FAITH IN ACTION: Building with Armenian families strengthens ties to homeland

FAITH IN ACTION: Building with Armenian families strengthens ties to homeland

As an Armenian-American, Barbara Hovsepian has always felt a strong connection to her family’s homeland. Eleven trips to Armenia to help build decent homes for families in need have strengthened those ties even more.

She returned to Fuller Center Global Builders team leadership last year and is planning to lead another team in July. Leading home builds in Armenia is becoming an annual tradition once again after missing seven years in a battle with breast cancer. It’s a refreshing return to action for the 74-year-old whose first build trip to Armenia was in 2002.

“Every evening when I say my prayers, I thank God for the multitude of blessings He has given me — including a secure home for all my 74 years,” she said. “When I can help provide that for a family in Armenia I feel I am paying it forward. I chose Armenia because I am Armenian-American and grew up in the Armenian Church. I have faith in God, love of my heritage, and charity through The Fuller Center.”

That heritage truly came alive in 1971, when she joined her father and grandmother on a trip to then-Soviet Armenia to visit her grandmother’s brother.

“My father and I walked across a bridge over the river there, and he pointed and said, ‘I used to play down there,'” she recalled. Later, when she made her first service trip to Armenia with her daughter in 2002, they walked across that same bridge. “I pointed it out to my daughter and said, ‘Your grandfather used to play right there.’ I have that strong attachment.”

In the years to come, she has seen many parents share bonding experiences with their children during build weeks in Armenia.

“They love the parent-child experience,” she said. “They love showing their children who have been raised in the comfort of this country what their homeland is experiencing. They can see away from the big city of Yerevan how people live in the villages and how, with so little, they have as happy and loving a home life as we have here. It’s our similarities, not our disparities, that draw us to each other.”

Mostly, though, it is the Armenian people who keep Hovsepian coming back to serve.

“I like the idea of working directly with the people you’re helping,” she said. “So many times, especially in the Armenian community, people are very doubtful whether their donations go where they are supposed to go. I knew that I would be seeing the people that my money was helping. You work alongside the people who are benefiting from this, and it’s very rewarding. It’s always been a happy experience. We all come away feeling that it was a good day’s work. You come home exhausted but exhilarated.”

It’s not just the Armenian homeowners that keep Hovsepian coming back. It’s also The Fuller Center of Armenia’s leadership team, led by President Ashot Yeghiazaryan.

“The Fuller Center staff are the same basic group of people that I know, love and thoroughly trust,” she said. “They make it so easy for me to be a team leader. They really go out of their way to help me. My daughter has said, ‘Why don’t we try a different country this year?’ But I just can’t abandon Fuller Center in Armenia.”

Barbara Hovsepian is raising money
to build another home in Armenia.
Click here if you would like to donate to her fundraiser!


FAITH IN ACTION: Marine went from leading troops to leading home-building efforts in Louisiana

FAITH IN ACTION: Marine went from leading troops to leading home-building efforts in Louisiana

(This is the latest installment of our “Faith in Action” series. If you have a story of how involvement with The Fuller Center has impacted your faith, please let us know at this link.)

Lee Jeter grew up economically disadvantaged in Bossier City, Louisiana, but he was fortunate to grow up in a home that was rich with love — thanks to his single mother who worked two jobs while raising seven children and two nieces.

She instilled in son Lee the values of hard work, faith and determination — values that served him well during 20 years in the United States Marine Corps. Today, he puts those values to work as executive director of The Fuller Center for Housing of Northwest Louisiana in Shreveport and Bossier City — one of the international nonprofit’s most productive covenant partners.

KTBS-TV featured Lee’s story in a series called “Hometown Patriot,” which you can view below:

FAITH IN ACTION: Cameroon leader knows the Greater Blessing of serving others

FAITH IN ACTION: Cameroon leader knows the Greater Blessing of serving others

(This is the latest installment of our “Faith in Action” series. If you have a story of how involvement with The Fuller Center has impacted your faith, please let us know at this link.)

Angu Andreas has always been a Christian and a man of faith. Becoming a man of faith in action, however, has invigorated his spirit like never before.

He says this spiritual uplifting began in January 2015 when he joined The Fuller Center for Housing of Cameroon, one of the ministry’s newer partners on the African continent. Today, he serves as the Country Director for Fuller Center of Cameroon.

“My life has never been the same since I joined this ministry,” said Andreas, who credits Fuller Center President David Snell and Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafigliola for mentorship and support as he got started. “Each time a house is completely built, there is a feeling of relief and joy on the face of the home beneficiary — such moments remain in my heart forever. I feel like someone’s life has completely changed.”

Andreas said that Christians in Africa are enthusiastic about their worship services, but he believes that only scratches the surface of understanding God. It was only when he began serving others through The Fuller Center that he felt not just a sense of accomplishment but also of enlightenment.

Angu Andreas

“In African regions, we often have the concept that it is when we attend a church service that we can learn how to put the words of God in practice or have a better understanding of the word of God,” he said. “Reversely, I would say I have a better understanding of putting God’s words in actions when we create impact on people’s lives through our actions and work. Working with the community to build decent and affordable homes where underprivileged children, orphans and widows can live happily has been my driving force and motivation.

“I do believe there is greater blessings and inner satisfaction to serve than to be served,” he added. “There is no other work or job which would give me inner satisfaction and motivation that only comes from serving families and transforming lives.”

Global Builders can now help families in Cape Town, South Africa

Global Builders can now help families in Cape Town, South Africa

South Africa has one of the most vibrant economies on the African continent, but the after-effects of apartheid rule are still evident — especially in the townships of cities like Cape Town. A quarter of South Africa’s population lives on less than $1.25 a day.

The Fuller Center for Housing has a partner on the ground in Western Cape, led by Bishop Louis Green, a former MP in the South African parliament who was elected to the office at the same time Nelson Mandela was elected president in 1994. For the past few years, Bishop Green has been leading The Fuller Center’s work of repairing and making homes safer in those townships.

The mission of building new homes and repairing unsafe structures will now be able to grow in South Africa as The Fuller Center’s partners in Cape Town are welcoming Fuller Center Global Builders volunteer teams. The first trip is scheduled for May 12-20 and will be led by Mike Oliphant — and slots remain open for those wishing to join. Another trip led by Boots and Ramsay Walker is scheduled for November and is already full, but many more trips are expected to be added to the schedule soon.

“I am so excited that we will soon be sending teams to South Africa,” said Maegan Pierce, who coordinates The Fuller Center’s Global Builders program. “Trip participants will have the amazing opportunity to be immersed in South African culture, which is rich with diversity and deep history. It will be a truly life-changing experience, not only because of the cultural opportunities, but also because families in need will be receiving the safe and affordable housing that they need through the hard work of our local Fuller Center partners in South Africa and our dedicated trip participants. I can’t wait for our trips to South Africa to begin!”

Typical poverty housing in Cape Town, South Africa

Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafigliola did not have to wait for the trips to begin. He visited the leaders in Cape Town in December for a consultation about their work and to help make plans for the Global Builders teams.

“Although there is wealth in South Africa, there also is terrible poverty that really stems from its long history with apartheid,” he said. “In the townships and some of the rural areas, there is terrible poverty as bad as we find in most places we work around the world.”

Tin shacks are common throughout the townships, and even some of the homes that appear slightly better often have dangerous wiring and other unsafe features. He was struck by the juxtaposition of such poverty with the beauty and luxury of other parts of Cape Town, particularly along the coast.

“Cape Town, South Africa, is definitely one of the most beautiful areas you’ll ever visit,” he said. “It’s a tourist hot spot for a reason, but we’ll be going beyond where most tourists venture to make a difference in people’s lives.”

What should you expect on a Global Builders trip to Cape Town? Click here to learn more.

Ryan Iafigliola talks about his trip to South Africa in the first segment of this video, which includes more photos:


FAITH IN ACTION: Managing ReUse Store provides spiritual lift, helps families

FAITH IN ACTION: Managing ReUse Store provides spiritual lift, helps families

(This is the latest installment of our “Faith in Action” series. If you have a story of how involvement with The Fuller Center has impacted your faith, please let us know at this link.)

Kristen Rimmer already had five back surgeries under her belt by the age of 25 — all stemming from a car wreck that happened with her then-5-year-old child in the vehicle. The operations limited her physically as she sought to return to the workforce, but she wound up landing a part-time job with limitless opportunity for helping others.

In April of 2015, Rimmer began working for the Ginger Ford Northshore Fuller Center for Housing‘s ReUse Store in Hammond, Louisiana. The store — along with its adjacent sister shops, The Fuller Shop and The Rabbit Hole — is one of the nonprofit’s leading sources of revenue. That revenue helps families make badly needed repairs to existing homes or partner with Ginger Ford Northshore to build new homes.

“From day one, I really enjoyed my job,” Rimmer says. “The enjoyment quickly grew to love. As I began to connect with our homeowners, establish a relationship with our regulars and, of course, build relationships with co-workers, that love grew to become a passion.”

Kristen Rimmer

Within five months, Rimmer advanced to a full-time position and she has since become the manager of the ReUse Store. Not only does the store raise money for Ginger Ford Northshore’s work, but it also provides amazing deals on many items and necessities — something especially important for people still recovering and making repairs from historic flooding less than two years ago.

“Seeing customers come in every day and hearing their stories of losing everything from our floods in 2016 was incredibly humbling,” she says. “You go home with a sense of ease knowing you were able to help these people in some way.”

Rimmer says that she tries to live every day by the biblical principle in Acts 20:25 — that it is better to give than to receive.

“I actually had it painted inside of my store,” she says of the Bible verse. “Working in a place where I can wake up and connect and minister to people who come through my store is an amazing feeling! It not only gives them the spiritual direction they desired but also gives me a spiritual fulfillment I could have only gotten by helping others.”

FAITH IN ACTION: Expansiveness of God’s love clear after Thailand trip

FAITH IN ACTION: Expansiveness of God’s love clear after Thailand trip

(This is the latest installment of our “Faith in Action” series. If you have a story of how involvement with The Fuller Center has impacted your faith, please let us know at this link.)

Fuller Center for Housing founder Millard Fuller saw the affordable housing ministry he and wife Linda started in the early 1970s as a worldwide movement. He knew, as most do, that God’s love extends to the entire world. Millard did not just read that in the Bible — he and Linda witnessed it while traveling to all corners of the world.

Reading and believing that God’s love reaches beyond man-made national borders is one thing, but witnessing it is for yourself is a perspective-altering experience that lasts a lifetime. Sandy Buscheck of Orinda, California, knows it.

Though her husband, Tim, had been to Thailand several times, such a long journey was not exactly her idea of a good way to spend free time.

“I’m someone who usually resists leaving my safe and secure world,” said Sandy, whose town has been ranked by Forbes magazine No. 2 on a list of “America’s Friendliest Towns.” (Who’s No. 1? That’d be Sammamish, Washington, according to Forbes.)

It was only when a team of 10 people from First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley signed up to work with The Fuller Center’s Global Builders program in Lampang, Thailand, that she reluctantly tagged along with her husband.

And she’s forever glad she did, as are their Thai homeowner partners — a husband and wife with two daughters, who moved from a bamboo shack to a safe, new Fuller Center home (pictured above).

Sandy & Tim Buscheck

“I’m a mother of three sons I occasionally took camping while they were growing up,” Sandy said. “Living outdoors for a short time is fun, but I cannot imagine raising children who live on a bamboo platform with no walls. I loved being able to help homeowners with two daughters move to a house with four outside walls, windows with screens, doors, a roof, a kitchen and a bathroom.”

The family’s dire need for a simple, decent home was made even more clear during their trip when one of the homeowners’ daughters fell ill with a fever.

“I am so happy that if one of the daughters is sick again, she will be able to be inside in a comfortable room recuperating,” Sandy said.

While Sandy helped provide this family with the safety and security of a decent home, she is thankful for the opportunity to have stretched outside of her California comfort zone.

“The safety and security that house will provide for those girls remind me that God surrounds me with His love,” she said. “Meeting the family, cooking and eating meals with them and seeing how their lives will improve makes God’s work in the world real to me. I know this family now and I can pray for them. I see that God is at work in Thailand, and He is at work in opening my eyes to His care for all people.”

DID YOU KNOW? It costs only $6,500 to sponsor a new
Fuller Center home in Thailand. Click here to learn more!

Interested in a Fuller Center Global Builders trip to Thailand? Click here!

Orchard Park (NY) Presbyterian and Auburn (AL) UMC help Harvey victims

Orchard Park (NY) Presbyterian and Auburn (AL) UMC help Harvey victims

Two churches from very different parts of the country teamed up recently to work with the Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders and help residents in the Houston area who are still dealing with the effects of this past summer’s flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. Volunteers from Orchard Park Presbyterian Church of Orchard Park, N.Y., and Auburn United Methodist Church of Auburn, Ala., worked on five homes during the week of service. Orchard Park TV station WIVB reports on the work here, and you can view a slideshow below shared by Orchard Park Presbyterian. If you would like to volunteer with the Disaster ReBuilders, please click here.

Millard Fuller Legacy Build, annual conference both coming to Americus in April

Millard Fuller Legacy Build, annual conference both coming to Americus in April

(Photo: First United Methodist Church of Americus)

For the first time, The Fuller Center for Housing’s Millard Fuller Legacy Build will be held in Americus, Georgia. The build, featuring new home builds and rehab projects is the week of April 15-20, 2018. The Americus-Sumter Fuller Center for Housing will be coordinating the build.

But that’s not the only first coming to Americus in April: The Legacy Build will conclude as The Fuller Center’s Annual Conference begins — with the two events merging for the first time on Friday, April 20. On that day, the annual conference will begin at 1 p.m. at host First United Methodist Church before attendees join Legacy Build volunteers for house dedications in the afternoon. That evening, both Legacy Build volunteers and conference attendees — including some people involved in both events — will join together again for a 5 p.m. social hour and a 6 p.m. dinner at historic Koinonia Farm.

“Millard used to say that while the Northeast has beautiful fall foliage and the West Coast has sunny skies and beaches, Americus has April,” Fuller Center President David Snell said. “It’s a glorious month, and it will be even more glorious with the two great events that will be hosted here. It will be one great family reunion! Start making plans now to join us for either or both — the Legacy Build, April 15-20, the Conference on the 20th and 21st. I’ll look forward to seeing you here!”

Fuller Center Director of Communications Chris Johnson added that the idea of joining the two events was spurred by a four-day build that preceded The Fuller Center’s Annual Conference in Hammond, Louisiana, in April of 2017.

“Our partners there had a very successful Higher Ground on the Bayou flood repair blitz over the four days before the conference, and it provided a lot of enthusiasm and momentum heading into the sessions,” Johnson said. “It also put the learning of the conference into a very tangible context for those who attended both. We expect the same to happen in Americus, and we expect plenty of folks will want to be part of both events.”

conference — Register or learn more

LEGACY BUILD — register or learn more