While ample discussions have unfolded on the advantages of more women entering the (paid) workforce and the concurrent institutionalizing of child care, little attention is given to the subsequent loss in the volunteer workforce. When my children were young and I was stressing about having a career, my father pointed out that my well-educated grandmother raised her family and went about doing good works. I snorted at the thought.
Surprisingly, this is how I've spent much of my life. Women usually work. Even in the poorest neighborhoods, you rarely see women standing around on street corners (unless they are working) or cruising around four to a car looking for trouble. We do not see photos of women riding in the back of trucks with machine guns. Women are inevitably at work: creating and caring for people, places and things; contributing to the comfort, beauty and growth of our society.
Going to Jail
For the past two years, Lynn Wagner has been part of a jail ministry provided by Women Aglow, an inter-denominational charismatic organization founded in 1967 by four women. Now Aglow International is in 170 countries, holding Bible study and prayer groups, educational programs, prison ministry and fighting against human trafficking.
Lynn was first invited to join the jail team by another woman who had been deeply impacted by an Aglow aftercare group for women released from prison. Lynn said that she was terrified to go the training at the jail alone, so she dragged her husband along. Step by scary step she began the ministry in the main jail.
Today Lynn leads the team, which regularly provides Bible study, prayer and worship, aided by her husband playing guitar. She says, "Driving down to the jail is full of deep breathing and trembling, but leaving is often filled with bubbles of elation."
In the past couple of years Lynn has spoken on grief and forgiveness at schools, churches and community organizations -- sometimes joined by the woman who 10 years ago struck their family car in a tragedy that killed the Wagners' two daughters. When Lynn is not speaking or at the jail, you will find her caring for neighbor children, shopping for an ill friend, collecting sleeping bags for the homeless, doing art with people in recovery ... a seemingly endless list of acts of mercy and kindness.
On the Street
When Karen Barton's health issues forced her to retire from teaching, she spent some time just feeling sorry for herself.
One day she heard God say, "Karen, you gotta wanna." Despite her physical limitations, she teamed up with Santa Cruz Revival and began ministering to people on the streets of Santa Cruz.
"We didn't have a sanctuary," she says with a glint of humor in her eyes. "So we decided to do a service on Community TV, using the studio for our sanctuary."
For the past five years Reality Church has regularly broadcasted through CTV's Public Access channel. You can view clips on YouTube or at communitytv.org.
On Thursdays, from 3:30-5:30 p.m., Chess Church is set up on Pacific Avenue, where donations of food and books are passed out along with prayer, conversation and chess games available to whoever happens by. On Wednesday mornings, Freedom Classes are held at the Homeless Service Center, where teaching and prayer is available in a back room.
Ministry to the street population is an adventure that Karen finds fulfilling and invigorating. "It's a high," she says. Karen is hoping to expand her Freedom classes, which she defines as a Jesus immersion class -- a Pentecostal version of the 12-step program.
She is developing a workbook for a long-term course and hopes to be able to offer it in an off-street location. Contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Creating with Kids
Carol Chandler's daughter was the impetus for a local Christian Youth Theater program. Julia had enjoyed CYT's theater arts training where the Chandlers had lived before, but Santa Cruz didn't have a local program. In 2009 the idea to start a local branch for kids ages 6 to 18 began to nag Carol. She didn't have any theater background and didn't know many people locally but the idea wouldn't go away. Finally she prayed, saying that if this idea was from God, than he should bring the right people. She asked for extra-exceptional interest from unexpected people.
Her answer came from women she'd met in Bible Study Fellowship, a Facebook interest group that quickly attracted 38 people and long-term, dedicated commitments from people including MaryJo and Skip Epperson, Artistic Director Brooke Novak, and Area Coordinator Laura Boon. In 2011 the first theater production ("Honk!") was presented. On Feb. 8, a G-rated version of "Bye Bye Birdie," directed by Bobby Marchessault, will open at the Louden Nelson Center, 301 Center St. in Santa Cruz.
Carol rejoices in seeing the children's growth, friendships and fun. She enjoys the community that develops around the theatrical work. Her biggest challenge is to provide a high-quality theatrical experience at an affordable price.
The classes for the children culminate in a superlative production and CYT's goal is to keep the classes available to all children regardless of their financial situation. Some scholarships are provided through fundraising and generous donations.
Tickets to "Bye Bye Birdie" cost $15 for adults, and $12 for kids, seniors and school groups of 10 or more. Performance dates run from 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8, through 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17. Tickets are available online at cytsantacruz.org.
The next series of classes, with auditions for "Jungle Book," begin Feb. 28. Contact Carol Chandler at 345-4128 or email@example.com.
ENDQUOTE: "Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come." -- Anne Lamott
The In the Spirit column runs monthly. Contact Alliee DeArmond through The Word Shop in Aptos at firstname.lastname@example.org.