Penny, a beloved member at CrossRoad United Methodist Church, was at the door to greet each job seeker coming through the door. Part of that welcome was an offer to pray. This simple gesture touched many, though one young man stood out from the crowd; he told Penny he had been to many job fairs, but this was the first time someone had offered to pray when he came in the door. It made all the difference.
This atmosphere, driven by the love of a local church, touched many more than just the young man. Job seekers with felonies in their past smiled at the realization that a second chance is on its way, people new to the area found community and the spark of “home,” and volunteers facing their own challenges were encouraged by walking alongside and bearing others’ burdens. Grace hung in the air; hope and healing were inescapable.
Saturday, August 25 marked the precise 18-month anniversary of FlourishNow’s first Jacksonville job fair. In God’s perfect planning, we were back at CrossRoad, the site of that very first job fair, working alongside the first pastor and staff team to say “yes” to our ministry here. As I watched the 288 job seekers meet Penny and her fellow volunteers, and the 30 employer tables spilling out of the job fair space, my heart felt even more full than the brimming, humming space.
CrossRoad is dear to me because they took that first bet and agreed to host a job fair before I had ever even attended one. They had faith, and that faith started the avalanche of God’s grace that has been our first year and a half of work here. Since that first “yes,” Crossroad has served with us almost 1,000 job seekers in Jacksonville. Combined with jobs fairs hosted by our other awesome church partners, we have been honored to serve 3,381 people in this short but wonderful time of launching and learning.
Though it would still be important if those 3,000+ people had been exposed to jobs alone, the real beauty is that they experienced so much more. Because the Church was catalyzed to come alongside each of those people, offering hope, encouragement, and prayer, each of those people had a tangible encounter with grace embodied in God’s people.
Pastor Kevin, one of the pastors at CrossRoad, said it best when he compared the day to Psalm 30 when the Psalmist says, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing.” We meet people when they are weighed down by anxiety, worry, and pain. After encountering a unique atmosphere of hope and encouragement, people leave with a changed disposition starting to take root somewhere down deep, where the eternal things live.
For these opportunities, and the many I pray are to come, “O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” (Ps. 30:12).
Don’t wait! Register for one of our upcoming job fairs.