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GALLAGHER: Cross-country 'hope coaches' make stop in Sioux City

GALLAGHER: Cross-country 'hope coaches' make stop in Sioux City

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SIOUX CITY | A leg injury keeps cross-country cyclist Debbie Bishop in Sioux City. Keeps her far from idle, though.

Bishop and husband Tim pedal into Sioux City early this week, reaching mile 2,296 on their 4,000-mile journey that stretches from Oregon to Massachusetts.

"We're here for a week, as I have chronic compartment syndrome," says Debbie Bishop with a sigh, as we sit and talk in the lobby of the Sioux City Hotel. "Basically, my muscle grew too much for the fascia that holds the muscle."

A doctor advises her to rest while the injury heals. Debbie Bishop takes to her keyboard instead of the road. She's something called a "hope coach" and joins her husband in serving The HopeLine once per week.

The HopeLine was founded as the nonprofit rescue arm of the Dawson McAllister Association in 1991 to offer a listening ear, encouragement and biblically based advice to callers and Internet chatters from all over the world. McAllister is an author and radio personality who used his voice and energy to help create www.thehopeline.com.

Just last year, the Bishops say, "hope coaches" like them reached an estimated 3,500 young people who had thoughts of suicide.

The Bishops, both 56, found one another and married at 52. Neither one has children of their own. Their love for young people led them to become "hope coaches," lending their ears and their compassion while leading troubled teens and 20-somethings to those who can help them deal with a variety of problems, ranging from depression to relationship woes to alcoholism to abuse.

The couple aims to raise $100,000 for The HopeLine on this summer's cross-country cycling adventure. They receive no compensation for their efforts. They encourage those they meet along the way to check out the website. The Bishops don't handle any donations.

"We were invited to speak along the way to a church group, and afterward there were people coming up to us and trying to give us checks," Tim Bishop says. "We directed them to where they could give."

Money is used for the technological demands in keeping and staffing The HopeLine, even if those "hope coaches" are volunteers, like the Bishops.

"I worked in corporate finance for 26 years and found that this (being a 'hope coach') is what's fulfilling," Tim Bishop says. "Now, I'm doing something that really matters."

The Bishops volunteer every Sunday night to sit at their phone and/or keyboard, answering calls from young people who desperately seek a friendly ear.

While recuperating from her injury, Debbie Bishop takes a shift on Monday night. She spends 90 minutes communicating with a young woman who seems to have lost hope.

"She was a 19-year-old girl and she wanted to kill herself," Debbie Bishop says. "I stayed on with her and we prayed. I tried to help and for 90 minutes we communicated."

The young woman eventually comes to realize there's good in her life. Bishop is able to direct the woman to professionals who can help.

"She (the young woman) was so relieved when our conversation ended," Bishop says.

In the meantime, Bishop forgets all about her leg injury and the road woes she's having. She realizes they aren't woes at all, even if her muscles have temporarily knocked her from this cross-country cycling adventure, the couple's third in four years.

"I love young people," says Bishop, a teacher who intends to return to the classroom in Marlborough, Mass., by mid-October. "We've not had children of our own, but we've both got a heart for young people."

And, it appears, ears, time and, in Debbie's case right now, one temperamental lower leg.

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