Allow me to introduce you to one woman who took something that began as a seemingly simple idea and turned it into a ministry that would bless women nationwide. Allow me to introduce you to a woman who has said YES.
Meet Jacques McNeil, Founder and President of Women Inspired Through Networking Elements Sister To Sister (W.I.T.N.E.S.S.) Book Club. Established in September 1995, the concept of W.I.T.N.E.S.S. Book Club began as an idea in the heart of its Founder: create a book club that would get women reading and at the same time empower them with Godly wisdom to help them live victorious lives. With a YES in her heart, one book, and eight committed members, W.I.T.N.E.S.S. Book Club was launched in Jacques’ living room 18 years ago and it has not stopped.
I recently had the opportunity to sit and talk with Jacques to ask her a few questions about W.I.T.N.E.S.S. Book Club and what it means to say YES to God. Here’s what she had to say:
Dana: Can you describe W.I.T.N.E.S.S. Book Club and what it’s about?
Jacques: W.I.T.N.E.S.S. is an acronym that stands for Women Inspired Through Networking Elements Sister to Sister. It’s a Christian women’s book club designed to provide tools for women so they can be equipped to live victoriously…mind, body and spirit. Not only do we read non-fiction Christian literature, we also delve into various topics in the Word of God in order to gain a better understanding of biblical principles and how these principles apply to every facet of our lives.
Dana: When did you get the idea to start a women’s book club?
Jacques: You know it’s quite interesting that you’re interviewing me here at the Westside Pavilion. In August 1995 I was a Personal Shopper at this Nordstrom, and while working with a client, she mentioned a statement that she had recently heard. The statement was, “if you want to keep something from Black people put it in a book.” When I heard this statement I was appalled, but I knew this statement was true for some. I felt led to do something to encourage women to read more. That’s how it all began. I heard that statement in August 1995 and approximately six weeks later we had our first meeting.
Dana: So was starting the book club an idea that came to you, or did you feel like you just heard the voice of God telling you to start a women’s book club?
Jacques: It was an idea. I’ve always been an avid reader and just hearing that statement sparked a desire within me to bring women together for the primary purpose of reading Christian literature so that we could be equipped to live victoriously. It was like a prompting, if you will, and I needed to get this ball rolling.
Dana: Is this the first time you’ve ever done anything like this?
Jacques: Oh my gosh, the very first time. Not only was this the first time I’ve done something like this, I never had the desire to do anything like this before.
Dana: What were your goals and aspirations before W.I.T.N.E.S.S. Book Club?
Jacques: Honestly it was primarily career. I was a born again believer who just wanted to grow spiritually. I had just gotten married two years prior so I was focused on being a wife, and understanding my role as a wife. But in terms of specific goals and aspirations, my focus was just career based.
Dana: Has W.I.T.N.E.S.S. Book Club changed the trajectory of your life?
Jacques: Oh most definitely. I realize now that this idea was a God idea that has definitely led me to identify my purpose. Honestly speaking, if I weren’t doing this and if the Lord had not given me this idea 18 years ago, I don’t know what I would be doing in terms of ministry. So yes, it has changed the trajectory of my life because it’s helped me define my purpose.
Dana: What would you tell the individual who has been inspired by God to do something or to create something but has yet to take action?
Jacques: Of course we have all heard Nike’s, “Just do it,” but that is the one thing I would say. It’s putting one foot in front of the other, taking one step at a time. I know there are so many, women in particular, who feel like if we don’t see the whole puzzle that we won’t do anything, or at least attempt to work with at least one piece. If we say we trust God, that’s where we really put our faith into action. You know, really just taking one step and trusting that He is going to meet us on that one step. I was just thinking coming here about the scripture that says His strength is made perfect in our weakness. When we think we know it all then He can’t come in and provide the guidance and insight that we really don’t have. It’s when we really surrender and say, okay Lord I need your help that He can come in and guide us. It’s a matter of doing what we know to do then He will just bring, whether it’s the people, the resources, whatever we need. But we gotta move!
Dana: That’ s so true, and that takes me to my next question. How important is timing when it comes to hearing from God?
Jacques: It’s everything, because what we do impacts someone else. It’s not just about us, solely. So if I’m not in place doing what I’m supposed to do, there is someone who I am not going to connect with who quite possibly could be waiting for me, for whatever it is God has given me to do. When I think about the story of Moses and the children of Israel at Marah, they were thirsty after traveling and they came to this brook. The water was bitter so they were not able to drink it. Moses prayed and then he took a tree branch and put it into the water, and the water turned from bitter to sweet. What if that tree had never been planted 100 or 300 years prior? Then that tree would not have been there to provide the miracle that they needed. So I believe our lives are so intertwined that if I’m out of line or not in step with God then it could quite possibly hinder someone else from their purpose.
Dana: Has this been an easy road for you to travel?
Jacques: Ummm, no not at all. It’s been very challenging. I’ve encountered challenges that I’d never imagined – situationally and relationally, but it has, as a result, caused me to grow in areas that I’d never imagined that I needed to grow in. Now I can see the benefit of the challenge. I think if anything is worthwhile as it relates to purpose, then experiencing challenges is just a part of the process.
Dana: What has kept you encouraged?
Jacques: What has kept me encouraged? The fact that I am clear that this is a God idea, now. I am clear and I want to be in the center of His will. Also, the testimonies that I hear from various women. That is something that keeps me encouraged.
Dana: Most definitely! So, W.I.T.N.E.S.S. Book Club started out as a book club that read books, how does it look today?
Jacques: Yes, we came together to discuss the books we read, but I also felt (a need for) fellowship. I wanted to provide an atmosphere for women to gather and fellowship and for it to be an environment that was embracing, you know not high maintenance, not people being a trip, [or] this group who wouldn’t talk to that group. I didn’t want it to be like that. I wanted it to be a place where women could come together, we could let our hair down, we could share and not be judged, but leave encouraged, inspired, and maybe leave with tools to do what it is God has called us to do. So that’s what it looks like today.
Dana: Fill in the blank: A God idea minus money equals what?
Jacques: Equals wow, it can still equal success. It equals growth, and expansion. In the natural we think money plus a God idea equals success, but the God idea really is enough. I think we need the God idea plus action, that’s infinite in terms of what it can equate to. The money isn’t the major factor, and I know that may sound really ridiculous, but I think a God idea plus favor equals success. That’s what you need, cause favor will take you places that money will never take you.
Dana: What is your vision for WBC?
Jacques: A part of my vision for the book club/ministry is for us to have the opportunity to impact women worldwide. I would love to have chapters all over the world where women are encouraged to read and apply the truths they learn. It is my desire that we are women who apply the principles that we read about to every facet of our lives, resulting in the lives of everyone who we come in contact with being positively impacted. It is also my desire for W.I.T.N.E.S.S. Book Club to equip the next generation to tap into their God-given gifts and talents at an early age. Often times a person doesn’t “get it”, that is identify their gifts and talents, until they are 40 or 50 years old, if ever. If I can help the next generation identify and walk in their God-given gifts and talents at the age of 10 or 15 or 20 so they are on that path at that point, oh my gosh, they‘ll be so much farther along. I also envision annual conferences where chapters from all over the world would come together to fellowship and learn from one another. So, this is a part of my vision for WBC.
Today, W.I.T.N.E.S.S. Book Club has over 625 members, and has evolved exponentially into several different ministries. It’s Mother’s Day Outreach has touched over 700 women on Skid Row since its inception just three years ago; the Prayer Ministry hosts an Intercessory Prayer call that is attended by men and women from all over the country on a monthly basis; the Praying Parents Conference Call brings parents and grandparents together every Saturday morning at 6:00 am to pray for children everywhere. Ladies and gentlemen, this is what God can do with a YES, and this is just the beginning!
I pray Jacques’ story has both inspired and encouraged you to respond to the dreams, passions, or ideas that lie within your heart. The world is waiting to be blessed by your YES.
To learn more about W.I.T.N.E.S.S. Book Club visit: www.witnessbookclub.com.