By: Kirk Lyman-Barner
Director of US Field Operations
It was 57 degrees this morning in Prairie View, Texas to meet with Deborah Dennis, the founder of our new start up Fuller Center of Houston Metro Area, Inc. I immediately forgot about the chill in the air because of the warmth of the welcome Deb and her staff gave me when I arrived at her office. It was a beautiful rental housing complex for Prairie View A&M University students located in a neighborhood struggling with blight.
As we were touring the area, Deb was constantly working, answering calls from a mother who was concerned for her daughter living in a hotel this semester wondering if Deb could find a better place to rent. She would see a lot with a newly placed “For Sale By Owner” sign and she called them up negotiating the price… “Now, I’m not going to pay $11,000 for that lot. I know you paid $7,000 for it….send me a plat and a better asking price.”
She paused and said, “I know in my heart housing is my calling.” And then she pointed to a house with the roof literally falling in and yet there were 6 cars in the front yard. She explained, those are college students who rented this house. I started to think about the slumlord who owned the place, but my thoughts were interrupted by Deb’s commentary, “Those students really want to go to college.”
Deborah has a several houses under construction which were funded through various government grant programs. But she felt there was something missing in her advocacy toolbox. That’s why after meeting Lee Jeter, executive director of The Fuller Center of Northwest Louisiana and visiting our Allendale project in Shreveport she became convinced that the Fuller Center model could provide the volunteers and focus to energize the community and university students and faculty.
Because I insisted that her new group be a completely separate and independent board from her other activities, under the reasoning that it is difficult for any person or organization to serve two masters, she is building her new board and putting the final touches on her articles of incorporation and bylaws.
There is no shortage of need for seasoned leadership in this ministry because there is no shortage of need for decent shelter. It is fun to visit our groups that are well established, mature and exponentially growing their support and increasing the numbers of families served. But it is also just as exciting to spend time with our new start ups where a great need is being confronted by new leaders, like Deb Dennis, who feel a sense of God calling them to this ministry and are ready to bring a message of hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.
This evening I pulled into San Antonio and I’m staying two nights with my best friend Jeff Lavender’s parents. Jeff was one when we first met. I was just born so we have been friends literally since before I can remember. I don’t know what Jeff did to impress me but we have been friends ever since and perhaps this is where I learned the virtue of loyalty in relationships. Both of our fathers were students at McCormick Seminary in Chicago. It will be great catching up with Dick and Mary Lavender.
I’m also looking forward to meeting with the board of The Fuller Center of Greater San Antonio tomorrow evening. The odometer is showing over 1,200 miles since I left on Friday. It is time to rest.