Thanking God for a New Home at Christmas

December 20, 2019 • United States

An Alabama woman barely survived a tornado in March, losing her house and possessions. Now she’s got a new home courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse.

It’s almost unbelievable that Earnestine Reese survived the EF4 tornado that barreled through Lee County, Alabama, on March 3, 2019—killing 23 people, leveling neighborhoods, and displacing families.

Samaritans' Purse President Franklin Graham prays with Earnestine Reese at her home on Dec. 20.

Franklin Graham and Earnestine Reese pray with those at the home dedication on Dec. 20.

As the storm hit, she huddled in her bathroom with her daughter, son-in-law, and grandson, praying for God’s protection. The twister tore directly over their house, ripping off the roof and flattening nearly everything around them. Yet, they were spared.

Despite terrible loss, Earnestine praised God. Her story made national headlines as she came out of the rubble declaring, “Tell the Lord thank you.” It was a remarkable moment of faith and a moving witness to a watching world.

When Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief staff and volunteers quickly responded in Lee County to help homeowners recover, Franklin Graham heard about Earnestine’s radical faith and commissioned a rebuild of her home. Now, nine months later, just in time for Christmas, she is moving into a brand-new home built by Samaritan’s Purse.

“This family had a relationship with God,” said Franklin Graham at the home dedication on Dec. 20. “They were hurt, but they weren’t rattled. It is a testimony to all of us.

“This is something God has done.”—Franklin Graham

“Who would have thought that the storm brought us all together. Now we are dedicating this house for God’s glory. This is something God has done. We thank Him. We praise Him. We dedicate this house in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Thanking Jesus Again and Always!

Earnestine wasn’t sure she would ever live in her own home again following the March storm. She didn’t know what was next, but she did believe God would take care of her.

Earnestine takes a tour of her new house for the very first time.

Earnestine reacts with joy as she takes a tour of her new home for the very first time on Dec. 19.

When Earnestine saw her new house for the first time this December, she immediately gave thanks to God.

“From the roof to the foundation, thank you, Jesus. Thank you for making a way. I give it right back to you, Lord. It’s yours, not mine,” she prayed.

At 72 years old, Earnestine’s faith has been tested. Each time she gets to know her Savior more and more, and her faith matures.

“You have to thank God in the good times and the bad times,” she said. “When you know Him as your Savior, you know how to thank Him. You know how to give Him praise because He is in control of your life. Believe in God. He said He would take care of you, and He will take care you.”

Franklin Graham commended Earnestine’s trust in God’s plan, telling her, “Many times people thank us for blessing them, but it’s the other way around. We get blessed. This strengthens our faith when we see your faith.”

  • Edward Graham joins Earnestine Reese on a tour of her new home built by Samaritan's Purse near Opelika, Alabama.
    Edward Graham, son of Franklin Graham, joins Earnestine Reese on a tour of her home built by Samaritan's Purse near Opelika, Alabama.

Every inch of her house is something she is thankful for. The three-bedroom home is complete with a large kitchen, two bathrooms, a garage and a storm shelter with concrete, steel-reinforced walls—but most importantly a prayer closet.

Keep Praying

The only part of Earnestine’s original house left standing after the tornado was her prayer closet. This sacred space was where she started every day—not asking for things, but praising God. She wrote people’s names on the wall as she interceded for them.

Earnestine celebrates outside her new home.

Earnestine celebrates outside her new home.

It was those special times with the Lord in prayer that nurtured a faith strong enough to persevere through tragedy.

“After the storm came, we walked out, and we looked around. Everything was gone—the house and all of our material things were blown away, but I still knew God was in control,” Earnestine said. “He held us. He saved us. He kept us. I called on the Name of Jesus, and there is power in that Name.”

Earnestine’s message is simple: pray. The Lord saved her family from the storm, and they know that when other storms of life come their way, prayer connects them to the grace and power of Almighty God.

Looking at her new house she said, “What a blessing. God did it again—and I know he’ll do it again.”

Earnestine is looking forward to spending time with Jesus in her new prayer closet, praising Him for who He is and what He has done.

Please continue praying for Earnestine’s neighborhood where several people were killed in the spring tornado.

Edward Graham, son of Franklin Graham, was in Alabama to see Earnestine for the dedication and also was there the day after the storms came through in March. He said, “Yes, people are moving back but they are still hurting. There is still loss here. They are still grieving, especially this Christmas. This is the first Christmas they will spend back in their homes without their family members. Just pray. We ask that people continue to pray for this street as they grieve, as they heal together. We pray this is an opportunity for the church to wrap their arms around them and love on them.”

Earnestine receives a list of costs that are "Paid in Full" as she's given a newly-built home.

Earnestine receives a list of costs that are “Paid in Full” as she’s given a newly built home. Edward Graham said, “She has no debt. No payment for this house. This is a gift from our donors, our partners, and the church of Christ.”


Note: In addition to rebuilding Earnestine’s home, Samaritan’s Purse has replaced thirteen manufactured homes and installed eleven storm shelters in Lee County, Alabama. During the initial disaster response, more than 1,400 volunteers helped 110 families by clearing debris, tarping roofs, and searching for personal belongings.

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