As the House of Hope celebrated its 10th anniversary and appreciation banquet Nov. 7, its top two executives, the Rev. James Bracken and Pete Latrenta, praised Jerry and Julie Fine of Christ Community Church for "having us come to town."
Several hundred people attended the affair in the Family Life Centre of First Christian Church.
House of Hope held its first four graduation dinners at CCC but had to switch locations six years ago to handle the growing attendance at the annual celebration.
After Bracken, the founder of Mission Teens in New Jersey, and Latrenta called Jerry and Julie to the stage. Jerry said, "I want to give glory to God for doing the impossible."
Then, as he looked at the crowd. Jerry added, "And you know what? He used you to do it. You were his hands, and his feet. You took the good things that God gave you and you shared them. I am so glad that we are in this together."
Bracken said Christ Community Church supported the House of Hope financially from the start. And it still does.
Fine said he didn't even contact Bracken until Tim Russell, then pastor of the church, told him it would support the project.
Fine said he found what he thought might be a perfect building for the House of Hope a short time after getting the promise of support from CCC. For several years he had been aware of the good works being done by Mission Teens, Inc., headed by Bracken.
Fortunately, the building he found was for sale. He called the Realtor, who came 30 minutes later to escort him through it. Fine learned the purchase price was $300,000.
He immediately called Bracken at his headquarters in New Jersey and told him the purchase price and enthusiastically reported it was in a great location. Noting that that dollar figure was more than Mission Teens had ever paid for a building. Bracken asked Fine, "Are you sure you heard the Lord on that, even at that price?" Jerry said yes.
And that was how it all began to take place. During the banquet. Fine, Bracken, and Latrenta reviewed the entire procedure, which they say succeeded with the assistance of the Lord.
When Bracken and Latrenta came to Brazil to complete the purchase 10 years ago, an accommodating local banker played a key role.
"Jerry, we do these things by faith and we'll make this happen," Bracken said.
"Jerry didn't know how we were going to come up with the $90,000 down payment but we did," Bracken said at the banquet. "But when you know God's in things, you can live with what he calls you to do."
In his address to the graduates, staff, and crowd, Bracken said, "The Holy Spirit sees all the potholes. Worry is not trusting God. I don't have to worry about anything. The Holy Spirit runs our 15 centers. Why worry about things you can't do anything about? This year I've gone to annual banquets at 14 of our centers, including Brazil.
"Mission Teens is just ordinary people helping ordinary people. We put Jesus on a high pedestal. If you're a servant of God, you can do whatever God leads you to do."
After Bracken's speech. House of Hope staffers, who serve without pay, conducted graduation ceremonies for 34 men and women. About 55 residents live at the center.
House of Hope is part of Mission Teens, which is a faith ministry. "We do not charge for our services," said Latrenta, who is assistant executive director of the local facility. "All of our support comes from concerned individuals and a few churches that are sensitive to the type of work we do. Each of our centers is expected to raise its support from local sources.
"Our goal is to help people who have life-controlling problems, such as drug or alcohol addictions by ministering the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them. We believe that the Gospel should be free to all."
Residents spend 5 1/2 hours each day in Bible study and worship, and the course compares to about a year of Bible school.
Each resident matures through four phases of discipleship development, gaining more and more responsibility and privileges. The initial program lasts about eight months.
An additional 10-12-month staff-training program may be offered to the graduate if he or she wishes to stay and help run the center.