NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — With a bandage above his left eye and a large, red welt below it, former President Jimmy Carter was greeted by a cheering crowd Monday morning as he prepared to help build a home with Habitat for Humanity in Nashville.
Carter fell at home on Sunday, requiring 14 stiches, but he did not let his injuries keep him from participating in his 36th building project with the nonprofit Christian housing organization. He turned 95 last Tuesday, becoming the first U.S. president to reach that milestone.
Before construction began, Carter led a morning devotion for a group of several hundred volunteers.
He walked slowly across the uneven, muddy ground to the stage helped by a cane and several people who were nearby to steady him. Once seated, Carter, who still teaches Sunday school twice a month at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia, spoke in a clear voice, peppering his inspirational message with jokes.
He spoke about Jesus' brother James who taught that "if your life is not filled with peace, joy and thanksgiving, it's your fault.'"
Carter said God gives us life and freedom. "With our freedom, every one of us can make a basic decision. ... 'What kind of person do I, myself, choose to be?'"
Carter said every person "can be a complete success in the eyes of God."
Speaking about what makes a successful life, Carter reminded the crowd that Jesus was poor, and died young, abandoned by his closest friends.
"But Jesus lived a perfect life because he followed the will of God," Carter said.
Joining Carter at the building site on Monday were former First Lady Rosalynn Carter; husband and wife country music stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood; and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and First Lady Maria Lee.
The Carters worked on building corbels, a type of support bracket, for one of 21 homes that will be constructed in Nashville this week during the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. According to Habitat for Humanity an additional 12 new single-family homes and 26 new townhomes will be constructed by 2021 with funds raised through the 2019 Carter Work Project.
Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage.
Earlier in the day, just before the devotion, musician Eric Paslay played a song and joked about Carter's injury as he introduced him.
"After that bar fight, you coming out, building houses ... I love you to death," Paslay said.
This story has been corrected to show that Carter teaches Sunday school twice a month.