Finding new ways to be innovative always has intrigued Stephan A. DeLorenzo. Having started his own successful video business at the age of 16, DeLorenzo has a unique entrepreneurial aptitude that serves him well as executive director of Adult & Teen Challenge of Arkansas. His familiarity with heartache and despair aids him as well.
The facility in Hot Springs houses up to 70 students, and when DeLorenzo arrived 18 months ago, the campus included a thrift store onsite. However, DeLorenzo soon realized that the donated items symbolized the residents who came into the program: earlier they had been cherished, but over time they had depreciated.
“The world can say the men have no value, and we can say the same things about items that come in our thrift store,” says DeLorenzo, 32. “We decided we want everything at the center to be about restoration.”
Restoration Station is the umbrella name of the businesses the ministry operates.
DeLorenzo and Zach S. Davis, manager of the Restoration Station Wood Shop, decided the students should start restoring the donated furniture and other items, just as God repaired their lives through Adult & Teen Challenge. That applies to Davis, who arrived as a student seven years ago.
“I was addicted to just about everything under the sun,” recalls Davis, 29. “I had a few slip-ups, but God’s been patient with me.”
He sees a parallel with Restoration Station.
“We tear the stuff apart, from pallets and old furniture, and we make it new, just like the good Lord makes us new when we give ourselves to Him,” says Davis.
Restoring the used furniture serves multiple purposes.
“I want to make sure we train guys in using new skills, so when they leave the program, they are not just set free from drugs and alcohol, but they have skill sets to get them jobs,” says DeLorenzo. “They also get to see something perceived as worthless become an item that someone will value.”
In addition to the Restoration Station, the campus is home to a second business: Restoration Lawn Care, a mowing enterprise that offers additional services. Student Tim McCullough has years of professional lawn care experience, and with his leading, the enterprise has doubled in size.
“Now we are one of the most sought-after lawn care businesses, to the point we aren’t taking any new customers,” says DeLorenzo. “We’ve maxed out our business because of the quality.”
The ministry also has a full-service kitchen where students can learn and use new skills.
CRISIS LEADS TO FAITH
DeLorenzo didn’t always have such a positive outlook on life, even though he went to church throughout his childhood and youth.
After his newborn son, Josiah Andrew, died on Christmas Day in 2015, DeLorenzo found himself depressed, anguished, and incredibly angry with God.
“At the time, I thought God could have done something about it and should have, but He didn’t,” DeLorenzo says.
As despair and bitterness consumed him, the only place DeLorenzo could find rest and peace was in the presence of God as he worshipped.
“I wasn’t worshipping because I thought God was good or because He deserved it,” says DeLorenzo. “I was worshipping because it was only when I was praising God that I didn’t feel the depression, the fear, the hatred, and the anger.”
As he worshipped one day in April 2016, DeLorenzo says he sensed God asking him, Stephan, who am I to you?
DeLorenzo didn’t hold back. He unleashed all his contempt: You’re evil and mean. I hate you, and I think you hate me, God.
He then says he heard a sweet whisper in his heart asking, Stephan, who am I to you right now?
DeLorenzo started to cry, and as he broke down, realized only God could give him peace, hope, love, and comfort when he did not feel it.
He walked out of his room with the weight of depression lifted and completely set free.
“Once I knew that my Father loves me in Heaven, I was set free,” says DeLorenzo. “I had a history of anxiety and depression, and that resonates with the guys in the program. God has been here in my darkest moment.”
DeLorenzo went into ministry after being set free from depression and discovering a personal relationship with Jesus. He felt Adult & Teen Challenge would be the best place God could use him because of the number of deeply hurting men entering the program.
Leslie DeLorenzo, Stephan’s wife, struggled emotionally and physically while carrying Josiah in her womb, daily wondering whether she could carry the baby to term. Stephan encouraged her during the pregnancy, and she, in turn, offered grace to him during his time in the wilderness.
The DeLorenzos have three other children: Sofia, 10; Allie, 8; and Evelyn, 4.