Dreams of Christian leaders Dr. King, Millard Fuller intersect in visible ways

Dreams of Christian leaders Dr. King, Millard Fuller intersect in visible ways

There is an intersection of two main roads on the south side of Americus, Georgia, this small town where the world’s affordable housing movement began and where The Fuller Center for Housing is headquartered. The streets at the intersection bear the names of two great Christian leaders — Martin Luther King Jr. and Millard Fuller.

The Fuller Center’s simple offices are housed at 701 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, about a mile from the intersection. It was 50 years ago today that we lost Dr. King to an assassin’s bullet in Memphis, Tennessee. Today, our address here on the highway named after a man who dedicated his life to righting injustices and empowering change through determined nonviolent activism is particularly significant.

Dr. King knew that the Civil Rights Movement at its core was a grass-roots movement and was the first to credit the men and women of all races and backgrounds for making change possible. We, too, are building a better world by putting faith into action with grass-roots principles and dedicated supporters who give their time, money and passion to this ministry. These foot soldiers make change possible.

As a wealthy white businessman hailing from Lanett, Alabama, at the time of Dr. King’s seminal “I Have a Dream” speech, Millard Fuller may have seemed an unlikely man to someday be honored with the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award, an award that would be bestowed upon him by Georgia Gov. Zell Miller in 1992 at the State Capitol in Atlanta — the city where Dr. King’s body, but not his dream, was laid to rest. In the second half of the 1960s, though, Dr. King and Millard Fuller were pursuing the same dream — ending poverty.

Millard and his wife Linda gave away their fortune to serve God. They did not know at the time exactly how they would serve God, but they would soon discover their path at Koinonia Farm, an intentional Christian farming community just south of Americus. It was at this racially integrated farm — a radical concept in these parts back then — that they would learn from theologian Clarence Jordan that “What the poor need isn’t charity, but capital; not case workers, but co-workers.” The Fullers saw the light.

In 1968 — the same year Dr. King was assassinated — they launched Koinonia Partnership Housing and the Fund for Humanity. That was the origin of Habitat for Humanity and later The Fuller Center for Housing, the two affordable housing ministries founded by Millard and Linda.

Dr. King, meanwhile, launched the Poor People’s Campaign in 1967, leading a new war on poverty. Both King and the Fullers worked tirelessly to lift families out of economic despair. They provided hope to individuals and communities. They inspired generations. At times, they grew frustrated and impatient while pursuing their dream. Yet, they knew that Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 26:11 that the poor would always be with us was not an excuse to quit trying to help them. In fact, it was one of Jesus’ most frequent counsels.

Dr. King worked to lift the poor right up until the day an assassin’s bullet struck him down on April 4, 1968. Millard Fuller worked toward a similar dream right up until the day he died from an aortic aneurysm on February 3, 2009. Had it not been for that bullet in Memphis, there is little doubt that the paths of these two great Christian leaders and tireless servants of God — one a Nobel Peace Prize recipient and one a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient — would have crossed, likely often. We can only imagine what it would have been like to hear two of America’s greatest and most inspirational orators share a pulpit or a stage. They both could command an audience, and they both inspired generations to seek peaceful change and build a better world — especially for the poor among us.

Their lives may have never intersected, but their dreams most certainly did. We see it every day through the efforts of everyone involved in this grass-roots ministry across this great country and around the world. The poor are still among us, and we are still called to help them. Should we ever need to be reminded, there are a couple of roads joined together here in Americus — the only place in the world where such named thoroughfares intersect — that offer us direction unlike any other.

VIDEO: Millard Fuller speaks after being presented the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award in 1992

EASTER MESSAGE: In this modern age, we must demonstrate the power of the Gospel even more

EASTER MESSAGE: In this modern age, we must demonstrate the power of the Gospel even more

On Sunday we celebrate the most significant, the most miraculous event in human history—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For Christians everywhere this is the celebration that truly identifies us. While many religions teach such basic tenets as caring for the poor and loving one another, only Christianity offers the hope of redemption and salvation that the resurrection so dramatically provides. Through Christ’s death we have the promise of forgiveness and through his resurrection we have the promise of eternal life.

You’d think that with such a powerful message Christianity would attract the devotion of people everywhere and, for much of its history, it has. More recently, though, Christianity has gone through tumultuous times, especially in the United States and other more developed countries. It’s hard to fathom how this might be, but apparently the great message of the Gospel is not getting through. This is surely due in part to the many distractions—and temptations—of the modern age. It’s a tragedy, as the pleasures of the world can’t compare to the joy of the Gospel, and too many people have traded the one for the other or have no real understanding of the Gospel message at all.

This change can be seen in the decline in church attendance. A generation or two ago going to church was a simple fact of life. Most everyone spent part of their Sundays at worship. Now there are entire generations being raised with no connection to the church at all. There are those who discount the value of church attendance, but the fact is that going to church at least keeps people connected to the faith. And that’s important.

So how do we encourage people to retain their faith even in the absence of church involvement? How do we honor the Great Commission: that we make disciples of all nations—including our own? New times call for new approaches, but none can match the old-fashioned notion of showing the power of the gospel through the lives that we lead.

Clarence Jordan’s goal in establishing Koinonia Farm was to create a demonstration plot of the Kingdom of God. What a great concept, and one that we can all carry into our own lives. We should all have the goal of making our lives a demonstration of the power of the Gospel and the joy that comes with it.

We are blessed with the knowledge that our sins are forgiven and we have the promise of eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That alone should impel us to share the gospel with all, through our words, our actions and the lives we lead. We are blessed beyond measure and called to share that blessing with all. May this Easter season inspire us to reach out to God’s people, to those in need and to the poor in spirit.

President Snell’s Christmas message: Joy that lasts forever

President Snell’s Christmas message: Joy that lasts forever

(Photo: Fuller Center homeowner children in Armenia.)

This is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you and that your joy might be full.” — Jesus

It’s Christmastime, the season of joy. We’re surrounded by joyful images—the face of a child on Christmas morning, the carols and cookies and the traditions of the season. These are the things that make it the most wonderful time of the year. I have memories that I cherish of Christmases past. It is truly a season of joy.

And yet, I’m not sure that this is the joy that Jesus promises to those who keep His commandment that we love one another. His is the more profound joy born of righteousness, of loving one another. And he gives us ideas of how that love can be expressed. He tells us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to house the poor (that last one is from The Fuller Center translation). It’s not enough to simply say, ‘I love you,’ although we could do a lot more of that. The love we show is love in action, in small acts of kindness, in putting aside our hurts and anger, in reaching out to those in need. In all these things we demonstrate the love that Jesus would have us show one another.

K’Hairi

We had a touching example of love in action with our little friend K’Hairi. K’Hairi is eight years old and lives in the Chattahoochee Valley, near where Millard was born and raised. Every year, when it was his turn to sit on Santa’s lap, he asked for a nice house for his mother. This year a horde of Santas made that dream come true and now K’Hairi and his mother have a decent place to call home. But that’s not the end of the story. This year K’Hairi was free to ask for anything he wanted—his previous requests had been met. So what did he ask for? That every child might have a decent home.

Fuller Center volunteers and donors are working hard to make K’Hairi’s latest wish come true. They are demonstrating love every day of the year all around the world by their sacrifices of time and treasure. And the results are profound. Thousands of children will wake up this Christmas morning in houses that are decent and secure because of the gifts that have been given. Hundreds of families now have a home that’s solid and clean and protects them from the elements, a place where they can raise their children in dignity. It’s a tremendous blessing.

It’s also a blessing for those whose gifts of labor and funds make the houses possible. By following Jesus’ commandment that we love one another, our volunteers and donors are entitled to that special kind of joy. I’m forever grateful to these kind souls and my prayer this Christmas is that His joy remains in them and that their joy is full.

Click to support The Fuller Center’s
2017 year-end
campaign and help make
K’Hairi’s new wish come true!

 

Easter: Time for Christians to stand up and demonstrate our beliefs in a powerful way

Easter: Time for Christians to stand up and demonstrate our beliefs in a powerful way

It’s Easter, the holiest time of the year when Christians celebrate the two defining events of the faith: the redemption of sin paid for by the Savior’s death and the promise of eternal life heralded by His resurrection.

During His last week on this Earth, Jesus spoke often of the basic message of the Gospel—that we love God and we love one another. And yet, Christianity, based on these simple teachings of kindness, finds itself under attack around the world.

Our brothers and sisters in the Middle East are being tortured and killed at an alarming rate for their beliefs—new martyrs are being made every day. And in Europe so many have abandoned the faith that a moral and spiritual void is being created that threatens the survival of those societies. Sadly, even America, the great stronghold of Christianity, is not immune as those who oppose Christianity redouble their efforts to silence believers and keep any expression of faith out of the “public square.”  

It is time for Christians to stand up and demonstrate our beliefs in a powerful way, showing a doubting world that love is greater than fear and faith is stronger than cynicism. We need to be actively and aggressively engaging in acts of kindness, doing as Jesus would have us do—tending to the needs of the poor, forgiving those who have offended us, and living lives of active faith. We may not save the world in the process, but we will certainly save ourselves.

We need to be actively and aggressively engaging in acts of kindness, doing as Jesus would have us do—tending to the needs of the poor, forgiving those who have offended us, and living lives of active faith.

On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus spent time with his disciples talking about life and death and the promise of eternity. He called them His friends, and He promised them that if they loved Him and kept His commandments that He would answer their prayers and that He would send a comforter, the Spirit of Truth, to be with them always. And then He told them, “These things have I spoken to you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” These are promises that are available to us today just as they were to the disciples so many years ago. Imagine—if we love Him and keep His commandment our joy will be full!

Easter is the perfect time to recommit ourselves to the essence of the Gospel, to reach out in love to those around us, to serve the poor and forgive one another. May His joy remain in us and our joy be full.

President’s New Year’s message: Show love and be an agent of change in 2017

President’s New Year’s message: Show love and be an agent of change in 2017

Another year is moving into the history books, and what a year it has been!  It seems as though we had an extra dose of challenges to deal with over the past 12 months and the news was full of tragedy and sadness.  But we survived!  And in the midst of all the heartache and grief there were bright shining moments of kindness to remind us that God is still in His heaven and that goodness and love are more powerful than evil and fear.

Here at The Fuller Center for Housing we see this every day as kindhearted souls share of their resources and time to make life a little better for a family in need, a family they may only know through the stories we tell.  In 2016 our donors and volunteers helped make it possible for hundreds of families to celebrate Christmas in a safe and decent home.  We moved families from a hillside slum into a lovely new community in El Salvador; we helped those who lost everything in the earthquake in Nepal to rebuild their homes and their lives; we reached out to families in Louisiana, where the flood waters did so much damage.  In 70 U.S. cities and 20 other countries local Fuller Center organizations built and restored houses at an unprecedented rate, and every house stands as a testament of God’s love.

Now we enter the New Year and indications are that in many ways it will be as tumultuous and tragedy-laden as the year we leave behind.  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all and helpless by our individual inability to effect change.  The good news is that we can be agents of change, perhaps not at the global level, but every house we build means a profound change to the family that will move into it.  We know that children who grow up in a decent house do better at school, are healthier, and have fewer behavioral problems, so the kindness we share turns out to benefit not just a single family but the entire community.

We are deeply grateful to the many donors and volunteers who have reached out with us to help families in need.  Without that outpouring of kindness this work wouldn’t be possible.  It is our prayer that, by partnering with us, our friends feel the joy that Jesus promises to those who keep his commandment—that we love one another.  Together we are changing the world, one house at a time.

Our wish for you is a New Year rich with blessings and, even though we may not be able to bring peace to a troubled world, may we all experience the peace in our hearts that comes naturally from serving others.

build more homes in 2017

 

2016 Christmas message: Love one another and experience true joy

2016 Christmas message: Love one another and experience true joy

It’s Christmastime—the season of joy. It’s a time when we make an extra effort to be kind and giving. A quick look at the scriptures tells us why joy and these nobler traits are so much a part of Christmas.

Jesus spoke of joy in a conversation with his disciples on the night before he died. He told them, “If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; … these things I have spoken unto you that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” He went on to say, “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.”

The message is a simple one—if we keep the commandment to love another we will experience the joy of the Lord. That’s profound. I’m sure that the joy Jesus talks about is deeper than the many joys we share during the holidays, and while those joys are good and meaningful how wonderful it would be to have Jesus’ joy in our hearts.

Jesus taught us a number of ways that we can show love to one another—we can forgive, we can reach out to the poor and afflicted, we can help a family in need to have a decent home (He might not have actually mentioned that last one, but I’m sure He would approve!). Loving one another is not that hard to do.

All of us here at The Fuller Center for Housing wish you and yours a joyous Christmas. As you reach out to bless others, may the joy of the Lord fill your heart.

Create the kind of joy you’ll be thankful for this Thanksgiving

Create the kind of joy you’ll be thankful for this Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving and, again, 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 »

Gifts in kind, generous companies help make our work possible

Gifts in kind, generous companies help make our work possible

Greetings from the beautiful community of Valley, Alabama, where we will begin our annual Millard Fuller Legacy Build tomorrow morning. Our wonderful volunteers begin raising walls in the morning on two new homes and a major renovation project that we will dedicate on Friday. From the moment we raise these walls until Friday’s hugs and tears of joy, we will see volunteers’ sweat, donors’ dollars and several entities’ gifts-in-kind in action.

The Fuller Center for Housing is able to do what we do because of the kindness of others. We have many friends who donate funds to pay for our house building and restoration work and many others who give of their precious time to get the work done. These partners mean everything to us.

Increasingly, we’re receiving more gifts of tools and materials, gifts that significantly affect the cash outlays that our capital-intensive programs require. Every dollar that we don’t have to spend on lumber or other materials is one that can go into getting yet another family housed, so these new partners are making a true difference in the lives of God’s people in need.

A couple of these donors are Christian organizations — World Vision has been a huge supporter supplying products like roofing, siding and fixtures, and CrossRoads Missions has built countless framing packages in church parking lots to be delivered to our building sites.

Every dollar that we don’t have to spend on lumber or other materials is one that can go into getting yet another family housed.

Now we’re seeing more corporate involvement as companies like Wooster Brush, Hyde Tools, Stanley Black & Decker, American Standard and Stihl have stepped forward in the past couple of years to offer support, some with tools and fixtures, some with cash, some with both.

These gifts are a great help to us, but what makes them significant is that they are gifts that don’t have to be made — they are given out of a generosity of spirit. Despite our steady growth, The Fuller Center doesn’t have the national recognition that some of our larger friends in the affordable housing movement enjoy, so we can’t provide these donors with the sort of publicity that they could get elsewhere. It’s been said that true generosity is that which has no expectation of a return. That’s the kind of generosity that these gifts represent.

We’re thankful for these gifts and the simple generosity that they represent. Lives have been profoundly affected by the blessing of a decent home, something that these gifts have helped make possible. On their behalf and from all of us here at The Fuller Center, thank you!