March 15, 1998


Around six in the morning, somebody scared me awake telling me that they would be heading off to church around seven. I had spent the night at the Teen Challenge Center in Sanford, Florida. Before we traveled the center on the bus, one of the older guys made a comment that I seemed out of place because of my clothes.

Everybody had on a suit. At least, I had my "Messiah" t-shirt with the words "He died for me......I'll live for him" and a cross on the back. The t-shirt had been a gift to me from a church in Los Cruces, New Mexico last year.

We traveled a long way to an Assembly of G-D Church that was a mega-church in Longwood about ten miles away. The first service started around eight a.m. The sanctuary could possibly hold one thousand people. It was going to be a loud morning.

There was a band on stage with a large drum set right in center stage. The music section of the service turned out to be a thirty minute sound and light show. The words of the songs were exhibited on a screen by a computerized video system. Everybody stood up for all of this but I could only stand for about twenty minutes of it.

There were several long prayers before the minister started his long sermon. He did say a few interesting things and one of them that between eighty and ninety percent of the people who accept Y'SHUA today are under eighteen years old. He also said that twenty percent of the people who attend church give eighty percent of the church's funds and eighty percent of the people attending church do twenty percent of the work around the church.

I didn't do much for the rest of the day but I did get to know some of the guys who were in the center's drug program. In the evening, I went with the group to another mega-church that was on the outskirts of Orlando. The service was long because of the music. They had nearly a full orchestra. There was actually two long music sessions because there was an orchestra and choir from an Assembly of G-D college in Lakeland. After the last music service, there was a baptism of thirteen people.

Before getting back on the bus, a couple of the guys prayed over me to bless my trip. I got into a good discussion during the ride back to the center. When we got back to the center, one of the guys wanted to give me a book for me to read. I didn't get to take the book back to my room because one of the staff members that I didn't meet during the day confiscated the book. He told me that I wasn't really allowed to associate with the guys in the program.

Why wasn't this expressed to me when I arrived at the center. I ate alongside the guys during the meal and was even asked to bless one of the meals. This gave me a really bad impression of Teen Challenge. Things are not what they seem to be.

The success rate of the program is quite low. Less than ten percent of the guys who enter the program actually make it through the year-long program. I was told that ten people had left the program last week.

It turns out that this Teen Challenge uses the people in the program as unpaid workers. The staff members get the guys up around 4:30 in the morning so that they can take a thirty-five mile ride to an auto detailing shop at a car auction center that the program operates. Work at the detail shop goes on for six days of the week and none of the guys get any real salary. It was like the guys are used as slave labor.

Yes, the guys in the program might be getting off drugs, etc. but what kind of skills do the guys get but how to wash and clean cars better. What was so disturbing about this was that people paid good money for the guys to go through the program.



Bicyclist in Sunset



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