VICE-PRESIDENT OF INTERNATIONAL OPERATIONS
Ryan helped lead the Inward Bound program in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Habitat for Humanity chapter at the University of Notre Dame before joining The Fuller Center. He started as a volunteer to work hand-in-hand with his hero Millard Fuller and created the Bicycle Adventure. Today he is on staff and oversees the Bicycle Adventure and Global Builders programs, as well as works closely with our international programs to further their development.
Shelter at home…
One month ago, that was a phrase that few Americans were even familiar with. Now, tens of millions of us across the country are under orders to do just that.
Shelter. At. Home. Never has home been more important. But what if your home is not much of a home at all? Though it may not lack in love, if it lacks in its ability to keep you warm and dry, or if it has mud walls and floors with poor sanitation like we see in many parts of the world, or if you have no home at all, it can be a terrible place to be told you have to stay at all times indefinitely.
The United States recently passed a bipartisan $2 trillion spending bill in response to this disaster. While we can all be glad that some of those needing help are receiving it, it’s OK if that price tag takes our breath away. I can’t help but think how globally the Fuller Center spends about $5,000 on average per family to build simple, decent and healthy homes. That permanent shelter, and often improved sanitation, changes the lives of a generation and can help prevent other life-threatening diseases like Chagas, severe diarrhea, cholera, typhoid and malaria. Diarrhea alone tragically claims the lives of more than 800,000 children under age five every year (source: CDC).
Even if the costs of building doubled as a result of going to scale, $2 trillion would mathematically be sufficient for housing about a billion people around the world. A billion! Given that the estimated number of people living in poverty housing is around 1.6 billion, I’d say that would be a pretty good start — after some no profit, no-interest repayments, we’d knock out the other 0.6 billion in no time at all. Think of the lives that would be saved, the diseases prevented, and the human potential unleashed.
The point here is not that all $2 trillion from that bill ought to have gone into global home-building. But it does demonstrate in unmistakable terms the truth of what Millard Fuller once told us: “We have the know-how in the world to house everyone. We have the resources in the world to house everyone. All that’s missing is the WILL to do it.”
There’s not a shortage of bricks. We’ve gotten pretty good at building houses. The money is out there. We just need motivation; inspiration! We need to believe that things really can change … if we decide to change them. Ponder this dichotomy: The risk from COVID-19 is urgent and must be met; the proven fact that millions die from preventable diseases caused by poor housing and sanitation each and every year is “just the way the world is” and met with a yawn.
As we Christians mark Holy Week and prepare for Easter, I’m reminded that Easter is truly the ultimate story to teach us that “the way the world is” does not have to be, with God’s power, the way it remains! Jesus sure looked dead, gone and buried, until the power of God was revealed in the resurrection. Jesus faced head-on the profound brokenness in our world, experiencing “no place to lay his head” and bearing upon himself all our hatred and the worst that our world could offer, and he broke its cycle with God’s love. No longer must death lead to revenge and more death, no longer must our sin and brokenness rule the day, but the Kingdom of God “goes viral” within us and among us, with Christ himself going to prepare eternal homes for us (John 14).
Clarence Jordan, the spiritual mentor of Millard Fuller, wrote, “The proof that God raised Jesus from the dead is not the empty tomb, but the full hearts of his transformed disciples. The crowning evidence that he lives is not a vacant grave, but a spirit-filled fellowship. Not a rolled away stone, but a carried-away church.”
May that be true. What if we became a church that isn’t focused on the loss of Sunday services or Easter rituals during this unusual year, but “a carried-away church” that responds to the closing of our doors by realizing we probably focused too much on what happened inside of them anyway. A church that refuses to accept the mundane tragedy of kids dying in mud shacks but arises from these dark days to the reality that what happens on the other side of the world affects us all — and that Jesus loves those far away just as much as he loves you. And that everyone deserves the opportunity for a simple, decent home in which to shelter, every single day.
We believe God called us to that mission. It’s not easy. People believe it can’t be done. People believe it’s just the way the world is. But it’s not. God’s money is in our pockets. God has given us our hands and our hearts. What will you choose to believe is possible? What will you DO?
Share this post: