Adult and Teen Challenge Launches Evangelism Emphasis
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According to Ben Ward, communications manager for the national ATC in Springfield, Missouri, ProjectREACH — also known as 90 Days of Hope — launched on Aug. 1 and will run through Oct. 30. Centers are encouraged to partner with other organizations to meet needs in the community and share the gospel through events such as participating in back-to-school supply/backpack distributions, or taking part in community events, such as setting up a prayer needs tent at local festivals.
“We highly encourage our centers to partner with as many organizations and people as they can,” Ward says, “as we believe partnerships have a greater impact and greater reach into communities — including impact on those individuals and organizations our centers partner with.”
Zach Norris, Chief Operating Officer of the ATC of Central and Southwest Missouri, located in Neosho, says the outreach has incredible potential due to the preparation and resources provided by the national ATC office.
“Our Adult & Teen Challenge USA president, Gary Blackard, is a strong visionary and he has set some pretty high goals for Adult & Teen Challenge, including raising up 1,000 new leaders and reaching 1 million people for Christ,” Norris says. “But what’s great about these goals is that the national office did all the research and is equipping us with the resources, creative ideas, and training videos to make those goals happen.”
Norris says that the ATC in Neosho has already participated in three outreaches, with at least seven more planned. The involvement so far has included setting up their prayer tent at events such as special all-day food truck days and festivals. Norris says they plan on adding live music to some of the upcoming events as well.
“We have a good relationship with four local chambers of commerce, so we are able to learn about and participate in these events,” Norris says. “We have already interacted with hundreds of people and have prayed for scores of individuals who have either requested or agreed to prayer.”
Norris says that ProjectREACH is not only impacting lives outside of ATC, but it’s making a difference in the lives of students who are participating.
“They’re excited about the opportunities to share their testimonies,” Norris says. “They’re also eager to participate in the training — learning more about witnessing and how to talk to people about Jesus as many of the men have come from backgrounds that didn’t include church.”
Snow Peabody, the executive state director and CEO of Teen Challenge of Arizona, is also excited about ProjectREACH as the five Arizona Teen Challenge centers look to bring evangelism back to being a key “player” in the role of Teen Challenge centers.
Peabody, 72, who has served Teen Challenge for 51 years, including four years at president (1987-1991), says that Blackard and his staff have opened the doors to involving students in evangelism.
“Our roots are evangelism and discipleship,” Peabody says, a reference to founder David Wilkerson’s vision. “Discipleship, we’ve clearly done our best, but over time, the evangelism side has come to need a real boost — something like ProjectREACH. I really commend Gary (Blackard) for bringing us together and seeing what we can do with God’s help over 90 days — it’s really exciting!”
So far, the centers in the Phoenix area have held one major event — a back-to-school backpack event that drew 2,300 people.
“People were lining up two to three hours before the gates opened,” says Peabody, who helped work the inner-city event. “With the help of the Christian firefighters group, Koinonia, we served thousands of hamburger and hot dog meals along with snacks and beverages on a 110-degree day.”
In addition to verbal expressions of gratitude for the meal and backpacks filled with grade-appropriate school supplies, tears of thankfulness also frequently made their appearance. However, for hundreds of attendees, the event resulted in receiving an even greater gift.
“We had special music and an evangelistic message given by an inner-city Pentecostal pastor,” Peabody says. “He gave an altar call at the end of his message and 400 people responded to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior.”
Peabody says that two more major events are in the plans for the Arizona Teen Challenge centers, including being the title sponsor of the Hope Fest — known as Northern Arizona’s Premier Community Gathering and this year called the Teen Challenge Hope Fest — in Prescott (Sept. 10) with 10,000 or more annually attending, and a Tables and Testimonies event to be held in Tucson’s largest park (Oct. 22), where thousands are also expected to attend.
“The Hope Fest is about honoring veterans and recognizing their sacrifices and continuing challenges,” says Peabody, who also notes many family resource organizations will also be present. “As the founder is a Christian, Christian music plays throughout the day, and as we are title sponsor, once an hour, every hour, we’ll be given opportunity to have one of our students share his or her testimony on stage.”
The Teen Challenge Center in Tucson will be playing host for the Tables and Testimonies event. Peabody says that live music will be provided as other ministries team with Teen Challenge at Reid Park to meet people’s needs.
“Our students will not only be evangelizing from the bandshell in the park’s amphitheater, but distributing ProjectREACH literature, interacting with guests, sharing their personal testimonies, and having the opportunities to present Jesus and lead people to Christ,” Peabody says.
Peabody notes that many smaller ProjectREACH events are also taking place under the planning expertise of each center’s ProjectREACH representative.
In reflecting on what has already taken place and looking forward to the events still to come, Peabody expresses his gratitude for Blackard’s vision and preparation, the ongoing support of Arizona Ministry Network Superintendent Steve Harris and other network officials, and the Teen Challenge ProjectREACH representatives who have taken on the extra responsibility.
“I’m really excited about this and our students and staff are really excited about this,” Peabody says. “Going outside the center and onto the streets — it’s energizing. Some we’re sharing with, they may learn that Teen Challenge is the place they need to be; others, they may end up in a local church — either way, I count that as a successful encounter!”
Ward says that within the first month of ProjectREACH, thousands of people across America have heard the gospel as well as the personal testimonies of God’s work in the lives of Teen Challenge students.
“By the conclusion of this year’s ProjectREACH,” Ward says, “we expect that many tens of thousands will have heard the gospel message through the efforts of Adult and Teen Challenge centers and thousands will have turned their lives over to Christ.”