Teen Challenge Celebrates 50 Years

by | Jun 25, 2008 | Charisma Archive

Thousands are gathering in New York to mark the 50th anniversary of the drug-recovery ministry Teen Challenge, founded by David Wilkerson.
 
Teen Challenge Celebrates 50 Years
[06.25.08] Hundreds are gathering in New York this week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Teen Challenge, a drug-recovery program founded by David Wilkerson. Each year thousands of people find salvation and overcome addiction at the 1,000 Teen Challenge centers located in 78 nations. “All over the world I still hear about people getting saved through Teen Challenge,” says Wilkerson, now an author and founding pastor of Times Square Church in Manhattan.
 
The three day celebration, held at Wilkerson’s church, will include seven services with featured speakers such as Wilkerson’s first convert, Nicky Cruz of Nicky Cruz Outreach; Teen Challenge graduate Sonny Arguinzoni of Victory Outreach International; and Steve Hill, pastor of Heartland World Ministries in Dallas. All will share their personal testimonies of transformation from addiction to ministry.
 
“At Teen Challenge we have witnessed men and women transformed from hopeless drug addicts to incredible assets to society,” said Mike Hodges, president of Teen Challenge USA. “Graduates include doctors, military leaders, ministers, motivational speakers, missionaries . . . good parents and role models. “
 
Hodges recalls his own transformation from a lifestyle of addiction.
 
In 1968 he says he hit rock bottom while living in Grass Valley, Calif. After swallowing a piece of chocolate laced with peyote, he raced his motorcycle home in the darkness with no headlights on. Although he miraculously made it home in one piece, he was plagued by hallucinations later that night.
 
“I saw this guy with a pitchfork and felt the pitchfork in my arms,” he says. “He was the devil. I cried and woke up whimpering in my wife’s arms.”
 
Several years passed, but he finally surrendered to Christ at a crusade Wilkerson sponsored. He later joined the ministry’s staff and has been helping others beat drug addiction for 25 years.
 
Despite decades of progress, drug abuse remains a critical problem in the U.S. In a 2006 study, the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration estimated that 19.2 million people had used illicit drugs within the last month. Heroin and cocaine still dominate the drug scene, but methamphetamine use and prescription drug abuse is surging. In 2004 roughly 25 percent of federal inmates were incarcerated for crimes committed to get money for drugs.
 
Although numerous addiction recovery and rehabilitation programs exist, Teen Challenge enjoys an enviable success rate. Studies show that 65 percent to 75 percent of those who complete the 12-month live-in program remain drug-free from six months to 15 years later. However, about 75 percent of those who enter the program drop out, usually within the first 30 days.
 
“Every person who enters the doors of Teen Challenge is a high risk,” says Dave Batty, chief operating officer of Global Teen Challenge based in Columbus, Ga. But leaders say they have seen God intervene in what seemed to be impossible situations.
 
Serious conflicts with her father and stepmother pushed Jazmin Donati, 16, over the edge into drugs when she was 12 years old. “We hated each other,” she says. With anger, depression and rebellion ruling her life, Donati tried numbing her pain with pot, cocaine and pills.
 
Overdosing once on pills didn’t stop her from using, and her rebellious behavior got her kicked out of school several times. “I couldn’t have a healthy relationship with anyone and was a constant liar,” she says.
 
She was on probation and under house arrest for possession of cocaine when in 2006 she entered Teen Challenge in Jupiter, Fla., at the age of 13. “I didn’t want to go into the program,” she says. “I was freaking out.”
 
The Teen Challenge staff showed her tough love. “The staff disciplined me for my own good,” she says. “But I knew that they loved me.”
 
Slowly she realized that her actions bred nasty consequences. After about 10 months, she cried out to God, “I can’t live like this anymore.” She says He flooded her life with grace and forgiveness. “I am a totally different person today,” she says. “Jesus is my Savior. He still disciplines me, but He’s my best friend.”
 
She has reconciled with her family and tries to share Jesus wherever she goes.
 
In the 50 years since he founded Teen Challenge, Wilkerson says some things have changed, but the answer to addiction remains the same.
 
“Drugs change, but the problems remain the same,” he says. “The need still brings people to their wits’ end. It has always been a sin problem.” — Peter K. Johnson with Felicia Mann

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

How Divine Wrestling Changes Our Identity

How Divine Wrestling Changes Our Identity

All of us at some point will hit a place of getting the wind knocked out of us. We all experience unexpected detours and times when there seems to be no way out. But there is One who lives in us, the Lord Jesus Christ, who gives us the strength to overcome obstacles....

Spirit-Filled Pastor: How Does God Lead Us Today?

Spirit-Filled Pastor: How Does God Lead Us Today?

Whether it is the Spirit leading or forbidding in the book of Acts, or the Spirit leading throughout Christian history, it’s clear that the leading of the Spirit is important. In the Old Testament, it appears that the Spirit of God could be withdrawn completely from...

Joyce Meyer: Keys to Winning Your Race in Life

Joyce Meyer: Keys to Winning Your Race in Life

Everyone has a race to run. That just means we all have a life to live. The apostle Paul says in Hebrews 12:1 (NIV), “Therefore...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for...

Prophetic Word: The Lord Says, ‘I Am the Consuming Fire’

Prophetic Word: The Lord Says, ‘I Am the Consuming Fire’

God says that during this season, He is turning up the heat, finding the gold and bringing His refining fire. Job makes a powerful statement of faith as he says of the Lord, "When he has tried me, I shall come out as gold." God knew Job's heart and Job knew the heart...

What Is ‘The One Thing’ God Wants From You?

What Is ‘The One Thing’ God Wants From You?

In 1971, I was invited to spend one month in Singapore at a new institute that had been started by John Haggai. It was still in the formative stages then—a place where Asian church leaders would be trained and challenged to witness for Christ. Today, more than 40...

37 Prayers for the Suffering Persecuted Church

37 Prayers for the Suffering Persecuted Church

It was a Pentecost bloodbath and most Christians never heard about it. More than 50 Christians were killed in one of the deadliest terror attacks on Nigerians this year. Scores of gunmen rushed in to kill Christians in the midst of worship. All told, over 360 million...

RECENT ARTICLES

Prophecy: A Window of Time Has Opened for Believers to Preach the Truth

I was rejoicing and praising God on Friday, June 24, 2022, for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, knowing that an ungodly decree was overturned and one national curse was broken. I heard by the Holy...
The Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: The People I Saw in Hell

The Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: The People I Saw in Hell

In 1998, God gave me a life-changing vision of hell. I receive many questions about my experience from people all over the world, but one question I'm often asked is, "Who did you see in hell?" There are others who say they've had an experience like mine, and they...

The United States: Birthed in Prophetic Symbolism

The United States: Birthed in Prophetic Symbolism

One of the most amazing facts about the Founding Fathers of our nation is this: The one referred to as the "voice" of the revolution (John Adams) and the one referred to as the "pen" of the revolution (Thomas Jefferson) both died on the same day—July 4, 1826—exactly...

Why Did God Give ‘This’ to Me?

Why Did God Give ‘This’ to Me?

It’s a question I frequently hear. It’s one I’ve asked. And maybe it’s one you’ve asked, too. The question is, “God, why did You give this to me?” This can be any number of issues, from emotional or psychological struggles to symptoms or sicknesses, disabilities or...

No Evil Can Stop What God Has Planned

No Evil Can Stop What God Has Planned

I sense it. And I perceive a growing number of people in massive proportions sense the increasing momentum of power and might worldwide. Something is on the horizon—something more eerie and ominous than what the people of the world have ever before experienced. Even...

Pin It on Pinterest