In the following review extracts from The Partnership Covenant are italicized. A complete copy of the Covenant can be found in the appendix.
The Fuller Center for Housing and Partners are an international coalition of like-minded organizations and individuals dedicated to the elimination of poverty housing by various means, including the building and rehabilitation of houses and other shelter for people in need. While a connection with The Fuller Center is of great help to local organizations in terms of name recognition, collaboration and sharing, the real work takes place at the local level, so it is at the local level that decisions must be made, funds raised, volunteers mobilized, families selected and nurtured, and houses built or rehabilitated. These are the tasks of the Covenant Partners. The Fuller Center will assist with information resources, training, publications, prayer support and in other ways, including fund raising, whenever possible. Covenant Partners will also assist with overall fundraising whenever possible. Together we will make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action with people everywhere.
This Covenant identifies our common values as expressed in our Mission Statement, Method of Operation and Foundational Principles.
The Preface describes the means by which The Fuller Center seeks to minister to the world in partnership with other organizations that share our principles and beliefs. It specifies the work that falls to the local partner organization, for it is at the local level that families are selected and nurtured, funds and other resources are raised and houses are built or rehabilitated. The Fuller Center seeks to develop horizontal rather than top-down, hierarchal relationships. For this reason, it is important that the local organization be made up of dedicated, hard-working volunteers who are truly committed to the cause of creating decent shelter and who are willing to devote the time and energy necessary to make that dream a reality.
The Fuller Center for Housing, faith driven and Christ centered, promotes collaborative and innovative partnerships with individuals and organizations in an unrelenting quest to provide adequate shelter for all people in need worldwide.
The Fuller Center for Housing is an unashamedly Christian organization, dedicated to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ through our ministry of creating decent, affordable housing for God’s people in need. Our goal is the elimination of poverty housing.
METHOD OF OPERATION
The Fuller Center promotes the development of housing and homeownership by building and rehabilitating modest, adequate homes. The Fuller Center seeks to work with other organizations whose purposes are consistent with those of The Fuller Center for Housing and its Covenant Partners.
The Fuller Center is dedicated to providing decent shelter, and we know that this is best accomplished by local organizations that have access to resources, know the area and can develop personal relationships with the beneficiary families. The Fuller Center seeks level, rather than top-down, relationships with local partners who are committed to this important cause and prepared to take a leadership role in their communities to help eliminate poverty housing.
The Fuller Center seeks to demonstrate the love and teachings of Jesus Christ to all people. While The Fuller Center is a Christian organization, it invites and welcomes volunteers, donors and others who are actively committed to The Fuller Center’s Mission, Method of Operation and Principles.
The Fuller Center seeks to demonstrate the love and teachings of Jesus Christ through our actions. To this end it is important that The Fuller Center and its Covenant Partners not be shy about our beliefs, rather that we assert our Christianity in our publications, signage and public presentations, that we let our light shine brightly.
The Fuller Center is a servant of the church, but not a church in its own right. It has no proprietary theology and is not an evangelical movement. The Fuller Center welcomes people of all creeds and beliefs to be part of its ministry and does not discriminate on the basis of religious belief in the selection of beneficiary families.
In order to preserve its Christian character, The Fuller Center urges its Covenant Partners to seek people who are willing to fully endorse its Christian principles to serve as directors and in other leadership positions.
The Fuller Center is a people-to-people partnership that brings families and communities in need together with volunteers and resources to build decent, affordable homes. The Fuller Center is committed to the development and uplifting of families and communities, not just the construction and rehabilitation of houses.
One of the miracles of a Fuller Center work site is how people come together for a common good, putting aside their differences of religious doctrine, politics, race, social standing, age and gender. The inclusive nature of the Gospel is dramatically demonstrated as a Fuller Center house is being built.
But the result of a thoughtful project is more than just improving the material well-being of the beneficiary family. The house itself provides a place of refuge in which the family can grow. If the family is properly nurtured and taught, the discipline of the house payment will result in a general improvement in the family’s financial well being. But a decent home in an unwelcoming community becomes a fortress. The Fuller Center seeks to rebuild communities, creating a safe, clean and healthy neighborhood for its families to call home.
The Fuller Center and Covenant Partners build, renovate and repair simple, decent and affordable houses with people who are living in conditions that are inadequate and who are unable to secure decent housing by conventional means.
The Fuller Center works with families who have no other recourse to homeownership. They are, by definition, the poor. What they need are simple, decent and affordable homes. Covenant Partners are asked to build homes with these principles in mind.
It is likely that most of the Covenant Partner’s leaders, committee members and volunteers will be of greater economic means than the families they serve, and it will be their natural tendency to build houses that reflect their own needs and wants. This can result in incremental increases in the cost of the homes they build, which will then result in houses that require “wealthier” buyers. The extra costs will also limit the number of houses that the Covenant Partner can afford to build.
The families we seek to build for, those who live in decrepit, unsafe, unhygienic or overcrowded conditions, are greatly blessed by having a simple, decent and affordable home. By containing costs the Partner Organization avoids building houses that the poor can’t afford or that become burdens to them. Each dollar so saved is one that can go towards helping another family in need.
The Fuller Center selects homeowner families according to criteria that do not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, or ethnic background. All homeowners contribute “sweat equity”, meaning that they work hand-in-hand with the Covenant Partner and its volunteers to build or renovate their home.
Homeowner family selection is among the most critical tasks facing a Covenant Partner. While we do not discriminate on the basis of race, creed or ethnic background, we do select on the bases of need, willingness to partner and ability to repay a modest mortgage. Families who fail to meet any of these criteria are not candidates for a Fuller Center home.
NEED is defined by two factors: (1) the current living conditions of the family are inadequate due to substandard conditions or issues of safety, hygiene or overcrowding; and (2) the absence of other resources to obtain adequate housing due to the family’s economic condition.
WILLINGNESS TO PARTNER refers to the families’ active participation in the construction of their own home through sweat equity and their willingness to make their mortgage payments in a timely, regular way. (Note—family members with disabilities that restrict their ability to do construction work should be given other assignments that they can perform.)
ABILITY TO PAY means that the family has sufficient income, through whatever legal means, to pay the mortgage. This necessarily means that we cannot build or renovate houses for all of those in need—we are working with a specific subsection of the poor—but we must work towards assuring that we reach out to families of the greatest economic need that we can.
We must always remember, though, that families with a history of poverty come with special needs and issues. Most lack a basic knowledge of financial matters, and some have lost initiative and a sense of self-worth due to years of welfare dependency. So we must select families with the greatest potential for satisfying the basic selection criteria and then commit ourselves to a comprehensive program of family nurture, financial literacy training and homebuyer counseling. It is through this comprehensive approach that The Fuller Center seeks to be not just an affordable housing provider, but a creator of true and abiding change.
The Fuller Center sells houses to selected families on terms they can afford, with no profit or interest charged. House payments are used for the construction or renovation of additional homes.
Fuller Center Partners can provide homeownership for families of very limited means because (1) we build simple, decent and affordable houses; and (2) we don’t charge interest or profit. The Bible is clear in stating that we should not charge interest of the poor and, as a Christian ministry, this is counsel that we take very seriously.
But we do charge families for the cost of their new or rehabilitated home for a number of real and compelling reasons:
People naturally esteem what they sacrifice for and ultimately disdain that which comes with no effort.
Important byproducts of helping build and then pay for a house are dignity and a sense of self-worth, attitudes that typical welfare and giveaway programs diminish.
Making timely, regular mortgage payments, coupled with financial literacy training, can create disciplines that result in an overall improvement in the families’ economic condition.
As all house payments are used for the construction and rehabilitation of additional housing, the beneficiary families become more than recipients of goodwill. They become donors, sharing their blessing with others.
It is important to note that the Covenant Partner has an obligation to the beneficiary family and to the other families it serves, to not be too forgiving in the matter of collecting mortgage payments. There are times when circumstances conspire against us all, making it difficult to meet obligations. The poor are especially susceptible to such situations. But families cannot be allowed to flout the program, and those who are willingly negligent in making their payments should be managed firmly, even if doing so results in foreclosure. It is unfair to other homeowners and to those in need who await our ministry, to do otherwise.
The Fuller Center is a global partnership. In recognition of and commitment to that global partnership, each Covenant Partner is asked to contribute at least 10 percent of its cash contributions to The Fuller Center’s international work. Funds specifically designated by a donor for local work may be excluded from the tithe calculation.
The prophet Malachi made a great promise to those who pay their tithes: that the windows of heaven would be opened and blessings pour out upon them. Tithing is one of the basic, miraculous, principles of Biblical economics: by giving we are enriched.
All Fuller Center Covenant Partners are expected to raise their own resources to the extent possible. Some Partners, though, are working in places where local resources are more limited and the culture of charitable giving less developed. To assure that these Partners have the funds necessary to do their work, all Partners, are asked to tithe of their donated income. Some donations come with specific restrictions on how they are used, and these are, of course, exempt. But Partners are urged to share the concept of tithing with their donors so that they know that their gifts will not only aid local families, but others in distant places.
Tithing should be spiritual undertaking, and tithes should be given joyfully. The Fuller Center commits that all tithing funds will go directly to the house building work of other Covenant Partners.
The Fuller Center does not seek and will not accept government funds for the construction of houses. The Fuller Center welcomes partnerships with governments that include accepting funds to help set the stage for construction, provided that doing so does not limit our ability to proclaim our Christian witness, and does not create dependency or undue control on the Covenant Partner. Setting the stage means the donation of land and/or houses for rehabilitation, providing infrastructure for streets, walks and utilities, and assistance with administrative expenses. These limitations do not apply to government funds coming from third parties who have sole discretion over their use.
The Fuller Center supports government housing initiatives and appreciates the important role government plays in the overall goal of eliminating poverty housing. But we feel that caution is needed in defining the role of government funds in the work that we do. Government funds always come with extensive paperwork, creating a diversion of time and talent to complete. Some government funds carry restrictions that impact our Christian witness. And government funds are fickle—organizations that depend too heavily on them are subject to financial instability. So we don’t directly accept government funds for house building. We will accept government funds that flow through a third party and come with no limitations.
We also accept government assistance in areas that lie within their natural scope such as property acquisition, infrastructure placement—those things that “set the stage” for house building, as long as that participation is not restrictive of our Christian ministry.
The Fuller Center supports the Greater Blessing Plan, which encourages beneficiaries of lower-cost home repairs or renovations to repay that cost over time on terms they can afford, but without a loan agreement. Gift “payments” are made monthly, providing the beneficiary the opportunity of receiving the greater blessing of giving, not just receiving.
The Lord taught that it is more blessed to give than to receive. He didn’t say that receiving was wrong, but that giving was more blessed. This is one of the reasons that we write mortgages on the houses that we build.
Some of our rehabilitation/renovation work, though, is done at a relatively low cost, and the imposition of a mortgage is unnecessary. In such cases we suggest the Greater Blessing Plan through which the cost of repair is “repaid” as a donation in pre-agreed monthly installments. The beneficiary family is provided with a Greater Blessing Box containing pre-addressed envelopes equal to the number of months that the family needs to “repay”. Each month the family makes its donation, receiving the blessing of giving.
There is no note or lien with this plan and the “repayment” depends on the good will of the beneficiary family. The gifts are dedicated to the rehabilitation or construction of other houses.
AGREEMENT TO COVENANT
By our signatures below, both parties affirm that they agree to and will abide by the provisions of this Covenant.
FOR THE COVENANT PARTNER:
I, _______________________________, am authorized by the unanimous vote of the Board of Directors of _________________________________________________ (Covenant Partner) to sign this Covenant on its behalf in accordance with a resolution by that Board accepting the provisions of the Covenant.
To assure that the leadership of the Covenant Partner understands and endorses the provisions of this Covenant we ask that it be accepted by a unanimous vote of the board of directors. We may ask you to renew the Covenant from time to time so that we are all reminded of the basic principles we embrace.
FOR THE FULLER CENTER FOR HOUSING
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