More than 200 people gathered at the Neosho Civic Center Saturday evening to take in an evening of food, music, and stories of second chances.

More than 200 people gathered at the Neosho Civic Center Saturday evening to take in an evening of food, music, and stories of second chances.

The annual Teen Challenge of the Four States banquet included a new addition to their line-up this year.

Instead of a keynote speaker, the program invited graduates back to speak to family, friends, current students and donors about how Teen Challenge has impacted their lives.

The Teen Challenge choir also performed, and a current student also shared his story.

Rev. James Lowans, director of Teen Challenge of the Four States, noted the effect the program has not only on its graduates, but their families as well.

“When you give your time and your money to help these guys turn their lives around, it’s not just about them,” Lowans said. “It’s about wives, it’s about mothers, it’s about fathers, it’s about children that you’re also affecting, and bringing positive change into their lives.”

Lowans’ point was echoed through the testimonies of both past and current students, who spoke of the healing the program and their faith had brought to their relationships.

“Before I went into Teen Challenge, my whole family had given up on me,” said Hershell Mahurin, who entered the program in 2011. “Through this program, it helped me restore my family, my relationship with Christ and now I can go out in public feeling proud of myself because I’ve got Christ in my heart. He restored my family 100 percent.”

Mahurin, who said he has been clean for two and a half years, spoke to the crowd Saturday evening with his son, daughter and mother standing by his side.

He said he had lost hope before he entered the program.

“I was to the point that I didn’t care if I lived or died, I’d given up on myself and everybody around me had given up on me,” Mahurin said. “Through this program, the Lord restored all that. I can get up in the morning and look in the mirror and I’m proud of who I see, before, I hated the person I saw.”

Mahurin thanked the supporters of the faith-based recovery program, and praised Teen Challenge, noting that it is not an easy program to complete.

“You’ve got to want to change in your heart,” Mahurin said.

Attendees also heard from another Teen Challenge alumnus, Jeff Allen, who said he now leads two church services each week at Calvary Chapel in Fayetteville, Ark.

“I couldn’t have done any of that without Teen Challenge,” Allen said, with his wife and children standing by his side.
Program graduates who now serve as staff at Teen Challenge of the Four States also shared their stories, including Todd Vanwinkle, who entered the program in 2008.

“I was lost,” VanWinkle said. “I had lost my family, my health, I was no worldly good to anybody. God restored that, He restored my life, He restored my health, He gave me a calling to come be a staff member at Teen Challenge.”
Current Teen Challenge student Matthew Adkins also shared his story with those in attendance, telling of the transformation his life has undergone in the last few months.

Adkins, 28, and an Oklahoma native, said he struggled with drugs and alcohol for 13 years.

After a night of drinks and pills in July, he found himself in a local jail, facing charges of armed robbery.

“I was blessed in a lot of ways,” Adkins said. “I came from a loving family, had a wife, three beautiful kids and a good career. But unfortunately I took all those things for granted.”

Adkins said after spending about a month in jail, he got connected with Teen Challenge of the Four States and has been there since August.

He calls the program his second chance.

“I’m thankful for an organization like Teen Challenge, that reaches out and helps individuals that are ready to help themselves,” he said.