Labor of God's Love

A little Labor Day AM read...Have a Fabulous Day!

Hello friends! Some of you have asked about the Bridge project, here is a little background from the director, MaryEllen Bowman. Pour a cup of coffee and enjoy! 

HOPE – Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
Early in 2000, two strangers met on a park bench(a post to come with more about this story), each of their lives being transformed, woven in such a way that other countless lives were going to be touched and be offered a way of HOPE.
Those two strangers are Frances Anderson and Mary Ellen Bowman.  Frances had just returned from attending a training about this marvel idea of helping women in poverty, hurting women, in America with a hand-up, not a hand-out through Christian Women’s Job Corps, a ministry of Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU).  She, along with Mary Margaret Brooks, a community missionary, and Dixie Wilkins, Director of WMU of the Wilmington Baptist Association had been meeting, praying, and talking about how to start this here in New Hanover, Pender, and Brunswick counties of Southeastern North Carolina.  Mary Ellen only had the vision that God had clearly given to her in a dream and all she knew was she was to work with women. So she began walking into that dream and meeting Frances on a park bench.   These ladies are our 21st century pioneers, women seeing a need, sharing a vision of helping others and not afraid to starting something new, from nothing, being penniless, to circumference the world.  
Our foundation to begin involved eight key elements, Advisory Council, Networking, Evaluations, Covenants, Need Assessments, Certified Trained Leadership, Mentors and Bible Study.  We pray about everything and we celebrate all aspects of the lives of both our protégées and volunteers.  
Our dual purpose is to empower and equip men and women in need for life and employment and become self-sufficient in their culture by providing mentors and a variety of classes.  And the second purpose is to provide an environment where our volunteers are also challenged, equipped, and empowered in their own growth and relationship and leadership skills while helping others.   We are a WIN-WIN for everyone!  
Our protégées’ lives are changed forever, our volunteers’ lives are impacted for the better, and our community benefits from both these transformations.  (Their stories coming soon!)These two groups travel the BRIDGE alongside each other.  At times the volunteer is the BRIDGE and other times, it is the protégée being a BRIDGE that helps the volunteer.  
We encourage our protégées to dream!  You see, in poverty, in addictions, in abusive situations, dreams are non-existing.  We encourage our protégées to dream and to not let go of those dreams and to expand their education.  There is so much more than ‘getting a job’ involved, we want each of them to thrive and walk into a successful future each day.  “Getting a job” is not good enough, its discovering one’s passion, one’s drive to be the very best person, possible.  Our protégées no longer have to settle or take what is handing out…We are a STRENGTH-BASED ministry.  Our attitude is this: IT’S THE PROCESS, NOT THE ACHIEVEMENT THAT MATTERS.  It’s the things we learn along the way that are invaluable.  
There is HOPE.  And we know it well, for as of Today, we have an 86% success rate at the BRIDGE and have served more than 75 women and 127 children.  Oh, did I not mention how we are a family thing?  Well, we are.  Whatever and whoever touches the life of our protégées become a part of our BRIDGE family!  
Did you know that poverty is not about income?  Did you know that it takes 2-5 years for a person to break out of poverty?  Did you know that the top four reasons someone gets out of poverty involves a mentoring relationship?  Did you know that poverty is painful?  Did you know that it does not matter if you are in poverty here in America or Africa or South America, you are still in painful poverty?  
We have done it! Our first protégée was Tammy from Pender County, her mentor was Donna.  Tammy came to us, seeking skills for employment and with Donna’s encouragement and job readiness classes, she was employed by a company in Wilmington, NC that does background checks for employers.  Tammy was in what we call "situational poverty" as she became homeless after some hurricanes hit our area.  The storms of life had taken employment from her.   Then in 2012, we celebrated our first protégée to graduate from Mount Olive College with a BS in Criminal Justice!  She is currently employed by the State of North Carolina.   She grew up in "generational poverty" in one of the worst crime areas of Wilmington, NC and was surrounded by people who told her she could never get out!   Our women come from all walks of life, whether situational or generational, some incarcerated, some in addictions, others in abusive relationships… victims, hurting, homeless, human trafficked, abused, neglected, and tired, rich in resources to poor without…these are words that describe our women and those we love and walk along side, at the BRIDGE.  
I’ve spoken a lot about the women, but I do want to say that we are also available to be the BRIDGE for men, there just hasn’t been any man to take us up on the offer!  There will be!  We have 3 men, each ready to partner, lead and mentor three men in Wilmington, NC to live in freedom. So, if the Lord is speaking to your heart, or a name has come to mind, please be in touch.

We reach from where we are, here in Wilmington, NC to places around the world!  In the spring of 2011 Mary Ellen spent a couple of weeks in South Africa helping with implementing the training.  It was sort of, ”let’s see if what we do and how we do here, works in under-development areas as well” and IT DOES!!!   As a matter of fact, it works so well that she was invited to speak at the Global Baptist World Alliance Women’s Leadership Conference, in South Africa and introduce this ministry to the world.  She, along with 2 other ladies will be going in October, 2016 back to South Africa and lead some classes at the first site in Africa, the Dorcas’ Project in King William Town, South Africa.  She also spent a few weeks in South Dakota to be immersed into the Lakota Culture as to whether this ministry would be something that can help the Native American Nations.  Whether it be men, women, America, African, Native Americans or wherever you may live, hurting people everywhere can benefit from this ministry.
The power of our success is derived through PRAYER, the heartbeat of our success is that personal, intimate RELATIONSHIP that occurs through mentoring, and it is that connection where light and darkness collide, creating HOPE.
Thank you for your time to read a little about what and who we are.  To continue following us through our journey, you can like our Facebook page, Bridge CWJC Hope – Wilmington.    
Mary Ellen Bowman
Executive Director
4700 Wrightsville Ave
Wilmington, NC  28403

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The Start of Agapé Market

Hello Everyone, it's me Katie Borland, the founder of Agapé Market! I just wanted to let y'all know how Agapé Market got started! 

With the encouragement of friends and family, I let the Holy Spirit lead me on a mission trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was on this mission trip that our group was able to provide a platform for change in the lives of several young Ethiopian girls by investing in them through teaching them business, marketing, simple math, design and color coordination skills. Our small group of women created and shared lessons where we demonstrated these skills through craft projects so these women would be able to replicate the products and potentially raise money for food and schooling. 

At the time, I did not realize what God was doing, but I knew I had the desire to somehow replicate this experience to empower others. 

A few years later, I ended up traveling through New Zealand and Southeast Asia, where I more fully began to realize the potential plan for The Agapé Market. While in Thailand, visiting the local markets, I found lovely items and wanted to know more about the people who were making these amazing products. I started to ask the locals where these beautiful pieces were created. Thus, beginning my adventures through Thailand and Cambodia in search of their local artisans. During the search for these artisans, I saw how these people lived an worked and also found orphanages and other NGO's who were there to provide support for the needy in these communities. 

At the time, I believed that it was the purpose of The Agapé Market to purchase these items, re-sell them in the US, and send back a percentage to several of these NGO's. However, upon return and working with a mentor, we realized at the time there was no room to make this idea a sustainable business. So, I put down the Agapé dream and changed career direction, became an Executive Recruiter, and learned SO much about business, careers and how large companies work.  

In the winter of 2015, I was laid off of from my recruiting position. While being laid off generally sounds like an awful thing to have happen, I knew in my heart that this change in direction came from the Lord. Since the lay off, I have received undeniable confirmation that the Lord has a plan for His Agapé Market. A plan to change people and communities and expand His Kingdom through His Agapé Love. 

The Agapé Market is not only a retail outlet, where you can purchase beautiful handmade items and know that you are supporting actual people, but it is a community environment where locals can gather, learn and contribute to their local surroundings in a positive way. 

It is our goal to donate a substantial percentage of profits to supporting successful local, national and potentially international non-profits and NGO's. Currently, we are committed to our local Bridge Program. 

It is in our hopes that through these efforts we can build a stronger community.  

Please check out our Story page and Partners page for more information.