosen from about 200 nominees, were Fathers in the Field, a Wyoming-based ministry that pairs fatherless kids with men who take them hunting, fishing, and bonding; The Root Cellar, a Maine group that shows refugees how to make it in America; Hope Academy, a classical Christian school in inner-city Minneapolis; and Samaritan Strategy Africa, which in Ghana and other African countries shows how a Christian worldview leads to economic development.
The award to WorkFaith followed month-long online voting by WORLD readers, with each of the finalists receiving at least 10 percent of the votes. The previous six winners in this annual contest included two that train people for jobs (Christian Women’s Job Corps, 2006, and Victory Trade School, 2011), two that work with teens (Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches, 2007, and Freedom for Youth, 2010), one that helps women leave prostitution (A Way Out, 2008), and one that works with prisoners (Forgiven Ministry, 2009).
Highlighting the awards banquet at Geneva College in northwestern Pennsylvania Thursday night, Schultz told of how she received two pieces of news on Aug. 24. One came from a foundation executive who said, “Sandy, we believe in the work that you are doing, but because you have chosen not to go after government funding—and there is plenty of government funding available for jobs ministries—we are no longer able to entertain a grant request from your organization. We need to leverage our money with those organizations that are willing to go after other money that is available.”
The other piece of news, Schultz said, was WORLD’s: The magazine was “honoring those who do not receive government funding but stay true to making sure that Jesus Christ is the center of their ministries. This Hope Award puts God front and center.” She said WorkFaith did not take government dollars because, “If we did, we could teach about good truths, but we would not be able to say, ‘Here’s where God teaches us this.’ If The WorkFaith Connection were to try to carve out pieces based on Scripture, it would not exist. Work-Faith-Connection: We cannot make Scripture optional. Without connecting work and faith we are not The WorkFaith Connection.”