Area churches offer hope during the recession

Friday, April 24, 2009
Former Thorngate employee Linda Stoverink, left, gets assistance from Marian Kramer, a member of Abbey Road Christian Church, during a session of teaching Microsoft Excel. (Fred Lynch)

Best-selling author, talk-show host and economist Dave Ramsey believes fear has gripped the American people during the recession and it needs to stop.

"Fear is false evidence appearing real and that's what we're trying to combat tonight," Ramsey said during a live 'Town Hall for Hope' nationwide simulcast Thursday. "Does that make it any easier if you're hurting? No. But we've got to stop this hysteria that's making everything worse."

More than 100 people attended the simulcast at Lynwood Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau. The church was one of five locations in Cape Girardeau and Jackson and among 6,000 sites throughout the US to host the event. Organizers believe this was the largest webcast in history, with an audience of more than 1 million.

Broadcasting from Oklahoma City, Ramsey gave a message of economic encouragement and answered questions from the nationwide audience via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, text messaging, e-mail and phone.

Among the questions asked was the catalyst that will turn around the economy.

Dave Ramsey speaks to people at Lynwood Baptist Church during the national Town Hall for Hope broadcast Thursday night. (Fred Lynch)

Ramsey responded that he believes housing will lead America out of the recession. Citing an interest rate under 5 percent, Ramsey said the housing market will turn around sooner than later.

"It's a fabulous time to buy a house and they're on sale everywhere," Ramsey said.

Hosting the town hall meeting is the latest effort area churches are using to reach the community financially.

The Rev. Mark Anderson, pastor of Lynwood Baptist Church, believes people are turning to the church for financial advice because they are realizing other things they put their hope in for happiness and success are failing them.

"They need a hope that is beyond what is financial, material or temporal," Anderson said. "They need a hope that is real and permanent. They need something which will sustain them through this and future crises."

Anderson said the current economic crisis demands a biblical and practical response by the church. In addition to Thursday's town hall meeting, the church's women's ministry hosted a seminar that offered money-saving tips, and Lynwood Baptist plans to host Ramsey's "Financial Peace University" class in August.

Joe Plemon, an elder at First Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Anna, Ill., has coordinated five Financial Peace University classes for his church.

The current class has attracted 38 participants, with only three affiliated with the congregation.

"Each class is a unique experience, but each has greatly benefited the attendees," Plemon said. "I hear from past Financial Peace University graduates regularly about how much the Financial Peace University experience has changed their finances, their marriage and their future."

While Centenary Church has hosted Financial Peace University for three years and plans to do so again in January, the Rev. Jeff Long said the course is geared toward those members of the middle class who have a job. To that end, Centenary Church has hosted Love INC's "Managing Your Money" classes which are geared toward those of a difference socioeconomic level. Topics covered included balancing a checkbook, how to budget and distinguishing wants from needs.

Long said that for many years on Thursday afternoons, Centenary Church has offered a program that helps qualifying individuals pay some of their bills. And during Lent about 40 people attended a four-week course that offered tips on how to help those in need of financial assistance.

The Rev. Ron Watts, pastor of LaCroix Church, thinks such classes are necessary in a time when people are uncertain and fearful about the future.

"The Scriptures have a lot to say about money and material possessions and we feel the church should come alongside folks and offer the guidance and wisdom the Bible offers," Watts said. "When people are under financial stress everything suffers including their relationships with God, family and others. Our hope is that this leads people to financial freedom.

"... It is easy to forget God when we're affluent and things are going well," he said. "Hard times remind us that we're not in control and that we need help from the outside."

In addition to financial courses, other churches such as Abbey Road Christian Church are offering classes to hone job skills, including those who have been laid off recently.

Begun in January 2007, the computer lab has about 15 volunteers who teach classes that include topics such as Microsoft Word, setting up a blog, PowerPoint and navigating the Internet. The free 1 1/2-hour classes last between four and six weeks.

Lab founder Wilma Dooley said the program began as a dream and has surpassed her expectations.

"At first it was an outreach and was something we were looking to do to give back to the community," Dooley said. "I was the only teacher when we first started, and now we've reached 15. We're trying to meet a need and minister to the community by providing them with a service like this."

Since March, Randy McLain has been teaching others such as some former Thorngate Ltd. employees some necessary computer skills needed in today's job market through the Abbey Road Christian Church computer lab. The former office manager at Thorngate was one of four volunteers to lead a recent two-day session specifically for the former employees at the high-end men's clothing manufacturer in Cape Girardeau.

"We had employees who worked as many as 30 years and didn't have experience working on the computer," McLain said. "Now employees need that. We're trying to help anyone looking for a job improve their chances through these classes."

bblackwell@semissourian.com

388-3628

Pertinent address:

3102 Lexington Avenue, Cape Girardeau, MO

2935 Lynwood Hills Drive, Cape Girardeau, MO

2411 Abbey Road, Cape Girardeau, MO

315 South Street, Anna, IL

300 N. Ellis Street, Cape Girardeau, MO

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