Next time you drive west on United States 40, about two miles past Staunton, take note of Mission Teens' House of Hope. Often in the afternoon you will notice people outside either working on the grounds or simply relaxing. What you see driving past doesn't begin to reflect either the trauma or the great good going on inside. The House has been there for nine years now, accepting people at a most desperate time in their lives. All are suffering from or coming out of various addictions, some come directly from prison.
If you stop to visit, or attend one of the fund raising events, what is most striking is that neither the appearance nor demeanor of the residents gives any clue of what they've come through. My observation has always been of dealing with people who couldn't possibly have experienced what you know they have. There is that much of a change in their lives by living at the House of Hope.
This past Saturday over 30 participants graduated from the Mission Teens' program. In the past nine years over 800 people have gone through the strenuous 8-month program here in Brazil. Director Pete Latrenta reports 88 percent to 92 percent of individuals who go through the 8-month course do well after they leave the program. "Even 40 percent to 43 percent do report back doing well even though they do not complete the 8-month program."
Not only do miracles happen every day in the lives of those who come to the House here in Brazil, the fact it is there at all is a miracle in itself. The House gets no government support, is aligned with no denomination, and collects no fees or reimbursement from participants in the program. It is entirely what is called a "faith-based ministry", depending on God's people to support His work.
My personal connection to the House stems from what I call my "inoculation" experience with addictive drugs. I've never taken illegal drugs (why someone would put that stuff in their body is beyond me). However, with the right medical insurance access to legal pain relievers can cause dependence on narcotics going on for close to 20 years.
I can still sometimes fell that craving in the back of my head for that thing which I know is the problem and not the solution. I've come in the last few years to look around for Pete Latrenta on such occasions. He doesn't need to do or say anything special. It just helps to touch base with someone you know really understands. In much of what I have been through there have been "opportunities" to fall back on pain relievers. But, something in me always says, 'I can't let Pete down'.
I used to say "I'm addicted to codeine". I don't say that anymore, because it's no longer true. What I tell the medical types is that I have a history with narcotics. I've learned from Pete to recognize when I need something for pain and when it just sounds good. I've never been a candidate for the 8-month program, but I'm glad the House of Hope and Pete are here in Brazil doing the good they are doing.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.