A seed in good soil

"A seed in good soil" Continued...

Issue: "Home again," July 12, 2008

But sometimes parents acted in time to push away ultimate tragedy. On one Dallas morning LeAnne Moffett's dad did not take her to school but drove in the opposite direction for the next seven hours, taking her to a center in Kansas. She stayed there for a year, decided to leave behind chaos, and last year graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in mathematics.

Co-author Campbell says that during his research "I've discovered that God likes to tell stories-or rather, that He likes to tell the same story, over and over again. . . . A young man or woman makes bad choices-the wrong friends, the wrong response to a personal crisis, the false hope that a substance will bring salvation along with its high. Swiftly the sinner is brought to a point of desperation, where often the only choice is a reckless cry to God, or death. Then comes what a lyric poet would call 'the turn.' At once, entirely apart from human wisdom or strength or moral goodness, God plucks the helpless person from this self-made pit."

The strength of that repeated saga has even led some government officials to request Teen Challenge's help. In 1971 the U.S. government invited Teen Challenge staffers to travel to Vietnam to work with soldiers who had become drug addicts. One of the team members, Raul Gonzalez, later wrote that he "went from company to company speaking with soldiers, encouraging them to seek the Lord. . . . The spiritual hunger of the men was beyond anything I could ever have expected. Their frankness about their drug problem, and the openness to the Lord, were also remarkable."

Many local officials over the years have also seen value in the organization. In 1974 Cincinnati judges allowed Teen Challenge to counsel juvenile drug offenders and speak with them about Jesus. Teen Challenge centers have sometimes faced strong opposition from community members and local zoning boards concerning their purchases of property in new ministry locations-there go real estate values!-but those disputes have usually been resolved.

So, despite recent controversies involving the Bush faith-based initiative, federal involvement with Christ-centered programs is nothing new, and can be justified on simple pragmatic grounds-reducing alcoholism and addiction, along with the crime that often accompanies drug use, helps everyone. Teen Challenge staffers point to a 1994 University of Tennessee study that shows 67 percent of the graduates of Teen Challenge Chattanooga to be living drug-free. A 1999 Northwestern University study of graduates of three of the largest Teen Challenge centers in the United States showed an 86 percent success rate three years after graduation.

Nevertheless, Washington's faith-based initiative has not helped Teen Challenge affiliates, because restrictions remain against groups that cannot separate their religious teaching from their central function. For example, a job-training program designed to instill good work habits can have a lunchtime Bible study as long as instructors at 1 p.m. set aside biblical perspectives-but what organization that thoroughly embraces a biblical worldview can compartmentalize Jesus in that way?

Teen Challenge has refused to compartmentalize. It keeps growing as other spectacular plants wither.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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