Sixty years after a small town preacher named David Wilkerson felt led to minister to gangs and troubled teens in New York City, the legacy he built with Teen Challenge not only lives on but is going strong.
Nationwide, the ministry Wilkerson founded has a new name, Adult and Teen Challenge, as their outreach expands beyond teenagers.
In the area, Adult and Teen Challenge of the Four States hosted its annual gala and silent auction on Saturday in Neosho. The event was at the Civic downtown, and more than two hundred supporters packed the facility.
Chairman of the Board Mark Bridges opened the event by welcoming those in attendance.
"Adult and Teen Challenge is the most successful drug treatment and rehab program in the world."
Reverend Jim Lowans, CEO of Adult and Teen Challenge, introduced a video about the ministry.
"This is a special year for us.How do you sum up sixty years of Teen Challenge and sixty years of miracles? We lie in a day and age when much of the work going on in the area of drug addiction is to get them off one drug and put them on another. Our program does not rely on medical management - their lives have been transformed by the power of God."
Lowans shared that the Adult and Teen Challenge Program has grown in the area and expanded.
"We expanded our program, we added four beds. We have designs to add space as it is needed. On the first week of December, our board will have a retreat to consider what God wants us to do in the next 5 or 10 years. There were 11,000 more overdose deaths in 2017 than in 2016. The numbers just climb and climb and climb."
Support from the community is key.
"I say it sincerely, we wouldn't be able to do it without folks like you. We have hope because of people like you."
Pastor Jeff Higgins, who also serves as the local center director, introduced and led a choir made up of students from the Neosho campus.
"This is our biggest choir outing of the year," Higgins said. The choir performs at many church functions as well but most are to smaller audiences.
Other musical performances included blending both the students from the local Adult and Teen Challenge with students from Primrose Hill Adult and Teen Challenge, located in central Missouri. Primrose Hill is a women's and children's program. The Neosho program is for men.
Several students shared their testimony and their path which led from addiction to recovery with the program.
A meal provided by the Assembly of God chuckwagon provided a meal of steak, baked potato, salad, seasoned green beans, hot rolls, cupcakes and beverages without any charge to to the program.
A silent auction was also held featuring a wide variety of donated products.
Those attending also had the opportunity to donate or become a partner with Adult and Teen Challenge.
Long-time supporter and current Missouri State Representative for the 160th district, Bill Reiboldt, also spoke. Reiboldt will finish his 8th term at the end of the year and will become the next Newton County Presiding Commissioner in January.
"It's been an honor and I want to thank you for letting me serve you in Jefferson City over the last eight years. Your kindness and support made my time in Jefferson City very special."
Adult and Teen Challenge of the Four States offers a work therapy program. Students perform chores including lawn mowing, yard or general clean-up, brush clearing, landscaping, firewood and more.
For more information about Adult and Teen Challenge of the Four States, visit their campus at 18527 East Highway 86 in Neosho, visit their website or call 417-451-2980.