President's Blog

By David Snell,
President

Last week the Americus City Council voted to rename Spring Street to Millard Fuller Boulevard in recognition to Millard’s many contributions to the city and the world.  (You can read all about it by clicking here.) This is an ideal street to carry Millard’s name as it goes right by the Clarence Jordan Center, Habitat’s old headquarters and, more significantly, the Global Village and Discovery Center.  This is a great place that takes visitors through a typical third world slum and opens onto a panorama of the simple, decent houses Millard championed around the world.

Speaking of around the world, it’s an exciting time for our international work.  Allen Slabaugh just came back from Nicaragua where he helped coordinate the largest Global Builders team in our history — 68 hardy souls from Countryside Mennonite Fellowship in Hawkesville, Ontario (See more about this here.).  Ryan Iafigliola is in in Haiti as I write this visiting our two sites there — Lambi and Croix-des-Bouquets.   And I’m taking off next week for a few restful days in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  I’ll be mostly in Mbandaka, celebrating 40 Years in Africa.  It was forty years ago last July that Linda and Millard landed there and started in earnest what would later become Habitat for Humanity and The Fuller Center for Housing.  It was forty years ago this month that first house was dedicated, so we’re going to rededicate it and celebrate our history.

On other international fronts we just had a Global Builders team return from Sri Lanka where they worked on two houses.  Our partners in Nigeria are kicking off a 25 unit project in Luvu, just outside of Abuja.  We have teams on tap for Peru and El Salvador.  Our partners in Armenia just announced that they will begin work in the Republic of Artsakh, a semi-autonomous, predominantly Armenian region between Armenia and Azerbaijan.  Our new covenant partner in South Africa is busy raising funds and with our new covenant partners in Australia we can say that the sun never sets on the Fuller Center.

By David Snell,
President, Fuller Center for Housing

I spent a few days last week with 100 or so of my best friends.  We had our annual Fuller Center for Housing Covenant Partner and Global Builders Conference along with a board meeting in Indianapolis.  It was an outstanding series of events.  What made it especially significant is that almost everyone there are volunteers, people who are giving of their time and resources to move this ministry forward.  These are people who could have spent the weekend in any number of ways but chose instead to come together and talk about how we can better serve God’s people in need.  I am amazed and humbled by their dedication and zeal.

The Fuller Center for Housing is committed to a single notion:  We want to demonstrate our faith by following Christ’s command that we reach out to those in need, and we focus our energy on working to assure that every child has a decent place to call home.  We’ve started a project with some eminent researchers to document the effects that housing has on such things as academic performance and childhood health and obesity.  It is demonstrable that children who live in a decent house have a tremendous advantage.  The home is the launching pad for a good life.

We had some inspiring participants in this year’s conference, among them the first Fuller Center homeowner from Philadelphia, Miguel Diaz.  We welcomed Louis Green and Hilton Dennis from Cape Town, South Africa, our newest Covenant Partner, and signed the covenant with the whole crowd cheering us on.  Sandra Gourdet, the Africa Executive for the Disciples of Christ/UCC Global Ministries program, stopped by.  This was especially meaningful as it was as Disciples missionaries that Millard and Linda traveled to Zaire forty years ago.

By David Snell,
President

The basic building block of society is the family. Life begins in a family, and it is in the embrace of a family that children learn and grow. Throughout time the family has been the molder of lives for those who come forward to enhance the culture. The family of the child whose birth we just celebrated offers a model for us all. Mary and Joseph were specially chosen to provide the Christ child with a family. We don’t know much about His early years, but His wandering off to visit with the elders at the temple tells us that He was probably quite the handful. He was devoted to His family and His family to Him, although they weren’t quite sure what He was up to when He started His ministry. One of His last acts, as He was dying on the cross, was to entrust His mother’s care to a disciple.

Because of the importance of the family to society, the most important structures in any community are the houses in which families make their homes. Raising children is a daunting task in the best of circumstances. Children require a great deal of care if they are to grow into all that they can be. This is a challenge for those who live comfortably in houses that keep them warm and safe. For those who live in meager circumstances or who find themselves homeless, the challenge becomes overwhelming. It’s estimated that over a billion people around the world live in poverty, in environments that make it exceptionally difficult for children to prosper.

The essence of Jesus’ message is that we love one another, that we care for one another, and that we reach out to those in need. What more significant demonstration of this love can there be than to help a family to have a decent house in which to make a home.

Anything we can do to strengthen the family will strengthen society, and one place to begin is with the home. That’s what The Fuller Center is all about. We’re dedicated to the notion that every child ought to have a decent house in which to grow up. The house itself won’t make all the difference — families do the heavy lifting, learning to love and affirm one another and to help each other grow. But if they have a decent house to do that in it’s so much easier.

By David Snell,
Fuller Center for Housing President

Sheilla and I are on a grand tour of covenant partners. Our first stop was Greenwood, Mississippi, the little CP that could.

The driving forces here are Rocky and Pann Powers, eighty-something dynamos who could tire this relative youngster right out. They’ve been building houses here for years, starting with Habitat in 1984 and with The Fuller Center in 2008. They’ve built 30 new houses and renovated many more. They’ll be having a paint-out later this summer and will refurbish another 10, and soon will begin a 10-unit Katrina cottage project that will create a new neighborhood of these small, functional homes.

Most of their work is in Baptist Town, an area of Greenwood that, like so many of the neighborhoods we work in, has been left behind. Their work there is revitalizing the area and, as so often happens, other homeowners are fixing up as well.

By David Snell,
President, Fuller Center for Housing

Easter is coming early this year and winter is staying late.  Makes it hard to feel springlike when the folks up north are still shoveling snow!  Down here in South Georgia, the trees are starting to bud and some are in flower, so there's hope.

The good news is that the weather doesn't have much effect on the miracle of Easter, the one holiday that truly defines Christianity.  Many religions teach kindness and call on their believers to care for one another. Only one, though, can claim the redemption that comes through Jesus' death and the promise of salvation that comes through his resurrection.  In three short days, Christ fundamentally defined the relationship between God and humankind.

Those two miraculous events, while they define our belief system, we will most appreciate when we come to the end of this life.  It's what He taught during the three years before His death and resurrection that should guide how we behave before we get to there.

His message was a simple one — love one another. He walked us through a number of ways of doing that, but the basic message was always the same — love one another.  He gave special attention to the poor and the oppressed and He was always more interested in the lost sheep than in the righteous.  That could be due to the fact that lost sheep are generally more interesting than the ones who stay closer to the flock.  At least that's been my experience.