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“Behind Bars with CWJC and the Gospel”

By Morgan Thompson

Behind Bars photoEveryone needs a job, but oftentimes jobs are hard to come by. That’s exactly why the Women’s Missionary Union (WMU) has a ministry called Christian Woman’s Job Corps/Christian Men’s Job Corps (CWJC/CMJC) designed to provide a Christian context in which men and women in need are equipped for life and employment. There are currently 16 sites in Mississippi that are working with participants, which is currently the most CWJC/CMJC sites of any other state in the country.

Mary Callahan, a Mission Service Corps missionary serving as the Executive Director of CWJC & CMJC of Rankin County, uses a curriculum called “Jobs for Life,” which in addition to teaching basic life skills also helps them to develop honesty and integrity, show them how to dress for a job interview, and helps them to prepare for the GED. While in the program, each participant is assigned a mentor or a Christian friend for a year. During this time, their friend helps them go from a state of dependency to a state of self-sufficiency, with the ultimate goal being to tell them about Jesus and shows them what it means to walk with the Lord.

Callahan’s site coordinators are Velvet Johnson and Debbie Crawley for CWJC Richland site and Allen and Celia Tisdale for the CWJC & CMJC Pearl site. Together, they have seen firsthand how God uses this ministry to change the lives of the men and women that attend.

“I am often asked how people can help in this ministry. There are lots of ways that both men and women can be involved. Two of the greatest needs sites have are financial support and mentors. Each site is an independent ministry and must secure its own funds and volunteers. Individuals and churches that can consistently give on a monthly basis help provide financial stability and mentors are crucial to the success of the participants. I’ve had numerous women tell me they were afraid to be a mentor. The idea that another woman’s success was dependent on them was paralyzing. However, after becoming a mentor, these women said it was an incredible experience that changed their lives,” said Tammy Anderson, WMU Consultant for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board.

Another part of Callahan’s ministry is a recovery ministry in the jail and prison system because of her passion to help those struggling with addictions.

“One day, as I stood outside the Rankin County Jail waiting to go in to tell a young woman that her grandmother had died, I heard someone say, ‘Pretty soon the whole world will be on drugs and in jail or prison.’ Those thoughts stayed in my mine for many days after that. I found out later that more than 22 million people need treatment for addictions, and the problem continues to escalate,” she said. “Addiction is now the number one public health issue in the United States.”

Callahan knows that, with the help of God, these people can overcome addictive behaviors. That is why she has brought CWJC and Jobs for Life behind bars.

“God wants us to be His instruments of healing and restoration. That is why I teach in two of our prisons each week. Currently in Mississippi, 1 in 38 people are in jail or prison or on probation. Something has to be done. We are in a crisis. Some seem to think the answer is to build more prisons, making more jobs. But with God, inmates can overcome the roadblocks in their lives and become productive moms and dads,” she said.

Callahan has helped through CWJC to reach countless women and share Jesus with them in a way that others have not been able to.

When Central Mississippi Correctional Facility and Wexford Health Sources opened a treatment center for mentally ill female offenders, their dream was to provide a safe place for women to address their abuse and trauma in hopes that they would be less likely to reoffend and become productive citizens. They opened with one part-time artist to teach art therapy, no budget, and a few books and hand outs that had been acquired over the years. Callahan agreed to teach Celebrate Recovery each week and before long was coming twice a week to teach Jobs for Life. The positive response was tremendous.

This ministry would not be possible without the Margaret Lackey State Mission offering and the countless prayers that are lifted up.

“I couldn’t buy books to teach in the prisons, do GED tutoring or take care of inmates’ families without funding…we can do so much more together,” Callahan said.

For more information on CWJC/ CMJC visit http://www.mbcb.org/mission_strategy/wmu/ministries/cwjc_cmjc/.

For more information on the Rankin County CWJC/CMJC visit www.rankincwjc.org.