A few letters later, it was time for a good old Teen Challenge graduation. These were big occasions. Guys and lassies that had been in the death grip of addiction had broken free because of God’s love in Christ, had completed the requirements of the intensive Teen Challenge programme and were about to graduate.
In those days they were held in City Temple (Elim Swansea). They were (and still are) a very big occasion. Students were rightly made to feel that they had achieved tremendous goals in the first steps of reclaiming their lives. The church would be packed with 5-600 friends, families and other Christians celebrating the success of Christ in these young men and women’s lives.
There were some graduates from Dublin, and this meant that there would be a large contingent over from St Mark’s Church and Teen Challenge Ireland. Amongst them were Alan and Barbara Sweetman. They headed up Teen Challenge Ireland, and to this day I have yet to meet anyone better at coming alongside broken people than Alan. He would become a very good friend as my journey took me to Dublin.
Another part of that travelling group was Tracy. She would be making her way over in amongst them all. By this time we had written each other a “couple” of letters. Continuing the pattern of those first that acknowledged we both had nothing other than Jesus to give us hope. Tracy was the proud mum of Alisha (at that time 17months old) from a previous relationship that never quite worked out. I was excited to meet them both.
Anyway the service came, I was on the sound desk, (apparently the dulcet tones of my awesome singing voice were so good that I could not continue being a singer in The Evidence). With the desk set up in the middle of the very large seating area, it was always a struggle to not get distracted. Churches can be very busy places, especially at the times people should be seated and focused.
It was a great night. The Irish team were all sitting in the seats to the left of me down the left hand side of the large sanctuary. I did notice a beautiful wee girl given her mum and the others the runaround and wondered if this was Alisha.
Anyway, one of the highlights of a Teen Challenge graduation is when all the graduates (including those from previous years) are invited on the stage. There can be up to 100 men and women, formerly trapped in addiction, now standing as trophies of grace and living full and productive lives back in the world.
I got to abandon my position and join them all. This is significant, as Tracy told me later (years later), that she wondered if the cool handsome guy working his way up to the platform from the sound desk was her mysterious Scottish pen pal.
When the service was over, and we had finished clearing away our sound equipment I made my way down to the front of the church. Stephen was standing in amongst the Irish team and was calling me over.
“Stuart” he says “meet Tracy” as he introduced me to the beautiful 5’3 blonde hair, blue eyed Irish woman.
This POST is part of a wider collection to show the journey that would eventually lead me to the cross of Jesus Christ, my personal redemption, and my journey of faith afterwards. If you would like to know more of my story, please click on my “About” page and take it from there.
Alternatively, you can visit the Media Links page and see a short visit done by BBC Radio Scotland for an interview I did there.
If you or someone you love, needs help with the Christian response to addiction, or if you would just like to know more or need hope, please click on one of the following:
Teen Challenge Strathclyde
Teen Challenge UK
Teen Challenge Global
Bethany Christian Trust
Jumping Jacks Outreach
Cornerstone Assemblies of God, Maryland
Broken Chains Ayr
Easterhouse Community Church
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