What Jim Lowans, executive director of Teen Challenge of the Four States (Neosho), had in mind when he came to the Neosho center was to have a center catering to women who could have their children stay with him.
Soon, his vision will become a reality.

“When I came — and it has been five and half years now — the Neosho center was a one-center corporation – stand alone — even when I interviewed with the board, I gave them a few goals that I would want to try to accomplish if they decided that they wanted me to come,” said Lowans. “And one was to start a mother’s and children’s center. This will then become the second Teen Challenge center under our corporate umbrella. So it will be under the guidance of the board of directors. We have expanded our board of directors already to include two people from the Columbia (Mo.) area.”

The new center will be called Teen Challenge of Central Missouri.

“We closed on the property about 10 days ago, so it is not up and running yet,” he said. “We are in a ‘fill the house’ campaign to raise the funding and donations to put everything in place in the house that we need — beds, computers, everything that we need to be in operation — plus hiring staff. Our goal is Oct. 1 to, hopefully, be ready to receive women and children in the program.”

Teen Challenge of Central Missouri is a 12-month residential recovery center for women and women with young children who have drug and alcohol addictions. Teen Challenge of Central Missouri is one of only a few places where children can stay with their mother during recovery, rather than be placed in alternative care.

“Right now we currently have seven, so ours will be the eighth mother’s and children’s center, where we will be able to minister not only to the mother, but minister to the children,” Lowans said. “Because the children obviously are innocent in the home sitting, but they are deeply affected emotionally by what all they have endured in the home. So this will give us an opportunity to minister to them in a safe setting, also.”

Services offered for the children are: preschool and childcare, education and counseling.

For the women, the services are life skills, social skills, parenting skills, GED classes, discipleship and work skills.

A Neosho woman will head up the operations of the Columbia center.

“We realized that it was going to be very important to find the right person to be the center director,” said Lowans. “Brenda Johnson, who is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God, had expressed some interest. She had already been involved volunteer wise in teaching at the men’s center. We spoke with her, she prayed about it and decided that this is what she wanted to do.”

Lowans said that the center in Columbia is 5,700-square-foot house, built in 2009.

“It has 44 and a half acres with it, and the house is in beautiful condition,” he said. “It is really move in ready. It has eight bedrooms, four and a half baths, a three car garage and many other rooms, living rooms and other rooms that we can use as classrooms and counseling. We estimate that we will be able to house up to 18, a combination of women and children, at any one time in the current building.”

Lowans said there are a few ways to inquire about getting into Teen Challenge.

“No. 1, our website, they will Google ‘Teen Challenge’ and contact us,” he said. “Because we are faith-based, we get a lot of responses through churches, pastors or people who know of somebody saying ‘you ought to contact Teen Challenge to get help.’ I would say that those are the two main sources. There are certain courts and judges that are very favorable to Teen Challenge and will refer people who are already in the system.”

The nearest women and children’s Teen Challenge center is in Colorado, Lowans said.

“It will definitely fill a need in the general area,” he said.

For more information, please call the local Teen Challenge of the Four States at 451-2980.

Nationally, Teen Challenge started in 1958 as the Rev. Dave Wilkerson, with a mission to convert gang members, founded a new mission to give them a place to restart their lives. Today, the organization helps residents overcome addictions through its 14-to-16 month program.