Recently, three Life Challenge staff sat across the table from Grandma and Grandpa. They came to talk. It had been a year since they dropped their grandson off into the program on a Friday afternoon, only to rush back the following Monday because “John” had hanged himself right in his Life Challenge room closet. This was not their first time back. Nor was it their first time bringing cookies for the men in the program.
The parents, too, of “John” have dropped by at various times, sharing some of the love of Christ with men in recovery as they, too, recover from their great loss. In His own way, God is making this tragedy a triumph.
Such brokenness and pain is not unique at Life Challenge. Not every situation is so severe, but it isn’t uncommon to see a young woman walk away from her soon-to-be-restored parental rights over a man in the program she just met. Or to see a father and son come into the program because they have shared in drug usage together. Or to watch an 18-year old receive a felony charge that he could have avoided had he only completed the program. Or, as in the case of “John,” to enroll a promising young man into the program and find him dead three days later.
It all speaks of the brokenness sin has brought to the human condition.
For many years, our mission statement at Life Challenge (formerly Detroit Teen Challenge) was “Restoring Broken Lives.” That may be catchy on a banner, but in real-time, it can be crushing. Seeing up close the wicked, cyclical effects of children reared by addicted mothers and absentee fathers is sickening. Witnessing in others the ugly effects of foster care and prison systems gone awry can be maddening. Ironically, many who have been raised in strong Christian homes fall prey to the deep and dark evils looming in their souls. This can be just as heart-breaking.
Dealing with such brokenness day in and day out can be overwhelming. On the other hand, the thought of never having extended a helping hand, of never having offered the hope of restoration in Christ . . . this is beyond overwhelming.
Consider Stacey who graduated in 1988. He planted a church in Detroit over 20 years ago. Hundreds of lives have since been restored through this church. Stacey, once dealing drugs in the state of Florida, “homicidal and suicidal” by his own admission, now submitted to Christ, is working for the advancement of His kingdom. What if this would never have taken place? Pastor Stacey comes back regularly to Life Challenge, pouring into the students the same gospel-created hope he was offered 25 years ago. Imagine such never occurring!
Then there is Martin, a once multi-body-pierced, Satan-worshipping, all-black-wearing, hell-bent man. Now he and his wife of 14 years serve in their local church as beacons of light and life. They are raising two beautiful girls in the fear of the Lord. Martin stops by frequently speaking words of encouragement to the men and women presently involved in the program. Suppose there never was a Life Challenge for Martin to enter 20 years ago?
Then there are Bill and Phil, young, gifted and intelligent men, who nearly crashed their marriages through alcohol. But Christ redeemed them and their broken homes. Both are leading their families as men of God, providing and protecting the heritage God has given to them. What if Life Challenge had not been there for them? What of their wives? Their children?
Books would have to be written to mention all the miracles Christ has worked in one life after another. Mothers like Velvet and Dana, graduating along with their sons, Doug and Sam, serve in the ministry. Young ladies like Brooklyn and Alexa, once seemingly broken beyond repair, are now serving Christ and pursuing Biblical studies in college. Each restored life shines a new aspect of the splendor of Christ’s redeeming love. A sin-darkened world gradually brightening because of them.
God has graciously built this legacy, in part, through Life Challenge for the last 50 years. The Jesus who was sent to “bind up the brokenhearted” has used a simple but effective ministry to accomplish His glorious goals of “restoring broken lives.” Such ministry is to be both celebrated and preserved for whatever years may be left, and may God alone, the author and sustainer of it all, be praised.