Business leaders of the area were invited to the Teen Challenge of the Four States fourth annual Business and Professional Persons Breakfast at the center Tuesday morning.
The event included breakfast, a guest speaker, an award presented to an area business, information about Teen Challenge of the Four States, and a testimony by one of the students.
“The gentlemen that have been serving you today are all students of our program,” said Jim Lowans, executive director of Teen Challenge of the Four States. “We do use the term students instead of clients, but each of the men that are in our program are here today because they have battled extended drug and/or alcohol addictions in their lives, of many of them starting at a very early ages and have battled them for many years, have tried to get free from them in various forms.”
Nationally, Teen Challenge started in 1958 as David Wilkerson, a preacher with a mission to convert gang members, found a new mission in giving them a place to restart their lives. Today, the organization helps residents overcome addictions through its 14-to-16 month program.
“Because our program is a 14-month long program, so obviously if someone comes into our program, number one, they are pretty desperate to get help to take a slice of 14 months out of their life,” he said. “Then number two, if they are going to complete our program, they have to be very committed. Because it is not an easy road to not only to take 14 months out of your life, but then to commit to the guidelines and the rules and regulations that go along with it. It is a tough battle, particularly from someone that is basically used to living by their own rules and doing what they want to do when, when they want to do it, it doesn’t matter who they hurt. Then, all of a sudden, they are brought into a situation where they are told they get up at 6 or 6:30 a.m., they got to bed at this time, this is what you do here and there throughout the time period. It is a real challenge for them to make that commitment. Our success rate has been documented in three major studies of over 80 percent of the men and women that finish our programs do not return to a lifestyle of drugs and/or alcohol. And there is not another program out there that can boast of such a high success rate. But it is attributed to the commitment these guys make. We believe in having members that graduate Teen Challenge come back and work in the program.”
One of the students is Ted, who gave a testimony to the group.
“I was 17 years old whenever I started the addiction that I am battling with now, but before that, I was a young kid playing with drugs and stuff like that,” Ted said. “But it wasn’t until I was 17 that I can actually can say that I heavily got addicted to where it was a real problem in my life that was affecting me in all ways. I smoked marijuana, I have done crank, done cocaine, done LSD, mushrooms, about everything that back in my age was everything was everywhere.”
At the age of 17, Ted was involved in a car accident.
“There was a girl killed who was driving, we hit headlight to headlight and so I ended up going through the floorboard of the car, that is what broke both legs, torn my shoulder off,” he said. “I had a friend with me who more or less walked away. But I was severely hurt and, of course, she died. I did almost a year in the hospital.”
He got saved in 2006. In January of this year, he came to Teen Challenge of the Four States.
“Until I came to Teen Challenge, I was kind of bouncing back and forth on and off,” Ted said. “Basically the high point for me is being here and being able to rebuild my relationship with God. And it because of places like this that people like me are able to do that.”
Before coming to Teen Challenge, he went to another place.
“I did one of these (facilities) before, it wasn’t this one, but I had done one that was supposed to be faith-based but it wasn’t,” he said.
The guest speaker of the event was Dr. Jim Cummins, vice president of finance at Crowder College.
“We talked a little bit about the fact that alcoholism and drug addiction affect many families, it affects students that we deal with in education,” Cummins said. “It is such a blessing that Teen Challenge is able to introduce them to God and a faith-based delivery. It is such a blessing. I shared the story of my childhood growing up, just idolizing my grandfather and really never knew until he was gone that he battled alcoholism. Just the blessing that he was in my life and the work that Teen Challenge does so hopefully these men that come through here maybe their life won’t be shortened by alcoholism and they can live a good, clean life and enjoy their children and grandchildren.”
Cummins told the business leaders to continue the support.
“Teen Challenge is such a wonderful organization, we are fortunate to have in town and just hope that people will continue to support them and just thankful for their ministry,” he said.
Cummins also thanked the staff of the center.
“The Lord told his disciples in Luke 9:2, ‘and He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick,’” he said. “Teen Challenge is carrying out command by teaching God as the great healer. My hope is through your work here at Teen Challenge that these men will get to see their children and grandchildren grow up and do great things. And that each member of their family will remember them as strong, clear minded Christian that loved life.”
For those who have a drug or alcohol addiction, Ted offers some advice.
“I would to say to addicts out there if you are really, really wanting to be sober and wanting to change, this program would be the one to get into,” Ted said. “Because we are faith based, we do push God and the Holy Spirit on you, we want you to save your life. And if you are really serious then this is the place to come. If you are not, I wouldn’t even show up.”
Lowans also presented Clark Funeral Home with a special award called the Friend of Teen Challenge Appreciation Award during the breakfast.
“We want to do this each year at our breakfast,” said Lowans. “This certificate is presented to Clark Funeral Home for your support to Teen Challenge of the Four States, Neosho. They not only do they support us financially with donations, but they have the willingness to utilize our students in many different jobs for them. We really appreciate the trust.”