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Jan Lagan: Building a New Mission on City Vision University Principles

When did you graduate? 

I graduated from City Vision University in 2006, with a one-year certificate.

How did you get interested in Rescue Ministry?

We live in an area, 60 miles southwest of Little Rock, AK, with a population of about 90,000.  It’s an area, almost county-wide, that has a lot of unemployed, working poor, and many men living in Single Occupancy Rooms renting by the week.  There are a lot of resources in the community to help the poor: churches and organizations, but the help isn’t coordinated very well, and there are no shelters, at all.

While I was the business manager with my church, First Assembly of God, my husband and I began to be interested in doing more for the poor and homeless in our community.  We knew of Haven of Rest Ministries in Akron, Ohio, and knew they could be a model for us to follow.  As a result, we flew to Akron with another couple to visit with Ben Walker and Rev. Curt Thomas.  They spent an entire day with us describing all of their programs and giving us a tour of their facilities.  But, looking at an established ministry of 60 years or more is different from knowing how to start one.

How did you get started with the ministry in Hot Springs?

We began by holding community meetings for those people who wanted to begin a rescue mission.  Out of that, we created our first board of directors, and shortly after, put together our by-laws and constitution for the ministry in 2004.  My husband, Chuck and I are co-founders of Samaritan Ministries.  I am now a full-time volunteer as executive director and Chuck works an outside job. 

What’s happening right now with Samaritan Ministries?

We are in the process of renovating 7,500 square foot building, a former warehouse.  It was an ugly, green, metal building that we purchased at a bargain.  Now it’s looking so good that some of the businesses nearby think they have to remodel their buildings to keep up with us! 

We started renovating the building in 2006 and have continued as funds have become available.  We have been blessed with an architect for a son, donated labor and many donated materials for the project.  We hope to open in July of this year and house 24 men overnight and 12 men in a long-term program.  During the renovation, we have continued to hold meals for the needy during all of the major holidays in the community:  Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.  The last two meals have been in our building:  The first time we didn’t have electricity but brought in generators. This Easter, we had electricity, but no water.  The day after Easter, I have a mess of dirty dishes in my kitchen.  I said to Chuck, “Is it easier to clean it up or just burn our house down?”

How has City Vision University been helpful in starting a new ministry?

City Vision University has given me some training and knowledge of many aspects of rescue ministry.  It also gives me the ‘credibility factor’ in the community to say that I have this training.  Truthfully, some of the information from these courses will only be meaningful as we become a little more established.  However, I had the motivation and the “want to” to take these courses.  I wanted to make the best choices I could from the outset in establishment of the mission so I was hungry for any and all information.

Can you tell us about the unique challenges of a start-up ministry in relationship to City Vision University?

I did face some unique challenges in taking City Vision University courses that examined, for example, accounting practices or fundraising aspects of ministry; when I didn’t have, yet, an operational ministry.  I had to meet with other established ministries to complete many of my assignments, but the City Vision University instructors were always supportive and helpful.  The Administration Course taught by Perry Jones was one of the most helpful courses I took.

This testimonial was given in 2012.

[Edited May 2015; updated institution's name]