To understand Fishers Farm, first understand Jeff Hand.
Jeff Hand was born into a life of strife.
A life filled with alcohol, drugs – his parents struggled with both – and time in jail. A life where dad left early on, and a life that included foster care with his sister.
“My childhood was chaotic,” he said.
His mom later met a man who helped stabilize the family. But his stepfather was a drug addict, also, and in and out of prison. He’d be home a year, get arrested, return behind bars.
“We moved every six months,” Hand said. “When he was out of prison, things were a little more stable.
We lived in poor parts of Montgomery. When he was in prison, my mom would do whatever she could do to get her drugs. At times, we were homeless.”
He grew up living in storage buildings, the car, the Salvation Army.
Then it became worse.
When Hand was 13 years old, he remembers walking into the living room of his Chisholm neighborhood home and seeing that his stepfather had overdosed on heroin. From there, his mother went downhill, becoming addicted to crack cocaine.
Hand’s first arrest came at 13, when he started breaking into cars and stealing radios. He remembers knowing even at that young age, though, that things could be different. That he didn’t want the life his parents had. Still, he continued stealing, and eventually began drinking and using drugs.
“I remember growing up, and people would come to the neighborhood and do Vacation Bible School and tell us how good Jesus was,” he said.
“I remember I rejected the idea that God was real. I didn’t think it made sense that if Jesus loved me so much, then why didn’t He take me out of this situation. In my early teens, I would have classified myself as an atheist. I thought believing in God was the craziest thing. To me, it didn’t make any sense.”Jeff Hand, Founder Fishers Farm
The Journey to Fishers Farm
The mission of this home on Woodley Road is to make disciples of Jesus Christ through life-on-life discipleship, while offering structure, biblical counseling and various forms of education with a focus on breaking addictions.
Fishers Farm is a residential discipleship center that exists to serve people of all backgrounds who struggle with the addiction of drugs, alcohol, and/or homelessness.
Its goal is to help people break destructive patterns of addiction and bring holistic healing through the structure of life-on-life discipleship, being immersed in God’s Word, building healthy habits, counseling, and teamwork.
Jeff Hand operates Fishers Farm with his wife, Jennifer.
How did a self-proclaimed atheist open a faith-based ministry helping those as hurt as he was? It started with doubt, then a deepened belief and faith in Jesus.
At age 19, Jeff met Jennifer. And after the birth of his daughter, it was the first time he considered there could be a God. The thought was short-lived, and he returned to drugs.
At age 21, he started his own construction business, and Jennifer bought into a fitness center franchise. She was soon invited to Pike Road Baptist Church and came to know Jesus. And she started changing, Hand said.
“I remember her telling me that she loved Jesus more than she loved me,” he said. “And I thought she was really losing her mind.
While financially stable, and living in a $600,000 home, the 2008 recession hit. Hand’s residential construction business dwindled, and Jennifer’s fitness centers began noticing clients dropping.
At this time, Hand began attending Frazer Church, and finding messages he could apply to his life. But he would ignore the parts about God.
“The men,” he said, “they were just always trying to hug. It really impacted me in a major way. One day I was just dealing with stuff… the economy, the house, and I cried out to God.
‘If you’re real, I need you to speak to me and let me know.’”
He opened a Bible to Matthew 6, where Jesus talks about not worrying. He remembers thinking, “I’m worried to death. It really intrigued me and caused me to find out if this is the truth. And if it is, then my life needs to change, and change drastically.”
A House Filled
Fishers House is maxed out.
The program includes group biblical counseling, morning devotions and Bible study time, shared mealtime, and a structured routine that includes serving the community. The ministry partners with local churches including Eastwood Presbyterian, Frazer Church, Morningview Baptist, First United Methodist, and Strong Tower.
Residents range in age from 18 to 55 and they include everyone from the homeless to the resident who has two masters degrees in seminary.
“A lot of the men we help, they are at the bottom,” Hand said. “There’s a lot of weight to it, but there’s a lot of good. Just seeing the guys who used to be drug addicts and who really love the Lord. It’s so encouraging to see these guys studying the word of God.”
There are two phases at Fishers House. Phase 1 is a year-long intensive discipleship program, with no more than six men because “it’s hard to be as intentional with too many guys.”
Phase 2 is optional, and is maxed out with five men. If the men don’t feel they have a safe environment to return to after finishing Phase 1, they can stay for this opportunity. They are required to attend a certain number of Bible studies per week, and provide drug tests when asked.
“The good thing about Phase 2, is they help me tremendously,” Hand said. “These guys can help the new guys just coming in.”
And they are safe there. It’s a place for healing, for hope. For chances.
After Hand shut down his construction business in 2012, he went into ministry and started at House to House, a ministry from Common Ground Montgomery.
“Seeing the brokenness and seeing the addiction and what it does to families left an impact on me,” he said. “I left there, and went to Strong Tower church, started by Common Ground. I worked in missions local and abroad. This whole time, I’m feeling a burden for men who struggle with drugs and alcohol.”
The Hands would bring people into their home, and he said Jennifer prayed about how it would look if “we did this. We felt like the Lord was leading us to start Fishers Farm. The Lord has been so faithful.”
For anyone wishing to financially support Fishers Farm, online giving is available at http://www.fishersfarm.org/donate.html. Or people may mail a check to Fishers Farm, P.O. BOX 6191, Montgomery, Al, 36106. For those wanting to volunteer, please contact Jeff Hand directly at email@example.com.