Faith Matters: Faith-based program offers hope for addicted teens, adults

  • Rev. Peggy Belanger of the Valley Life Assembly of God outside Frontier Regional School in South Deerfield where the church meets. August 22, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The Rev. Peggy Belanger of the Valley Life Assembly of God outside Frontier Regional School in South Deerfield, where the church meets. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Valley Life Assembly of God
Friday, September 01, 2017

(Each Saturday, a faith leader in Franklin County offers a personal perspective in this space. To become part of this series, email religion@recorder.com or call 413-772-0261, ext. 265.)

Faith matters. In fact, faith makes all the difference.

When one reaches rock bottom, faith is where hope begins. Statistics tell us some of the pictures of those who have reached their bottom. According to the Massachusetts Department of Health, in the year 2000 there were 379 opioid-related death in Massachusetts. In 2014, there were 1,361 deaths related to opioid and in 2016 there were over 2,000 opioid related deaths — an increase of 47 percent in just two years! Eighty-two percent in the last 16 years.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism tells us in 2015 over 15 million adults over 18 suffered from Alcohol Use Disorder and over 600,000 were teenagers. We hear these statistics over and over in the media. These figures crush my heart. Who is having success at offering hope? That’s where faith comes into the picture.

“I always had this hole inside that I could not fill. I tried alcohol, drugs, men and they never filled the hole.”

“I didn’t know how to live without being high … God taught me how to live without getting high.”

These and the quotes that follow are from people who have attended Adult and Teen Challenge New England centers. Many times, they have tried to conquer their struggles on their own or through other programs and failed. Ready to give up, they have cried out, something like: ‘God help me! Are You real?’ And then God introduced them to Adult and Teen Challenge, a faith-based residential rehab program. Often, the introduction comes through the faith of a loved one; like the friends who lowered a paralyzed man through the roof to see Jesus in Mark 2. This man’s friends weren’t giving up on him and neither should we give up on those we love.

For over 40 years, I have heard people tell how faith in Jesus and the support of others in Teen Challenge has rescued them from addiction to alcohol and drugs. I first heard of Teen Challenge in high school when I did a report on available rehab centers. I was surprised at the difference in success rates each listed. The rates were under 20 percent, some only 6 percent, except for Teen Challenge. Their success rate — that is, people who did not return to alcohol or drugs after going through the complete program — was 86 percent. They had my attention!

When I moved to Massachusetts, I joined a small church which happens to support Teen Challenge. Each year, one of the groups have come to share how they have found new beginnings through faith. In surrender of their life to Jesus, they gained their true self, relationships were often rebuilt and the future became a reachable plan.

Individuals have said, “There is a place at Teen Challenge New England that they can find life in the middle of their darkness.”

“I lost my family … my family now talks to me… I now have a good relationship with …”

“I found joy, life is so full…”

I have seen hope in their faces. Thankfulness. Love. Belonging. Self-esteem is healed and rebuilt.

Valley Life Assembly of God; where my husband and I now pastor, also welcomes each year one of the groups from New England Adult and Teen Challenge. In July, a new center for troubled teen girls, Bloom, came. Graduates shared how faith in Jesus gave them reason to live and new vision for the future.

In New England, there are eight centers for men and women. There are 200 centers across the US, serving 5,000 people each month.

“Never stop loving the person who is trapped. The only way a person can become free is through God and we see the love of God in you, in the staff of Teen Challenge.”

Each year, I have seen hope and new beginnings replace despair and failure, through the programs of Adult and Teen Challenge New England. And yes, it’s a hard, soul-searching journey but each person is worth it. Teen Challenge’s success rate continues to be 86 percent, while other secular programs about 6 percent.

Maybe God is calling you there. Maybe you’re the friend who won’t give up. You can contact Adult and Teen Challenge for help and information in New England and New Jersey at: tcnewengland.org. For centers throughout the US: www.teenchallengeusa.com

About Valley Life Assembly of God

Pastor Peggy Belanger serves alongside her husband, Douglas, at Valley Life Assembly of God in South Deerfield. September’s focus is BACK TO CHURCH SUNDAY; Sept. 17, and we encourage all to find their way back to church. Valley Life gathers for contemporary worship on Sundays in the auditorium of Frontier Regional School at 10:30 a.m., including Children’s Church at 11. A variety of midweek Bible Studies/caregroups, and special events can be found on our website: www.valleylifeag.com or our Facebook page. We welcome you to Come Follow Jesus with Us!