This week, we are highlighting the ministry of Project Transformation Indiana and our core value of Empowerment of Young People. At Project Transformation, we value young people’s passions, innovation, and enthusiasm, and give space for their voice at the table. A wonderful example of this value is shared by Ellen Rispoli, a student at Butler University and one of PT Indiana’s young adult interns:
Serenity, a word which means peace, is the name of one of our most outspoken campers at North Church in Indianapolis. All summer, Serenity has freely shared her thoughts with bravery. I remember explaining instructions for a Young Artists’ lesson on her first day, when, out of nowhere I heard a wail coming from the back of the carpet. “I can’t see!” Serenity began to cry. Fat, juicy tears streaked down her dark, slender cheeks. I invited her to come closer, but it didn’t help. “There’s something wrong with my eyes,” she moaned rubbing them aggressively. Concerned, I asked whether or not the adult responsible for her could bring glasses from home. “I ain’t got no glasses,” she retorted indignantly. Stunned, I quickly informed the other interns of the issue and we accommodated her as best we could. Miraculously by the time her father came to pick her up, Serenity was healed, and she celebrated up and down the halls singing, “I can see! I can see!”

Serenity’s story teaches us a valuable lesson about working with children. Though Serenity didn’t need glasses, she helped me recognize how the glasses I wear (e.g. the biases I had about children living in under-served communities) affect the way that I respond to the children at my host-church. Through her ingenuity and commitment, Serenity, single-handedly convinced the entire intern team that she could not see. These talents have since manifested themselves in the classrooms as well. When Serenity puts her mind to it, she will thoughtfully answer questions about respect, self-control, forgiveness, and courage. When she reads with her volunteers, she makes connections between the illustrations and texts to her own life. When she plays games during Recess and Movement Minutes, she demonstrates loyal friendship and dignified sportsmanship to all campers. Of all the words to describe Serenity, I would not choose peace. Serenity is powerful. I would love to say we have empowered her through Project Transformation; however, a more appropriate claim is that Project Transformation is a place where Serenity can empower everyone who is able to take off their kid-glasses and see her as she is.

We give thanks for participants like Serenity, who help to open our eyes to see children and other young people for the amazing servant leaders they are. We give thanks for interns like Ellen, who dedicate their summer to building relationships with children and creating spaces for children to grow and thrive. And finally, we are grateful for chapters like PT Indiana, who connect the energy and ideas of young people with churches and communities to bring about positive change. At Project Transformation, we believe young people are capable of solving communities’ toughest issues when given the opportunity to lead and serve. Thank you for your continued prayers and support of this ministry across the country!