The small towns of Harden-Murrumburrah, Australia has some things going on! The area is part of the traditional territory of the Wiradjuri people. However, in the 1840’s European settlement made its way into this region and soon after gold was discovered which put Harden-Murrumburrah on the world map. In 1877, it became a one of the great Railway towns of Australia. The twin towns form part of the Hilltops region, strong in food and wine production. Many come to this region to pick cherry’s but for the most part it’s a regional country town where local life is the focus.
Glenn and Ros Stewart, are new locals, drawn to the area from Canberra in 2014. The couple came to Harden with skill sets as an electrician and social worker, but on a personal level have spent most of their adult lives advocating for the down trodden and marginalized. They are amazing parents to three grown children and have fostered for the past 15 years. When we sat with Glenn and Ros to hear their story we were inspired by their willingness to listen to the call to move from their hometown, good jobs, and family to the little town of Harden. They weren’t sure exactly what they would be doing in Harden at the time of their move, but their leap of faith paid off and soon the wheels started spinning.
Before their move, Glenn and Ros went for a ride on their Harley one day. They rode through the twin towns and saw an old abandoned house. A spark of an idea came to the couple as they saw the house as a potential place of refuge, not for themselves, but for those in crisis situations. They made note of the idea, put it aside, and continued on with their ride back to Canberra. Down the line, they were at an event and Glenn was talking to a fella who mentioned he was from Harden. Glenn was excited as he remembered the house and told the man their vision for the house. It just happened to be that the man he was talking to was actually the man who owned the house!
With no finances of their own, Glenn and Ros made a bold move and proposed that they might fix up his house, fund-raising and paying for all of the restoration, if the man agreed to let them use the house as a landing space for families in crisis for five years. It was a shot in the dark to be sure, but the man said YES! And so, the project got underway. Many of their friends and neighbors hopped on board and joined the excitement of rebuilding this dilapidated old house and making it new. Sometime later, the house was finished and has been a haven to families ever since.
After the house was finished, or maybe sometime in between, the Stewarts were praying about what was next, longing to do something with their time and resources that would bridge and build up community, specially for the two most noticeable populations in the area, the elderly and the youth. During a conversation one day, Glenn was told that some gym equipment was up for sale, and going at a really cheap price. Having never run a gym, Glenn thought, “well, that’s an idea, why not?” And so he put in a bid in and got it!
Then the Stewarts noticed an old abandoned grocery store building down town Harden. And, with the same humility asked the owner if he’s be open to them restoring the building and using it as a community space. The owner said, YES! Soon after, other resources, like the carpet, paint, lockers, helping hands and more fine details came to fruition. Even the instructors for all the classes came to them organically. They invited the community to come check out the space and the community responded with enthusiasm at the opportunity to not only get fit but to have such a fantastic gathering space.
It’s been a whirlwind couple of years in Harden but as things have progressed, that leap of faith continues to bring folks through the door, and alongside the traditional gym uses the Stewart’s use the space to host faith-based gatherings, concerts, and dinners; which has transformed the Hard Rock Gym into a unique and sacred space for the community to come together and do life with one another, to build up not only their bodies but their souls. And that is super cool!
The story isn’t over, it’s only just begun. Glenn and Ros, along with whatever hands come alongside, have begun the process of restoring another home in the community, which will be used as crisis housing. And, as they walk in favor with the community, they are finding opportunities to consult with the local teachers about the youth they work with at the gym. They have been instrumental in helping to identify gifts and talents in the youth which promote a healthy life for the whole community.
Glenn and Ros are givers and we’re honored to know them and call them kinfolk! We look forward to seeing and hearing about the good things coming their way, and coming to Harden. It only takes a leap of faith.