Jobs for Life is a national Christian-based jobs program with 19 classes across the state of Alabama. Go to www.jobsforlife.org for more information about classes near you and how you can get involved.
Everyone wants success in life, but some believe their part in achieving it involves a struggle so daunting they cannot even begin the process. Recently, I have been blessed to help with a Jobs for Life (JFL) program in Huntsville, Alabama. The program consists of 16 classes that focus on jobs skills from character building and resume preparation to successful interviewing techniques. However, it is more than just a job-training program.
JFL brings Christ’s love into its curriculum by offering biblically based instruction that prepares students for employment and teaches them how to apply those principles in the workplace. Their mission is to help people overcome that overwhelming, daunting feeling and equip them to reach their potential.
Students come to JFL to learn essential qualities that will help them get a job and keep it, and each student has a reason for being there. Some are underemployed due to layoffs and a bad economy. Some have never finished their education. Others have served time in jail, battled addiction or made poor decisions. While the motives for seeking help are different, all of the students have this in common — the potential to live a life full of purpose and meaning, a life richly blessed by God’s mercy and grace through a relationship with Christ.
JFL volunteers take a personal interest in the life of each student. To provide support, students are paired with a mentor to be a friend, encourager and prayer partner. Each class begins with a fellowship meal for students and volunteers. This allows for personal connection, helping students feel like a part of the class and connecting them to a community of support. Personal growth is experienced through fellowship, mentoring, learning and faith.
Being a mentor with JFL has been a great blessing to me. I find that I truly enjoy being around people who want to grow and improve. It is inspiring. My personal treasure has been discovering the stories of the students that come. They are all looking for better jobs, working part or full time and going to school. They are spouses, parents and military; they have many responsibilities. They do not have time to go to an extra class two nights a week, yet they come anyway.
Why then, do these students want to become a JFL graduate? After talking with them and observing the class, I think they come with the single desire to invest in their lives. They want to learn and to grow personally. I am thankful each time I go to the class and am inspired when I hear their stories. Maybe you will be too.
Carol has had some hard knocks in life. Her husband died of cancer years ago, leaving her responsible for three teenage stepchildren. She has faithfully taken care of them as best she could. Two years ago, Carol had an aneurysm rupture in her head. The long recovery kept her in bed and out of work for a year. Carol has grown from her struggle; she has drawn close to God and her church family during her recent hardships. Every time I see her, she smiles and joyfully hugs me.
Carol has already found a job but is continuing to take the class. She does this because it is important to her to finish what she starts. She also wants to learn how to be a better employee. Carol wants to invest in her life, even though it would have been easy to quit or feel like a victim. Because of her relationship with Christ, she has been empowered to choose to learn and to grow — to smile each step of the way. Really we all have the same choice as Carol, to quit growing or to trust in God to give us the strength to continue forward. I am thankful for her good example.
Robert is a young, single father. He has a college degree, but he is an ex-convict and finding employment is difficult. He comes to Jobs for Life to learn skills that will help him overcome his past and enrich his future. The character education and Christian emphasis have been helpful to Robert. He now has people who care about his life and faithfully pray for him. How refreshing it is to see Robert gain the confidence he needs to move ahead beyond past mistakes! He is the class charmer, making us all laugh with his timely one- liners. Robert wants to grow and that, I think, is a desire that God will bless.
It is harder for Ruth to come to class than it is for the other students. Currently she is homeless, living in a tent. She is also a grandmother. Ruth raised her kids alone while her husband was in and out of jail. Miraculously, she has almost completed her associate’s degree as a medical reimbursement specialist.
When she started school, she had no idea how she would pay for it. God has provided for her tuition, and she is an excellent student. Ruth has worked very hard to invest in her life. Her story is a perfect example of biblical truth. Ruth really can do all things through Christ because it is He who gives her strength. He makes a way when it seems impossible.
Like these students, we all have a tendency to focus on our circumstances rather than on Christ who gives us all we need. Our inward growth and personal fruit are a result of His blessings. The Bible encourages all people to continue a lifetime of personal development. God has given each person both vocational and spiritual talents. We glorify Him when we learn to use them well. We may have roadblocks and setbacks, but it is how we respond to them that makes the difference. I am thankful for each student who has come to this program for inspiring me to continue to grow.