- The Washington Times - Monday, December 19, 2005

VIRGINIA BEACH — One by one, the calls for help came.

There was the 16-year-old girl whose boyfriend had cheated on her. A 14-year-old girl who cut herself because her parents fought a lot.

Then there was Evan.

“What would you think if I told you I was addicted to pornography?” the caller asked Paul Hardy, an ordained minister and Christian counselor on the other line. “What would you say if I told you I was 12?”

Mr. Hardy encouraged the boy to continue. He was there to listen and to offer spiritual guidance. “That’s OK,” he said. “It’s not a problem. Let’s just talk about it.”

Connecting with compassion is the mission of HopeLine, a faith-based hot line that opened in October in Virginia Beach. HopeLine is a phone-in “let’s talk” crisis line for people of any age, though it is aimed at troubled teens.

HopeLine is affiliated with a national Christian radio talk show called “DM Live.” The show is hosted by a motivational speaker, Dawson McAllister.

The success of the Nashville, Tenn.-based show led to the opening of four hot line crisis centers this year, bringing the total nationwide to five.

Mr. Hardy, a former missionary who counseled drug addicts, manages the Virginia Beach center. He is a member of Atlantic Shores Baptist Church.

On average, the local HopeLine fields 25 to 30 calls a week. Calls originate from a toll-free line connected to the base of “DM Live” base in Nashville. Some calls, with permission, are broadcast live. Operators connect others to the five call centers across the country.

“What shocks me is that these kids are so wide open,” said Mr. Hardy, a HopeLine regional coordinator. “They’re telling the most horrendous life stories. But when a person is hurting badly enough, they will do whatever it takes to get help. And part of the healing is to tell their story.”

The problems vary: drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, and physical and emotional abuse. On a recent Sunday, callers wanted to discuss cheating spouses and witchcraft, among other topics.

HopeLine “coaches,” mainly adult members of Atlantic Shores Baptist Church, field calls and offer assistance. The volunteer coaches keep handy a list of resources in Hampton Roads, including phone numbers to other crisis lines, social service agencies and shelters.

“So many of these teens and young adults just want somebody to listen to them,” said HopeLine coach Donna Boone. “And they understand this is a safe place.”

HopeLine focuses on a God-based message. Coaches rely on Scripture and a HopeLine resource manual, divided into various topics such as abortion, dating, homosexuality and suicide.

Mr. Hardy said coaches do not “ambush” callers. “We don’t browbeat them or Bible-thump them,” he said. “If they don’t want to talk about God, we don’t force the issue. We’re not trying to save them spiritually; we’re trying to save their lives.”

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