Debbie and I looked at one another somewhat dumbfounded. Yet, we suppressed our amazement. We had stumbled upon a life-saving activity, and we weren’t about to derail it. Our tour of TheHopeLine call center just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, was on hold. The excitement of a trip to a new setting and learning about a can-do organization became secondary as a precious young life hung in the balance. Terri, the call center manager, assisted one of her “Hope Coaches” by transferring a phone call from a broken teen to a skilled suicide interventionist. She must do this every day, we thought. How else could she maintain such composure? Compassion, efficiency, and God’s love were center stage. It was a moment neither of us will forget.
With the client now connected to yet another God-appointed rescuer, our tour nonchalantly resumed. Terri explained the systems that make TheHopeLine what it is: a virtual triage center for hurting teens and young adults, aged 13-29. With “hooks” cast within “a yard of hell,” listening ears and prepared hearts await their behind-the-scenes rendezvous with heartbreak. Those hooks are a website, www.thehopeline.com, and a national radio show, DMLive, hosted by long-time youth communicator and founder of TheHopeLine, Dawson McAllister. The ears and hearts are volunteers with a longing to touch youth, and a burning desire to see God at work. They come fully equipped with God’s Spirit and a basketful of resources.
That was in the summer of 2009. We were in the Nashville area to assist Debbie’s father in a move across the country. We were friends with a mutual interest in TheHopeLine—and in one another. Now, four years later, Debbie and I are both volunteer Hope Coaches. How is it that God leads a “numbers guy” to become a Hope Coach? It’s certainly hard to understand, let alone explain. But it demonstrates that God can do unexpected things when one’s heart yields to His purposes.
Another miracle occurred in my life since my 2009 visit to Tennessee. Just as becoming a Hope Coach seemed unusual, transforming into a husband after 52 years of single life has also been life changing. When God gives you a gift, He doesn’t pick it up at the local dollar store. And He won’t serve you cake without putting some delicious frosting and beautiful decorations on top. He’s brought a wonderful lady into my life, one with complementary gifts, yet one with enough common interests to make the transition pleasurable, if not divine.
Debbie, now my wife, is truly a gift from God. As Jesus teaches in Luke 11:11-13, God gives good gifts. He doesn’t play bait and switch. When we reach into the toe of our Christmas stocking, we don’t pull out a lump of coal. And when that long-awaited moment arrives when we lift the shell off the answer to our prayers, we’ll find a more delightful prize than we’d ever imagined. Yet, these good and godly gifts may only come after much “asking, seeking, and knocking.”
God’s generosity was evident almost immediately after I proposed to Debbie. In just ten weeks, we moved from engagement, to my “retirement” and relocation, to embarking on the bicycling adventure of a lifetime—a cross-country self-supported tour following our wedding. The rewards of becoming a Hope Coach have been much different, but profound nonetheless. When I leave an interaction with a strong sense that something I communicated with a youth will make a difference in his or her life, it’s time to pinch myself. Sometimes, I just can’t believe I get to do this! Many youth connect with TheHopeLine thinking they have a hangnail. When they leave realizing there is a much larger infection at work, and equipped to do something about it, their lives are about to be transformed.
As a long-time financial supporter of TheHopeLine, I know they operate on a threadbare budget, like many nonprofits these days. But that doesn’t stop them from breaking through enemy barriers built to prevent a lost generation from finding hope and help for their hurdles and heartaches—and maybe even a new life in Christ. This group likes to stay on the cutting edge. Finding others who can support their creative approach has been a formula for success. After years of watching God use this organization, and now as a more hands-on volunteer, I feel more privileged than ever to participate.
TheHopeLine is often a first step for young people to get help. However, a listening ear, godly wisdom, and a heartfelt prayer are often not enough. That’s where faith-based partners come into play. As Hope Coaches, Debbie and I routinely refer troubled youth to Truth Media for email mentoring. Recently, I referred a 5’ 5”, 107-pound, 16-year-old girl who was struggling with anorexia, depression, and self-harm. Although she prayed to ask God into her life, she remains afraid, inclined to cling to her secrets, and uncertain of where to turn next. The ongoing support of her Truth Media email mentor will be invaluable to her recovery.
The whirlwind of change in my life after years of entrenchment has been a reminder that it is never too late for God to answer prayers, and to continue developing our character. Whether akin to changing occupations or becoming a committed spouse, rest assured that God is faithful to complete any good work He may have begun in you. I’ve found recently that He works in most unusual ways, when you most need it and least expect it.
If you are interested in donating to TheHopeLine, you may do so at http://www.thehopeline.com/Rescue2000. Those interested in becoming a Hope Coach can learn more at http://www.thehopeline.com/becomeVolunteer. Those interested in becoming a Truth Media email mentor can learn more at https://www.thementorcenter.com/team/mentoring/