10 Dec
2011

It All Adds Up

We have a new little calculator at FaithWorks. It has brightly colored numerals, is easy to see and use. What it reminds me of this time of year is that a lot of small numbers (and blessings and gifts and people) add up to a really substantial total.

We look back with deep appreciation at the ways we’ve been blessed at FaithWorks. Our Spring 2011 class included 16 men and women including Zach, who is in his second semester at Sunset School of Preaching and Belerie who now works in the FaithWorks kitchen. Then in the summer we were encouraged by the 15 students who began the summer with us. A summer highlight was seeing Dan and Michael go to work for their internship providers, Longmire Plumbing and Frontier Welding and Randy and Susan quickly following with jobs of their own.

This fall’s class has been great. Graduation is set for 7pm on Dec. 16, with everyone invited to join us at 910 Cypress for a great celebration honoring Tommy, Robin, Patrick, Becky, Margie, Beau, James, Lloyd, and Jodi. It all adds up to a total of 44 students who have blessed and been blessed by FaithWorks.

We’re thankful for donations this year as well. There are big gifts from 0rganizations such as United Way, Community Foundation of Abilene, the Ballard Family Foundation, the Shelton Family Foundation, the Meadows Foundation, and Wal Mart. And there are smaller gifts from individuals. But it all adds up. Thanks for your response to the special appeal in October to help us over the hump until the end of the year. We’ve mailed out the end of year fundraising letters and expect to see old and new, large and small, support for this powerful career development training program. We are making every effort to make donating to FaithWorks quick and easy. This year we’ve added online giving, through a link on our website, www.faithworksofabilene.org. Donations may be one time or every month, through credit cards or electronic funds transfer straight from your bank. It’s totally secure, and the same tax deductions apply. And just recently we added giving on your phone. Just text 67463 and type in FWAbilene. We’re working very hard to make giving as easy as possible. Of course, greenbacks and good ol’ checks made out to FaithWorks are appreciated, too. Drop us a gift in the mail to FaithWorks of Abilene, 1229 N. Mockingbird, 79603.

Volunteer hours keep growing. You’d be surprised how an hour here and a half-day there adds up to keep us running smoothly. Our Board of Directors spends lots of hours dreaming and planning for what our future will look like. There are meals prepared, clothes donated, time given. It all adds up.

So we’re celebrating not only the birth of Jesus this month, but the continued growth of FaithWorks. Thanks to all of you who continue to pray for, donate, and support in large and small ways the students that God puts in our path. God bless you, everyone.

24 Nov
2011

Thanks Giving

Each afternoon at FaithWorks we pause to recognize the one thing we are most grateful for from the last 24 hour period. We usually do this just before
we walk out the door for the day, so that selection might be from something that happened since we arrived at the FaithWorks building that morning, but it could also include happenings since we left the building yesterday afternoon.

I would like to borrow that tradition for this month’s newsletter.

In the October newsletter, we asked for your help – financial assistance – as we struggled to meet the ever-growing demands of our modest budget. Thank you for the way you have responded to our request.

Your generosity is providing daily bread during a season where that is so welcomed and so encouraging.

You have heard me say often that FaithWorks is a volunteer run organization and the ten heroes on the cover of this newsletter are great examples of that. Each of these five men and women donate an hour a week (minimum) to meet with and encourage a FaithWorks student.

5 Oct
2011

Training! Confidence-building! Support!

Where would you turn for help?

Sweltering heat, devastating fires, a faltering economy, unemployment, world-wide disequilibrium, uncertainty – 2011 will be remembered as a difficult year for most of us. Put in a personal and family context, that generic description is brutally real to the students of FaithWorks, but your gifts have provided a lifeline to the future. Thank you for providing resources, encouragement and hope.

As we begin the fall semester, needs far exceed our resources. So, we are asking you to join us in going a second mile – please give again to sustain the flame of hope at FaithWorks. Your gifts provide curricular materials, food, professional counseling, computer training and limited emergency assistance with basic necessities; in short, you make life possible for these students while they struggle for a better future. The average cost is $3644 per student; the benefit is immeasurable.

Any gift you can make is critically important at this time.

3 Sep
2011

Teacher Terri

It was January 20, 2003 – a few minutes before nine a.m.; the first morning of the first FaithWorks class ever; the moment I first met Terri Simons.

Her greeting was not “hello” or “good morning”, but “what time is our first break”. She was already planning her escape from the crowd of 8 that morning. Eight years ago, Terri was a woman afraid of many things. She actually left for a while.  But she came back. The important thing is: she came back. And she stayed. Terri was a single mom, facing the threat of losing her job, facing the possibility of losing her nursing license, a victim of abuse, out of money, afraid to even enter a room or church auditorium. Later, after she stayed, she became FaithWorks’ greatest student and volunteer recruiter, she mentored those who attended, gave cash out of her own very shallow pocket to help with the daily expenses of FaithWorks, and she gave cash and rides and a place to stay in an emergency to other students in need. She also became one of our strongest speakers – able to speak to groups both large and small on behalf of FaithWorks.

When I first met her Terri was employed at an area retirement center and worked nights. She would leave her three young daughters with a friend for the night before she drove to work. When she got off work early the next morning, she would gather her girls and head to BOBS (Breakfast on Beech Street) for a free hot breakfast and a quiet table to go over the day’s spelling list and math homework for Olivia and Sara. Lillie, the youngest, was four at that time and she cherished her precious few moments of mentoring to her around that free breakfast meal.

“Teacher Terri” was her self-chosen FaithWorks nickname. It was a nickname that described her well. Teacher Terri taught me what a mom looked like who was totally engaged in her daughter’s lives. She taught her daughters the value of hard work: how to use their talents, intelligence and initiative to do their very best at school, sports, church and life. And above all else, she taught her girls that life is not about what you need but what you can give. Terri, Olivia, Sara and Lillie mowed the lawn at FaithWorks and tended our gardens one day each week last summer. Each month, one day’s earnings were donated to others in need. She always shared with others. But more than that, she talked to the girls about what they could share: a ride, a visit, a walk in the neighborhood to meet total strangers and ask what they needed prayer for; a meal; a drink of cold water in the name of Jesus. She taught not by words alone, but by her very life. “Teacher Terri”, my teacher, my mentor, my friend taught her daughters and me many lessons about living a great life.

Terri died September 3, 2011, just days ago. She was 46. She wrote her funeral requests 20 months ago and left her last wishes with an attorney friend. She shared her wishes and gave her blessings to her precious daughters. She was an amazing person. She was my friend. I miss her.

“You can never out exceed your potential. We just sometimes misjudge a person’s potential” Dan Clark.

James 1:2-18 read from NIV, (New International Version); the NCV (New Century Version) and The Message, a contemporary rendering of the Bible from the original languages. The scripture is Terri’s choice of reading today, the versions are my favorites and my gift for Olivia, Sara and Lillie..

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t tryto get out of anything prematurely. Let your patience show itself perfectly in what you do. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. if any of you needs wisdom, you should ask God for it. He is generous to everyone and will give you wisdom without criticizing you. If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it.

Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. But when you ask God you should believe and not doubt. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Don’t think you are going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open. Such doubters are thinking two different things at the same time, and they cannot decide about anything they do. They should not think they will receive anything from the Lord.

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. Believers who are poor should take pride that God has made them spiritually rich. When the down and outers get a break, cheer!

But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower, the rich will die like a wild flower in the grass Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and before you know it that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life” at the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing. The flower falls off and its beauty is gone. In the same way the rich will die while they are still taking care of business.

Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. When people are tempted and still continue strong, they should be happy.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. After they have proved their faith, God will reward them with life forever. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.

Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” When people are tempted, they should not say, “God is tempting me” For God cannot be tempted by evil, God is impervious to evil and puts evil in no ones way – nor does he tempt anyone, but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. This desire leads to sin, and then the sin grows and brings death. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood and becomes a real killer.

So, my very dear friends, my dear brothers and sisters, don’t get thrown off course, do not be fooled about this. Don’t be deceived. Every good and perfect gift is from above, every good action and every perfect gift is from God. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. These good gifts come down from the Creator of the sun, moon, and stars who does not change like their shifting shadows.

He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, God decided to give us life through the word of truth. He brought us to life using the true word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created; so that we might be the most important of all the things he made.

10 Aug
2011

FaithWorks 201

We are FaithWorks! Those familiar with FaithWorks know what an intense experience we share together. We come together as total strangers the first week of each semester in January, June or September and make the commitment to spend all day every week day together for the next 13 weeks. We work together through a comprehensive 10 unit career development guided study around our large classroom table. We eat two meals a day together, seated around a common dining room table. We work through our individual struggles and issues one morning a week as a group under the guidance of two of Abilene’s most professional therapists. We walk through and talk about today’s application of Jesus’ teachings to the way of a better life through the book of Matthew. We lift a common prayer each morning.

Then we graduate leaving our seat at the classroom table as well as the lunchroom table stepping away from the security of FaithWorks to enter the world of daily work.

The mission of FaithWorks is to help those coming to FaithWorks acquire the confidence and skills for gainful employment and a future career. Area employers know how vital it is for employees serving their customers to be strong in ersonal
skills – being dependable, honest and getting along well with others. Well-developed communication skills are essential. Employers tell us they can teach work skills but they cannot teach attitudes like honesty, dependability, trust and personal integrity. Employers need and demand employees who already have great attitudes and personal attributes.

Now we are gathering feedback through conversation with former students to better refine our FaithWorks teaching. From the viewpoint of those who have succeeded or stumbled what should FaithWorks career development training include? As you have entered the workplace, what are the skills and experiences that would help you be even more successful?

We also love to hear from current and future employers of our graduates. What are the most valuable skills and characteristics of your employees?

If you have a FaithWorks graduate working for you what are additional skills and training that would make them even more valuable employees?

As Executive Director my request today is a sincere personal invitation to let us hear from you! We want to continuously make FaithWorks better and better. We want our graduates to go to work in THE job and be as successful as they can be. We want our graduates to continue entering the workforce with the advantage of having dedicated the past 90 days to becoming a valued contributor to the Abilene community, to their employer and to their family.

Please take a minute to share with us the valuable suggestions that you have. Contact me at joyced@faithworksofabilene.com or in the comment section of our webpage, www.faithworksofabilene.org. Former students, please check out the survey on the FaithWorks webpage. Or call me at 325-437-2272.

Thanks for your continued commitment to making FaithWorks the best we can be as we continue helping our graduates reach their career goals and a
better life.

19 Jun
2011

Faith in Others

There are lots of great stories out this week as IBM celebrates its 100 year anniversary. My dad went to work for IBM the year I was born as a Customer Service Engineer. He was a computer repair guy at a time when each computer got its own room and air conditioning system. Walking into a room where a computer “lived” was not quite as cold as walking into a walk-in-refrigerator, but it was definitely a cooler place than where the rest of us lived. Key punched cards were used to communicate with the computer. We used recycled key punch cards as note cards and telephone message pads at our house.

My first computer language class was a key punch class I took at McNeese State University while I was still in high school. My last computer language class was a second-year Cobol Class at Abilene Christian University, at which point I started having conversations with God. If He would allow me to finish that class with a respectable grade, I PROMISED never to write computer code for a living.

I have always used and benefitted from the technology in my life. My first PDA was a Palm that had no version number – it was just a Palm Pilot. As many of us have discovered, where technology was once considered a useful but superfluous tool, now it is a daily, if not hourly requirement for effective functioning. And so, at FaithWorks where we spend most of every day in career development, technical literacy is an important part of what we teach.

Our first computer lab was in the original FaithWorks building on Cypress where we used two tiny former-Sunday-school classrooms and the volunteer went back and forth from room to room repeating the same instructions to each group. Our original computers were donated by Bob Collins with the Isaiah 58 Ministries and were hand-me-downs from a family member’s place of work.

For the first time, we are able to buy new parts (keyboards and flat screen onitors) to go with the bigger and faster CPU’s donated this year. We were also able to upgrade to current operating system software and Microsoft Office Suite software this spring.

We are able to bring our computer lab to current status thanks to the big-hearted individuals who work at Atmos Energy. Every single employee we have had the pleasure to meet, from the very top of that organization on down, has shown us a company run by folks of the most generous sort. Thanks to Hendrick Medical Center Foundation for funds to go shopping with. Thanks to an Abilene family that has helped our students in big ways and in small ways, but who helped us financially finish out this project. We are able to build these machines and install the new software thanks to our volunteer tech team which includes friends like Will Gray and Mike Merritt.

Without benefactors like these organizations and individuals, the effectiveness of FaithWorks in the lives of the people we serve would be greatly diminished. We are blessed to have such great friends in this community.

Happy Birthday IBM.

Happy Fathers Day, dad.

And a giant thank you to all of our gracious supporters!

17 May
2011

These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things

We are celebrating the completion of the twenty fifth graduating class at FaithWorks while we prepare for our summer class to begin on May 31st. Twenty five is such a notable number – if it were years, we’d be talking about a quarter of a century. If it were wedding anniversaries, we’d be talking about gifts made of sterling silver and the iris.(Really? Not diamonds and roses?)

So we’ve been reminiscing around the FaithWorks table and asking, ‘’what are your favorite things about FaithWorks. Said another way, “What are some of your favorite things from our first 25 classes?” The answers listed below come from former students; from our valued volunteers; and from members of FaithWorks governing board.

– A few of my favorite things about FW would include the daily connection with my classmates, the knowledge of myself and the sense of accomplishment at the end of each week. The staff has become so dear to me and my mentor was a lifeline for me that words cannot explain. And finally, my internship showed me that I did have something that was useful in the outside world of business.

– My favorite thing is watching the students grow and develop through the semester. I love watching the light that comes on their faces when they get it.

– How community is formed and the ways in which FW becomes a safe place for students and alumni. The ways in which students develop courage and boldness to face the future. The sacrificial lifestyle demonstrated by FW staff. How FW transforms the lives of students, staff and volunteers.

– The acceptance, the compassion, the support and the challenge it gives us all. Not only are the students challenged to be the better person they know they can be, but we as mentors, board members, and volunteers are challenged to bring to the table the gifts that help.

-Growth and changes in people who have given up trying. Teamwork to help the students. Watching confidence grow. The Aha! moments when someone realizes they can try for a new career that they had never considered before. Joyce (of course)

– Having a new family. The people I attended class with, the mentors, staff, volunteers and all of the many people who support FW have become my new family. I was able to get my feet on solid ground and am able to learn from so many people of all levels of intellect.

-The support to always keep climbing higher, to continue setting and achieving goals. “it’s never too late to become what we were meant to be”, so who knows how far we will go?

-The love I receive and the love I give others is the most important thing.

– One of my favorite things is the challenge (both to participants and providers) to get outside the comfort zone and, therefore, have a new opportunity to learn from people and circumstances beyond one’s own experience.

– I really appreciate the extended counseling that a student has access to AFTER FW. I love Monday with the Istres. FaithWorks just keeps on keeping on. And God just keeps on smiling on ALL who are involved in the program

-Observing how the class becomes family to each other. The willingness to pray for and help each other. The growth of HOPE during the semester.

29 Oct
2010

What’s in Your Cabinet?

I don’t know what your morning, getting-ready-for-work routine is, but my morning prep time is product intensive. I cannot imagine a work day morning where I did not have shampoo, conditioner and hair gel; toothpaste, mouthwash and my good toothbrush that signals when my two minute brushing time is complete. I would be self conscience and probably grumpy my whole workday without my five minute Bare Minerals routine and the little Rubbermaid box filled with assorted jars, powders and brushes.
It is our desire that each FaithWorks student have access to the same getting-ready-for-work routine and similar products. It is our dream that they receive the gift of “feeling good about ME” as they spend time each day preparing to interview for THE job.

This is an easy wish to fulfill for our students. It is so simple to drop an extra toothbrush or tube of deodorant into my shopping basket at Wal-Mart, HEB or the Dollar Store. A liberal translation of the Golden Rule in my life says that I will buy a brand of toothpaste, or hair gel that I would actually use.

In addition to hair care and dental hygiene items, daily routines usually include deodorant, razors, shaving gels, body lotions. We also try to provide over the counter multivitamins and vitamin C for adults and children as well as Tylenol and Motrin products for adults and children. Another category is the items we use to wash and iron work clothes. If your wash room looks like mine, there is another four or five items used to care for my clothing. These important items were actually the very first stage of FaithWorks. Before there was a building or a curriculum, there was a realization that no matter how qualified or skilled a person is, if they don’t have these needed items they do not have a chance of going to work. We would love to have the resources to provide these items for our hard working students on a regular basis. Please consider this season dropping an extra personal care item, or two, into your grocery cart as you replenish your own supply. If you are a member of a Boy Scout troop or Sunday school class would you consider providing a box that group members can fill?

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