The story of Teen Challenge goes back more than 50 years to 1958, when a young preacher, David Wilkerson, felt called by God to leave his rural church in Pennsylvania and head to New York City to help teenage gang members.
On arriving in the Big Apple, David’s heart was broken by the number of youngsters he encountered who were caught up in a desperate and destructive culture of drugs, fighting and prostitution.
He was compelled to reach out to the teenagers and let them know about the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which could – and would – bring light and hope into their lives.
David held a number of Christian rallies and invited the city’s gangs to come and hear his message.
At one of the events, members of some of the most notorious gangs, including the Mau Maus and the Bishops, went along, but not to listen to the preaching – instead, they planned an all-out fight.
Despite being jeered and mocked by the crowd, David made it through his sermon without a punch being thrown or a knife being flicked.
One of those was Nicky Cruz, a violent brawler who planned gang attacks as the ‘war lord’ of the Mau Maus, but who went on to become known across the globe as a renowned evangelist and preacher.
David then set up Teen Challenge to provide residential centres where young people could live and receive ongoing, continued support as they broke free from gang life and drug addictions.
Although the organisation was initially established for teenagers, the programme now helps men and women of all ages, with the majority of residents aged around 18 – 40.
Since it was formed, Teen Challenge has spread throughout the world, with more than 1,100 centres being run in around 100 countries. The story of David Wilkerson being called to New York and establishing Teen Challenge is told in the multi-million selling book, The Cross and the Switchblade, which has also been made into a feature film.
The ministry came to the UK in the 1970s and today there are centres located throughout Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Teen Challenge North East Scotland was established in 2003 with the opening of Sunnybrae, near Fyvie, with women’s centre, Benaiah, opening in 2009.
Since then, the recovery homes have helped many hurting men and women, who were looking for the answer to their life-controlling problems, become physically and emotionally well and spiritually alive.