LONGVILLE - From a distance, the 50 young men, dressed in white shirts, ties and dark pants, could be mistaken for a polished, traveling men's chorus or maybe even a snazzy touring college choir.
But look closer and this choir is different.
The young men in this group aspire to replace self-centered, meaningless behavior with a Christ-centered life. Further, these young men have been struggling with chemical addictions and other life-controlling problems. They are part of the Teen Challenge program that offers them hope and healing. Teen challenge advertises an impressive success rate - up to 86 percent - to help those running out of chances; often there is no other way out.
So on Feb. 28, when the Teen Challenge choir lined up to sing under the cross at Salem Lutheran in Longville, the sanctuary was alive. Some faces were fortyish, hardened, older, while others looked like they could be 14 though we were told the youngest was 21.
Then, the Teen Challenge choir cut loose. Fifty baritone voices booming "I Know My Redeemer Lives" in unison, from the heart, and with reckless abandon. Then came the individual testimonies. Heart-cramping stories included a man beginning substance abuse at age3. Yes, age 3! There were also plenty of stories from those who came from "good families," and when a mother and father came to stand by their son, (and grandma came, too) the audience was left gasping for air.
As the men told their stories, I peered at the 17 Salem youths who had come to support Teen Challenge, nestled in with their families within the congregation. What were they thinking? Stories tumbled out of the men, and when they got quite lengthy, the director/pastor of the group explained that telling their stories is part of the healing; knowing that, no one wanted to leave!
The fact is, Teen Challenge reminds us all that we at times do not like the light or don't even want the light. But standing before us was living proof that God gives us so many chances: He is light in action and Teen Challenge carried His light that day.
Il Divo they were not. No, they were much, much better.
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