Podcast Transcript: Project Transformation

If you are following my podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud (Look to See Me by Chris Pepple), you can find some of the transcripts of my episodes here.

Project Transformation Podcast Transcript:

Hi, Listeners! I hope you are all having a wonderful week this week. Welcome back to Look to See Me, a podcast that invites you to look closer at the lives of people around you and to take time to hear their stories. I’m Chris Pepple and today I’m going to talk about a program that works with kids over the summer to help them maintain and improve their reading skills. If you’ve never heard of or volunteered for Project Transformation, you’ve missed out on a beautiful opportunity (and it’s truly one of the easiest places to volunteer with).

So what Is Project Transformation? It’s so much more than just helping kids with their reading levels. It’s an organization that brings together college-aged young adults, children and churches to transform entire communities. Now remember that when I talk about a national organization, each chapter may look a little different, so what I describe, may not be exactly what you see in your community, but the mission in each area is the same.

Here’s what the Project Transformation website says about their work:

Project Transformation provides two key services:

1)   Leadership development and ministry exploration opportunities for college-age young adults through summer and one-year service internships

2)   Community-oriented after-school and summer day camp programming for children and youth from low-income neighborhoods.

The young adults provide this second service, giving them authentic, hands-on experiences leading high-quality programs for children and youth and equally important, learning from the children and youth. Project Transformation’s programs focus on enriching the body, mind, and spirit, but they place a strong emphasis on literacy. During the summer, each child is paired daily with a volunteer to read one-on-one. Programs are strategically housed in churches in the heart of low-income communities. This partnership between these site churches and Project Transformation is designed so that churches can leverage the program to make new connections and form meaningful relationships with families in their immediate neighborhood.

For this podcast, I’m going to talk more about what I’ve seen in the Tennessee Project Transformation chapter—and at times specifically West Tennessee because that’s where I have seen this group in action.

Here’s what the Tennessee Project Transformation says about their work:


College students invest in the lives of children while living in community, exploring their calling, and developing as servant leaders.

Children improve their literacy, social-emotional, and spiritual development through participating in high-quality, out-of-school time programs led by college-age young adults.

Churches host our out-of-school time programs, reconnecting and building relationships with their neighbors.

Here’s a little history about the Tennessee Project Transformation group:

Project Transformation Tennessee started in 2012 and is based on the model which was founded in Dallas, Texas, in 1998. Here’s what they say their challenges are:

1)   how to meet the academic, physical, social-emotional, and spiritual needs of children;

2)   how to provide meaningful ways for college-age young adults to explore ministry opportunities and develop as young principled leaders for the church and the world;

3)   and how to help revitalize churches in underserved communities.

OK, so that’s the formal introduction to this organization. I’m going to tell you now the informal side to what I’ve witnessed. I heard about Project Transformation through a very dynamic young adult who attends the same church I do. We’ve actually attended two churches together as we are both now part of a church plant in my hometown. That’s an entirely different story.

She was serving as one of the college interns and was very passionate about the summer program. I heard her talking about the volunteer program that needed a few extra people. So our church organized times for several of us to go down together and help out. Now I wasn’t able to help out a lot that year, so I am by no means telling you this because I am lifting up my own work. I played a very tiny role during only one week of the summer.

But I always like to share with you what I saw with my owns eyes. One of the directors gave new volunteers a brief introduction to what we would be doing and what the morning would look like for us. The program is so easy to follow as a volunteer that the intro was all we needed to get started.

After that, the fun part came…the kids entered the room and had a folder. I’m basing this on my memory alone right now, so I may be missing a few details or things may have changed a bit, but as I remember, we had the grade level the kids were reading on. All of the books were lined up in very organized storage units and we color coded to match the reading levels of eth children. So, for example, if my child was reading on the yellow level, we picked out books with the yellow marking. I didn’t have to guess if anything was a good book for the child. Then we just sat on pews or on the floor of the room we were in—wherever we were comfortable.

Then the kids read out loud to us. We helped them sound out any words they struggled with—but it was so fun to see them choose a book and read it to us. We had enough time to chat a bit…is there was a dog in the book, we could ask if they had a pet. We asked what they liked about school and what they liked about the Project Transformation summer camp. But mostly, we were listeners and they were readers.

Now you’d have to ask an intern what happened outside of that room. I don’t know all of the details about what the kids did when they weren’t reading with us. I know they were divided into groups and come in with their groups while other groups enjoyed other activities. I think maybe they did art or had some fun activities they did together. The interns organized much more than we ever saw as a reading volunteer.

But I was impressed by the organization of the interns and their leadership skills they were showing when I was there. I loved their excitement over working with the kids. I know from hearing this intern talk that the interns themselves also have a time where they are guided by other community members as they deepen their faith and learn to use their gifts to serve others through various ministries. The interns become part of the community they are serving…they worship in the host church and get to know community members and leaders through their own times together.

So I’m going to let you explore their website more to find out what’s in store if you want to be a summer intern for this organization.

But I want to add another little section here about another way to support this group—they have a family night at the end of the year and family members and siblings of the campers come and enjoy a dinner together. This year our church plant was one of the groups volunteering at the Family Night thanks again to some of our young adults including the same young adult who introduced me to Project Transformation.

It’s a night to see the kids show off their artwork and play games they learned with the interns. And it’s a time to serve the parents and encourage them as they are doing the great job of raising these kids.

So does this program actually help the kids?

Each year, Project Transformation engages over 80 college-age young adults in ministry and service with more than 700 children and youth in 9 site churches across Tennessee alone. You can research your home state to see what Project Transformation is doing there.

But the Tennessee stats are impressive:

  • 99% of children and youth maintain or improve their reading levels over the summer
  • 94% of young adult alumni say the Project Transformation prepared them for future leadership in the church or community.

I think you can call that success for all involved!

Your challenge for the week is going to be researching literacy programs for children in your community…find out who reads with kids over the summer to help them maintain their reading levels.

Also look to see who uses paid college interns in your area for opportunities that provide them college resources and allows them to use their talents to support local communities and meet the needs of under-served neighborhoods.

You can’t volunteer at every single place that has a need…you would be too tired to function if you did that. You can, however, be aware of your community resources and be aware of the needs of others in your community. You may be able to volunteer for just one season or donate books or funds or connect on social media and repost their stories.

Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode of my Look to See Me podcast and will return for the next episode.




Throw that word away,

dear child, throw it away,

because that word will

never define you

or your gifts and talents,

your hopes,

your loves,

your fears,

and your life is

already documented…

your name is written

on the hearts

of those who

know you best

and call you

Beloved One

and a Creator

whispers your name

in the darkness

you journey through

and weeps when

you feel lost

and loves you

so much that your

story is woven into

all of our stories

and documented

in the history of

who we are

and you will

never be forgotten

because you

are forever


–Chris Pepple, 2018


In that Moment

I wrote this poem in honor of the birth of someone special–the first grandchild of a wonderful friend.  I’m so thrilled for the family! I can still remember the first moments I held my children…


In That Moment


For one moment, my world stopped for you—

all of my worries slipped away

and thoughts of what must be done next

gave way to thoughts of this moment…

the moment you were first placed in my arms

and I held you

 and touched your tiny fingers

 and gazed at your toes

and looked deeply into your eyes

and knew that you

were now a part of who I am

and my love grew deeper

in that moment

as I knew I would

forever hold you

in my heart…

and no other thoughts

came to mind other than

my joy

in that moment…

my first memory

made with you.

                                       –Chris Pepple © 2018



Today has been a busy day for me. I had lots of errands to run and tasks to finish. As I’ve moved through my day, however, I’ve also had a lot of friends on my mind. I keep thinking of people close to me who are waiting. One friend is waiting for the birth of her first grandchild; another friend is waiting to see if her chemo is going to work against her cancer. My daughter has friends waiting to graduate or waiting to hear back from a job application. As I took a break from my busyness this evening, I reflected on all of the things in life I have waited on for myself or with friends…



for birth…

for sleep…

for joy to come…

for pain to end…

for a loved one to step into view…

for a last breath…

for the gift to be opened…

for the mail to arrive…

for the graduate to cross the stage…

for the door to open…

for the judge to rule…

for the jury to return…

for the bread to bake…

for the pizza to arrive…

for the plane to land…

for the rain to stop…

for the sun to rise…

for the bell to ring…

for the dog to welcome us home…

for chemo to end…

for the hand of a friend…

for the sound of laughter…

for the movie to start…

for the dance to begin…

for you to take my hand…

for the waiting to end…

©2018. Chris Pepple


The Rising

The Rising

I remember the

falling and

the feeling of


flight down

took one word

to begin and

years to finish.

Tethered by shame

and pain, I stayed

down until that

one breath—the sigh

that turned into

a whisper …

a small call to

an identity free

from the chains in

the depths of defeat—

and I listened and

I whispered more truths

before finally speaking

my own hope aloud.

And I felt myself

rise first to my knees;

then in prayerful

belief that life awaited,

I felt the pain

of muscles straining

to stand and felt the

flesh tearing as

the chains fell.

But this pain was

affirming my hopes,

and I rose to my feet

and pulled myself

from the pits of your hell,

and as the air reached

my wings, I knew

I had survived.

I rose. I flew.

I began to thrive. 

                                     –Chris Pepple ©2017

Guest Blogger: A Voice of Awareness

In honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I am sharing this blog (with permission) written by a survivor. Every journey is different. Every voice weaves another thread into the story of abuse and violence that so many face daily. For some, their lives are taken at the hands of their abusers. For others, they are still looking for a way out. The survivors find the courage to begin again…to start a new journey…to find a way to heal…to find a way to share their stories and take action that can end domestic abuse forever for all people…
by: Awnya Kenny (guest blogger)
    A narcissist is a person who will never hold themselves accountable for their actions. They will shift the blame on others, such as their victim, their circumstances and or even the devil. No matter what it is they have done or not done, it is the fault of everything else. A narc will not own it or take the blame for their actions, and they will never apologize.
    A narc will manipulate their victims in simple ways at first. The victim is always wrong; they are “jokingly” told how they don’t know what they are talking about…the way they remember things are wrong…the way they do things, wrong. No matter what it is they say or do, where or how they shop or worship, wrong. OR could be better. The victim is not living up to their potential. Every aspect is wrong no matter how hard they try. It is easy for a narc to manipulate people, mainly because of how others perceive the narc. It must be the victim. The victim really must have their heart on their sleeve.
    Mental abuse is as severe and savage as physical abuse. Some will argue this point. I get that, but being a victim of both, I, after just learning what “Narcissistic Abuse” is, would have to say that narcissistic abuse is so much worse.
    A narc is a very devious form of mental abuse. Mainly because every one of a narcs’ actions is justified in their minds; they are usually “backed up” by their family members who will stand up for the narc. Thus, helping the narc to further “shame” the victim, publicly or privately–in every form or fashion–and God forbid the victims try to stand up for themselves.
    A narc will go out of their way to make sure people see their victims as “ify” or “shady.” For example, they can have something “major” happen in their life and if their victim is not right by their side, they and their family are fast to jump all over the victim. However, they may not include the fact that they themselves have done the same exact thing to their victim! Let me explain here. I had a surgery; my narc had gotten mad at me, I’m still to this day not sure why, but the narc stopped talking to me before my surgery, didn’t call or text after my surgery to check on me. Nothing. But they themselves had a surgery and I was attacked on Facebook by his sisters for not being there for him. He even told me that he was disappointed I wasn’t there.
    Have I stepped on toes? I hope not; my intentions are to step on the throats of narcissists everywhere. I want to make people aware of this form of emotional abuse. To this day, I am in counseling, but I still wonder if my abuser meant to be an abuser. If I am looking too far into the way things in our relationship went. I was chastised for calling/texting too much. Then, I would wait for him to call/text me, but when he did it was, “why haven’t I heard from you?” Or if I really needed to talk to him, I would say, “I am sorry for bothering you, but will you please call me when you get a chance?” In a “normal” relationship, people don’t apologize for that sort of thing. Sometimes he would call me, but usually he would “forget.”
    The term “Narcissistic Abuse Disorder” has come to have a very deep meaning for me personally and a couple of my remaining acquaintances. Now that my eyes are open to this type of abuse, I can see how people suffer so horribly because of it. See, I always blamed me, while going through this and after. When my narc decided he wanted out of the relationship again, he said (and I quote), “I can’t be the type of man you need, I want to be the type of man that my daughter deserves.” That hit me deep. At that point, I “wanted too much, needed too much. Was too demanding. Wore my heart on my sleeve and took everything too personally. I needed more counseling, I wasn’t “Christian” enough.” I was so alone. My friends/family meant nothing to him, so I shied away from them. I was isolated and alone.
    Let me go back and say a few things that I have since learned. First of all, a narc will use guilt, fear and shame to weaken their victims. You are never aware of what is going on until the damage is done. Oh sure, like me, you might realize you are dating a narcissist, but you never know the abuse is going on until they finally decide that you are no longer an asset. I stopped giving money. I stopped taking time or waiting at the house. I stopped texting/calling and started pointing out the fact that if I did call or text, I was always in the wrong for doing so. I had tried to make the split amicable. I continued to go to the church HE made me go to in “order to spend time together” because he never had enough time to spend with me any other times. I never received birthday presents, had to pay for my own birthday dinners…he never had to and he got birthday presents. The last year and final year we were together was the first time I had ever gotten a Christmas present from him. I was supporting three kids without child support. He had two jobs and his daughter was grown, so he wasn’t paying child support.
    Being a victim or Narcissistic Abuse is kind of like being bitten by a spider… you never really feel it until the poison is in your blood.
    A narc really doesn’t care about you or anything you are going through. My narc looked me dead in the eye, two days after my father passed away and told me I didn’t know how to mourn a father! I mean NOTHING I did was right. The pastor of the church TOLD me I needed to leave the relationship, even with the narc being a Sunday school teacher. Who watched (and was open about it with certain individuals at church) porn. Had a gambling problem. He went to a Bible College and was an ordained (but not preaching) minister! So, I was quick to take the blame for everything that happened in the relationship. I was quick to see my faults, though very slow to see his.
    There is help out there. My family relationships are not that strong. I had cut ties with all my friends and none of them to this day know the level of abuse I took from this person. My best friend never liked him. OPENLY. Told me so all the time. Even though I agreed with her reasoning, I was at fault (in my own mind, because I never told him) for her not liking him. Even though I was telling her the truth, I thought that maybe I had put too much emphasis on the things he did. But I didn’t. I didn’t put enough! I have staggered through this healing process and I am still learning. I am doing it alone, except for the one day, one hour a week counseling that I go to.
    But, I do not suggest this to just anyone because I get so suicidal. The only thing that keeps me from killing myself, is that I don’t want my kids to find me dead in the home that I worked so hard to pay off. Their home. But I do imagine all sorts of different things killing me.
I’m working on a FREE way for others of this form of abuse to all get together and share and heal. because there is strength in numbers! There is healing within sharing!
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 New International Version Bible
(From Chris: Thank you for the courage to share your voice and your story! You are wonderful and courageous and strong!)