A Transforming Dream: Julie Harding, Collaborator

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I had a dream.  While my dream may not be as powerful as the famous dream of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, it is the dream God placed on my heart.  My dream was to bring Project Transformation to the Central Texas Conference of the UMC.  

The dream was planted over a decade ago and began with the thought, “I wonder why no one else has done that.”  A few years later someone else with the same dream came alongside me, and we worked to begin this new ministry.  It turns out that was a time of soil preparation and seed planting.    Progress stalled, life moved on, and I forgot about the dream for many years.  

Then a day came when I began to sense that God was calling me from staying home with children back into vocational ministry.  During this transition I was able to spend a significant amount of time in sabbatical so that I could open myself up to where God was leading me next.  Over a period of several months I moved from having no clue what was next to a general idea of my calling, and then to the certainty that it was time to revive the dream of Project Transformation Central Texas.

Project Transformation was created in Dallas in 1998, and there are now 8 chapters across the country affiliated with local conferences of the UMC.  We partner with and work to unite numerous churches behind the mission of engaging young adults in purposeful leadership & ministry, supporting children in holistic development, and connecting churches with communities.  The best way to understand what we do is to remember the three C’s:

  • College Students live together in intentional Christian community for a summer.  They lead a summer day camp for kids in under-served neighborhoods and participate in vocational discernment field trips to learn about ministry opportunities.  
  • Children attend an eight-week summer day camp focused on literacy and social emotional development.  They build relationships with the interns, receive a free meal and read one-on-one with a volunteer daily.  
  • Churches are equipped with a tool to reach out to their neighbors and offer a relevant service. 

Over & over this summer I saw that people really want to live out Jesus’ command to love God and our neighbors.  Project Transformation simply provides the organizational structure and training for interns and volunteers to do so.  

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Thanks to our 20 interns, over 200 volunteers, and numerous partners, we were able to serve 165 kids at three churches this summer who read over 3000 books.  Of those who attended regularly, 88% were able to avoid the summer slide in reading level.  I could go on and on with stories about how lives were transformed this summer; if you’d like to hear more, subscribe to our newsletter.  

By the end of the summer I learned that one way to recognize when you’re working (or playing) in the kingdom of God is when a group comes together and the thank-you’s are all mutual.  This was most poignant at our celebration banquet.  The banquet is extremely important as it is our main way of showing gratitude to our partners and volunteers.  I am not an event planner, and I have certainly never planned a formal banquet for a couple hundred people!  I worried about where we would host it, who might cater the event and how much it would cost.  I was overwhelmed with the generosity of one of our partner churches (FUMC Hurst) when they volunteered their space, volunteers and one member’s catering skills.

The day of the event, I walked into the fellowship hall, and an army of helpers was transforming it into a beautiful banquet hall.  Words could not express the gratitude I felt to everyone who helped make it happen.  And yet, I repeatedly had people thanking me for the opportunity to serve.  The kingdom of God looks like service as joy. 

This summer I learned that I don’t I don’t need any particular qualifications; I just have to show up and be faithful moment by moment.  I learned that The Church is filled with amazing young adults who are eager to learn, grow and serve, and that The Church is eager to serve especially when you guide & equip them to meet a specific need.  

It is an amazing honor and privilege to work to see the fulfillment of one dream in a lifetime, but I already feel that God has placed a new dream on my heart.  I believe that if we are open to work to bring about the kingdom of God, God will invite us to dream alongside him.  What dream has God gifted you with?  What are you wondering “why hasn’t anyone else done this” about?  Is it time to take action and pursue that dream wholeheartedly?  

Julie Harding is the Executive Director of Project Transformation Central Texas.  She and her husband Russell live in Mansfield with their two children, Alyssa and Zachary. She loves hot yoga, hiking, chai tea, and reading in the rocking chair on her front porch.