John J. Staton: Five decades of supporting Fuller ministry is all about hands-on faith

John J. Staton: Five decades of supporting Fuller ministry is all about hands-on faith

(Photo: Millard Fuller’s early work in Africa inspired the Rev. John J. Staton, who continues to support The Fuller Center for Housing’s work decades later.)


 

Editor’s note: We published this story on May 17, 2017. The Rev. Staton died on April 14 of this year, and we are re-running this story about a man who was a wonderful friend to the Fullers and a dedicated supporter of our affordable housing ministry through the years. The Rev. Staton’s obituary asks for memorial contributions to be made to The Fuller Center for Housing, which you can do in the Rev. Staton’s memory at this link.


 

When Millard and Linda Fuller founded The Fuller Center for Housing in 2005, retired pastor John J. Staton was among the earliest supporters. Of course, when the Fullers went to Africa in the early 1970s to test the concept of partnership housing, he supported them then.

Today, at age 88, he continues to give every month. He is especially proud to support a ministry that gave Millard Fuller some of the happiest years of his life as The Fuller Center gave him an opportunity to return and recommit to the grass-roots, Christian principles that he and Linda began with decades ago.

“It’s incredible what The Fuller center has done and accomplished since 2005, and I’m glad I’ve been able to play a role” Staton says from his home in Carmel, Indiana. “I get a real sense of joy every time I write a check to The Fuller Center, and it will always be so. I’ll continue to give to The Fuller Center as long as I live.”

“What The Fuller Center is doing is based on faith. Millard built things squarely on the Gospel and on faith. It appealed to me as a hands-on example of following Jesus.” — John J. Staton

Staton, who grew up in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, was Ivy League-educated at Dartmouth College, where he planned to become a doctor before going into ministry and attending Union Theological Seminary in New York City. It was that faith journey that would acquaint him with a young Millard Fuller, who also had experienced an abrupt change of direction in his life after giving up his millionaire lifestyle to serve others.

“He was deeply inspired by Clarence Jordan,” Staton says of Fuller’s relationship with mentor theologian Clarence Jordan, founder of Koinonia Farm. “I used to correspond with him even though I’d never met him, and I gave him some money for the work in Africa. That was long before they’d started Habitat or anything else.”

After the Fullers returned to the United States in 1976 and founded Habitat for Humanity, Staton’s correspondence with Millard continued. Eventually, Staton would bring Millard to speak at churches in Central Indiana and hosted the Fullers at the home he shared with wife Shirley. (Shirley Staton passed away in 2001.) After retiring from the pulpit, the Statons even came to Americus, Georgia, to volunteer with Habitat — John in development and Shirley as a guide at the Global Village and Discovery Center.

“The more I got to know Millard and Linda during those three months with Habitat, the more I admired what they were doing,” Staton says. Though he was frustrated by the Fullers’ dismissal by Habitat, he was eager to support them in their return to grass-roots, Christian principles with The Fuller Center.

“A lot of my connections to The Fuller Center are built on top of a friendship with him,” Staton says. “I believed in his mission. What The Fuller Center is doing is based on faith. Millard built things squarely on the Gospel and on faith. It appealed to me as a hands-on example of following Jesus.”

While spreading the Gospel through Millard’s “Theology of the Hammer” and by putting faith into action are what most appeals to him in supporting The Fuller Center, he also knows the importance of growing up in a decent home. He grew up in a solid middle-class home during the Great Depression, a home his parents purchased with a $10,000 inheritance from his great-grandmother.

“That was the only home I knew until I was out of college,” Staton says. “It’s still in good condition, although that lawn seemed to be huge when I had to mow it as a child. Now it looks like a postage stamp.

“But I have nothing but happy memories of that home,” he adds. “I fell in love as a senior in high school with a girl who lived just six blocks from me. I got to know every pebble in the street riding my bike back and forth between our two houses. I married that girl (Shirley, to whom he was married for 50 years) after college. I had a very happy childhood living in that house.”

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FAITH IN ACTION: Cameroon leader knows the Greater Blessing of serving others

FAITH IN ACTION: Cameroon leader knows the Greater Blessing of serving others

(This is the latest installment of our “Faith in Action” series. If you have a story of how involvement with The Fuller Center has impacted your faith, please let us know at this link.)

Angu Andreas has always been a Christian and a man of faith. Becoming a man of faith in action, however, has invigorated his spirit like never before.

He says this spiritual uplifting began in January 2015 when he joined The Fuller Center for Housing of Cameroon, one of the ministry’s newer partners on the African continent. Today, he serves as the Country Director for Fuller Center of Cameroon.

“My life has never been the same since I joined this ministry,” said Andreas, who credits Fuller Center President David Snell and Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafigliola for mentorship and support as he got started. “Each time a house is completely built, there is a feeling of relief and joy on the face of the home beneficiary — such moments remain in my heart forever. I feel like someone’s life has completely changed.”

Andreas said that Christians in Africa are enthusiastic about their worship services, but he believes that only scratches the surface of understanding God. It was only when he began serving others through The Fuller Center that he felt not just a sense of accomplishment but also of enlightenment.

Angu Andreas

“In African regions, we often have the concept that it is when we attend a church service that we can learn how to put the words of God in practice or have a better understanding of the word of God,” he said. “Reversely, I would say I have a better understanding of putting God’s words in actions when we create impact on people’s lives through our actions and work. Working with the community to build decent and affordable homes where underprivileged children, orphans and widows can live happily has been my driving force and motivation.

“I do believe there is greater blessings and inner satisfaction to serve than to be served,” he added. “There is no other work or job which would give me inner satisfaction and motivation that only comes from serving families and transforming lives.”

First new Fuller Center homes in Madagascar lift families out of poverty housing

First new Fuller Center homes in Madagascar lift families out of poverty housing

(Photo: Armand and Georgette have moved out of a slum and now live in this new Fuller Center house with their two children in Ambohimanambola, Madagascar.)

Thanks to a popular DreamWorks animated movie series, most people think of talking hippos, smart-aleck penguins and dancing lions when they think of “Madagascar.” It is indeed a wild treasure with 90 percent of its wildlife species found nowhere else on the planet.

But there is another significant percentage that is more troubling for Madagascar — 70 percent living below the poverty rate. More than seven in 10 people on the island live on less than one dollar a day. This explains the prevalence of shacks and slums across the African nation.

The Fuller Center for Housing’s new covenant partner on the ground there is working to change that, one house at a time. They began by making badly needed repairs to deteriorating homes and have now dedicated their first two new homes.

ARMAND & GEORGETTE

Armand, 57, and his wife Georgette, 51, have raised their children in slum conditions (pictured) despite having steady jobs — Armand being a security guard and Georgette an elementary school teacher. With their combined $100 a month in salaries, they could not afford to escape the slum until The Fuller Center came along.

“With our low monthly income, the bank wouldn’t accept our  request for financing to build our house,” Armand said. “For this reason, we should have lived many years in the slum.”

Then he attended a local meeting as The Fuller Center for Housing of Madagascar was getting started.

“After that meeting, hope to see my house build grew stronger within me,” he said. “The kindness that The Fuller Center team showed to us changed our disappointment to confidence. Now, my house is in a nice place, and my family is leaving the unsafe and unhealthy quarters.”

“I always dreamed of getting a house, but we had no means to achieve it until we met The Fuller Center of Madagascar,” Georgette added. “Now, I am very happy and want to say thank you to everyone.”

Their son Arnaud, 19, is glad that he will be able to finish his studies in a simple, decent home and that his parents will have a healthier life.

“There was no space at our wooden house,” he said. “The dirty water from the toilets of surrounding houses and garbage from the nearby channel came into our home when it rained. But no more, thanks to the donors who helped us build our home.”

EMILIENNE

Emilienne, 64, is an elementary school teacher who was unable to bear children, so she adopted two sons — Eddy, now 20, and Jessy, 12. Even after working hard for 30 years as a teacher, Emilienne was unable to purchase a decent home for her boys, so she rented a one-room, 172-square-foot apartment for the three of them.

“Now, my long-time dream to have a new house has become a reality,” said Emilienne (pictured with Jessy and two visiting nieces on the day she moved into her home in Ankadilalampotsy-Ankaraobato). “My children and me, we are happy and give thanks to The Fuller Center for Housing and its team. We are satisfied with the partnership and pray that the project will continue in our country. I see this as a great hope for the generation.”

Fuller Center Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafigliola has been impressed with how swiftly and independently the local group in Madagascar has begun its work, giving him great optimism for the future of The Fuller Center’s work in the country.

“We’re so excited to be working with such a fine group of people in Madagascar,” Iafigliola said. “They may be a small Fuller Center now, but their dedication and abilities make them one to watch. I can’t wait to see what God does with and through us in Madagascar.”

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