Here are two letters which were read during our 25th Anniversary Luncheon in September. To God be the glory! Great things He has done!
August 18th, 2016
Dear Challenge Ministries Family,
While my family and I cannot physically be present at the 25th anniversary Banquet, we are with you in spirit.
It has been 14 years since I worked for CM and while it felt like for longer than 2 1/2 years that I did, it is only with fondness and gratitude that I think of that time. Dwight was like a second father to me and while I have not been able to be present at many of the events in recent years, there is a warm place in my heart for everyone connected to Challenge Ministries.
Were it not for Dwight I might have never met Evan (my husband). He has blessed both of us so very much in a whole host of ways including performing our wedding. And as I reflect on the time spent with Challenge Ministries and the gifts of the Word, and good preaching, and good holy conversation, and travel, and meeting so many saints, I am filled with gratitude again. Dwight taught me quite a lot about Biblical counseling and I often draw on that wisdom as I practice counseling with my clients and as I pray for the Lord to be their healer in their hearts, minds, and spirits.
My life has changed dramatically over the last 15 years between being sick for a few of those, moving away from one type of ministry and into another, getting married, having a child, and moving a number of times until we ended up in Virginia.
Thank you to each of you who has given to the work of Challenge Ministries. My continued prayer is that CM would fulfill its mission and commit what they have learned to faithful men.
Blessings and Love,
I was a freshman at MIT, a seventeen year old “church boy” from the South, in a new land, hoping to shape a new identity. This is before Facebook and Google and I was free to be a new person in a new place, virtually anonymous. My family had taken me to church since birth and I had given my life to the Lord, but I just wasn’t sure if I loved Him for myself or because of the family in which I had been raised. Like a scientist, I went to college looking to test alternate paths and eventually to return to my initial commitment to Jesus once my “testing phase” had ended. I was ready to “sow my wild oats.” But God… God has a way of interrupting our best ideas with His better one.
First Denzil Vaughn stepped in to invite me to Community Gospel Chapel where the Henry’s embraced me like a son. They fed me ackee and saltfish. (I learned that I prefered fish and festival!) It was October of 1992 and, at Michael and Jackie’s invitation, I joined Denzil and Community Gospel Chapel on a youth retreat where I heard the most dynamic speaker I had ever heard, Dwight Knight. And I was in awe; but even more than my awe of his speaking, I was in awe of the God about which he spoke. The God he served seemed larger, grander, better than the God I knew. If my picture of God was pixelated, Dwight presented God in HD -- high definition. And as quickly as it had begun, my testing phase abruptly ended. After that weekend, I was ready to renew my commitment to this awesome God. During the retreat, Dwight made an announcement: “Pray for me. I’m looking for young men to disciple. Young men who would travel with me for the summer and consider working for God instead of working for the world.” Almost as soon as he was done talking, I approached and asked if I was qualified to be one of those young men.
I had no idea how crazy it was. A single man whom I barely knew, inviting me to travel with him, learn about Jesus, serve others and receive a stipend at the end? My parents were incredulous. But they allowed me to take the risk and they risked with me. The return on that risk has been incalculable. I learned more about myself and about Jesus than I had ever known. I learned to love Scripture. I learned to teach it. I learned a love for youth and ministry. I learned that serving Jesus was an adventure. My compassion was honed and shaped in new ways. And I made some true friends, men that I love and admire to this very day. Denzil Vaughn, Ray Wynter, Kevin Brown, Aaron West and more. Those two summers were, literally, life changing.
I am far from a finished product; God continues to burst my boxes; God is always much more than any box can hold. And I owe much of who I am to a handful of men who, like it says in 2 Tim 2:2, committed to me the things they heard among many witnesses. Outside of my own father, Dwight is probably the most significant of those men. Now that I am 41 -- to my great surprise -- I have been working with youth for over half my life. I serve at a Chicago high school as Dean of Restorative Justice and I am an elder at my church. I am father to four beautiful children and that’s mostly due to the fact that God gave me the good sense to marry Nichole Perkins -- she’s beautiful on the inside and out. Her beauty helps to negate my ugly and my children are grateful! Dwight has something to do with that too, but that’s another story for another day.
Two words aren’t nearly enough, but they are two very fine and necessary words: Thank you. Thank you, Dwight. I love you. Thank you for letting God use you. And thank you, Challenge Ministries.
Marcus D. Thorne