A tear slides down Tina Werts’ face as her cheeks lift in a smile; there is a lightness to be felt in the room around her and her husband, Scott.
Their son, Graham, recently graduated from Teen Challenge – the pride and excitement they feel is palpable.
“It’s not been easy by any means,” Scott says, “but to see God’s hand healing our brokenness...” he smiles and lifts his hands.
Tina and Scott began attending Apex when it first came to Far Hill Avenue.
“We started going because Graham encouraged us; he had attended with a friend and enjoyed their youth group,” explains Tina. “But there always seemed to be an internal struggle occurring – whether to follow the Lord or follow the group of friends he was around at school.”
As Tina and Scott’s relationship with Jesus began, and grew, Graham began to spend more time with friends and trouble was close at hand.
“We were on a first-name basis with the principle at his school,” says Tina. “That’s how often we were getting calls about his behavior.”
They began to feel fractured.
“I recall, every week, being put in the center of our house church and having them pray over our situation with Graham,” recalls Tina. “We were so broken.”
In the last five years, they have had to be witness to their son becoming someone slightly unrecognizable; he couldn’t hold a job, he began to change, and he began to sell things that he was formerly passionate about, drum sets and guitars, to afford his growing addictions. As their son spiraled, their heartbreak manifested.
“Looking back now, though, that breaking down was God’s work – He just needed us to draw closer to Him,” says Scott. “He taught us about forgiveness and displayed grace and, as a result, we were able to extend grace to Graham.”
Graham began to stay outside of their home more often than not – they had rules and he didn’t care for them; it was around this time that Tina and Scott began to see prayers being answered; Greg Baker, the youth leader at Apex at the time, came alongside them and mentioned Teen Challenge as a possible route to consider for Graham.
“At this point,” confesses Tina, “we were praying that the Lord would use whatever He needed to in order to break through to Graham.”
Soon after Teen Challenge was first brought to their attention, a co-worker of Tina’s showed her a video of a gentlemen who had completed Teen Challenge and was coming to the area to share his story; they went, wept over the familiarity of what he shared, and approached him for more information.
“We told him about Graham and he gave us information on Teen Challenge and then asked us his name – said he would put Graham’s name on the board at Teen Challenge so they could be in prayer for him,” says Tina.
On November 17, 2012 Tina and Scott took their son to Teen Challenge; they were given a tour of the facilities when they came across a white board in a conference room. It had Graham’s name written on it.
“They had been praying for him for months!” Tina’s chin quivers and her eyes light up.
It wasn’t a smooth transition from there on, though; Graham was asked to leave for 30 days for behavior – Tina and Scott left him there for two weeks before going to Michigan to see him. They found him in a homeless shelter, barely recognizable, and spent the day with him.
“I remember telling him he could return to Teen Challenge, but he could not return to our home,” says Scott. “We were not going to welcome him back.”
Using again, Graham waited until the very last day he could’ve returned to go back.
Teen Challenge is a 13 month program, but Graham graduated after 1 ½ years.
“There were a couple of times he was asked to leave, but the director told us each time he prayed before telling Graham he was done in the program, God called him to give Graham grace,” explains Scott and Tina.
They found themselves having their eyes opened to the truth that this journey wasn’t all about Graham and his struggles – this was changing them, as well.
“I feel as if I’ve greater purpose as a husband and father; I feel and see the tangibility of how He has strengthened this family,” explains Scott.
Through this whole season, God has restored Graham’s passion for music and has revealed to his parents that there truly is purpose in everything when you walk with the Lord.
As Tina and Scott prepared to watch their son graduate from Teen Challenge, they were also able to see their son in his new role as the worship leader at the program in Lansing, Michigan.
“To see God use our son to further His Kingdom!” Tina sits back as tears well up in her eyes.
Graham was given grace to return and now comes alongside young men walking a dangerous path; Tina and Scott were given a support system in their house church and the peace necessary to walk with their son through this season.
“He has taught us all so much about grace,” Tina smiles.
Grace upon grace upon grace upon grace.
Author: Stephani Duff