Though Todd Childers has become a role model for the men who are in treatment at John 3:16 Ministries in Charlotte, he didn’t come into his job as an instructor for the program easily.
John 3:16 Ministries is a spiritual boot camp for men with drug and alcohol addictions.
Childers, 27, is a graduate of the program and knows what his students are going through.
He grew up in Weiner and was a student athlete.
“At 15 years old, I was playing sports and playing traveling ball and I was introduced to drugs,” he said. “I actually did drugs before I ever did drink.”
While he was in high school, Childers said, he didn’t have much time to devote to drugs, but in the summer, he found the time.
When he graduated from high school, he made his way to Batesville to become a student at Lyon College.
“I didn’t know enough about Lyon before I went,” he said. “It’s an expensive college, but my parents were willing to do whatever it took for me to go to whatever college I wanted to go to.”
Childers said he had trouble finding a place to fit in when he came to Lyon College.
“When I got there, I was out of my element. I wasn’t smart enough, and I wasn’t on any sports teams,” he said. “I did know how to do drugs. By doing drugs, I found a way to fit in.”
Trying to balance both school and the drug scene at college proved to be a problem for Childers.
“I tried to do school and drugs, and before too long, it got to where school came second. Then it got to where it didn’t come at all,” he said. “I got feeling pretty down about myself.”
He admitted to his mother that he was doing drugs, and the two thought a change of location would help the situation.
“It was a total shock to her. I really wanted to change,” he said. “My mom paid all of my debts and drug debts to get me out of that situation and sent me to Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.”
An apartment and a new campus didn’t solve Childers’ problems.
“When I got my own place, that’s when it became an addiction,” he said. “I didn’t do anything but drugs. I had no job, no nothing.”
There wasn’t a particular drug that Childers was addicted to — it was the feeling that he got from the drugs that he was addicted to.
“I was addicted to getting messed up,” he said. “When I found pills, that was what got me into trouble.”
While he was enrolled at ASU, Childers said, he would skip class.
“I was supposed to be going to class and never was,” he said. “That’s why I didn’t have a job because I was supposed to be going to school. That didn’t work out.”
His grades slipped, and Childers had to move back home with his parents.
“When I moved back home, I was back to square one, trying to start over,” he said.
He enrolled at ASU-Newport and started doing better in his classes, he said.
“I was still doing drugs and trying to make a life at 19 years old,” Childers said. “I would see my friends who were graduating college and heading toward what their career was going to be and getting married. I didn’t work, and I was failing at school.”
Childers said that at 20 years old, he finally realized that it was the drugs that were causing the problems in his life.
“I needed to change if I wanted to go anywhere in life, if I wanted to be anything,” he said. “That’s not when I wanted help, though. Just the thought doesn’t mean you change. Until you put action behind it, it’s not going to happen.”
He was still living a life littered with drugs until one night when he came home from a night of drinking, and his mother had had enough.
“I was coming home one night, and I was drunk. I was coming home to trade my vehicle that was out of gas for one that had gas in it, and my mom was coming home from her job at the same time,” he said.
Childers and his mother both cried when she told him he needed to find help for his addictions.
“She said, ‘We’ll take you to get help, but if you don’t, we’re going to have to take you someplace else. You can’t stay here,’” he said.
Childers said he told his mother to take him to his friend’s house, where the two had a 45-minute conversation, which ultimately led to Childers deciding it was time to get help.
“I was sick and tired of living that way,” he said. “That’s when we started coming out [to John 3:16] and going through the interview process.”
At 20 years old, Childers said, he was one of the youngest people at John 3:16.
“There were guys out here who are 40 and 50 years old, and I was 20. I had never been to jail for any amount of time,” he said. “I had never been in serious trouble, but I wanted to change. I wanted to get off of that road.”
Childers said that when he came to John 3:16, he didn’t know what a “faith-based” rehabilitation center was.
“I thought faith-based meant they had to be nice to you,” he said. “When I came out here, it wasn’t what I was expecting it to be.”
On May 19, 2007, Childers became a part of John 3:16 Ministries.
“When I came here, I saw guys like me. They were my age and older, and they were all smiling and laughing,” he said. ‘They were like me, but I wasn’t smiling or laughing. I wanted what they had, but I didn’t know what that was.”
After he became a resident of John 3:16, Childers said, he started reading the Bible.
“I read things like, God forgets our sins and remembers them no more,” he said. “I thought, ‘This is exactly what I need.’ I wanted to live a life not based on my past. I wanted people to see me for what I am today and what my future holds.”
In June 2007, Childers said, he gave his life to Jesus Christ and spent the next five months learning everything he needed to go out in the world and be successful.
“I didn’t want to be the same old Todd, just not doing dope and drinking,” he said. “The Bible calls you to be more than just sober.”
At the time, John 3:16 had a house on its campus called Unity House, where a single man could live while trying to find a job.
“I did that for five months,” Childers said. “I was at John 3:16 for 13 months total. While I was there, God showed me a place to live and a place to work.”
Childers found a job and a place to live in Newark, where he was able to start over.
“I had never lived there and didn’t know anything about it,” he said. “It was easier for me to be a new person in a new place. I felt like I had grown so much and come so far while I was here, I thought going back home [to Weiner] would be a step backward.”
While living at John 3:16, Childers said, he grew as a person and a Christian.
“I came here with no work ethic, and nobody trusted me or believed in me, but I got all of that here,” he said.
When he moved to Newark, Childers said, he would still come back to the campus to hang out and go to Bible studies.
“It was my way of escaping the world because the world will bring you down,” he said. “You aren’t going to hear the guys out here talking about how bad the weather is or how bad the economy is. You’re going to hear them talk about good things.”
After he graduated from the program, Childers stayed in contact with Bryan Tuggle, the director of John 3:16.
“Two years after I graduated, Bryan asked me to teach out here,” Childers said, “so I started teaching out here two days a week.”
He teaches a 12-week course on the Armor of God, and his students memorize Bible verses and sometimes conduct a Bible study.
Childers still holds his job in Newark but currently lives with his wife and three daughters in Charlotte.
“[John 3:16] is giving these guys an opportunity to get their lives back and show them how to do that,” he said. “I don’t stay around this place for me. I stay for them. I want them to get what I got. I couldn’t do anything greater than this right here.”
Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or email@example.com.