Youth Crisis Hotline Offers Advice, Hope

For teens who have no one else to turn to for advice, they can always call the National Youth Crisis Hotline, a non-profit organization that answers calls 24 hour a day, seven days a week from the United States and Canada.

"We like to think of our hot line as a bridge to help," said volunteer Michael Garnier.

Garnier has spent two hours every Friday for the last 14 years answering calls at Harvest Christian Fellowship Church in Reston, Washington.

After listening to teens’ situations when they phone in at 800-HIT-HOME, volunteers for the hotline direct them to other resources and organizations specialized for their needs. Sometimes, it’s a number to a crisis pregnancy center, a child-protection agency or a shelter for runaways. Other times, Mr. Garnier directs them to the Bible for answers. However, the hotline is more than just a “dial a sermon”, according to Garnier.

For example, for a recent call, Mr. Garnier answered: “Youth crisis hot line, can I help you?”

When a tearful female on the other end said her father had hurt her, but she would not give details or think she was in immediate danger, Garnier directed her to Childhelp USA, an organization which helps children who suffer from abuse.

"If they are not able to help you, you call us back, OK?" Mr. Garnier told her.

Although the troubled teens that call in may present many different problems to the volunteers, Garnier said, “The common denominator that characterizes our callers is they are all looking for hope.”

"We address their immediate need by offering them referrals, and we give them hope by reminding them there is a real God that cares about the real details of their life," Mr. Garnier said.

The National Youth Crisis Hotline was started by Youth Development International, which was founded by Jim Vaus. When Vaus, a former wiretapper who had troubles himself in the past, changed after becoming a Christian, he set out to help troubled youths in 1959.

Now, volunteers from different outposts nationwide keep the hotline running around the clock, offering “help, not hassle” according to their slogan.

"We need to get the number into the hands of kids, because we feel we are a 911 where no one knows the number," Mr. Garnier said.

There is no tangible evidence that the hotline is making a difference, said Mr. Garnier, but “we get enough feedback to know we are making a difference in lives.”

After their shift has ended and they have done what they can to help the troubled teens, Mr. Garnier and his co-worker Ben Shiflet leave the rest up to God, praying for each person who called in that night and for each need. They also pray for those at a different outpost who would now answer the re-routed calls.

"And, God, please give wisdom to those who will begin answering calls now," Mr. Garnier prayed. "In Jesus' name, amen."

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