Ministry Helping Thousands Find Jobs

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WASHINGTON - For years, Joan Stansfield's career was on the fast track. Her resume included jobs on Capitol Hill, in the White House and several high-tech companies.

Then suddenly she found herself unemployed.

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"It was devastating, absolutely devastating," Stanfield said. "I was a single mom, I had a mortgage to pay, and I had a parent who had had a tragic fall, and a head injury. I didn't really know where to turn. I was just completely upside down."

Stanfield was attending The Falls Church in northern Virginia when a friend suggested she should look into the church's jobs ministry. There she found the practical and spiritual tools to relaunch her career.

"It just totally transformed one, how I look at being in work and out of work, as well as transformed my life and my relationship with Christ," she said.

Today, in addition to her dream job in real estate, Stanfield gives back as a leader for the Jobs! Ministry.

Helping Thousands Through Ministry

She is one of about 3,000 people who have participated in the ministry's courses. Director and co-founder Tom Waite says the group has grown tremendously in its 17-year history.

"It started as an internal thing, to deal with the issues in the church, but then, as it began to grow and expand, it really became more of an outreach," he explained. "We found that even in good times there are so many people who, even in good times, just aren't happy with their employment situation."

Rising unemployment rates have attracted large numbers of people to the center in recent months.

"Each week there's more and more people of all ages," Stansfield said. "And at the end of each session, people will introduce themselves and they'll stand up and say 'I've just lost my job last week.' We're starting to hear that over and over and over."

Jack Dunlap, one of the Jobs! Ministry directors says job loss now has a different meaning that it did in the past.

"Two years ago there were a lot of people out of work. The difference is today there are far fewer jobs available for those people, so it really is tough," she said.

Getting Past Competition

The Jobs! Ministry helped Andrew Rector find work two years ago, but now he's in the unemployment line once again.

"I know that I'm qualified for the jobs that I put in for," he said, "but I know that the way the economy is, it's going to be hard."

Jack Dunlap agrees, but adds it's still possible to find new employment.

"There are jobs out there. There are still a lot of jobs out there, but they're harder to find and much more competitive," he said.

Many seeking help attend one of the ministry's eight-week long courses to get an edge in the job hunt.

Robin Swenholt said the ministry was very good at giving resume and interviewing tips.

"Just all the nuts and bolts of everything you'd want to know to find a new job," she said.

Anna Van Lier, who has had several high-profile jobs in Washington, agrees.

"I have researched countless job resources, and I have never found a program as solid and strong and giving as the Jobs! Ministry," she said.

More than Job Hunting

Though the practical tools are often the initial draw, many say the spiritual support is even more important. Marjorie Mitchell went to the ministry during her transition from the fashion industry to teaching.

"Initially, I think I thought it was a placement ministry, but it really wasn't. It was so much more than that," she said. "It had everything to do with the support, the encouragement, and giving you the tools that you needed to make an impression when you were going out into the workplace."

Robin Swenholt has especially enjoyed being able to share her problems with a supportive group.

"This situation of being in a job that I'm not happy with and trying to find a job that I'm passionate about is just kind of a struggle," she said. "I feel a little bit more alone and frustrated, and this community builds me up every time I come."

A Ministry for All

Many who come to the jobs ministry are not Christians.

Fred Barnes of Fox News and The Weekly Standard brought a young friend to the Jobs! Ministry who had been out of work for several years.

"It was amazing what happened," Barnes said. "He was interviewed by Jack Dunlap, the head of the Jobs! Ministry, joined the class, heard about Christ for the first time, and he got a job."

Barnes says the ministry gave his friend newfound confidence.

"The Jobs! Ministry just builds up the people who come. It did with my friend," he said.

Even with the encouragement and resources, many participants are still looking for the right opportunity. The key is they remain hopeful.

"I don't really know where the Lord is going to be leading me, or where the job is, but He's given me all of the practical tools to take me there -- the tools that the Jobs! Ministry offers," Swenholt said.

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Laura Robertson

Laura Robertson

CBN News Reporter

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