Putting Hope in Reach of Every Addict

Today, guest speaker and director of Global Teen Challenge Jerry Nance joins us to talk about a hope we can take hold of that frees us from our worst addictions. Our God can overcome the strongest addiction and redeem the darkest past. For those in the grip of addiction, he offers them a way to heal and live fully again. He can fill the emptiness inside each one of our hearts, and his mercy is new every day. 

Today, guest speaker and director of Global Teen Challenge Jerry Nance joins us to talk about a hope we can take hold of that frees us from our worst addictions. Our God can overcome the strongest addiction and redeem the darkest past. For those in the grip of addiction, he offers them a way to heal and live fully again. He can fill the emptiness inside each one of our hearts, and his mercy is new every day. 

Gary Wilkerson: Well, welcome to the Gary Wilkerson Podcast, I'm Gary Wilkerson and I'm here with a good friend and a great man of God who is ministering in ways that impact the world. You're going to be excited to hear what God's done through your life. Jerry, welcome! Glad you're here on our podcast-

Jerry Nance: Glad to be here, absolutely.

Gary: Jerry is the director of Global Teen Challenge.  Jerry, we have this in common, we both have worked for my father David Wilkerson before and we don't have in common is that I was actually born by him and you weren't but we are brothers in Christ. Jerry has been working originally with World Challenge. Where you worked for my father for many years helping him do his Dave Wilkerson in crusades and then now have taken on your role at Global Teen Challenge. Thanks, Jerry for come along today. Tell us a little bit about Global Teen Challenge, what is this as an organization?

Jerry: Global Teen Challenge-- we partner with Teen Challenge Centers all over the world to provide training and really developing the leadership teams, as well as launching new Teen Challenge programs in countries where there are no programs, faith-based programs, for really serving the addicted population. As well as just really investing in curriculum development and translation of curriculum, so we really are doing a broad, broad amount of work just in every Teen Challenge Center in the world.

Gary: You were kind enough to speak to our staff this morning. You asked the question, how many of you have family members or friends who are addicted? Maybe say 80% of people raised their hands right. Is that normal wherever you go? If you were to ask that question would you say-

Jerry: At least 75% of every crowd if I'm ever in a church or in a business setting where I'm speaking to even business communities. Do you have a loved one addicted to drugs or alcohol? Loved one or friend, they'll all say yes. It is an enormous issue, not just across America but truly all over the world.

Gary: Being that that you head up one of the most effective and impactive programs for those on addiction, you probably have a pretty good knowledge of the vast breadth of addiction in the world today.

Jerry: Well, absolutely. The United Nations, they do continual studies on the population of addicts and the numbers always are in the realm of 270 to 280 million drug abusers globally. The truth of it is when you think about that, that's not even half likely the number because a lot of your shame-based culture countries, they're just not going to report. Like a Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, they're not going to tell you the truth about the addiction there, but one in every four adult men in Pakistan are using heroin and most all of them addicted. One in every four men.

You look at that need, and then in Afghanistan the use of-- and even in the wars where they're there keeping the soldiers stoned on heroin and drugs so that they'll go and do some of the stuff they're doing. It's an enormous problem in some of the Asian countries of the world but they won't talk about it.

I mean like for the price of a boiled egg you can get heroin in parts of China. I mean it's incredible. India is you know just-- we believe approximately 20% of all drug addicts on the face of the earth are in India. Heroin is everywhere, and they tend to smoke it, they don't tend to use it intravenously, but I've seen parks one evening we were on the border of Mumbai or Bombay and we just see-- they took us there the director took us there. He said, just wait. It was like dusk-dark and there were at least 4000 drug addicts just coming to crash and sleep in the park because they are living in the streets, they're homeless, and they're helpless. I mean it just grabs your heart to say that this issue, drug addiction, is grabbing and destroying lives, destroying families. The breakup of the home so often today in America it's drug-related.

Gary: Sometimes you don't think of that, you think one in four in Pakistan, for instance, being on heroin, but that's one out of four families being destroyed, one out of four moms crying themselves to sleep at night wonder where the little boy is on the streets and that's a-- so the ripple effect of addictions are much wider than we even know. In America is it-- would you say it's less of a problem than some of the countries or?

Jerry: No, I wouldn't. There's 22 million according to government studies. 22 million Americans, so you consider our population of over 300 million, that's still a significant amount of people that are hurting. When you think of this opiate epidemic that has just flooded across America, you can fault the medical companies, the pharmaceutical companies. They really did push pain control and these pain clinics that have gone across America. People were very innocently, they were playing tennis and hurt their elbow, or they tore up their knee playing football. They go on and get a large supply of oxycontin, oxycodone. They start taking it and then they run out of pills. Well, if they start over-medicating themselves because of their pain, that is highly addictive. The next thing you know they're looking for it, and so now that the crash down and the clamp down on the prescriptions they're going to heroin. They're finding it in the streets, it's coming out of Mexico, it's coming from other parts of the world, and it's devastating.

These are just solid people that are now devastated their families. Gary, I think one of the greatest challenges is this word ‘shame’. You don't want to tell anybody, that my son who was A-student, was a football player or a tennis stars now a heroin addict and doing things you never-- they're robbing, they're breaking into people's houses, they're prostituting themselves to get these drugs, and they're embarrassed. They hide, and so we really hope to put hope in reach of addicts everywhere and in these families that are looking for care. We know that Christ is the hope. We know that there is a transformation. We know it's possible. All the families that are listening today that are hopeless, let me tell you, there is hope. We see it all the time but America's really struggling.

Gary: I definitely want to talk--just a little bit I want to come back to that talking about how somebody listening today and needs hope for themselves or their family. It just kind of want to keep looking at the broad brushstroke of this is how it's impacting and particularly in America here. What you're saying is, some of the prescription drugs are a little harder to get now, so people turn to the street drugs. That puts them in a whole different kind of culture too, because now you're going to a drug dealer, you're owning people money. The problems are intensifying then, and in some ways will that right?

Jerry: Oh, absolutely. Gary, those are the students coming into the doors of Teen Challenge, they're getting so desperate, the criminal activity that results from that, they get arrested. Now they're getting criminal records, and the judges are giving them choices either go to prison or go to drug programs and Teen Challenge is one of those that they'll choose and select to be with us. A large percentage of our adult men, I'd say 10% 15% are coming through court referrals into the program.

Gary: That's a lot.

Jerry: Yes, it is.

Gary: Tell us a little bit about Teen Challenge. I already know the story a little bit, how it started, but I'd love to hear from your perspective. I kind of tell the story as I know it from the early days, but Teen Challenge started-

Jerry: It started-- David Wilkerson, your dad, was pastoring at the time and you weren't even born, I was reading in his prayer time read a LIFE magazine February 28, 1958. If you look at that magazine, we have several of them in our office that we keep a keep them around and because that was the starting point. When he's read this story of seven boys on trial for murder in New York City and God just touched his heart and said to him, "Go help those boys." 19 days later he was standing in New York City, he hadn’t ever been to New York City, didn't have a clue of really what the real issues were, but God burdened his heart to go help those boys. He made an attempt to really reach those seven boys but that really never did happen.

While he was going into the neighborhoods, God gave him access to these gang members and favor with the gang members and just began to open doors to really minister to them. He found out there was one thing that he didn't even know about until he got in there was that, they were using heroin. You've got a picture of the United States in 1958 and think about heroin is now in the streets and kids are living together in burned out buildings. Well, the moral culture was totally different then but to think about them destroying their lives on these drugs and your dad just decided-- felt God wanting him to help those addicts and that's when in like 1960 he created the very first residential program so that students could find care and find hope and freedom from addiction because I think early on they were putting them in people's homes. These addicts trying to get off of drugs and it was fine in some cases, but in other cases, they might steal your TV and head out. That's very typical if they're still struggling with addiction. Your dad started with that heart and that compassion to help the hurting. I think that that spirit, when you talk about cultures, that culture of care, that culture of reaching out to the hopeless is still a very much a part of this culture, of Teen Challenge today, 60 years later.

It was that heart, that commitment to prayer, that birthed the ministry and truly that's what we're doing all over the world is going into communities where there's enormous needs. I've been in Cambodia, I've been in Vietnam, I've been in Russia, Siberia, no matter where you're at, just Czechoslovakia or the Czech Republic, Slovakia, all these countries, there's addiction everywhere. Teen Challenge being there provides hope and its men and women who caught your father's vision that said, "That's the right thing to do." They went out because really it organically grew from one center in Brooklyn, New York, folks in California, then Detroit and then other cities. Then it went to The Hague, Netherlands and they just celebrated this past summer, their 50th Anniversary and it was incredible. There were over 600 leaders from all over the world that we're there for that 50th Anniversary.

You realize the culture then from, from Europe, it went over into Asia and then Africa and today Teen Challenge in Africa is just exploding. It happened because of one man being faithful to hear from God and then to act out and to step out into what he felt God ask him to do.

Gary: How many centers and how many nations are there now?

Jerry: We have over 1500 Teen Challenge programs in 125 nations of the world and Global Teen Challenge is current currently working in 10 a new countries now, Bangladesh, places like Indonesia, to be able to go in and work in some of these countries, to put hope in reach to the addicts in those communities. It's an incredible opportunity but an incredible need and we realize we won't put everybody in a bed. We're really working on new, innovative ways to try to reach addicts and provide care and to give them a chance to get out of that addiction.

Gary: I like that. The vision when you speak speaking, putting hope within reach of every addict. Tell us about did you come up with that?

Jerry: Yes.

Gary: That you're working on [crosstalk] hoe did that happen and what's the impact of that?

Jerry: While I was in prayer and reading the book of Luke and reading chapter five of Luke and just when Jesus asked Peter to get into the boat and he said, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets into the deep." They call it an enormous amount of fish and I was just pondering that in my prayer time and God just began to speak to me. Jesus changed their methodology that day of how they fished because they always fished at night. If you read the story there and Luke five Peter had said, "Look, master, we fished all night."

He was basically exhausted and they were cleaning their nets and you don't want to reclean your nets if you know you're not going to catch any fish in the daytime was in his mind, but they caught such a catch and, and Jesus changed their methodology and they caught more fish. The Holy Spirit just said, "Jerry, if you want to reach more addicts, you're going to have to change your methodology because Teen Challenge, historic nature of our organization is 12 month residential care, coming to the program, stop whatever you're doing and come in and be with us and we'll disciple you, we'll help you, we'll help you restore your relationship with your family and with God and yourself, forgive yourself and get over some of these things and really bring restoration to your life.

That won't work for 270 million and, and beyond, so we realized we really need to look at new strategies and new ways. Gary, I think what for your listeners' sake, just let me just tell you a couple of stories.

Lada, a little girl from the Czech Republic. Her father was an abusive alcoholic and Lada and her little sister would come home from school and look and peek through the windows of her house to see, is dad in the kitchen is in the bedroom, is he at work, where is he today? Would not even go into the house if he was in that room and so they would sneak in if he was there. They try to sneak through windows or whatever to their bedrooms because, when he was drunk, he was horribly mean and Lada said at night he would pick us up and put us on the kitchen table and scream and yell at us all night long for hours for her and her sister and just that verbal abuse from someone that's scary.

He was angry, yelling and slamming the table and it was everything about grades and good enough. Her self-esteem as a child was just destroyed. At eight 11 years old, she made a choice, "I'm not living here anymore." Who wants an 11-year-old child to be forced to make that kind of a decision? She chooses to go into the streets. What do you do in the Czech Republic at 11 years old to survive? She started prostituting and of course plenty of people out there to take advantage of her. Somebody began to, "Hey, you can stay here, but you're going to work for me."

This was 17 years of that life, lung problems from standing in the cold weather, prostituting. We even have video footage of her standing in a subway station where she stoned on heroin so bad, she's nodding, just nodding, standing over the edge of the rails. People everywhere watching it. Nobody did a thing. She finally falls into the tracks and I mean milliseconds later, this train runs right over the top of her. Miraculously God protects her. She was right smack between the middle of it. The train runs on her and you're watching this and nobody did anything to try to help her until the train. Then now they're wondering if she is dead. They went down there and there she comes, just still stoned out of her head.

She said, "About three weeks later, I came out of another trip to the emergency room. I had the clothes on my back and I was sitting on a park bench with another hospital bill I couldn't pay." She said, "I saw that bus over there with these lights and it was a Teen Challenge bus." I'm going to start crying here because I know Lada, she's a wonderful lady. She went over there and she said, "I'm going home with you tonight." They said, "No, you got to, call paperwork. You've got to do the process." She said, "No, no, you don't understand. I'm going home with you tonight." They felt okay. They took her home. God radically saved her life at Teen Challenge.

Of course, we've heard more and more times she should be dead. Fell into open elevator shaft from the fourth floor, hit the bottom. She was robbing somebody's apartment. Horrible life. Found Jesus. Today, She's a staff member of the program. She's leading other young ladies to Christ. I was just with her, I paid her way to be able to get to go to the Europe conference because I wanted her to be able to be there for the 50th Anniversary. God transformed her life from hopelessness to hope. Now she's engaged to be married and I'm like a grandfather that feels so proud that this little girl through Teen Challenge could find life and find hope.

Gary: That's amazing. Wow

Key Questions from the Podcast

  • What is Global Teen Challenge?
  • How prevalent is drug abuse and addiction in the US and around the world?
  • How did Teen Challenge get started?

Notable Quotes from the Podcast

We really hope to put hope in reach of addicts everywhere and in these families that are looking for care. We know that Christ is the hope. We know that there is a transformation. We know it's possible. All the families that are listening today that are hopeless, let me tell you, there is hope. – Jerry Nance

Addiction begins with the hope that something ‘out there’ can instantly fill up the emptiness inside. - Jean Kilbourne

Resources Mentioned in the Podcast

About Jerry Nance

Dr. Jerry Nance is known for his passion – a passion to see Teen Challenge extend its reach around the world to help thousands of more people find freedom from addiction. He has served as President and CEO of Global Teen Challenge since 2007.

Dr. Nance is a servant leader at heart, having begun a career in ministry as an associate pastor and senior pastor of a local church and later, Crusade Associate for Teen Challenge founder, David Wilkerson. His education uniquely qualifies him for addiction outreach and recovery. He holds a B.S. in Religious Studies from Southwestern University, a Master's Degree in Counseling from Barry University, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy in Leadership, Education with a specialization in Counseling from Barry University.

Beyond his leadership expertise, Dr. Nance is valued by friends, clients, and colleagues for something more than can be learned in a classroom - his compassion. He cares deeply for people who struggle with life-controlling addiction and is always ready and eager to develop the resources and programs necessary to facilitate their full recovery. From 1991-2017, he served as the Executive Director of Teen Challenge of Florida, leading the organization to an expansion of 21 centers across six states: Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Missouri. He has extended residential services to over 1,200 men and women, boys and girls. Today, it is his privilege to serve Global Teen Challenge, assisting international leadership in 125 nations and working with them to put hope within reach of every addict.

Dr. Nance and his wife, Libby, reside in Georgia and are the proud parents of three grown children and grandparents of nine grandchildren.

About Gary Wilkerson

Gary Wilkerson is the President of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009 with a handful of people. He has traveled nationally and internationally at conferences and conducted mission ventures such as church planting, starting orphanages, clinics, feeding programs among the poorest of the poor and the most unreached people of the earth. Gary and his wife Kelly have four children and live in Colorado Springs, CO.

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