President's Blog

By David Snell,
Fuller Center President

Every now and again someone comes along with enough vision, energy, charisma, focus and faith to make a significant difference in the lives of many. Just such a man was born 80 years ago in a humble mill town in west Alabama. Today, January 3, we celebrate the birth of Millard Fuller, a man who spent his life dreaming big and in the process lifted millions out of poverty housing.

Millard didn’t set out to make decent housing a matter of conscience and action around the world. He set out to make a million dollars by the time he was 30 — and he did. In the process, he learned the hard lesson that money and happiness don’t always travel together as his family fell apart and his wife, Linda, left him. Things looked up, though, when they decided to try again, only this time they would get rid of their wealth and let God take a hand at guiding their lives — and what a ride He took them on!

When Millard met Clarence Jordan at Koinonia Farm, his fate was probably sealed. The two of them formed a perfect team of philosophy and action or, as it turned out, philosophy in action. Clarence’s notion that what the poor needed was capital rather than charity and what the rich needed was a just and wise way of divesting themselves of their overabundance struck a mighty chord with Millard. Before long the notion was being tested with housebuilding projects at the Farm and in Americus. Millard and Linda took the idea to Zaire and everywhere it was tried it succeeded.

By David Snell,
President, Fuller Center for Housing

I’ve reached that point in life where time seems to pass faster and faster, losing its steady pace in an ever-accelerating spiral.  When I feel like it’s getting out of control, though, I just take a minute to look back and I’m always amazed at how much activity filled those fleeting days and weeks.  Summer is the high building season for many of our covenant partners here in the States, and what a summer it was!

Things got off to an early start with April’s Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Louisville.  Over a hundred volunteers spent a week rehabbing six houses there, a project that helped the Louisville team receive the Mayor’s Spirit of Louisville award just this month.   These events are just like family reunions (except everyone pretty much likes each other and there aren’t any crazy uncles).  We had a great time in Louisville.

In June we hosted the Toolie Build right here in Americus.  To celebrate her 50th birthday,  our friend and supporter Karen “Toolie” Warkentien raised the money and mobilized the volunteers to build a house with the Battle family.  Being on the hosting side of the event took Sheilla and me back to our earliest Habitat days, when we cut our teeth putting together the Jimmy Carter Work Projects.  It’s a lot of work!

The summer Bicycle Adventure took off from Atlantic City in June for their 3,600-mile jaunt across the country.  Their fundraising goal was to cross the million dollar mark and they made it!  We joined up with them on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, my old stomping grounds, and got to share in the spirit that makes this so much more than a cross-country bicycle ride, as if that weren’t enough — a great group of dedicated souls spreading the word about our work all across the country, and having a good time doing it.

By David Snell,
President, The Fuller Center for Housing

When Jesus counseled us to reach out to the poor, He probably didn’t mean for us to make them dependent, rob them of their self-esteem and take away their initiative. Unfortunately, that’s just the effect that much charitable giving has. The Fuller Center for Housing offers people of goodwill a more enlightened way of giving.

Our spiritual founder, Clarence Jordan, wrote that, “What the poor need isn’t charity but capital, not social workers but co-workers.” That simple sentence guided Millard Fuller’s housing ministries and guides The Fuller Center to this day.

We provide capital and construction help to those in need, allowing them to own a home. Partner families are selected on the basis of three criteria — need, willingness to partner and the ability to repay costs on terms they can afford, over time and with no interest charged or profit made. In most cases this means that a family can own a simple, decent home at a much lower monthly cost than they would pay in rent for a lesser dwelling.

By David Snell,
Fuller Center President

Sheilla and I are in Rapid City, South Dakota.  We're on a cross-country covenant partner tour and planned it to meet up with the Bicycle Adventurers on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  I do believe that the adventure in the Adventure has taken on new meaning this year!  I spent a number of years building houses on Pine Ridge, so I wanted to be there for the riders.  It is a fascinating place to spend some time.  They had a work day there and were able to help a couple of families with much-needed repairs to their homes.

Life is hard in Indian Country.  Poverty is a fact of life on most reservations — only the ones that have oil or have struck it rich with a casino are free of the scourge.  The history of the relationship between the U.S. government and the tribes has been troubled from the earliest days and the efforts to make things better have pretty much made things worse.  Those who argue that too much government support robs people of dignity and initiative need only look to the reservation to find support for their case.

By David Snell,

President

As I write this we have just celebrated the greatest of Christian holidays, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  What an opportunity this provides for us to consider where we are in life, what we’ve given to get here, and how we can resurrect the innocence of childhood into our frenetic adult lives.  In those last hours of Jesus’ life when He was visiting with His closest friends, He gave us a way to do that.  His counsel was simple — love one another. 

We just spent a week in Louisville with a fine group of partners and friends doing just that.  We were rehabilitating six houses that will soon become homes to families with no other way of having a decent place to live.  These are families who just need a leg up, the loan of some interest-free capital, and a group of friends to help get the work done.  There are families like this around the world who, for whatever reason, don’t have the resources to have a decent place of their own.  It is the mission of The Fuller Center for Housing to reach out to as many of those families as we can with an offer of hope.

What made the Millard Fuller Legacy Build such a great success was not simply that a good deal of work was getting done, but the dedication and goodwill of the volunteers who gave of their time and resources to spend a week of hard work, reaching out in love to people in need.  It isn’t enough to tell people that we love them — we need to show them that love.  That’s the Gospel in action.
These events are like family reunions with old-timers reuniting and newcomers making new friends.  There’s even a funny uncle or two to add some spice.  Events like these remind me of the tremendous power of this great ministry.