FCH & HFH, Different approaches, similar goals

I got to travel this last week, so I have a certifiable entry to make here. (I’ve come to consider my back-and-forth to Americus as a commute, so it doesn’t qualify as travel any more). I went to Indianapolis on Good Friday to meet with some folks. It was my first trip there and I was impressed. I was hosted by our board member, Jeff Cardwell, who is something of a local institution and seems to know just about everybody in town.

Indianapolis will host the 2010 Millard Fuller Legacy Build, and work is getting started for that big event. They plan on completing 33 units, some new, some rehab, during the Legacy Build week. 33 is the number of cars that start in the Indy 500, it’s the number of years that Jesus spent here on earth, and it’s the time Millard worked on eliminating poverty housing through Habitat and The Fuller Center. It will be one exciting project.

In my last post I said I’d work on answering the third of the major questions I’ve been asked since Millard died: “How is The Fuller Center different from Habitat for Humanity?” This is a tough one, not because the differences don’t exist, but because it’s hard to compare yourself to something else without implying a certain quality of superiority, and there’s no reason for us to do that. Almost everyone at The Fuller Center has Habitat experience in our background, and all of us have great respect for what that organization has accomplished and what it continues to do, and we pray for their continuing success.

As Habitat has grown, though, it has changed and will continue to change. It’s an inevitable feature of life, both for individuals and for corporations. The Fuller Center has moved the clock backwards, and we subscribe closely to the earliest foundational principles that got both ministries started. I like to think of us as the Old Order Habitat—we’re the ones in buggies and snoods.

Rather than line out differences between the two organizations I’ll list the basic principles that we at the Fuller Center seek to follow. (This is a preview of my article in the next FCH newsletter Building Materials, which will come out later this week. You, as a premium member of the FCH website, will get this before the rest of the world does.)

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 grassroots 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 homes;

These are our foundational principles and we’re sticking to them. And we know that there is plenty of need, as well as plenty of bounty, for us, Habitat and a thousand more like-minded organizations to get involved and it will still be a year or two before the work is done. We may do things a little differently; the families we serve may come from different economic situations and our funders from different parts of the charitable world, but we share the vision of eliminating poverty housing. So the differences probably don’t matter all that much.

The Fuller Center marches on, building in small towns and large, partnering with churches wherever we can, and inviting all who will join us to help eliminate poverty housing. Our goal, though, isn’t just the building of houses. We seek to build decent communities for the decent houses to be part of. We seek to raise families not just out of poverty housing, but out of poverty. We seek to make the activity of building a house an opportunity for people of all backgrounds and ideologies to come together in a common act of kindness. Every house we build is both a sermon of God’s love and a sermon of His peace. May the good Lord continue to bless our efforts.

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