The annual Teen Challenge Gala, an annual fund raising event to benefit Teen Challenge of the Four States in Neosho, was held Saturday evening at the Civic in Neosho.

The annual Teen Challenge Gala, an annual fund raising event to benefit Teen Challenge of the Four States in Neosho, was held Saturday evening at the Civic in Neosho.
The event opened with a prayer led by Rev. Buddy Funk, senior pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Neosho and a welcome by Mark Bridges, Neosho board chairman for Teen Challenge.
This year's theme was Reframe Possible.
Teen Challenge of the Four States CEO Jim Lowans said, "The Bible says all things are possible. Last year's theme was put hope within the reach of every addict. This year, we want to reframe possible."
Lowans provided a history of Teen Challenge of the Four States, which began in the mid-1980s as a referral center in Joplin. By the late 1980s, that referral center had relocated to Neosho and with support from Abundant Life Church in Neosho.
"Mark Bridges headed up the ministry," Lowans said. "And he and Abundant Life have supported Teen Challenge to this day. Abundant Life remains the largest, single church supporter of Teen Challenge."
In 1995, the House of Hope Residential Short-Term Crisis Center opened on East Main Street in Neosho, with Mark and Debbie Bridges as directors. The crisis center later moved to the former Nemo Hotel, located at the corner of McCord and Washington Streets.
"In the early 2000s, thanks to our supporters and donors, a 20-bed residential crisis center opened on Highway 86. In 2010, we added a building with a classroom, student lounge, and a multi-purpose room," Lowans recounted.
At that time, the facility shifted from a crisis center to an induction center. The local Teen Challenge Center has continued to grow, adding a duplex for staff in 2012. This year, an addition to the equipment building erected in 2010 was made to add more space for the work therapy program.
The current program provided at Teen Challenge of the Four States is a four-month induction program, the foundation of the total fourteen month program. After the induction phase here, students complete the program with ten months at the Cape Girardeau training center.
Lowans spoke about the ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States, citing the fact that someone dies of an overdose every 8-10 minutes everyday in the U.S. He also cited 2015 overdose numbers as 52,404 deaths. Of those, 20,101 were due to opioid overdose. The 2016 statistic numbers were higher and those for 2017 are expected to exceed those.
Lowans posed the question, "How do we reframe possible and do more to reach out to those battling addiction?"
The answer is to expand the current program.
"In 2018, our board of directors plan to initiate a 12-month program in Neosho," Lowans said.
Plans are in the works to add first four beds, and preliminary building plans will increase capacity to first 12, then to 24 beds.
"We are almost full to capacity now," Lowans remarked. "The 12-month program will allow us to further train and raise up godly leaders, that will in turn give back to the community."
As Teen Challenge expands in 2018, additions will include developmental classes for marriage and family relationships, money management and budgeting classes, GED classes in cooperation with Crowder College as well as the work readiness program with national career readiness certification.
"We will expand the work therapy program, establish an after care program for graduates, add discipleship classes and develop more home grown staff members," Lowans said, and stated the goal is to have a 35-bed program once the planned expansions are in place.
One of those home grown staff members, Doug Clark, presented his testimonial.
"We took him out of his blue jeans and dressed him up a little," Lowans said in introduction. Clark, a May 2016 graduate of the program, is now intake coordinator and formerly worked as a work therapy assistant. Clark shared his own struggles with addiction and life. "Time and time again, God tried to get my attention and I ran from Him from Texas to South Dakota," Clark said. "Satan tore my life apart."
Clark thought he was prison bound but had the opportunity to go into the 14-month Teen Challenge program instead.
"I gave my life to the program," Clark said. "I poured everything into the program but it gave me so much more. My life has been restored. It blows my mind what God has done for me. All I had to do was put Him first."
Music from the Teen Challenge of the Four States choir under the direction of the executive director Reverend Jeffrey Higgins was presented along with testimonies from other Teen Challenge graduates.
One of these was Jordan Parker, director of The Restless Saints of Nowhere in Pryor, Oklahoma. Parker shared his story and ending by saying, "You guys are creating trophies of grace. This is a beacon of light in a very dark world."
At the end of the evening, Lowans and Bridges stepped up to encourage those present to provide support to Teen Challenge. "Our banquet is our main fundraiser," Lowans said. He also noted that, "Mark Bridges has been involved with Teen Challenge longer than anyone else we have."
Sy Werner, Director of The Talkington Foundation, presented Lowans with a $1,000 donation on behalf of the foundation.
Special recognition and thanks were made to Becky Higgins, public relations for Teen Challenge, and the wife of Reverend Higgins for putting together the event with the help of her team.
Those who attended the gala had the opportunity to make a donation, through bidding on silent auction items and by filling out a donation card provided at each place setting. One time or ongoing gifts are accepted. Another way to support Teen Challenge is utilize services for work including leaf raking and removal, power washing, firewood, and outside Christmas decorating. Rates are competitive.
Teen Challenge of the Four States is located at 18257 Highway 86 in Neosho. They are a faith based, long term, residential substance abuse treatment center for men over the age of 18.
Teen Challenge was founded nationwide by the late Reverend David Wilkerson, author of The Cross and The Switchblade, who dedicated his life to helping young men find Christ.
For more information about Teen Challenge of The Four States, call (417) 451-2980 or visit their page on Facebook.