Every month, we take some time to highlight the different missionaries and organizations we support on a monthly basis. This month, we’re focusing on Teen Challenge, a local organization that helps restore broken lives of people struggling with life-controlling addictions. In this post, you’ll get to know the directors, C.R. and Paula Kersten, that have been leading the organization for over 30 years. Keep reading and learn more about how God uses each of our stories to make a difference in the world around us.
CR and Paula Kersten met each other at Blackburn University in Carlinville, IL. During his senior year, CR had a side job working at the nearby Christian radio station. One icy winter night, because of road conditions, CR stayed at the motel next door where he talked with another postponed traveler, who happened to be the Executive Director of Teen Challenge of St. Louis. At the end of the conversation, CR was invited to work at the center after graduation. He accepted and started in a beginning position on May 22, 1978. The men’s house was then located in the city of St. Louis. CR slept in a hallway, taught Bible classes, and worked side by side with men who had life-controlling problems such as drugs and alcohol.
On a summer Sunday before heading to her college days at Blackburn University, Paula’s church hosted the same Teen Challenge of St. Louis Executive Director that years later would draw CR to the ministry. After hearing how God changed the lives of men and women through Teen Challenge, Paula silently – but loudly – heard God tell her that one day she would work at Teen Challenge of St. Louis. She was 16 years old. She did not know how to get there. She was a female and the St. Louis Center was for men. How could they use her? The enormity of God’s words to her were powerful, but she did not know how to get there. She stayed on her path through college becoming a teacher.
When CR and Paula married, he had already been at Teen Challenge of St. Louis, then located in St. Louis City, for 9 months. They lived in a run-down, three-room apartment owned by the ministry. Bars covered the windows. One day, Paula realized that without any help from her, God had gotten her to Teen Challenge of St. Louis.
The men’s facility was moved to its present country setting in High Ridge, MO, where approximately 90 – 100 men go through the doors every year.
CR became the Executive Director of the ministry in January 1982 as the leader, vision caster, fundraiser, and the voice of the ministry.
Paula taught school and in the evenings was the ministry bookkeeper, eventually also working in the men’s kitchen for 15 years.
In November 2009, work began on a St. Louis City house to prepare it for a women’s center. The new facility, Diane’s House, was opened in May 2011 with Paula as Program Director. Diane’s House also moved to their current location in High Ridge, MO in January 2017. Annually, 25 women each spend 4 to 12 months living at the residence.
The Kersten Family
CR and Paula also have three adult children.
Rob graduated from Evangel University in 2007 and began working for Teen Challenge later that year as a teacher, student mentor, and work manager. He worked at both campuses, helping the men and women learn skills, habits and character development needed for those in the workforce. Rob and his fiancé, Lauren, are planning a June 2018 wedding.
Alicia works for Diane’s House as a teacher, mentor, and counselor. After graduating with her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology in 2009, Alicia also completed a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Missouri Baptist University in 2013. She lives at Diane’s House and loves her work.
Ryan graduated from Evangel University in 2011. His first job after college was at a boys juvenile Teen Challenge center in Branson, MO. After 19 months, he moved to Illinois as a youth pastor for 4.5 years. He and his wife, Brooke, now live in the Chicago area as associate pastors of Northwest Assembly of God Palatine campus.
“All of the Kerstens love Teen Challenge. We all agree that there is nothing like seeing lives changed by the power of the Holy Spirit when people get a relationship with God and find hope and a new way of living. ” – The Kersten Family
When Christ becomes the center of a life:
Families are restored.
Marriages are healed.
Parents and children are reunited.
Peace is attained.
Teen Challenge is all about RESTORING BROKEN LIVES.
You are Making Difference
When you give to missions, you are a part of helping people find healing from addiction and other life-controlling issues. Stay tuned this month to find out more about how your generosity is making a difference through Teen Challenge St. Louis!