Many of us we would already be familiar with the work of Teen Challenge. It is an amazing Christian organisation that recognises that addiction is only a symptom of serious underlying issues. In this discussion on Twenty20, we take a special focus on the challenges of overcoming life controlling problems like addiction. These can often extend to things like self-harm, eating disorders, anxiety and depression.
Teen Challenge is about restoring hope and rebuilding lives, creating a second chance for so many young people. Teen Challenge has its roots in a ministry established back in New York in 1958, and there are now over 1400 Teen Challenge organisations around the globe.
Joanne Hobbs is the Executive Director of Teen Challenge in Queensland, which has had great success with its programs for men and women, restoring hope and helping to rebuild lives.
Joanne says that only God can reach into a heart and heal people. “We often say we here at Teen Challenge are at the bottom of the cliff, catching those who have fallen over. But only God can put all the pieces back together. We do have a clear understanding of how to do rehab well, yet we know it’s God plus best practice that equals success.”
Though it is a particularly challenging sector to work in, Teen Challenges does have a really high success rate. “We know that the addiction is just a symptom of the underlying problem. Treatment is not just about the addiction. The answer is in discovering what got a person there in the first place, and bringing healing to those areas of their lives. God wants them to have a full life.”
Joanne believes that recovery is a journey. Teen Challenge offers a 12 month program that includes many health professionals, and that is where the life changing discoveries are made. “Most people don’t understand what is driving them to this place. We walk side by side with young people and get to know them and help them identify these things. The breakthrough comes when they start to see it for themselves.”
There is hope. Addition affects the whole family. But we serve a God of all hope.
“Over the 50 years that we’ve been around, there are thousands of people we can tell stories about. There is hope and this is a war we can win. It’s for the entire family. When they come to us, people are at their lowest. They have often stolen, lied or been aggressive towards their loved ones. They come with broken family relationships. Part of our program is to provide a family support worker to work with the child and family. Up to 18 people are affected by one person’s addiction. When you help one person, you reunite their family, and the ripple effect continues.”
Joanne says that as a mother, she can only imagine what it would be like to lose a child or someone close to her to addiction. “It always comes down to free will and our choice, you can only help a person to the place they are willing to let you go to. They have to believe that there is hope, and people out there who can help.”
Teen Challenge wants to see young people celebrate a life where they can live out their purpose in God. “We are encouraging supporters to get involved and help raise money,” Joanne says. “I am walking 50km in August. We are asking people to be creative and look at what you can do to raise awareness. It’s a great way to connect with the goodwill and the heart of the organisation.”
Joanne and Teen Challenge continue to build on the philosophy that we need others around us to point the way out. In Biblical terms, Moses needed Aaron to hold up his arms.
“Reach out your hand for help, you have to take just one step forward to connect,” she says. “You need someone you can be honest with, that will offer empathy but no judgement. They don’t have to have the answers, they just need to be someone you can trust.”
Teen challenge is set apart by the God factor, something that they credit all of their success to. “That’s what makes us different,” says Joanne. “Anyone who knows the Lord understands that the pieces can only be put back together by God. He’s the one changing hearts and that’s where the transformation happens.”
If you’d like to get involved with this wonderful organisation, please visit Teen Challenge’s website and listen to the rest of Neil’s chat with Joanne below.
Tune into 20Twenty and join the conversation with Neil Johnson, weekdays on Vision Christian Radio. Click here for your local times.