More than 50 people, including 40 job seekers, attended the launch of the Jesu (Joy Employment & Skills Upliftment) Club at Joy to the Nations church in Walmer, Port Elizabeth on Wednesday morning.
The club, which is a project of the church, in partnership with other ministries and organisations in the city, will meet at the church at 9am every Wednesday to motivate, encourage and give hope to club members who will be added to a skills database of unemployed and partially-employed people.
“We are starting small but dreaming big,” said Glenn Weiss the leader of the multicultural church which is situated close to the edge of Walmer Township in an area where groups of informal job seekers daily gather on surrounding roadsides armed with paint brushes and other tools of their trade in the hope of picking up work.
He said that as a church family whose mission is to take the mercy of Jesus to the margins they wanted to address unemployment in their congregation, in the area and in the wider city at a time of great need, highlighted by the fact that 50.8% of youth [ages 15 to 35] in the province are unemployed.
On the advice of Izenzo, a local ministry that helps churches to address unemployment, they took a strategic decision to tackle the “giants” of unemployment, poverty and crime by starting an employment club.
The club caters for people of all ages, races, genders and nationalities but has a particular focus on people under 30. New members complete a survey to assess their skills and aspirations in order to match people with needs in the marketplace, to upgrade skills and to identify, equip and mentor potential entrepreneurs.
Every week a different specialist keynote speaker will address members. Volunteers from the church will help to facilitate club activities which include providing members with practical help like drafting CVs and preparing for interviews. With the help of some of their volunteers they are also ready to start skills training at the church in a few areas such as an accredited computer training course, basic electronic repairs and a cooking course. This is just the beginning of where they aspire to go with skills development to fight unemployment.
Glenn, who has a background in human resources, headhunting and ministry, came to Joy to the Nations as its new leader last year in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown.
“It feels as if I am made for this corner and that it is definitely God’s timing,” he said. “I am starting to get to know and love the guys [the roadside jobseekers] and they are getting to know me. We really want to make a difference and I believe that God has a big plan.”
He said that during the previous week when motorists avoided the area while angry protesters were burning tryres on the road, he and members of the church were on the streets — “living in our calling” — as they prayed with police, served as peacemakers and provided food parcels to job seekers who had no hope of picking up work amidst the chaos.
He said a few of the roadside job seekers had taken up invitations to visit the church on a Sunday and one had recently come to Christ during a men’s fellowship event after a service. He had also been encouraged by seeing a few congregants’ lives changed after the church had helped them to secure employment.
“I think if we can have a few matchups [through the Jesu Club] and see a few more lives changed, we will see a momentum develop,” he said.
He said he was excited about the enthusiasm with which members of the congregation had put up their hands to be part of the Jesu Club initiative and by the array of skills, experience and networking contacts they brought to the project.
Dreaming of where they want to go from their small beginnings, he said he envisaged acquiring more land adjacent to their present property, where they could extend their vegetable plot which supplements their feeding outreach. and develop a skills development centre housed in a “shipping container village” painted bright yellow — the church’s corporate colour.
He said he realised that to achieve their dreams they would need to join hands with corporate funders and other community partners.
“But we have unapologetically put Jesus’ name in our identity because we believe He is the answer,” he said.
Glenn said God had dropped the acronym Jesu [Joy Employment & Skills Upliftment] into his mind one day while he was driving in the area. And he knew that the club had got its name!