Thursday, February 5, 2009

Remembering Millard Fuller

Under the glass on my desk is a drawing of a little blue house on Vista Drive in Clemson, South Carolina. This was the first house Habitat for Humanity built in Pickens County. The recipients were African-Americans. He worked on a garbage truck after graduating from the Drug and Alcohol Abuse program. His wife worked as a Custodian in our church. They had never had their own house. We dedicated the house one Spring afternoon. After the Dedication their little girl with pigtails told me she wanted to show me her house. She took me by the hand and opened the front door and proclaimed, "This is our living room." She repeated that same statement when we came to the kitchen, the bedrooms, even the bathroom. With enormous pride she said, "This is our house." I cried all the way home that day. Once in a great while the church does something that is good and fine and saving. That happened one sunshiny day on Vista Drive.

There is another picture under the glass on my desk. It is the picture of Dora and her two children. They are standing in front of their new Habitat house in Memphis the first day they moved in. They were so very proud. At the Dedication service Dora spoke for her family. "I've been wanting a house for myself and my chirren for a long time. And just about the time I had enough money for a down payment something would happen. Somebody got sick. The old car broke down. Or I lost my job. And so I never thought I would be able to get my own house." She held up the new shiny keys to her house and said in a voice filled with emotion: "But today's the day!"

These stories could be repeated thousands of times. It would not have happened without a man named Millard Fuller. Influenced by Clarence Jordan he caught a vision of helping poor people become homeowners. In 1976 he first dreamed the dream of unheard of no-interest loans. Over the years he is responsible for building more than 300,000 homes. Over 1.5 million people have found shelter round the world because of Millard Fuller. I doubt if that little family in South Carolina or Dora and her kids in Memphis have ever heard of Millard Fuller. Never mind, the world is a better place for this man who died this week at the age of 74.


  1. Habitat homes are great gifts to those who help build them as well. Years ago my church took on a project in one of Connecticut's most blighted inner city neighborhoods. Or so we thought.

    When we arrived, started work, and began to get acquainted with the neighbors, what we discovered was something altogether different. Though down on its luck at the time, the area had once been a thriving destination for the African-American diaspora, up from the Carolinas. A cold and unfamiliar northern city, it was nevertheless a more accepting place where good jobs could be had, families started, and full lives lived.

    To the eye those days were long gone, but not so in the memories of those aging holdouts. And the hope of renewal those new families moving in brought was a wonder to behold and to remember.

    That which a man gives away often becomes his greatest possession, someone once said. Never truer than in the case of the giving -- and receiving -- that Habitat-ers experience.

  2. Thanks for these wonderful stories that honor Millard Fuller. Pray that God will raise up many other Christians -- in banking, industry, politics -- who would help to "put a roof" over so many homeless Americans, not only the poor but all those ordinary citizens trapped in financial distress.