Six members of the Teen Challenge Choir, a nationally-touring group of men from the faith-based Teen Challenge program, visited Emmanuel Assembly of God Church in Harveys Lake on Nov. 18 to sing songs of change.
The Teen Challenge Program, which has 250 locations throughout the United States, is a rehabilitation program for men and women of all ages who struggle with substance abuse.
Though the name refers to a specific age group, men and woman of all ages are welcome to the program. The ages of the men in the choir ranged from 19 to 47 years old.
During the hour-and-a-half-long program, the men shared their personal stories about overcoming their addictions with the audience.
For 30-year-old Dan, of Portsmith, Va., it took a fall from a five-story building and a few run-ins with the law before he made the decision to turn his life around.
I had a vision in jail, he said. God said when you see this sign, a Wawa sign, you need to stop and give up. (At a later time), I was running, an officer was chasing me and I saw a Wawa sign and I put my hands up and I just gave up.
Dan said he started abusing drugs and alcohol after his mother died when he was 13 years old as a way to hide his emotions. After attending Youth Challenge, a sister program of Teen Challenge, more than a decade later, he's finally learned to deal with his pain.
God delivered her from pain, he said of his mother.
Emmanuel Church pastor Lawrence Reed invited the group to perform at the church years ago, but he first got involved in the program as a student in ministry school when he worked at the Philadelphia Teen Challenge location as a counselor.
I think it's a beautiful program that's very effective, he said. People think we don't need this type of thing in our day and age, but we do.
Choir director Bob Costanza said the yearlong, faith-based program also teaches vocational skills, such as woodworking, to help the men and women find a career after they graduate.
We have an 86 percent success rate, said Costanza.
Costanza said the choir travels to spread the word about the Teen Challenge Program and to raise funds, but the act also helps others.
There have been times where there was a person struggling with substance abuse in the church (where we were performing) and they came to Teen Challenge as a result, he said. It seems everyone knows someone who is dealing with substance abuse.
Members of the congregation clapped along to the beat and cheered after each number.
I'm amazed how much their lives have changed, said Joy Ryman, of Mountain Top. God is very powerful.
May Vollrath, of Harveys Lake, was moved to tears just talking about the program at a dinner that followed.
I think it was wonderful – I just loved it, she said. It was God-inspiring. Their testimonies were moving.
Audrey Wilke, of Harveys Lake, could relate to the subject matter.
My son is a smoker and he loves his beer, she said. He needs prayer in his life. I hope (Teen Challenge Choir) comes back. It's good to see God working in young people.
Barbara Moyer, of Lehman, said the program gave her hope.
It seems everyone is going through a drug or alcohol issue in their family, she said. I was uplifted by (the program).