No longer a 'wreck' thanks to CWJC

by Amy W. Richardson, posted Tuesday, December 18, 2007 (14 years ago)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP)--Gabrielle Harbin admits her life before coming to Christian Women's Job Corps was a "wreck." She had exhausted every avenue she knew of to get her life back on track after her marriage ended.

"But the more I tried, the harder it got, and the bigger mess I made," Harbin confesses. "My life was empty. I had no job, no car, no friends, no house and almost no hope. But I had Jesus! He sent me in the direction of CWJC of Madison County."

After sending out 60 resumes resulting in only two job interviews, Harbin was referred by the local office of the Alabama Department of Human Resources to Christian Women's Job Corps, a ministry of Woman's Missionary Union that seeks to equip women for life and employment through a Christ-centered, holistic training.

Harbin says she was excited about the program when learning it would be held in a church. While there, she enjoyed encouraging conversations with mentors and other program participants as well as the Bible study. Overall, she describes her CWJC experience as "refreshing, uplifting, and difficult at times."

"I say [difficult] because as soon as you commit yourself to do something to change yourself for the better, Satan will come along and wreak havoc in your life," she says.

Even so, Harbin and her classmates stuck it out. "I was determined that I was not going to leave this program the same person I was when I started, and I definitely didn't," Harbin says.

Harbin's life before CWJC was one of self-described partying, drugs and not knowing where she would lay her head at night. Since completing the program, she now has a job, an associate's degree, a relationship with her 6-year-old daughter Kayla and a relationship with Jesus.

Harbin is just one example of many women and men whose lives are changed each year through CWJC and its counterpart for men, Christian Men's Job Corps (CMJC). This year, she is the recipient of the Sybil Bentley Dove Award, which honors a current or former CWJC participant who advances herself through life skills, academic development and faith in God.

Harbin accepted the award from WMU and the WMU Foundation at this fall's "Live the Joy of Missions" conference at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark.

Following a standing ovation, Harbin voiced her appreciation to God and shared a favorite Scripture verse, Jeremiah 29:11: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"

"A lot of us have our own plans in life, things to accomplish, places we want to go," Harbin said at the mid-October conference. "But then there are God's plans. I was blessed to be saved as a child, but strayed. God's grace was sufficient and His grace saw me through."

Harbin said she found the teachers and mentors at CWJC welcoming and caring. "They encourage you and make you feel like you can do something with your life." She especially thanked Elaine Dickson, site coordinator of CWJC of Madison County, and said she wants to give back to the ministry that has made such a difference in her life.

"Gabrielle reminds me why I am a part of this ministry," Dickson says. "Her willingness to learn and be led by God has definitely contributed to her success. It is so exciting to watch God at work in her life."

Since completing the CWJC program in December 2006, Harbin has attained an associate's degree in business management from American Intercontinental University (AIU-online) and has started to earn her bachelor's degree in visual communication with the goal of starting her own magazine and writing encouraging and empowering articles for women.

The Dove Award, established in 1998 by Faye Dove Wright in honor of her mother, will provide financial assistance to Harbin for her educational and career goals.

"The Sybil Bentley Dove award is given to a woman who embodies the spirit and hope of Christian Women's Job Corps," said Jean Cullen, WMU ministry consultant and coordinator of CWJC and CMJC. "Gabrielle is a testimony to this. Her courage and perseverance to become who God has called her to be is an example to every woman."

In addition to a new job, Harbin teaches fourth-grade girls at her church, The Rock Family Worship Center in Huntsville, Ala., and spends time encouraging her daughter to pray and praise God.

"I just want God to equip me to raise her to be the woman He created her to be," Harbin says of her daughter. The two live with Harbin's mother Rose, who has supported and prayed for her daughter through all her ups and downs. Harbin's next goal is to find a home that she and her daughter can call their own.

Harbin credits CWJC with helping her to be a more responsible person. She says she is more calm, patient, a better mother and that God has given her a heart for His people, especially women and babies.

"I feel like if I never went through the program I may still be struggling to follow my goals," Harbin says. "My life is a lot less stressful since CWJC. I have a good job, thanks to them, with a fantastic company."

Harbin's advice to other women who have experienced what she has is to never give up. "It sounds so blasé and empty sometimes, but if you could see what God sees. If you could see the end result of you never giving up, you'd be so surprised," she says. "Allow God to change you in the places you need it.... He loves you more than you could possibly know!"


Amy W. Richardson is a writer for Woman's Missionary Union.

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