Missions at Home Feature
A Second Chance
Visit the 225-acre rural Tennessee campus of Advent Home Learning Center, and you will see teenage boys of all colors, shapes and sizes mowing the grounds, playing a noisy game of basketball, or just talking on the dormitory porch.
They all have similar stories. Most were raised in Seventh-day Adventist families, got into trouble in their early teens and took detours in life that led to Advent Home. Here they experience a life-changing program called Maturation Therapy, which includes residential care in a minimum-distraction environment, lifestyle changes such as eating a vegan diet, remedial and accelerated schooling, counseling, work education, outdoor recreation and spiritual activities.
Maturation Therapy also combines the support of family members, the hard work of Advent Home staff and huge doses of God’s grace. Over Advent Home’s 23- year history, the majority of young men who’ve arrived on campus have left changed for the better.
To illustrate the type of teens who arrive at Advent Home and how these young men receive a second chance, let’s meet two current students, Trevor and Max.
Happiness for Trevor was playing computer games 14 hours a day and eating junk food. By age nine, he had almost every video or computer game available, plus his own cell phone. If his parents refused to buy a new game, he persistently harassed them until they gave in. “I kept looking on the computer for other games and I became addicted,” Trevor says.
He became severely overweight, tipping the scales at 200 pounds. Uninterested in studying, his grades dropped to Cs, Ds, and Fs. “The only way I passed 4th and 5th grades was because the teachers socially promoted me,” he says. “I was failing, cursing, fighting and arguing.” At home Trevor bullied his sister and disrespected his parents. “When I asked for something and they refused, I got angry, cursed at them and threw a temper tantrum.”
One day Trevor’s parents said they were sending him to a special boarding academy that would help him. For the first six months at Advent Home, Trevor was defiant. He was nearly 12, spoiled and used to having his own way. “I went around crying, and I was very angry,” he says of those first few months. “I was hitting and cursing people and did not even listen to my group leader. I complained that everyone picked on me.”
Performing at only a 4th-grade level, Trevor had poor academic skills and was failing classes. Furthermore, he couldn’t complete simple tasks like sweeping, washing dishes, or mopping the floor.
But over time, the program brought about a change in Trevor. Staff closely monitored and disciplined him, ignoring his tantrums and whining. He was given leadership responsibilities as an assistant group leader, which positively affected his attitude.
Another turning point came when Trevor learned that his family was struggling financially in order to keep him at Advent Home. “I knew I needed to get my act together,” he admits. “Slowly but surely, I began to take responsibility for myself and have good behavior.”
After 30 months at Advent Home, Trevor has lost more than 60 pounds and has much improved emotional control. During a recent week of prayer, he decided to accept Jesus and be ready for His second coming. “My goal is to graduate from Advent Home with a 4.0 GPA,” says Trevor. “I want to go to an academy and then to college.”
You can’t help but like Max; he’s quite the charmer. Max was adopted at birth because his natural parents couldn’t care for him. Like Trevor, while growing up Max got almost everything he wanted. “We had a big house, swimming pool and the latest technology,” he recalls. “At six years-old I was talking on my parents’ cell phone.”
By his teens Max had problems with lying, stealing and manipulation. Outwardly he seemed okay, but behind his parents’ back Max was getting himself into trouble— full of anger, not doing schoolwork, behaving poorly with peers. “When I was upset, I took it out on my older sister by picking on her. I was very destructive,” he says.
After seeing a psychologist, Max was diagnosed with ADHD and placed on medications. On the recommendation of friends, his parents brought him to Advent Home in July 2006. However, he refused to cooperate with the program. But his parents stood firm, telling Max he would not leave until he was caught up with schoolwork and had earned enough points to graduate.
Eventually, Max decided to change. “At that time I had over 100 missing assignments in my classes,” he said, “but in four months I brought it down to about two. When I came I was reading at a 4th grade level; now I’m up to 7th.”
As part of the work-based learning program, Max was assigned to work in the greenhouse. “I hated it at first,” he says. “But now I’ve been on the greenhouse crew for a year and a half, and I love it. It gets rid of my anger and stress. And I learn new things.”
Max enjoyed the spiritual life at Advent Home and was baptized. But a year after arriving, he relapsed into his old behavior. “I acted immature,” he admits. “But I decided this would not affect the rest of my stay at Advent Home. I set goals and did a lot of praying. I told my parents and Dr. [Blondel Senior] that I was sorry.”
Today Max continues to make progress and concedes that none of his improvements were possible without God’s help. He plans to graduate this summer, enroll in a Seventh-day Adventist academy and, in time, earn a degree in horticulture.
Do you know teenage boys like Trevor or Max, perhaps in your neighborhood, your church, even in your own family? Advent Home can give them a second chance.