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 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

Site Stories

Begin Anew

Christian Women’s Job Corps/Christian Men’s Job Corps site Begin Anew of Middle Tennessee is a ministry that empowers individuals to overcome obstacles created by poverty by providing education, mentoring, and resources. Its core values focus on believing “everyone deserves a chance to begin anew and walk a journey to a brighter future.” This belief is based on 2 Corinthians 5:17, which says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

These basic tenets are epitomized by the success stories of people like Georgia Alexandra (“I would not be able to do any of this without God”) and Kina Jones (who received the Sybil Bentley Dove Award), both graduates of the program, and Julie Russell, a former program manager who loved to help students “discover their unrealized potential.”

In addition, Sharon Lunsford Tyler said, “I have been a volunteer several times in the past and now serve on the executive board of the organization as the WMU representative. I have seen firsthand how families have been touched by the ministry of Begin Anew!”

One of the main emphases of the program remains Bible study, where participants can feel safe on their journey of life.

To find out more about the people who have found a new chance in life and are pursuing dreams, go to this ministry’s website at beginanew.org.

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

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