David Snell: Remembering Millard Fuller’s dream of “No more shacks!”

David Snell: Remembering Millard Fuller’s dream of “No more shacks!”

In 1992, upon accepting the Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award, Millard Fuller said, “He was a man of aggressive goodwill. Because of his dreams and because others dreamed with him, we do live in a better day.”

He was speaking, of course, of Dr. King, but it’s a statement that applies to Millard as well. Millard had a dream, that “Everyone who gets sleepy at night should have a simple, decent place to lay their heads.” And Millard had the rare talent of getting others to dream with him. Thousands of donors and volunteers rallied to his call and as a result millions of people around the world now have a simple, decent place to lay their heads at night.

Today, on the seventh anniversary of Millard’s passing, we pause to honor his memory. But we don’t pause for long because the need remains great and there are still millions of people around the world who need a simple, decent place to call their own.

The dream may have started with Millard but as he shared it, it became the dream of all of us who follow in his footsteps. Millard was a builder and knew the importance of putting a solid foundation under the houses he built. In that same way he put a solid foundation under the ministry and so, even in his absence, the work continues to prosper and grow.

We miss Millard to this day. His wisdom and enthusiasm inspired us all. He was more than the spark that started a movement, he was a raging fire that kept it moving and growing at a remarkable pace. He was a friend to the poor, to the marginalized and the needy. He sought to share the gospel not just with the houses he built or the sermons he gave but by the way he lived his life.

The only way to truly honor him is to follow his example, and so we here at The Fuller Center for Housing remain committed to his dream — No more shacks!

 

President David Snell’s 2015 Christmas message

President David Snell’s 2015 Christmas message

It’s Christmastime, that glorious season when we turn our hearts to giving.  One of the best parts of growing up is having our thoughts move away from the gifts we’re going to receive to those we’re going to give. 

I don’t know what’s in the packages under the tree with my name in the “To” section, but I do know what’s in those with my name in “From”, and those are the ones I’m always most excited about.

By now your Christmas shopping is probably done, but I have an idea for one last gift to give, and this is one you can give to yourself.  That way you’ll have the wonder of being the “To” and the excitement of being the “From” all in one package. 

Give yourself the gift of Joy.  I’m not talking here about the joy we’ve been hearing of since the decorations went up.  I’m talking about the deeper joy that Jesus promised to those who keep his commandments. This is the joy that follows righteousness.  It’s the joy that fills our hearts with the knowledge that we are doing as He would have us do.  Read More »

Create the kind of joy you'll be thankful for

Create the kind of joy you'll be thankful for

By David Snell,
Fuller Center President

It’s Thanksgiving and I’m counting my blessings — family and friends, a warm and secure place to lay my head at night, plenty to eat, good health and the great gift of faith.  In so many ways those of us living in America today are among the most fortunate in the history of the world.  We have unprecedented material abundance and a level of freedom that few outside of this time and place have enjoyed.  We have so much to be thankful for, and we really ought to find ways of expressing our gratitude beyond simply saying “thank you” over turkey and mashed potatoes.

I just happen to have an idea or two.  The work we do here at The Fuller Center takes us to places that don’t enjoy many of the blessings that we take for granted.  We see poverty in all of its tragic manifestations — hunger, poor health, limited education and indecent housing.  Jesus tells us that to whom much is given much is expected.  He tells us what we give to those in need we give to Him.  And here’s the kicker: He tells us that if we obey his simple commandments — that we love God and love one another — everyone will know that we are His disciples.  And there’s more: He tells us that by doing this His joy will be in us and our joy will be complete.  That’s something to be truly thankful for. Read More »

Nepal: A fascinating, mystical place

Nepal: A fascinating, mystical place

I first traveled to Nepal in September of 2005.  This was one of the two places that set The Fuller Center for Housing on the path to becoming a worldwide housing ministry.  (The other was post-Katrina Shreveport.)  I had been fascinated by that part of the world from my earliest memories, and visiting Kathmandu was a dream come true.

Nepal is a mystical place.  From the moment you land, with Pampas grass fronds waving their greeting, you know that adventure awaits.  Kathmandu is an ancient city with Hindu temples and shrines at every corner.  The Chinese destruction of Tibet has brought many Buddhists into the country, bringing their temples and customs as well.  Visiting Nepal is like stepping back in time.   Way back.

Nepal has changed since my first visit there.  Just ten years ago the civil war with the Maoists was taking lives, the king was on his throne, and any Nepali who converted to Christianity was in violation of constitutional prohibitions.  Today the war is over, the king has been deposed, and new laws allow for religious freedom.  Nepal is a country with one foot in the Middle Ages and the other cautiously stepping into the 21st century.

It is one of the world’s poorest countries.  In the midst of ancient splendor can be found some of the worst housing conditions I’ve encountered.  A quarter of the population lives below the poverty line and the need for decent housing was great before the earthquake struck.  Samuel Tamang, our man on the ground there, reports that up to 90% of the houses in the central hill country have been destroyed.  Trishuli, where we are working now and which was going to be the site of our 1,000th international house next month, is in the heart of the hill country or, as they call it there, the ‘hilly’ country. Read More »

A very simple Easter message

A very simple Easter message

By David Snell,
President

It’s springtime in South Georgia.  The flowering trees are bursting with color and everywhere you look it’s green or greening.  Millard used to say that the Northeast has its colorful autumn and California has nice weather almost anytime, but here in Americus we have April.  And it is magnificent.  Once again we’re awed by the earth’s great cycle of rebirth.

There’s eloquence in the fact that Easter comes during this season of new beginnings.   Easter marks the celebration that defines Christianity.  While many religions teach kindness and call on their believers to care for one another, only Christianity can claim the redemption that comes through Jesus’ death and the promise of salvation that comes through His resurrection.

Those two miraculous events define our belief system, and we will most appreciate them when we come to the end of this life.  In the meantime, though, it’s what He taught during the three years before His death and resurrection that should guide how we behave before we get to the end.

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.  When Jesus was asked to name the greatest commandment He replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Read More »

Faith takes flight!

Faith takes flight!

By David Snell,
President

My plan for today was to catch a flight to Nicaragua.  The weather and Delta conspired against me, so I find myself with time I didn’t expect to have — seems like a good opportunity for a blog post.
 
The Fuller Center for Housing is going through a growth spurt.  We have new covenant partners formed or forming in Perry, Ga.; Sarasota, Fla.; Spokane, Wash.; Nashville, Tenn.; and on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  These are great developments and, as U.S. covenant partners raise their own funds, they don’t create financial obligations for us here in Americus.

It’s different overseas where local fundraising is very difficult and support comes from generous donors here in North America.  Some time ago we put a cap on new overseas partners, arguing that we needed to get our fundraising to the point that we could adequately provide for those we already had before we took on new ones.  An interesting thing happened along the way — we didn’t see much growth in our fundraising efforts.  Looking back, I can see that we put ourselves in a sort of anti-faith limbo.  We were scarcity thinkers, so scarcity became our reality.

I think that the good Lord got tired of our faithlessness because we suddenly find ourselves in discussions with a number of countries with such compelling programs that we have had to lift our self-imposed ceiling and welcome them in.  We have new partners in Thailand (where the first house is already being built), Cameroon (which just completed their first house) and Bolivia.  We are in active discussions with Ethiopia, Albania and Papua New Guinea. Read More »

Staying true to Millard Fuller’s vision as we head into our 10th year

Staying true to Millard Fuller’s vision as we head into our 10th year

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.

Read More »

Seasons change, and the work keeps going

Seasons change, and the work keeps going

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. Read More »