in the Light
This is Ashley's Story
By the young age of 21, Ashley had reached a point where she could no longer see a future for herself. Although she started out as a smart, beautiful girl from a good family, she had missed her teen years to drugs and could envision no other path for her life. She was lost…
The first time Ashley tried heroin, she was only 15 years old. “I was just shocked at the speed my life went out of control,” she remembered. “From the age of 15 to the age of 21, life was just a blur, a manic blur.”
Ashley’s entire world revolved around drugs. “I was an innocent girl who came from a great family,” she said, “but at the age of 21, I had no dreams, I had no visions, I had no aspirations. I had just accepted that I was trapped and this was going to be my life until I died. I was desperate, just absolutely desperate.”
By God’s grace, just when Ashley had given up all hope, she was brought to the Benaiah Teen Challenge for girls in Scotland. The staff accepted and embraced Ashley right where she was and patiently helped her grow stronger physically, mentally, and spiritually.
When Ashley started the program she had very little faith that anything would change. “I thought they were all mad,” she admitted, laughing. “I knew absolutely nothing about the Lord.” After the first few weeks, Ashley began to open up to the idea of hope. “And then one day I gave my heart to Jesus, and small changes, just bit by bit, started to happen in my life.”
Ashley's "selfie" before she arrived at Teen Challenge
“And then one day I gave my heart to Jesus, and small changes, just bit by bit, started to happen in my life.”
Helping people like Ashley discover hope for a better life is the central mission for Teen Challenge in Europe and around the globe. “It’s the most fulfilling thing in the world to see a life lifted out of homelessness, discipled, reunited with family, reintegrated to community, and many times spending the rest of their life living for the benefit of others,” explains Teen Challenge UK Chief Executive, Phil Hills. “It is both a joy and miracle to see that happen.”
As Ashley progressed through the program, she started to see life differently—literally and figuratively. “I was noticing the different trees, noticing different colors, noticing people’s smiles and I really desired that for my own life,” she said.
The residential program at Teen Challenge isn’t just about putting a band aid over somebody’s life and just making their life a little bit better. There’s proof that people do completely turn their lives around when they surrender their lives to Jesus.
Ashley’s life certainly gives credence to this fact. She has completely transformed from her dark, desperate days as an addict to a Teen Challenge graduate anticipating a bright and happy future. “My life has changed dramatically!” Ashley exclaimed. For her, like so many others, hope blossomed from the seeds of faith planted by the caring staff of Teen Challenge.
Taking it to the Streets
Due to the pandemic, many of the Teen Challenge youth prevention centers are closed or have restricted hours of operation. As in many countries, this impact hit the young people the hardest on social, emotional, and spiritual levels. Mental health has plummeted and drug & alcohol use has skyrocketed, while suicide has become a common occurrence. So how does hope reach the young people when the centers are closed? Well, help goes to them! Funds were raised to purchase several bikes and in true Dutch style a team goes into the community where the teens are hanging out. “We want the youth to know we’re out there looking for them and that we care about and love them.”
New Teen Challenge
Even in the midst of the devastating destruction of recent hurricanes and mass flooding, God has kept the building process at the men’s center moving forward. The chapel, which doubles as a classroom, is complete and an all-weather access road to the property is finished.
Fishing & Farming Sustainability
The grounds at the men’s center in Hawane are green after the rains and the businesses are thriving. The catfish pond is full and the new watermelon ventures are proving to be fruitful investments as the men in the program witness the daily process of God at work.
Social Media Challenge
Director Stephan Barendse of Teen Challenge Netherlands and his wife Marianne (pictured) initiated a creative social media campaign that challenged viewers to read Het Kruis in de Asfaltjungle (The Cross & the Switchblade) and then share the book with someone of the next generation.
From Nightmare to Dream Come True
Nathan grew up in Tullamore, Ireland in a stable family environment with a hard-working father and a loving mother. His three sisters, all younger than him, looked up to their big brother.
The neighborhood, however, was rough. Drugs and violence surrounded him and he began smoking marijuana as a teenager. In college, attracted to the party life, he fell headlong into experimenting with drugs that led to disaster.
It was during a mid-term break, after drinking massive amounts of alcohol mixed with psychedelic drugs, the nightmare began that would last for months. After partying all night, Nathan woke up and discovered that he was unable to complete a sentence. His friends told him to go back to bed and sleep it off. Instead, he slipped into a drug-induced psychosis and lost his grip on reality.
He started hearing voices and became paranoid. The voices told him that the people he knew were going to turn him over to the police. He became frantic and ran from the apartment, believing that everyone he saw were either the police or drug dealers. The voices in his head got more aggressive and screamed at him to jump off a nearby cliff.
Eventually he found his way home where his mom tried to calm him down. He managed to drift off to sleep for a short time until he woke up violently ill and choking on his vomit, unable to breathe. The next thing he knew his dad was slapping his back, yelling, “Come on lad, you’re a fighter. Don’t give up!” White as a sheet, his lips purple, he was rushed to the hospital, where it was discovered that a cyst in his stomach had burst from the overuse of drugs. The doctors told him he was lucky to have survived.
As his mental state continued to unravel, Nathan was sent to a psychiatric hospital for several months where he was convinced he was in prison. Becoming increasingly confused and violent, he punched one of the male nurses and woke up medicated inside a padded cell. Still not realizing where he was, he concluded he must be in a witness protection program.
A family meeting was called by his doctors to notify his parents that Nathan was too far gone and diagnosed with a rare case of a drug-induced psychosis which would require sending him to a permanent psychiatric hospital in Dublin. In desperation, his dad said to him, “Look son, if anyone is going to get you through this, it is going to be God. You need to find Him.” His father didn’t know Jesus personally at the time, yet the Lord had him speak those words into his son’s crumbling life. And remarkably, Nathan responded. That night he cried out to the Lord the only way he knew how, saying, “Lord, if You are real, get me out of here. They’re saying I’m not safe for the public, but if You are real please make a way for me.”
“Lord, if You are real, get me out of here!”
Soon after, his mother heard about Teen Challenge and Nathan started calling the center every day. Still heavily medicated and suicidal, he couldn’t string two sentences together. In his condition he would be a high risk for the center. However, the Lord told a staff member to accept Nathan and get him into the program as quickly as possible and he was allowed in.
Two weeks later, a visiting minister prayed for healing over Nathan and he began to feel the numbness in his brain lift. Excited, he called his mom and yelled into the phone, “Ma! Ma! You are not going to believe this, but some fella laid hands on me, and after he prayed, I started to feel something happening. Something is working here!” Sure enough, over the next few days his thinking, speech, and physical abilities all improved!
His faith became stronger as did his belief in the Word of God. He heard about Father God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, who sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for his sins. He learned that there was forgiveness for his sins and that Jesus could heal his mind and transform his life.
One Wednesday night during worship, Nathan prayed “God, my family and friends don’t know You.” Right then, Nathan heard the Lord say, “If you remain faithful to my call and obedient to my Word, I will save them.” Today, his father, mother, and two of his three sisters are all saved, as are an aunt, an uncle, a cousin, and two friends. Nathan loves to tell people that, “You never know what soul is tied to your obedience and witness.”
Through the Lord’s leading, Nathan came to the U.S. and has served as an intern at a church in Georgia for three years. He plans to continue his studies in theology, and he is engaged to Emma, a beautiful young woman who he says was “sent from heaven.” Together they are committed to growing as leaders in the church and have a dream to one day plant a church in his hometown in Ireland.
from Dr. Nance
While celebrating Easter, I began to reflect on the many challenges, global lockdowns, and hardships Teen Challenge faced during the past year. As I considered this, I realized that Jesus was beside us every step of the way — even in the darkest weeks and months of the pandemic.
Just as the Spring season brings new life into the world, Jesus’ resurrection promises the same in all of our lives. It is His love along with your faithful support that brings hope to the lives of the many men, women, boys, and girls struggling with life-controlling addictions around the world – including Ashley from Scotland and Nathan from Holland, whose stories you’ll find within the pages of this issue of Unleash the HOPE.
These victory testimonies of hope would not be possible without your prayers and support. It’s your continued partnership that allows us to focus on the increasing crisis of drug and alcohol addiction and build new centers, train and equip leaders, and develop sustainable programs in more than 129 nations around the world.
We couldn’t do this life-changing work without you. Thank you for joining us on this life-changing mission to put hope within reach of every addict.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
What Do You See in Me?
The Life Center in the Netherlands is a Teen Challenge program for those who fall between the cracks of the Dutch healthcare system. It’s a place to help those who have, for one reason or another, found themselves with no home, no hope, and no community. Most of the residents have come from problematic backgrounds (drugs, alcohol, abuse) and have no idea of how to reintegrate into society without help and support.
One such person is 30-year-old Jiri, who has a mental disability and cannot process incoming information normally. While he lives in a world of labels and restrictions, he’s well aware of his handicap. The staff at Teen Challenge have cared for him and shared God’s grace by giving him a place to start. Now as a Teen Challenge thrift store worker, Jiri has found a family and a place in the community. “I’ve been shown freedom,
I’m treated like a normal person, and I even
have a job!”
He had only ever wanted someone to not just see him for what he couldn’t do, but for what he could… and he found that acceptance in his relationship with Jesus.
Addiction does not discriminate. Over 270 million people struggle with a life-controlling issue. Boys, girls, men, and women around the globe are looking for hope.
We have immediate opportunities for Teen Challenge programs in 33 unreached nations, but need your support. The average cost to start a program is $50,000. Would you or your church prayerfully consider adopting one of these nations?
Every country has unique challenges. Your support will help secure property, start new programs, renovate, expand, develop leaders, or create a sustainable micro-enterprise.
The needs vary from region to region, but the cry for help remains the same in every nation. Thank you for helping put hope within reach around the world.
HELP US PUT HOPE WITHIN REACH OF EVERY ADDICT!
GLOBAL TEEN CHALLENGE | P.O. BOX 511 | COLUMBUS, GEORGIA 31902 | PHONE (+1) 706.576.6555 | INFO@GLOBALTC.ORG