Our purpose at Life Challenge is to free men and women from the grip of addiction by bringing them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We start by taking them away from their usually toxic and often hopeless environments. We bring them here, to Life Challenge, a place where they can find hope, help and healing – a place from which they can start over, begin again. “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day” (Proverbs 4:18).
Incoming students must agree to a yearlong separation from the places and things they may feel lost without, but over which they have no power. That’s the ugly nature of addiction: powerlessness. In this there can be no compromise: to be truly free is to be free in Christ.
In this respect, there is no difference between men and women at Life Challenge. The path to recovery is the same, the curriculum is the same, the rules and regulations regarding conduct are the same and the daily routines are, for the most part, the same.
However, in so many other ways, men and women are, in fact, different; and the differences must be addressed. As Dr. Sheila Burrell, our Women’s Director, carefully explains, “the women have more emotional needs than men. They are more likely to be victims of abuse and they tend to have more security issues when they enter the program. They may come with eating disorders; they are often burdened with feelings of guilt and shame. They sometimes have self-injury disorders like cutting.” It‘s not surprising, then, that the women are housed far apart from the men in two modest but lovely homes nestled next to the parsonage where Sheila and her husband Brian live. There is enough space – enough beds – for twenty-four women, twelve in each house. Two female staff members plus an intern live in the house, too, right alongside the students. The houses have well-appointed living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens. There is nothing luxurious about their creature comforts, but nor are they the spartan rooms that the men live in, either.
Living a full year away from close family, children and other important relationships can be harder for the women than for the men. Many of our students are mothers with young children who need to be cared for, who need to be loved by their mothers. There is a standard 30-day rule for all who enter: “no visitation, no phone calls.” However, mothers can have contact with their children during the first 30 days. According to Dr. Burrell, sometimes the kids just need to know that “Mommy’s okay.” This is one of the few areas in which exceptions are made.
In the end, Dr. Burrell wants more for the women than just freedom from the life-controlling issues that brought them here. She wants them to understand that they are free, transformed and saved for a purpose. Indeed, it is a blessing to watch the transformations that take place in their lives, to watch them become the women that God wants them to be:
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
(Proverbs 31:28 – 31)