Monday, August 19, 2013

Jesus as our Guide - Our recent 17 year old celebrates 90 days cleans!

The young man packed up his tent after spending two days and two nights alone in a tent in the woods. He walked away from his solo site with a brilliant smile on his face, journal in hand complete with a list of goals he wants to accomplish in the near future. Two weeks earlier it seemed impossible to list a goal, or to even want to pursue a life detached from the double life he had been living for several years: the church-going athlete/student and the drug addict bent on seeking a criminal lifestyle.

He knew he needed to change his lifestyle but didn't know how. He had started researching treatment programs to help him move in a positive direction, but no one really knew how crucial a program would be for his physical and mental safety, and the safety of those around him, until a series of increasingly bad choices landed him in a juvenile detention center facing a felony conviction; a conviction that could have him tried as an adult. Mercifully, his judge approved his release to Tree of Life on the condition that upon his release he would be involved in a long-term program that could potentially free him of a conviction on his record with good behavior.

Initially, he was compliant with Tree of Life staff; his addict still fighting for a future of freedom to partake in the double-life that had been created. Staff continued to work with him through education, counseling, and assignments that would help him to get honest with himself and others and help him to realize what his future would look like if he continued down the path he had been going down.

While with Tree of Life, exercises like taking responsibility for his own tent and gear, helping to prepare meals and clean up, participation in work crew activities, and completing assignments, would help to build a foundation that would teach him responsibility, accountability, and self-worth - skills that he could take with him back home. In addition, through educational groups, he learned more about addiction, support groups, his worth in God's eyes, and being part of a community.

With successful completion of programming during the first week, he was allowed to join with Peak 7, a partner of Tree of Life, to participate in their Junior Guide-In-Training program. The week-long adventure consisted of rock climbing and rafting; but most importantly, Junior Guides were taught how to guide as well as be guided. The theme for the week was "Jesus as our Guide". We were all challenged to share on how that looks in our lives, and to remember that the best guides also have guides that they rely on. In addition, he participated in a climb up Mt. Thielsen during rainy and cold weather, successfully making it all the way to the top, including the last 80 feet of the peak which is a treacherous scramble. He proved to have heart and courage, attributes that would serve him well if he chose the right path.

During his first week, he reminisced about his time locked up. Some of his statements changed from glorifying that time, to hoping that one day he could go back, but go back to serve and help those who did not have the freedom to leave. Since he's gone home to be a part of his community once more, his parents are pleased with his behavior; his father stated that "he is easily at the best point of his life in the past six months". He is plugging into recovery communities, having just collected his 90 day coin to recognize ongoing sobriety. He is successfully involved in the court-appointed program that will offer him additional accountability. And he has been giving back by serving as a camp counselor at his church and connecting with more friends through fellowship there. We hope that one day he goes back to jail - through the front door with a volunteer badge.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Testimonial from a parent:

When my son was 17, I had come to realize that he was lost spiritually, addicted to drugs, and bent on self-destruction.  I began to research Christian wilderness experiences in hopes that God could reach him where I had been unable to.  I first made contact with Jim several months before I actually sent my son down.  Over those months, Jim counseled me, supported me, and encouraged me.  We prayed together and individually that God would provide the funds for my son to go.  I can't imagine how many hours Jim spent on the phone with me, helping me respond to whatever crisis came along in my son's life.  At this point, Jim wasn't even certain that my son would ever come to Tree of Life, because I had yet to secure the funds, but he never stopped reminding me that God would provide.  Jim continued to remind me that God heals, that He restores, and that He loved Clay beyond what I could imagine.  

I ultimately sent my son to Tree of Life that summer.  After being told by the person who transported my son (against his will) to Jim that he was the "worst he had seen in about 2500 transports of at-risk teens", I received a phone call from Jim about three days into the trek.  He and my son were sitting around the campfire reading scripture.  Where no one else seemed to be able to reach my son, Jim had opened his heart within the first hours of the trek.  It was truly incredible.  For the remainder of the trip, Jim and his staff discipled, equipped, and mentored him. Clay chose to have Jim baptize him at the conclusion of the trip.  I was blessed to be able to witness Jim and my son walking out together into the waves on the Oregon coast so that he could be "washed."  

It would not be honest to say that my son's life was perfect from that point on.  He had slips after returning home and seeing old faces. Jim continued to counsel me through those difficult times, and has maintained contact to the present.  Jim shared with me during those times, that my son's heart had been change in ways that made the old behaviors and thinking less acceptable to him, and to wait patiently, doing just enough and no more, until he decided to walk away from the past.  God had revealed to him, through Jim, that there was another, better way.  

Clay just completed his first year of college with a 3.85 GPA.  Praise God!