Fort Smith CWJC recognized for excellence 

Jessica Griggs
University of Alabama at Birmingham

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – An explosion of spiritual growth has occurred at Fort Smith Christian Women’s Job Corps (CWJC) in Fort Smith. The Lord has been opening doors right and left since the site started in 1999. Ministry has tripled. In addition to CWJC, it now includes Christian Men’s Job Corps (CMJC), as well as a satellite site in Charleston.

The appeal?

“We get comments all the time that there is nothing else like it,” said Valerie Fitch, executive director of Fort Smith CWJC. “Our site attracts people who will not enter the doors of a church. We meet people where they are and gain the opportunity to present the gospel.”

The year 2013 by the numbers: 168 participants, 42 mentor teams, 33 salvations, 22 baptisms and 29 graduates. Since the exponential growth, Fort Smith CWJC/CMJC has even relocated to a new home.

“The pace of the ministry is moving so quickly that we consistently outpace our grassroot level support,” stated Darin Swearingen, board chairman of both CWJC and CMJC in Fort Smith. “The positive development of the entire person is exciting to witness.”

A ministry of Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), the purpose of CWJC/CMJC is to provide a Christian context in which women and men in need are equipped for life and employment – and in a missions context in which women mentor women and men mentor men. CWJC/CMJC offers life skills, job skills, mentoring and Bible study. 

Loucinda “Cinda” Onofre, once a self-proclaimed lost, self-destructive, alcoholic, is now on her way to promise and freedom, thanks in large part to Fort Smith CWJC.

Pregnant and separated from her husband, homeless and recently released from jail, Onofre wanted more out of life than merely to survive. She wanted to thrive. With hopes and dreams in her heart, she came to CWJC.

Today, Onofre is pursuing a degree in information technology security with a desire to combat Internet crime. She has two sons and is remarried. Fitch described Onofre’s mentor, Linda Payne, as “family.”  

However, Jesus is now the most important relationship in her life. Her “greatest hope,” Onofre said, “is that others will see my story . . . my journey . . . and know they, too, can overcome the afflictions of this world through our Savior Jesus Christ.”

To assist her in reaching her goals, Onofre was awarded $1,500 from the WMU Foundation through the Faye Dove Scholarship. This annual award benefits CWJC graduates who thirst for knowledge and skill development and exemplify excellence in their lives.

In addition, Fort Smith CWJC/CMJC was recognized as the outstanding site in 2014 and received a $1,000 grant from the WMU Foundation to assist with their goals. Fitch said the grant will be used for items such as Bible study materials, Bibles, notebooks, journals and office supplies and equipment.

Jessica Griggs is a senior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.


Arkansas Baptist Builders build house for Arendalls

Arkansas Baptist Builders (ABB), a construction ministry of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, is in the process of building a house for Karla Arendall and her family. Arendall's husband, Jay, died earlier this year, and the family lost their house in the April tornado that hit the Vilonia area. This is the second house ABB has built for the Arendalls. The family also lost a house in a 2011 tornado, and ABB stepped in to help them at that time as well. Following is the article about the original building project that ran in the Arkansas Baptist News (ABN) on Sept. 22, 2011. An article describing the current building project can be found in the Dec. 11 issue of the ABN.

Family survives deadly tornado

VILONIA – For Jay and Karla Arendall, April 25 started out just like any other day. Both parents went to work as usual, and their children went to school.

The family, which attends Friendship Baptist Church, Conway, had just moved outside Vilonia into a home they built themselves.

But this was no ordinary day. By the end of this day, a tornado would destroy their home and change their lives forever.

After hearing tornado sirens in Conway, where both Jay and Karla worked, they decided to go home early to ride out any bad weather with their children.

Just after dinner, one of the couple’s adult children called to say a tornado was headed toward them.

So, Jay and Karla found safe places within the home for the children. When the couple went upstairs for a better look at the weather, they saw a dark wall cloud.

“I said, ‘Jay, that’s the tornado,’” said Karla.

Jay wasn’t so sure. But a few seconds later, they watched in horror as the storm began to uproot trees. And it was headed straight for them.

Jay and Karla ran for cover.

“I jumped on top of the girls,” said Karla. “By the time I got there, I started hearing the house come apart.”

Jay ran toward the boys’ safe place, making it to the bedroom before the storm hit the house.

Jay grabbed the mattress from the bed to throw over the boys, but it was sucked out of his hand.

“He was being hit by debris, and he just jumped in the closet on top of the boys,” said Karla.

As the tornado lifted the house from around them, the family prayed to God for protection.

Wind and rain whipped and pummeled Karla and the girls where they lay in what had been a space underneath the stairs.

A few minutes later, their daughter, Breigh, looked up to see her dad and brothers running toward the family’s vehicle, and after a moment’s hesitation, Karla and the girls followed.

“The house was basically in the front yard,” said Breigh.

As they surveyed the damage, the family began to praise God that they were alive.

Miraculously, the family sustained no major injuries. Only Jay, who had been pummeled with debris, was injured with a deep gash on his arm.

Four people were killed, and dozens of homes and businesses in and around Vilonia were damaged or destroyed in the tornado.

The deadly storm was part of the eighth deadliest outbreak of tornadoes on record, according to the National Weather Service.

The Arendalls are grateful to God for sparing their lives.

“God was just so good to us,” said Karla. “He has blessed us over and over and over again.”


Leroy French, 85, dies

Leroy French, 85, formerly of Fort Smith, died Nov. 22, in Burleson, Texas. He was born Sept. 17, 1929, in Okemah, Okla., to Tommy Otis and Julia Naomi (Blevins) French. He was a builder and an architect and built the Bible Chapel at Ouachita Baptist University. He attended Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia  and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He pastored numerous churches in Arkansas and was a member and associate pastor of Bluff Avenue Baptist Church, Fort Smith. He also made 13 mission trips to the Philippines and two to South Korea. He was preceded in death by a son. He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Helen, one daughter, six grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, six sisters and a brother. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Nov. 26 at Bluff Avenue Baptist Church with burial at 2 p.m. at Bowers Cemetery in Eufaula, Okla.


Rick Norris named director of campus safety at Williams Baptist College  

NorrisWALNUT RIDGE – Williams Baptist College (WBC) recently hired Rick Norris as its new director of campus safety. Norris and his family moved to Walnut Ridge from the Hot Springs area in late October, and since then he has been quickly acclimating to life and work at WBC.

Norris, who has 26 years of law enforcement experience, served in various public service outlets over the course of his career.  In his hometown of Junction City, Ark., he was a volunteer fire chief, emergency medical technician and eventually a police officer. 

“I have always felt a sense of service to others,” said Norris. “After being in public service, along with being an EMT and a volunteer firefighter, I felt the best way to help the most people was in law enforcement.”

After deciding law enforcement was the career he needed to pursue, Norris made his way to the El Dorado Police Department where he worked patrol, then narcotics.  Ultimately, he received the chance to work in Hot Springs as an undercover narcotics detective before advancing to coordinator of the Drug Task Force.

Norris remained in narcotics until being promoted to lieutenant. He served in the Criminal Investigation Division and made the rank of captain before retiring in 2012.  He still serves as a law enforcement instructor for the University of Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute.

Recently, Norris found his way to WBC when his daughter came to tryout for the Lady Eagles softball team.

“I fell in love with Williams on our very first visit. The feeling you get while walking on campus along with the friendly atmosphere you sense when meeting staff, faculty and students makes it feel like home. You can really feel God’s presence and sense his working here. When the chance to come work at the college arose, I felt the pull and responded,” noted Norris.

“We are fortunate to have someone of Mr. Norris’s level of experience join our staff,” added Dr. Tom Jones, WBC’s president.  “His expertise will help us to continue the college’s commitment to provide the highest quality and safest environment for our students.” 

In his free time, Norris enjoys woodworking, fishing with his wife, Melanie, and their young son, Cody, and any other activity they can do together as a family.

– From a Williams Bapist College news release


Brotherhood Mutual presents ABCHomes with $65,000

David Perry of ABCHomes (left) with Jeff Brantly of James Green & Associates.
LITTLE ROCK – Christmas came a little early this year at the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries (ABCHomes) on Nov. 19.

Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, represented by James Greene & Associates of Sherwood, presented ABCHomes Executive Director David Perry with an early “Christmas gift” – a dividend check in the amount of $65,113.

“What a blessing,” shared Perry. “We’re grateful for the tremendous insurance and service provided by Brotherhood Mutual and the James Greene agency. Topping that off with this huge dividend check is overwhelming. We’re also grateful to our many churches and Arkansas Baptist entities that are members of our insurance group. What a great day!”

During the presentation, Kurt Hetherington, vice president of sales and marketing at James Greene & Associates, said his team is honored to have a “small” part in helping change the lives of children and teens in crisis. “I can’t imagine another place where we can serve the way we do,” said Hetherington.

Brotherhood Mutual makes these type gifts during years when members’ claims are low. Local churches that choose Brotherhood Mutual for insurance coverage – and then have low-claim or claim-free years – can know that their insurance coverage is helping ABCHomes. James Greene & Associates is a representative of the Guidestone Financial Services’ alliance with the Brotherhood Mutual group.

To date, Brotherhood Mutual has donated more than $142,000 in dividend checks to ABCHomes.