Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project’s 40th new home exemplifies ministry, partnerships

Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project’s 40th new home exemplifies ministry, partnerships

(Photo: Homeowners Rodney and Carmen Lott with the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project’s Kim Roberts and Robin Pierre at Friday’s dedication.)

Just as Rodney and Carmen Lott tried to explain on Friday afternoon how the nearly complete new home just a few steps away from them would change their lives, they were interrupted. A florist was there to deliver a housewarming plant — a gift from their new next-door neighbor, Rachael.

They were getting used to such interruptions. Since volunteers began raising the walls on their new home just a few days earlier on June 18, 2018, the project was hit with a slew of positive surprises and unexpected blessings on a daily basis — in addition to all of the hard work and blessings that paved the way for the project in the first place.

The entire build was a conglomeration of everything that makes the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project one of the most thriving in the United States. Another neighbor rode down the street to the work site along with his poodle on a zero-turn mower each morning to deliver waters for the dozens of volunteers, most of whom came from the Chattahoochee Valley, but a team of 10 came from Pennsylvania — including house leaders Barry and Amy Stuck. Several area churches supported the build and sent youth volunteers. Other volunteers included men from New Birth Ministries’ transitional program. Nearby West Point Mayor Steve Tramell also was a house leader. And Chambers County Sheriff Sid Lockhart grilled burgers for all of the volunteers on Friday’s dedication day. Dozens more, too many to list, also worked on the home.

In-kind gifts such as OSB from Norbord, shingles from World Vision, insulation (and employee volunteers) from Knauf, HVAC from 4 Seasons Heating and Air, countertops from A&X Granite & Marble, paint from Behr and enough Hardie Board for this home — plus two more planned for September — means the house will be even more affordable as the Lotts repay the costs of building the home with a zero-percent interest mortgage that will go toward helping others in the community get the same hand-up. The Lotts cannot wait to make their first payment.

“We realize how special this is — how much love this is,” Carmen said. “Everybody’s here. It’s been amazing. We didn’t quite realize what The Fuller Center did until we got involved. Now we’re excited about the next house and that we get to help.”

“It’s a fresh start,” added Rodney, who said they had been renters for the past ten years.”It’s a place to call our own, and it’ll be paid for in 20 years. I can’t even describe how humbling it is. We love The Fuller Center and encourage everyone to get involved.”

Chattahoochee Fuller Center President Curt Johnson said the teamwork and community involvement seen this week is no coincidence but the result of years of cultivating relationships and producing results. He added that this project’s homeowner partners have many friends throughout the community, only increasing the volunteer interest and financial support.

“We had so many people come together, so many businesses and so many industries, and a lot of our individual donors came forward when they found out who the homeowners were,” Johnson said.

“We so blessed to live in the community of Valley-West Point-Lanett,” CFCP Executive Director Kim Roberts said. “We’re called The Greater Valley for a reason. There’s a lot of great people here, a lot of great businesses. … It’s just been amazing to see, even with the heat, what can be done when a little bit of love is spread.”

Indeed, the heat was oppressive all week long, yet the volunteers and leaders fought through it and have the home nearly ready for the Lotts to move in — something they will do in July. Even though he and his Pennsylvania crew are more used to milder summer temperatures, house captain Barry Stuck had no complaints.

Pennsylvania crew

“Yeah, you’re tired and you’re sweaty, but it’s a sense of accomplishment that you’re really helping somebody, and the homeowners really appreciate it,” Stuck said. “It’s just the satisfaction of being able to work with a homeowner and just to help them maybe start a better life. They have a need, and we have a gift to be able to work with our hands. It’s just nice to be able to come and help them get a fresh start.”

“Oh, it has been sooo hot,” said Roberts, a lifelong Southerner. “We have been spoiled by the air-conditioner. But you know what — when you see people continue to work in this kind of weather, they love what they do.”

Like the CFCP’s Roberts, Rodney Lott is a double-amputee. The amputations were necessary to stop the spread of a bone disease.

“We’re soul buddies because we’re amputees,” he said of his relationship with Roberts, whom he first met at the CFCP’s ReUse Store in Lanett, Alabama, where items from furniture to tools to clothes can be found at huge discounts with profits benefiting the CFCP’s work. “I’ve known Kim for several years. Everything in our house came from the ReUse Store, just about.”

Also like Roberts, he deals with his condition with a sense of humor and a never-ending drive to serve others and share the love he has for everyone he meets.

“‘I fought a bone disease for years, and they were taking off a little at a time,” he recalls “We prayed about it and were sad for a minute, but it’s been a blessing. It’s allowed me to talk with people who are going to lose their leg or have lost a leg and don’t want to wear the prosthetics. God opened a door for me to talk with them.”

Each day of the blitz build — as with almost every Fuller Center build across the nation and around the world — began with a devotion. Friday was Rodney’s turn to deliver the devotion. He focused on one word: wanted.

“God doesn’t need us — He wants us,” Rodney said. “God didn’t need anybody here — He wanted these people here to show up to work. What a powerful word. We’ve seen all these people come out because they wanted to, because they love God. … It’s awesome just to be a child of God and just to know that there are people who love you.”

RELATED LINK: Valley Times-News editorial — “Millard Fuller would be proud of the CFCP”

Friday dedication day photo gallery:

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National Spelling Bee winning word an easy one for us: k-o-i-n-o-n-i-a

National Spelling Bee winning word an easy one for us: k-o-i-n-o-n-i-a

I’ve always been a decent speller and utterly dominated our weekly class spelling bees in fifth grade. The reward for winning was five lollipops, which meant I made friends very easily back then. Hey, if you can can’t win friends with personality, just bribe them with candy.

But the kids who compete in the annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee are incredible. I’m not even sure most of these are real words they have to spell — more like somebody spilled their Scrabble tiles on the floor … all of the tiles.

Amazingly enough, last night’s winning word was a piece of cake for me. I’ve seen it over and over and over for the past seven years. It was “koinonia” — a word of Greek origin that means “Christian fellowship or communion, with God or, more commonly, with fellow Christians.” I know that word because Millard and Linda Fuller started the world’s affordable housing movement a few miles from here at Koinonia Farm, an intentional Christian community founded by theologian Clarence Jordan. And Spelling Bee champ Karthik Nemmani of McKinney, Texas, had no problem spelling the word, either.

Granted, I might not have had much luck in the other rounds of the bee, including trying to spell the word — “Bewusstseinslage” (again, clearly a Scrabble accident) — that knocked out the runner-up. As soon as the pronouncer gave me the word, I’d probably just say “gesundheit” and walk off the stage.

Anyway, check out this fun little 2-minute clip from ESPN, which airs the Bee, including the moment when Nemmani correctly spelled the winning word:

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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LEGACY BUILD 2018: Volunteers talk about why they’ve come to serve others this week

LEGACY BUILD 2018: Volunteers talk about why they’ve come to serve others this week

(Craig Threatt of Americus is helping the Wright family build their new home at the 2018 Millard Fuller Legacy Build.)

On Monday, we told you about some of the international volunteers who have come from places such as Nicaragua, Peru and Haiti to help Americans build homes at the 2018 Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Americus, Georgia.

On Tuesday, we chatted via Facebook Live with the leaders of our newest partners from Maunabo, Puerto Rico. Fuller Center for Housing Global Builders teams are lined up to help the area hardest hit by Hurricane Maria, but Milagros Lebron and Eneida Santiago have been busy this week helping their fellow Americans build new homes here in Georgia.

Today, we’re visiting with some of the volunteers who have come from various states — as well as folks from right here in Americus — to find out the answer to one simple question that we put to each of them: “Why are you serving here in Americus this week at the Legacy Build?” Here are their responses:

Roger Theobald (Las Vegas, Nevada)

“Because I like the people who work for The Fuller Center — they’re good people who’ve got their heads in the right place to help the communities, and that’s hard to find these days. It’s a pleasure to be here. It’s good work. You sleep good at night. Work is a good thing. I like to stay busy and do good work instead of just wandering around. It’s more important to be part of a solution than a problem.”

Wendy Peacock (Americus, Georgia)

“It’s a way to give back to our community and encourage families who live here locally that they are part of a larger community of love and concern.”

 

Diane Bies (Evansville, Indiana)

“I just love it. It’s amazing how good it makes you feel to be here with all of these fantastic people. This is truly a vacation to be able to do this. This recharges me for the rest of the year. I’m not a beach person. This is where my heart is, for sure, and I’m happiest when I’m here. I really am. I called home and told my mother’s friend that I was on a construction site building a house for the week. She said that didn’t make her very happy. But I said, oh, I am in Heaven! She said, ‘OK, then, I’m happy!'”

Craig Threatt (Americus, Georgia)

“I’m here to help build these houses, and I know the Wright family. It’s a good process. It’s coming along, and it’s going to look real nice. I have some construction experience, but I’m still learning as I go.”

Joel Palmquist (River Falls, Wisconsin)

“I had the pleasure of being able to meet with and work with Millard years ago, and this is the first Legacy Build that I’ve been on. It’s just a chance to honor his legacy. It’s my first Legacy Build, but I’d volunteered before in Americus, so it’s kind of neat to come back and see after 25 to 30 years the changes and maybe being able to see some of the folks from back then, too. This is the heart of it.”

Maryann Glass (Malvern, Pennsylvania)

“My motivation is for the people to have a good home to live in. I rented a house for many, many years, and I think it’s very important for you to have your own home. It gives you more of a sense of pride.”

Michael Oliphant (Hayesville, North Carolina)

“I wanted to join a blitz build because it’s something I’ve heard about forever, and I’ve never been involved in trying to build a house so quickly, so it’s a learning experience for me. I plan to help lead a trip to Nicaragua (with the Fuller Center Global Builders program), and have a good group forming for that. It’s all about having a good time while you’re building a house and helping a family have a good place to live.”

Roger Werner (St. Johns, Florida)

“I came to give back. I’ve been very blessed with everything that the Lord’s given me and the skill that He’s given me in being a carpenter. I get more out of this than I give.”

Annette Metz (Cumming, Georgia)

“Why are we here?! Because we love it! You get the satisfaction of knowing that you finished a project or got it as far as you could get it and that somebody will enjoy it.”

 

Peter Meyer (Plainview, Minnesota)

“Life’s been good to me. I’ve had good health, and I’ve worked and made quite a little money in my life, and I don’t need any more, and I’m retired. So, why not help somebody else?”

 

View photo galleries from the
2018 Millard Fuller Legacy Build here.

LEGACY BUILD 2018: Family sees love pour in from all corners during home build

LEGACY BUILD 2018: Family sees love pour in from all corners during home build

(Photo: Legacy Build homeowner partners James and Mildred Wright with their sons Joshua (left) and Jeremy)

Christian theologian Clarence Jordan — who inspired Millard and Linda Fuller with the partnership principles that drive The Fuller Center for Housing’s success — once wrote: “What the poor need is not charity, but capital; not case workers but co-workers.”

Fuller Center homeowner partners repay the costs of building simple, decent homes on terms they can afford, over time, with no interest charged and no profit made. So, it is an empowering hand-up but not a gift. It is not charity in the sense of a handout. It is enlightened charity that uplifts.

Fuller Center homeowner partners also must contribute hundreds of hours of “sweat equity” in the building of their homes. James and Mildred Wright — along with their teenage sons Joshua and Jeremy — are putting in plenty of sweat equity this week at the 2018 Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Americus. Fortunately, they have plenty of co-workers in the process as volunteers from across the nation and a few other countries are working alongside them.

“It’s wonderful,” James said Tuesday morning as the second day of building got under way. “It’s a wonderful thing that people come from all over the world to help you, to help you improve your living conditions. If I need to go somewhere to help someone, that’s what I’ll do because it’s the right thing to do — to show love. There’s not enough love like they used to be. Love will get you a long way, and that’s all I see around here — love.”

James Wright digs where his family’s front porch will be.

That love is coming from co-workers like Sophie Luedi, Millard and Linda Fuller’s granddaughter, a Florida native who now is attending school in California. It comes from as far away from Peru with the help of volunteers like Zenon Colque and Vitaliano Enquiquez. It comes from Maunabo, Puerto Rico — in the area of the island hardest hit by Hurricane Maria — with volunteers Milagros Lebron and Eneida Santiago. More love comes from New York, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Virginia, Minnesota and other places, including locals from Americus, Georgia.

All that love means that the Wrights will no longer live at the mercy of landlords.

“Our current living situation is not a place that a person really wants to be,” James said. “We thank God for The Fuller Center helping us build a house. The place we were renting from other people, they weren’t keeping it up. It was raining in the house, with roaches in the house and mice. So the situation was real bad.”

As soon as the family gets settled into the home, they will concentrate on their next step upward — getting the boys enrolled in technical school to learn a trade. He credits all the love coming their way and the improvements in their lives to a renewed commitment to Jesus and living right.

“They’re very excited that we’ll have something new and different to live in,” he said of the two hard-working teens, who will continue to live with them until they are self-sufficient in their careers. “This is a real improvement. Once you get to know Jesus, you start living right. They say if you live better, you do better. And that’s our experience right now.”

LEGACY BUILD 2018: International leaders enhance perspective by volunteering in U.S.

LEGACY BUILD 2018: International leaders enhance perspective by volunteering in U.S.

(Photo: Haiti’s Geral Joseph with Peru’s Vitaliano Enriquez)

Volunteers with the Fuller Center’s Global Builders program have contributed greatly to the home-building efforts in countries around the world — including such places as Haiti, Peru and Nicaragua. Representatives of those three Fuller Center for Housing international partners are in Americus, Georgia, this week helping Americans build homes for a change.

Geral Joseph, who has done an outstanding job leading The Fuller Center’s work in Pigñon, Haiti, is enjoying a week of not being the boss as a volunteer at the 2018 Millard Fuller Legacy Build.

“I’m very happy to come and see how the volunteers feel when they come down to Haiti.” Joseph said. “It’s the first time that I’m volunteering to build a house. It’s like giving something back to the American people because mostly they are coming down to help the Haitians. I think it’s my time to come help build a house.

“It’s very different,” he added, “but I wanted to feel like someone who comes to help as a volunteer. I think this will help me change a lot things because I’m coming to learn, too.”

Jose Santos

One thing Joseph learned is that it can get cold in Americus in April as the workday started with temperatures around 40 degrees. Jose Santos Rodriguez, who helps lead The Fuller Center’s work in Nicaragua could feel Joseph’s pain and then some.

“I’m freezing to death,” said Santos, whose first visit to the United states, first plane ride and first trip out of Nicaragua was last April at the Higher Ground on the Bayou blitz build in Hammond, Louisiana. He was happy to return to the United States for another round of build — and he was even happier when the sun began to warm the job site by the time lunch rolled around.

“At the beginning, it was hard, but it’s getting nicer,” he said of the weather, adding that he is happy to return the favor after hundreds of Americans have come to help his homeland. “The Americans have helped a lot to build our community.”

It also is a practical learning experience.

“This is very different than building in Nicaragua because we build with blocks and concrete,” he said. “Here, you use a lot of wood, so I’m learning a lot. It’s also important because you learn how to work together, as brothers and friends. You show us how to work as friends and brothers and improve the community.”

Zenon Colque

Zenon Colque’s relationship with Millard and Linda Fuller goes back to the early 1980s, and he now leads The Fuller Center’s work in Peru. His last Legacy Build volunteer experience was in 2011 in Minden, Louisiana. This time, he brought along a Peruvian colleague, Vitaliano Enriquez, who handles accounting for the covenant partner in Peru.

“I came to work in the U.S. to understand the feeling when Americans go to other countries, what they need when they go to foreign countries and know whether we are prepared in Peru for them,” Colque said. “This is just the first day, but I’m sure that in a week I will understand better. When we receive groups from America and other countries, we will be much better prepared.”

Colque’s experience with Millard and Linda Fuller’s affordable housing ministry dates back to the early 1980s, and he has spent much time in the United States. While he speaks English well, Enriquez knows almost no English but is finding that it is not a huge barrier on the job site.

“It’s very satisfying for me to do this kind of work — it’s not my everyday job,” Enriquez said through Colque, who is serving as his interpreter for the week. “It may not be easy, but there are ways to communicate with others using the hands and the face.”

By the time these Legacy Build homes are dedicated at 4 p.m. Friday, they will be joined by leaders from The Fuller Center’s new partner in Puerto Rico and our leadership from El Salvador.

View a photo gallery from Monday’s action at the 2018 Millard Fuller Legacy Build.

Dreams of Christian leaders Dr. King, Millard Fuller intersect in visible ways

Dreams of Christian leaders Dr. King, Millard Fuller intersect in visible ways

There is an intersection of two main roads on the south side of Americus, Georgia, this small town where the world’s affordable housing movement began and where The Fuller Center for Housing is headquartered. The streets at the intersection bear the names of two great Christian leaders — Martin Luther King Jr. and Millard Fuller.

The Fuller Center’s simple offices are housed at 701 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, about a mile from the intersection. It was 50 years ago today that we lost Dr. King to an assassin’s bullet in Memphis, Tennessee. Today, our address here on the highway named after a man who dedicated his life to righting injustices and empowering change through determined nonviolent activism is particularly significant.

Dr. King knew that the Civil Rights Movement at its core was a grass-roots movement and was the first to credit the men and women of all races and backgrounds for making change possible. We, too, are building a better world by putting faith into action with grass-roots principles and dedicated supporters who give their time, money and passion to this ministry. These foot soldiers make change possible.

As a wealthy white businessman hailing from Lanett, Alabama, at the time of Dr. King’s seminal “I Have a Dream” speech, Millard Fuller may have seemed an unlikely man to someday be honored with the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award, an award that would be bestowed upon him by Georgia Gov. Zell Miller in 1992 at the State Capitol in Atlanta — the city where Dr. King’s body, but not his dream, was laid to rest. In the second half of the 1960s, though, Dr. King and Millard Fuller were pursuing the same dream — ending poverty.

Millard and his wife Linda gave away their fortune to serve God. They did not know at the time exactly how they would serve God, but they would soon discover their path at Koinonia Farm, an intentional Christian farming community just south of Americus. It was at this racially integrated farm — a radical concept in these parts back then — that they would learn from theologian Clarence Jordan that “What the poor need isn’t charity, but capital; not case workers, but co-workers.” The Fullers saw the light.

In 1968 — the same year Dr. King was assassinated — they launched Koinonia Partnership Housing and the Fund for Humanity. That was the origin of Habitat for Humanity and later The Fuller Center for Housing, the two affordable housing ministries founded by Millard and Linda.

Dr. King, meanwhile, launched the Poor People’s Campaign in 1967, leading a new war on poverty. Both King and the Fullers worked tirelessly to lift families out of economic despair. They provided hope to individuals and communities. They inspired generations. At times, they grew frustrated and impatient while pursuing their dream. Yet, they knew that Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 26:11 that the poor would always be with us was not an excuse to quit trying to help them. In fact, it was one of Jesus’ most frequent counsels.

Dr. King worked to lift the poor right up until the day an assassin’s bullet struck him down on April 4, 1968. Millard Fuller worked toward a similar dream right up until the day he died from an aortic aneurysm on February 3, 2009. Had it not been for that bullet in Memphis, there is little doubt that the paths of these two great Christian leaders and tireless servants of God — one a Nobel Peace Prize recipient and one a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient — would have crossed, likely often. We can only imagine what it would have been like to hear two of America’s greatest and most inspirational orators share a pulpit or a stage. They both could command an audience, and they both inspired generations to seek peaceful change and build a better world — especially for the poor among us.

Their lives may have never intersected, but their dreams most certainly did. We see it every day through the efforts of everyone involved in this grass-roots ministry across this great country and around the world. The poor are still among us, and we are still called to help them. Should we ever need to be reminded, there are a couple of roads joined together here in Americus — the only place in the world where such named thoroughfares intersect — that offer us direction unlike any other.

VIDEO: Millard Fuller speaks after being presented the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award in 1992

Why would an atheist support this Christian ministry? Volunteer is happy to explain

Why would an atheist support this Christian ministry? Volunteer is happy to explain

The Fuller Center for Housing is an unashamedly and enthusiastically ecumenical Christian housing ministry. Our Mission Statement clearly states that we are “faith-based and Christ-centered.”

However, we do not use the term Christian as a restrictive limitation of our approach. It is, in fact, just the opposite. Our supporters and volunteers do not have to be Christians, nor do our homeowner partners. We’ve built with Jewish and Muslim families in the United States, Hindus in India, Buddhists in Nepal and nonbelievers, too. Founder Millard Fuller believed that is how Jesus would have us preach the Gospel — through actions that show love for all of God’s people. We believe Christianity is about opening windows instead of closing doors.

The Fuller Center’s ecumenical nature not only brings together people from all corners of the spiritual world but also people from across philosophical and political spectra. Work sites often have extreme liberals working alongside staunch conservatives and Christians teaming up with nonbelievers, all in perfect harmony. Many become friends for life. It’s rather refreshing to see folks with such different perspectives rallying together these days.

The question is why are people who come from so many different points of view so comfortable under The Fuller Center for Housing’s very big tent? As the Director of Communications for The Fuller Center, I’ve come to the conclusion time and time again that the answer is because no one is against helping people help themselves — and that hand-up-instead-of-a-handout philosophy is at the very heart of how The Fuller Center helps families have simple, decent places to live.

No one is against helping people help themselves — and that hand-up-instead-of-a-handout philosophy is at the very heart of how The Fuller Center helps families have simple, decent places to live.

Still, I’ve sought out other philosophies on why The Fuller Center is able to bring so many people together. I’ve received many responses to our recent Faith in Action survey from Christians explaining how working with The Fuller Center has enhanced or restored their faith. We also got one from a Jewish woman praising the work of Christians at the 2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Indianapolis. One of our latest responses comes from a man who considers himself an atheist — although, as he puts it, “but not in the militant sense. I respect others’ beliefs and enjoy discussing all forms of spirituality and faith.”

Matt Wicks of Pennsylvania got acquainted with The Fuller Center when his cousin told him how wonderful an international home build could be. He then signed up for a Fuller Center Global Builders trip to Peru that was led by Sarah Bond-Yancey last year.

This was Matt’s original response to our survey: “Regardless of religious affiliation or faith-system, I strongly believe that there is a fundamental right for all people to have a safe, clean, decent place to live, raise their families; a space they can claim as their own. Our world is becoming increasingly smaller and our exposure to different cultures and peoples requires a broader sense of the global village. It is our responsibility to help our fellow man and raise the standard of housing and life for all peoples of the world.”

Matt struck me as the insightful and reflective sort, so I asked if he would mind chatting further about his experience with The Fuller Center for Housing. He generously agreed to a question-and-answer session. As you can read in the following Q&A, I was right — his responses are indeed insightful and reflective:

Q: What did you feel like was the biggest thing you gained personally out of this experience?
A: Having had some previous experience with international travel, I knew I wanted to share in the opportunity to learn more about the people and culture of Peru first-hand. What surprised me was that in addition to gaining that insight and thoroughly enjoying the experience was the deep effect that the build, the charitable aspects and being able to see first-hand all the things we as Americans take for granted on a daily basis. It sounds trite, but what I gained most of all is perspective.

How would you describe yourself spiritually and does it fit into common labels we like to slap on folks, such as “Christian” or “atheist”, etc.?
I have never really thought of myself in spiritual terms, but frankly this experience allowed me to spend time with people of various spiritual backgrounds and viewpoints and what I learned was that I am probably far more spiritual than I have allowed myself to believe. I don’t know that there is a proper label, but the trip reaffirmed my sense of connectivity between all people, that we are all connected be it in spirit, in nature, in shared origin, the commonalities far outweigh the differences. I would likely say the term atheist applies to me, but not in the militant sense. I respect others’ beliefs and enjoy discussing all forms of spirituality and faith.

A  lot of folks who aren’t fans of religion often say they see it as anti-this and anti-that and full of condemnation. What do you think religious groups could do to enhance their image or promote positivity? (For instance, Millard Fuller preached what he called the “Theology of the Hammer,” because he believed that actions speak louder than words.)
Many of those that I traveled with identified strongly as Christians, which normally would have been an immediate turnoff for me, but I found them very open and inclusive, non-judgmental. This initial approach provided me a sense of comfort in expressing myself, and I felt as though my opinions, although different, were heard and valued. It’s hard to identify Christians vs. non-Christians when everyone is working hard, covered in dirt and feeling good about the cause and the effort. Actions not only speak louder than words, but a shared goal, regardless of the motivation for attaining it is an equalizer that brings people together.

What do you like most about The Fuller Center for Housing and how it works?
I was very thankful for our group leaders (Sarah and Sean). I felt as they represented The Fuller Center extremely well both from a welcoming and organizational view. Our local host (Zenon Colque) was obviously well-experienced in the builds and dealing with a variety of people. He certainly represented the group well also. I think the premise of simply going to a place to work directly with the people is far and away the thing I enjoyed the most. It was not disconnected, and I felt like I was really contributing to the local group in a meaningful way instead of from afar as many charities seem to feel.


 

Thanks again to Matt Wicks for sharing his thoughts. If you would like to talk about your Fuller Center-related faith experiences, from whatever perspective you might have, please click here and take our survey.

My chat with Peru’s Zenon Colque, who visited Fuller Center headquarters in Americus, Georgia, last month: