An Unlikely Story of Hope
This is Arsen's Story
Arsen’s life began like any other. His parents fell in love, got married and set about having children. But trouble began brewing early in Arsen’s life — even before he was born. Those troubles led him to a world of violence, but a chance conversation with a friend and the abiding care of Teen Challenge staff brought him back from the brink of destruction.
While Arsen grew in his mother’s womb, his parents’ marriage disintegrated. His parents divorced, and he was born to a single mother who struggled to keep a roof over their heads. Arsen endured a childhood laden with anxiety, depression, and anger. “I withdrew into my own solitude just to get through day to day,” he remembers.
Under the weight of overwhelming feelings and fears, Arsen turned to drugs at only 11 years old.
In his teens, Arsen ran with a tough crowd that led to hardcore drug use, theft, and even mafia involvement. He lived on the street, hustling and gambling to survive, and becoming more violent and self-destructive every day. “I beat a guy so badly I paralyzed him,” Arsen sadly recalls.
“My life was filled with nothing but misery and hopelessness, until one day a friend told me about an ex-mafia boss.” The former boss was a man named Gagik, who against all odds had become a local Teen Challenge director. Arsen and Gagik made contact, and soon after, Arsen joined a Bible study that began a transformation within him. At fifteen years old and desperate for a better life, Arsen accepted Christ, seeking the love and peace that was so evident in Gagik’s life.
“Through my studies and the relationships at Teen Challenge, I could feel my heart opening up,” Arsen explained. “I could feel God working in me.” Not only did an extraordinary transformation occur within Arsen, but also around him. Arsen’s mother and grandmother saw this change in him and both accepted Jesus into their lives. But best of all, the young man who lay paralyzed at Arsen’s hand experienced his own astonishing physical and spiritual healing.
“The doctors told me he would never walk again,” Arsen recalled, “but God healed him. It was a miracle.”
Today, Arsen enjoys a life he never could have imagined. He now studies at the Bible School of Teen Challenge, assists in the operations of the rehab, and serves others with a pure and unburdened heart. Arsen was born into conditions that seemed insurmountable, but in the unlikely story of a former mafia boss he found hope. And in the care of a Teen Challenge staff, Arsen discovered a loving community and the transforming power of God to build a better future.
Meet Ilya & Janet Bantseev
Directors of Global Teen Challenge | Eurasia Region
Ilya Bantseev was born and raised in Novokuznetsk, a city in the heart of Siberia, Russia. His parents were godly people, and in spite of the challenges and hardships wrought by the political turmoil of those years, they faithfully instructed their nine children in the ways of the Lord. At a very early age, Ilya surrendered his life to Christ and had a burning desire to serve Him.
During the late 1980s, Ilya’s parents believed that God was calling them to leave Russia and immigrate to Canada. Ilya’s heart was torn because he loved his family, yet he wanted to stay and bring Jesus to the people of his country. Since it was mandatory to serve in the Russian Army at the age 19, Ilya thought that his induction would satisfy both desires, i.e., his family would not leave the country without him and he would be able to stay where his heart was called. However, Ilya would not take the required communist pledge, nor would he renounce his faith in God. This meant that he would be assigned to a labor battalion composed of hardened criminals in a remote region of Russia. As the date for the departure to the army approached, Ilya’s parents fasted and prayed. God answered their prayers through an amazing series of events, and Ilya was given an extra six months of consideration before being enlisted in the Russian Army. It was during those six months that the Lord opened the door for Ilya’s family to leave Russia and immigrate to Canada. Ilya’s calling, however, was to someday return to his home city and preach the Gospel.
In 1993, Ilya and his new bride, Janet, left the comfort of North America to begin life in post-communist Russia. Arriving in Novokuznetsk, a city of 600,000 people, they immediately faced the challenge of hungry souls and difficult circumstances. Often forced to meet outside or in unheated buildings, the Russian people, bundled in coats and hats during the frigid winter months, gathered and listened as Ilya faithfully shared God’s Word. Their hearts were moved as he persevered in preaching the Gospel, and soon a local church was established. Today, that group of people seeking the Lord has grown to over 1,000 people, and 15 other church plants were started. Early in the ministry, Ilya saw the curse of alcoholism and drug addiction. The Russian population continues to decline by more thsn 100,000 people every year from drug and alcohol deaths. Ilya saw the immediate need for a Teen Challenge program, and what began as a church plant initiative gave birth to Source of Life, the first official Teen Challenge center in Russia. Ilya and Janet have four children — Joshua, 23, Jessica, 21, Joanna, 19, and Joseph 17.
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES IN THE EARLY DAYS OF YOUR MINISTRY?
Janet: In Russia, if you’re not part of the Russian Orthodox Church, you are considered a sect. We’ve had to move our church 11 times. We were kicked out of every place we went.
Ilya: I remember the last place before we bought our church building … we had services in an abandoned shoe factory. There was no heat. No electricity. No running water.
DID YOU EVER LOSE HOPE?
Ilya: At one point I remember being so cold I hoped no one would show up so I could cancel worship service.
Janet: But people showed! They would come early, with scarves wrapped around their faces and icicles on their eyebrows.
WHEN DID YOU TURN YOUR FOCUS TO ADDICTION?
Janet: Drug addiction has hit every level of society in Russia.
Ilya: The church was still small when we realized that everyone, every family, in the country was affected by drugs or alcohol. There were tens of thousands of drug overdoses and homeless men living in the streets. I knew we needed a Teen Challenge here.
HOW MANY COUNTRIES DO YOU OVERSEE?
Janet: Today we serve as directors for 12 nations which have programs for teens, adult men, and women with children.
Ilya: If God opens the doors, we hope to have outreaches in every city and new rehabilitation centers spread throughout Eurasia.
TELL US MORE ABOUT THE OUTREACHES.
Ilya: Well, the recent government restrictions and lockdowns limited many of our small group meetings but we still distributed 7,000 New Testament Bibles last year and more than 400,000 booklets were handed out.
Janet: We also used the post box and mailed another 350,000 pieces of literature.
WHAT IS THE IMPACT TEEN CHALLENGE IS HAVING DURING THE PANDEMIC?
Janet: We had 419 salvations and decisions to serve Christ in 2020 and of course our outreach programs in coffee houses and small groups account for even more.
Ilya: As I’m reminded, what the enemy intended for harm, God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20 NIV).
New Men's Center
This newly acquired Teen Challenge property was formerly a factory. Pray for vision and provision as they plan how to utilize this facility for a new men’s center.
REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA
Children from refugee camps come faithfully every Sunday to the Teen Challenge church services to hear the gospel of God’s love. They have been blessed by donations of toys, a TV, furniture, and craft projects for the kids.
New Women's Center
El Salvador Teen Challenge just celebrated the inauguration of their new women’s center. Because of partners like you, there’s a new open door of hope for the hopeless in this nation.
"He Couldn't Pull the Trigger"
What could push you to rob your own mother at knifepoint? Or drive a mother to wish her own child was dead?
For most, these scenarios are unthinkable. But the dark pull of addiction can cause people to make heartbreaking decisions that can destroy family bonds and shatter lives. That’s what addiction did in Pasha’s life.
“It was torture. Every day I needed drugs.” Pasha says. “Addiction destroyed my life. My family. My health. My relationships.”
At his lowest point Pasha came home to his mother, stepfather and little sister. He robbed them at knife-point and threatened to kill them … all to buy drugs. This horrifying scene repeated itself over and over. His mother became so distraught and afraid of Pasha that she begged a local hunter to take her son into the forest and kill him.
The hunter took him camping, but when the time came in the middle of the night, he found that he couldn’t pull the trigger. It was the first of many divine interventions that eventually led Pasha out of the darkness and into the light.
The second intervention came when Pasha’s mother found Jesus and begged for forgiveness for her sins. She was so moved by the spirit that she immediately went to look for Pasha in the drug infested part of the city. When she found him, she embraced him and prayed for him to find Jesus.
“I realized something had changed in my mother’s heart,” Pasha said. “I had robbed her twice and she was still able to love me. I think that is 100% God.”
Pasha knew it was time for his heart — his life — to change as well. He turned to a local Teen Challenge center and asked for help. After entering the program, he soon turned his life over to God and felt a peace come over him. “I’m still in awe of how God saved my life that night in the forest. I think about it often and realize I could have died that night,” Pasha says. “It is such a miracle to me that everything is forgiven. Everything is washed away.”
from Dr. Nance
Within the pages of this Fall edition of Unleash the HOPE you’ll read about the miraculous impact your support of Global Teen Challenge is having on real lives around the world. From transforming Ishkhan’s life in Armenia to pulling Pasha out of terrible darkness in Russia, your generosity is turning pain into possibility for thousands of men, women, girls and boys trapped in addiction.
You’ll meet Ilya and Janet, Teen Challenge Regional Directors of Eurasia, who now have life-changing ministries in 12 countries. We feel blessed by the prayers and support from friends and partners like you who have helped put hope within reach around the world — and for the lives that have been changed through God’s grace.
Thank you again for your prayerful partnership.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Becoming the Hands and Feet of God
For decades Ishkhan’s life was clouded in darkness in Armenia. At a young age he was introduced to drugs and soon became addicted. Heavy drug use led to crime and eventually he became caught up in a local gang. With no family or loved ones willing to pull him out of the darkness that surrounded him, Ishkhan became more and more entwined. “I was totally abandoned by my family,” Ishkhan says.
As time went on Ishkhan became a gang leader and for nine years he ran the streets selling drugs, committing crimes of violence — even murder — to supply his addiction. Eventually the violent crimes he committed caught up to him and he was sent to prison.
While the bars that confined him helped diminish his desire for drug use, they couldn’t protect him from everything. In prison he developed gangrene in his hands, arms and legs. The system didn’t provide the treatment he needed, so Ishkhan cut the gangrene out of his limbs himself. By the time doctors were able to see him, they told him the only solution was to amputate both his hands and feet.
But God had other plans.
In one of many miracles, Ishkhan was released into the care of a local Teen Challenge center, where he received the medical attention he needed for his hands and feet … and his heart began to heal as well. Through the love and caring from the Teen Challenge staff, he was introduced to God and amazingly, his life was immediately transformed! “I was a drug addict for 23 years. I was in prison for 22 years,” he says. “I was convicted for murder and violent crimes, but now I felt another kind of conviction. Glory to God for healing my life and delivering my soul from the darkness.”
Today Ishkhan is happily married and has fully functioning arms, legs, hands and feet. He wants to use his transformed life to help other people facing addiction and spread the word of the miracles he has witnessed — to be God’s hands and feet.
Thank you for putting hope within reach and helping change lives like Ishkhan’s in Armenia and throughout the world.
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.
Putting HOPE Within Reach of Every Person Struggling with Addiction.
GLOBAL TEEN CHALLENGE | P.O. BOX 511 | COLUMBUS, GEORGIA 31902 | PHONE (+1) 706.576.6555 | INFO@GLOBALTC.ORG