‘Bless this home’
It was October of 2018 when Hurricane Michael pushed its way through the area, downing trees and leaving many without power.
The brutal storm caused some flooding throughout the community, but the home of Carnell and Mattie Smithson of Chase City was seemingly hit worst of all. The hurricane left the residence on Highway 49 flooded more than halfway to the ceiling with water. All of the couple’s belongings were lost, and their long-time, beloved home was destroyed. The two were lucky just to escape with their lives.
After an initial tear out and with no government assistance to rebuild, the home sat empty for almost a year before local church leaders contacted Virginia Baptist Disaster Response, an organization which helps meet the needs of individuals impacted by disasters.
According to Kristen Curtis, training and crisis care team coordinator for the organization, Virginia Baptist Disaster Response initially committed to funding a “rapid rebuild” for the Smithsons. This speedy rebuild process is aimed at making a home “safe and secure” by installing things like drywall, a working toilet and a working kitchen.
While rapid rebuilds make the home liveable, it was obvious to Carter and representatives of local churches that more could be done for the Smithsons. Thus, the disaster response workers and community church leaders agreed to take on a complete rebuild project in order to give Carnell and Mattie a beautiful, finished home.
Although the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down operations, the team slowly and surely began to build a new home for the Smithsons. Working mostly one weekend a month, area churchgoers and volunteers banded together.
Among these groups were many people who were able to use their skills in fields like plumbing and carpentry to help get the construction process rolling. Businesses throughout the area donated equipment and construction materials, a local youth group helped put in the insulation, and others simply volunteered their time to help with installation, fundraising or to bring lunch for workers.
Churches working together on the project included Heritage Baptist Church in Farmville, New Life Church in Farmville, Ash Avenue Baptist Church in Chase City and Melrose Baptist Church youth group in Roanoke.
From start to finish, the rebuild took approximately two years, but through the group effort, the home was finally finished.
Volunteers and loved ones gathered at the Smithson’s new home Sunday, May 16, for a home blessing and dedication. More than 50 people came out to celebrate the heartwarming accomplishment. Pastors from various churches involved in the rebuild offered prayers, groups sang hymns, and the Smithsons were given several housewarming gifts.
There were many smiling faces and teary eyes Sunday as the house, which had once been destroyed by Hurricane Michael, was unveiled, revealing a home which could now serve as a beacon of hope for the Smithsons and an example of churches working together to provide a family a blessing beyond words.
When he stepped up to say a few words during Sunday’s dedication, Carnell remarked he was surrounded by angels in attendance that day.
“God knows my heart, and the people who came to my rescue know my heart because they brought God with them,” he said. “If I had 1,000 tongues, I could not thank you enough … I’m just filled up with joy.”
“I truly feel the same way,” added Mattie. “My home is back even better than it was before we left.”