lives through Teen Challenge
counterculture of the 1960s introduced many young people to illegal
drugs. The 1970s saw the growth of ministries to the addicted,
with the book and film The Cross and the Switchblade directing
national attention to the Assemblies of God outreach Teen Challenge.
Although Teen Challenge is best known for its ministry to those
struggling with life-controlling issues, it has also maintained
a vision for community evangelism. The Evangel
captured that theme in these selections from an article that
appeared in the December 24, 1972, issue. Today Teen Challenge
centers continue rescuing people of all walks of life who are
desperately searching for help.
A few years ago North
Camden, N.J., was a picturesque place, a thriving town outside
of bustling Philadelphia. Today broken-down, boarded-up storefronts
on Broadway Street stand as grim reminders of the August 1971
riots when for five days burnings, shootings and lootings took
place throughout the city.
Many of these major business establishments
have abandoned the city’s shopping district, and a number of affluent
citizens have moved out of the town’s residential areas.
Although the riots took their toll
among Camden’s businesses, liquor stores, spiritualist shops, and tattoo
parlors still line the streets seeking attention and patronage.
“Jesus, He’s the Waymaker;
one day He made a way for me” blared through the microphones as the
girls’ trio sang to a crowd of inattentive, laughing young people in
one of North Camden’s city parks.
The girls finished their song.
As the young preacher stepped forward to begin his short evangelistic message,
each prayed that the crowd would quiet down and listen.
For a minute it seemed as if their
prayer was answered. Noise and laughter began to quell. Then suddenly a bottle
jetted through the air and broke on the building behind the trio and the young
preacher. Another bottle was thrown, and some bricks. Then total confusion
But the incident didn’t dampen
the young Christians’ spirits. They threw their equipment into the back
of a van, drove off, and within a few minutes had started a street corner
meeting only a few blocks away.
This time their audience was receptive
to the gospel, and several persons accepted Christ as Savior.
For the past three years Camden
Teen Challenge (Norman Cole, director), a branch of the Philadelphia center,
has presented Christ to Camden’s residents in every nook and cranny
of the city. Witnessing and literature distribution campaigns have reached
drug addicts, prostitutes, gang members and the “little people.”
Workers hold Sunday school, street meetings and story hours at points throughout
We have found that Christ sometimes
uses strange ways to draw people to himself. Once He used a set of bongo drums.
One night during a song service
at one of our Good News Clubs, a ministry aimed at reaching the youth gangs
in Camden, some of the members of a gang were singing heartily and playing
the bongos, tambourines, maracas and coffee-can drums belonging to us. The
president and several members of a rival gang were passing by and heard the
They liked the music and wanted
to visit the club. We couldn’t let them in, however, since two opposing
gangs simply do not mix in the same room!
One of our workers recognized the
group’s interest in the club as an opportunity to witness to them. The
gang members told him they wanted to start a Good News Club of their own.
This in itself was a miracle because these young men had previously hated
anything and anybody connected with religion or Teen Challenge.
But a bigger miracle happened at
the gang’s second club meeting when six members fell on their knees
and asked Christ into their hearts.
Life for many Camden residents
seems to have become a paradox in the last few years. Many are proud, but
desperate. They are “brothers,” yet their hearts are filled with
hate and bitterness. Being “cool” is only a guise for unhappiness.
Some boast of their freedom, but
are bound by their lusts. Life to them is confusion and despair, yet they
dare not trust even God to help them.
On the Camden City Hall is the
inscription “Without a vision the people perish.” We at Teen Challenge
are trying to create a vision in Camden, a vision that has Christ in every
heart and each person loving his neighbors. There is a long way to go to realize
such a vision. But the start has been made.
— Brenda Mates