Friday, September 22, 2006

Teen Challenge

I've spoken a lot about Teen Challenge in the last few posts. I thought it might be helpful to explain a bit about it, since some haven't heard of this program.

I first heard of this organization back in the early 70s when my husband and I were teen sponsors in our church. We took a group of teen-agers over to the eastern part of the state one evening for a rally with David Wilkerson. Dave started this program in 1958 when he felt called by God from a pastorate in rural Pennsylvania to the roughest part of New York City to work with lost and broken kids. You can read his story in his book called The Cross and the Switchblade.

Fast forward to about 4 years ago when I heard that the son of an old friend had gone to Teen Challenge. I didn't know the whole story, but knew that it usually involved drug addiction if you went there. Three years ago, our son needed help and we tried to steer him in TC's direction. He was not interested at the time, because he would have to take a year of his life to get well. It will be two years in December when things were at a point that he finally realized his need of major help and decided to take this giant step of faith. Usually a person has to be at a point of death or jail to be ready to do this program.

You can go to to learn more about the philosophy, the locations, and basic information about Teen Challenge. It is not only for teens; in fact, most of those who go are adults. Our son went far away from home so that he would not be tempted to bolt and go back to his old friends and habits. It was a very difficult time for all of us. He ended up staying for 18 months, but it was worth every difficult moment. God took over in such a mighty way. Those who go to a TC setting are called students. And that is exactly what they are. They study for hours every day on a Bible-based curriculum. They spend many other hours a day in some sort of work activity. His particular work assignment was fund-raising at store fronts all up and down the eastern seaboard. He could write a book about those experiences! There were many times when he wanted to give up and come home. But prayer and encouragement from many sources kept him strong.

TC is a probably not for everyone. As I said before, you have to be at the very end of yourself and your man-made solutions. God works in mighty and miraculous ways when He is allowed to. We give Him all the praise. We also have tremendous gratitude to those who prayed for and supported him throughout this time of healing and deliverance.


PEA said...

It's wonderful that there is such a place for anyone who is at their wit's end! I'm so happy they helped your son get back on track, it had to have been a very rough time in your lives!! Hugs!

Pamela said...

Dawn, it just tugs at my heart what you and your wonderful family have gone through. It's tough when kids get mixed up with the wrong crowd. You and your son will remain in my prayers. God does work miracles, and it is so important for us to hold on to our faith. You are a wonderful mother and I am so glad we've met, you lift me up with your sweet, kind and thoughtful words of friendship in the short time we've known each other.

Diane said...

We have a similar program called Restoration Ranch and God's New Life Ranch in Alabama and in Arkansas that our church supports. There are many others ranches scattered throughout the US. We've had several friends and church family go through their program and emerge as new creatures. They have around a 90% success rate.

Praise God for TC and these places. They are literally the difference between life and death for so many people.

Linda said...

That is such a powerful testimony Dawn. I am so thankful your son is doing so well. There was a time in my life (many years ago) when I thought I wanted to be a social worker and work for Teen Challenge. I fell in love and got married instead, but I have always admired the wonderful work they do (or rather God does through them). Praise God for saving the life of your son and so many others through Teen Challenge.
By the way, I keep meaning to tell you how pretty your blog looks. I love pink, and I love flowers.

theresa said...

I know a lot about Teen Challenge from when I worked as a drug and alcohol counselor,the success rate is way up there, better than any other program! Good for you and your son.

Tammy said...

I remember the Dave Wilkerson crusades of the 70' friend was saved during one and brought back the literature for me and next thing you know I was saved...I think we need more crusades like that!

Pamela said...

Dawn, "Tag" your it! Hope you and your family are enjoying the day!

Karly said...

For more information on Teen Challenge, please visit my blog at

Thank You!

Anonymous said...


I think you and I both got "spammed" by Karly. I'm glad you responded to her as you did.

I did also, which is where I got your link.


Karly said...


To better understand why I haven't posted your comments on my blog, please see the updates I have made so you will better understand.


Anonymous said...

Karly Cordaloni

Censors comments and deletes any that are favorable to the TC organization. This is a proven fact.

Anonymous said...

My son has been enrolled at Teen Challenge Bonifay since June 2006. It has been a rewarding and life changing experience for him. He had a two-week Christmas visit and a two-week "re-entry" visit back home with family. His reactions to situations and demeaner are entirely different than when he first enrolled and he is returning to the son we knew and loved as a child.

The ranch is regularly monitored by county agencies and suprise inspections are frequently carried out without incident. This is a military style camp with firm strict rules, but my son has flourished with the consistency and discipline with love.

I could not see sending my son to a facility that would use drugs to control him nor could I see the benefit of a psychobable facility to rationalize his behaviour.

This is just what he needed to get his head screwed on straight. There is a proper amount of discipline blended with classroom, bible study and mentorship. As students progress through the program and show improvement they are given the opportunity to lead and mentor the newer students.

Its not a facility with ex-military drill instructors harrassing the boys 24/7. Its Christian men held to high standards of integrity and peers of the boys who have demonstrated a level of trust and accountability. There are also a number of ladies in teaching and facilitating roles.

Further, the students are kept busy with regular chores and exercise. This is a working farm and they do supply some of their own food items. Its a good way to give a young man some responsibility and have him gain self-worth through accomplishment.

There is also free time for swimming or fishing in the lake, playing board games, chess, table tennis, weight lifting, horse riding, reading, etc. My son is teaching himself to play the accoustic guitar.

The students are rewarded for acheiving school goals with field trips. My son has gone deep-sea fishing on a coulple of occasions, for example. During the yearly rodeo, in town, a large number of the boys are allowed to attend. There are opportunities for community service and missions trips both in the states and outside the U.S.A. as well.

Yes, the phone calls are monitored via speaker-phone. I haven't seen the need to discuss anything that couldn't be overheard by a dorm full of boys and I've never been cut off.

My son is in the best shape emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually that he has ever been.

All in all, its a great program.

Anonymous said...

My son is also a graduate student from the Bonifay Teen Challenge this 2007 year, and I can tell you this personally. Not only did it save my son's life, it restored him to his father and I, as well as help restoring our family as a whole.

Teen Challenge did not change my son, God gave Teen Challenge to us as a tool to use.

My son is also in the best shape emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually that he has ever been.

As far as phone calls go, I have never had them not return my call or hang up on me. However, we never discussed anything that the pastors or staff could not hear.

My son knows that we 100 percent support Teen Challenge in their rules. That makes a big difference in how the program will succeed with a child.

I knew from the moment I stepped on the property to Teen Challenge, before we brought our son, that it was a Holy Spirit filled campus. There was not one ounce of a "mom alert" that said don't send your child. The same feeling I had taking him there is the same feeling I had when he graduated. I know he is going to succeed.

He is a teen, don't get me wrong, but we know have the tools needed and support that we need that was not there before.

Our prayers were definately answered.

Not of This World said...

For those trying to make a decision about sending a loved one to Teen Challenge, voluntarily entering the program, or entering under court order.

Resource clearing house and place for testimonials both favorable and not.

Anonymous said...

My name is Hope and my 17 year old son recently joined TC in Bonifay. I miss him dearly I have empty nest even though I have 3 other children he was my first and we are best friends. I fear that he is mad at me. I just seen him struggling emotionally and spiritually. I was desprate to do something before he turned 18 and I would not have options. His weekly reports are the only thing that gives me hope. I have not talked to him since I dropped him off somedays I think that it was pretty extreme to make such a quick decision. He did not have a drug or alcohol problem but I know that he could have in time. There are so many drugs out there and I did not want him to have the opportunity to. Was your son understanding when you first seen him or did he resent your decision. I am worried that he will leave before he completes 15 months. He will be 18 in Nov. and there will not be anything to stop him from leaving. I am praying by then he will be passionate about finishing what he started. Praise the Lord that he did have deep roots of love for our Savior.