Jim McCracken’s relationship with The Fuller Center for Housing began last year with a regular weekly email from his friends at Adventure Cycling in Missoula, Mont. The email mentioned that some group called the Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure would be rolling through his neck of the woods.
McCracken couldn’t join the entire Seattle-to-D.C. Adventure, but he decided to sign up for a 475-mile segment from Kellogg, Idaho, to West Yellowstone, Mont.
“I saw what the route was and thought I’d love to do that route,” McCracken said Wednesday. “But I’d never heard of The Fuller Center before, so I got on the website and checked out The Fuller Center. I read about Millard Fuller and read about the mission. I saw that it was a Christian organization and that they started the rides with a little devotional and that they were raising money to fight poverty housing and that they would have a build along the way. I thought I would just love that. So I signed up and joined the group in Kellogg, Idaho, and they were doing a build that day in nearby Smelterville, Idaho, so my first experience was doing a build.”
That partly planted the seed to form a new Fuller Center for Housing covenant partner in his hometown of Lewiston, Idaho, just 14 miles from the site of daredevil Evel Knievel’s most infamous stunt, the failed “Skycycle” jump over the Snake River Canyon. But the relationships that developed with fellow riders helped seal the partnership that became official Wednesday.
“I really enjoyed the route, but I especially enjoyed the group,” said McCracken, who spent 15 years in youth and family ministry before coordinating the Center for New Directions at Lewis-Clark State College. “It was a great group of young people, and then there were some pretty serious cyclists who were a little older or maybe retired, which was fun because that’s kind of the group I’m in. I enjoyed the fact that it was a Christian organization. The whole attitude during the trip was that we were there to serve.”
Fuller Center Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafigliola, who rode along with Bicycle Adventure leader Allen Slabaugh for much of the first half of the Adventure, says the connection that led to the formation of the Lewis-Clark Valley Fuller Center for Housing was part of what he had in mind when he created the Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure five years ago.
“When the bike ride started, Millard Fuller was constantly reminding us of the three major needs we had as an organization — that was to spread the word about us, to raise money for the homes and to develop covenant partners,” Iafigliola said. “Lewiston, Idaho, isn’t the first one that we’ve started through the Bike Adventure, but we’re excited that they’re the latest.”
Before the Lewis-Clark Valley FCH begins building at home, McCracken will begin his Fuller Center work in another land that starts with the letter I — India, where he has a friend who is a pastor in the same state as the Trivandrum Fuller Center.
“I had a chance to talk to Ryan a little bit on the ride about international programs,” he said. “That got my interest. I know a pastor in India, and I said ‘What if we want to sponsor a build there?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, let’s talk about that.’ So that’s what initially got me started thinking about maybe being a covenant partner and getting some projects going.”
He will be doing that very soon as he travels to India April 4-18, about the same time Iafigliola plans to visit operations in that region of the world – in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
“I’ll be going to India April 4-18,” McCracken said. “We’re going to do the groundwork to get that project going. So that’s kinda what’s first on the list. … Then we’re going to hit the ground running here. We’d like to build locally and make the project in India an annual project that we’d sponsor every year.”
“Jim’s just a genuine person who obviously wants to help,” Iafigliola said, welcoming McCracken’s interest in international work, as well as his native Idaho. “He’s very faith-driven and very involved with his church. He’s globally-minded and very interested in working with us on our project in India.”
WORKING WITH A SINNER
The vice president of the Lewis-Clark Valley FCH is Dave Sinner, who accompanied McCracken to Americus in January for the annual Covenant Partner Conference.
“I felt by bringing a Sinner along, I was doing the Lord’s work,” he said with a laugh, noting that it’s easy to laugh at how Sinner’s last name doesn’t exactly match his life of work to help spread the Gospel.
“Dave is a builder in our area,” he said. “He has a real heart for building houses for people. He pretty much builds houses at a very low cost so that they can do ministry or mission work, so that they can kind of get into a house but still have the freedom to go overseas without having a big mortgage. He tries to get them in there so he’s close to being debt-free.”
The trip to Americus gave them a chance to visit with Fuller Center Director of U.S. Field Operations Kirk Lyman-Barner, who signed the covenant partnership Wednesday morning.
“I was very impressed when I visited with Jim and Dave,” Lyman-Barner said of their time in Americus. “They went home and got to work on organizing our second Fuller Center covenant partner in Idaho.”
The Fuller Center’s first covenant partner in Idaho is the very busy Silver Valley, led by Judy Blalack.
Lewiston, a city of 32,000 in the northwest section of Idaho, has a 66 percent home ownership rate, about five points less than the national average. It’s multi-unit rental rate is 21 percent, seven points above the national average. McCracken says that many of the city’s rental properties are substandard, and he would like to help those families become homeowners.
And he hasn’t put the brakes on his cycling. He said he intends to recruit about 10 cyclists to join him for the West Coast portion of the 2012 Bicycle Adventure.