This transcript is taken from the Stand in the Gap Today radio program on Dec. 4, 2019.
Isaac Crockett: Hello, I’m Isaac Crockett and joining me as a cohost today is Dr. Keith Wiebe. He’s our Executive Vice President of Chapter Development for the American Pastors Network and the normal host, Sam and Gary and Dave, all three of them are out today. They have different ministry opportunities that have called them away from the microphones for the day. So Keith and I are I guess holding the fort down and hopefully not getting into too much trouble without them supervising us.
But we do have a special program today and I think you’re going to really enjoy hearing about breaking addictions that we all face in our lives and some people we know are maybe extremely addicted to a substance and also how this works together with protecting our children. We’re going to be talking to two special guests and it’s a husband and wife duo, and we’re going to talk about just an amazing testimony and journey of God’s redemptive work and their own lives and how that has now led to them helping people really all over the country and all over the world really, but in some amazing ministries that God has led them to. So Kris and Toni, welcome to our program today. Thanks for making the time to be with us today.
Kris McFadden: Thanks so much. Great to be with you.
Toni McFadden: Thank you.
Isaac Crockett: We have Kris and Toni McFadden, and so we’ll start, I guess with Kris talking about the ministry you’re involved with, you’re working with Adult and Teen Challenge and some of our listeners have heard us talk a little bit with representatives from your ministry before, but as we get into this, we’ll be talking about addiction and abuse and things, but could you maybe just give us a website that people could go to to find out more information about Adult and Teen Challenge?
Kris McFadden: Yeah, so our specific group with Pennsylvania Adult and Teen Challenge is www.paatc as in Pennsylvania Adult and Teen Challenge paatc.org.
Keith Wiebe: Delighted to have you on the program today. Appreciate the ministry so much that you and Toni have. I pastored for the last 28 and a half years prior to retiring in a community where we currently have a tremendous crisis with opiate addiction and overdoses. A couple of years ago our per capita rate was among the highest in the nation. I’ve conducted funerals of those who died because of an overdose. So I’m a little bit familiar with the program. Talk to us, Kris for a minute about the scope of the program with drug abuse, particularly opioid addictions and overdoses that we are facing across our country.
Kris McFadden: Well sure. I would say the ministry of Adult and Teen Challenge spans throughout the United States of America and there is also a global Teen Challenge where there is approximately 1,300 or so programs for Teen Challenge throughout the world and it’s a great ministry. And just as far as the epidemic in general, we’re talking about having lost between 2000 and 2014 we had lost over 500,000 people to overdose deaths and the trend had continued for a number of years across the country, 70,000 overdose deaths per year over the past couple of years and 2018 having dropped maybe to 68,000 but we’re talking, it is touching every community and throughout the country.
Isaac Crockett: Kris, these are just staggering figures. I grew up in a city of about 70,000 people and to imagine an entire city like that dying in our country every year because of addictions like this is that really is sobering. I know a lot of our listeners have heard of Teen Challenge or Adult and Teen Challenge and some of them are familiar with pastor David Wilkerson and the cross and the switchblade. And all of that. But can you tell us why your ministry is no longer just labeled Teen Challenge but it’s Adult and Teen Challenge and maybe talk to us about why it’s not just teens that are dealing with addiction and maybe give us a little bit of an idea of what ages are at risk for abusing drugs, even prescription medicines that could be drugs that they could get addicted to.
Kris McFadden: Absolutely. I would say the one thing I quote often is that we know that addiction does not discriminate and that goes through any age bracket and any socioeconomic bracket that might be placed on an individual. And I would say the ministry began in 1958 with David Wilkerson as you referenced and our ministry begun in 1962 and at those beginning years the ministry was more geared toward adolescents. And I believe that since just the ministry of now Adult and Teen Challenge has grown to be known as an international brand. It was kind of challenging for the organization to kind of switch gears and call it something different.
So to get directly to your question is there are a lot of adult programs that are throughout the nation and many times it would be asked questions, something very simple like why are you called Teen Challenge when you serve adults? And it’s really at the main point of your question here, is that our organization throughout the state of Pennsylvania, we’re serving individuals in a primary age bracket between 18 and 65 and I would say in reference to addiction not discriminating, every age bracket there is that you’ll see there are staggering overdose numbers and there are amongst young people. But it’s interesting when you think through areas like rural America. A lot of people don’t think of rural America as a hot bed per se when it comes to overdose death rates. But rural America is another place where you see these numbers that are just spiking.
And you also then see some pretty staggering statistics in relation to the 45 to 60 age group. There’s tons of people that are just getting caught up in addiction and folks that are even a little older are the ones that are also we’re seeing these spikes in these overdose rates. So, again, it comes down to addiction does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter what the age is. It doesn’t matter what the socioeconomic demographic is. Addiction is alive and it’s staggering.
Isaac Crockett: I think this is good for our listeners to hear because I’m sure there are many people listening right now that either you personally or somebody in your family or close circle of friends is dealing with this or has been dealing with this. Many of you like Keith, you’ve been at the funerals for people who have overdosed. I’ve had friends who have either, a lot of bad things have happened that have ended up in their deaths and some of it was because of addiction to drugs. And it’s so common and yet I think many times, especially within the church or like you even said, even a quote unquote good community or rural community or inner city, wherever, that people think, well that doesn’t happen anywhere else. Nobody else is going through this. And the truth of the matter is many people throughout our country are dealing with this and there’s cultural shifts going on.
There’s many issues, but we want to talk about the spiritual issues and how God is redeeming people and saving people, changing lives. And Kris and Toni, you both are an amazing testimony of God’s workmanship of grace and redemption in your life.
Welcome back to our program. This is Isaac Crockett joined with Dr. Keith Wiebe. Here we are filling in. Dave and Gary and Sam are all unable to be at the microphone today, but we have an amazing story going on right here. We’re talking with Kris and Toni McFadden and Kris is the CEO of Pennsylvania Adult and Teen Challenge. And Toni is a speaker and has a ministry that we’re going to be talking about that helps to make good choices and we’ll talk more about that as we get going here into their testimony. But we’re just talking about the issue of drug addiction and the deaths that are happening and the real destruction going on in families and churches and throughout our communities across our nation. And we’re looking at how God can work in those situations.
So Kris and Toni, thanks again for being on and welcome back with us and I wonder if maybe the two of you could just, and I know you’ve told it so many times, but maybe give a brief kind of nutshell testimony of kind of where things started out with you all in high school and early adult years before, Kris, you got into being to opiates and just kind of what was going on there relationship wise as we kind of watch what God did in your lives to bring you to himself through some real painful issues and struggles.
Kris McFadden: Sure. I’ll start and then Toni can take it from there. For me, growing up in northeastern Pennsylvania, I would say my story is one that did not begin with any type of faith foundation, church and just faith in general was not a part of my life as a young person growing up. I still remember when I was probably seven or so years old and being in the end of the driveway with my little sister and seeing my dad, my biological father dropping us off and leaving and never coming back. And so starting off life with those two types of scenarios for me that I never really knew would be so impactful later on in my life.
But fast forwarding into high school, I was the quarterback on the football team and I really focused all of my attention on athletics. And through that time I was just really focused on myself. And I met a young girl at that time who was another person that was in school with me and we ended up in a crisis pregnancy type of a situation as I was kind of getting out of high school and going into college. And I made the decision to just walk away and unfortunately ended up with having an abortion with my girlfriend at that time.
And the story goes on for me going back to college and getting on the football field and not that far down the path I was then, in my very first game starting, got thrown into a scenario where it was just a simple, I should’ve thrown the ball out of bounds type of thing and ended up getting shirt tackled awkwardly. And before you know it, I ripped my collarbone off of my throwing shoulder and that was a traumatic experience for my life. And ended up going to the hospital and before you know it, having a bottle of pills in my hand that would eventually consume my life.
And then going through this process ended up entering into the ministry of Adult and Teen Challenge in western Pennsylvania. And that is where I had a encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ that changed my life and caused me to want to go and seek some reconciliation with that girl from high school because I had just made some really, really poor decisions in my life and wanted to just simply apologize to say, listen, I’m a different person. The faith component of my life has become a worldview that I embrace. And the Lord really pressed me just to seek that forgiveness. And the forgiveness that was sought was nine years later, nine going on 10 years later and was embraced. And that same girl who was the one from that story in high school with the abortion and my horrible decision making is the same woman who’s sitting next to me right now, which is my wife Toni.
So it’s a pretty remarkable story of God’s grace in my life. And obviously my life went on to my career in ministry work led me to finish the program at Teen Challenge and become an intern. And when I started off as an intern in the program, my main responsibility was to be the lead housekeeper and my job was getting trash and cleaning toilets and all that kind of stuff. And I kind of just rose through the ranks and completed a lot of educational tracks and things of that nature. And in 2015 was named the president, CEO of Pennsylvania Adult and Teen Challenge that spreads throughout the entire state of Pennsylvania. And we have 10 different locations with residential and outpatient services throughout the state. And that’s my side of it. And always love an opportunity also to hear my wife share her story as well.
Toni McFadden: Hi. Obviously I’m coming from a different angle on this. Going through the abortion was probably one of the most difficult things I had ever done. I never thought I would even do something like that until I was in the situation. As Kris stated, he left right after we had the abortion. And so I went through a very traumatic experience with my abortion specifically. I dealt with the RU-486 pill, which was in 1999 which I don’t believe was officially supposed to be even given out. But my pills didn’t work until about two months later. And I basically went through this by myself because I was afraid to tell my parents and my boyfriend and my best friend were the only ones that knew. And looking back now, I’m just so thankful for the grace of God and how he really rescued me out of this, even though I didn’t deserve it.
And years later I kind of stuffed everything down, didn’t tell anyone about this, and went off to college at Westchester University and it was there that I found a great group of friends and they were involved in a ministry, which I’m sure a lot of people have heard of, Campus Crusade for Christ. And a friend knew I was kind of in and out of relationships. I was kind of spiraling out of control. And she invited me to a meeting and I remember walking in and there’s about 100 to 200 students. And I walked in as they were doing worship and just the presence on their faces it was like God set up that night for me. And I walked into this room feeling peace and realizing I wanted what they had and I didn’t have that.
And I went back into my dorm room that night and my roommate had gone home and I just cried. And I didn’t say a sinner’s prayer, but I just said, I want to change it. I don’t know how to do that. And I just began to surround myself with people who were living out the gospel and taught me how to read the word. And that started the beginning of God healing me and changing me and showing me who I was in him.
And in that process, this is how beautiful redemption is, I started working for a crisis pregnancy center near the Philadelphia area and I was the relationship educator where I would go into schools and speak about saving sex for marriage. And I did this for about six or so years. I would speak about Kris in my story, but I never thought he would be someone that would come back into my life. And I would teach these kids how I was saving sex for marriage now, didn’t know who I was going to marry, but I knew that my actions would display that I had been thinking about him long before I knew who he was. And lo and behold, as Kris said, almost 10 years later, Kris comes back into my life to apologize and the rest of the story is amazing. We have four beautiful children now and now God has called me to speak about my abortion, which I’m assuming going to talk a little bit more about with my ministry. But yeah, that’s our story.
Keith Wiebe: Kris and Toni, that’s just a fantastic story. What a marvelous depiction of the wonderful grace of God. I look forward as we move through the broadcast to hearing more about it. Kris, we have just a few minutes before Isaac will take us into the next break. Can you give us just a very thumbnail sketch about the effectiveness that Adult and Teen Challenge has? In fact, I’ll tell you what, we’re going to wait and just hang onto that until following the break because that’s such an important part of it.
I was thinking, Toni, as you were talking about the wonderful way that our heavenly father directs the paths of our lives. For you and Kris to go through the tragic circumstances that you went through with the abortion and then God working independently in your lives, bringing you both to Christ and then bringing you back together again is just an absolutely wonderful and marvelous thing.
Isaac Crockett: Yes. Welcome back to the program. I’m Isaac Crockett joined by Dr. Keith Wiebe and we are talking with Kris and Toni McFadden. Kris is the CEO of Pennsylvania Adult and Teen Challenge. And we’re hearing this testimony of how Toni and Kris were together in high school and then there was a unplanned pregnancy an abortion and then the two, Kris just kind of left, went his way, got this great opportunity to be college quarterback and I think you said the first game he gets taken out with this injury, given these medicines, painkillers that he becomes addicted to. And then meanwhile, Toni suffers through the pain of what happened, what went wrong, even with the abortion and God starts working to bring them back together. Just amazing and miraculous story.
But the part with Kris, with your drug addiction, which is so common to so many people, so many families have had somebody going through this, the Lord guided you to Adult and Teen Challenge. And Keith, I think you were asking an important question as we ran out of time on the last segment. If you could maybe ask that question to Kris again, I’d really like to hear the answer.
Keith Wiebe: Yeah, certainly. There are a lot of programs out there that are endeavoring to deal with people that have addictions. There is no shortage, I think, probably a recognition that we do indeed have a problem. But I’m wondering if there may be a bit more of a shortage when it comes to the solutions end of it. Kris, I’d really like you to talk to us a little bit about the effectiveness of the Adult and Teen Challenge ministry genuinely to help people find relief from their addictions. How effective is it?
Kris McFadden: Sure. It’s interesting to note that just recently in the past couple of months, Adult and Teen Challenge USA, so the national accrediting body out in Missouri, just conducted a study that you can find on their website which is teenchallengeusa.org again, that’s Teen Challenge USA dot O.R.G. And there is a recent study done that was conducted through Evangel university that showed us still having a 78% success rate for people who graduate the Adult and Teen Challenge programs throughout the country. So Teen Challenge, the ministry of Adult and Teen Challenge throughout the entire country is just continuing to be extremely successful with longterm sustainability when it comes to freedom from addiction and newfound relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Isaac Crockett: 78% that is incredible. I’ve worked as a social worker, I’ve worked in the public schools, I’ve worked in boys and girls homes and I’ve seen a lot of people go to try to get help and most of the groups that are considered successful, less than half of the people will actually truly come out finding true recovery. And so 78% is just an amazing and incredible number and I know that you and different ones can go into a lot more detail about that, but it works because it’s faith based and because true help comes through Jesus Christ.
And Toni, this is what brought you help to in the midst of pain. It’s interesting to me to hear from both of you that the pain, more than just physical pain, there was real human suffering going on with both of you in different ways for different things. Here, you as a quarterback, you have not only the shoulder pain, but now your hopes and dreams of football are literally as shattered as your collarbone were. And for Toni, this relationship dissolves and you have the physical pain, but there’s the emotional and all these things happening and swirling. And if you could maybe talk to us, maybe Toni you could start and tell us about the ministry that God has opened up for you, but what you would say to young people, what you would say to someone just like yourself a few years ago that’s facing these painful situations or similar, what you would tell them, where you would give them hope and help them seek true, real, genuine help.
Toni McFadden: Yes. My ministry is called Relationships Matter and that could be found on tonimcfadden.com T.O.N.I.M.C.F.A.D.D.E.N. and the purpose of my ministry is to speak to young people about healthy relationships and how to walk them out in a biblical way. But then on the other side, which I didn’t know this was going to happen, in the past year I have become more of a pro-life speaker and that is because the Lord has opened up doors that I didn’t expect. And that is to bring light in truth to what abortion is and how it harms women and affects men. And that is something I think that needs to be talked about even more.
But specifically, if a young person is dealing with this or older person, I wish I would have had someone tell me in the midst of my fear that I could do this and to tell me the truth of what was going to happen, not only to myself but also to my baby. I didn’t understand at 18, 19 years old what fetal development was. There’s a lot of [inaudible 00:24:34] girls who are uneducated about it and that is my job now is that I want to educate them.
And I think I bring a unique perspective because I can never look at a woman with judgment because I’ve been there. And so I’m bringing that grace that the Lord gave me in the midst of what I went through. And so I think that on my end is that I’m able to have that compassion upon them, but I also can bring them that truth because I’ve been there. If someone has gone through this already, like I have, your freedom can only come through Christ. I don’t believe I would be able to share my story or speak up so specifically about exactly what I went through if it wasn’t for my relationship with Christ and now knowing who I am in him
Keith Wiebe: you know, Toni, you’re talking about the compassion not ever looking on a woman with judgment because you’ve been there. You know how they feel. I thought about the scripture that reminds us that Jesus Christ is a high priest, touched with the feelings of everything that we’re tested with, that we experienced and how in his ministry he would look on a multitude of people that were full of sinners and again and again the Bible would say that he was moved with compassion. I’ve always been struck tremendously by that phrase. God has moved you as well into the pro-life movement and I can certainly see the appropriateness of that, Toni. There is an upcoming national pro-life summit in which you are going to be involved. Tell us something about that and maybe about some of the other opportunities that God has given you in your Relationships Matter ministry.
Toni McFadden: The beautiful thing about God’s timing is I laid down speaking for about eight years because we have four children. They’re very young, they’re very close in age and last year was when I believe the Lord told me, it’s time for you to pick this back up. And I didn’t know what it was going to look like. But one of the things that stood out is a lot of people know who Lyla Rose is. She is the president of Live Action and on social media I have a Instagram page @ToniMcFadden12 and I’m following her and I wrote a little thing for her because she was asking a question and she wrote my story on Live Action. She featured my story. So that was the start. And then she invited me to speak at the pro-life rally that happened in Philadelphia earlier this summer. So I’ve been kind of on their radar, you could say it like that.
And then they asked me to be a part of the national pro-life summit coming up and it’s going to be an amazing event. It’s right after the March for Life, which is that Friday. So the next day they’re having a big training to equip us for what’s ahead. And the theme of it is history maker casting a vision for a post Roe America and really equipping not just students but also anyone in the pro-life movement. And that is something people can still register for at prolifesummit.org I believe or .com prolifesummit.com you could still register for that. And they have some wonderful speakers. I feel very honored and privileged to even be among all of these speakers. Vice President Pence’s daughter will be speaking at this, Governor Walker will be speaking at this and Lyla Rose of course, but I’ll be doing one of the workshops on changing minds and so I’ll be sharing my personal story and also equipping people on how to talk to women who have had abortions or equipping them on what to say for someone who is abortion minded.
Isaac Crockett: That is fantastic. And again, just to see God’s redemption, how he takes our pains and our sufferings and our hurts, our mistakes, even sins that either we’ve committed or have been committed against us and he can take those and buy it back and use us to show forth his workmanship and his grace and to think of all the lives that you’ve been able to impact through your testimony, through your story, especially in the day and age now with the kind of social media where things go all over the world from one location. And so this is so exciting, both Kris and Toni, how God worked.
With both of you I think we could delve into so much more detail on some of what happened, but we want to come back in just a few moments here and really wrap things up and give some solutions and some takeaway to every one of you listening that you can take for yourself or for a family member or somebody at your church who’s struggling with these different things, very realistic situation here. It’s not just some kind of pie in the sky kind of thing. These are the details that people are dealing with in their own lives.
Well, thanks again for listening. This is Isaac Crockett joined by my cohost Keith Wiebe and we are coming to the end of this conversation we’ve been having about the journey that God has led this young couple on, Kris and Toni McFadden, through their hardships and to ministry opportunities. And I just want to kind of wrap things up and give you all a chance to give some final comments.
But as a pastor and as a father, I know it’s so important that we give the next generation a biblical worldview. That they have true Christian ideology ingrained upon them so that they know how to make, hopefully, God willing, good decisions. One of our partners here at Stand in the Gap today is BJU Press and they have for Christian schools, for homeschool or just supplemental use for people whose children are in public school, they have biblical worldview really put into their textbooks.
And I like to remind people, whether you’re homeschooling like my wife and I do, whether you’re in a Christian school, I know Keith, you’ve worked with Christian schools all over the country, or whether your kids are in public school, it ultimately comes down to us as parents. We are responsible to make sure that we are rearing our children in a Godly home to help them make the best choices. But at the same time, we also need to make sure that we are so gracious that our children can approach us with questions as well as issues and even problems.
And so I’d love to hear Kris from you and then hopefully Toni and then hopefully have Keith close us in prayer. But what you know as a father as well as somebody who works with people going through rehab and finding themselves in the midst of these problems, what you would say to somebody? Helpful things that you could pass along, especially to those listening today, many of whom are a part of church groups and family groups that maybe don’t understand a lot about what’s happening with somebody who’s addicted.
Kris McFadden: Certainly. And I wanted to just comment on the last segment when Toni was talking. She just forgot to mention that she just did this massive pro-life debate in Mexico with thousands and millions of people that were watching it online and I think that’s also on her website. But that was a major event in a big Coliseum. And she just somehow forgot to mention that one. But nevertheless.
I just recently did a talk and it was really based on the topic of stigma. And when we think of the idea of stigma specifically in relationship to addiction, we tend to label people as things we call them addicts. We label them with negative words and it almost becomes a way of identifying that person as that thing. It’s almost similar to somebody who would have type two diabetes maybe as an example to where they have this problem that was brought on and before you know it, they need to have medical attention and things. And when that individual goes to the doctor’s office, they don’t ever call that person diabetes man. Or they don’t tell the person that’s been smoking for years, they don’t call that person cancer man. They talk about people as in human beings as having problems and when it comes to addiction for whatever reason, people get labeled as that thing.
And I think as a faith community, I tend to think of this topic theologically and when it comes to talking to people, whether it’s the person that’s in the addiction problem or it’s somebody who’s on the outside looking in, especially within the faith community, I think about the topic of stigma and I think through the idea that how can we as redeemed sinners and having been brought into a right relationship with the Lord, how can we not see people as having been created in the image of God? And having been created in the image of God, we see people as having that just inherent, intrinsic dignity and worth so that they can be known as people that are going through a problem.
And this is not a game of semantics, I really don’t believe it is. I think that the reason why I’m stressing this so much in this point on stigma is because what ends up happening is that people who actually have the addiction problem, they tend to, what we call, hide in the shadows. And when people hide in the shadows, what in essence is happening is that individual is not addressing the problem that they have because of fear and insecurity and feelings of failure and all the negative things and connotations that go with being known as a quote addict. So when we think of stigma in the faith community, we need to stop using words like addict. And we need to see people as being created image of God and that will then begin the process of helping the people who have the problem to have a level of comfort where they can come out of the shadows and then we can be a more effective, safe group as the body of Christ to help people get into a process of recovery, change and ultimately a new found relationship with the Lord.
Isaac Crockett: Kris, thank you. Very helpful. Very biblical. We just have a couple of minutes here. Toni, what would you say to folks listening, especially relatives, grandparents, parents of somebody struggling, how can they best pass on to the next generation godly advice to make good choices in their lives?
Toni McFadden: I would say being intentional and for parents to not be afraid to talk about the difficult issues with your kids. It’s similar to what you said earlier, Isaac. I’m not depending on the youth pastor or my pastor to do the difficult things with my children or talk to them about the difficult things. That’s my job. That’s Kris’s job. And not being afraid to talk about difficult things. My children know, age appropriately, what abortion is. My little five year old, when he knew I was going to Mexico to speak, he told his teacher I was going to be on a plane, but he didn’t know where I was going, but I was going to save babies. So there’s ways to be intentional about teaching your kids ahead of time so they’re not too sheltered. I want them shelter to an extent, but I also want to equip them. Just as God has equipped us to deal with the difficult things and be a light.
And another thing is not to put the pressure of perfection on my kids. That’s why we need the gospel and they need to see us need the gospel just as much. And so living out the gospel as best as I can in front of my kids, but also not being afraid to apologize. Showing them this is why mommy, this is why daddy needs the gospel too. And it really starts at home. If we’re going to make an impact outside of the home, it has to start inside of the home first.
Isaac Crockett: Those are so helpful. Both of you have been such a great help and just a joy talking to you and I know our listeners have enjoyed this. If you’re listening here and you didn’t get to hear the whole conversation, please go back to our archives online or on our Stand in the Gap app. And I would encourage you to listen to the whole program or to listen to it again or pass it on to somebody you know.
Kris and Toni McFadden. Thank you so much again for being on this program. What a joy, what a privilege to hear your stories and to hear what God is doing and how he’s using you and your ministries. For all of us here at the American Pastors Network, for Sam and Dave and Gary, who were not able to be here today for Tim who’s manning the boards behind the scenes and for Keith and myself, I just want to thank you for listening. We truly appreciate you listening to our program and passing this on to other people, and I would invite you, please pray for all of our ministries here at the American Pastors Network.