Sharing amazing grace

Published 10:24 am Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sometimes, a first career isn’t the one that makes a difference. Sometimes, even a dream job can open the door to a nightmare. And sometimes, the people who have lived through such a nightmare go on to use the experience to help others learn not to make the same mistakes.

So it was with Teko Wynder. Wynder was drafted to play NBA basketball for the Philadelphia 76ers in 1977. The next year, he played for a professional team in Stockholm, Sweden. But soon the dream turned sour, as he spiraled into a drug addiction that nearly cost him everything.

Today, Wynder is a prevention specialist with the Western Tidewater Community Services Board, and he has parlayed his past into a powerful present in which he serves as a positive role model and counsel for young men who have either found themselves on the wrong side of the law or are on a path to do so. The success he has had in the position he took five years ago, after he got himself back together, prompted the Suffolk Parks and Recreation Department to name him its mentor of the year.

Recently, Wynder was at J.P. King Middle School, where he came in and talked about his career with a group of boys. Principal Lisa Francis said the children loved it, and they had a lot of questions for him.

She said that Wynder wanted to come back and mentor a group of middle school boys.

Wynder’s is a powerful story of grace, of redemption and of love. He credits a reawakening of his Christian faith and the faithful support of his wife of 36 years with helping him to turn himself around, and he has turned that love and support into a new career in which he attempts to lift up the fallen.

Many of the young men with whom Wynder works are in jail, and some face long prison sentences for their deeds. He connects with them through his background in professional sports, and he uses his own experience to help them see their lives are not completely lost – they can still turn themselves around.

“As long as you still have life left in your body, you can change,” he said in an interview with Suffolk News-Herald reporter Matthew Ward this week.

Sometimes, those who have received amazing grace cannot help but share it. Western Tidewater as a whole is fortunate that Teko Wynder is one of those people.