Written by Anthony Moujaes
The partnership between the United Church of Christ and the Fuller Center for Housing has grown since the turn of the decade, bolstered by the work of both organizations rebuilding homes in impoverished and disaster-stricken areas. The partnership is poised to grow even further after a visit by nearly 50 bicyclists from the Fuller Center to the UCC Church House as they came through Cleveland on Wednesday, June 18.
The cross-country trip from Atlantic City, N.J., to Astoria, Ore., is part of a fundraising trip that will help the affected families of future disasters where both the UCC and the Fuller Center will work together again.
"We view ourselves as part of the body and servant to the church," said Ryan Iafigliola, ride coordinator and the Fuller Center's director of international field operations. "We view the church as a partner, with everyone invited to come help be part of what we are doing."
The UCC and the Fuller Center have partnered on disaster recovery efforts in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and in New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
"We've been excited to see the partnership with the UCC grow over the last couples of years," said Iafigliola. "People often ask, 'How do you decide where to go?' And the answer is, we go where we get invited."
"To work ecumenically is in our DNA," said the Rev. Mary Schaller Blaufuss, team leader for UCC Global Sharing of Resources. "The partnership with the Fuller Center is an incredible part of who we are."
The Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure began June 5 and concludes Aug. 10, with riders stopping in nine cities along the trek to build and repair homes.
The group stopped in Aurora, Ohio, on Tuesday, June 17 to help repair homes before pedaling into downtown Cleveland for Wednesday's visit. Clad in orange biking shirts with screen-printed maps of their biking adventure, the cyclists arrived mid-morning to find nourishment from an assortment of snacks, cold drinks and the welcome of the UCC's Amistad Chapel.
"The work you are doing with affordable housing makes a statement about what people can do if they give of themselves," the Rev. Geoffrey Black, general minister and president of the UCC, told the group. "I know people across the country will benefit from what you do."
The cyclists, between ages 19 and 72, come from across the United States and five other countries. Some bikers are college students on summer break, some are retired, and some are between careers. Some of them got their first bike at the beginning of the trip, and others have been biking for three or four decades. They're alike, however, in that they are biking to support the Fuller Center's mission of building and repairing homes in impoverished and disaster-stricken areas around the globe.
The Fuller Center for Housing is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing worldwide. By forming partnerships with local organizations, the Fuller Center provides the structure, guidance and support that communities need to build and repair homes for the impoverished among them.
"This trip takes that message [of eliminating poverty housing] across the country, and we stop at churches along the way, some of which will be UCC churches," said Melissa Merrill, trip leader for the Fuller Center. "On our 'days off' from biking, we're building homes."
"The work you are doing is consistent with the work here at the United Church of Christ," Black said. "We are about transforming lives—changing lives. As you go across the country, I'm sure your lives will change."