Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge returning to Albert Lea for program at church

Published 8:06 pm Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge returns to Albert Lea United Methodist church this Sunday during the 10 a.m. service. This year there will be 25 to 30 members of the women’s choir. Every member of the choir has experienced some type of dependency. Every member of the choir made a commitment of at least one year to the program.

“Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge is a faith-based recovery program, treatment program in Minnesota,” said David Hunter, the center director in Rochester.

The Adult and Teen Challenge was founded by David Wilkerson back in the 1950s, who at the time had traveled to New York to minister to a group of boys that were in trouble with the law.

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“Their lives were radically turned around, they were freed from their drug addiction and consequently that was the beginning of what is now known as Adult and Teen Challenge.”

By doing this, their hope is not only to get clients sober but to help them find freedom and a relationship with God.

“In [Alcoholics Anonymous] for instance, one of the steps is discovering a power greater than ourselves, meaning many — if not most — addicts will discover that trying to get sober in and of themselves and relying on their own strength only lasts so long,” he said. “And so the spiritual aspect, they’re relying on a creator or higher power, something greater than ourselves allows us to tap into a will power, if you will, that is stronger than us.”

He also felt it helped addicts come to the conclusion that they wouldn’t have to go through treatment alone.  

He said one of the primary ways to share what the organization was about was by going to different churches and sharing what was happening in the lives of clients.

“When people are actually able to look at someone who was trapped in addiction and how they’ve been set free and the life they’re now living, it tends to speak for itself a little bit better,” he said.

Originally called Teen Challenge, the organization changed its name after realizing it was more than teenagers who needed help.

According to John Mitchem, the partnership with Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge started while he was serving in the Twin Cities. Mitchem is pastor at the church and the chaplain for the Albert Lea Police Department and Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office.

“We invited them back in 2008 at the church I was serving,” he said. “Every church I’ve served, we invite them every year.”

There were two reasons Mitchem wanted them to do this: He said it was important for people recovering to be able to tell their story, and it was important for those who shared to receive care and love.

“When the Minnesota Adult Teen Challenge is here, they not only do some songs for worship, but they tell testimonies.”

Hunter said the choir is composed of clients in a 13-month long-term program.

“They will come, and they will just share a few songs and a few testimonies about what is happening in their lives since coming to the program,” he said.

Mitchem also felt everybody knew someone who was affected by some type of addiction, and said in his own opinion every problem he saw in Albert Lea was directly related to drug use and abuse.

The organization has been presenting yearly at Albert Lea United Methodist church since he began in 2015. The event is open to the public and everyone is invited to come.

“It’s just powerful,” he said. “Church services on Sundays are supposed to be powerful and remind people of the grace of God and the mercy of God, and when we hear the testimony we hear God working in their lives.”  

Hunter described these programs as receiving “wonderful” responses.

“Our choir trips are a way for people who may have never heard of the Teen Challenge to get to know what we’re about, what’s going on in Teen Challenge, how Teen Challenge originated and basically even offer some opportunities if people want ways to get involved to come alongside us and support us and what we’re doing throughout the state of Minnesota.”

He admitted that by going to churches and other community events, oftentimes they’ll learn about other people who were struggling and how hearing the organization’s stories of hope provided them hope. 

According to Hunter, the program is the largest faith-based recovery program not just in Minnesota, but with over 1,300 centers is the largest in the world. Including their short-term and long-term programs as well as outpatient and aftercare services, there are 14 locations across Minnesota. 

“They all look different but they’re serving people who are struggling not only with addiction but other life-controlling issues,” he said.

The program is not geared toward a specific denomination, and he said they accept people from all different backgrounds.

“Quite frankly addiction doesn’t discriminate,” he said.

For anyone interested in joining the program, visit mntc.org or call 612-373-3366.

“If there are people out there who are suffering or who are wrestling with addiction or know someone who is, … please give us a call,” he said. “We’re here to help.”

Besides the choir trips, there will be a gala at 5:30 p.m. Thursday Oct. 13 at the Rochester International Event Center. For more information or to register for the event visit https://www.mntc.org/event/rochester-gala/.