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"Garrin Teed" Success

A brighter future awaits a former drug addict who graduates from the University of Valley Forge.

Last month, 34-year-old Garrin Teed graduated with a bachelor's degree in business management from the University of Valley Forge (UVF) in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.

Six years earlier, Teed sat slumped at a kitchen table after passing out from a night of heavy drinking and drug use.

Teed's journey from addict to graduate began in Owego, New York, where he was raised in a Christian home. He accepted the Lord as Savior at a young age, but his newfound faith gradually ebbed.

"Somewhere in my teenage years I just stopped caring about church," he says.

He started occasionally drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana at 17. His dabbling quickly turned into an all-or-none mentality as weekend partying filtered into everyday life.

After his addiction escalated to hallucinogens and methamphetamines, Teed became homeless for the first of three times at the age of 21. He lived in his car, then in a friend's lawnmower shed, where he slept on a cot for two months.

When a work injury provided a lump sum of money, Teed moved into an apartment, but he was evicted after a year.

"I didn't have any kind of foundation to stand in, so I kept crumbling over and over again," he says.

His father, Dale, and a pastor friend told him about AG U.S. Missions Teen Challenge, but Teed says he was completely blind to his problem. He started blacking out and hit rock bottom a year later.

"I didn't know who I was anymore," he says.

In March 2009, Teed laid down alcohol and drugs and walked into Teen Challenge in Syracuse, New York.

Credentialed Assemblies of God Pastor Joel Jakubowski, a counselor and director of community outreach at Lancaster Teen Challenge in Rehrersburg, Pennsylvania, says many addicts like Teed come to the program externally motivated by broken relationships, financial loss, legal issues, or marital or health problems. The next 14 months, he says, are spent turning that external motivation into internal motivation. 

"Drugs and alcohol were the surface problems," Teed says. "There were all sorts of turmoil underneath that I really had to deal with. When I was at my lowest, that's when God was really able to change me from the inside out."

After completing the first stage of his treatment, Teed transferred to the Rehrersburg, Pennsylvania, location, where he continued to work through the program's five "Cs" -- counseling, classroom learning, chapel, community service, and chores. While sobriety is a goal of the program, Jakubowski says it's not the only one.

"We believe it's also about finding out God's plan for people's lives," Jakubowski says.

God's plan for Teed, now 28, began to unfold when he found out about UVF while at Teen Challenge. He says going to college seemed like a fantasy, but God provided a way. He enrolled as a business major after receiving financial aid through university scholarships and work-study opportunities.

William Clarkson, department of business chair at UVF, says Teed struggled at first with the age difference between him and his peers, but quickly overcame it by tutoring other students and serving as a team leader in many classes that use group assignments.

"He got very serious very quick about his studies," he says.

Along with strong leadership skills, Clarkson says Teed has a creative side, which he expresses through painting and poetry.

Teed graduated third in his major and will soon move to Virginia Beach, Virginia, to pursue a master's degree in business at Regent University. One of his goals is to do business as mission in developing nations.

Though he grew up not knowing what he wanted to do with his life, Teed now believes he has a purpose. Jakubowski sees him as a trophy of God's grace. 

"Scripture tells us we have an invisible God," Jakubowski says. "Every life we see that's changed like Garrin's is a testimony of God's visibility through their lives."

Photo credit: Derrick Harvey, University of Valley Forge

Shannon M. Nass

Shannon Nass and her husband, Greg, are credentialed ministers with the Assemblies of God and live in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, with their twin daughters, Naomi and Charlotte. Shannon is a freelance writer and special education teacher who also serves as coordinator for Beyond Survival Ministries, a Christian nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading the gospel.