Teen Challenge marks its 50th anniversary

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Teen Challenge International of Mid-America had 50 reasons to celebrate at its annual banquet Saturday evening at the Show Me Center.

The residential Christian program that helps men with drug, alcohol and other addictions is half a century old this year.

Since it was started in 1958 by the Rev. David Wilkerson in New York City, the ministry has spread across the country and around the world. According to the organization Web site, Teen Challenge in Cape Girardeau is part of a network of more than 170 centers in the U.S.

"Brother Dave's concept was that only Jesus Christ can really change a life, and when he went to the streets of New York City that was his conviction and his passion," said the Rev. Jack Smart, executive director of Cape Girardeau's Teen Challenge. "That's still the conviction and the passion of Teen Challenge today."

Some of that passion was rewarded at Saturday's banquet. Members of the steering and community gifts committees were honored for their accomplishments during the organization's capital campaign, which recently funded a gymnasium, a classroom center and a new wing on the dormitory to the Teen Challenge campus.

Jon Kraus and Bobby Jackson talked about lives turned around by the program. Jackson, now an associate pastor after being sent to Teen Challenge in 1981, says the 50-year anniversary is special to him.

"I'm going to be 50 years old this year. This all started the year I was born," Jackson said. "And what does it for me is to come full circle and see some of these young guys. I look at them, and I see my son."

Kraus said, "I came in here broken and addicted to crack cocaine with really no hope or no future. But Teen Challenge basically laid the foundation for me. A biblical foundation. And what the Holy Spirit did in my life has completely changed me from the inside out. I'm not the same person at all that I used to be, and it's for the better."

Teen Challenge boasts a 70 percent success rate.

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