Imagine a one-story building along a one-way street. The outside is bland; faded beige paint due to the constant sunlight with many windows and 5 wooden doors. The inside has plain white walls with various cracks, bumps, and bruises. In the main room, there are a few frames that hold pictures of random nature scenes. There are about 50 old, red, cushioned chairs that are sunken in from years of use. In the welcome desk room, there are about 20 different pictures of graduate students, proudly holding a certificate in front of a large sheet cake spelling, “Congratulations!” From the inside-out, the building is simple and modest. There is nothing magnificent about the architecture or interior design.
If you were to drive past this building without recognizing what it was, then you would not know the significance it carries to Latina women of various ages in the community. If you knew nothing about this non-profit organization and how it brings healing, restoration, comfort, peace, laughter, friendship, love, kindness, tenderness, and most importantly, Jesus, into the broken walls, then this building would just be a hollow room and an empty space to you.
Christian Women’s Job Corp (CWJC) located in downtown El Paso is a home to many Latina women in the community. It is a safe haven. It offers free childcare, English as a second language (ESOL) classes, and Bible study for Latina women. They meet in the mornings because most of these women have young children and families to take care of. Their lives are chaotic, and yet, they come four times a week to learn English and about a savior who desperately loves them.
These women are some of the most courageous women I’ve encountered. They are survivors. Many are abused and/or have been abused: physically, emotionally, and sexually. Many of their husbands or boyfriends expect them to have the house cleaned, food prepared, and whatever chores to be completed before the man of the household comes home from work. The women are hurting, but their spirits are not broken.
Today I went into CWJC to volunteer. I was hoping that this non-profit would be able to hire me, but unfortunately, they do not have the budget to afford me. Even though it was disappointing to hear, I was not upset about it. From the very first moment I entered into that building, I felt at home. I knew that I wanted to invest as much time as possible there. Their mission is to uplift, strengthen, and build up these women. They offer job, computer, and life skills training and various other classes. It is centered around Jesus and community, and without sounding too cheesy, you can literally feel the love and compassion in the atmosphere.
This morning, I sat in on a Bible study focusing on Mark 1. It was entirely in Spanish, and to be quite honest, I didn’t understand hardly a word. (In that moment, I have never in my life been so desperate to be fluent in Spanish). You would think that I’d be really uncomfortable sitting in a room full of women speaking a different language. But, I sat there in complete awe and with undivided attention. I listened to these ladies giggle at each other’s jokes, and then dive into God’s word. I was encouraged by their heartfelt prayers – “Gracias, Señor, Gracias para su sacrificio.” I immediately loved these women. Knowing nothing about them, their names, or the lives they lead, from the depths of my heart, I knew. I knew that this is where I wanted to be.
After the Bible study, the women walked to a different room to be taught English. They eagerly pulled out their workbooks from their red string-bags given to them by CWJC. They are currently learning how to read, spell, and sound out letters. I sat among them, and with my imperfect Spanish, I introduced myself to the women sitting around me. I could tell that they were suspicious of me, but after a few moments, their smiles grew wider. There was a comfort in sitting next to them in silence as class began.
Today, the ladies learned the letters A, B, C, D, F, G, H, and K.
The instructor slowly spoke in English so that the women could understand. “Turn to page 10. Página diez. Page 10. Look at the top. A ver… Repeat after me…Cat. Cat. kuh-at. Cat.”
They slowly went over the pages of the workbook. Each woman had the opportunity to speak and practice each letter. In that moment, I was humbled by their willingness to learn. There was a desperate eagerness to learn as much as they could. One of the ladies is 80 years old. She never attended school but is now learning how to read, write, and understand what she’s reading. They are all starting from the basics – something that we begin with in Kindergarten and 1st grade. Oh, how I take for granted the educational opportunities I was freely and graciously given!
If I had to summarize CWJC, it’s with this verse:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8
The Lord loves these women and is extending his mercy, grace, and compassion to them. This non-profit isn’t perfect, no system or organizaiton is, but it is acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly alongside of the community and Jesus.
I want to tell you to not pity these women. They are strong, courageous, loving, hardworking, and eager to learn. Love these women. Pray for these women. And not just for these women, but also for every child of God.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…Love your neighbor as yourself. ” – Mark 12:30-31
Dear sweet Jesus,
I thank you. I am so in awe of you and how you allowed me to be in the presence of these women this morning. I thank you for Christian Women’s Job Corp and for the work they are doing. I thank you for the Latina women I met today. I thank you, I thank you.
Lord, please humble me. May I not see myself as better than these women; their lives are so precious to you. I pray that I am present with them and not drifting off in a daydream during the few hours I’m at Christian Women’s Job Corp.
I ask that you’ll help me learn Spanish. As these women are so eager to learn English, I pray for a yearning to understand Spanish. I not only want to learn the language, but also about the women themselves and the hertiage they proudly come from. May I always be hungry to learn.
Lord, thank you for loving me and for knowing me so well. Thank you for Ciudad Nueva and the middle schoolers I work with. Thank you for El Paso and the people who live here. I am overwhelmed by your goodness.