Pacing for the Finish Line
At 67, Duane Henders has a few more goals in mind before he is finished as Global Teen Challenge Latin America Caribbean regional director. Foremost, as Henders loads a map of the region on his computer, he would like to see yellow dots turn green.
There are 23 green dots on the Latin America Caribbean map he displays, representing nations where Teen Challenge ministries have been established. But it’s the nine yellow dots Henders is most passionate about. Those marks represent countries where an invitation has been extended to come start the ministry. Together with his colleague missionary Norbert Schenhals, Henders wants to help plant a Teen Challenge center and train workers in the Bahamas, Belize, Cayman Islands, Nicaragua, Panama, Grenada, Guyana, Colombia, and Antigua.
“The biggest need isn’t money or buildings, it’s a person willing to labor in the field,” Henders says. “I’m praying for the Lord of the harvest to send forth young men and women as mentees who are called to win souls and make disciples. I want to see a Teen Challenge planted and workers trained in every country of Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Since 1999, Henders has served as Global Teen Challenge Latin America Caribbean regional director, helping establish Teen Challenge centers as well as conducting extensive staff and leadership training.
Once qualified personnel have been trained and Living Free curriculum implemented on a trial basis, the yellow dots will turn to green and Henders will rejoice to see the process moving forward. Henders, whose Teen Challenge work is under Assemblies of God World Missions, anticipates that will take another three to five years to see solid ministries established.
Henders also has a goal of starting three-month Teen Challenge training schools in Uruguay and Ecuador (ones already operate in Mexico, Jamaica, and Brazil.) The training involves six hours of daily classroom work as well as hands-on participation in the daily program of Teen Challenge and street ministry.
It’s not the life Henders envisioned growing up on a North Dakota cattle ranch. But while attending Trinity Bible College, Henders read The Cross and the Switchblade and felt called to work for Teen Challenge. Upon graduation in 1969, he went to Philadelphia, where he and his wife, Cari, spent nine years directing the Teen Challenge men’s program.
At the invitation of AG missionary Sam H. Johnson, Henders moved to Portugal in 1979 to help start a national Teen Challenge program in the Iberian nation. He and his wife spent 16 years in Portugal, with Duane eventually serving as director of Mount Hope Bible Institute there.
Throughout his 45-year marriage, Henders has been supported by Cari. She grew up on a dairy farm in North Dakota and also attended Trinity Bible College.
“Neither of us knew anything about drugs,” says Henders, who is on the road approximately six months of the year. “We were just called by God and obeyed.”
With his background of living in Portugal, Henders is fluent in Portuguese, which comes in handy while interacting with the 25 recognized Teen Challenge programs in Brazil. He also is conversant in Spanish, the dominant language of the Americas.
Henders works closely with AGWM. Light for the Lost helps pay for copies of The Cross and the Switchblade in Portuguese and Spanish; Speed the Light has provided a van for Teen Challenge in Jamaica; Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge furnishes funds to translate literature.
AGWM Latin America Caribbean Regional Director David A. Ellis believes Henders will achieve the timetable he’s charted.
“There is no question that Duane meets the goals he sets and he has the support of the leaders in the countries where he ministers,” says Ellis, who served as AGWM area director in the southern cone of South America before becoming regional director in 2014. “He is a strong leader, yet an excellent team player.”
Ellis notes that Henders has unified the hodgepodge of Latin American and Caribbean Teen Challenge ministries that existed before he arrived, and he passionately plants works in new lands. Henders’ background as a missionary helps him forge new relationships, Ellis believes.
“He is a leader that can be trusted,” Ellis says. “He is sensitive to structure as he develops partnerships.”