I recently returned from the ancient city of Rimini, Italy. It sits on the Adriatic Sea and is a very popular tourist destination during the spring and summer, but it was cold while I was there. I went to meet with Global Teen Challenge ministry leaders from around the world.
Teen Challenge is a ministry that was founded by the Rev. David Wilkerson in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1958. At that time, it was believed there was no hope for the drug or alcohol addict. But Scripture tells us in Luke 1:37: "For nothing is impossible with God."
There are 235 Teen Challenge centers in the United States, and we are actively involved in 92 countries, with request for assistance in starting the Teen Challenge ministry in 32 countries.
It is a huge task because there is such a huge need. In the U.S. alone, it is estimated there are 22.6 million addicts (7.6 million drug addicts and 15 million alcoholics). Globally, that number is estimated to be 272 million.
A recent ground-breaking study by UNDOC 2010 (Overview of Global and Regional Drug Trends and Patterns) reports that one in 25 deaths worldwide are directly attributable to alcohol consumption.
This is particularly alarming because in the United States in the past few years there's been a significant increase in beer, wine and hard liquor consumption among college-aged individuals. Small wonder when the alcohol and prescription drug industries flood the airwaves with their endless advertising campaigns.
The name Teen Challenge is a misnomer. People often believe the ministry is only for teenagers. It is a ministry for men and women of all ages, not merely an intervention or rehab program. For instance, in Swaziland, Teen Challenge has a tremendous ministry to orphans whose parents have died from AIDS. In Mumbai, India, Teen Challenge has a thriving ministry to prostitutes and their children.
We have recently assisted in developing the first Global Teen Challenge center on mainland China. In the past two years, we have developed a ministry to women in Israel who have escaped the horrors of abuse, addiction and trafficking. So as you can see, the outreach encompasses the globe and is reaching multiplied thousands.
Addiction is not a victimless crime, as some would have us believe. When addiction hits a family, it can be as devastating as if a hand grenade went off in the midst of a family gathering.
In my more than 25 years of worldwide ministry, I have learned that where Christ goes, so goes hope, as well as life and freedom. I am particularly excited about what the Lord is doing through the Global Teen Challenge ministry in Cuba.
I have been actively involved in ministry in that nation for 12 years. If you read the book of Acts in the New Testament, that is what the church in Cuba is like. We recently held a training session for volunteer prison chaplains. The training material will assist in training leaders to mentor prisoners on how to lead successful lives. Upon release from prison, they will be assimilated into local house ministries or churches. The goal is to reach individuals and families with life controlling problems to end the addiction cycle, and disciple them to become strong Christians and productive members of society.
A couple of years ago, Jose and Mayleu Prior began a residential discipleship ministry in Havana. Since that time, they have ministered to countless numbers of addicts of all ages and have seen miracles and blessings as a result. Jose supports his ministry with the earnings he receives from driving his bicycle taxicab in Havana. They have also received financial aid from Global Teen Challenge in the U.S. and Canada.
I will return to Cuba in May to assist them in teaching the principles, philosophy and curriculum of Global Teen Challenge. I will also help them develop a micro-industry, such as farming and animal husbandry, so they can become self-supporting. It also provides an opportunity to teach vocational skills to the Teen Challenge students so when they return to society they are equipped to earn a living, free from the bondage of addiction.
Business entrepreneurs reading might be interested in assisting with the microenterprises we are establishing around the world. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, or go to www.globaltc.org.
Rick Souza is a longtime resident of Lodi. He is president of Aerie, Inc., and a missionary with the Assemblies of God. His ministry has taken him to many countries around the world, where he has built churches, Bible schools, orphanages and Teen Challenge centers. He can be reached at email@example.com.