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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

A Universal Cure

By Kristel Ortiz
Nov. 4, 2012

Ana Claudia was 13 years old when she first visited a palm reader. Soon she was swept away by the occult and pledged to do whatever Satan wished as long as he granted her happiness.

For the next 11 years her life spiraled downward. She cut herself repeatedly, abused prescription medications, and ultimately attempted suicide by swallowing 13 razor blades. When doctors insisted surgery was necessary to save her life, she refused and instead went to visit a pastor. He prayed with her and took her to Rose of Sharon Teen Challenge in São Paulo, Brazil.

During the first five days of her stay, Ana cut herself persistently and attempted to hang herself. Other students were terrorized by the demons that possessed her.

Then came deliverance. Ana received Christ and found freedom from the oppressive hand of the enemy. While Ana was a student in the program, God called her to work in Teen Challenge. For the past 12 years, Ana has served on staff at Rose of Sharon Teen Challenge, helping others find the transformed life she now enjoys.

Ana Claudia is one of thousands of shattered people who have found wholeness in Christ through Teen Challenge around the world.

In 1963, four young couples — Howard and Pat Foltz, Billy and Sue Burr, Eugene and Carolyn Hunt, and Irvin and Linda Rutherford — decided to pool their salaries, move in together, and use the savings to start a Teen Challenge center in Dallas, Texas.

As the fledgling center took in its first residents, one of the staff members had a vision of a fruit tree dropping its flowers into a stream. The blossoms floated away in four directions, which she believed indicated that missionaries from the center would travel to the four corners of the world. She could not have foreseen how powerfully prophetic her vision was.

One by one, the four founding couples of that Dallas center were called to missions. The Foltzes went to Europe, the Burrs to Africa, the Hunts to Latin America, and the Rutherfords to Asia. Each couple pioneered a Teen Challenge center in the region of their calling.

In 1995, Global Teen Challenge was officially formed under the leadership of Don Wilkerson, who at the time was co-pastor of Times Square Church in New York City with his brother David. David Wilkerson founded Teen Challenge in New York in 1960. Don’s ministerial experience and previous service as a director in Teen Challenge’s early years gave him an exceptional ability to turn the ministry’s international dreams into reality.

The goal of Global Teen Challenge is to strengthen individual centers around the world by providing leadership, training and resources. Today Global Teen Challenge has more than 1,000 centers operating in 93 countries.

Europe is an especially ripe field for Teen Challenge ministry. Until recently, several governments of Western Europe subsidized addicts’ drugs and housing. Now, in response to the growing financial crisis, they have turned addicts back onto the streets. Homeless and desperate, many of these addicts are willing to listen to Teen Challenge workers who offer them a real cure for their problems. 

Jerry Nance, president of Global Teen Challenge, says, “When you strip away the thin layer of culture and language, the hearts of people are very much the same — and the problems of people are very much the same. The good news is that the solutions Jesus offers are also the same around the world.”

Millions have yet to hear of these solutions. In addition to the 93 nations where centers exist, 31 more have requested Teen Challenge to help them address the escalating problem of drug abuse.

The United Nations estimates the number of drug abusers worldwide at 230 million. Heroin and cocaine remain the drugs of widest choice. Where they are not available, local “home brew” drugs serve as replacements. Abuse of prescription drugs is also rising sharply.

For the last three decades, HIV and AIDS have emerged as parallel destructive forces among drug addicts. In some countries as many as 80 percent of those entering Teen Challenge are HIV-positive. The combination of drug use and the spread of AIDS causes premature deaths and untold suffering. In Swaziland, where HIV infects 29 percent of the adult population, Teen Challenge staff members care for 400 orphans in their charge.

An escalating number of children are also becoming addicted to drugs. Many youth begin dabbling in drugs before entering their teens, and in many areas even before they are 10 years old.

Since its inception, Teen Challenge has experienced greater success than any secular rehabilitation program. The reason is the power of Christ. Jerry describes Teen Challenge as a “Great Commission ministry” that focuses on evangelism and discipleship as the keys to life transformation. “Our goal is not that they simply become drug free but that they will reach their full God-given potential,” he says. 

Because the rehabilitation techniques of Teen Challenge are based on scriptural principles, they adapt with wonderful fluidity to all cultural, social and economic settings. A biblical understanding of attitudes, temptation, self-acceptance, anger management, personal rights, the rights of others and healthy relationships are taught to every student.

“The heart of the recovery program at Teen Challenge is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and becoming His follower,” states Jerry. “Daily Christian discipleship classes focus on basic Christian living skills, not drug education.”

Memorization of Scripture is key to helping students renew their minds and achieve a new standard of living. Also vital to their long-term success is the willingness of the larger Christian community to engage in mentoring relationships and healthy friendships with Teen Challenge students.

One of the greatest obstacles faced by Teen Challenge centers around the world is the need for trained leaders. “Global Teen Challenge has made leadership training its top priority,” says Jerry. “We have launched, which offers more than 1,000 resources in 13 languages.” The staff training materials and student discipleship curriculum on the site are free for anyone to download and use.

Coupled with the need for leadership is the need for funding to sustain Teen Challenge centers around the world. Global Teen Challenge works with local centers to establish microenterprise businesses that help centers become self-sustaining. These businesses vary widely and include a bakery in El Salvador, a dairy farm in both Swaziland and Central Eurasia, an Internet business in London, and a pallet-making business in Czech Republic. Leadership is vital in this area too, and business leaders are urgently needed to mentor and teach sound business practices to the students and staff.

“Just as drug addiction transcends national boundaries, so too does the solution that Jesus offers,” concludes Jerry. “God is able to rescue those bound in addiction as long as they are willing to surrender their hearts to Him and follow Him.”

Around the world there are people who have done just that. As a result, they have been healed of their brokenness, restored to their families, and transformed into productive members of society. Many have become pastors, evangelists, teachers and medical doctors.

Despite the epidemic proportions of drug abuse and the challenges of establishing and maintaining centers, Jerry and Teen Challenge staffs around the world rejoice in Jesus’ power and sufficiency, and in the miraculous transformations He brings. Jesus is the universal cure for those held under addiction’s spell.

“It is not easy,” says K.K. Devaraj, who oversees a Teen Challenge center in Mumbai, India. “It takes courage. Silver and gold we do not have, and food and medicine are not enough. But we have Jesus Christ.”

KRISTEL ORTIZ is a staff writer for AGWM Communications.


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