This ministry is all about putting faith into action — and always will be

This ministry is all about putting faith into action — and always will be

(This is part of a regular series of blog posts related to The Fuller Center’s #MoreSmilesFewerShacks 2016 year-end campaign.)

I reread the Gospel of James from the Bible today, and, sure enough, it confirmed that I had correctly recalled the main message of the book — DO SOMETHING!

As Fuller Center for Housing founder Millard Fuller liked to paraphrase virtually all of chapter 2 from James, “Faith without works is as dead as a doornail.”

When I was a very young child, my father was an aspiring preacher. Yet, I hated going to church. Then he became a home builder. And I hated being on the construction site. Obviously, God has a sense of humor as He placed me in a Christian home building ministry.

It was also the right move as this ministry has revealed to me another side of Christianity — faith in action. What I disliked about church as a child was sitting. I sat there in Sunday School. I sat there in the main service. All kinds of folks sat around me … and then went home not to put faith into action, but to put it upon a shelf. That didn’t work for me.

As I’ve heard someone say, “If you’re really a Christian, you won’t have to tell anybody — they’ll see it.”

Christianity isn’t about sitting — it’s about action. It’s not about talking — it’s about doing. The Fuller Center is not a church, but it is a servant of the church. We provide an avenue for churches and church-goers longing to put their faith into action as the Gospel of James implores, repeatedly.

Saint Francis of Assisi is quoted by some as having said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Folks argue back and forth over whether that quote should be attributed to St. Francis. But the point of the quote is inarguable. I don’t care if it came from St. Francis or his tennis partner — it makes good sense. Let your actions do the talking. Or, as I’ve heard someone else say, “If you’re really a Christian, you won’t have to tell anybody — they’ll see it.”

At The Fuller Center, you can preach the Gospel through action, and your faith can become works. Faith comes alive. We take Millard’s admonition that faith without works is as dead as a doornail very seriously. And we remain true to his vision that The Fuller Center was founded as a Christian ministry and will always be a Christian ministry.

By the way, if you’re wondering what led my dad to leave preaching for house building, it was a cow. Yes, he was on his way to preach a trial sermon at a church in west Georgia and totaled his car on a cow standing in the middle of the road. He took it as a sign from God that he actually hadn’t been called to the pulpit. I suspect the cow took it as a sign from God not to play in the road. Dad’s also the person who told me that if you’re really a Christian, folks will see it through your works. He’s now retired from preaching and home building … and he leads a Fuller Center covenant partner in Perry, Ga. Guess we’ve come full-circle.

If your church or your church group would like to know more about how to put faith into action through The Fuller Center’s Christian ministry, browse our website, or give us a call at 229-924-2900.

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Volunteer Quell Jenkins inspires others with faith, service and perseverance

Volunteer Quell Jenkins inspires others with faith, service and perseverance

Making your way around the streets of Las Peñitas, Nicaragua, is no easy task, and it only gets more difficult as you walk up the rocky, washed-out dirt paths into the fishing village where Fuller Center for Housing volunteers are helping hard-working families build simple, decent homes.

As hard as it is for volunteers to traverse those village trails that can only loosely be described as roads, it is even more difficult for Quell Jenkins. The 23-year-old is confined to a wheelchair.

But those who know Quell Jenkins were not surprised to see her volunteer to help build homes for those in need — nor were they shocked to see how hard she worked on the job site or how much inspiration she brought to every person she met along the way last month.

What Jenkins saw on those roads of Las Peñitas pales in comparison to what she has witnessed — and overcome — on the streets of New Orleans.

“I feel like God has helped me overcome a lot in my life,” the Ponchatoula, La., resident said.

What does she mean by “a lot”? Jenkins’ father died a few days before her second birthday. Her mother’s life was consumed by drugs. She grew up on the streets of New Orleans, in the projects and in the homes of various relatives. When she was 12, Hurricane Katrina struck and she lived a couple of months in California. As a teen, she joined a gang with some friends who lived in her housing project. Finally, she left the gang, got back into her grandmother’s church and recommitted herself to her schoolwork.

Then, at 17, she got into an argument with an ex-boyfriend. The young man shot her three times, leaving her paralyzed. She got out of the hospital three months before graduation, and the school allowed her to catch up on her studies and receive her diploma. But she was in a dark place.

“It paralyzed me and changed my whole life,” Jenkins said. “It was really hard for me during that time trying to figure out why God put me in this situation at such a young age. I was struggling with depression — hating myself and hating other people.”

Her sister invited her to join her church, First Baptist Church of New Orleans, in an effort to lift her spirits. There, she made friends who were full of joy and committed to serving others. Jenkins saw their Christian service as the power behind their enthusiasm for life. She began studying scriptures, was saved, and joined a church ministry to help the homeless of New Orleans.

“It was really hard for me during that time trying to figure out why God put me in this situation at such a young age. I was struggling with depression — hating myself and hating other people.” — Quell Jenkins

It was while feeding the homeless that she met Mike Chance, who was a pastor in New Jersey at the time.

“I shared my story with him, and we exchanged emails,” she recalled. “He came to New Orleans on several occasions with his family, and they’d always come pick me up. I didn’t know it, but God was tugging on his heart to take me in as his daughter.”

After the Chance family moved back to Ponchatoula, La., where Mike is a senior adult pastor at First Baptist Church, they welcomed then 19-year-old Quell into their family. She calls Linda and MIke Chance “Mom” and “Dad” and now has a brother and two sisters. But it was a new aunt in nearby Hammond, La. — Tamara Chance Danel — who inspired Jenkins to work in Nicaragua.

quell jenkins sifting sand

Quell Jenkins sifts sand in Las Peñitas.

 

Working in Nicaragua

Danel, who leads the Ginger Ford Northshore Fuller Center in Hammond, La., held a local meeting to encourage people to join her on a Fuller Center Global Builders trip to Nicaragua. In rolled Jenkins, along with three friends — Sara Rehm, Zoia Carr and Reggie Taylor, all of whom wanted to help the families of Las Peñitas.

“It was actually my idea,” Jenkins said. “Honestly, I just love missions, and I love ministry. And I know a decent home is very, very important. Stability is vital to your future and the things you can accomplish.”

Jenkins developed strong relationships with the group’s homeowner partner in Nicaragua — Lourdes — as well as with fellow team members, other residents of Las Peñitas and with the staff of the local Fuller Center that made sure Jenkins could fully participate in the weeklong project.

“God just provided everything that we needed for her to be able to be productive,” Danel said. “She stayed busy sifting sand and gravel and tying rebar and that kind of stuff. She learned a lot about construction and just really got a lot out of the trip.”

“Because I’m in a wheelchair, wherever we went it was always a little extra hard for me to do things,” Jenkins said. “But the people tried to make it as easy as possible. The Fuller Center team went above and beyond to make sure that I was comfortable and that I was included in everything. (Construction leader Jose) Santos made sure at any given moment that I had something to do. He never made me feel like I couldn’t do anything. He was always like, ‘You can do it.’ I appreciated that.”

“Because they have so little, they’re so grateful for everything. They go above and beyond. I feel like that’s something a lot of us in America are now missing because we are so spoiled.” — Quell Jenkins, talking about the residents of Las Peñitas

Fuller Center experiences ultimately are more about people than about houses, and Jenkins found that to be especially true in Las Peñitas.

“I love the Nicaraguan people, and I’m hoping to go back again one day,” she said. “They’re amazing. Because they have so little, they’re so grateful for everything. They go above and beyond. I feel like that’s something a lot of us in America are now missing because we are so spoiled.”

Alberto Maradiaga, a staffer with the local Fuller Center managing the Las Peñitas project, was so inspired by witnessing Jenkins’ efforts that her departure brought him to tears.

“Well, Quell, for me, is a role model,” said Maradiaga, who was tasked with helping Jenkins get around the village, though her friends often took care of those duties. “For me, it was a very valuable experience to see her humility, devotion and not minding being in the sunshine working with the team. My friend inspires me to be a better person more dedicated to helping those in need. Her example will live forever in my heart. For the first time, I cried seeing a volunteer leave.”

Quell Jenkins with friends Zoia Carr, Alberto Maradiaga, Reggie Taylor and Sara Rehm in Las Peñitas.

Quell Jenkins with friends Zoia Carr, Alberto Maradiaga, Reggie Taylor and Sara Rehm in Las Peñitas.

 

Putting the Bible in more hands

Jenkins now reads Bible passages every day, and she encourages others to do the same. That effort has developed into a ministry in which she and her friend Sara raise money to buy Bibles and give them to those without.

“I grew up in the church, but I never really had the thirst to read the Bible, and when I got saved I still didn’t have the thirst to read the Bible on a daily basis,” Jenkins said. “Then I met my friend Sara, and she loves her Bible. She reads it every day and takes it everywhere. I used to poke at her like, ‘We’re at the beach! Put the Bible up!’

“But she kind of rubbed off on me, and I got a thirst for the Bible,” she continued. “It just changed my whole life. You think once you get saved that you’re living for God and that’s it, but you have to continue to grow. A lot of people don’t experience the fullness of the Bible and the Word of God. On different occasions, God has shown me how much need there is for the Bible and His Word.”

“You think once you get saved that you’re living for God and that’s it, but you have to continue to grow.” — Quell Jenkins

Her thirst for the Bible was reinforced by a relationship she struck up with a Rastafarian during a mission trip to New York City last year. The Rastafarian was impressed with the way Jenkins clung to and constantly referred to a pink Bible she had received from her friend Lydia when she was saved in New Orleans.

“She’d never really heard about Jesus,” Jenkins said. “She had a lot of questions for me about Jesus. She was just so amazed with my Bible. I’d written all over it and highlighted scriptures. It was very hard, but I wound up giving it to her. She really appreciated it. I stay in contact with her, and the Bible has really opened her up to God and what Christ did for us.”

Today, Jenkins continues to give away Bibles but on a larger scale. She has launched a Go Fund Me campaign to help her raise money for her mission.

“When I started reading the Bible every day, it just changed my life,” said Jenkins, who added that she wants everyone to know that same feeling.

“This girl is somebody to watch,” Danel said.

Make a donation in Quell Jenkins’ honor.