In July 1973, Millard and Linda Fuller took their four children on a faithful journey to the very heart of Africa to put the concept of partnership housing to the ultimate test. It was a mission of faith that would test their determination and their will — and it would not only change their lives but the lives of millions of people who now have simple, decent places to call home.
Three years and 114 houses later, that test of the partnership housing concept they helped develop from Christian theologian Clarence Jordan’s teachings at Koinonia Farm was a thriving success in what was then Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Despite continuing problems in the Congo, the neighborhood where they began working is one of the most beautiful in Mbandaka with some of the houses still occupied by the original families and subsequent generations.
They returned to the United States in 1976 and launched Habitat for Humanity, followed by The Fuller Center for Housing as they sought to get the affordable housing movement back to its proven effective grass roots.
Last summer, The Fuller Center launched an effort to mark the 40-year anniversary of the Fuller family’s mission to Africa with the “40 Years in Africa” campaign — an effort to raise funds to build 40 new homes with The Fuller Center’s covenant partners in Africa, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The fundraising effort started with a generous gift from Dr. Richard Semmler, a staunch supporter of The Fuller Center’s work who agreed to match up to $40,000 in other donors’ contributions toward the goal of building those 40 homes before the end of 2014.
Today, 40 new homes later, the 40 Years in Africa effort has accomplished its goal.
“It was a great celebration,” Fuller Center President David Snell said Tuesday. “We sought to match a generous $40,000 gift from Dr. Richard Semmler and, through the kindness of so many, that gift was multiplied by more than six times, raising $260,000. In the process, we built 40 new homes, welcomed new covenant partners in Cameroon and South Africa and started conversations with groups in Ethiopia and Uganda. It was a remarkable commemoration of a significant event in the life of this ministry.”
“This campaign played an important part in helping us grow and sustain our partner projects throughout the continent,” added Fuller Center Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafigliola, who has worked closely with the newly formed and still-forming covenant partners in Africa.
“I think Millard Fuller held a special love for Africa, and having visited a few times, it’s easy to see why,” Iafigliola said. “Forty years after he and his wife Linda completed their houses there as missionaries testing the partnership housing concept, I think he would be glad to know that our connection to Africa continues to grow.”
Of the 40 homes completed through the campaign, the majority (24) were in Nigeria, where the local covenant partner joined forces with Selavip, a European nonprofit that also works on housing, and a building materials company called Nigerite to complete a community alongside existing Fuller Center homes in Luvu-Madaki, Masaka, in the state of Nasarawa.
The campaign also was responsible for seven new homes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, five in Ghana, three in Sierra Leone and one in Senegal.
With political strife, Islamic extremism, poverty and diseases such as Ebola still rampant in Africa, the need for safe, decent housing remains great in Africa. So, while this campaign may be complete, The Fuller Center for Housing’s work in Africa is as needed as ever and the commitment to partner with African families simply grows stronger.