FAITH IN ACTION: Manuelians’ work in Armenia comes full-circle with a big surprise

FAITH IN ACTION: Manuelians’ work in Armenia comes full-circle with a big surprise

(This is part of The Fuller Center’s new “Faith in Action” series. If you have a story to share for the series, please let us know at this link.)

Was it a case of providential confluence, divine intervention or pure coincidence? Leo Manuelian doesn’t know the answer to the question, but he is grateful for the surprise experience he had while leading a Fuller Center Global Builders project in Armenia this past summer — an event that revived memories of his first Armenian build.

Leo and his wife, Sona (pictured above), have been helping families have simple, decent places to live in Armenia since 2003. It has become a summer tradition for the couple, although Sona was unable to make the trip in 2017.

The Manuelians’ first experience in 2003 was helping a man whose family lived in a domik — a large metal shipping container in which the Soviet Union had intended as temporary housing for families affected by the massive 1988 earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people. The Soviet Union soon collapsed, though, and Armenia was on its own. Three decades later, many families still live in those domiks.

The patriarch of the family was hopeful that the new house would encourage one of his sons who had fled to The Netherlands to come home. He also wanted his younger son to have a decent home into which he could bring a bride. It is Armenian tradition for the youngest son to stay in the family home to raise his own family and take care of his parents as they age. They then inherit the home. But that tradition is difficult to maintain when the family lives in a domik.

“His younger son was not going to get married because they lived in a steel container, and where’s he going to bring a wife to?” Manuelian recalled a day after shoveling heavy snow at his home in River Vale, New Jersey. “A steel container and take care of his parents from a steel container? If it wasn’t for that, he wouldn’t have had any grandchildren from that son, and there wouldn’t have been a family unit there. The work that we do there, it goes forth for generations. It truly does.”

This past summer, he saw that work go forth in a way he never expected. Late in the build week, volunteer coordinator Gohar Vardanyan told him that the young mother of three whose family was the homeowner partners this trip also worked on that first home in 2003. That home was for her uncle, and she was a 12-year-old girl who worked as hard as anyone on that site to help her extended family.

“It was just an incredibly gratifying moment,” Manuelian said. “We were eating lunch, and Gohar said ‘I have some good news for you.’ My face lit up. I couldn’t believe it — to help two generations of one family, that I’d been going there that long and that she remembered me from the age of 12. It was just an incredible feeling.”

It was no premeditated plan by The Fuller Center’s local team in Armenia to link the Manuelians’ first and most recent build experiences.

“The houses are selected by the Fuller people after they go through the vetting process, and it wasn’t until the third or fourth day that I was there that Gohar came to me and told me,” he said. “She didn’t know to begin with. So it wasn’t planned that way. It could have been coincidence or it could have been divine intervention — I have no idea.”

Manuelian was thrilled to see the mother of three have a decent home, just like her uncle, especially now that she has a fourth on the way. But he had to be coaxed into revisiting the home of her uncle, even after she invited him to visit Manuelian on the final day of her home build.

“He wanted to show me how happy he was in his home, but I didn’t want to go back,” he said. “I didn’t want him to remember what it was like before. I wanted him basically to forget about me.”

He relented, though, when Fuller Center Armenia President Ashot Yeghiazaryan pressed him.

“I sensed that I was putting Ashot in an awkward position because he had this weird look on his face when I said that I didn’t want to go back,” Manuelian said. “So I said OK.”

And he’s glad he did. He even saw the old steel container that had once been the family’s home. They sold it to a neighbor and could still see it from their Fuller Center home. Their neighbor uses it to store winter hay. Unfortunately, the son who left for The Netherlands never returned.

“We had a nice talk,” Manuelian said. “His children had married. He had five grandchildren around him and brought a couple with his wife to the dinner that the Fuller people prepared. We sat down, had a few drinks and reminisced. We’re both getting old. But it was just a wonderful, wonderful experience.”

Leo and Sona Manuelian will continue their annual tradition of helping Armenian families build homes June 11-18 of this year when they lead yet another Fuller Center Global Builders trip. If you’d like to join them, there are still slots available. Visit our Upcoming Global Builders Trips page to learn more.

Hear from Leo Manuelian and volunteers on the 2017 trip and see the family they helped in this video from Fuller Center Armenia:

 

Gallery featuring Leo and Sona Manuelian’s work in Armenia:

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FAITH IN ACTION: Church’s service trip to Haiti brings a Little “gift from God”

FAITH IN ACTION: Church’s service trip to Haiti brings a Little “gift from God”

(This is part of The Fuller Center’s new “Faith in Action” series. If you have a story to share for the series, please let us know at this link.)

Reading, Pennsylvania’s Jennifer Little joined West Lawn United Methodist Church’s service trip to Pigñon, Haiti, to help a family build a simple, decent home through The Fuller Center for Housing’s Global Builders program. It was an opportunity to do some soul-bolstering manual labor and help people in a much different way than her usual job as a registered nurse with the Wilson School District.

Before the week of work was over, however, she would put her nursing skills to use — to the tremendous appreciation of a mother whose child had been suffering for several weeks.

On the second-to-last day of West Lawn UMC’s build, Little learned that one of the homeowner partner’s children had been enduring extreme pain in his ear. When she examined the child, she saw that his ear was swollen and crusted on the outside.

“Her son had been experiencing ear pain for several weeks and was up crying at night,” Little said. “It just looked terribly infected.”

West Lawn’s team leader offered to pay for the medical care, but they needed to get the child to the nearest hospital. And that would require a trip by motorcycle — hardly Little’s preferred mode of transportation.

“I’ve never been on a motorcycle before, and I hate motorcycles,” she said. “Next thing I know, I’m on a motorcycle in Haiti taking a kid to the hospital. It was an adventure. I had to do it. I was the person who had to be there for this child.”

The family Jennifer Little was able to help in Pigñon, Haiti.

The boy was diagnosed with a severe ear infection, and the West Lawn team purchased Ibuprofen and antibiotics for treatment. When Little returned to the job site, she showed the mother how to correctly administer the medicine.

“As we were leaving that day, she gave me a huge hug and told me that I was ‘a gift from God,'” Little recalled. “I’ve never been told that before. It was just so cool.

“The build was great, and I loved doing the manual labor,” she added. “But, for me as a nurse, that was just awesome to be able to help someone. This boy probably was not going to get treated. It’s something I think about every day. I was just the right person in the right place, and we figured out a way to get him help.”

The experience has made her not only want to serve abroad again but also has bolstered her faith and made her appreciate home even more.

“This experience has had a life-long impact on me, something that I will never forget,”. she said. “It’s just kind of changed everything for me. I came home with a whole new appreciation for everything that we have and being able to provide a life and home for my kids. You just don’t take anything for granted when you come back.

“Taking this journey has strengthened my faith — in God and humankind,” she added. “I am excited for the next time I’m able to go on an adventure with The Fuller Center!”

Please enjoy this gallery from Jennifer Little’s trip to Haiti:

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SURVEY: Has your faith been enhanced or restored through a Fuller Center experience?

SURVEY: Has your faith been enhanced or restored through a Fuller Center experience?

 

Click here to take our faith experience survey

Time and time again, we have seen people who had stepped away from their faith or the church do an about-face after having a positive experience with The Fuller Center for Housing. We have seen faltering churches and dwindling congregations rejuvenated by tackling a Fuller Center project.

As an ecumenical Christian nonprofit housing ministry, we’ve worked with just about everybody. Our homeowner partners, volunteers and supporters have included Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, nonbelievers, the “spiritual but not religious” and still others.

When it comes to Jesus’ instruction to “love thy neighbor,” we do it through helping them have simple, decent places to live. And that “love thy neighbor” philosophy appeals to a broad range of people beyond Christians.

At a time when church attendance is declining and more people each year identify as non-religious, we believe that demonstrating love for others through the Theology of the Hammer is a powerful way to shine a light and show what true Christianity is all about — loving our fellow human beings.

In 2018, we want to share more stories of people whose faith has been enhanced, strengthened or restored through their experiences with The Fuller Center for Housing. We also want to share stories of those who do not necessarily identify as Christians but appreciate The Fuller Center’s basic principles of extending a hand-up to families in need of simple, decent homes.

Do you have a personal story that you would like to share with others? Your testimonial could be the story that moves someone closer to Jesus Christ or opens eyes that had been shut. If you would like to participate in our collection of testimonials and stories, please fill out our survey below. We’d love to hear from you! And if you know of someone who has such a story to share, please forward this post to them and encourage them to get in touch with us.

Thank you!

Survey

Have you had an experience with The Fuller Center — in general or specifically — that has strengthened, enhanced or restored your faith? During 2018, we will be contacting people and doing stories about such experiences. If you have such a story you'd like to tell, please provide a brief summary of your experience below. Some survey respondents will be contacted for further interviews so that we can share stories on FullerCenter.org and The Fuller Center's social media outlets.
Or, do you consider yourself non-religiously affiliated, spiritual but not religious, a nonbeliever, or other but are involved in or support The Fuller Center for Housing's efforts to help people have simple, decent places to live? If so, we'd like to know why you support this affordable housing ministry. We'd also like to feature some of these stories in 2018.
May we publicly share your comments above on our website, social media and/or print materials?*
May we contact you for an interview about your experience? (Not everyone who submits stories will be contacted.)*
(Optional) If you belong to a church, please let us know the name of the church below. We'd like to share your story with church leaders.
(Optional) Do you have photos from your experiences that you would like to share? (Limit 3 photos; maximum size 2.5 MB each)

Please provide your contact information so that we may be able to get in touch with you. The following fields will not be shared publicly.

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Professor uses Global Builders trips to broaden students’ perspective

Professor uses Global Builders trips to broaden students’ perspective

For Associate Professor of Business and Economics Henrique Cezar, Fuller Center Global Builders trips are more than just a chance for his students from Vermont’s Johnson State College to practice civic engagement and do some good in the world. They also are an opportunity to expose the students to diversity and cultural differences.

After leading students on Fuller Center Global Builders trips to Thailand, Nicaragua and, last year, Armenia, Cezar will take his team to work with The Fuller Center’s covenant partner in Trivandrum, India, this coming May.

Johnson State College’s student newspaper, Basement Medicine, has an outstanding piece about this service trip, featuring interviews with Cezar and students who will be making the trip.

Click here to read the complete article

Fuller Center Global Builders 6th annual photo contest

Fuller Center Global Builders 6th annual photo contest

The Fuller Center’s Global Builders program has enjoyed a record year of building around the world with 640 volunteers taking 57 trips — both numbers all-time highs — to help families in need construct simple, decent places to live.

Here’s a math question for you? No, seriously, please keep reading. What do you get when you divide 640 volunteers by 57 trips?

Answer: A gazillion photos … and we want to see them.

It’s time for our 6th annual Global Builders Photo Contest. If you had the opportunity to serve on one of these trips, hit us with your best shot. Really, why don’t you hit us with your best shot?

Email your photos to globalbuilders@fullercenter.org by December 17, 2017. The photos must be from a Fuller Center Global Builders trip that took place in 2017. There is a limit of two photos per contest entrant.

Voting will take place December 18-27, 2017 on the Fuller Center Global Builders Facebook page, which you can visit by clicking here. The winner will receive $100 off the fee for a 2018 Fuller Center Global Builders trip. (Click here to see a list of trips already scheduled for 2018, with more to come soon.)

Hard-working single mother now has like-new home for holidays in Macon, Georgia

Hard-working single mother now has like-new home for holidays in Macon, Georgia

(Photo: Fuller Center for Housing of Macon Executive Director Dianne Fuller with homeowner partner Yolanda Gilbert at Saturday’s house dedication.)

Thanks to Wells Fargo’s donation of a once-blighted home that was renovated through the hard work of many volunteers, single mother Yolanda Gilbert and her son now have a like-new home for the holidays. WMAZ-TV’s Erica Bowdre was on hand for the emotional event and talks to Fuller Center of Macon Executive Director Dianne Fuller about how the Save a House/Make a Home program turns once-derelict or vacant properties into simple, decent and affordable homes for families in need. Click below for the complete report.

WMAZ-TV complete coverage

 

Hospital employees building “Christmas present” for co-worker’s family

Hospital employees building “Christmas present” for co-worker’s family

Last month, volunteers turned an empty lot in West Point, Georgia, into a standing house with walls, a shingled roof, windows and doors. It was phase one of a two-week effort. Phase two begins this Monday as volunteers from East Alabama Medical Center-Lanier work all week to apply the finishing touches to a home for one of their own — Ruthshun Hall and her three daughters.

The home is the 38th new home project for the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project and sits next door to its 37th, a home completed earlier this year during another two-week build for an Army veteran and her son who suffers from sickle-cell anemia. The house captain for the upcoming week of work on house No. 38 is none other than the city’s mayor, Steve Tramell, a veteran of many such projects with The Fuller Center.

“It’s my Christmas present,” Hall told the LaGrange Daily News. “I’ve always wanted to have a house that would one day be mine. It’s such a blessing to be able to own a home.”

Construction on the CFCP’s 39th new home, meanwhile, is scheduled to begin in February in nearby Valley, Alabama — also in partnership with an EAMC-Lanier employee.

The LaGrange Daily News has an excellent article on the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project’s efforts at this link.

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia attends blessing for home he and others helped build

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia attends blessing for home he and others helped build

In September, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard M. Mills Jr. and volunteers from the U.S. Embassy’s Helping Hands volunteer organization helped the Petrosyan family of Aghavnatun village in Armenia’s Armavir region build a new home. Last week, Ambassador Mills and volunteers were on hand at a blessing ceremony for the Petrosyan family’s new home.

“Our partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Armenia goes a long way,” Fuller Center for Housing Armenia President Ashot Yeghiazaryan said. “This partnership once again proves that humanity does not recognize borders. When people join forces with good will and hearts full of love, everything becomes possible. The result is the happiness of these people. We are happy to share in their joy.”

“Volunteering is a way of life for many American families, and it’s so meaningful to be able to continue this tradition in Armenia,” Ambassador Mills said.

For complete coverage of the house blessing, click here.

Slideshow from the house blessing:

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