Julie Latcham was on the fence. There were two weeks left until spring break, and the senior at the University of Texas needed to decide whether she would join her brother on a mission trip to Memphis, Tennessee with The Austin Stone Community Church.
She had been reading about Jesus’ heart for the poor and had felt the weight of conviction to help them. In a moment of obedience and spontaneity, Julie signed up. As her bus arrived in Memphis, little did she know the trip she had just embarked on would change the course of her life.
In Memphis, Julie’s group served with Service Over Self (SOS), a Christian nonprofit organization that seeks to glorify God through urban home repair. Julie and her team worked to rebuild, repair, and restore homes for low-income families. While working on a home, the site leader began to tell Julie about the SOS Academy, a one-year internship that trains and equips young adults for work in ministry. Julie listened, but had no intention of taking him up on the offer.
“I was thinking there was no way I’d move to Memphis,” she said. “That’s just crazy.”
Julie did not give the internship another thought until the final day of her spring break trip. Chris Tomlin’s song “God of This City” played during worship as her hands began to shake. The song had never evoked a particular response from her, but as the worship leader sang the words, her heart felt heavy for Memphis.
“It was the strongest I had ever felt the Holy Spirit,” she said. “But at the same time, I was thinking I still wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t move.”
Julie filled out a survey and indicated she was willing to find out more about the internship. One of her pastors saw what she had written and strongly encouraged her to speak to the director of the program. After a few meetings and a lot of prayer, Julie decided to leave Austin for Memphis.
“I think I really was being challenged through that trip, learning God’s heart for the poor, reading his word and being convicted that my life had very little interaction with the poor,” Julie said. “These are the people Jesus spent time with, and my life just didn’t look like that.”
After graduating from UT, Julie began her one-year internship with a partner organization, Advance Memphis. The program focused on reaching and empowering people through different classes and resources, while helping them recognize their value in Christ. Julie helped men and women with barriers to employment by participating in the coordination of a job training course and launched a GED program for those who had never received their high school diplomas. While Julie thought her time in Memphis would be short, her work turned into a career when her boss asked her to join the full-time staff of Advance Memphis.
Julie worked in that role for four years before she felt it was time to return to Austin. She had peace, but still had questions. What would she do next?
“I kept praying about it, even before I left Memphis, for the Lord to allow me to still be involved in inner-city ministry,” she said. “I was terrified of leaving Memphis without having an idea what was next.”
When Julie returned to Austin, she ran into a friend from her first Memphis mission trip with the Austin Stone. He described the work he was doing at the For the City Network with a construction company called Unison Development. Julie learned its purpose was to create jobs and they were looking to provide training for people with barriers to employment using the Jobs for Life curriculum.
“Have you heard of it?” her friend asked.
Julie could barely container her smile, “Yeah! That’s what we used in Memphis.”
Today Julie is the Marketing and Program Coordinator for Unison Development and recently helped launch its first job training class.
“God keeps challenging me by putting me in roles that I think are far above what I think I can do. I’m definitely not the most qualified,” said Julie. “But if we’re just faithful to do the things he has called us to do, then a lot of times we’ll be surprised by the story he unfolds before us.”
By Jeannie L. Rodriguez
Photo by Nijalon Dunn