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CARLTON FLETCHER: 'Brother Larry' Hample has answered God's calling for 25 years

OPINION: Albany Rescue Mission will be recognized with an Albany mayoral proclamation

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

I can’t feed on the powerless when my cup’s already overfilled. … I’m going hungry.

Temple of the Dog

In the 25 years since “Brother” Larry Hample opened his home to the first of what would be thousands of desperate men, women and children as part of a ministry that became Albany Rescue Mission Inc., the now 71-year-old pastor has forgotten more names that he can remember.

But when you get specific with Hample, talk about all the lives he and his ministry have touched in those 25 years, two names come quickly to mind.

Harold Landrum and Curtis Hawkins.

“I don’t think I could ever forget either one of those two,” says the affable Hample, still dapper despite 25 years of struggling to keep his ministry afloat.

It was Landrum, a man everyone called “Montana,” who showed up at Hample’s home back in 1989 and told the newly called minister that he’d spent the night before at the “Green Leaf Motel.”

“That was his way of saying he’d spent the night sleeping in bushes, sleeping outdoors,” Hample said. “He became the first of thousands who would reach out to us for help.”

After staying long enough to become familiar to the growing number of homeless seeking food and shelter at the Rescue Mission, Landrum disappeared.

“We looked up one day, and he was gone,” Hample said. “We all just said, ‘That’s the end of Harold.’”

Flash forward to March of 2007, some 19 years after Landrum first knocked on Hample’s door. An email arrives in the Rescue Mission’s “in box.”

The missive reads, in part: “Hope you still remember me, I was your first mission man. … it’s been 17 years down the line and I have been living in Jerusalem for 10 of them. Israel is my new home, this is the place where the Bible comes to life. I can still remember learning in the mornings … sitting in your study room drinking coffee, eating donuts and you teaching the Bible. Then we would head down to the old red building next to the railway lines. This was the place that you had a vision for, this was going to be the Rescue Mission.

“You know, Larry, in this life there is no such thing as coincidence. Everything is for a reason. On my long journey to Jerusalem, God had to connect me to someone that could make me believe in Him, and you were that man. You were the one that prepared me for living in the Holy Land. So I hope you don’t feel your first mission man was a failure.”

“‘Montana’ was the last person we expected to become a missionary,” Hample said, marveling anew at the email now six years old. “That’s a very big deal to me.”

Hawkins came to the Rescue Mission “sick and tired of where he was.”

“Curtis was only 17 years old when he came here,” Hample said, pointing to an enlarged photograph of the handsome young man that hangs in his cramped office. “He’d come here from Atlanta and was staying with relatives, but he was looking for something in his life. He went through our program, graduated with honors and then decided to go into the Marine Corps.

“He’s finished his basic training and is currently in the reserves, waiting to be called to active duty. He’s working here in the city while he’s waiting for his call, and we’re all so proud of the man he’s become.”

Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard will honor Hample and the Rescue Mission on Nov. 13 with a proclamation recognizing the 25 years that both have been providing shelter to the city’s homeless. Hample hopes the attention will spark the giving spirit that has led the community to sustain the mission through 2 1/2 decades of good and bad times.

“We’re probably at the lowest financially that we’ve been in the last 10-15 years,” Hample said. “God has always rewarded our faith by providing for us, but there are times when it’s a struggle. Our average utility bill here is more than $5,000 a month, and we had a recent bill that was $6,000. And we’re feeding two meals a day, 365 days a year.

“I’ve always said if we helped one person here, it’s been worth it. We’ve obviously helped more than one person. I think God sends people here.”

He sent Harold Landrum. And Curtis Hawkins. And before it’s all over, He’ll no doubt send many significant others.

“I want this ministry to continue,” Hample said. “It’s what God called me to do and since I’m on borrowed time myself, Larry Daniel is preparing to take my place when I’m gone. He’s been called by God, too. This is definitely a calling.

“People ask me when I plan to step down, but I’ll drop dead preaching. I reenlist every year.”

(The Albany Rescue Mission is in dire need of men’s and women’s toiletries, socks and underwear, blankets, jackets and other goods for its residents. Monetary donations are perhaps the greatest need, and all contributions are tax deductible. Donations may be dropped by the Rescue Mission’s Thrift Store at 616 W. Roosevelt Ave. or the ministry offices at 604 Monroe St. For additional information, call 229-435-7615 or 229-431-1125.)

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.