|My thirty years at Teen Challenge!
“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
(John 17:3 – NKJV)
(This was originally written to share with the staff at Teen Challenge.)
This February 1, 2001 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the day I graduated the
Teen Challenge program in London. That month I started working with the ministry
as the first intern at the London location as we had moved from Hamilton during
my program in 1990. I have worked here ever since, thirty years!
I have been asked to share some highlights of my time as a Teen Challenge staff.
It is a blessing for me to testify of the life God has called me to live these last thirty
When I was in the program I was a part of the Teen Challenge Choir and during a
five week tour of the Atlantic Provinces near the end of my program I really got a
sense from God that I was to be involved in Christian ministry / missionary work as
my life’s work. As I approached graduation, the choir director at the time, Bernie
Gillott, asked me to be the soundman for the choir. That was my first position at
Teen Challenge, working as a member of the Teen Challenge Choir department.
The choir in those days was a big department. Among other things, believe it or
not, from 1991 to 1993 we put on three “Jesus fests” on our grounds complete with
thousands in attendance, overnight camping, and name gospel acts.
The choir was also a real evangelistic ministry in those days, and for two years I
really got to experience a lot. We did five and six week tours to Western Canada
and Eastern Canada twice each, we went to Nashville twice for two week tours, and
we even flew to Great Britain twice, teaming up with the UK Choir for five week
tours. Our outreaches consisted of church meetings as well as countless anti-drug
high school meetings with Christian rallies at night, street meetings, as well as
prison meetings. In fact I once got to minister to men on death row in the same
prison in Nashville that held Martin Luther King’s killer.
A quick story, in 1991 while on a six week tour our west, while traveling to BC we
hit a snow storm and had a major bus accident, landing in a ditch on our roof.
Injuries included broken bones, broken vertebra, and concussions. Believe it or
not we actually finished the tour and only missed one meeting! Led by the
students, no one wanted to quit because of how much we believed in our ministry.
That was a great team to have been a part of.
During the early 1990’s I really prayed about my future. Originally after graduation
I hoped to stay with Teen Challenge for a year to a year and a half and then go
onto Bible Collage or something like YWAM. Then one evening while out with my
Bible in the front lawn area of Teen Challenge I felt God speak to me out of
Jeremiah 27:2-12 to submit myself to this ministry and that He would bless me. He
called me to be here long term, and He’s honestly never called me out – thus why I
haven’t left as yet!
In 1993 I switched positions, to working in the program department, and I soon
became the intake co-ordinator, a job I did for seven years, as well as serving on
the program leadership team.
Since early in my time at Teen Challenge I felt called by God to be a minister (I
have now been ordained for many years), and during these years in the 1990’s I
had many opportunities to preach and teach and really learn ministry. For me it
was like being at a hands on ministry institute.
In 2000 I felt the Lord call me to go to Bible Collage so I switched to working duty
shift (now called community support worker or CSW for short) while I went to
school, doing correspondence Bible Collage with Global University. I ended up
working as a CSW for fifteen years. I have to say my time working CSW was
among my best years at Teen Challenge. On the company flow chart it is listed as
an “entry level position”, but I believe it is the best place to minister to the men in
the program. I loved my time working nights and weekends.
One highlight from those years was running recreation on Saturdays and getting
to regularly play road hockey and baseball with the guys. We had some awesome
Another highlight was the so-called “Wayne’s world”. On Monday and Wednesday
nights rather than have dorm prayer, I would have a worship time in the chapel
and share a short message from the word. Some of the students would join me
leading worship and sometimes the worship would go on for an hour. Those were
In addition to this, during these years at two different times, from 1999 to 2001 and
from 2008 to 2015, I served part-time as the evangelism co-ordinator, typically
three days a week. I have been involved in evangelism since my days in the choir
and I love it. At one time we had up to seven teams ministering weekly in prisons
and at youth drop-ins and soup kitchens and in street missions as well as on the
streets doing street witnessing. We had a number of staff involved as well as a
bunch of interns to provide leadership with most of the training and transition
phase students signing up for it. It was really awesome to be a part of that
department and give leadership to it, a dream job for sure!
Evangelism was definitely my best job at Teen Challenge, even better than the
choir and CSW.
The biggest highlight of evangelism has been our outreach to the Followers
Mission street church in so called “crack central” in downtown Toronto. We have
been going there monthly since 2005 doing chapel services, where each month a
few of us staff and interns take along any evangelism students who are in their
graduating month. This outreach serves as their “final test” for evangelism and is
always a highlight for all of us.
In 2015 Teen Challenge across Canada was restructured and a few different
positions were discontinued with evangelism being one of them. I have since kept
the department going voluntarily as it is where my heart is and because I believe it
is really good for the men in the program. The “action and excitement” of
Christianity that rivals the old crazy addict lives we lived is found in outreach
ministry, and I love giving our guys the opportunity to experience that the same
way I got to experience it through the Teen Challenge Choir.
In the restructuring in 2015 I moved back to working days as the Student Life co-
ordinator. Then in 2020 I moved positions again to Spiritual Formation co-
ordinator. These have both been very fulfilling jobs as I have skills as an
administer, and one of my callings in the ministry is that of a Bible teacher. It has
been great to serve the Lord and the men and the ministry in these positions.
Since the restructuring we have been through a lot of transition as a ministry and I
have also found it really satisfying to be a part of the program leadership team that
has guided the program to a place where today I think it is one of the best
programs we’ve had in the last thirty years.
Other highlights of note I have had over the years include taking students on
outreaches to churches on Sunday mornings promoting the Teen Challenge
ministry. The van drives in particular involved great times of fellowship, to say
nothing of the lunches and fellowship we had with the churches after the services!
Also, taking a van load of students to my boxing gym for monthly circuit training
and even sparing with some of them in their senior months. It was great to do
something “off program” like that with them. Also, having the graduating students
come to my weekly men’s Bible study the night before their grad and afterwards
taking them out for wings and nachos at Tiger Jacks, something we have done for
almost twenty years. We regularly get a big crowd of staff and interns and former
grads out for that night, which makes for a big party in the Lord. Lastly, in recent
years I have somewhat become the unofficial “Teen Challenge marriage officiant”,
conducting a number of weddings for Teen Challenge grads. This has actually
been incredibly special.
Finally, like everyone, I am not sure what the future holds, and to be honest I am
looking forward to the next place the Lord has for me, wherever that may be.
However I am not planning on leaving until the Lord calls me out. I am committed to
serving Him wherever He calls me, even at Teen Challenge for multiple decades!
As I like to say, I could be a missionary to addicts in some foreign country where I
first need to learn the language and the culture, or I could do it in my home
country where I already know the language and the culture. To be honest it is
really great to do it here where I get the blessing of helping people I used to be like
find freedom in Christ.
Truthfully, Teen Challenge is one of the great parachurch ministries in the world,
one that does great work for the Lord world-wide. For me it is a real privilege to
In closing I just want to say that the best part of the ministry, next to of course
being able to worship and pray and minister and regularly see God working
miracles as a part of my job, to say nothing of getting to play road hockey as a
part of my job for the last thirty years, are the relationships I have gained.
Over the years I have gained many friends including many I call best friends, even
those who are just like brothers to me, including those who have been staff and
particularly those who are graduates.
There is a part of me who still considers myself to just one of the students, only
thirty years down the road, and we are a very unique brotherhood. We all used to
be crazy at one time, doing things in our addictions that no one in their right mind
would ever plan to do when they were growing up, and now we are all trying to
serve the Lord. It creates a real lifetime bond among us.
In fact here’s a testimony of that. In the last year I have spoken to a handful of
guys I went through the program with thirty years ago, still talking to each other
just as if we were still in the program together!
Teen Challenge is a real unique place, it is as much a school as anything else,
and the relationships we gain here, we gain for life.
I will finish with this. I came into program right out of jail. I got out on a Friday, had
my last party on Saturday, officially rededicated my life to the Lord at my dad’s
church on Sunday, came into the program on Monday, got baptised in the Holy
Spirit on Tuesday, and was water baptised on Wednesday. And I have been on my
way in the things of the Lord ever since.
The first scripture I memorised was Jeremiah 29:11, that God has a plan for our
lives. I never would have imaged His plan for me was thirty years at Teen
Challenge, but I have to admit if I could go back to that Monday in December 1989
(12/11/89 to be exact) and start all over again I would.
It has been a real adventure, which is the way I believe life is supposed to be in the
Kingdom of God!