Harvest Evangelism celebrates ‘what God still does’comment (0)
October 18, 2012
By Julie Payne
Rick Hagans, founder and president of Harvest Evangelism in Opelika, has a sign in his ministry’s office that states, “Programs don’t change people. God changes people.”
It is a message that resounds throughout the different outreaches of Harvest Evangelism, a ministry that reaches out to the homeless and those struggling with life-controlling problems like drug and alcohol abuse.
Hagans, a member of First Baptist Church, Opelika, and a traveling evangelist who has been preaching since he “was 9 years old,” began a Christian ministry in Auburn in 1980 known as East Alabama Challenge along with a Christian coffeehouse. That coffeehouse later morphed into what is now known as His Place, a “place of restoration for men 18 years and older” who have life-controlling problems.
Hagans also began a similar program for women called Hosanna Home, open to women over the age of 18 who are troubled by life-controlling problems; Hope’s Inn, which reaches out to women in crisis situations; Hope Clinic, a free medical clinic located within Hope’s Inn that serves Chambers, Randolph and Tallapoosa counties; and the 116,000-square-foot Harvest Thrift Super Center in Opelika, which provides employment opportunities to some of the programs’ graduates.
But because the ministry takes no government money, Hagans explained that events like an annual banquet raise needed funds to care for these men and women, about 80 percent of whom come from Christian homes and backgrounds.
“We believe we’re a ministry of the Church, and we trust the Church and Christian people to help us,” he said. “If we didn’t have people to stand with us we could never do it on our own.”
This year’s 25th annual banquet was held Oct. 1. The event raises 10 to 15 percent of the ministry’s yearly budget, Hagans said.
Nineteen people attended the first banquet. In stark contrast, this year’s event, held at Opelika Event Center, drew approximately 650 attendees.
During the banquet, people who have gone through the ministry’s programs shared testimonies of how they had been helped and how God restored them.
Jim Cymbala, pastor of The Brooklyn Tabernacle in Brooklyn, N.Y., and author of “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire,” served as the evening’s guest speaker. Hagans, who has preached at The Brooklyn Tabernacle, said he was excited to have Cymbala speak to those in attendance.
“The banquet is a chance to celebrate what God still does — He still reaches the least and the last and the lost,” Hagans explained. “To have some little kid come up and say, ‘Thank you for bringing my mommy back,’ — that’s … what the banquet is about.”