John J. Staton: Five decades of supporting Fuller ministry is all about hands-on faith

John J. Staton: Five decades of supporting Fuller ministry is all about hands-on faith

(Photo: Millard Fuller’s early work in Africa inspired the Rev. John J. Staton, who continues to support The Fuller Center for Housing’s work decades later.)


Editor’s note: We published this story on May 17, 2017. The Rev. Staton died on April 14 of this year, and we are re-running this story about a man who was a wonderful friend to the Fullers and a dedicated supporter of our affordable housing ministry through the years. The Rev. Staton’s obituary asks for memorial contributions to be made to The Fuller Center for Housing, which you can do in the Rev. Staton’s memory at this link.


When Millard and Linda Fuller founded The Fuller Center for Housing in 2005, retired pastor John J. Staton was among the earliest supporters. Of course, when the Fullers went to Africa in the early 1970s to test the concept of partnership housing, he supported them then.

Today, at age 88, he continues to give every month. He is especially proud to support a ministry that gave Millard Fuller some of the happiest years of his life as The Fuller Center gave him an opportunity to return and recommit to the grass-roots, Christian principles that he and Linda began with decades ago.

“It’s incredible what The Fuller center has done and accomplished since 2005, and I’m glad I’ve been able to play a role” Staton says from his home in Carmel, Indiana. “I get a real sense of joy every time I write a check to The Fuller Center, and it will always be so. I’ll continue to give to The Fuller Center as long as I live.”

“What The Fuller Center is doing is based on faith. Millard built things squarely on the Gospel and on faith. It appealed to me as a hands-on example of following Jesus.” — John J. Staton

Staton, who grew up in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, was Ivy League-educated at Dartmouth College, where he planned to become a doctor before going into ministry and attending Union Theological Seminary in New York City. It was that faith journey that would acquaint him with a young Millard Fuller, who also had experienced an abrupt change of direction in his life after giving up his millionaire lifestyle to serve others.

“He was deeply inspired by Clarence Jordan,” Staton says of Fuller’s relationship with mentor theologian Clarence Jordan, founder of Koinonia Farm. “I used to correspond with him even though I’d never met him, and I gave him some money for the work in Africa. That was long before they’d started Habitat or anything else.”

After the Fullers returned to the United States in 1976 and founded Habitat for Humanity, Staton’s correspondence with Millard continued. Eventually, Staton would bring Millard to speak at churches in Central Indiana and hosted the Fullers at the home he shared with wife Shirley. (Shirley Staton passed away in 2001.) After retiring from the pulpit, the Statons even came to Americus, Georgia, to volunteer with Habitat — John in development and Shirley as a guide at the Global Village and Discovery Center.

“The more I got to know Millard and Linda during those three months with Habitat, the more I admired what they were doing,” Staton says. Though he was frustrated by the Fullers’ dismissal by Habitat, he was eager to support them in their return to grass-roots, Christian principles with The Fuller Center.

“A lot of my connections to The Fuller Center are built on top of a friendship with him,” Staton says. “I believed in his mission. What The Fuller Center is doing is based on faith. Millard built things squarely on the Gospel and on faith. It appealed to me as a hands-on example of following Jesus.”

While spreading the Gospel through Millard’s “Theology of the Hammer” and by putting faith into action are what most appeals to him in supporting The Fuller Center, he also knows the importance of growing up in a decent home. He grew up in a solid middle-class home during the Great Depression, a home his parents purchased with a $10,000 inheritance from his great-grandmother.

“That was the only home I knew until I was out of college,” Staton says. “It’s still in good condition, although that lawn seemed to be huge when I had to mow it as a child. Now it looks like a postage stamp.

“But I have nothing but happy memories of that home,” he adds. “I fell in love as a senior in high school with a girl who lived just six blocks from me. I got to know every pebble in the street riding my bike back and forth between our two houses. I married that girl (Shirley, to whom he was married for 50 years) after college. I had a very happy childhood living in that house.”

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Idaho’s Silver Valley Fuller Center dedicates 20th completed home

Idaho’s Silver Valley Fuller Center dedicates 20th completed home

Photo: Verne Blalack (left) and Rick Gilbert (right) present the keys of the newly remodeled home to John “Boy” Delaney.

The Silver Valley Fuller Center for Housing recently dedicated its 20th completed home — a once-vacant property that was turned into a like-new home in Osburn, Idaho, in partnership with its new owner, John Delaney. The Shoshone News Press has complete coverage of the dedication ceremony at the link below.

shoshone news press article

LEGACY BUILD 2018: Volunteers talk about why they’ve come to serve others this week

LEGACY BUILD 2018: Volunteers talk about why they’ve come to serve others this week

(Craig Threatt of Americus is helping the Wright family build their new home at the 2018 Millard Fuller Legacy Build.)

On Monday, we told you about some of the international volunteers who have come from places such as Nicaragua, Peru and Haiti to help Americans build homes at the 2018 Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Americus, Georgia.

On Tuesday, we chatted via Facebook Live with the leaders of our newest partners from Maunabo, Puerto Rico. Fuller Center for Housing Global Builders teams are lined up to help the area hardest hit by Hurricane Maria, but Milagros Lebron and Eneida Santiago have been busy this week helping their fellow Americans build new homes here in Georgia.

Today, we’re visiting with some of the volunteers who have come from various states — as well as folks from right here in Americus — to find out the answer to one simple question that we put to each of them: “Why are you serving here in Americus this week at the Legacy Build?” Here are their responses:

Roger Theobald (Las Vegas, Nevada)

“Because I like the people who work for The Fuller Center — they’re good people who’ve got their heads in the right place to help the communities, and that’s hard to find these days. It’s a pleasure to be here. It’s good work. You sleep good at night. Work is a good thing. I like to stay busy and do good work instead of just wandering around. It’s more important to be part of a solution than a problem.”

Wendy Peacock (Americus, Georgia)

“It’s a way to give back to our community and encourage families who live here locally that they are part of a larger community of love and concern.”


Diane Bies (Evansville, Indiana)

“I just love it. It’s amazing how good it makes you feel to be here with all of these fantastic people. This is truly a vacation to be able to do this. This recharges me for the rest of the year. I’m not a beach person. This is where my heart is, for sure, and I’m happiest when I’m here. I really am. I called home and told my mother’s friend that I was on a construction site building a house for the week. She said that didn’t make her very happy. But I said, oh, I am in Heaven! She said, ‘OK, then, I’m happy!'”

Craig Threatt (Americus, Georgia)

“I’m here to help build these houses, and I know the Wright family. It’s a good process. It’s coming along, and it’s going to look real nice. I have some construction experience, but I’m still learning as I go.”

Joel Palmquist (River Falls, Wisconsin)

“I had the pleasure of being able to meet with and work with Millard years ago, and this is the first Legacy Build that I’ve been on. It’s just a chance to honor his legacy. It’s my first Legacy Build, but I’d volunteered before in Americus, so it’s kind of neat to come back and see after 25 to 30 years the changes and maybe being able to see some of the folks from back then, too. This is the heart of it.”

Maryann Glass (Malvern, Pennsylvania)

“My motivation is for the people to have a good home to live in. I rented a house for many, many years, and I think it’s very important for you to have your own home. It gives you more of a sense of pride.”

Michael Oliphant (Hayesville, North Carolina)

“I wanted to join a blitz build because it’s something I’ve heard about forever, and I’ve never been involved in trying to build a house so quickly, so it’s a learning experience for me. I plan to help lead a trip to Nicaragua (with the Fuller Center Global Builders program), and have a good group forming for that. It’s all about having a good time while you’re building a house and helping a family have a good place to live.”

Roger Werner (St. Johns, Florida)

“I came to give back. I’ve been very blessed with everything that the Lord’s given me and the skill that He’s given me in being a carpenter. I get more out of this than I give.”

Annette Metz (Cumming, Georgia)

“Why are we here?! Because we love it! You get the satisfaction of knowing that you finished a project or got it as far as you could get it and that somebody will enjoy it.”


Peter Meyer (Plainview, Minnesota)

“Life’s been good to me. I’ve had good health, and I’ve worked and made quite a little money in my life, and I don’t need any more, and I’m retired. So, why not help somebody else?”


View photo galleries from the
2018 Millard Fuller Legacy Build here.

LEGACY BUILD 2018: Family sees love pour in from all corners during home build

LEGACY BUILD 2018: Family sees love pour in from all corners during home build

(Photo: Legacy Build homeowner partners James and Mildred Wright with their sons Joshua (left) and Jeremy)

Christian theologian Clarence Jordan — who inspired Millard and Linda Fuller with the partnership principles that drive The Fuller Center for Housing’s success — once wrote: “What the poor need is not charity, but capital; not case workers but co-workers.”

Fuller Center homeowner partners repay the costs of building simple, decent homes on terms they can afford, over time, with no interest charged and no profit made. So, it is an empowering hand-up but not a gift. It is not charity in the sense of a handout. It is enlightened charity that uplifts.

Fuller Center homeowner partners also must contribute hundreds of hours of “sweat equity” in the building of their homes. James and Mildred Wright — along with their teenage sons Joshua and Jeremy — are putting in plenty of sweat equity this week at the 2018 Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Americus. Fortunately, they have plenty of co-workers in the process as volunteers from across the nation and a few other countries are working alongside them.

“It’s wonderful,” James said Tuesday morning as the second day of building got under way. “It’s a wonderful thing that people come from all over the world to help you, to help you improve your living conditions. If I need to go somewhere to help someone, that’s what I’ll do because it’s the right thing to do — to show love. There’s not enough love like they used to be. Love will get you a long way, and that’s all I see around here — love.”

James Wright digs where his family’s front porch will be.

That love is coming from co-workers like Sophie Luedi, Millard and Linda Fuller’s granddaughter, a Florida native who now is attending school in California. It comes from as far away from Peru with the help of volunteers like Zenon Colque and Vitaliano Enquiquez. It comes from Maunabo, Puerto Rico — in the area of the island hardest hit by Hurricane Maria — with volunteers Milagros Lebron and Eneida Santiago. More love comes from New York, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Virginia, Minnesota and other places, including locals from Americus, Georgia.

All that love means that the Wrights will no longer live at the mercy of landlords.

“Our current living situation is not a place that a person really wants to be,” James said. “We thank God for The Fuller Center helping us build a house. The place we were renting from other people, they weren’t keeping it up. It was raining in the house, with roaches in the house and mice. So the situation was real bad.”

As soon as the family gets settled into the home, they will concentrate on their next step upward — getting the boys enrolled in technical school to learn a trade. He credits all the love coming their way and the improvements in their lives to a renewed commitment to Jesus and living right.

“They’re very excited that we’ll have something new and different to live in,” he said of the two hard-working teens, who will continue to live with them until they are self-sufficient in their careers. “This is a real improvement. Once you get to know Jesus, you start living right. They say if you live better, you do better. And that’s our experience right now.”

LEGACY BUILD 2018: From homeless to homeowner — “When God is all you got, God is all you need”

LEGACY BUILD 2018: From homeless to homeowner — “When God is all you got, God is all you need”

(Photo: Taneka Miles, 33, — center, with her two older daughters Jasiauna and Tykeria — is one of the homeowner partners for the 2018 Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Americus, Georgia.)

When Millard Fuller Legacy Build volunteers wrap up each day of working alongside Taneka Miles in building a new home for her and her seven daughters the week of April 15-20 in Americus, Georgia, most will head back to their hotel rooms or volunteer lodging to wind down and relax in order to be ready to start working again the next morning.

Miles, however, will not be getting much down time during the week. When her day ends on the job site, it will be time for her to report to her night job at PharmaCentra. It will be a long week but well worth it for the 33-year-old mother of seven daughters who became homeless when she and her husband separated in March of last year.

When she recalls the pain of her family falling apart and losing their rented home, the tears flow. When she thinks of how her daughters will soon have a decent home thanks to the Millard Fuller Legacy Build and Fuller Center for Housing volunteers and supporters, the tears flow again.

“I’m just blessed,” she says. “I don’t know why. I don’t know how. I just feel very blessed. There’s nothing I’ve done so spectacular in my life. I’m just blessed. Thank you from the bottom of my heart because it could have been anybody. I’m grateful. I’m humble and I am grateful.”

She may be humble and grateful now, but she spent most of the past year terrified. After the separation, they stayed briefly with a friend. But adding eight people to a home environment is tenuous at best. When bed bugs became a problem in that home, Miles slept in the car with one of her daughters who suffers from asthma.

After that, she stayed briefly with a cousin, then in a dilapidated trailer just outside of Americus. The landlord refused to make repairs without going up on rent Miles already could not afford. Soon, she was on the streets again.

“People don’t know how many times I had to sit there and close my door to just pray and cry to God for help, for strength,” Miles says. “I’m trying to be strong for these kids who are looking at me to be strong for them when sometimes I don’t know whether I’m going or coming, not knowing how I’m going to pay bills and trying to keep them from worrying about it.”

Finally, her bishop and a deacon’s wife at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church got her in touch with Evangelist Snipes of the Sumter Area Ministerial Association.

SAMA had been helping the area’s homeless find temporary places to stay for years, but Snipes felt more needed to be done. She and Kirk Lyman-Barner of the Americus-Sumter Fuller Center for Housing (this year’s Legacy Build hosts) created a new nonprofit — Americus-Sumter Transitional Housing Ministries — through which the homeless are able to apply for lodging and are then given a mentor. The mentor helps them as they work to get a job, manage an income and handle any personal problems they may be battling.

Going to Transitional Housing Ministries would wind up being a blessing that helped her get back on her feet, find temporary housing and will soon see her as its first major success story — a story that comes to a crescendo on April 20 when their new Fuller Center house is dedicated. However, Miles remembers going to the organization for help as her lowest point.

“I just didn’t want a handout,” she says with tears now streaming down both cheeks. “I want to do it myself because I’m looking at my children depending on me. I had them kids. I didn’t want no help to do it for my children because they’re mine. So it was hard asking for help. I didn’t want a handout. I wanted to do it myself. I just wanted to do it myself.”

Fortunately, this new home will not be a handout. All new Fuller Center for Housing homes are built in partnership with families. The families repay the costs of the home build, on terms they can afford to pay, with no interest charged and no profit made. Those repayments go into a Fund for Humanity to help others in the local community get the same hand-up. Therefore, not only will the Miles family own their home with payments far less than they would pay for a substandard rental unit, but their repayments make them givers themselves. This is enlightened charity, not a handout. It is a true partnership.

“I tell my kids all the time that we are blessed, and you’ve got to keep God first,” Miles says. “That’s the only way I got through. I would tell my kids, ‘When God is all you got, God is all you need.’ They see it now. We are blessed.”

Local volunteers, supporters and donors are still needed for the 2018 Millard Fuller Legacy Build. To learn more, please click here.

Completion of 66 homes in Bolivian village of Mizque strikes blow against Chagas disease

Completion of 66 homes in Bolivian village of Mizque strikes blow against Chagas disease

(Photo: Ana, 7, and her family are among the 66 new Fuller Center homeowner partner families now protected from Chagas in Mizque, Bolivia.)

Having a simple, decent house is about more than solid walls and roofs that keep the elements out of living quarters. The family is the basic building block of a society, and it is in the home that families are nurtured and grow.

Studies verify the common-sense expectation that communities filled with simple, decent homes have lower crime rates and higher economic success. In these homes, children are happier and do better in school, while the entire family is more likely to have better health outcomes.

Adequate housing’s impact on health is evident across the United States and worldwide, but the evidence is most clear and stark in third-world countries where poverty housing and health problems are rampant. One of the clearest examples of how simple, decent homes can transform the health outcomes of a community can be seen in the Bolivian village of Mizque, where The Fuller Center for Housing is now wrapping up the final three homes of a 66-home, yearlong project.

For decades, Mizque families have been attacked by a vicious parasite that festers in the walls of mud, straw and adobe huts. The parasite bites people as they sleep and lays its eggs in the lips and around the mouths of humans. That gives it the nickname “the kissing bug,” but its kiss is vicious. After their parasitic offspring moves into the bloodstream, they can cause Chagas disease. About 60 percent of victims experience fever, swelling and headaches before getting over the infection in about three months. For the remaining 40 percent, Chagas can persist for 10 to 30 years and cause serious heart problems, including heart failure. About 8,000 people die every year from Chagas.

Elena and Dario with their three children outside their old adobe home

In Mizque, however, the solid walls of new Fuller Center for Housing homes do not permit the parasite to live and breed. The walls, roofs, windows and doors protect grateful families and give them hope for a happier, healthier future. Parents like Elena and Dario — the parents of three children, including 7-year-old Ana (pictured above) — no longer have to raise their children on the dirt floor of an adobe shack.

It is a project funded through the Fuller Center and built by the families and local laborers. While many of The Fuller Center’s success stories around the world have been greatly impacted by the dedicated efforts of Fuller Center Global Builders volunteers — including another location in Bolivia — Mizque was simply too difficult a trip to facilitate. The village truly had to build this better life on their own. The way they have seized this hand-up makes this Mizque village stand as an example for others throughout poor areas of South and Central America where Chagas persists.

“Working in the remote areas of Mizque was a great challenge for our team in Bolivia, but one that will be reaping rewards for these families for decades to come,” said Fuller Center Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafiglioa, who was able to visit the village a couple of years ago at the beginning of the project. “Even more so than in our typical locations, moving from a simple mud house that attracts insects that carry Chagas disease to a healthy, attractive home is going to change each family’s lives. We thank God that we were able to be part of the transformation.”

“The mission of The Fuller Center calls us to serve the poor wherever they are found — and we had to look hard to find them in Mizque!” Fuller Center President David Snell said. “This is one of the more remote areas in which we’ve worked — and one of the most rewarding. Helping these families move from shacks into decent, hygienic homes has been joyful. What a blessing it is to so profoundly improve the lives of God’s people in need! Thank God for sending the generous supporters who made this possible.”

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PHOTO GALLERY: From huts and shacks to simple, decent homes in Mizque, Bolivia:

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United Church of Christ meets 50-home goal in Nepal earthquake recovery effort

United Church of Christ meets 50-home goal in Nepal earthquake recovery effort

The United Church of Christ has been one of the biggest supporters of The Fuller Center for Housing’s earthquake recovery in both Haiti and Nepal. UCC Disaster Ministries has contributed $200,000 to The Fuller Center’s work in Nepal, resulting in the construction of 50 earthquake-resistant houses.

“We partnered with them because they had already been working in Nepal pre-earthquake and I knew we could couple their development expertise with our disaster expertise, in true partnership, to do something amazing,” UCC Disaster Ministries Executive Zach Wolgemuth said in a detailed online report from the United Church of Christ about Nepal recovery efforts through The Fuller Center.

Read the complete UCC article

Your gifts build homes and hope

Take a look at some of the most recently completed homes funded by the UCC:

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Fuller Center to begin work in one of Puerto Rico’s hardest-hit areas — and you can help

Fuller Center to begin work in one of Puerto Rico’s hardest-hit areas — and you can help

Though it was more than six months ago that Hurricane Maria bashed Puerto Rico as a strong Category 4 storm, many parts of the island look like they were just struck yesterday. More than 100,000 residents remain without electricity.

One of the hardest-hit areas was the southeastern portion of the island, across the mid-island mountains from bustling San Juan. It is here that The Fuller Center for Housing will begin sending its first Global Builders volunteer teams to work in long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Specifically, volunteers will be staying in the small community of Calzada, which is composed of 184 families just on the outskirts of the city of Maunabo, which has about 15,000 residents. Volunteers will be working in Calzada and its surrounding area. It is a secluded region, nestled between the inland mountains and the blue-green sea whose waves roll upon strikingly beautiful beaches. Because of its secluded location, however, it also is expected to be among the last places on the island to have its electricity restored.

“The area where we’re working seems like a lovely small town community — except that it was one of the hardest-hit areas from the storms and still doesn’t have power,” said Fuller Center Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafigliola, who visited the area in February. “They know what needs to be done, but they need help.”

The red marker denotes Calzada on the southeastern corner of Puerto Rico.

The Fuller Center does not parachute into areas of need and decide how to help. Instead, the nonprofit housing ministry works through local partners — whether that happens to be in a U.S. mainland city, a third-world country or a disaster zone. The Fuller Center’s success in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake can be greatly attributed to working through local partners on the ground. In Calzada, leaders say the need is for repairs and rebuilding in an area that was poverty-stricken even before Hurricane Maria. Blue tarps now serve as roofs for many of the homes.

“The way that we work is truly different from anyone else out there,” Iafigliola said. “We don’t send in our ‘man with a plan,’ we identify local leaders who want to do this type of work and help them to be successful at it. It’s very grassroots.”

The community of Calzada, Puerto Rico

When The Fuller Center announced last year that it would be looking for partners who would be able to host volunteers and put them to work, many people responded that they wanted to be among the first to volunteer on the island. Many of those people already are organizing teams and planning trips, which will be listed soon on The Fuller Center’s Global Builders Upcoming Trips page.

If you would like to know more about The Fuller Center’s plans for working in Puerto Rico, please visit our new Puerto Rico webpage here. You will find descriptions of the area, as well as information about what Global Builders trips there will be like and how you can express interest in joining or leading a work trip to Calzada. If you would like to donate to our work in Puerto Rico, please click here to give.

VIDEO: A look at the town of Maunabo, filmed two months after Hurricane Maria: