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When I was a young child, my life was good. My parents were both teachers and we moved to Brunei so they could get good jobs.
But everything changed when I turned 14. I had to come back to Singapore to renew my passport and the government forced me to stay. Every boy has to serve in the military here at the age of 18, and they were afraid I wouldn’t come back if they allowed me to go back to Brunei. The war in Vietnam was affecting everyone.
Because I couldn’t be with my parents, I lived in a bad neighborhood with my grandma in Singapore. That’s when I began smoking weed—and it didn’t stop there. Heroin slipped into our borders and Singapore legalized opium as a way to manage the influx of drugs. It was the party drug and once I tried it I was hooked.
I grew up and couldn’t maintain jobs or relationships because of this addiction and my alcoholism. I was married for 10 years and had a little girl. At 32 years old, my constant addiction to drugs and alcohol caused my wife to leave our marriage and take my daughter. That was my rock bottom.
I moved out of my house and into a neighborhood with many Christian families, one of whom encouraged me to go to Teen Challenge. That’s where I found freedom.
Today I am 5 years sober and have worked as a counselor for Teen Challenge for the past three.
So many people become hopeless because of their addictions and being on staff here I get to testify about what God has done in my life. I can sympathize. To the people who knew me—it’s a real testimony because they had given up hope on me a long time ago.
When I was just 13 years old I was living in a compound house in Ghana and there was a young man also living there who was dealing drugs. Everyone in the compound sleeps in the same room together, and before we slept each night he told me: “If you don’t smoke with me—you don’t sleep.”
That’s how my addiction started. I began smoking pot every night and I was soon hooked on weed. But sadly, it didn’t stop there and I quickly went from weed to heavier and more dangerous drugs.
But despite my drug use, I knew I wanted to better my life. At one point, I stole away on a ship to Europe—I wanted to continue my education there. However, I needed the means to continue my studies there, so I got mixed up with Surinam boys to make money. I went along with their lifestyle of stealing from others and smoking pot.
While in Europe, I was jailed 22 times. But it was during my last incarceration that my life changed.
I was in jail in 1987 and looking for some escape, so I went to a Christian fellowship. I picked a book from a shelf called The Cross and the Switchblade. I saw a boy holding a knife on the cover and thought it was a novel. I thought I was reading to learn more about how to specialize in crime and violence. I didn’t know that book would introduce me to Jesus Christ for the first time in my life. I gave my life to Him, and I knew when I was reading that the Lord wanted me to open a Teen Challenge in Ghana.
When I got out, I got clean and I went to Bible school. I wanted to work with drug addicts who were just like I had been. Today I am a Reverend and am the National Director of Teen Challenge Ghana.
Without The Cross and the Switchblade, I don’t know what would’ve happened to me. God has done great things.”
Putting Hope Within Reach
The Global Teen Challenge Executive Council and Board of Directors recently met in Denver, Colorado to continue praying and believing God to help us to Put Hope Within Reach of Every Addict.
We believe God has given a Prophetic Invitation to every Teen Challenge leader and ministry in the world to partner with this great dream. Consider the words of Jesus in Acts 1:8 when He said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and in Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” That is our personal invitation to reach the lost.
When Jesus spoke those words, he was looking across the valley from the Mount of Olives toward Jerusalem. His 11 disciples saw Jerusalem, and when Jesus said, “to Judea”, they likely turned to the left to see the Judean hills. When Jesus said, “unto Samaria”, they would have turned to the right to see the rolling hills of Samaria. When Jesus closed with “to the ends of the earth”, they would have likely had a picture of Rome in their minds.
Note that Jesus challenged them with goal of reaching the world and there were just 11 of them. He challenged them to go back to Jerusalem where they would be risking their lives for the sake of the gospel. He said go there first. They would have understood the danger, the challenge, the personal sacrifice. Notice he did not give them each a bag of coins to fund their evangelistic efforts. He sent them out and the body of Christ along the way took care of their needs.
As we each consider these words, consider our realities and consider the most hopeless -- the functioning addict and those at risk of addiction in our nations, we must exercise our faith.
I want you to know that we believe the dream of Putting Hope Within Reach is a prophetic invitation for each of us. We are seeing nations literally accomplish this goal. They are raising up workers, who in turn are taking the message of hope to the hopeless. Testimonies are coming from cities who have individuals engaged with taking hope to the most hopeless. In one night, 15 drug addicts gave their lives to Christ and many others were referred into the program. If we will go, God will bless and lives will be exposed to the hope of the gospel of Christ.
First, I want you to know that we believe we are to take the words of Jesus literally and go into all the world and put the hope of
Christ within reach of every addict.
Second, we recognize that we cannot do this alone. We must partner with the body of Christ globally. That means that we each need to work in unison with the local church in our community, region and nation. GTC staff are working on prevention tools right now to offer the local church to serve them and help them reach their goal to keep their kids and youth from turning to drugs. If we serve them, we can build the necessary relationships for partnering. We also must develop working relationships with other Christian organizations who are engaged in reaching the lost for Christ. Jacobus Nomdoe recently told us about a partnership with local churches in South Africa who are developing homes of hope where addicts can come for help. They don’t offer residential care, but they do offer meals, care, small groups and discipleship. Many are coming to know Christ. Even Jacobus’ own 82-year-old father walked into one of those groups and committed his life to Christ. Praise God!
Third, we must cover all our efforts in prayer as we know prayer will break down the barriers that would inhibit our dream of putting hope within reach of every addict. Prayer means power and more prayer means more power. We must pray, we must pray again and keep praying for God’s favor on every effort. Every plan, every strategy, every effort must be covered in prayer if we remotely hope to see God’s blessings on our efforts. Can I encourage you to develop a prayer focus in your center for this prophetic invitation?
I believe God is calling us to a renewed commitment to the lost and our specific burden is for those with life-controlling problems--those who are addicted and are seeking hope.
Will you begin asking God a couple of questions? If money and personnel were not an issue, what would it look like to put hope within reach of every addict in your country? How might you reach the most hopeless? How would you consider reaching those who are functioning addicts? I mean those who are addicted but are able to work. Although not outwardly “hopeless” they need a Savior and freedom from their addiction. Then ask yourself, “How can I protect those who are at-risk from ever entering the drug scene? What kind of prevention programs might work to help?”
Can I challenge you to begin praying, dreaming and working on the dream for your reality? Remember, if money and staff were not an issue, how would you plan to reach this goal?
God is raising up an army of visionaries who are embracing this dream to reach their nation. Yes, it is overwhelming, but with God’s help and with a clear strategy and partnership with the body of Christ we can make a real difference in thousands of lives, even hundreds of thousands and, one day, millions of lives. May God help us as we press forward.
We need Innovation!
We need Collaboration!
We need Participation!
We need Implementation!
Most importantly, we need God’s help!
Putting Hope Within Reach,
Jerry Nance PhD
Maria’s family moved to Portugal when she was 5 years old. She has a normal childhood and was close to her sister and her parents until she was 12 and her parents began to fight. When her father moved out, Maria took it hard. “I felt very sad, very alone. I felt like our father no longer loved us,” she said.
Two years later, at 14, Maria and her friends started dabbling with hashish. She began smoking regularly to take away her sadness—and within a year she had gone from smoking hash to shooting heroin into her veins. Addiction had taken hold and began to consume her young life.
“All of my life revolved around drugs. I started robbing my own family to get money to get drugs. It’s all I thought about,” Maria says about the dark years of her life. “When you first use drugs, you feel like you are king of the world. But addiction soon becomes a prison.”
For four years Maria was trapped in her prison. At 18 she met a boyfriend who was in the Teen Challenge program. Maria didn’t want to get clean herself, but she entered the program just to stay closer to her boyfriend.
It was a selfish move at the time—but one that turned out to be the first steps in finding true freedom from her prison.
But after being in Teen Challenge for four months, Maria finally opened her heart to God. That’s when the program began to take hold and Maria let her life change.
Once she graduated from her Teen Challenge program, Maria got her first job making pottery. It was the first time in her life that she could support herself and it was the first time she could see a straight path for her future. But God had other plans for Maria.
“Months after I had started working, I went to a Teen Challenge conference and while I was there, God spoke to me,” Maria says. “He wanted me to be part of Teen Challenge but I didn’t want to listen at first because I was finally making money and I was afraid to stop.”
But Maria did quit her job and join the Teen Challenge. That was 28 years ago and Maria’s life has transformed completely as she uses her past experience to help others. She met her husband at Teen Challenge and today they have four children.
“It was a revolution for me,” Maria says. “It’s amazing to be able to serve others who were in the same place I was in. Addiction is like a prison. But Jesus can set you free.”
As I write this month’s message to you, I am at the Europe TC conference in Prague. At the end of this conference, I will fly on to Rwanda for the Africa Regional Conference. I greatly enjoy spending time with the Teen Challenge leaders from around the world. I especially enjoy our meals together as we visit about what God is doing in the lives of those coming into the program.
One evening I had dinner with the GTC Europe Regional Directors Tom and Terry Bremer, Petr Ministr and several staff from Teen Challenge Czech Republic. I happened to be sitting next to a young lady by name of Lada whom I had never met. As we were visiting, she asked in Czech to one of the other staff members, what part of the United States I was from, because she could not understand me. She understood the Bremer’s, but she did not understand me.
Well, that started a wonderful conversation about the accents of the south. Terry gave her some examples of how we southern folk talk and I had to laugh at how the conversation progressed and how we entertained the two staff members from TC Czech Republic. During the course of the evening, I found out that Lada was an intern who had recently completed the program and was now beginning her journey with Teen Challenge in a leadership role. The smile on her face was a beautiful picture of the grace of God.
The following evening, Petr Ministr was the speaker and he opened with a video of a young lady standing on a subway platform waiting for the train to arrive. The only problem was that this video showed a drug induced person rocking back and forth as if they were about to fall off the platform down onto the train tracks. In fact, after a minute and a half of rocking back and forth, the individual did fall, and seconds later a train ran right over where they had fallen. The subway system video cameras had captured it all. The absolute miracle was that the person who fell onto the tracks was alive and they were able to pull them out from under the train and back onto the subway platform. See Video.
I was surprised to find out that the person who fell onto the track and stumbled out alive and unhurt was Lada. As Petr introduced her to the audience tears filled my eyes. You see, she entered the doors of Teen Challenge shortly after this incident and Jesus changed her life. Lada has a beautiful a smile and a sense of freedom that only Jesus can give. She is a beautiful girl with a life ahead of her today because of the amazing program of Teen Challenge.
Lada and individuals like her are the reason we press on! Lada is the reason we keep going when the finances are tight and the challenges are many. Lives are at risk and so many are dying and missing out on the Hope that is available through Jesus Christ.
Can I say thanks to each of you who are giving your all to make it possible for men, women, boys and girls to find freedom and hope in Jesus? I know the battles are many, and I know this work is so hard at times, but Lada is alive today, 100% drug free and living for Jesus. Her life and story will impact so many as she walks out her faith and shares the love of Jesus with others.
Keep up the good work and thank God for Teen Challenge!
By the way, Lada likes my southern accent, even if she cannot understand me.
Jerry Nance PhD
Global Teen Challenge