Feeding Teens Three Meals and Skills for a Lifetime
Dynamic couple in Cape Girardeau, MO forego corporate lifestyle to work with young people
and Debbie Bowers ought to be taking it easy. They’ve both worked hard in very
prosperous careers, and they admit that they’re “not getting any younger!” But
to see them with the youth of the Cape Girardeau Corps in southeast
Missouri—well, you’d think they discovered some youthful tonic that enables
them to keep up with these teens and young adults.
Mike and Debbie have taken on a grueling weekly schedule working with youth—with something going on at the corps every night and throughout the weekend.
On Monday evenings, the Life Skills program has the kids visiting a different business in the area, with the purpose of learning what jobs are out there and perhaps planting a seed as to what career they’d like to pursue in college.
“We go to restaurants, auto shops, financial advisors, banks—really anything that might help them decided what they want to become as adults,” Mike says.
Tuesday night is corps cadets, and a different twist on the Cape Girardeau Corps is that any of the kids who want to attend the classes may do so, but only those who are officially signed-up for the five-year course receive credit. Of the 15 or so that usually come, 10 are actual members. The underlying incentive is that if you are going to do the work anyway, you might as well get credit for it.
Wednesday nights are for the adults who come to prayer meeting, Bible study, Women's Ministries, and Men’s Club—but the children that come along enjoy games and activities in the corps gymnasium.
Thursday night used to feature boxing for boys between sixth grade on up. But this has given way to basketball, which has proven to be even more popular.
On Fridays and Saturdays, the gym is open for everyone, and special programs designed for smaller groups are planned. Also on Saturdays, a church league rents the gym and Mike, Debbie and several kids help out by running a concession stand to raise money for the youth programs.
And of course, there’s Sundays—with a breakfast, Sunday school, morning worship, a dinner, and an afternoon activity such as skating or to a movie.
“All of these daily activities begin with a short lesson from God’s Word,” Mike explains. “We also feed them lunch or dinner, and then we have the activity.”
Although Mike is the “paid” employee, the Army gets “two for the price of one”—Debbie volunteers 25-30 hours each week helping Mike fulfill his dream of working with kids and teens. It’s a dream he left a high-paying job as a accounts/sales manager for Kimberly Clark and its partner company, CrossMark.
Mike supervised 30 employees and brokered accounts for food outlets in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Before that, he worked a similar position with Pillsbury. (Look for Mike’s complete testimony in a War Cry issue tentatively set for early 2017.)
Actually, his many years in the corporate world are another bonus for the kids of the Cape Girardeau Corps. Debbie’s teaching experience comes into play by teaching Sunday School, Corps Cadets, and devotions before each nightly activity.
And Debbie shares her husband’s passion to develop kids at an early age, before they are much harder to reach as young adults.
Moreover, Debbie is a constant encourager to Mike, particularly when he feels like their work is getting little traction.
“These kids are at risk,” he says, “and Debbie reminds me that they are not where they used to be.
“That keeps me going.”