Teen Challenge is a very interesting program to say the least. The dynamics of what goes on inside one of these centers go far beyond anything I could describe here in one post.
What is Teen Challenge?
It’s a Christian organization whose focus is to help guys with “life controlling issues” get their lives back on track, and to be introduced to Jesus. The length of TC varies from center to center, and often depends on the person’s progress. Most cases they will be anywhere from 10-16 months. This may seem like a long time compared to your typical 30-90 day recovery programs, and it is. For good reason. One month just isn’t enough to become a new person (which is the only way to truly become “clean”). The whole focus of Teen Challenge isn’t 12 steps, or typical counselling that you would often see used in recovery. It’s focus is put the Word in these men, and they other stuff has a way of working itself out on its own.
I completed the Teen Challenge in Cape Girardeau, MO in January of 2009. It was a true challenge for me (pun intended). One of the ways that it works is that you have little to no distractions to keep you from your relationship with God, and to get yourself better. “Distractions” include cell phones, internet, computers, secular music, books, etc. Now, for someone like myself who is VERY technologically driven, this was one of the hardest pills for me to swallow (pun not intended this time). But, with only a few other guys, and the Word that was being broken down for me everyday, I grew in my relationship with Jesus by leaps and bounds as the months went by.
Thanks to Teen Challenge introducing me to the Lord I can say that I have been sober, and serving Him, for 3 years last September.
The staff and Teen Challenge don’t receive much money for their work there, or for that matter, much gratitude at times. Much like a teacher, the thanks and gratitude they receive comes way down the road in seeing their pupils succeed. This is very hard for a culture whose whole focus is instant gratification. I will never be able to express the deep gratitude and thanks I have for each of the men and women who served at the Teen Challenges that I have been a part of, you all have given me something that I may never be able to repay.
So, it is always a VERY humbling and surreal experience when the Memphis Teen Challenge calls and asks if I would be able to lead a chapel there. To think that a few years ago it was me who was in those chairs, listening to someone who wanted to see me make it. Now, I have the opportunity to share with these men things that the Lord has shown me through the great teaching I receive both in my own reading, and through Fellowship Memphis and DownLine. I still can’t believe that this is real sometimes. (or for that matter that they would care about anything I have to say).
As I spoke on putting God first in our lives this morning, I tried to share with them not only the dangers of things that can get in the way of our relationship with our Father, but also practical advice that I have from personal experience. As I told them, “my reason for coming is just as much to tell you what to expect, and how you can be successful outside of these walls as much as it is to share the Word with you.” I believe these two are closely related. However, it takes someone who’s been there to tell you dangers that I’ve not only seen, but the struggles that I’ve seen others go through as well. These are often warnings I never got while I was in the program, and I didn’t want them to go back “into the real world” without hearing.
Once a month I share a lesson, my story, and life applications with these guys. I often feel that I am blessed by speaking to them way more than they are blessed by listening to me. Over the last 3 years I have spoken in front of many groups, at many different places, but there is an energy in a Teen Challenge chapel that is unlike anything I’ve experienced. I really feel that God shows up for these guys everyday. He shows a special love to this group of “unlovables”. As I often do, I brought these guys a treat. You’d be amazed how far $20 worth of doughnuts can go. Not physically, these guys put a hurtin’ on ‘em. But the fact that someone is willing to not only give his time, but his pocket as well to a bunch of undeserving and broken men. They are “broken” and see the contriteness of their own hearts better than anyone. They just need to be introduced to the One who can restore their lives. The healing God that put my life together, the One that can heal us all…
To contact Teen Challenge Memphis- (901) 272-2308
To contact Teen Challenge of greater Cleveland- (440) 259-3333
(Originally posted 7/20/2010)