Days 5 and 6: San Antonio and Waxahachie, Texas


Kirk Lyman-Barner
Director US Field Operations

With over 1500 miles logged, I’m stopped for some free Wi-Fi at a McDonald’s about 65 miles from one of our flagship covenant partners The Fuller Center of Northwest Louisiana (Shreveport).  It will be fun to reconnect with our good friends in a little bit.

Shreveport put The Fuller Center for Housing into the construction business after Community Renewal International founder Mack McCarter asked Millard Fuller to help launch a housing program for dislocated Katrina victims and for the struggling families in the Allendale neighborhood where his program had been working.

More on that effort tomorrow, but I wanted to log on to share some great experiences during the past two days.  Staying with our family friends Dick and Mary Lavender was a wonderful blessing.  Dick is a semi-retired Presbyterian minister and he took Tuesday off from his church work to give me a great tour of San Antonio.  He is quite the historian.  One of the interesting tidbits of information he shared was that the term "maverick" came from a family named Maverick who owned a large ranch in the area.  Oddly, they didn’t brand their cattle so when anyone in the area found a loose steer without a brand, legend has it that they would comment, "It must be a Maverick." 

The Alamo history was fascinating and the Riverwalk is a beautiful destination I would recommend for any traveler.

I met with our Fuller Center of Greater San Antonio board of directors.  They held their meeting in Bethany Congregational (UCC) Church.  I had fun sharing the United Church of Christ connections with our organizational history explaining that Millard Fuller grew up as a young leader in the UCC.  I learned a lot about FCH Greater San Antonio’s successful startup (6 projects completed) and some of their challenges (board and committee development).  They are committed to work with a pastoral coach to help them build their organization and Dick Lavender agreed to put together a training program.

This is a similar model we are devleoping in Fuller Center for Housing Greater Atlanta.  We ask a local pastor who is very skilled at church governance and committee work to help our covenant partner further define the committee job descriptions, develop a tenure for the position and then build a nominating committee to fill the leadership gaps.  The coach will also help the covenant partner develop a strategic planning calendar to implement the strategy.

FCH San Antonio leader Bill Burns shared a wonderful success story that related to organizational development.  He said they were working on a roof for a partner family and he had two contractors volunteer two days in a row.  They did excellent work but at the end of they day, they said that they had to return to their paid work.  On day three, a carpenter came along and helped to finish the project, but Bill wasn’t going to let this one get away so easily.  At quitting time, Bill thanked the carpenter for his help but also asked the gentleman to commit to one day per month volunteering.  He quickly agreed.  Then Bill used the same strategy, over and over, until he built a local data base of over 30 contractors who have all agreed to donate one day a month.  Now that’s how you work "on your business" instead of "in your buisiness."  This is a challenge so many of us face because we love to swing hammers.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that yesterday was Florence’s birthday.  She and Bill are on the left of this group photo.  Happy Birthday Florence from the entire Fuller Center Family!

Then on to Fuller Center for Housing of Eastside Waxahachie to meet up with Bridgette Miller.  Bridgette grew up in Eastside Waxahachie and still attends her childhood church there.  She gave me a tour of her church and I met her pastor Rev. Samuel Baker.  Bridgette is also building her board and board committees. She has identified her first project and is in the process of raising funds to earn her matching start-up grant. 

Waxahachie has seen good growth in jobs and there are a great number of successful businesses in the area.  But the Eastside has only seen limited and sporadic improvement.  Bridgette showed me countless houses and shotgun shacks where her neighbors were living in pitiful conditions.  But she also showed me a sign of hope.  She pointed out an older man in the yard of his shack that obviously needed roofing, siding and weatherization help.  Unable to afford the necessary repairs, he was on his lawn mower trying to keep the property maintained as best as he could.  When leaders like Bridgette see such signs of hope and pride in areas of blight, it gives me great hope.

Clarence Jordan once said "Faith is like walking through an automated door… I don’t know how it works, but I walk right up to it and somehow it opens up a pathway."  I don’t know what the rest of the journey will bring, but I’m certain that it will be inspirational.  Until next time.

You can see more photos from my journey here.

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