‘The Happiest Day of My Life’

May 13, 2021 • United States

Samaritan’s Purse welcomes home a family in La Grange, Texas, who was displaced after Hurricane Harvey tore through their community.

U.S. Disaster Relief

Leticia Jaimes wiped away tears as she walked through her new home for the first time. She paused in the living room, overwhelmed, and fell into the embrace of her mother, Elena. Mother and daughter hugged and cried together, knowing that this day would mark the beginning of many new family memories.

Leticia Jaimes had lost everything, including her hope and joy. She's finally smiling again.

Leticia Jaimes had lost everything, including her hope and joy. She’s finally smiling again.

“For years, we cried because of the house, because of all the problems. Today, we are crying because we’re happy,” Elena said.

Leticia received the keys to her new home during a special ceremony on May 12 with family, neighbors, community members, and Samaritan’s Purse volunteers and leaders. Her home is one of 20 new houses built for victims of Hurricane Harvey in a new La Grange neighborhood constructed by Samaritan’s Purse. The neighborhood, called Hope Hill, is situated well above the flood plain.

“They won’t have to worry about flooding anymore,” said Brent Graybeal, director of U.S. recovery and development for Samaritan’s Purse. “This is a new start for them. Many of the homeowners here are believers and they have held onto their faith. They now have a brand-new community.”

“Today, we are crying because we’re happy.”

The dedication ceremony for Leticia’s home is especially meaningful as it marks the completion of our Hope Hill rebuild project. In addition to the 20 new constructions, Samaritan’s Purse has also donated 41 vacant lots in the Hope Hill subdivision to the city of La Grange, and the city will determine how to best utilize these lots to meet the needs of the community.

Leticia fell with joy into her mother's arms.

She fell with joy into her mother’s arms as she saw the house for the first time.

“We thank God for bringing all this together. He has assembled the team that made this possible,” said Luther Harrison, vice president of North American Ministries for Samaritan’s Purse. “We have seen God meet every need that we had. We’re here to show that our hope comes from Jesus Christ.”

During the ceremony, Leticia was presented with a special commemorative bill for the expense and labor that went into building the home. But across the bill was written “Paid in Full” in red—a reference to the truth that Jesus Christ died for the forgiveness of sins. Every home Samaritan’s Purse built in Hope Hill was provided as a free gift, an expression of God’s grace, through the faithful support, prayers, and hard work of brothers and sisters in Christ.

From Brokenhearted to Burdens Lifted

Although Hurricane Harvey was a powerful, deadly storm, it happened four years ago and has long been forgotten by many people. But displaced families like Leticia’s, who’ve struggled for years to regain a sense of normalcy, will always remember.

Leticia Jaimes, her daughter Daniela walk through their new La Grange, Texas, home for the first time.

Her daughter Daniela also joined the celebration the day they got the keys to the rebuilt house.

“I grew up here and I’ve always lived here,” Leticia said. “But I had never experienced anything like Hurricane Harvey.”

Leticia had no idea that the hurricane would unleash more than 60 inches of rain on some areas of the Lone Star State. Or that the Colorado River would overflow and end up in her backyard.

“I told my kids it was just raining. But after a few hours, we had to get out really fast. The police knocked on the door and said, ‘You gotta leave or you’re going to die.’”

Leticia and her four children waded out in water that was already above her knees. One week later, when homeowners were finally allowed back into the area, Leticia was stunned to find that her home was a total loss and beyond repair.

“My heart just broke. I lost everything. I had worked so hard for that mobile home; it was my first time to buy a home,” she said.

“My heart just broke. I lost everything.”

When Leticia first met Cindy Barton, a Samaritan’s Purse case worker for the Hope Hill rebuild program, Leticia’s grief, pain, and shock were all still very raw. “The light was gone from her eyes,” Cindy said.

More tragic than loss of home and possessions is the loss of precious family time that came in the storm’s aftermath. Leticia had to move about one hour away to Austin in order to find work, and only being able to afford rent on a small apartment, her children stayed in La Grange with Elena.

Staff and volunteers gathered to celebrate and pray over the new home.

Staff and volunteers gathered to celebrate and pray with the family.

“I was sad, but I was strong for my children. I didn’t want them looking at me crying every day.”

Leticia drove back to La Grange on weekends and sometimes even during the week to visit her family. Still, the separation was very difficult. Her youngest child, who was only 7 at the time, cried all the time. Eventually, the two youngest moved to Austin with Leticia and their older siblings remained in La Grange.

Leticia said she is most excited about the new house because her family can finally be together again. “Today is the happiest day of my life. I will remember this forever,” she said.

Leticia’s new neighborhood is also special because the residents have pitched in to help one another during the entire rebuild process. On Leticia’s days off from her job in Austin she volunteered her time and helped work on the other homes being built. She also contributed to the rebuild effort of her own home, as did many of her neighbors.

“Today is the happiest day of my life. I will remember this forever.”

“It’s really created a sense of community,” Cindy said.

Since the Hope Hill rebuilds began, Cindy said she has seen families like Leticia’s go from despondent to full of hope. “The light comes back into their eyes as the houses are being built. You see that burden being lifted off of them.”

Cindy watched as Leticia—through hardships and disappointments—refused to give up and continued persevering for her family’s sake.

“She’s such a special person. It’s a blessing to see that smile come back to her face.”

Leticia Jaimes, her daughter Daniela, and Leticia's brother David celebrate the new home in LaGrange, Texas.

Leticia, Daniela, and Leticia’s brother David all were there as the new house became their new home.

U.S. Disaster Relief Samaritan's Purse mobilizes and equips thousands of disaster relief volunteers to provide emergency aid to U.S. victims of wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. In the aftermath of major storms, we often stay behind to rebuild houses for people with nowhere else to turn for help.

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