By editorial board • 

Habitat's remarkable impact stands tribute to our humanity

News-Register reporter Starla Pointer recently told the story of McMinnville Habitat for Humanity’s first 30 years through the eyes of Becka Morgan. And her words painted a powerful picture.

To summarize, Morgan was a divorced mother of 7- and 10-year-old daughters, struggling mightily to make her food service check stretch to cover groceries and rent, when she ended up sitting beside retired pastor Bernie Turner at a Habitat dinner.

Hearing her story, he encouraged her to apply for Habitat’s sweat-equity home ownership program. She did, and her acceptance in April 2002 changed her life in ways almost beyond measure.

Infused with newfound confidence and stability, she earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees by turn over the ensuing years. She went on to become a computer science professor at Western Oregon University in Monmouth.

Would any of that happened without the local Habitat chapter, founded by Turner in 1991? Hardly.

And that’s just one of an ever-mounting multitude of success stories — local, regional, national and, yes, even international — that Habitat has created since its 1976 founding in Americus, Georgia.

Habitat for Humanity International marked its 100,000-home milestone two years before the local chapter helped Morgan and her daughters into their new McMinnville residence, setting them on a new path of financial security in the process. By 2018, the tally topped 800,000, and it has been growing exponentially ever since.

Counting its work in impoverished Third World locales like Haiti and Bangladesh, Habitat figures it has now helped more than 35 million men, women and children into homes they can call their own. And the seeds were planted in one of the unlikeliest of places — the communal, biracial Koinonia Farm, founded by biblical scholar Clarence Jordan in the racially charged climate of rural Georgia in 1942.

Though deeply invested in the Baptist faith, the Jordans and other Koinonia residents were excommunicated by the local Baptist church. In addition, the fruits of their farming operation were subjected to a boycott by the local business community.

But joined by faith-motivated Alabama transplants Millard and Linda Fuller, who went on to develop the partnership housing concept and founded Habitat to carry it out, they persisted. And another Georgian with roots in farming and the Baptist faith, President Jimmy Carter, gave them a huge boost in 1984. 

It wasn’t just a one-time publicity stunt boost, either. Now in their 90s, Jimmy and his wife Rosalynn have remained active and committed members of the Habitat team.

The more ambitious, challenging and costly the project, the more we tend to turn to government to pull it off. And to be sure, our government, like others around the globe, remains a very big and important player when it comes to helping families meet their housing needs.

However, Habitat’s trajectory from the red dirt of rural Georgia to the international stage makes one thing very clear — there is also a place for people steeped in religious faith and social activism to band together in common cause, all to enormous good effect. And that’s something worth celebrating this holiday season.

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