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Finding Hope in the Face of Addiction – One Smile at a Time

Smiles, Joy, & Faith

Unless you are a Yankees fan, you might look at this picture and think, “why is this photo so important?” Well, this simple photo brought  several of our staff members to tears this week, in gratefulness to God.  You see, our work at Ozarks Teen Challenge is not for the faint of heart. In fact, to say that you need tough skin to work in recovery services, might be an understatement. The opposite is also true, you need a REALLY BIG HEART, because the mission takes dedication.

When students enter our program they are in crisis: angry, defiant, and often in denial about their own need for help. How do you help someone who doesn’t know they need it? How do you influence a person who doesn’t know you? Our staff face this challenge every time a new student arrives on campus.

The New Testament Church faced the same type of dilemma.  How do we reach people with the message of Christ, when they, most likely, aren’t going to believe what we have to say?  Resurrections were not the norm then, or now, so to say they faced skepticism, anger, and resistance is putting it mildly.

Jesus knew they would face this challenge so he concluded the last supper with a bang!  He gives them a new commandment which was and is our answer to this dilemma: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)  No longer are we to ONLY love our neighbors as ourselves.  We are to love each other as Christ loved us….sacrificial love.

This is the heart of our mission and it is not always easy. Love, trust, and respect are those intangibles that can only be proven with time and consistency. But, gradually, God reveals Himself through us and to us, everyday, in the lives of our students. God’s love bridges that gap. He is the one that instills lasting truth, hope, and change. We invest, study, and receive all of the credentials we can (seeking His wisdom) but in the end, He is the cure…His love, the solution.

A question often posed to our families is: “When did you know God was starting to work in your son’s heart?” The answer we have heard over and over again is, “When I saw him smile for what felt like the first time.” Addiction and the other issues that our families are battling, oftentimes, strips them of the small things….even a smile.

The phrase, “It’s the small things in life that matter” could not be more true. A simple smile, in our field of work, from a young man who was angry, defiant, and determined to walk towards his own destruction, means the world. Why? Because we know, that when God enters the picture, so does JOY!!

Change sometimes happens in a moment; it can even be miraculous! But, oftentimes, God works gradually in hearts and minds. This is harder to see and can feel frustrating at times when it doesn’t fit our ideal timetable. Our prayer, is to see the miraculous in the small things. To be attuned to what the Lord is doing…even in a smile. That’s why this photo brought us to tears; it built our faith. Seeing this young man (one of our own), full of faith and joy, serving others…it is an honor and a privilege.

If your loved one is in crisis today, remember to stay focused on loving them like Christ loves us.  His love, and the joy that results, is contagious!  It creates an open invitation for them to join the family of God.  Be encouraged to stay on mission, show His love everyday, and wait upon the Lord.  Embrace JOY in the small things today!

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