Many people, me included, have a personal goal to set foot in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, before we set foot in heaven.

Evangelist Rick Hagans, from Auburn, Alabama, has set foot in all of them except one. That one is Hawaii. Actually, he has done far more than set foot in most of them. He has walked across them...40 of them, to be exact. Each summer, Rick spends about a month walking across a state. He does this to raise money to buy shoes for needy children in Mexico. Supporters pledge donations for each mile he walks. Shortly after each walk, Rick takes a group of volunteers and a truckload of shoes to Mexico where they give them away.

In the summer of 1979, Rick chose Minnesota as his state to walk across. Rick had almost completed his journey across Minnesota when he met Pastor Charley Walker. Usually, he walks all day and then hitches a ride back to his travel home to spend the night. Then he drives back to where he stopped, to start the next day’s walk.

He had stopped for the day in Detroit Lakes, which is about 45 miles from Fargo, North Dakota, or the state line. It was there, 21 years ago, that Charlie Walker stopped to pick up a hitch-hiking stranger. Both men discovered that the other one was a minister.

Charley was a pastor there in Minnesota. Rick is an evangelist who also founded two ministry homes for men and women. The two men found an instant bond and remained friends for many years after their initial acquaintance. Rick was invited back to preach at Charley’s church and Charley came to Alabama to speak at Rick’s ministries. They remained close friends until Charley died a couple of years ago. He suffered a massive heart attack one Sunday as he walked up to the pulpit to preach. Charley ministered until the end...and then some. I’ll explain.

His Place is a home for men, on a 36-acre farm near Lafayette, Alabama. Rick founded this ministry 36 years ago. Hosanna Home is a home for women, located in an old hospital building, a few miles on the other side of Lafayette. Rick founded Hosanna Home 32 years ago. Both ministries are Christ-centered treatment centers for men and women who are struggling with life-controlling issues. They have habits or problems that they have not been able to deal with on their own. At these two homes, they find the help they need, and it doesn’t cost them anything except a commitment to live there, and stay clean, for one year. They have jobs there, as well as at Harvest Thrift Store, that helps pay the cost of their residency.

Many of the men and women come to the homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Some of them don’t even have many of those.

Last Saturday, August 15, 16 men and 3 ladies who had successfully completed their year of residency walked across the stage at First Baptist Church in Opelika to receive their graduation certificates. Some of them, especially the men, did not know what they were going to wear for the occasion. A few days ago, Rick found five large boxes on his front porch. They were from Charley Walker’s widow, Miss Nadine. They were filled with Charley’s church clothes. On Saturday, many of those men were dressed to the nines as they walked across that stage...in Charley’s dress clothes.

God bless those who give to others while they are here...and some, even after they are gone. That is exactly what Jesus did and honestly, so should we.

— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a director of missions in Opelika, a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal weekend edition. Visit brobillybob.com for more information.

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