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At home with Teen Challenge

By Stephen Harris

April 1999, I was elected superintendent for the Arizona District Council of the Assemblies of God. We had a 16-year-old son in high school and didn’t want to uproot him from his high school, friends and familiar surroundings.

We decided for the next couple of years to maintain our residence in Prescott, Ariz. I would commute the 100 miles from home and spend three to four nights a week in Phoenix, where the district headquarters is located.

After a search for housing options running the gamut from staying with someone to renting an apartment or buying a condo or small house, I phoned John Comenzo, then director of the Phoenix Teen Challenge Induction Center.

I asked if Teen Challenge had an extra room I could use or rent while I was in Phoenix. John’s response was very positive and he contacted Arizona Teen Challenge Executive Director Snow Peabody for final approval. So, I entered Teen Challenge.

For many years I had been a dedicated supporter of Teen Challenge and had the ministry in mind when our church in Prescott constructed a new Family Life Center multi-purpose building. I knew we would have the joy of hosting TC’s annual Prescott banquet in the facility.

After spending time at the Phoenix center and building relationships with staff and students, I became even more committed to Teen Challenge. I consider it a “God thing” I stayed at the center. It gave me opportunity to develop lifelong relationships with so many of the staff.

About a year before I became district superintendent, our church was visited one Sunday by two young men, Reggie Doughty and Johnny Blankenship. They returned several times over the next 12 months.

When I arrived at Teen Challenge, the two met me and made me feel at home. Reggie and Johnny were staff members at the Phoenix Induction Center.

Over the next few years I became very close to them. Reggie is credentialed with the Assemblies of God and pastors Restoration Church in Phoenix. Johnny serves as a deacon at the church.

A few weeks after arriving at the Phoenix center, I met Annie Graves, a young lady on staff. During the next several years I would occasionally see Annie while attending various Teen Challenge events.

It was my privilege to perform Reggie and Annie’s wedding ceremony last December. Annie now serves at the Arizona District office.

Although I don’t keep in close contact with other staff members, I see them in various places during my travels across the state. We always have a warm reunion because of the time I spent at the Phoenix Teen Challenge Center.

I had a great experience staying at the Teen Challenge center. It gave me an insight and perspective about the inner workings of what makes Teen Challenge such a successful ministry.

Many times I stood outside in the evenings talking and sharing with the students and the staff. Often they would ask me questions of a spiritual nature and regarding the ministry.

On many occasions I was able to minister to individuals through prayer and counseling. For several years I was a monthly speaker in the TC chapel services.

Most Teen Challenge students graduate after a year. It took me 2.5 years to graduate to a house in Phoenix.

I am grateful for the work and ministry of Teen Challenge. I have observed God’s favor through His hand of grace and provision upon Arizona Teen Challenge. Executive Director Peabody and his dedicated staff are doing a great work for the Lord.


STEPHEN HARRIS is superintendent of the Arizona District Council of the Assemblies
of God.

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