Habitat for Humanity Founder Buried in Shipping Crate, Without Headstone

During the moments I take to write this blog entry, Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity and an international beacon for the poor and the do-gooding prosperous alike, is finding his final resting place at Koinonia Farm in Georgia. He died earlier this week at 74.

Millard Fuller impacted my life profoundly — lastingly — as he did countless others.

[social_buttons]Eleven years ago, as a college student, a young American from the Midwest, I traveled to Honduras on a Habitat for Humanity International building opportunity. It was my first experience outside of my home country. It shed light on worldly truths I had never before been able to so accurately imagine.

In 2006, on a personal pilgrimage of sorts, living in a 1973 Volkswagen bus while driving thousands of miles of the American interior, I happened across Fuller (and his often-times partner, President Jimmy Carter) at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Ga.

I had stopped driving for a few days to visit the historic intentional community of Koinonia Farm. Only on arriving there had I learned the role that the Christian-based farm played in the life of Fuller. When I was told that President Carter and Fuller attend Maranatha Baptist nearby, I went to church for the first time in years.

After the church service ended, I got a chance to shake hands with Fuller (and have a photo taken with the Carters), but he was tied up in conversations. I didn’t get the chance to thank him for his legacy.

As a past visitor to Koinonia Farms, I receive e-newsletters on a regular basis. This morning, I’ve learned just how true-to-the-end Fuller is about his commitment to simplicity, efficiency and goodness. From Koinonia:

We join with the nation as we mourn the loss of Millard Fuller, a great pillar of our time. The death was sudden and we’re still in shock. He will be buried today here at the farm at 11 a.m., with the memorial service to follow later in the month. Millard came to Koinonia in the early 1960s at a crucial time in his life and his marriage. He immediately became good friends with our founder Clarence Jordan. He often said that he learned most everything from Clarence while sitting across from him, helping to milk the farm’s cows.

Together with Clarence and our neighbors, Millard started Partnership Housing, which grew up to be Habitat for Humanity International. In 2005, after being ousted from Habitat, Millard founded Fuller Center for Housing to continue his calling to provide adequate housing for the world’s poor.

Millard wanted to be buried in the same manner as was his spiritual mentor and friend Clarence. So, like our founder Clarence, Millard will be buried on Picnic Hill in a shipping crate with no significant marker for his grave.

I’ve now missed my chance to ever stand again in front of Millard Fuller and simply say what I wished I could have that Sunday morning in 2006. I guess here and now is as good as I’ll get: “Thank you, Millard.”

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