Site Stories

CWJC of Rusk County Texas

HENDERSON, TEXAS—When it comes to impacting women’s lives through the ministry of Christian Women’s Job Corps, Christie Gambrell’s basic perspective is: “At CWJC, we help meet the felt needs of women as we help them find their true worth through Jesus.”

As executive director of Christian Women’s Job Corps of Rusk County, Texas, Gambrell has worked with hundreds of women over the past several years. CWJC of Rusk County, which opened its doors in 2002 in Henderson, Texas, seeks to reach women with the love of Jesus while helping equip them for life and employment.

Among CWJC’s diverse offerings are English as a Second Language, which includes citizenship classes, and Life Skills training, which addresses such topics as money management, healthy relationships, computer classes, Bible storying and mentoring. Volunteers also provide literacy and high school equivalency (GED) tutoring. Additionally, CWJC of Rusk County is one of six CWJC programs in the nation that include a WorldCrafts artisan group, a fair trade compassion ministry of National Woman’s Missionary Union.

Noting that “we work with about 50 women every year and usually about that many volunteers,” Gambrell said, “When you work with this many women, you see women who succeed and women who don’t. But that’s true in every form of education and Christian ministry.

“We’ve had some wonderful successes,” she added. “Each semester we see women successfully enter the workforce. This past year we had four women who received their citizenship. We have women who’ve gone to college. We have one who’s working on her master’s degree right now.”

She said they also have participants “who we’ve gotten to see their children go to college and their children get awards which is so fantastic because that goes back to the founding thought of Christian Women’s Job Corps that you’re changing the children’s lives and changing the family.”


Christie Gambrell (center) drops in on a tutoring session led by CWJC volunteer Diana Willis (left). Willis, who provides math tutoring to CWJC participants, said she enjoys “helping people learn something that they don’t know.” (WMU photo by Pam Henderson)

Gambrell noted that recruiting mentors typically is one of the biggest challenges for most CWJC sites.

Participants “who are able to have mentors are the ones that I always see the greatest success with,” she added. “I don’t think people understand the importance of having somebody who’s your personal cheerleader, someone to stick with you and encourage you. That’s especially true with single women or women who don’t have a supportive family.”


“Christian Women’s Job Corps has been a wonderful way to reach women in the community with the gospel of Jesus Christ, with encouragement for their lives and with support,” Gambrell said. “Our mission field is right here.

“The national WMU has been such an encouragement to us. They help us with promotional materials, with training, with so many things, and our state WMU has been a great support as well,” she affirmed. “There are always needs in your community and we as people of the Lord are called to reach out to those around us.”

Diana Willis, one of the CWJC volunteer tutors committed to helping meet those needs, has 16 years of experience as a high school math teacher. Noting that many of the participants pursuing their GED needed help with math, she said, “I felt like I could make a little bit of a difference.

“I enjoy helping people learn something that they don’t know,” she added. “I feel like my spiritual gift is service and I feel like it’s a service to help someone improve their life and work toward their GED if they don’t have it. It’s just fulfilling to know that I’m helping somebody along that path.”

Citing CWJC of Rusk County’s practical impact in the lives of participants, Gambrell said she has seen many of the women go on to gain “a variety of jobs that make them feel like they’re women of worth.”

“It’s great to see them become someone that they didn’t think they could be,” she concluded. “It’s because somebody believed in them and somebody invested in their lives. That’s what Christian Women’s Job Corps is all about.”

By Trennis Henderson, WMU National Correspondents

Participant Stories


Gina graduated from the Christian Women’s Job Corps (CWJC) site Prisoner Transformation, Inc. Helen Thornton, site leader said of Gina, “She has walked the path of incarceration, seeing the mistakes in her life, seeing the lack of Jesus and faith in her life, corrected all of these mistakes and is moving forward to tell others her life story. She is truly walking her testimony for others to see.” 

In addition, Thornton added, “She is incorporating her story of addiction and release from that addiction through God’s power into her work and education to help others with addictions to turn to God for healing.”

Through her program, Gina received training to become a peer support recovery specialist. Today she works for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Using her own experience as a way to share the gospel, she helps other women stuck in the situation she once found herself. 

Gina was the recipient of the Sybil Bentley Dove Award in 2020.

Participant Stories


Yvonne moved to New Orleans from New Jersey in 2001 to escape domestic violence. Through some hard years and then Hurricane Katrina, she ended up on the streets, homeless. In 2015 she dis-covered Baptist Friendship House and in July 2020 celebrated five years of sobriety. Yvonne shares, “I accepted Jesus as my Savior in August 2015, and through His help and Christian Women’s Job Corps® at Friendship House, I have regained the many things the streets took from me. I realize what a good friend God is in my life, and He is the most important thing. I have gained my self-respect back, I have a home, I got my GED, I got my driver’s license back, I have gained skills to help me obtain employment, and I have become self-sufficient. Living on the streets and drinking can often lead one to focus on self. After becoming sober I have learned how to focus on helping others. I love volunteering at Friendship House and being able to give back to help others. I am grateful and continue to seek opportunities to grow and to better myself.”

Yvonne received the Faye Dove Scholarship from the WMU Foundation in 2018 and used her scholarship to enroll in culinary arts courses at the local community college. She has also taken a pottery class and used the skills she learned to help lead the group that is making pottery for WorldCrafts. She is an incredible light to the women in her community.

Site Stories


March 2, 2022

Tenesha Thomas’s ministry has a concise mission: To equip people with essential skills to improve their lives. What that looks like is a moving target, due largely to circumstances outside her control. 

“We’re in the middle of an active pivot,” said Thomas, who leads one of the 186 Christian Women’s and Men’s Job Corps sites in the United States and abroad.

Woman’s Missionary Union started the ministry 25 years ago to provide spiritual development, job training, life skills, continuing education and mentoring.

As it celebrates a milestone anniversary, CWJC/CMJC is at a crossroads in many communities, including Huntsville, Alabama. Changing ideas about work and the rise of technology have created challenges for her group, Thomas said. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and resulting “great resignation” have led more people to question the meaning of work and in some cases, to leave it altogether.

But Thomas speaks optimistically of the blessings to be found in the hardships of this season. She and her team have had a chance to look afresh at their community. 

“A lot of their needs have changed,” she noted, “and that’s a direct reflection of where we are in the world right now.”


The ultimate goal of CWJC/CMJC is to provide a Christian context for people to move from one place in life to another, said Lena Kappen, whose role at WMU includes serving as national coordinator for the ministry, “and to give them a hope for the future. After that, the individual sites reflect the specific needs in their communities.”

“One of the beautiful things about the ministry is that every site looks different,” she added.

WMU provides resources and training for the autonomous, self-supporting sites, each of which certifies with the national organization every two years.

“Our desire is for sites to form and evaluate over time with the purpose of meeting the current needs that are in the community,” Kappen said, “meeting the needs that aren’t being met in other ways.”

Every site has connections with members of local congregations, and some are housed inside a church. Others formed within local Baptist associations, and some sites are 501(c)(3) organizations.

“I always tell someone if they’ve felt like the Lord is leading them to start something like this, just follow that lead,” Kappen said, “and the Lord will show them what it needs to look like.”


In Athens, Georgia, Jessica Mathisen was looking for a way to help the families she met as a teacher at an inner city elementary school. Christian Women’s Job Corps was the answer. The Athens site, named Restoration Women, started serving women in the spring of 2020, meeting regularly for sessions on budgeting, relationships, self-image, parenting and a variety of other topics. Last semester’s Bible study was a walk through Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.

One early participant was struggling with job satisfaction, Mathisen recalled. She now works to engage others in community involvement and improvement. Another student started saving for her first home after attending a budgeting class. 

“The biggest thing that we want is for women to be restored to who they were created to be in Christ,” Mathisen said. “We feel like that would have a domino effect.

“When women are set free, when they are being poured into, when they know that they matter, that changes everything about their family’s dynamics.”


Fluidity is key, Thomas noted, especially when circumstances constantly change. Over the past year her site in Huntsville has focused on reconnecting with past participants through a series of workshops that also operate like an open house for the community, she said. They also launched a men’s program in 2020.

Thomas calls it a “pulse check” — the process of determining what people in the community really need. One recent discovery has been their role in helping people gain certification for employment or job advancement. As participants go through a certification process, Thomas’s site also pairs them with mentors in their specific discipline.

But not everyone is looking for a job, she acknowledged.

“Some people are just looking for a change, and they don’t know where to start.”

The ministry’s goal is to be a catalyst to ignite that change, Thomas said. It’s a season of excitement mixed with a bit of uncertainty.

“We don’t want to just be in the community — we want to be effective in the community,” she asserted. “If we only serve one person, that’s going to be the most poured-into, loved-on person ever. Because that’s what it’s all about.”

by Meredith Flynn