Alumni Spotlight: Samantha White

Samantha {Brewer} White’s heart is wired for humanitarian work, social justice, and missions.

True to her heart’s desire Samantha is doing humanitarian, social, and mission work, and has been doing so for the past nine years.  What she didn’t see coming was that this would all take place in her home state, under the title of Executive Director of Teen Challenge’s center for women’s rehab in Jacksonville, Florida.

Samantha graduated from TBC in 2011 with a B.A. in Missions. 

Throughout her college career, she became very involved with missions in local, national, and international locations.  All of these experiences, coupled with her natural desire to see others changed by the gospel, seemed to indicate a future in foreign missions, which excited her.  Social work in Jacksonville, Florida wasn’t exactly on her radar!

Immediately after graduation Samantha spent a busy summer doing ministry in South America alongside Grace Ministries Guyana, serving as a counselor at Trinity Youth Camp, and participating in the Fellows Initiative internship program.

“At that point I had several opportunities open up… but nothing seemed to be what God wanted.  They were good opportunities, but nothing felt like it was IT.  What God wanted me to do.  So, I went home and worked at a day care center in Ocala, Florida for a month or so.  But I was confused and frustrated; I knew that wasn’t what I was made to do.”

It was during her month at home that Samantha learned about Hosanna House’s need for a house mom. 

The location (Jacksonville, Florida) immediately caught her attention.

“I thought, ‘Hey!  I know the west side of Jacksonville – I lived there for years!  It’s like my own back yard.’”

At that time, TBC had a scholarship in place for graduates of Hosanna House, which was a residential program for troubled teen girls.

“When they saw on my application that I was a TBC grad, that helped make a connection right away… and nine years later, here I am!  I’ve never left!”

Samantha started her position at Hosanna House as a house mom in 2012.

Soon after, the ministry merged with Teen Challenge, a program which offers faith-based residential care to young people and adults who struggle with life-controlling problems.  (The name can be a bit deceiving since they have programs for both teens and adults.)

Even though transitions are never easy, Samantha says this was a positive move.

“One thing I saw right way was that it was focused on the heart and seeing heart change in people’s lives.  I worked under great leaders; most were actually graduates of the [Teen Challenge] program.   But in 2016 God made it really clear that we needed to transition from helping teen girls to helping adult women.”

At that point, Samantha was brought on as the program manager of the women’s center.

Transitioning out of working at the facility into taking on a leadership role was a drastic change in routine.  Then, just a few months later she became the Executive Director of the Jacksonville location.  In addition to the changes in her responsibilities, the ministry itself was different from what she was used to with teens.

“When teens come in, they are placed there by their parent.  It isn’t their decision, and they don’t want to be there.  In the women’s center the dynamic is very different.  They have reached their rock bottom.  Some have had their children taken from them, some have been addicted to substances for 20 plus years, some have never been sober as an adult. They are desperate and desire change.”

Samantha speaking at event
Samantha speaking at event

Women who come to the center commit a year of their life to the residential program.

At Teen Challenge women find the potential for life transformation through Christ-centered programs.  Everything from the hands-on classwork and leadership skill development, to learning how to interact with others and work through issues of the past – all of it is centered around Christ.

Samantha has been the director since 2017 and she has poured her heart into developing the Jacksonville location. 

She finds deep fulfillment in leading the women in the program, but is especially passionate about discipling interns who are grads and feel called to stay on as staff.

“I never ever would have seen myself as a director of a drug and alcohol recovery center. But He knows how we are wired.  He sees our heart.  This ministry is for women who struggle with addiction, but I am discipling them.  We are missionaries!  We are helping to meet the need in our backyard.”

This passion for reaching and serving individuals in the community is a family affair.

Samantha’s husband, Mike White, is the Executive Director of the men’s center of Jacksonville Teen Challenge.

“My husband works with the guys who are going through the same things the women are.  He’s actually a graduate of the men’s center.  He walked through those doors 10 years ago and God completely changed his life.  He is not the person he used to be… and that is the power of Jesus Christ.”

Samantha and Mike with their child
Samantha and Mike with their daughter, Brielle

Samantha and her husband use innovative means to sustain the ministry while also providing practical training for the residents. 

“Back in 2017 my husband attended a training about raising funds.  One thing we learned from that training was the potential of producing consumables.  I got to thinking – Teen Challenge has a thrift store here in Jacksonville… what if…”

And that was the beginning of their hand-poured candle business, Inspired by Light!  Women in the program create, package, and sell candles and soaps.  Proceeds from Inspired by Light support Teen Challenge.  The product production and online shop provide opportunities for women to learn valuable hands-on business skills.  You can shop their products on Etsy and in various vendor events in the area. (Link included below)

Teen Challenge Super Thrift stores are another way that Teen Challenge offers real-life training for residents.

Samantha says that the main goal of the thrift store is to transition residents out into the community in a healthy way.  The local (to us) store is in Orange Park, and the manager is a graduate of Teen Challenge. Samantha says that this stage is vital to recovery.  It encourages confidence, self-motivation, and responsibility in a very practical setting.

“Working is part of life, so working is part of the program. We want them to be successful members of society when they leave us.  Many of our students work at the thrift store.  We also have janitorial crews that go out into the community.  These options teach them different skills and how to work with a team. It is rewarding to see them graduate and use their work experience and other tools to rise in leadership in the workforce quickly.  Some have even started their own successful companies!”

Teen Challenge sees a 78% success rate for those who complete the program.

Graduate Shannon receiving certificate
Samantha with Shannon {center} a graduate of the program

Samantha and Mike are quick to recognize that this success rate is because of the Lord and the change He brings about in hearts.  She describes it as the result of giving our lives to Him and knowing Him at the deepest level of our heart.

“We try to fill it with drugs, alcohol, food, social media… but God is the only one who can fill the needs of our heart.”

One matter of prayer weighs heavy on Samantha’s heart:

That people will step into treatment when they need it.  She says that one side-effect of the pandemic has been a nation-wide reduced number of individuals seeking help to overcome their addictions.

“We know it is not because there are fewer people who are in need, but circumstances are preventing people from looking for the help that they need.”

The long-term effects of unchecked addictions are a concern for all involved: the addicted individual, their family, their employer, their community.  Teen Challenge and other like-minded programs are ready and waiting to help individuals overcome the patterns and behaviors that prevent them from thriving in life.

Samantha with graduate on her wedding day
Samantha with graduate Shannon on her wedding day

You can support the efforts of programs like Teen Challenge by praying for their staff, interns, and residents.

Many of them face daily struggles that are intensely draining emotionally, mentally, and physically.

If you would like to participate in tangible ways, please check out the links provided below.  You can learn more about Teen Challenge in specific, visit their Etsy shop, and find thrift store locations.

Last but not least: if you know someone who needs the support that Teen Challenge offers, please encourage them to reach out for help.

Learn more:

Teen Challenge is a global ministry and can be found in 144 countries all over the world.  Teen Challenge in Jacksonville currently has both men’s and women’s centers

Jacksonville Women’s Rehab https://jacksonvillewomensrehab.com/

Jacksonville Men’s Rehab: https://jacksonvillemensrehab.com/

Teen Challenge thrift store locations: https://teenchallengesuperthrift.cc/

Inspired by Light Etsy shop: https://etsy.com/shop/InspiredbyLightStore 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top