Fuller Center for Housing volunteer team arrives in North Korea to begin work of building homes, peace

AMERICUS, Ga. (Dec. 6, 2011) – The first Fuller Center for Housing volunteer team has arrived in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to begin work on a 50-unit housing project in Osan-Ri.

Team members Frank Purvis of Georgia, Rob Beckham of Texas, Earl Martin of Virginia, Dave West of Colorado and Tim DuBois and Charlie Thell of Minnesota will be working side-by-side with North Koreans on this innovative project.

“This is unlike anything The Fuller Center has ever undertaken,” Fuller Center for Housing President David Snell said. “It is a true mission of peace. Working side-by-side with Koreans, these volunteers – and the many who follow them – will be one small part of a process to change the way Americans and Koreans see one another.”

Snell was present when ground was broken on Nov. 11, 2009, in Osan-Ri, which will be the site of 50 new Fuller Center homes that will go to the families of workers who tend to a nursery in the area. Though the North Korean system does not allow for private ownership of homes, families have a lifetime right of occupancy and can will that right to their heirs.

“This project represents a leap of faith, multiple leaps of faith,” Snell said. “The Fuller Center is stepping out with the firm belief that, while some may harshly judge us for this initiative, people of good will will rally behind it, providing the resources to make this dream a reality. It’s a leap of faith for the Koreans, as well, whose history has taught them to be skeptical of outsiders, yet they are welcoming American volunteers with graciousness and warmth.”

Snell stressed that the nonprofit Fuller Center, which works in 16 countries and more than 60 U.S. communities, will use only donations specifically designated for work in North Korea on the project.

This initiative was born of conversations between Don Mosley, founder of the Georgia-based Christian group Jubilee Partners and author of “Faith Beyond Borders”, and Dr. Han Park, director of the University of Georgia's Center for the Study of Global Issues (GLOBIS) and a respected intermediary between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the United States.

Mosley and Park brought the concept for this project to The Fuller Center, which held meetings with North Korean officials that resulted in the signing of a memorandum of understanding in July 2008.

This project was among the last endorsed by Millard Fuller, founder of The Fuller Center for Housing and Habitat for Humanity, before his death in February 2009. The project also has been endorsed by former President Jimmy Carter.

“Sometimes international relationships are based on the assumption that it is advantageous to raise the level of fear so as to evoke compliance from the other,” said another volunteer on the trip, Earl Martin of Harrisburg, Pa. “But rarely does fear lead to wise or wholesome responses. More often, fear leads to reckless or defensive behavior.

“We go, rather, with the opposite premise: that we are all likely to build healthier relationships if fear and suspicion are reduced. So we are happy for this unique opportunity to join with the people of North Korea to build houses, to build trust, to build peace.”

The Fuller Center for Housing is an ecumenical Christian ministry dedicated to lifting families out of poverty housing and into simple, decent homes on terms they can afford to pay. It was founded in 2005 by Millard and Linda Fuller.

“The Fuller Center has always been a tool of reconciliation, bringing together young and old, rich and poor, black and white, Baptists and Episcopalians, to make life a little easier for some of God’s people in need,” Snell said. “It is only natural, then, that The Fuller Center would be called to bring Americans and North Koreans together in something as noble as building new homes – decent homes in which Korean families, like families around the world, can nurture and grow.

“Jesus said, 'Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.' As Fuller Center representatives and new Korean friends go about the business of making peace, one house at a time, we can have the assurance that we are truly brothers and sisters, children of the same God.”

For more information, go to www.fullercenter.org, call 229-924-2900 or contact Director of Communications Chris Johnson at cjohnson@fullercenter.org.

Learn more about our project in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

View rare photos and videos taken during previous Fuller Center trips to North Korea.

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