Mission's work goes on

September 26, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

He was in jail at 9 and an alcoholic in his teens. In his 20s, he turned to God.

The man, who now teaches Bible study classes at the Hagers-town Rescue Mission, told his story Sunday afternoon to about 100 people, including the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

The man talked about how he found the mission and reclaimed his life about 40 years ago.

The auditorium at Tri-State Fellowship in Hagerstown was filled with men with similar stories - those saved from a future of drug and alcohol addiction by the Hagerstown Rescue Mission. The mission is a place for men who are homeless or battling addiction to seek help, shelter and spiritual guidance.

As the mission celebrates 50 years in operation, Falwell spoke and said he looked forward to what the next 50 years will bring.


"It's exciting to me that the work goes on," he said.

Falwell said there are about 700,000 churches in the United States and about 300 rescue missions. Of those 300, Hagers-town's mission is one of the largest, he said.

In 1955, when Jim and Ellen Resh were planning to open the mission, they were told Hagers-town was too small and did not need one. But with countless meals served and numerous lives changed, speakers Sunday said the mission is more necessary now than ever.

When it opened, most men suffered from alcohol addiction. Now, counselors and pastors help men overcome addiction to alcohol and drugs, along with relationship, anger management and sexual issues.

"It's a safety net for those who are left behind," Falwell said in an interview before his speech Sunday. "(The Reshes) started something years ago to which there is no end."

People across the country have given generously to help Hurricane Katrina victims along the Gulf Coast, Falwell said. When people assist with a national disaster, it limits what they can donate locally, he said, and organizations like the Rescue Mission will suffer because people donated elsewhere.

He asked ushers to pass white buckets around the room, hoping to fill them with donations.

"Let it be something really generous," he said. "We're going to pass around the offering plates and we need to fill them up."

The mission has plans for a women's ministry, a halfway house for Rescue Mission program graduates, an expanded teen ministry, and after-school programs and tutoring.

"We are living in troubling times, and the question is: What can the churches do?" Falwell said. "We must first believe that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

Falwell said he is close with the Resh family, and remembered meeting Jim and Ellen Resh about 40 years ago and conducting a crusade at the Hagerstown fairgrounds.

Falwell even preached at Jim Resh's funeral in 1996 - the last time Falwell spoke in Hagerstown.

"Whenever they ask me to do something, I always respond," Falwell said.

Becky Shank, Jim Resh's daughter, said the families have been close for years.

"(My father) developed a friendship with (Falwell) over the years and depended on him as a mentor and a Christian brother he could talk to," Shank said.

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