Church Women United holds awareness day

Thursday, September 27, 2007

CWU is made up of more than 30 churches of different denominations.

Church Women United held an annual awareness day recently at Gordonville United Methodist Church. CWU is made up of more than 30 churches of different denominations with a current four-year commitment, until 2008, of working together toward strengthening families worldwide in the 21st century.

Seven speakers talked about their work in the local community helping people with issues like poverty, isolation, substance abuse and finding Christian support and mentors.

The speakers shared an ability to affect community members of all ages from every socioeconomic scale.

Family Resource Center director Denise Lincoln, along with community associate Pat King, reported the realities of providing resources to strengthen families in the South Cape area where, King said, "one in five families have no electricity. A lot of good children and parents pass through the center. Many don't have their own transportation and despite reasonable bus fares, a decision between riding the bus or their children going hungry is the reality."

Family Resource Center provides a sense of community and an outreach of various resources to all ages. Often isolated senior adults look forward to a regular potluck lunch combined with informational moments and a sense of community. The police offer a dialogue for this matriarchal community, and the group has discovered fitness though a HealthPoint Fitness scholarship.

Parent education programs focusing on assets are held regularly.

After-school programs, job opportunities and a place to go are all benefits offered to youth. Lincoln and King appealed to churches to provide help with snacks or making repairs to the building the community meets in.

Another Cape Girardeau resource, Family Counseling Center, is operated by Jim Ray. The Family Counseling Center is a 32-bed residential center with a daily waiting list of 100. Ray said his priority is to women or those with children with no place left to go. He has worked in substance abuse for almost 25 years and described it as a tiresome job. "Alcohol and drug abuse in this area is huge -- as it is everywhere," he said. "At FCC we try to treat the whole person to support themselves. Short-term is 30 days; long-term is 90 days."

Often this is not enough -- especially with methamphetamine addictions. "Your prayers and support don't go unnoticed," said Ray.

Jack Bridges, a Cape Girardeau resident who lost his son in March at age 35 due to meth addiction, continued the presentation -- showing posters of babies that meth moms gave up so they could keep using the drug. He stressed that drugs are not a Cape Girardeau or a church problem, but everybody's problem, "one that is destroying our future and its teens." He urged CWU members to get in touch with their city fathers and elected officials to get programs funded for more time invested in recovery and to increase the size of facilities.

Jackson Police Department captain Bob Bonney talked about his work with a Jackson youth group, Christ's Servants Inc. The Wednesday night youth group averages an attendance of about 90 weekly. Meeting at New McKendree United Methodist Church in Jackson, youths participate in a Christian program that includes announcements, liturgy, a sermon and discussion. Motivated by video games, snacks and a soda machine, youth open up and get the chance to voice their thoughts.

"We had Vision House visit last year. The group was impacted so much that we extended discussion on the topic by a few weeks so they all had a chance to tell their stories," said Bonney.

Known as the "benevolent dictator," Bonney explained that it's a waiting game to earn the trust of CSI members ranging from jocks to nerds and everything in between. But he tells them, "You gotta let me in to show you the word of God."

The result of getting children to see the word of God has been a success. "Four youth got baptized this year," he said.

The growth over a few years from a group of 20 to 90 nondenominational teens -- even atheists -- is outstanding, but what's more outstanding to Bonney is that "the word of God is filtering in to our youth." Doors open after school so that youth who don't have rides can come straight from school. "They do homework, have a snack. By 4:30 we already have 70 kids," said Bonney.

Rules are enforced for youth who want to continue coming to CSI. Youth co-leader Kim Bonney said "besides evident bans on drug use, the use of bad words are prohibited and CSI members know that they will be told to leave the room and lose the following week, too."

Rick Rivera and Chelsea Young, leaders of Young Life, a group with a similar purpose, explained that they were affected by their own Young Life leaders and got involved as volunteers. The purpose of Young Life is to introduce youth to Jesus and help them grow in their faith. The motivator is a desire for fun provided at regular meetings and camp. "The kids do skits and play guitar. Some of them ought to be on 'Saturday Night Live,'" Rivera said.

Young, who attended camp four times said, "It's the best week of your life. No joke."

But there's a serious side, too. "When kids don't know what to do or who to turn to, they call their Young Life leaders," said Rivera. When parents need to be made aware so young lives aren't messed up, it's friends who care too much -- Young Life leaders -- that are often the liaisons.

"Young Life is about watching relationships grow and continue to grow," said Rivera.

Reaching out to provide spiritual health to middle through high schoolers, Young Life helps kids seeking answers or just acceptance and delivers the ultimate message of hope.

Presentations by NaTika Rowles with the Boys and Girls Club of Cape Girardeau, Bill Barkley with the River Corridor Task Force and Wally Austin with Al-Anon were also on the CWU annual awareness agenda.

Church women were encouraged to invite speakers back to their own churches for future presentations.

cpagano@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 133

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