Earnestine Reese remembers the tornado that took her house in Alabama earlier this year. It was a “bad, bad storm” she said.
On March 3, numerous tornadoes were reported in Eastern Alabama and Western Georgia. The deadliest tornado to hit the U.S. since May 2013 hit Beauregard, Alabama, where Reese’s house once stood. It killed at least 23 people.
“It was just wind and the storms and the lightning and everything. It was frightening in a sense,” the 72-year-old grandmother recalled in an interview with The Christian Post about the tornado that took everything from her but her life at the time.
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Delrico Eiland shared a video on Facebook of Reese at the property where her house was destroyed along with a trailer belonging to one of her daughters.
In the video, according to CNN, Reese, who had suffered a broken hip, told her grandson, Kingston Frazier, via FaceTime, that she thanked God for sparing her life even though she lost her home.
In a later interview with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Reese’s daughter, Renee Frazier, revealed that she had lost seven family members in the tornado but was holding firmly to her mother’s faithful advice to “tell God ‘thank you.’”
“My mom was buried under the debris. As soon as they brought her out of the debris, her first response was ‘tell the Lord thank you.’ Someone said, ‘the trailer is gone.’ She said, ‘the house is gone too. Tell the Lord thank you,’” Frazier said.
On Thursday, Reese had another reason to be thankful as she prepared to receive the keys to a new home thanks to international humanitarian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse.
“When Ms. Reese lost everything, she thanked God,” said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse in a statement. “As soon as I heard her story, I knew we had to help. Samaritan’s Purse is excited to welcome Ms. Reese home just in time for Christmas.”
Reese remained thankful as she recalled to CP how she and her family stayed safe as the tornado shredded her home and everything around it.
“Me and my daughter, her husband and my grandson went in the bathroom and tried to take shelter. And even in the sheltering God blew the whole house away. It was blown away and all the debris was everywhere, but God kept all four of us wrapped up in his arms and He held us close,” she said.
“I knew without a shadow of a doubt that God still was in control, and with Him being in control He kept us. And all I asked Lord, I said, ‘Lord, take care of us. Hold us Lord because we belong to you. And I belong to You and You belong to me Jesus. And I thank you and I trust you through everything.’ And God did just what I asked. He kept us in the midst of the storm. And I never will, ever will, quit thanking Him enough for what He’s done for us,” she said.
The only thing left standing was Reese’s prayer closet after the tornado hit.
She said even though she wasn’t sure how God would help her find a new home, she said she trusted again that He would provide.
“I didn’t know where it was gonna come from. I didn’t know how it was gonna come, but I knew God was gonna take care of me … He was gonna make a way out of no way,” she said.
She admitted that when she first heard about the new house from Samaritan’s Purse she was caught off guard.
“When I heard I was gonna get a new house I think I was in rehab at the hospital. And I heard about it. I said, ‘No, y’all ain’t got it right. I didn’t believe I was gon’ get one and then they came and told me I was gonna get a new hose and who was gon’ build it,” she said.
“I said, 'Look-a-here. Billy Graham ministry is gonna build my house and I have watched him for years from when my children were little.' I said, 'Thank you Jesus.' I watched him before his son took over the ministry. We have church in the house with him. Talking about the Lord and telling us about Jesus. And I tell you, God done made a way through His ministry,” Reese said.
She noted that while her destroyed home held a lot of memories for her she is overjoyed to have her new house.
“It meant a whole lot because my children grew up in that home. My marriage for 25 years, then we divorced. Still, it was my home and I still had to have faith to know that God said He’ll never leave me nor forsake me. And I go through that to see what was mine. It was mine. Because God still did what He wanted to do from that home.
"And now, look what He done did and brought me to this home,” she said. “In the same spot almost, and I just pray to Him because I know ain’t nobody did it but Jesus through y’all, through the ministry, through Billy Graham, through Samaritan’s Purse. But it meant the world to me.”
The faithful grandmother’s new home contains three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a safe room with concrete, steel-reinforced walls, and most importantly for Reese — a prayer closet.
“Oh man. I can’t tell you in words. I’m just so, I’ve seen my windows and my floors and my walls and my outside porch and my garage. Oh, it is just more than beautiful because every hand that has laid a hand or nail, I know it was sent by God. So I tell you the blessing, I done got the blessing already,” Reese told CP. “I love my new [prayer] closet.”
When asked about what advice she wants to give people about how she has managed to survive through prayer, she said: “You can’t make it without prayer. Prayer changes things and it ain’t gon’ come when you want it. But you got to wait on God and you’ve got to believe God. You’ve got to know once you pray you got to leave it alone and know God is going to take care of you if you have faith and believe.”