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Restoring Work: Jobs Preparedness Training

What areas of your life do you long to see reconciled and made new?

It may seem like a strange question. But on a summer day in Memphis, TN, a group of people navigating unemployment wrestled with it in powerful ways. One by one, they each described areas of brokenness in their lives that they wanted to see become whole.

“One area is my self-doubt,” shared Isaac.* “Self-doubt makes me not try hard. Self-doubt gives me an easy way out of tough situations. It makes me a quitter and gives me fear.”

Isaac and the others in the circle were participating in a jobs preparedness class at Advance Memphis, a partner of the Chalmers Center. This particular class was testing an early version of Chalmers’ new Work Life curriculum.

Incorporating material already developed by Advance Memphis and Jobs for LifeWork Life is designed to empower low-income people to find work—and to flourish in it.

But Work Life reaches beyond basic skills like writing a resume or navigating a job interview.  At its core, Work Life addresses the worldview questions, individual choices, systemic barriers, and relational complexities that people in generational poverty face.

J. Mark Bowers, Chalmers’ Curriculum Specialist, shares, “While skills are incredibly important, full transformation flows from understanding that God is at work in the world, and that we are uniquely designed to participate in that work through our jobs.”

For one participant, Jemal,* the centrality of Christ became abundantly clear. When describing what areas he wanted to see made new, Jemal shared,  “One area is to be closer to God and stay focused on college. This is important to me because God is who keeps everyone together and without Him everything will fall apart. I also need to focus on college because my education is much required in my life.”

Many of the graduates from the early Work Life classes have found jobs, and in one case, a former participant had the privilege of hiring another graduate.

In conjunction with Chalmers’ partners Advance Memphis and Jobs for Life, Chalmers will train church and ministry leaders to form Work Life classes in their own communities. As Jerilyn Sanders, Director of U.S. Training, explains,  “The goal is to equip local churches with practical ways to address the complexities of generational poverty. Work Life provides an opportunity for God’s people to cross those stubborn dividing lines of class and race and to truly walk with people like Isaac and Jemal.”

After reflecting on the ways self-doubt sabotaged his work in the past, Isaac shared how Work Life empowered him to move forward. “I feel like now with the little bit of knowledge I have gathered, I can believe in myself through Jesus. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me!”

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