For 30 years ‘His Place’ ministers to those in need
By Morgan Bryce
On a crystal clear night more than 30 years ago, Rev. Rick Hagans remembers kneeling down and asking God if he had found the right place to start his new ministry.
“I can still remember when I saw this building, it was the perfect-sized building and it’s right on the main road. I remember one night when I visited the building, and in one of the rooms I knelt down to pray, and I looked up through the ceiling,” Hagans said. “I can remember when I was praying, I could look up and not just see the stars, but I could count the stars, because the roof was so shot.”
God’s answer to Hagan’s prayer was yes, and in 1987, Hagans founded His Place, a ministry dedicated to serving and meeting the needs of broken and homeless men in the Opelika/Auburn area. His Place, located at 1415 2nd Ave., has according to Hagans housed, fed and helped thousands of men in the last 30 years.
However, the last four months at His Place have been quiet. With the exception of Hagans and his staff, there is no one staying in the home, and those that might need a bed or shower have to be turned away, leaving a large number of people in the cold as the winter chill begins to set in.
Originally, the two buildings that now constitute His Place were part of a Dr. Pepper bottling plant, which was shut down many years ago. After Hagans purchased the property, piecework constructions helped to unite the two buildings and create one large facility.
Back in August, an inspection by the state fire marshal revealed that the building that houses His Place did not have an updated fire sprinkler system, and that it was markedly behind the current state building codes.
Facing no other choice, Hagans had to move the men who were there to the His Place farm in the Oak Bowery community, and because of the hazardous scenarios presented by an outdated fire sprinkler system, also turn away anyone who needed help.
“Here in Opelika and Auburn, there is no Plan B for the homeless … and nowhere else to go. So we tell the community that it’s the right thing to do … taking care of these people,” Hagans said. “If they’re here, they’re warm, safe and secure.”
Hagan’s problems not only pertain to His Place, but extend to the home of the women’s branch of the ministry, Hosanna Home, which is located in Lafayette, as they also need a new fire sprinkler system and electrical repairs. Both homes are part of a larger organization called Harvest Evangelism, which relies heavily on profits from Harvest Thrift Store, which itself is in the midst of a turbulent time, dealing with rising rent costs at the Pepperell Corners shopping center. These dire straits prompted Hagans to launch a fundraiser, with the goal of raising $250,000 to help cover the costs of repair for both homes, which he believes is possible with help from both God and the community.
“Everything happened at that perfect-storm time. But we just said God, you rode the storm … and storms are nothing to you … you’re a storm rider,” Hagans said, speaking on starting the fundraiser. “We just told Him that we’re going to believe in you to provide … we haven’t quit and won’t throw in the towel … and we’re going to make it through.”
Since the fundraiser launched in early November, more than $25,000 has been donated, far short of their goal, but Hagans said that he plans to continue accepting donations until they have raised the sufficient funds.
“We’re going to keep things going until the money comes in. We always believe that God makes a way,” Hagans said.
As the holiday season approaches, Hagans acknowledges that there a number of local, charitable organizations that people can give their time, money and effort to, and challenges them to take the time to pray and think before making that decision.
“I would tell people to pray and do what God tells you to do. We help other charities like Big House and Women’s Hope … but I tell people, if those ministries weren’t there, what would the difference be?” Hagans said. “And if His Place wasn’t here in December or January, somebody would die. Jesus said that whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto Me.”
His Place Director Jimmy Lynch, who joined the ministry as a member in 2011, said he personally knows how life-changing this ministry is to all who stay, whether it be for a night or for years.
“I believe that some of the impact that His Place has is eternal, and sometimes we don’t get to enjoy that because we don’t get to see it. You can see the impact that it makes when you see someone’s face light up just because you’re showing love to them or whether it’s giving them a meal, or having a conversation with them and looking them in the eye and actually listening to what they have to say … which I’d say is an enormous impact,” Lynch said. “I’d say a big reason to give is that the people who come here to stay – they are the throw-aways, these are the people that everyone else has given up on. Nobody else is going to help the people that come to stay here. But I do believe that all the ministries we have around here are important in their own way, and I believe that God will work and help us raise the money and help keep His Place going.”
For more information, or to donate, visit www.harvestevangelism.org and click on donate.