is the director of Teen
Challenge International USA, an Assemblies of God ministry
devoted to helping people overcome drug and alcohol addictions
through the power of Jesus Christ. There are currently 180
Teen Challenge centers in the United States and 250 in more
than 70 countries around the world. Castellani spoke recently
with Staff Writer Isaac Olivarez.
PE: How does
Teen Challenge demonstrate God’s ability to work in
an addict’s life?
What sets Teen Challenge apart from other programs is that
it’s built on biblical principles and the message
of Christ. Jesus is presented as not only the Savior, but
as One who is able to deliver and keep recovering addicts
from going back into their former life. Second Corinthians
5:17 tells us we are a new creation in Christ Jesus. Jeremiah
29:11 says that God has a special plan for each of our lives.
Learning from Scripture helps people recovering from addiction
to build a positive self-image through a relationship with
Christ and His Word.
What will it take to get society on board with Teen Challenge
and other faith-based organizations?
I think society at large is willing to embrace us. The difficulty
comes when some who are clinically trained question how
we can do what we do with the success we have without doing
it in a clinical fashion. To overcome this hurdle we need
to do a better job of communication. We have to let the
world know that our Christian faith goes beyond a set of
dogmatic beliefs and shapes the ethics we share. Along with
ethics, we provide positive counseling that is biblically
based. The greatest example we have is our graduates’
testimonies and how successful they are in their local communities.
Many public schools are beginning to open up to us. Some
of our centers have done an excellent job in going into
schools and doing presentations. When we go in there we
can’t tell the message of Jesus Christ, but we can
still make it clear what God has done in their lives.
PE: How does
Teen Challenge partner with local churches?
One of the key parts of our re-entry plan is connecting
our students with the local church. Only as they stay in
a local church will they be able to stay strong and keep
from going back to the things they used to do. One of the
goals of Teen Challenge is to put together a strong drug
prevention program that we’ll be able to take to churches,
public schools, Christian schools and other venues. We’re
working with Evangel University and Assemblies of God Theological
Seminary to create staff training programs so we can do
training seminars across the nation and give opportunity
for all centers to have adequate training.
How does Teen Challenge partner with the judicial system
concerning drug offenders?
It’s a local thing. As the various center directors
build relationships with judges, most will send us their
clients. The challenge is, because we’re faith-based,
they send us the clients but there are no revenues that
follow. Hopefully the faith-based initiative will help to
correct some of that. Once we get national acceptance as
a legitimate program helping to restore lives, it will be
a boost to our centers.
PE: How can
people pray for Teen Challenge?
One of our challenges is zoning restrictions in places where
we want to establish centers. Another challenge is getting
adequately trained staff. We need to pray that God will
not only help us put together the proper program, but the
proper trainers also. The better our trainers and staff
are, the better our product. Finances are always a challenge
because all of our funds are raised from private donations.
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