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
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K’Hairi’s new wish come true!

 

SERIES: The terms that define our mission — “faith-based”

SERIES: The terms that define our mission — “faith-based”

(Photo: Volunteers pray with Mark and Kendra Singleton at the dedication of their home at the 2014 Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Louisville, Kentucky.)

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts about terms that define how The Fuller Center for Housing works to help families have simple, decent places to live.


 

The Bible is a pretty thick book. It has multiple gospels and thousands of verses. So, what exactly does it mean to be a “faith-based” nonprofit housing ministry?

It means different things to different people, obviously. No two people’s faith journey is identical. People read scripture and walk away with differing opinions. Biblical scholars debate the meanings, context and nuances of the words.

Many Christians point to Matthew 22:35-40 when a lawyer tests Jesus by asking what is the greatest commandment. In the King James Version, Jesus is quoted as saying: “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 neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

This harkens back to earlier in Matthew where we find The Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12): “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”

As many have said of the Bible, “It boils down to ‘do unto others.’ All the rest is commentary.” There are about a gazillion versions of that statement, but the gist of it is that if we show love for our neighbor, we are on the right track.

All the rest may be commentary, but there’s some good commentary in there. Perhaps the commentary that most relates to The Fuller Center for Housing is James 2:14-26, which asks what good is having faith if there are no works  Millard Fuller’s take on it, delivered with his trademark Alabama southern drawl, was: “Faith without works is as dead as a doornail.”

You can associate the word “faith” with many things — praying (in private and in public), worship, singing hymns, fellowship and studying the Bible. It can be all those things and more. It certainly was to Millard, but most important to him was to demonstrate his faith through action — doing unto others and loving his neighbors. He promoted the Theology of the Hammer and called on thousands to love their neighbor until millions had simple, decent places to live.

Now, putting faith into action and loving our neighbors around the world is in The Fuller Center’s DNA. Occasionally, we’ve had people ask us to take a stand on a controversial religious debate or to condemn this or that. Our business is putting God’s love into action and helping others put faith into action. That is our faith-based mission.

Millard Fuller speaks in 2007 about putting faith into action and letting your light shine!:

SERIES: The terms that define our mission — “partnership”

SERIES: The terms that define our mission — “partnership”

(Photo: Group shot from the first day of the 2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Indianapolis.)

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts about terms that define how The Fuller Center for Housing works to help families have simple, decent places to live. On Sunday, we’ll wrap up this series with a look at the meaning of “faith-based.”


 

Whom do you see in this group photo from June’s Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Indianapolis? If you’re well-acquainted and heavily involved with The Fuller Center for Housing, you can probably list a whole bunch of familiar names you see — David and Sheilla Snell, Chuck and Joyce Vogt, Jeff Cardwell, LeRoy Troyer, Chuck Lee, Bob Pack, Mary Lou Bowman, Doug Miller, and … well, if I listed every name I see in this picture I wouldn’t be able to write about today’s topic — “partnership.”

For those of you who might be less familiar with The Fuller Center, let me give you a general overview of who’s in that picture — a neighborhood association president, homeowners, volunteers, house captains, nonprofit executives, political leaders, city representatives, church members and youth from the Church of the Nazarene, whose General Assembly coincided with our Legacy Build.

All of these good folks came together in partnership to help five families have simple, decent places to live in the neighborhood of Tuxedo Park, a blitz build that marked a turning point for a once-thriving east Indy area that had been on the decline for decades. No more.

You can’t build five homes in a week without a lot of partners. You can’t build 200 homes in Haiti, El Salvador and Nigeria without partners. You can’t build and repair hundreds of homes in Louisiana, Kentucky and Georgia without partners. Building a single home takes partners.

The Fuller Center’s affordable housing ministry sprung from theologian Clarence Jordan’s teachings at Koinonia Farm in the 1960s, where his final days were spent sharpening the concepts of partnership economics, including partnership housing. One particular line from his writings is oft-cited by The Fuller Center:

Clarence Jordan

What the poor need is not charity, but capital; not case workers but co-workers.”

That directly explains our partnership with homeowners. They are not charity cases. They work alongside our volunteers and repay the costs of materials on terms they can afford, over time, with no interest charged or profit made. Their payments go to help others in their community get the same hand-up, and in the process they become givers themselves.

But we have a multitude of partners beyond homeowners. Because we do not accept government funds (and the strings attached) for building, we rely on the generous partnership of our donors. We partner with skilled and unskilled-but-willing volunteers to build and repair homes, thus keeping the costs as manageable as possible. We partner with like-minded organizations such as People Helping People in El Salvador and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance in Texas. The local groups who do our work in the field in the United States and abroad are not called affiliates or chapters but are referred to as covenant partners. We do not dictate to them how to do their work. We see ourselves as partners with the same mission — to help families in need have simple, decent places to live.

Perhaps our most important partnership is with the church. The Fuller Center is not a church but is a servant of the church. We provide a vehicle for churches to put faith into action in a real, tangible, difference-making way. Churches also host teams of Fuller Center volunteers, host our fundraising Bicycle Adventure cyclists across the nation, send team on U.S. and Global Builders trips and often help feed our volunteers. We appreciate every way churches partner with us.

Church attendance and affiliation has been steadily declining in the United States for decades. We could debate ad infinitum the reasons for the decline. But at The Fuller Center we have seen time and time again a church become enthused and reinvigorated after tackling a Fuller Center project. Maybe it’s because Jesus was a carpenter, but there’s just something about swinging a hammer and pounding a nail that drives home the importance of loving thy neighbor. At the end of the day, you can look at the structure and enjoy the feeling of a job well done. More importantly, you can look on the faces of people to whom you’ve extended God’s love. That feeling is hard to beat, and it’s something you want to experience time and time again.

We are always seeking new partners who want to express God’s love by helping families have simple, decent places to live. If you want to know more about how you can partner with The Fuller Center for Housing, be sure to email us or call 229-924-2900.

SERIES: The terms that define our mission — “ecumenical”

SERIES: The terms that define our mission — “ecumenical”

(Photo: Tamara Danel was one of dozens of volunteers who helped Lytonja Smith and her Muslim family build a home during the 2015 Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Shreveport, Louisiana.)

This is the third in a series of blog posts about terms that define how The Fuller Center for Housing works to help families have simple, decent places to live. On Saturday, we’ll take a look at the meaning of “partnership.”


 

After founder Millard Fuller’s unexpected death in February of 2009, those closest to The Fuller Center for Housing’s affordable housing ministry and its leaders had a decision to make: Since this grass-roots, Christian ministry was so closely tied to Millard’s dynamic persona, should it end with his earthly end or was the work so important that the ministry should persevere?

Millard had set the moral compass in the right direction for his ministry for decades. If they chose to continue with the ministry — which they obviously did, for which thousands of families are now grateful — they had to stay pointed in the right direction and not drift away from those simple principles that Millard was so passionate about. So, they drafted a Statement of Foundational Principles that would guide them going forward. You can find them on our Mission Statement and FAQ page or read below:

We at the Fuller Center for Housing believe that:

  • We are part of a God movement, and movements don’t just stop.
  • We have been called to this housing ministry; we didn’t just stumble into it.
  • We are unashamedly Christian and enthusiastically ecumenical.
  • We aren’t a church, but we are a servant of the Church.
  • We are faith driven, knowing that after we’ve done all we can do the Lord will help finish the job — something that requires us to stretch beyond our rational reach.
  • We are a grass-roots ministry, recognizing that the real work happens on the ground in communities around the world through our covenant partners, so a large, overseeing bureaucracy isn’t needed.
  • We try to follow the teachings of the Bible and believe that it says that we shouldn’t charge interest of the poor, so we don’t.
  • Government has a role in our work in helping set the stage, but that we shouldn’t look to it as a means to fund the building of home.

Tucked away in there is an awfully key word — “ecumenical,” actually “enthusiastically ecumenical” to be exact. Most often, the word is used in the context of Christianity in the coming together of Christians and churches for a uniting purpose. But we take it a step further.

We believe that all of God’s people ought to have simple, decent places to live. And we are all God’s people.

We are a Christian ministry, but we preach the Gospel through action — the Theology of the Hammer. You do not have to be a Christian to partner with us to get a home or repairs, nor must you be Christian to work with us. We’ve worked with Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and those who adhere to no religion or faith. We share God’s love without a litmus test.

We are ecumenical in another way, as well — one that has nothing to do with religion. We are politically ecumenical.

When I joined The Fuller Center in 2011, I was weary of the hyperpartisanship that had gripped America and has since only increased its stranglehold. Yet, in The Fuller Center’s ranks I’ve met and worked with an equal amount of liberals and conservatives and all kinds of folks in between. I remember President Carter speaking at a Fuller Center dinner five years ago in which he thanked The Fuller Center for being “a harmonious oasis” in polarizing times.

I knew what President Carter was saying was true, even though I’d been here only a few months at the time. I’ve since come to understand why it is true that those of all faiths and political persuasions unite at The Fuller Center oasis: It’s because no one is against helping people help themselves. Liberals and conservatives are all for it. The religious and non-religious are all for offering a hand-up. No one is against a hand-up. I’ve even seen Auburn and Alabama fans, Georgia and Georgia Tech fans unite under this umbrella — and that’s no small feat down here in this college football-mad land.

Being ecumenical in more ways than one allows us to pitch a mighty big tent and to welcome everyone who shares our simple belief that everyone ought to have a simple, decent place to call home. If you also believe that, then you’re in the right place.

Below, a handsome fellow talks briefly about this topic:

SERIES: The terms that define our mission — “hand-up”

SERIES: The terms that define our mission — “hand-up”

(Photo: Ana Tarazona Ramos of La Florida, Peru, partnered with us to build a new home and even came to America in 2011 to help build homes at the Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Minden, Louisiana. She since has become mayor of her community.)

This is the second in a series of blog posts about terms that define how The Fuller Center for Housing works to help families have simple, decent places to live. On Friday, we’ll take a look at the meaning of “ecumenical.”


 

If I had a nickel for every charity or nonprofit that claims to give “a hand-up instead of a handout,” I’d be a wealthy man — and I’d donate a lot of those nickels to a nonprofit that actually does provide a hand-up instead of a handout.

The phrase “hand-up instead of a handout” too often has meant nothing and has become rather cliché — and that’s a shame because it’s at the very heart of what we do at The Fuller Center for Housing.

Many people mistakenly believe Fuller Center homeowners are given houses or given repairs for free. They’ll leave comments on our social media pages such as, “I wish somebody would give me a house!”

That’s not how it works. For new houses, homeowner partners must be working hard to provide for themselves even if they fall just short of what they need to qualify for traditional lending from banks. They must perform hundreds of hours of “sweat equity” in the building of their homes and then repay the costs of materials, over time, with zero interest charged on mortgage terms they can afford. This allows them to pay it forward as the money goes into a Fund for Humanity to help others in their local community get the same hand-up.

For smaller repair projects, there is the Greater Blessing program. There is no mortgage involved in repaying the costs of repairs, but homeowners are asked to contribute “sweat equity” alongside our volunteers and are asked to repay the costs as they are able. For many of the seniors and disabled with whom we work, this may mean just a few dollars at a time. We find that even though they aren’t legally required to repay the costs, they want to. Perhaps that’s out of pure gratitude, a sense of pride, or a combination of the two.

When you truly extend a hand-up instead of a handout, the recipient of the help is able to retain their pride and their dignity. They appreciate the opportunity they have been extended because they have to work for it and repay it. Because their repayments help others, they become givers themselves instead of charity cases. It’s what we call “enlightened charity.”

That hand-up can even lift the recipient far beyond the home itself. One of the best examples of this is Ana Tarazona Ramos in Peru. She struggled daily to get by on the streets of Lima, moving from rented room to rented room with her three young children at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords. She often wondered where their next meal would come from as selling school supplies on the streets did not provide an adequate living.

Then she heard about The Fuller Center’s growing community in La Florida. She hopped a bus in desperation and wound up partnering with us to build a home for her family. She was so grateful for the hand-up that she even came to America in 2011 to help others build homes at the Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Minden, Louisiana. With her children having a stable life and excelling in school, she felt empowered and rediscovered herself. She would go on to be elected mayor of La Florida.

I heard her tell her story directly to our Board of Directors during that Legacy Build. She fought through tears of joy and gratitude to explain how the hand-up changed her life and why she came to the U.S. to pay it forward. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

My friend Thad Harris, meanwhile, epitomizes what a hand-up can do perhaps more than anyone I’ve ever met. Years after being paralyzed in a traffic accident that cost him his livelihood as a construction worker and sent him spiraling into a depression, he partnered with The Fuller Center to build a new home in Americus, Georgia, a few miles from our headquarters.

Thad Harris

Not only did Thad perform hundreds of hours more than his required sweat equity from his wheelchair, but he has since become one of our most prolific volunteers with the local covenant partner, of which he also is a board member. On top of his usual volunteering, he spends weeks each year leading U.S. Builders teams who come to work in Americus. Thad’s smiling face is the main thing they remember about their trips here.

Also, Thad comes by our headquarters office at least once a week to see how things are going, ask if there is anything he can do and to say, “Thank you for what you’re doing.”

“Thad,” I told him last week, “you don’t have to keep thanking us. We appreciate it, but you’ve paid it forward many, many times over.”

“I’m just so thankful,” he said. “I just want you to know you’re appreciated.”

There is a time and a place for handouts, such as in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. But, too often, handouts are diminishing and counter-productive. When we first began working in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, we found a culture of dependency that had been created and exacerbated by decades of well-meaning handouts from the United States. We can’t change the entire culture of dependency, but in the areas where we’ve built more than 200 permanent homes, our homeowner partners have been our co-workers instead of charity cases. They are proud of their accomplishments. And they set an example for the Haitian people around them that shows how empowering a hand-up can be.

Everywhere we work, there is a sense of accomplishment at the end of a project — and it is one shared by everyone who contributes, including the homeowners. Instead of someone saying, “Look what we did for you,” we are saying, “Look what we have done together.”

When you support The Fuller Center for Housing, you are truly extending an empowering hand-up instead of a diminishing handout. For that, to echo Thad’s sentiments to us, we are so thankful and want you to know you are appreciated.

President David Snell explains why we don’t do handouts in this short video:

SERIES: The terms that define our mission — “grass-roots”

SERIES: The terms that define our mission — “grass-roots”

(Photo: Doug Miller (left) is a generous financial supporter of The Fuller Center for Housing and an active volunteer who recognizes the direct impact made possible through The Fuller Center’s grass-roots mission. He helped build the home of Latisha Booker (right) in Lanett, Alabama, Millard Fuller’s hometown.)

This is the first in a series of blog posts about terms that define how The Fuller Center for Housing works to help families have simple, decent places to live. On Thursday, we’ll take a look at the meaning of “hand-up.”

A lot of political campaigns tout “grass-roots” efforts to convey their message. A lot of organizations, especially charities, like to describe themselves as “grass-roots.” But what does the term really mean?

No, it’s not the musical group who belted out great songs like “Let’s Live for Today” and “Midnight Confessions” in the 1960s. Nor is it a simple term to explain, but simplicity is at the heart of what “grass-roots” is all about — especially at The Fuller Center.

When Millard and Linda Fuller were forced out of Habitat for Humanity in 2005 — nearly 30 years after founding the nonprofit — it was heartbreaking for them, but Millard saw an opportunity. Tired of the corporate struggled he had enduring the previous 10 years or more, he recalled the simple days of the 1970s and early 1980s when his affordable housing ministry was just getting started.

Back then, they relied on generous individuals, a determined corps of volunteers and churches committed to putting faith into action. As Linda recalls of the early days:

“We lived at Koinonia Farm after returning from Africa in mid-1976, with a makeshift “office” in an old rat-infested, pecan-drying barn. It was hot in the summer, cold in the winter. We purchased a $2,500 dwelling in Americus as Millard’s law office and the first “real” office of Habitat for Humanity. The rotten porch was replaced with a neat brick entrance, painted and modestly furnished. I sewed drapes from bed sheets. In order for our family to live in town, we purchased an old house for $12,500, a 10-block walk for Millard to the office.”

Some might say Millard was too committed to living simply. Some might think it was an overcorrection for the lavish lifestyle he had gained as a millionaire businessman in the 1960s before giving it all away to serve others.

By the time 2005 rolled around, Habitat was not just a household name but had grown to have large offices in both Americus and Atlanta. Corporate influence on the board was growing. Fundraising, marketing and technology expanded. Habitat continued to grow by leaps and bounds. But Millard was concerned about the direction and the adherence to foundational principles. He wanted to ensure that a family “served” was actually a family housed. The head-butting continued until Millard and Linda got the boot from the nonprofit they had founded as an affordable housing ministry.

It didn’t take long for Millard to seize an opportunity from that disappointment — and he, Linda and current President David Snell founded The Fuller Center for Housing as a return to the founding principles with which they had set out more than three decades earlier. They vowed that The Fuller Center would not stray from its grass-roots, Christian principles — the same principles that proved so effective in the early days. They vowed to be transparent and used clear words like families “housed” when reporting success. A family who simply attended a class on home ownership or whose current housing situation was merely evaluated would not be considered “housed.” They knew that donors wanted results — homes built and repaired — more than peripheral and tangential activities that may never result in homes built or repaired.

Millard worked joyously and tirelessly for this restarted affordable housing ministry right up until the day he died unexpectedly in 2009. Linda said that his final years were some of the happiest of his life because he had been able to simplify and do what he really wanted to do with his life — help people in need. He was simply committed to putting faith into action. He was happy that he once again had a nonprofit that allowed him to make a direct impact without a hindering bureaucracy.

FCH headquarters

The Fuller Center remains a grass-roots ministry. Simplicity guides the mission. Despite having more than 70 U.S. covenant partners and 21 international partners, the nonprofit’s headquarters remains a donated former Chinese restaurant in which a handful of dedicated staffers are committed to running a lean operation. They have forsaken larger salaries and greater benefit packages to serve the ministry because they believe in it.

Because of our grass-roots commitment, 90 percent of donations go to work in the field with less than 10 percent going to overhead. (See latest independent financial audit.) Overhead is not inherently evil as it is important to keep the lights on and ensure that such dedicated staff is reasonably compensated for their efforts, but Fuller Center leadership is committed to maximizing every cent given to the ministry in the field where families are housed.

Because of our grass-roots commitment, individual donors know that their donations make a bigger impact. A $6,000 gift can build an entire house in some countries. Donors know the feeling of direct impact that brought Millard such joy in his final years.

Because of our grass-roots commitment, a company or business can work through The Fuller Center to build an entire community or transform an entire neighborhood. They can have far more direct impact. They can point to an actual project they made happen instead of simply sending out a press release about a large financial donation to a corporate nonprofit that went into the same ol’ big bucket with other such gifts.

The Fuller Center is committed to growing the impact this ministry has on families in need of simple, decent places to live. But we remain committed to the grass-roots principles that maximize the impact. In fact, the question has been raised more than once: How do we grow and remain committed to our grass-roots principles? A whole panel of concerned thought leaders who care about this ministry has actually been convened to consider this question and offer guidance on the subject.

We will never allow our commitment to growth to overtake our commitment to the simple, grass-roots, Christian principles that allowed this ministry to flourish in the first place.

So, what does the term “grass-roots” mean to us? It means simplicity that allows the greatest direct impact.

Fuller Center co-founder Linda Fuller talks about getting back to basic principles after leaving Habitat:

 

There is more to some housing projects than first meets the eye

There is more to some housing projects than first meets the eye

Last week, I spent a little time with Mr. Earnest Solomon of Americus, Georgia. At 78, he still gets around his home fairly well. It almost makes you wonder why he needed a wheelchair ramp added to his home.

Actually, he didn’t. It was for his wife, Evelyn. As her health declined with her children living far away, they asked the Americus-Sumter Fuller Center for Housing if they could build a ramp for her.

“They were concerned about her falling,” said my friend Thad Harris, who is confined to a wheelchair himself and lives in a specially designed, ultra-accessible Fuller Center home of his own and who has become one of The Fuller Center’s most prolific volunteers as well as a local board member. “So, we agreed to help.”

Sadly, Evelyn passed away in February of this year. But the children asked if they could still tackle the project for Earnest before he lost mobility.

“They did a great job,” Earnest Solomon said of the volunteers who built the ramp behind his home.

“They’re looking out for me farther down the line — just in case,” Mr. Solomon said. “I’m a diabetic, so you never know. Plus, I’m getting up there in age, too.”

On the surface, a ramp project may not seem like a very big deal. But ramps like these allow many disabled and elderly residents to stay in the homes they love rather than moving in with relatives or into assisted-living facilities.

The Fuller Center builds new homes and repairs existing ones. We work with families to provide a better life for their children, with middle-aged formerly homeless folks who are putting their lives back together and with many seniors, including the disabled and veterans.

Maybe a ramp seems like a big deal to me because I saw how my grandfather struggled with mobility. He lost his legs to a German machine-gunner in Tunisia in 1943 as a member of the legendary 1st Ranger Battalion (“Darby’s Rangers”). First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote about him, Cpl. Fred Dixon, in this column from Feb. 21, 1944, and this one from Feb. 25, 1944. He won a prize for selling war bonds on a national radio show and got to spend time with the first family at the White House, even having dinner with the family and going with them to see a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra.

In the decades that followed, life grew tougher for my grandfather. He went from war hero to forgotten veteran. Parking spaces for the disabled and wheelchair ramps were few and far between. They’ve become a far more common sight since he died in 1981. That’s great to see.

But there are those who still feel trapped in their inadequate homes. There are those who fear that the rotting floor in the bathroom will lead to a life-altering fall or that the leak in the roof will ultimately lead to their home’s demise.

I’d like to thank all of The Fuller Center’s financial supporters whose gifts have helped hundreds of good people like Mr. Solomon and Thad be comfortable in the homes they love. I’d also like to thank the volunteers who have worked on these kinds of projects, including those from Congregational United Church of Christ of St. Charles, Illinois, who helped Mr. Solomon on this project.

There are few things more exciting than seeing a team of volunteers raise that first wall on a brand new house where children will grow and have a strong foundation for success. But there are also few things more gratifying than hearing these two words from people like Mr. Solomon, who will get to stay in the homes they’ve grown to love over the years:

“THANK YOU!”

Please enjoy this slideshow of volunteers from Congregational UCC working on Mr. Solomon’s ramp:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

Two years after Nepal earthquake, we remain committed to building hope, sharing expertise

Two years after Nepal earthquake, we remain committed to building hope, sharing expertise

Two years ago today, a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked the mountainous country of Nepal, killing more than 9,000 people and reducing tens of thousands of homes to rubble.

The Fuller Center for Housing had been working in Nepal for nearly a decade prior to the quake. In fact, at the time, The Fuller Center’s most recent project was in a village called Trishuli. When we learned the massive quake’s epicenter was located only about 30 miles from Trishuli, we were concerned that our 11 partner families’ homes there could not have survived such a natural disaster — especially when we saw the widespread damage much farther away in Kathmandu.

When we received photos of the 11 Fuller Center homes a couple of weeks later from our leaders on the ground there, we were shocked. It was as if nothing had happened. While their neighbors’ homes were damaged or destroyed, these 11 homes were unscathed.

One of the 11 Fuller Center homes in Trishuli, Nepal, is shown in May 2015, two weeks after the earthquake. All 11 of the homes at the time escaped major damage from the quake. Since then, The Fuller Center has built 29 more with 10 in progress and more planned as resources become available.

While relieved for those families, we realized this left us with a major responsibility. Not only would we need to lean on Fuller Center donors and major supporters like the United Church of Christ to ramp up our building efforts, but we needed to share our expertise. As a grass-roots nonprofit, we were in no position to fund the construction of tens of thousands of homes. However, we set up training sessions with dozens of masons to teach them the same techniques that allowed our houses to stand where others fell. We showed how strong homes could be built while maintaining the style and look of a typical Nepalese home.

While the immediate response to natural disasters is often fast and furious with water, buckets, food and emergency supplies arriving in droves, too often the spotlight turns to the next disaster before the work is complete. Disaster recovery, meanwhile, is more methodical and gets little attention. To the families faced with the long process of rebuilding their lives, it is desperately needed.

That’s where you — the supporters and volunteers of our housing ministry — come in to continue extending helping hands of partnership to these families in need. With your help, we’ll be there until the job is done.

No matter the disaster, full recovery requires a simple, decent place to call home.

The very term “disaster” is a relative one. We’ve responded to natural disasters like earthquakes in Nepal and Haiti, hurricanes in southern Mississippi, Louisiana and New Jersey, and this week volunteers have gathered in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, to restore homes that suffered massive flood damage last summer. The construction of safe Fuller Center homes in Mizque, Bolivia, is a response to a health disaster — the outbreak of Chagas, which festered in the mud shacks our homes are replacing. Of course, one person who has suffered homelessness or bankruptcy over medical expenses could consider their experience to be a disaster, as well.

No matter the disaster, full recovery requires a simple, decent place to call home. And when people pull together as we’re doing in Nepal with no concern over who gets the credit, real recovery is possible. If the building technology we’re sharing in Nepal results in the country’s complete rebuilding with no credit given to The Fuller Center, so be it. Our mission is to share God’s love by helping people have decent places to live.

On this two-year anniversary of a devastating moment, we give thanks for the smiles we see every day in Nepal and for the hope that instills in the Nepali families who are still recovering.

Gallery of Fuller Center’s work
in Nepal, before and after the quake