As a leader, you have dreams. When the work to fulfill a dream begins, God reveals more of what He wants to do through you. Dreams take time to become reality and God rewards your efforts along the way with victories. Some are small, and some are large. Use them to remind yourself that you are on the right track. Always remember that the people who work alongside you, the ones you serve, and those who support you are the reason you are where you are. Celebrate them. Share the victories along the way and celebrate with them.
We often overlook the small victories on the way and in doing so, miss an opportunity to be encouraged in the Lord and to encourage others. The beginning stages of developing any ministry are the most difficult, yet they are also the days when your character is being built and lifetime friendships are being formed. This is the time to look for the small miracles and signs that God is indeed moving you toward the vision He has placed in your heart. During the early years, when there were days I felt the vision God had given me was unattainable, wonderful victories were being played out right in front of my eyes.
In 2007, I wrote a book called From Dream to Reality. The following two excerpts from the book will help you to cherish and celebrate every victory. They are testimonies of miracles that happened along the journey of our dream becoming a reality.
A young lady named Maurice came into the program during the early months of my leadership and those were the most challenging days. Let me tell you that God works even in times of chaos, in times when it seems like the sky is falling in on you and every bit of progress is hard work. Maurice came to Teen Challenge at a desperate time in her life. Crack cocaine had stripped her of everything but her breath. She was skin and bones. Maurice had no idea of the internal bedlam happening at Teen Challenge. All she knew was that she needed help with her addiction. Maurice’s life started out fine; she was an honor student in high school and was even the homecoming queen. Though she was popular, making good grades and winning awards, Maurice had a dark side. At the age of fourteen, she began experimenting with marijuana and alcohol, and by age of twenty, she had escalated to powder cocaine. Not many years later, crack cocaine became the drug that controlled her every move.
Her addiction eventually put her on the streets, homeless and hopelessly addicted. Maurice remembers telling God, “If you will give me a baby, I will stop smoking crack.” After years of addiction, at the age of thirty-two, she became pregnant with Jameira. Maurice forgot her promise to God and while carrying her child, she was so bound by her addiction that she continued to smoke crack. In fact, her need for the drug kept her from getting to the hospital; her daughter was born in a 1990 Pontiac Grand Am. When she did enter the emergency unit, the attendants rushed out, cut the umbilical cord, and took the baby into the hospital.
The next day social workers came into her room and told Maurice that her baby was cocaine positive and that she could not take her home. She was told one of her family members would have to be responsible for her. She asked her mother, and then her aunt, to take the baby. They refused. Human Resource Services (HRS) became involved at this point, and said the baby would have to go into foster care while Maurice entered a treatment center. Fortunately, she found a place in Jacksonville that would allow mothers to bring their children while going through treatment. In this way, Maurice was able to keep Jameira with her.
Maurice completed the program and moved to Ft Meade, believing a new location might make a difference in her lifestyle. But, it was just a matter of time before she began smoking crack again. When forced by her caseworker to take a drug test, she failed. She was told that she needed long-term treatment, and if she did not get it, she would lose her parental rights.
Following a friend’s advice, Maurice applied to Teen Challenge. She had little hope in any program changing her, but was desperate enough to try. As usual, she did everything she could think of to back out of joining the program, but her friend was at her door early the next morning, insisting she come.
Maurice was an angry, bitter woman when she arrived at the doorstep of Teen Challenge. In truth, she was mostly mad at herself for agreeing to come; she had convinced herself that she did not need long-term care. Then a staff member made a statement that was the beginning of healing and health to Maurice, “Don’t just go through the program,” she told her, “but try letting the program go through you.” At first she didn’t understand the power in that statement, or what could happen to someone who would allow the program to saturate her life, but slowly she began to yield her will. In a matter of days, Maurice committed her life to Christ.
Maurice began to memorize scripture and prepare for tests, which allowed the Word of God to become real to her. She became a role model for other students, and her leadership abilities blossomed. Other ladies in the program began coming to her for advice, and she was able to share with them how Christ had changed her life. Maurice was doing so well in the program that she was promoted to an intern. During her time at Teen Challenge, God gave Maurice a vision to open a woman’s facility of her own that she was to call, “House of Israel.” A short time later, she graduated and moved to Ft. Meade, Florida, and developed the House of Israel Ministry for women. I am proud of Maurice. She has her children back, is working hard, living right before the Lord, and assisting others who have life-controlling problems.
Over time Maurice was elected Mayor of the city. Can you imagine that? Today, she is a city council member, which allows her to continue to be a leader in community affairs. What a miracle!
Then there’s Charlotte. Charlotte is another Teen Challenge success story. Not long after I became Director of Teen Challenge, Charlotte entered the women’s home. She was in horrible shape the day she came into the program. Addicted to over-the-counter drugs, Charlotte was taking up to one hundred or more Xanax tablets a day. That quantity of drugs would have killed the average person, but Charlotte had built such immunity to them that she needed that many just to sustain the high she needed to cope with life. Five different doctors in the Orlando area were prescribing these drugs to her and almost every dime she and her husband earned was being spent on drugs.
Charlotte’s story is as sad as any I have ever heard. She was four when her mother left her and her two brothers at a park bench and drove away. Charlotte told us, “I remember waiting while my brothers kept assuring me that mom would be back. We played around the bus stop all day, but she never returned. Later in the evening, a police officer picked us up and took us to children and family services.” She was separated from her brothers and placed in foster care.
Charlotte said, "I was in twelve different foster homes in eight years, and was sexually abused in every one of them. I didn’t understand why! I didn’t understand what was causing this to happen! What was I doing wrong? Why was I treated this way? When I was twelve, my mother and her new husband came to get my two brothers and me. I remember being so happy, seeing my brothers again and being with my mom. My step-dad treated us fine for about a year, and then, he started sexually abusing me. I just gave up. I started drinking and using drugs at twelve which led me to heroin addiction.”
A desperate young lady, Charlotte was “looking for love in all the wrong places”. At the age of thirteen, she married a fourteen-year-old heroin addict; at fifteen, she became a mother. The arrival of her son put a desire for change in Charlotte’s heart; she wanted a better life for her little boy, but she just didn’t know how to begin; she obviously had never had a role model or a parent who cared.
One evening, she and her husband were in a drug house that was raided by the police. Charlotte said, “I was arrested for having marijuana seeds in my possession.” Because of prior trouble due to drug possession, prostitution, and other violations, this arrest would be more costly to Charlotte than she would ever have imagined. She was stunned when the judge announced her sentence, “Two years.” She had been sure she would just be given another warning.
Tears ran down Charlotte’s cheeks as she described her life in prison. “The first night I was sitting in my cell and four girls came to the door. They began to say things that scared me to death. I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. They began to hit me and tear at my clothes. I fought back but couldn’t stop them; they knocked me unconscious and raped me.” Charlotte went on to say that these women abused her over and over during the next two years. Sadly, she reflected, “The only way I could deal with this mistreatment was by mentally leaving my body. I wouldn’t resist, I just went on a mental trip. By the time I was released from prison, I didn’t know who I was or whether I was straight or lesbian.”
Charlotte’s first husband divorced her while she was in prison and disappeared with their son. She spent three years and thousands of dollars looking for them, but has never seen them again. She remarried, this time to a sailor who was also a drug abuser. She gave birth to a second child, but neither the baby nor parenting responsibilities stopped her from continuing to use drugs and live an out-of-control lifestyle. Charlotte was an unfit mother; her marriage was breaking up; and she continued to have trouble with the law. Her addictive choices escalated to a new height.
Thinking if she moved that life might get better, Charlotte headed to California. She left her husband and child to chase after her addiction. Just as her first husband had done, her second divorced her and disappeared with the child. Her life was spiraling out of control. She danced in nude bars; continued to use drugs; and finally, ended up homeless, living in the streets, sleeping in cardboard boxes.
After enduring devastating conditions, Charlotte finally pulled herself out of this pit. She married the third time, trained to become a hairdresser and moved back to Orlando. During this transition, Charlotte’s husband made a decision for Christ and began attending church. Wanting and trying to change, she began attending with him, but before long, her drug troubles caught up with her again, this time in the form of the prescription drug Xanax. Charlotte hid the drugs throughout their house and quickly built up tolerances, which required her to take more and more for the buzz she desired. Because of his love for Charlotte and the child born to them, her husband wanted her to get help. He knew that Charlotte’s addiction was going to destroy them. Running up credit cards with one charge after another, borrowing from friends and spending every penny she could get on Xanax, Charlotte soon had her family facing financial difficulty and had herself in an unmanageable existence. Charlotte went to her church for help, and they referred her to Teen Challenge. She came just as she was, addicted, hopeless, and with a lifetime of painful memories.
I came out of my office the day Anoosh, our women’s home director, was showing Charlotte around the facility. She was standing there looking worn out, tired, helpless, and so very afraid. You see, she knew the pain of the detoxification process and feared she would die coming off the drugs. She worried about the unbearable cramps, the spasmodic convulsions, and the severe pain associated with kicking Xanax.
But something happened. Later that day, Charlotte came into the chapel wanting help, and help she found! She met Jesus, who not only saved her, but also healed her from all the symptoms of Xanax detoxification. Because of God’s grace and mercy, she had no severe withdrawal pains. God touched her, and she knew it. Praise God!
Charlotte worked through her numerous issues and learned a whole new way of doing life. In our one-year program, she became excited about the things God was teaching her. In addition to her healing, she served as an encouragement to the new girls who came into the program. Her story helped them realize that they hadn’t had it so bad. What a joy it was to witness God heal Charlotte through the Teen Challenge Program.
How exciting it was to see changed lives in the middle of the craziness that was happening at Teen Challenge. Daily, we were confronted with adversity, yet we saw miracle upon miracle happen in the lives of the men and women entering the program. The victories within these individuals made our efforts worthwhile. We had much work to do with many areas of need, and many problems; yet, God was helping people in spite of our struggles, in spite of the underdeveloped program and our dysfunctional staff. So, we celebrated the victories and rejoiced with those who were seeing God restore their lives and families, and we planned for the future work at Teen Challenge.
So, whether in non-profit, or workplace ministry, remember to celebrate both the small and the triumphant victories along the way. Pay attention to those who are blessed by your efforts, and use those moments as fuel for energy to continue along the path God has mapped out for you. Give praise to the staff and interns who are helping these ladies. Reflect praise to the team of workers that are making the results possible. We at Teen Challenge knew there were other men and women with similar stories to those of Maurice and Charlotte’s who desperately needed Teen Challenge to stay open. They needed us to continue our efforts so they, too, could be free from substance addiction. Where were we to go? What were we to do? We didn’t have a clue! But, these victories gave us the momentum to continue our journey.
So stay the course toward your dream, no matter the challenges, but don’t forget to celebrate the victories along the way.
Jerry Nance, PhD
Global Teen Challenge
Editor's note: To purchase the book From Dream to Reality, go to: https://bit.ly/FromDreamtoReality