More than 40 friends and family crammed inside Rhonda and Mamie Horton’s new home to celebrate God’s Goodness
by Nikki Miller, a staff writer who traveled to Tuscaloosa to document the end of the Samaritan’s Purse rebuild in the area
It was a hot day in Gordo, Ala., as I pulled my rental car onto a street where the last two home dedications were happening. Originally the Samaritan’s Purse home rebuild project was only in Tuscaloosa as a result of the tornado that ripped through the city two years ago, but when Hurricane Isaac struck the town of Gordo particularly hard, we extended our rebuild project to that community too.
I was the first person with Samaritan’s Purse to arrive for the home dedications, so I just sat in my car with the windows rolled down to wait for the others. Apparently that’s not a thing in Alabama. And within seconds I realized just how sweltering the day had become.
That’s when some people in one of our new homes came out and noticed me. At first I was surprised because I knew the homeowners hadn’t moved in yet. When these strangers heard I was from Samaritan’s Purse, they immediately invited me inside to stay cool.
It turned out that none of them was the actual homeowner who was receiving the keys to the house today. Instead, they were family—both blood-related and church-related. They had gone to the house early to set it up nicely for Rhonda Horton and her 95-year-old mother, Mamie. These people were throwing them a huge celebration complete with a pretty tablecloth and tons of platters of food.
I had been there barely there two seconds when they started offering me things. They were the nicest people I’ve ever met.
When the home dedication began, everyone decided it was too hot to stand outside like we typically do, so we all got friendly in the brand-new living room. I counted more than 40 people, not including Samaritan’s Purse staff, present for the occasion. Without a doubt, I could tell that this family was loved. Rhonda could barely hold back the tears as she expressed her gratitude to Samaritan’s Purse.
“I told [God] that my mom and I want to come home,” she said to the crowd of her closest family and friends. “And He said it was going to be OK. He was going to get me home. And today, we’re here. We’re here.”
Putting Others Before Themselves
It amazed me that Rhonda had first gone to Samaritan’s Purse to sign up to volunteer in her community before she even knew she had been considered for a new home. And then, not only did many people in her family volunteer to help build her home, but they also helped build the home a couple of houses down the street.
God was definitely working in the town of Gordo, and the community was closer and stronger than ever before. It was evident that this celebration was much bigger than just receiving a home. This family had renewed hope and hearts full of gratitude. When 95-year-old Mamie spoke, it was amazing to hear such unshakeable faith.
“Good things come to those who wait, wait, wait,” Mamie said to all who had gathered. “I don’t have the words to say thank you, but I do thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
After the dedication had ended with many hugs and great prayer, I stood among the crowd as many women tried to hand me deviled eggs and pieces of cake so I could celebrate with their family as part of their family. And even then, they kept checking to see if I was OK. A family who had lost it all in a flood were concerned about whether I was taken care of in that moment.
It was truly a blessing to experience what real celebration is. Praising God, fellowshipping with family, and, of course, taking care of each other—whether it’s by building a house or pouring a cold glass of lemonade for the stranger who was parked outside.
It’s moments like this that show me that the work of God doesn’t stop with the completion of a project like this home rebuild program. He’ll be working in that home and through those people for generations to come.
“Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving, and the voices of those who celebrate. I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will make them honored, and they shall not be small” (Jeremiah 30:19-20, ESV).