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DEPRESSION: FINDING HELP IN THE STRUGGLE

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the US and is an illness that can affect anyone regardless of age, race, income, culture, or education. As Christians, we are not immune to depression. As we explore the Bible, we see many of its heroes experienced symptoms of depression.

Although the Bible does not overtly use the term depression, we see many biblical figures who encountered its effects. We know David suffered many traumas in his life and lamented in several verses.

In Psalm 38:6 and 8, David wrote, “I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning. … I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart” (NIV). In Psalm 42:5, he asked, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” He cried out to God for help and prayed, “Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit” (Psalm 143:7).

Other examples include Job, Jeremiah, and Elijah, who all journeyed through emotional distress with symptoms such as loss of hope, immense despair, lingering sadness, shame, and even passively suicidal events.

In 2021, the Boston University School of Public Health reported elevated rates of depression have worsened, climbing to 32.8 percent and affecting one in every three American adults. Current research suggests depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. For example, per the National Institute of Mental Health, risk factors may include a family history of depression, a major life change, experiencing trauma, and stress factors. It may even occur with serious medical conditions or be a side effect from medications.

SYMPTOMS

Sadness is a part of normal life and can be attributed to events and experiences, but it is important to differentiate between sadness and depression. Depressive features include feelings of sadness that become prolonged and intense, last from months to years, and elapse into depression. Generalized feelings of worthlessness, apathy, and physical changes with sleep, appetite, and decreased energy also may occur. Symptoms caused by major depression can vary from person to person and may be dependent upon age. Other indicators include the following:

  • “Empty” mood, pessimism, irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Early-morning awakening or oversleeping
  • Weight changes
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempt

DIAGNOSIS

A doctor may determine a diagnosis of depression based on physical exams, lab tests, psychiatric evaluations, and utilizing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

The two common forms of depression include major depression and persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia). Major depression causes serious, persistent feelings of sadness and other symptoms that make functioning or enjoying life very difficult. Persistent depressive disorder is a milder but more chronic and lasting form of depression.

Criteria for the diagnosis include experiencing five depressive symptoms every day for at least two weeks, and one of the symptoms must be a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities. Other forms of depression include perinatal and/or postpartum, seasonal affective disorder, and depression with symptoms of psychosis. Individuals experiencing bipolar disorder also experience depression.

TREATMENT

Depression is a common mental health disorder, yet some people may experience shame, fearfulness, and loneliness, and they may avoid seeking help even though depression is highly treatable, especially when treatment is provided early and consistently. As a result, they can manage symptoms and return to feelings of control and enjoyment.

Treatment is typically a combination of psychotherapy, medications, social support, and education. Antidepressants are often used to treat depression, along with cognitive behavioral modalities and interpersonal therapy. Treatment plans are developed with a professional mental health provider and are individualized based on the person’s needs, such as the type of depression and intensity of symptoms. Identifying personal preferences and goals is important as there is no one-size-fits-all treatment.

WAYS TO SUPPORT

Receiving support from loved ones is crucial for those experiencing depressive symptoms.

  • Listen with understanding, with patience, and without judgment.
  • Offer encouragement through prayer, assist with positive thoughts through sharing happy memories, and remind them of their capability to feel enjoyment again.
  • Provide practical support—help with meals, chores, and appointments.
  • Encourage physical activity and social interactions.
  • Avoid trying to “cheer them up” or stating “snap out of it.”
  • Encourage professional help.
  • Don’t give up on them.

Dr. Pam Whitaker serves as senior vice president of program development at One More Child, a ministry that provides Christ-centered services to vulnerable children and struggling families. As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor serving children and families for many years, she has witnessed the value of sound mental health that has provided helpful navigation through the stressors of life, resulting in personal growth and spiritual development.

Disclaimer: The information shared on this page is not meant to diagnose or treat a mental health condition. We encourage you to follow up with your health-care provider and seek a mental health professional for individual consultation and care.

Site Leader Resources

WARNING SIGNS: WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT ANOTHER’S MENTAL HEALTH

I often receive phone calls from caring individuals concerned about a friend’s mental health. They are seeing signs of depression or anxiety in their friend. They see worrying symptoms of isolation, lack of enjoyment in activities, and even just a shell of the friend he or she used to be. It is hard to watch someone suffer and not know how to best support him or her during a mental health struggle.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports one in five adults struggled with mental illness in 2020, but only 45 percent of those struggling seek help.¹ With statistics like this, you likely are concerned about someone in your life. Whether it is depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder, knowing how to support and point the person in the direction of help can make all the difference.

HAVE A PLAN AND EDUCATE YOURSELF

When you first approach a friend with your concerns, have a plan of what you want to say. Write it out, and be simple and concrete. Make sure you are approaching others with compassion and understanding, not with shame or guilt about their struggles. What they need most is an available, empathetic listener who can gently guide them to whatever help they need.

Additionally, become familiar with the signs and symptoms of someone struggling with his or her mental health. Look for changes in mood, appetite, or social engagements or seeming to be restless or fidgety. You also want to pay attention to unexplained physical symptoms someone may be reporting, such as nausea, shortness of breath, or feeling fatigued. Let them know you see they are struggling and you want to be with them and help them find the resources they need to feel better. Often, when people are struggling with mental health, it is difficult for them to recognize how poorly they are feeling.

As an outsider looking in, you can help them see the bigger picture. You can help them put into words what they are experiencing. This is a helpful step as they explore different resources, such as meeting with a minister, getting professional counseling, seeking psychiatric help, or visiting their doctor. Offer to attend an appointment with them to help paint a picture of what you see. You can also point friends to skills that could improve their ability to cope, such as moving their bodies, keeping a journal, spending time with loved ones, or meditating on Scripture passages.

BE PATIENT

Most importantly, be patient. Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” This verse sums up what it means to come alongside those who are struggling with mental health. Be humble and gentle as you discuss what is happening with your friend, and be patient as you allow him or her time to utilize resources you discover together. Help bear your friend’s burden by sharing the weight of what he or she is experiencing.

Not all individuals will be ready to act on all you have to offer. Your job is not to fix them but rather to gently offer resources and a listening ear. Remember, if people are struggling with mental health issues, something that may seem simple for you might feel like climbing Mount Everest to them. Make sure to look for realistic goals and align your expectations with those goals.

CARING FOR YOURSELF

Because you cannot give what you do not have, you must make sure you are caring well for yourself as you care for others. Your soul needs to be strengthened so you can bear the weight of these burdens. For this reason, you must make sure you are engaging in self-care.

One of the best pictures in Scripture of our need to care for our bodies is in 1 Kings 19. In this chapter, Elijah was fleeing a terrifying situation. He was emotionally desperate, and it is obvious his body needed care. He first lay down under a tree to sleep, then he ate food and drank water the angel brought, and finally he slept again. Verses 7 and 8 say, “The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank.” Without nourishment or sleep, Elijah could not have continued on his journey. We, too, cannot function or care for others if we are not doing the same.

Managing your emotions and setting boundaries for yourself is also a vital step. It is OK to know your limits and know you cannot be available all the time. Make sure to communicate your availability and when you need to take a step back. Be willing to add in other social supports, such as pastors, friends, and family, for yourself too. Remember, it is OK for you to ask for help if you begin to notice yourself struggling.

Without doing these things, you could be on the road to caregiver burnout. The Cleveland Clinic describes caregiver burnout as the following:

  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and other loved ones
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless, and helpless
  • Changes in appetite, weight, or both
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Getting sick more often than usual
  • Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring
  • Emotional and physical exhaustion
  • Irritability²

It is a sacred space to walk alongside someone struggling with mental health. But it takes energy and can take a toll if you are not also caring for yourself. Scriptures call us to care for one another and support one another. But we must do what we can to ensure we care for ourselves along the way.

Lisa Keane is a licensed professional counselor supervisor in Birmingham, Alabama, and a national board-certified counselor. For more than 15 years, Lisa has worked to help individuals and families seek hope and healing through counseling. She has been a speaker at national and local events on topics such as mental health, parenting, marriage, and many other issues. Lisa believes everyone deserves to live a full, meaningful life. She loves to work with individuals and families to help them discover how to do just that.

¹National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Mental Health By the Numbers,” https://www.nami.org/mhstats.

²Cleveland Clinic, “Caregiver Burnout,” https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9225-caregiver-burnout.

Disclaimer: The information shared on this page is not meant to diagnose or treat a mental health condition. We encourage you to follow up with your health-care provider and seek a mental health professional for individual consultation and care.

Site Stories

CWJC Helps Women Find Who They Are In Christ

(Photo courtesy of CWJC Carlsbad.)

One student — that’s all Christian Women’s Job Corps of Carlsbad, New Mexico, had on their class roster when they were getting close to starting their first semester in early 2021.

And even though it was just one, Margaret Bemis felt like it was just the right time to get started. It had not been an easy road to get there, and she felt like God was opening the doors.

Bemis said she and Cherish Lexvold, her co-director at the time, had just been getting things started to open the CWJC site in early 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

But even though the situation made getting set up more complicated, Bemis felt like the community needed CWJC’s services more than ever. CWJC, a ministry of Woman’s Missionary Union, offers women the opportunity to reach their full potential and improve their situation through job and life skills training.

So Bemis and Lexvold continued to push through, make plans and enlist mentors. They got the support of local churches — Church Street Church of the Nazarene, which provides the building and an operational budget, as well as First Baptist Church and First Presbyterian Church.

And when only one person signed up for their first semester, they kept going.

That first participant “was so eager to take the course,” Bemis said.

About two days before class started, a second woman signed up.

“I really do believe it was God saying, ‘The door is open; do it,’” Bemis said. “We probably had the best volunteer-student ratio that semester we’ve ever had. There were those two ladies, and they thrived and are still thriving and have grown since then.”

Both women had come from difficult backgrounds, and one had bounced around from place to place and didn’t know where to settle in, Bemis said. “She was just kind of blowing in the wind, and she was hoping she would get skills to get a better job.”

Now that woman is a spokesperson and a cheerleader for CWJC, Bemis said. “What she always ends up saying to the other ladies in our program is ‘you think you’re here so you can get a better job, and what you are going to find out is who you are in Christ.’”

The other student in that first class was struggling with addiction and now has a different story, Bemis said. “The strength of her testimony has been that, yes, she can get the job she wants now because she has much better skills — she really took hold of all the job skills that were offered to her. But she also said I know that I had strongholds that were keeping me from moving forward. I don’t have a struggle with alcohol anymore because it doesn’t offer me what I need.”

Since that original class, CWJC of Carlsbad has seen 12 more women graduate, including a 72-year-old widow whom they helped start a seamstress business after her husband passed away.

“She is thriving spiritually, and so is her business — she’s having to turn business away,” Bemis said.

A recent site development grant from the WMU Foundation’s Sybil Bentley Dove Endowment is helping CWJC of Carlsbad prepare to equip even more women. The endowment supports CWJC by providing scholarships to participants and a grant for Dove Award recipients in addition to site development grants.

Bemis said the funds they received for their site are going to purchase licenses for business software such as Canva Pro, Slack Pro, Adobe programs and QuickBooks. The grant also helped them purchase a new computer curriculum they will begin using in the fall.

“It’s been amazing to see what God has done,” Bemis said.

by Grace Thornton, writer for The Baptist Paper

Site Stories

Cross Walk to Life Staff Member Says God Put Pieces in Place for Ministry

(Photo Courtesy of Crosswalk to Life)

After Ana L. Uribe got married, the couple’s path took them all over the place — from Houston, Texas, to Las Cruces, New Mexico, to Germany and then to Alabama.

But in 2020, the couple couldn’t shake the feeling that God wanted them to retrace their steps.

“We felt God keep moving our hearts to move back to Las Cruces, but there were no jobs for my husband,” Uribe said. “So we said, ‘If God wants us to go back, He will open doors.’ And He sure did.”

Uribe’s husband was offered a good job at the place he used to work, and they rejoined the church they had been a part of there — Iglesia Bautista Buenas Nuevas (Good News Baptist Church). But not long after they moved back, a tragedy happened — the pastor and his wife both died of COVID-19.

Uribe said her husband knew instantly that the call to pastoral ministry that he had been running from for a while had finally caught up to him.

“That was the feeling God had placed in our hearts to come back to Las Cruces,” she said.

He became the church’s pastor, and Uribe led the women’s ministry.

She revived Mujer Virtuosa (Virtuous Woman), a ministry that she had started when they lived there 12 years before, hosting a monthly breakfast and inviting women from all walks of life to hear the gospel, find community and talk through any life issues they might be facing.

Uribe’s heart was in this kind of ministry. And it wasn’t long before an opportunity came along to do more of it — as administrative assistant for Cross Walk to Life, a Christian Women’s Job Corps site that offers women the opportunity to reach their full potential and improve their situation through job and life skills training.

“I got hired and started working there part time,” Uribe said, noting that she appreciated that one purpose of the ministry was to serve the large Hispanic community there.

Her fluency in both languages made her a perfect fit, along with her technology skills and heart for the ministry, said Carol Gilliland, director of Cross Walk to Life.

“We need someone who is good with technology and has good office skills so she can take care of the necessary things to make the ministry run smoothly,” Gilliland said. “She’s a whiz-bang at it.”

In the time Uribe has been there, she’s helped draw more women to Cross Walk to Life by networking in Spanish on Facebook. She’s also taught classes in English and Spanish in addition to organizing the ministry’s schedule and newsletters and taking care of other logistics. Starting in September, she will teach a new class on money management that the women have been asking for.

“She’s a blessing from God,” Gilliland said. “She’s very gifted, and she’s helped us reach people. She’s the glue that holds us together.”

The funding for Uribe’s role comes from a site grant from the WMU Foundation’s CWJC/CMJC Endowment, something Gilliland says she’s grateful for.

“I love what God has done at Cross Walk to Life through her help,” Gilliland said.

Uribe said she’s thankful for the way God has moved everything around to get her and her husband — along with their two sons, who are now teenagers — in the right place and provide what they needed to get there.

“It’s been a great experience,” she said.

Many of the women now go to her church also, and one of Cross Walk to Life’s participants who had no previous experience with computers became the church secretary after graduating from the program. Uribe is grateful to see those kinds of stories.

“It’s been a blessing all around to be a part of this community and the women that we’re serving,” she said.


by Grace Thornton, writer for The Baptist Paper

Site Leader Resources

OPENING OUR MINDS: THE CHURCH AND MENTAL HEALTH

Admitting our vulnerability can be uncomfortable. But if we take an honest look at Scripture, we discover God motivates vulnerable people like you and me to love other vulnerable people by becoming vulnerable for them. Vulnerability is not a curse but rather the key to connection and community.

In Genesis 2:18, God declared, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” God created humans with an innate need for one another. Community is an invitation to participate in life together, complete with all the differences that make us who we are as unique beings. Though many in the local church can appreciate community in theory, its implementation and practice are often a different story. Many people living with mental illness can testify to this fact.

Mental illness is simultaneously overlooked and often stigmatized in local church settings. According to Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, a 2021 survey showed that “While preaching on mental illness is the norm and even more pastors feel their church is responsible to help the mentally ill, still 37% of pastors rarely or never bring it up from the pulpit.”¹ This culture of silence must change for us to experience the community and connection God desires for us in the local church.

FOUR WAYS WE CAN CHANGE THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS IN THE CHURCH

1. Normalize discussion about mental health.

If a particular church is not discussing mental health or mental illness, the congregation will assume it is not a high priority for those in leadership. Encourage your pastor to find opportunities to talk about it from the pulpit regularly. Plan to have systematic studies about it in your small groups. Offer training on mental health, abuse, and becoming trauma-informed for those who would like to learn more. Create and provide a list of mental health resources and services available in your area. By addressing mental illness from the pulpit and in groups, you give the congregation multiple connection points to enter the conversation.

2. Reach out to local nonprofits and social services in your community.

You don’t have to do this work alone. There are likely many organizations and service providers in your community you can contact. Google “mental health” plus “nonprofits” and your zip code. Set up a meeting to learn more. Invite the organization or service provider to offer training at your church.

3. Offer counseling in your church.

Though talking to your church and your community is a start, confidential mental health services are also crucial. Reach out to local counseling centers, establish a relationship with them, and refer people to them.

4. Embrace your vulnerability.

It’s difficult to discuss the mental health of others when we neglect our own. By addressing our issues, we are better poised to engage with others. Choosing to process through your brokenness, pain, anxiety, and disillusionment will lead to self-awareness. As we become acquainted with our frailty, the boundary between “us” and “them” will fade, and we will realize that it’s just us. We’re all living with the tangible effects from the Fall. Understanding what we bring to the conversation helps provide an equal footing as we talk to others in our communities.

OUR WORDS MATTER

The words we say matter. In many cases, we hurt people around us without even knowing. Here are a few things we should avoid saying and what we can say instead:

  • Avoid saying the phrases “suffering from” or “battling” mental illness, which convey a negative connotation. Instead, you can say “living with a mental illness” to unlock empathy, compassion, and many other positive things.
  • Avoid using words like crazynuts, or schizophrenic in conversation to describe things that do not pertain to mental health. Though these statements may be casual to you, they can send a stigmatized message to someone living with a mental illness.
  • Avoid saying things like “pray harder” or “if only your faith were stronger, you wouldn’t struggle with [fill in the blank].” This statement is shame-inducing and accuses rather than heals. Instead, if you have built the relational capital with the person, offer to pray with him or her. Remind others of how Christ lived, died, and rose in their place. Focus on what was done for them rather than what you feel they should do.
  • The Bible tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Being thoughtful about the words we say can make the difference between someone engaging further with the church or feeling rejected.

Raleigh Sadler founded and serves as the executive director of Let My People Go, a national ministry focused on empowering the local church to address human trafficking. He is the author of two books, Vulnerable: Rethinking Human Trafficking and The Let My People Go Handbook.

¹https://research.lifeway.com/2022/08/02/pastors-have-congregational-and-for-some-personal-experience-with-mental-illness/

For more information about national WMU’s focus on mental health, visit wmu.com/mentalhealth.

Disclaimer: The information shared on this page is not meant to diagnose or treat a mental health condition. We encourage you to follow up with your health-care provider and seek a mental health professional for individual consultation and care.

Site Leader Resources

MENTAL HEALTH AND THE CHURCH: A LOOK AT WAYS THE CHURCH CAN PROMOTE MENTAL HEALTH

A plethora of mental health definitions exist. There’s even a basic definition of “an absence of a mental disorder,” proving the one thing we can all agree on is it is difficult to define mental health. This speaks to the complexity of the Lord’s creation and how we are made in His image.

The American Psychiatric Association states mental health is “the effective functioning in daily activities resulting in productive activities (work, school, caregiving), healthy relationships, [and the] ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity.” In addition, a compilation of resources cite mental health as demonstrated through realizing one’s potential, feelings of self-worth, and community contributions as well as intellectual, emotional, and spiritual development. Mental health is the foundation of these characteristics and a crucial element for meaningful participation in society.

In contrast, the American Psychiatric Association defines mental illness as “changes in emotions, thinking, or behavior, or a combination of these.” Mental illnesses can be mild to severe and may take on many forms; however, to meet the criteria for a mental illness, the symptoms must cause significant distress in life domains and occur for an extended and specified amount of time. Significant mental illness may require hospitalization and varied treatment modalities, including medication.

Although we all experience the ups and downs of mental health, temporary valleys of mental health may be related to stressful events, such as the loss of a loved one or other life events. These do not require professional intervention. It is important to note there is no single cause of mental illness but more so a combination or range of variables, including biology, environmental exposure, genetics, and life experiences that may result in mental illness.

HOW DOES GOD SEE OUR MENTAL HEALTH?

The Bible speaks about mental health as it addresses our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as well as our hearts and souls. The concept of mental health is integral in all of Scripture. In fact, Jesus said the greatest commandment states, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37).

The Lord cares about our mental health because we matter to Him, and He desires to be intimate with our thoughts and feelings through prayer. He provides for our mental health through the Holy Spirit, who is our comforter and counselor. The Lord provides hope through support systems, godly Christian mental health professionals, and medications as needed when our mental health suffers.

Scripture offers examples related to mental health that indicate self-care can be both physical and mental. Paul acknowledged physical exercise as profitable (1 Tim. 4:8) and encouraged Christ’s followers to maintain a positive thought life (Phil. 4:8), while Jesus took several respites from His demanding time on earth.

As a church body, it is important to promote positive mental health because it allows people to realize their full potential in their relationships with God, others, and their communities. Positive mental health allows individuals to serve, minister, and evangelize effectively.

THE CHURCH’S RESPONSE

As followers of Christ, we are to share the hope we have in the knowledge of the restoration of the world through Jesus Christ (Col. 1:19–20). God also commands us to love our neighbors. Those with mental health struggles require us to address the uncomfortableness of the often-perplexing nature of the mind, body, and soul. As Christians, there is a common propensity to fear when ministering to those experiencing mental health struggles, and if not thwarted, this attitude can exacerbate the marginalization of those with mental health struggles in and out of the church body.

The church can use the following practices to promote mental health:

  • Provide mental health education as a method to reduce stigmatization.
  • Become a trauma-informed care church by realizing the widespread impact of trauma, understanding the pathways to recovery, recognizing the signs and symptoms of trauma, responding by fully integrating knowledge into practices, and resisting re-traumatization.
  • Cultivate certified Mental Health First Aid practitioners in the church. Click here for information on Mental Health First Aid trainings offered through WMU.
  • Equip members to lead and champion mental health initiatives within the church.
  • Ensure the church provides a resource website for trustworthy mental health providers in the area who subscribe to sound Christian theology.

Dr. Pam Whitaker, EdD, LMHC, CCTP, serves as senior vice president of program development at One More Child. As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor serving children and families for many years, she has witnessed the value of sound mental health that has provided helpful navigation through the stressors of life, resulting in personal growth and spiritual development.

For more information about national WMU’s mental health focus, visit wmu.com/mentalhealth.

Disclaimer: The information shared on this page is not meant to diagnose or treat a mental health condition. We encourage you to follow up with your health-care provider and seek a mental health professional for individual consultation and care.

Site Stories

Entrepreneurship Program for Women in Texas Gets Boost from Grant

 
(Photo courtesy of Jacob Lackey)

Sometimes things start with one person who is really passionate, and then they take off from there.

That’s Lydia Tate’s opinion at least.

She’s seeing it happen at Christian Women’s Job Corps of McLennan County, Texas, where an already-thriving ministry has moved to the next level thanks to a college student volunteer and a program development grant from WMU Foundation.

Tate, director of the CWJC site, said the idea for their new entrepreneurship program started in early 2020 when she spoke to a business class at Baylor University. One student — Jacob Lackey — was particularly interested in the mission and vision of the CWJC site and wanted to see how he might help.

Seeing, responding to a need

“Afterward he came up to me to talk about entrepreneurship and the vision he has for bringing those skills to the community,” Tate said. “He offered to volunteer and bring his knowledge in entrepreneurship to the program. He offered to bring a curriculum to us to teach this concept to our women.”

Lackey had started his first successful business at 14 and gave a TEDx Talk about it at 16.

“I see this need, I want to meet it and I’m passionate about it,” he said.

He said he wanted to be able to share with the women at CWJC of McLennan County that it’s OK to have challenges and barriers against starting a business — he experienced that uphill battle as a teenager.

But it’s doable if someone is passionate, Lackey said.

“Only 30 percent or so of entrepreneurs have a high school diploma,” he said. “It’s not a field dominated by people with doctorates.”

So in spring 2020, Lackey led a three-day workshop via Zoom for students at the CWJC site to teach them about entrepreneurship, evaluate their own ideas and see if they had the expertise and passion to get started in their own business. He also gave them resources to plan their next steps.

“I loved seeing how engaged the women were and the ideas they already had,” said Lackey, who is now a Baylor graduate and member of the CWJC of McLennan County board of directors.

‘Wildly successful’

Tate said the workshop was “wildly successful — everybody loved it.”

The grant will be seed money to start wrapping some structure around the idea, she said.

“Essentially what we would like to do was to start a program where a student will come in and take a host of classes given by volunteers in the community. They will learn about marketing strategies, digital spaces, brick-and-mortar spaces and how those happen,” Tate said. “They will learn about everything from what does it look like to have a business all the way to launching a business.”

CWJC would also have student interns who would have hands-on learning opportunities through running an online shop modeled after Woman’s Missionary Union’s WorldCrafts space, she said.

“Those interns would complete a year with us from September to May, then apply for a micro loan to start their own business,” Tate said.

“Our goal is to fund those micro loans and those opportunities so that a woman can start with us not knowing anything about a business to starting and funding a business. That’s the hope, and WMU Foundation has created a space for us to start dreaming about that.”

The entrepreneurship program is part of the site’s GLOW (Growth Learning Opportunities for Women) program, which offers free job skills and career building workshops and classes.

Tate said they hope through the entrepreneurship program to “really and truly empower women to start their own businesses and have some ownership over their income.”

by Grace Thornton, writer for The Baptist Paper

Participant StoriesSite Stories

Ministry Helps Those Seeking Employment

Kim McDermott serves as administrative coordinator for Pivot ministry, a role supported by a recent site grant from the WMU Foundation.
(Photo courtesy of Pivot)

Kim McDermott had been unemployed for six months, steadily interviewing for jobs with no success, when a friend told her about the classes offered at Pivot.

“I heard about this and thought, ‘What’s it going to hurt? I’ll give it a try,’” McDermott said.

What is Pivot?

Pivot, a ministry that uses the Christian Women’s Job Corps classroom model with one-on-one mentors, has served women in the Winston-Salem, North Carolina, area since 2018.

Carol Polk, Pivot’s executive director, said it opened after two years of research, during which time they found that women with no dependents were often turned away by agencies.

“So that’s what we focused on,” she said. “We just had our fifth graduation.”

So far, Pivot has had a graduation rate of 75 percent — more than double what was predicted, Polk said. The women who come through the program learn life skills and job readiness, take part in regular Bible studies and have a personal Christian mentor.

“It’s an incredible ministry,” she said.

McDermott agrees. She said her experience as a participant at Pivot in 2019 was “amazing.”

‘Helped me get my confidence back’

“I thoroughly enjoyed every session,” she said. “I was beginning to think I was unemployable. Pivot helped me get my confidence back.”

And a few months back, McDermott became a part of Pivot in a new way — she’s serving in a part-time role as administrative coordinator.

“I’m loving what I do here,” she said.

Her role is supported by a site grant from the CWJC/CMJC Endowment that the Woman’s Missionary Union(WMU) Foundation recently awarded to Pivot, a gift Polk said they were “blown away” to receive.

Pivot Plus

The grant is also supporting Pivot’s new alumnae association, Pivot Plus, which offers graduates a chance to stay connected and participate in Bible study and further professional development. Two volunteers have taken ownership of that new effort and run with it, Polk said.

She hopes it will help Pivot continue to come alongside women like McDermott over the long haul and offer support and community.

McDermott’s story has highlighted God’s faithfulness, and she has been a great fit for the Pivot team too, Polk said. She said McDermott’s computer skills are strong, she’s a great researcher and support person and has a cheerful demeanor and positive approach.

“She turned her life back around and now has two part time jobs and is faithful and dedicated and a joy to work with,” Polk said.


by Grace Thornton, writer for The Baptist Paper

Participant Stories

WMU Foundation Scholarship Helps 2 Texas Women Take Next Step in Life

Brianna Watts was stuck in a cycle. After growing up in foster homes then being adopted by an aunt as a teenager, she became pregnant at 17.

“I thought I knew what I was doing, and I didn’t,” she said. “I started partying and soon turned to drugs.”

Over the next seven years, she dealt with abuse “of every kind.” She became homeless, and she had more children who were taken from her.

“I wanted to get out, but I just didn’t have the resources and was extremely scared,” Watts said. “One night I wanted to quit partying and my fiancé didn’t. We got into a bad altercation, and he left me beat up in a hotel room with no money, no food and nowhere to go once again. I felt alone and helpless again.”

She cried out to God, and she felt Him prompt her to talk with someone who connected her with a rehab facility and drove her there.

“That next week I found out I was pregnant once again,” Watts said.

Getting clean

But this time, she had help. The rehab program — called Gateway of Hope — helped her get clean, and she took classes and graduated from Transformation Pathway Christian Women’s Job Corps of Dublin, Texas. She has custody of two of her children, joint custody of another two and is able to periodically see a son who was adopted by a family.

“I am doing so much better in life, and now I want to pursue college while I have two more years left at Gateway of Hope, so that way when I graduate there, I will have a career laid out for me and be able to provide for my family and finally gain some independence in life with a great support team for whenever I need them,” Watts said.

One way she’s able to do that is through the Faye Dove Scholarship recently awarded to her by the WMU Foundation.

Juanita Brawley, executive director of Transformation Pathway, called Watts a “dedicated, bright and pleasant young lady” and a “strong leader.”

“She came to class eager to learn and grow,” Brawley said. “Brianna always has a smile and is willing to help her classmates. I have witnessed her spiritual growth this semester as she has become dependent on God’s will for her future.”

Catalina’s story

Catalina Cormack, another Transformation Pathway graduate, also received the Faye Dove Scholarship.

Cormack migrated to the U.S. from Mexico at age 21 and raised her son, who is now a Marine. She’s still raising her two youngest children.

Her mother, who passed away in May 2021, saw the signs for Transformation Pathway and suggested she take classes.

“This fall I graduated from CWJC, and I know my mother would be proud of me,” Cormack said.

Now she is preparing to attend Ranger College.

“I know that my Creator has a plan for me,” she said. “I know education will prepare me.”

Barbara Yoder, an instructor at Transformation Pathway, said Cormack is a “hard worker” and a “team player.”

“Her verbal communication and testimony inspired us all,” Yoder said. “Everyone marvels at her work ethic and the amount of work she accomplishes.”


by Grace Thornton, writer for The Baptist Paper

Participant Stories

Two TN women pursue life-changing education with help from WMU Foundation scholarships

Laurien Assis was awarded the Academic Scholarship from WMU Foundation to pursue a college degree in business administration. (Courtesy of Begin Anew of Middle Tennessee)
When Laurien Assis moved from Brazil to Tennessee to become an au pair, she brought something with her — a heart full of lessons from her parents.

“My parents have always been simple people who never had the opportunity or finances to pursue higher education,” she said. “Nevertheless, they sacrificed greatly to excel in their trades and provide a better life for their children. From a young age, we were taught the importance of faith, integrity and a strong work ethic.”

Assis said she knew when she arrived in Tennessee with little English and no knowledge of the culture, she was going to have to lean into those things if she wanted to make it.

“In a time of such anxiety and sacrifice, I learned just how important my God, family and values were to me,” she said. “Looking back, I am proud of the courage I had to overcome these obstacles and how determined I was to improve myself.”

That continued as she practiced her English, cared for her host family’s seven children and pursued a high school diploma. Her Tennessee family’s care for her was “the biggest proof of God’s love for me,” Assis said.

The second biggest was Begin Anew, a Christian Women’s Job Corps site that provides education, mentoring and resources for individuals who need help to overcome the obstacles caused by poverty.

“When I decided to get my high school diploma in the USA, Begin Anew was the program that appealed to me the most,” Assis said. “I was excited to study in a place that shared the same values and religious foundation that I was raised with. While studying at Begin Anew, I was able to improve my English tremendously and make lasting friendships.”

Bridging the gap, providing resources

And now the Academic Scholarship given by the WMU Foundation, a Baptist missions foundation established by national Woman’s Missionary Union,  is helping her pursue a college degree in business administration.

Tracey Gholson, former program director for Begin Anew, said Assis is “an excellent example of how CWJC can bridge the gap and provide the resources and encouragement that one might need to achieve their goals.”

“I am amazed by this young woman from Brazil who has a strong desire to learn, a determination to succeed and a deep faith in God and God’s plan for her life,” said Gholson, who served as one of Assis’ tutors.

Julie Russell, another former Begin Anew program director, said she’s also proud of a second Begin Anew graduate — Margareth Caballero, who is this year’s Faye Dove Scholarship recipient.

“She was a joy to work with, and she was determined,” Russell said.

Caballero said Begin Anew has impacted her life in many ways, but the biggest was giving her the opportunity to earn a high school diploma online.

“It was a blessing to be able to do all my classes online, as I was able to work full-time and take care of my daughter,” she said.

‘Big dreams’

Russell said Caballero is dedicated, as she earned her high school diploma in less than a year and completely virtually.

“She has big dreams and the dedication to go along with them,” Russell said, noting that every Monday, Caballero attended Bible study via Zoom with her daughter in her lap, and that was a step along her journey of figuring out what God wanted her to do with her life.

Caballero’s desire is to use the funds from the scholarship to help with cosmetology school, which will help her have a more flexible schedule as she works and cares for her two children.

She said she’s so glad she found Begin Anew.

“To this day they keep providing me with support and resources to make my life easier,” Caballero said. “I have always believed in God and that He has a purpose for me, but Begin Anew made me believe in people again. I had lost faith in people, and it was hard for me to trust that there were still good people out there.”

Russell and the others at Begin Anew “gave me hope again,” Caballero said.