Mount Grace: Healing place

By Mary K. Hamner
Journal Correspondent

Potted Chrysanthemums, wanted for decorations at some church social event, was the reason my gardening friend invited me to travel to Dodson. Of like minds in matters that relate to flowers, we launched out early to maybe find some plants that were more affordable than others. The quest for flowers soon became secondary to what evolved into a trip of discovery. Two books later and three trips over to Mt. Grace Teen Challenge for Men, Mt. Grace Teen Challenge for Women, and three lunch meals at the Teen Challenge Restaurant in Dodson, have left me with deep appreciation for the work of this mission.

We admired the beauty of the leaves beginning to color as we traveled over Government Road and Highway 126. Liking the tunnels we traveled through, we talked about how we were glad the trees had not been cut or trimmed back. Crossing over Highway 167 in Dodson soon brought us to an unfamiliar crossroad. Then further on we turned left on a dirt road with high clay banks on either side. Some miles later, at the top of a hill, the view opened on the impressive encampment of Mount Grace.

It is a city of sorts, arranged with neat cabins and other buildings around a church at the top of the hill. A pond, three greenhouses, and blueberry bushes are arranged in the valley fields on one side, and the valley fields on the other side are used for other types of farming. Rows of potted chrysanthemums just budding out were arranged in neat rows at the back of the encampment. A courteous young man showed us around the facility and took our plant selections to our car. He told us that the greenhouses were filled with poinsettias being grown for the Christmas seasonal market.

On a later trip, we met Gary Bentley, Assistant Executive Director of Louisiana Teen Challenge. Bentley and his wife shared two books, “The Cross & the Switchblade”, by David Wilkerson, and “Rehab is not for the soul”,. by Bentley. Both books opened up my understanding of the severity of drug addiction in today’s world.

Reverend David Wilkerson started teen challenge in Brooklyn, New York in 1958. As of 2012, at the beginning of its fifty-second year, there were two hundred Teen Challenge programs in the United States and about three hundred in other countries around the world. Most of the centers offer a twelve-to eighteen month residential program for men, women, boys, or girls. These centers are designed to help individuals learn how to live drug free lives. The programs are discipline-oriented and offer a balance of Bible classes, work assignments, and recreation.
Teen Challenge Mission Statement

To provide youth adults, and families with an effective and comprehensive Christian faith-based solution to life-controlling drug and alcohol problems in order to become productive members of society. By applying biblical principles, Teen Challenge endeavors to help people become mentally sound, emotionally balanced, socially adjusted, physically well, and spiritually alive. Through committed staff and effective programs. Teen Challenge seeks to produce graduates who function responsibly and productively in society, and who have healthy relationships in the workplace, family, church, and community.

Suggested reading:
The Cross- & The Switchblade, by David Wilkerson, and Rehab is not for the soul. A journey out of addiction, by Gary Bentley.