You may have seen the television series 24. One season has 24 episodes, each depicting one hour of a single day. There is a running clock on screen, meant to indicate that the events are taking place in real time. One must suspend disbelief at the seemingly herculean challenges the primary character, agent Jack Bauer, faces. A nuclear bomb threatens LA, a deadly virus is in the hands of a Mexican drug cartel. All in a day’s work.
Have you ever considered what “all in a day’s work” means here at Life Challenge? Wondered what actually takes place in this one-year, residential Christ-based program with a mission to bring hope, help and healing to those bound by drugs and alcohol? What carrying out that stated purpose looks like on daily basis? Each day is deliberately structured to maximize every moment, and ensure energies are expended in a spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically productive manner. Let’s look a bit closer, deconstruct a typical 24.
Lights start to come on at the Pierson Center in the predawn hour. Some staff live on-site, others make their way in from various points of the compass…
5:45 AM Wake Up / Pray in / Exercise / Morning Jobs
Blurry eyed, stiff-limbed, the men climb out of their beds in the dorm rooms. Starting the day with prayer, exercise and work duty is a drastic change for most. Healthy habits are not part of the addict’s lifestyle and old ways die hard. Gradually, as students progress through the program, a change of attitude and energy come.
6:40 AM Reverence
Five minutes of silence before every meal, setting minds and hearts on God. Intentional respect, conforming the wandering mind and watering mouth, quieting the soul. It is a five-minute act of devotion from which every believer could benefit.
The kitchen crew (students) have been hard at work. No easy task to prepare nutritious meals for 75-100 people three times a day, seven days a week. What has been donated or can be purchased drives the menu. Frugality is a necessity, and flexibility and gratitude can be nurtured in unlikely ways. There might be many meatless days, but the luxury of bottomless freezers and pantries is not the reality here.
7:15 AM Pierson Jobs
Each man has his assigned job: bathrooms, floors, trash. Work ethic, diligence, cooperation is being learned.
7:30 AM Meds
Many students have recently gone through withdrawal (often involuntary) and suffer ravages to their body from years of alcohol and drug abuse. The healing process takes many forms.
8:00 AM Chapel
Daily chapel, preceded by a five minute reverence, is required for all staff and students. Worship, followed by a speaker (Pastor Jeff, other leaders, invited guest speakers) and then there is time. Time to seek, surrender, lay burdens down, be forgiven, sing a hushed hymn, be prayed for. It is a safe place with a Holy Presence, where things eternal happen. Phil Hall, Men’s Director: “There was one occasion in chapel when a student called out and confessed his sins in front of all the students…that led to others calling out for mercy from God. That man who confessed is on fire for the Lord and is still in the program, graduating soon. Before his experience in the chapel he was hanging onto a lot of things and wanted to leave–what a change! The Holy Spirit works in amazing ways.”
[8:30 AM Sunday: Bus Leaves for Church]
The men are in line and properly attired. Like daily chapel, church on Sundays and Wednesdays is required. Men who initially squirm under the mandate can become the very ones most glad to go into the house of the Lord. It is when and if they experience His saving grace that genuine change begins to take place. That may happen early on in the program, and it may happen later. But until a student repents and becomes a new creation in Christ, any change is really just behavior modification.
[9:00 AM Saturday: Car Wash]
Weather permitting, every man not on duty elsewhere works the weekly fundraising car wash on Grand River Avenue. Humbling for those from a more privileged social strata or middle class suburbia. Fearful for a few who came from those very streets, who labor head down, one eye out for a dealer, a gang member, someone they stole from cruising by.
9:30 AM Break
9:45 AM Class
The curriculum is the Word of God. The holy scriptures, which renew and transform hearts and minds. All is constructed to point the men to Jesus Christ and to foster deep relationship with a loving, forgiving, delivering Savior. In a year, students pass through four levels, three months each, of different academic courses.
Level 1: Christianity / Genesis / Gospel of John Level 2: General Epistles / Psalms / Spiritual Disciplines Level 3: Paul’s Letters / Doctrines & Practices / Romans / Gospel of Mark Level 4: Christian Family / Family Systems Communications / Christian Heritage
10:45 AM Break
11:00 AM Class
The women follow the same academic course as the men, however strict rules are enforced. They do not sit together and are not allowed to interact or speak with each other at any time.
Level 1: Mark / Genesis / Proverbs / Gospel of John Level 2: Psalms / Ephesians / General Epistles Level 3: Servant Leadership / The Christian Family Level 4: Monetary Maturity / Experiencing God / Transformational Community
12:00 PM Break
12:15 PM Reverence
12:20 PM Lunch
[12:30 PM Sunday: Family Visits]
Mixed emotions among the men…happy anticipation for some; others still struggling with regret and guilt as they face hopeful loved ones whom they’ve hurt or disappointed. Whatever the starting point, visits are an important part of the restoration process.
12:45 PM Break / Meds
1:00 PM Interview / Induction
A potential student sits nervously in the lobby waiting to be interviewed. Some come with family and an ultimatum, a few choose LC as an alternative to jail or another stop on the rehab train. A number of incoming students were raised in Christian homes. Many are living hopeless, rock-bottom lives, having lost jobs and driven away family and friends. All are told that in order to graduate they must live on campus for at least one year, follow all the published rules of conduct and complete the academic requirements for graduation. Many balk at the one year requirement. At a secular clinic or drug rehab program, about 3% of clients will successfully get and stay sober. But at Life Challenge, success rates are dramatically different. One study found that 86% of those who completed our one-year residential program remained drug-free five years later. It’s not what we owe that success to, it’s Who, the Person of Jesus Christ.
1:30 PM Roll Call / Study Hall
Study Hall is no filler of time–with weekly homework due and monthly exams, it is needed for serious academic application. Creating and nurturing students of the Word.
2:00 PM The Staff
Currently there are 30 full time staff serving 70 students. Interesting note: 20 of the staff are Life Challenge graduates themselves. Living proof under the roof.
3:30 PM Break
3:45 PM Work Day
Each one has an assignment: kitchen, operations, off-site work crews, vehicles and grounds maintenance. It benefits the ministry and builds skills and confidence in the men.
4:00 PM Crisis Counseling
One of the leaders talks earnestly with a student who has been in the program 3 months and is struggling, wavering. This is a critical time, when attrition is at its highest. The program is 100% voluntary and the students can decide to walk away at any time. The staff member gives scriptural direction, prays with the student, encourages them to persevere. Will this student succeed, will they graduate, will the seeds grow?
4:30 PM Break
5:00 PM Dinner
Dozens of men of different ages, life experiences, and backgrounds find themselves living in close community. Eating, sharing, learning, gathering, praying, studying, working, preparing, listening. Jeff Bonzelaar, Executive Director: ‘We place a high premium on community. Character is not learned in isolation, but in the context of relationships. We are here to do this together, journey with the students from wherever they are in life.’
5:30 PM Break / Meds / Free Time
Free time and occasional free nights are built into the rigorous schedule to allow for social time, rest and relationship building. A recent outing, a Detroit Tigers Game, was a welcome donation.
Weekends: [Sundays 6:00-8:00 PM]
The new Sunday Night Concert Series allows students to be with family in a different atmosphere. They can invite loved ones for dinner followed by the concert. The concert series is open to all LC friends and supporters.
Thursdays 7:00 PM
Choir Practice with Pat Spriggs. The choir is readying for a Sunday rally. The purpose, the power, the testimony taken to churches. Choir is a privilege for the men and women. Extraordinary talent is optional but a good GPA is mandatory.
8:00 PM Showers
9:00 PM Pray Out / Devotions
The day comes full circle, ending as it began, with prayer and hearts turned toward the Savior.
9:30 PM No Talking in Dorms
9:45 PM Lights Out
With autumn upon us, there is a chill that comes through these marbled floors. The cost of heating this facility can be budget-breaking. So students and staff learn to brave the chill and soldier on. Resources are carefully husbanded. No state or federal support is received, as we are a Christ-based program.
A distant barking dog, a car rumbles by. Inside Pierson all is quiet, the men asleep. In a few short hours, another day will dawn. Another opportunity to bring about personal transformation, deliverance through Jesus Christ by rigorously (thoughtfully, programmatically, prayerfully) sharing the gospel.
5:45 AM Wake Up / Pray in / Exercise / Morning Jobs…
While your 24 may seem routine and even mundane, it is of significant eternal value. If we call ourselves Christians, every day He gives we should be about the work of the kingdom. That may not look like Jack Bauer heroics, or even like the daily sacrifice and ministry at LC. But there are beautiful victories to be won, people to be loved and reached for Jesus each day. At Life Challenge, we are endeavoring to do just that by rescuing men and women bound by alcohol and drugs. One life at a time, one 24 at a time.