Friday, April 06, 2007

Sweet Old Ladies And Pat Robertson

Something I've never talked about on here before.

When I lived in the Dallas area in the late 1980s, I was a part-time "phone counselor" for Pat Robertson's 700 Club organization.

I haven't watched the show in years, but back then you could call anytime for someone to pray with. For those of you who aren't religious, it probably sounds bizarre, but it was a great time in my life.

The 700 Club Phone Counseling Center in Dallas handled calls from Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and parts of Kansas and New Mexico.

Before you were allowed to answer the phones and pray with people, you would have to go through an informal, but fairly thorough series of classes. They would tell us how to handle certain calls, go over the most common type of things we would have people calling about, how to decide if a person needed special help, etc.

For example, in my time there, twice I had calls from people threatening to commit suicide. One, I was able to get the person talking, pray with them, get their name, address and phone number and an agreement to let a local pastor call and set up a time to come by. These would be followed up on by more senior counsellors who would make sure the pastor spoke with the person and so forth to make sure the situation was defused. The other call, the woman ended up giving me her name and number but then started freaking out and hung up. I called the New Orleans police and they said they would send someone out. I found out later, by the folks who worked days, that everything was OK there.

So the calls could be anything from serious stuff like that, calls to pray for sick loved ones, pray for God's blessing on an upcoming job interview; you name it.

The 700 Club aired live at 8am on the East coast, and in different markets and stations around the country, it would air delayed, various times during the day and evening.

We had a TV set in the phone room, and when the show would be on in any of the markets in the states I mentioned above, we would play a taped version of the show at the same time, so we would know what they were seeing, and be able to handle calls accordingly.

Another example. Pat Robertson, Ben Kinchlow, or Danuta Soderman might talk for a segment of the show about prayer. At then end of the segment, they would say that we could send a free pamphlet on prayer, or a free Gospel of John, or whatever, just call. We would see that and know that during the next commercial break, we would be getting lots of calls from people wanting to have whatever pamphlet they were offering sent to them.

I cannot tell you how much I grew as a Christian while working there. Pat Robertson seems to put his foot in his mouth fairly often these days, but every person that I personally knew with that organization was completely above board, loved God, and took very seriously our praying with people.

In addition to the general classes used to train folks to work on the phones, they offered evening classes of more in-depth Bible study. There was always something going on; I learned SO much. Kind of a trial by fire of handling personal contact with people, even if it was by phone.

Remember how I told you that we would watch the show several times per shift so that we would know somewhat what to expect the calls to be about? It was taped early in the morning in Virginia Beach, VA, and we would see it delayed, but many people thought that they were seeing it live at, say, 7-9pm.

Many times in the time I was a phone counsellor there, when the show would break for commercial, we would get calls from little old ladies that assumed we were the phone counsellors they showed at the 700 Club facility in Virginia Beach.

As soon as the commercials started, "700 Club, what can I pray with you about?"

"Hello? Could I please speak with Pat?"

"Excuse me?"

"Could I please speak with Pat during the commercials? I'd like to talk to him while he has a couple of free minutes."

"I'm sorry ma'am, the show is shown live at 8am Eastern time each weekday morning. What you are seeing is a taped, delayed showing of this morning's program."

"You mean I can't talk to Pat?"

"No ma'am, I'm sorry but you're speaking to a phone counsellor located in Dallas, Texas. There are several phone counselling centers around the country, each one handling calls from several states."

".....Pat's not there?"

"No ma'am. Is there something I can talk or pray with you about?"

"No. I just wanted to talk to Pat during the commercials. Bye."

They were unfailingly fully expecting Pat Robertson to step from the set and talk with them for one and a half minutes. They were always sweet and confused and ultimately disappointed. You could hear it in their voices.

They were no problem, just locked into the show, not even understanding the concept of a taped delay, or that the counsellors could be somewhere other than 15 feet from Pat Robertson in Virginia Beach.

It was way better than the dozens calls each counsellor would get in late January, asking us to pray with them to win the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes. Remember how they used to give it away during the Superbowl?

Oy Vey


Qtpies7 said...

I had to stop back over here and tell you how funny your comment was on babysteppers TT today! LOL I don't mind touching my eyeballs, but I can't STAND seeing my hubby injured. My kids, fine. My dh, I get nauseated, hehe.
Not that its related at all to your eye touching aversion, but you know... hehe

Qtpies7 said...

Oh, and this post is funny, too! I lived near VA Beach for years, and dh took a job in MN over one at Regent U a few years ago. But my best friend's sister in law works for Pat, so its kinda like I'm connected, NOT.

Hammer said...

I like Pat robertson, I tend to agree with much of his politics.

When I was a latch key kid I used to watch the 700 club religiously even though I wasn't. I just liked what they had to say about things.

Around 1980 I was watching jim and tammy baker and they were begging for money to build a 40 story skyscraper for jesus.

I called them up and told them they were blaspheming by begging money for skyscrapers in Jesus name. I was only 10 years old but I got the lady on the phone really flustered :)

Sharon Lynne said...

Sounds like an interesting experience! It's a good thing God is not particular about the mechanics of prayer. He just loves to hear from us!

Thanks for your comment on the desk, and your reflections on my Isaiah post!

thethinker said...

I could never have a job requiring me to use a phone. I'm such a horrible communicator via phone (i.e. bad hearing = asking people to repeat the same thing again and again).

JAM said...

qtpies, small world. I'm working with a fellow engineer right now who has a Master's degree from Regent U.

hammer, I agreed with him a lot over the years, but sometimes I think he speaks before thinking things through real good and with certain folks watching his every move for anything approaching a mistake, they make him look like an idiot. I've met the man and shook his hand and spoke with him briefly. One thing Pat Robertson is NOT, is stupid.

thethinker, I hate phones and have bad hearing too, but back then I had just started working for an air line, and the jets hadn't hurt my hearing yet. I could do that work on the phones because I believed in what we were doing. We were just simply, honestly praying with people. I play guitar, badly, and am embarrassed to have even my wife and daughters hear me play at home, yet somehow when called upon to do so, I can play without fear in front of the whole church in a church service. Strange as it sounds, I've always felt as if God gives me the courage to do those things when I need to.

JAM said...

Sharon, "...He just loves to hear from us!"

Incredibly true. Our most humble, fumbling attempts to touch Him and be touched by Him always catch His ear.

julie said...

What an interesting experience this must have been for you.

People's needs never cease to amaze me as I continue publishing my Christian newspaper. Wow...I have head shaking moments nearly daily.

Oh...about that Publisher's Clearinghouse entry form.....HAHA!!

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