I attended the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge Gala in Mankato last week which was sponsored, in part, by Kinship Radio.
It was, as always, a wonderful and glorious event. I am blessed to be able to attend and I joyfully support this ministry as has Kinship Radio for many years.
Drug and alcohol addiction in our listening area continues to rise. Overdose deaths continue to escalate and nearly two-thirds are the result of opioids, chiefly from inexpensive fentanyl imported mostly from China. At current prices, it only takes ten dollars worth of fentanyl per day to feed a life-destroying addiction.
But Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge is rising to the challenge. In addition to short and long-term treatment options in Minneapolis, Brainerd, Duluth, Rochester and Buffalo, they’ve added an education component called “Know the Truth” which is a substance use prevention initiative directed towards Minnesota teenagers. The prevention staff has provided education seminars to more than 60,000 students annually in 160 high school and middle schools.
While the statistics on drug and alcohol addiction are sobering, the high point of the event is always the personal stories and the singing by the choir.
People whose lives were destroyed by drugs and alcohol testified again and again how Jesus, working through the people of Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, brought them out of their addictions and saved them. The choir consisted of about forty people. When asked if they would have died had they not been saved, almost everyone raised their hand.
But the impact goes much deeper than that. When asked if they knew someone who had died from addiction, again, almost everyone raised a hand. When someone is saved from these addictive lifestyles, it not only saves them, it stops the cycle of addiction that has often been going on for generations. It gives a hope and a future to families and to generations. It is truly just like Jesus said –a mustard seed that grows and branches out and produces much more than was planted.
And that’s why watching the choir singing is so wonderful. You can see and hear and feel the joy emanating from these people who were once walking in darkness and have been transformed and reborn into the kingdom of light.
As the choir started singing their first song, (My Jesus by Anne Wilson) I noticed a young lady in the first row over on the far right side of stage. She had long, reddish brown hair which she’d fashioned into two buns about the size of muffins on top of her head in about the same place a teddy bear would have its ears. But it wasn’t her hairstyle that caught my attention. No, she was singing and dancing and praising Jesus with genuine zeal! She was bringin’ it down town, brothers and sisters!
After the event was over, I had helped load some items into a car, and as I was walking back, I saw this same young lady standing and talking with a group of others from the choir. I tried to resist, but I approached them with reckless abandon and said, “You all did a wonderful job, but you, (and I pointed at the zealous young lady) you with the cinnabuns, (I heard someone giggle and say “Cinnabuns.”) I LOVED watching YOU sing!”
And then I slipped off into the night.
Afterwards, as I shared the story with my wife, I hoped that I hadn’t tagged with her with a nickname that would stick with her far longer than she wanted, but I got to thinking about what it would be like if I and all the rest of my Christian brothers and sisters lived our lives for Christ with that kind of zeal.
What if we danced for Jesus like nobody was watching?
What if we got out of our comfortable little boats and walked out on the water toward Jesus while the other disciples were still sitting in the boat with their mouths hanging open wondering what was going on? What if we preached the love and Good News of Jesus in the temples of modern culture even though the authorities had told us not to? Would we have the guts to say, “We must obey God rather than men?”
I’m not against the kind of careful planning and wise stewardship that makes ministries like Kinship Radio and Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge possible, but both of those ministries are examples of Jesus changing the world despite the fear and common sense that could have held them back before they ever got off the ground. They are examples of stepping out in faith when the world would list a thousand reasons they would not, could not, and will not work.
Yes, I may have embarrassed that young lady somewhat, but I hope she reads this and is encouraged and never, ever loses the kind of enthusiasm a room of hundreds of people could clearly see as a wonderful, reckless, heartfelt, contagious joy in Jesus.
I pray you and I would have that kind of enthusiasm in whatever the LORD Jesus has us do.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-19
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. (NLT)
Photo by Kinship staff.