Seven years ago, Jennifer Carter found a book (other than the Bible) that would change the course of her life.
After enduring some major personal tragedies — Carter lost both her niece and her son under heartbreaking circumstances — she picked up a copy of What Every Church Member Should Know About Poverty at a Women’s Missionary Union meeting.
“I just picked it up on a whim,” says Carter. “I had no idea how God would use it, but He knew long before I did what He was calling me to do.”
What God wanted Carter to do, she says, is to help other women get back on their feet.
About two years after Carter found the book, she got in touch with the Christian Women’s Job Corps, part of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. The CWJC is a woman-to-woman mentoring program with an emphasis on self-sufficiency. It allows participants to develop coping and job skills through a Christian lens.
Around 14% of Americans have changed jobs just to shorten their daily commutes, but many women don’t have that option due to their dependence on others or lack of self-confidence.
“A lot of women — a lot — have been kept down all their lives and told they can’t do anything or they’re not worth anything. Those are the women we want to help. We want to show them how to break the cycle they’re in and equip them with whatever they need to feel empowered and self-sufficient,” says Carter.
CWJC works with women to help establish skills needed for gainful employment, parenthood, and financial stability. The organization teaches everything from computer skills and telephone etiquette to literacy, money management, and parenting skills.
“Our motto is ‘Offering a hand up, not a handout’,” says Carter. “CWJC was originally established as a way to help women out of poverty, but poverty can be many things. It can be emotional poverty, financial poverty, low self-esteem — any number of things.”
Those who attend are paired with a female mentor with whom they meet for weekly Bible study. While participants don’t have to be Christian, organizers hope that the women they help through the program will want to “travel the road to self-sufficiency with Jesus Christ,” says Carter.
Carter has now undergone required training to open a CWJC center in Bladen County, North Carolina. The book she picked up seven years ago was part of that training.
“I wish every Christian would read it. It’s an eye-opening book,” she says. “People who have never lived in poverty — which the majority of Christians ministering to the poor haven’t — have no idea how poor people think. If we want women to become independent, we have to begin by addressing their mindset, their attitudes, and patterns of thinking.”
Carter hopes that the mentoring ministry center will open this May. The CWJC is currently in need of volunteer mentors, financial donations, and supplies like computers, Bibles, journals, and more. Once the center opens, Carter is confident that vulnerable women of Bladen County “can succeed and become the women God intended for them to be.”