Main Article – To Be or Not to Be

By: Bryan Sampson

Why is it such a battle to be who God has called us to be? I remember the transition from being a student into an intern with Teen Challenge Orlando like it was yesterday. A fierce conflict between being a friend and being a leader to the student body ensued in me. I was met with many internal and external challenges as I tried to maintain my friendships but also lead with boldness and courage. Needless to say, I was not enjoying being an intern as my need for approval from both the students and the staff was negatively impacting my work. I soon realized that it is impossible to please everyone and do my job with integrity and excellence, so which do I choose? Please the students or please the staff? To my surprise the answer was neither.

The solution was to find my identity, acceptance, and value in my relationship with Christ first and foremost. Trying to be who everyone else wanted me to be was robbing me from being who God created me to be. E.E. Cummings writes, “To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight—and never stop fighting.” (Witt, 2018, p. 68).

I don’t know if you share in my struggle of people pleasing, but I know that we all live in a world that wants to block us from walking in our true identity with Christ and tempt us to chase after illusionary idols to find value and meaning from people and things that do not satisfy and only discourage. This is the battle we must fight against everyday if we are to become the men and women God is calling us to be. Think of the impact of a team where each member is solidified in their true identity where peace, courage, and God’s glory reign supreme and self-centered struggles and ambitions cease to exists! 

Meditate on the truth that Christ came to remove the burden of legalistic, people pleasing pursuits where our “being has become our doing” and He wants us to enjoy the reality that “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Once we identify with our son-ship in Christ, then we can fill every earthly role for His glory and watch Him bring transformation to our teams and in through our programs.

Works Cited

Witt, L. (2018). High Impact Teams: where healthy meets high performance. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

ELP Participant Highlight

Name: CJ Hutto

Age: 19

Hometown: Eufaula, AL

Teen Challenge Center: Jacksonville women’s center, graduated January 2019

Brief Testimony: My Grandparents raised me because my Mother and Father cared about drugs and alcohol more than me. That caused me to feel like I was not good enough to be loved. At a young age I was molested by a family member and I quickly turned to food. Food was my comfort for a while and then something in me changed and food became my worst enemy. I found myself bound by an eating disorder. I just wanted something to fill the void inside of me so I started looking for love in all the wrong places. I got involved with a guy and he introduced me to drugs and I then understood why my Father was so caught up in that lifestyle. Soon later I was sitting in jail all by myself thinking of all the mistakes I did to get myself there. God showed me mercy. I deserved to sit in jail but God had a plan for me. I came to Teen Challenge and my life has done a complete 180. God has delivered me from my chains and has set me free!!

What is the vision and calling that God has given you? God has been speaking to me about becoming staff at Teen Challenge. I know I want to help people become what God has called them to be. Wherever God leads me, I’ll go.

How has the ELP Program impacted you? Since being in ELP I have grown so much. I am growing as a leader and women of God. I am so grateful for this program!

TF Highlight

Name: Kevin Campos

Age: 25

Hometown: Satellite Beach, FL

Teen Challenge Center: Graduated Central Florida Teen Challenge in 2015, Working at Tallahassee Teen Challenge since 2017

Brief Testimony: I was raised with a loving family and going to church, although never had a true relationship with God. When my dreams to receive a college scholarship for football were crushed, I turned to drugs, stealing and bad relationships to find my purpose. After many arrests, moving from city to city and burning bridges between family and friends, I was left with no choice, but to change my life. Teen Challenge accepted me, regardless of my financial situation and that’s where I became a disciple of the faith. Since then, the Lord has blessed me with provisions, gifts, motivation, discipline, education, a purpose and most of all the priceless benefits of the best family and friends anyone could ask for.

What do you enjoy most about your role? What I enjoy most about my role are the moments I experience as a teacher and spiritual leader, to witness men and women choose to love God and live it out in the context of the Word of God.  

Why do you feel that leadership and training are valuable? Leadership and the training that accompanies it are necessary and valuable because in order to fulfill the great commission and make disciples, there needs to be a sense of leadership and taking responsibility to influence others in the best way that promotes Christ-like change. And although someone can be naturally talented in qualities of a leader, much like a naturally talented athlete, we will never reach our full potential and have others grow in their level of potential without choosing to be trained well and training others along the way.

ELP Participant Highlight

Name: Ezra Perez

Age: 38

Hometown: Pensacola, FL

Teen Challenge Center: Tallahassee, FL – 2012

Brief Testimony: God spared my life in April of 2015. He had a greater purpose for me than being the drug addicted, alcoholic son of a single mother. After 25 years of addiction and incarceration, God provided my escape. I have been living for Him ever since.

What is the vision and calling that God has given you: To help others find freedom from the their addictions while pursuing a better relationship with our Lord and Savior.

How has the ELP Program impacted you: The ELP Program has helped me further develop my leadership skills, and continue to grow in my relationship with Jesus Christ.

Main Article – Finding Your Rhythm

By: Bryan Sampson

I remember the first time I tried paddle boarding. I wouldn’t recommend trying on the ocean for your first time. Needless to say, I couldn’t stay on the board for more than a couple of seconds; just long enough for the next wave to knock me over. As the sun bore down and the waves kept crashing into me, I kept trying, growing more and more frustrated. I could not keep my balance to save my life. I thought that mental focus would help, so I focused more intently on my body, just to be tossed aside time and time again. Nearing the end of my patience, I decided to start praying. Interestingly the more I forgot about balance and focused on God, the longer I stayed on the board. I was shocked and elated at this revelation of were to focus my consciousness. By not focusing on my balance, my body would properly adjust to every wave, keeping a perfect rhythm, that allowed me to stay on the board and start paddling. My focus switched from balance to rhythm.

I believe this picture captures the essence of what Lance Witt (2018) was getting at in establishing rhythm (see p.53). Life, like the waves in the ocean, has a lot of ups and downs, calmness and motion and if we try to keep balance, we will constantly find ourselves frustrated and weary of our pursuits. So how do we switch from the pursuit of balance to the dance of rhythm? God gave us the practical strategy to help us live a life of rhythm and it is called Sabbath.

There will always be more to do, more to strive for, and more to accomplish, but you can choose a rhythm for your life that allows you to stop, rest, and restore. God gave you the Sabbath as a gift. How are you treating it? Witt (2018) states that “if you don’t have a biblical and theological conviction about the practice of Sabbath, the gravitational pull toward busyness will always win”. If busyness is always winning in your life, what is your prognosis? Balance or burnout?

Take time today and start to think about how you can begin to consistently participate in Sabbath keeping. Think about ways that will help you connect with God, relax, and restore. Find a hobby, meet with friends, go to a movie, go shopping, whatever it is, go enjoy yourself and relax. Remember God infused the Sabbath day with blessings (Exod. 20:11) and a healthy you is the best gift you can give your team (Witt, 2018).

Main Article – Rapid Distraction

By: Bryan Sampson

I have always been fascinated with how God can use natural wonders to show us spiritual and immaterial truths. Truths that help us gain greater insights into ourselves and into His character (Rom 1:20). The other day I was walking by the river here in Columbus and the rapids were raging. After marveling at the beautiful fury, I began to wonder “what could possibly be going on underneath all of those waves?” I then began to think about how my life is very similar to those rapids. On the top, it can be so busy, so much going on, that it would mimic the rushing white water. Go, go, go! No time to do any self-reflection or to nurture and care for my internal parts. The rapids get all the focus.

When the busyness of life takes center stage, our awareness of what is going on internally can easily drift away. Our lives can easily become roaring rapids, with so much external commotion going on that our inner life begins to be neglected. Paul makes clear that our spirit is in danger of being contaminated (2 Cor. 7:1). When the externals of your life gain more attention than the internal, you will try to manage your brokenness by adjusting and rearranging the externals in your life (Witt, 2018). This only turns a smooth river into white water, as you head for disaster.

I encourage you today to take time to find a quiet place, to do some self-reflection with just you and your Heavenly Father. Don’t miss these God-given opportunities to engage in peaceful personal reflection. These are the moments that keep you healthy, humble, and strengthened to continue to do the job God has set forth. Remember the best gift you can give your spouse, family, and team is a healthy you (Witt, 2018 p. 39).

March Participant Highlight

Name: Hannah Adams

Age: 25

Home Town: Charlotte, NC

Teen Challenege Center: Kansas City Girls Academy

Brief Testimony: I was raised in a Christian home and heard the gospel multiple times before I decided to put my faith in Christ when I was 8 years old. I came to understand that faith in Christ alone is our only hope for salvation. Since then, God has used multiple people and situations in my life to sanctify me and show me just how much I need Him. A verse that comes to mind and that has been convicting for me lately is Revelation 2:5 “you have perseverance and have endured for my name’s sake and have not grown weary. But I have this against you , that you have left your first love.” It can be easy to get so caught up pointing others to Christ that I forget my own need for the gospel; my prayer is that I wouldn’t be like the Ephesians but would be constantly reminded and humbled to depend on God that much more. 

What is the vision and calling God has given you? To be used by God as conduit for life-change for others so that they may be sent out to do the same. My life has been transformed by the gospel and I have a deep desire to share the hope fo the gospel with those God has placed in my life. From a young age (in 2nd grade) I felt God was calling me to ministry and I thought that missions was how He was going to use me in that. As I got older and prayed more specifically for direction and clarity with that call, He showed me that counseling was what He had planned for me to do. Then, at the perfect time, He gave me the opportunity to work at TC to do just that.

How has the ELP Program Impacted You?  So far, I’ve been encouraged that the ministry I am a part of is not my own, but that it is God’s and I just have the privilege to a part of it. It’s also been cool to be reminded that my job as a counselor (or even as a Christian for that matter) is to be obedient and God will bring the change in His time. Trusting in His timing is easier said than done, but it produces and even deeper dependence on Him. 

March TF Highlight

Name: Mike Van Bibber

Age: 69

Home Town: Kansas City, Missouri

Teen Challenege Center: Kansas City Girls Academy

Brief Testimony: I accepted Christ at age 12.  Called to work with young people, I was an educator for 42 years. At retirement God called me to serve at Teen Challenge. When seeking a new position, I decided I no longer wanted to work with “kids”. God obviously had other ideas for me. What a blessing to work with the young women at Teen Challenge.

What do you enjoy most about your role? I enjoy working with a team whose main concerns are leading students to the Lord and keeping hope within their reach.

Why do you feel that leadership and training are valuable?  We are all leaders in the sense that we are example setters for those around us. Our training inspires us to grow stronger in the Lord while helping us to gain new insights and skills that allow us to be better leaders for our students.

Main Article – Super Synergy

By: Bryan Sampson

Who doesn’t love a good superhero? With their amazing powers, personal struggles, and a moral purpose, all mixed together with a dash of humanity, what isn’t there to love? Do you know what all of the greatest superheroes have in common? It isn’t their powers; it isn’t their purpose; it is that they knew they could be more powerful and have a greater impact if they worked together as a team. The Justice League, The Avengers, and my personal favorite, The X-Men all came together because their creators knew that nothing could be more powerful than a team of the most powerful.

This truth comes from our God, our Creator, who abides in the Trinity, the most powerful and synergistic team that could ever be known. Our Creator wants us to not just read about, or study, the impact of a powerful team. He wants us to experience it. He wants us to experience the synergy that comes from a healthy and high performing team. He gave us His Spirit so that we would have power, not for individual gain but for His team and purpose (Acts 1:8). I believe this is what God had in mind when He states to the Corinthians “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgement” (1 Cor 1:10). God knew the power of the church, the power of believers coming together with one mind, one spirit, and one purpose. This is the only way that His power and kingdom could be present in this very dark world. He knew that divisions and individualism would only lead to self-autonomy and pride, with an impact that would-be minute at best. Jesus died for the church, for His team, let us not individualize it to the point where we create “silos” and keep out those God desires us to join with. He wanted you to be a part of His team. If we are going to truly be the vessels God uses to bring life transformation to those struggling, then we must begin to see the purpose of the power and team God has blessed us with.

Just being a part of a “team” isn’t enough. We must begin to strive for synergy within our teams. If synergy is the “interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects” (Witt, 2018, p. 28), then how would you assess your team currently? Do you believe there is the right combination of health and performance on your team? Are you producing a more powerful effect individually, if so why? What can you do today to help your team produce the synergy God desires and your team needs, to manifest His power and create the greatest impact for His kingdom?


Works Cited

Witt, L. (2018). High Impact Teams: where healthy meets high performance. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

February Participant Highlight

Name: James Michael Cox

Age: 30

Hometown: Marco Island, FL

Teen Challenge Center: Fort Myers 2018

Brief Testimony

I spend nearly a decade living successful in the eyes of the world, but my spirit was dead. My party lifestyle and opiate addiction slowly grew into a life dependent on heroin and cocaine. Having known of God, but never knowing God, he brought me to Teen Challenge and reintroduced himself to me. This time, I met him halfway, and my life has been one giant miracle ever since. Opportunities and blessings in the lives of my family and I, continue to show.

What is the vision and calling that God has given you?

Dean Sikes said, “What you overcome in life usually becomes your platform in life.” Jesus has called me to extend my season with Teen Challenge into an internship. I can relate to broken individuals with no passion, purpose, or God in their lives. My calling is to put aside my selfish desires, and help others.

How has the ELP Program impacted you?

This program has aided my understanding of how to live abiding by Christian principles. Leadership skills, boundaries with relationships, and confidence in the Lord, are all becoming realities for me very quickly. If anyone knew me 14 months ago, the previous sentence would have been perceived as laughable.