Monique Howe, Executive Assistant, Volunteer Coordinator, and Volunteer Facilitator of Financial Education, recently preached on her experience serving clients at the COC. Read her words below, and be inspired by her reflections.
Hear these words from Ephesians chapter 4 verses 21-24
For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus, to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
The word of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God.
For quite a number of years now, I have volunteered with The Christian Outreach Center’s job readiness and financial education programs, and more recently have come to be employed there. You’re probably not too familiar with the COC, but I expect you are familiar with our thrift stores, The Purple Cow. If you donate items, or shop at one of the three stores, thank you. Thank you for helping transform
individuals as they are clothed in a new self.
There are four main programs that we facilitate to help the materially poor, under-employed and formerly incarcerated. They include a job readiness program, financial education class, grocery assistance program and the Hand Up program which you will hear a bit more about later.
The job readiness program participants learn about their place in God’s Kingdom as they develop soft skills, resume writing, and interview skills that will aid them as they move toward their employment goals. They learn that they do not have to be defined by their past, change and growth is possible. A new self is waiting.
In the financial education class, they learn how to use their financial resources in God’s Kingdom, as well as how money influences all of our relationships. Money is but a tool to build the kingdom, to create the life God wants each of us to lead to His glory. A new self is being fashioned.
I am currently facilitating the financial education class for members of the HandUp program. The participants of this group are formerly incarcerated, recently released individuals, and if you want to meet people that are creating a new self these are your people. In many ways, I hope to be like them one day.
One of the guys, Walter, was telling the story of how he came to be in our group. Prior to his release he was praying for guidance, he knew he needed to change something but just wasn’t sure what that something was. In true biblical form, God spoke in a dream.
Walter is from New Orleans originally and as his release date came closer he wasn’t sure where he was supposed to go. If he went back to New Orleans, he would be back in the environment that had created problems for him in the past. He did not think this was a good idea but what else was he to do? He prayed, and waited, he prayed some more, and waited. Then, about two weeks before his release, the revelation came.
In his dream, he was crossing a bridge headed to New Orleans, the farther he travelled the darker it got. The path was hidden, he could not see where his next step should be. Then, a voice instructed him to turn back, he was headed the wrong way. Upon waking he was confident God had spoken, he had part of the answer. He was not to return to his old stomping grounds.
Within a few days he was contacted by a lady arranging his relocation, she asked if he wanted to go home, or would he be interested in heading to Baton Rouge? Without hesitation Walter chose Baton Rouge, and was interviewed and enrolled in our HandUp program. During this eight week program participants receive guaranteed housing, instruction in an intensive version of the job readiness program, a condensed form of the financial education program, a pay cheque, physical and mental health care and referrals to employment partners.
Walter speaks of his past, the drugs, criminal activity, bad decisions aplenty. But, then with a smile he tells us he has been clean for ten years. He tells of the work he has done to change, AA meetings, bible study, prayer, surrounding himself with a new community, as he recognizes the threat of old friends, he quotes scripture to share what guides his choices now. He is a new creation.
Walter is an inspiration to me. His dedication and perseverance in changing his life causes me to re-examine my life, the practices I use, changes I can make. His example makes me question if I am living the life God planned for me? What lessons can we learn from Walter’s journey? More than that, it begs the question, what do we need to do to transform into the new self God sees for us?