Suffolk hosts Habitat founder

Published 9:11 pm Monday, January 19, 2009

Millard Fuller took to the small wooden podium like a preacher to a pulpit.

The 74-year-old Alabama native was speaking to an intimate crowd at Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church on Saturday night.

His smooth Southern accent was impossible to ignore as he pulled out a Bible and began reading from the third chapter in Hebrews.

“Holy brothers that share in this heavenly calling, fix your eyes on Jesus.”

He stopped reading and looked to the crowd.

“Isn’t that a wonderful thought?”

As Fuller continued reading, he continued to interject his own asides, “Isn’t that beautiful?” or even just an “Amen.”

Eventually, Fuller came to the chapter’s fourth verse, which states, “for every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.”

“And we are His house,” Fuller said as he closed his Bible and rested it on the podium. “This describes this mission we’re a part of. I feel very strongly called to this work.”

For more than three decades, “this work” has been helping lower income families have a home.

In 1976, Fuller founded Habitat for Humanity.

In 2005, after being fired from Habitat due to disputes over the organization’s future role, Fuller founded the Fuller Center for Housing – a Christian ministry aimed at ending poverty. In less than four years, the center has grown to be in 48 cities and 13 countries around the globe – including one right here in Suffolk.

“Our mission is to create clean, decent, affordable housing for low-income individuals,” said Angela Koncz, leader of the Suffolk branch of the Fuller Center. “It just becomes a part of your being. Once you build that first house and you see how much it is appreciated, you just want to do it more and so as much as you can.”

Last weekend, Suffolk was host for the first Fuller Center Partner’s and Training Conference, held at the Hilton Garden Inn and Suffolk Conference Center. Staff members from all around the country flew in for a time of work, exchanging ideas and encouragement. Fuller closed the conference with his speech Saturday night.

As Fuller spoke, one resounding theme came through: This work is not Millard Fuller’s work, but God’s work.

“We just feel God’s hand is on this work,” he said. “God is at work in the world, but so often we don’t see it, because our eyes are glazed over, our ears are stopped up. God is speaking, and if we listen, we can hear what God is saying to us.”

On Aug. 30, Fuller said, he will be celebrating his 50th anniversary with his wife, Linda. In honor of that occasion, plans to head back to his hometown to build 10 houses (building seven from the ground up and renovating three more). And he is asking his Fuller Center staff all over the world to help him build 100 houses in the same week of his anniversary.

“Have you ever heard anyone celebrate a 50th anniversary like that before?” he asked the crowd. “Well, we feel God has called us to that kind of ministry.”

For more information, visit www.fullercenter.org.