(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