The Bus Stops Here

August 30, Day 59 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014

It is difficult to be on a bicycle tour and NOT BIKE! We have been in Sioux City, Iowa, for almost two weeks as I rest my leg. We have been waiting patiently (most of the time) and asking for lots of prayers so we can get back on the road and finish TheHopeLine Tour of 2014.

While we wait, I’ve had the unique experience of catching a few rides on the Sioux City Transit System bus. One woman I met was a cashier at a grocery store near the mall. She looked like she wanted to talk. She had a huge smile on her face, despite being on her feet all day. Her face lit up when she talked about her flower garden. She was an influencer. Her flowers inspired her neighbor to plant her own garden (with this woman’s help) and that, in turn, inspired another neighbor to utilize her green thumb. Isn’t that the way it should be? One person inspires another person and it is passed on to another and another. Our world would be a better place if we all influenced each other in the multitude of positive ways we could, if we only took the time and effort to do so.

On another day’s bus ride, I sat next to a woman who has had some tough times. She had just lost her paycheck. It was pouring out, so even if she had found it, it would have been soaked. She also shared that she had just lost her job. Previously, she had lost her house due to nonpayment. Her countenance revealed the tough times in her life. When I told her about our bike trip and fundraiser, she shared that her 26-year-old nephew had been killed on his bike. That wasn’t exactly uplifting news for this bicycle tourist to hear!

While I was sharing with her about TheHopeLine, a woman in front of us turned around and talked about her 16-year-old daughter, who refused to talk to the family therapist. When I showed her TheHopeLine bumper sticker that was in my hand, she quickly typed the phone number and the website into her phone. I hope her daughter contacts a hope coach. She would surely benefit from some help and resources.

This same woman was sitting across from a man who had greasy long hair, dirty clothes, a ruddy red face, and looked rather bloated. She said she lets him come to her house, shower, and get cleaned up. He is a homeless alcoholic in need of help, but not willing to give up his addiction, she reported.

It made me wonder, What does it take to reach out and ask for help? On our bike trip, we’ve had to ask for all kinds of help. Just today, I asked the front desk if anyone had an umbrella I could borrow for my day on the town. We don’t pack them on our bicycles. One of the girls ran out to her car and grabbed hers.

It is humbling to ask for help, and most people are more than willing to lend a helping hand. They may even consider it a privilege. Helping others is one of the joys in life. When I see someone so down and out, like that man on the bus, I wonder why he doesn’t want a better life, and reach out for the help needed to find it.

When Tim and I volunteer on TheHopeLine, we are impressed with the young people who honestly want help. They listen, take suggestions, and appreciate having someone who listens, encourages, gives them godly advice and resources, and prays for them. No matter our age, we all need help at some point in our lives. Life’s problems? You could say that the bus stops here.

Tim and I would like to ask for your help. If you’ve not yet pledged support to TheHopeLine, won’t you please consider doing so now? It only takes a minute at this webpage. If you’d like to read why TheHopeLine is a great organization to support, click here.

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No one is immune from suicidal thoughts

“I’m just looking for a reason to live.”

Those words, from a 27-year-old youth pastor, opened up my final chat of the evening on TheHopeLine last night. They were followed by:

TheHopeLine bike sign“My whole life is my church. …I feel so wrapped up in the church and don’t know who I am anymore. I’ve lost friends and family because of my commitment to ministry… I feel like God’s asking me to give up leadership in the church, and I have begun that process, but it feels like I have nothing left.”

Eventually, I read, “How do I do what’s right for my soul with a ministry at stake?” and later, “My identity issues run so deep that it feels easier to kill myself than be miserable leading people.”

These were attention-getting statements coming from someone in ministry. Yet, they demonstrate that no one is immune from suicidal thoughts, let alone problems. And might I suggest that those who are in ministry, who deal with other people’s problems and issues on a daily basis, have good reason to be at risk. This young man’s supervisors, themselves pastors, were applying more pressure on him than they realized. They seemed more concerned about growing the church than they were about his well being. He was feeling trapped. When those charged with helping the hopeless are themselves feeling hopeless, where do they turn?

In this case, he turned to Google and found TheHopeLine. Ninety minutes after we had begun chatting, he wrote, “I’m feeling a lot better. Just having someone affirm for me that there’s a way to break free from these awful feelings is so great.” He had agreed not to harm himself and pledged that he wouldn’t act on his suicidal thoughts without first contacting the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, the number for which I provided him. He also committed to speak with a counselor outside of his church, and I referred him to an organization that will connect him with one. His hope was being restored!

That’s why the founder of TheHopeLine chose the name he did. When all else fails, there’s always hope. Sometimes, it’s just hard to see it. When you lose sight of hope, you are on the verge of self-destruction, whether you go to work in a suit, stay home with the kids, go to school, work a construction job, drive a BMW. or minister to those in need. No one is immune.

If you’ve not already made your pledge to TheHopeLine, won’t you do it today? Your tax deductible contribution will make a difference in the lives of hurting teens and young adults. You can pledge your support by clicking this link. Or, you can click here to find out why Debbie and I think TheHopeLine is worthy of your support.

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Coincidental has become commonplace

“Hey! Is this restaurant open?” inquired a portly, middle-aged gentleman who was sporting a wireless headset for the cellphone he had just deposited into his shirt pocket. He had just abruptly broken the silence as he barged into the room. He was followed several feet behind by “his better (and quieter) half.”

“No, but you can get yourself a bowl of Cheerios,” I retorted, pointing to the half-full dispenser on the other side of the room.

Debbie and I had begun our post-breakfast ritual in the otherwise empty room. We’ve adopted this space as our living area when we’re not in our hotel room. It was formerly a restaurant situated just off the hotel’s lobby. It now serves as the continental breakfast area for hotel guests. We’ve been devoted patrons as we replenish our fuel stocks in hopeful anticipation of a return to the road.

War RoomThe room has also doubled as our office for the past week, where we’ve connected with people online and created content that helps tell the story of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014 and the organization it is designed to help. You could think of this room as our backoffice “war room,” where we do battle to motivate people and ultimately to effect change in the lives of young people in crisis. We’ve called doctors, sent news releases, written blog posts, studied maps, and pitched emails from this room in efforts to make our fundraising thermometer rise. And anyone who ventures into our war room after breakfast hours has invaded our space!

Pledges“Have you ever seen one of these?” asked the man as he thrust his cellphone toward our table. Pictured on his iPhone was an unmistakable funnel cloud…the kind you see on The Weather Channel. “This was just last night on my property outside our home.”

His wife now moved toward the table, too. I noticed she was carrying a folder with the word “Cargill” on it, which heightened my antennae. Inside were materials from a seminar that the couple had attended on Wednesday. Cargill is an agricultural conglomerate with a sizeable hedging business. It soon became apparent they had landed in Sioux City for business reasons. They were a farming tandem.

“Do you hedge your price risk?” I asked.

It had happened again. Coincidental has become commonplace…all too coincidental and all too commonplace. I had just begun to proofread the chapter entitled “Weather” in a soon-to-be-released ebook that I’ve written entitled Hedging Commodity Price Risk: A Small Business Perspective.

The couple sat down and we chatted about their storm chasing activity of the prior evening, Midwestern weather, Cargill’s pitch to increase their profits, and some of the logistics and risks pertaining to a corn and soybean farming operation. They’ve had little to no experience with hedging, but were obviously investigating it further. These good folks were from South Dakota, so we found plenty in common to discuss, since we had just crossed the state by bicycle. Not even their empty stomachs would get in the way of our instant connection.

Eventually, they had to leave for their follow-up meeting at Cargill’s office. Before they left, I shared a business card and a card for TheHopeLine Tour, along with a brief explanation of TheHopeLine itself.

“Contact me and I’ll send you a copy of the book,” I told them. Then, they were gone.

Soon, I asked Debbie, “What are the odds those two people would stumble into this room with two topics of such common interest: hedging commodity price risk and concerns about tornados?” Debbie nodded and smiled in complete agreement. We’ve both been itching to get back on our bicycles. At this point, we’re wondering why we’re not miles south in Missouri…or miles east in Massachusetts, for that matter. But, here we sit, in Sioux City, Iowa, with a stubborn injury…and a stubborn resolve to get on with things, to finish what we started and what we feel called to do for the benefit of young people in need.

Isn’t it interesting when God designs these impromptu meetings that leave you with no doubt He arranged them? When you encounter them on a regular basis, coincidental has become commonplace. I find it even more interesting when I come away from these meetings asking: “God, what was that all about?” I wonder if the other party knows the answer to that question, and whether they sensed that our chance encounter was not really chance at all.

On the one hand, Debbie and I have the comfort of knowing that God is with us; on the other hand, we are often left wondering what He is up to. Yet, it’s a secure and adventurous journey that we’re on, and we can’t wait to find out what, or who, is around the next corner!


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ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

I am so glad I was the recorder on this ice bucket challenge! Tim is a good sport and always likes a challenge. Dumping ice cold water on his head was NOT on his bucket list, but he always keeps his commitments. When Bill Schade of Marlborough, Massachusetts, challenged him to join the hoopla to raise awareness of ALS, Tim didn’t waste a minute! We often have to improvise on our bicycle trip, so we chose to use our Camelbak for the ice bucket!

For those who would like to know more about TheHopeLine Tour that Tim mentions in the video, check out our status page.


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Prayer for a Generation

August 25, Day 54 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014

Stopping is hard to do, especially when our goal is to bicycle across the country and finish in a timely manner. But sometimes you just have to stop, look, and listen. And that is exactly what we have done during our extended stay in Sioux City, Iowa. We have also caught up on our sleep and our bodies are thanking us for that!

Our Friday night “date night” was looking better than ever. We rented a car and headed north to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We sped by some of the route we took on our bicycles last Sunday. What would have taken us all day on our bikes was reduced to about 70 minutes in a car. Amazing!

As we walked into Central Baptist Church where the dinner and Prayer for a Generation event would be held, excitement and anticipation bubbled up within. We would actually be attending an event we thought was out of our reach just a few weeks ago. Sporting our matching HopeLine shirts, Tim and I were greeted and instantly recognized by some who had seen us on the Sioux City local news and newspaper Friday morning.

At the dinner, longtime supporters were recognized for their commitment to TheHopeLine. Stories were told that spanned Dawson McAllister’s 40-plus years of helping youth in crisis. Seated at our table was a man who knew Dawson back when he was just starting out in youth ministry in 1967. We met other hope coaches and listened to their stories of gratitude for serving in the ministry. The dinner was delightful, but underneath was a tone of deep concern for this nation’s youth. One statement that startled me was that we are one generation from losing the church.

The statistics for this generation are alarming. Check them out on this press release for the Prayer for a Generation event.

Tim Altman at Prayer for a Generation in Sioux FallsAfter dinner, we joined about 400 people of all ages already gathered in the large auditorium for the main portion of the program, to pray and worship. It was powerful. The praise band led us in worship. CEO Tim Altman, pictured to the right, and founder of TheHopeLine, Dawson McAllister, spoke.

I loved the interaction between Dawson and the audience. He asked people to share their stories of those who had prayed for them over the years. Several young people shared how aunts and uncles prayed for them. A grandmother, a parent, and a spouse all were important prayer warriors for other people who spoke. Many had abandoned their faith in God for a time. Some were addicted. Two girls explained that they had been raped. I was amazed at their transparency, but not at their gratitude. What a privilege to hear that their prayers were answered: marriages mended, addictions eradicated, broken hearts healed, lives restored. Only God could do all that.

After that, we were led in prayer by several leaders in the Sioux Falls faith community. A hope coach prayed for the young people who already know and follow God. A University of Sioux Falls educator and a campus minister prayed for the teachers, principals and administrators who would be starting school this coming week. Another leader prayed for the hurting and hopeless young people who need help. Yet another prayed for youth pastors and ministers. Finally, and most importantly, a humble prayer warrior prayed that God’s extravagant love will ignite a mass movement of faith in Jesus across the nation.

We ended the evening by gathering in small groups and praying for this generation. I love it when we are given practical ways to help after a meeting like this. They had a list of youth ministries that service Sioux Falls and beyond, many of which had booths in the lobby after the event. Imagine if we started praying for, helping, and loving the youth in America on a daily basis. Imagine helping to save the lives of troubled youth so they could know God, follow Him, and make a difference with their peers!

The effect of one night of prayer will pale in comparison to what daily prayers will do for this generation. Most experts agree that all revivals and spiritual awakenings begin with prayer. God makes a promise in the Bible, in 2 Chronicles 7:14. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Will you join us in praying for this generation?

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