His home burned to the ground on a Saturday night, leaving him with only the shirt and pants he wore that day.
But the next Sunday morning, wearing his son-in-law’s old suit, Rev. Carl White stood before his congregation at Hillcrest Baptist Church and preached.
“I was better off out there preaching than sitting at home feeling sorry for myself over something I couldn’t control,” White said.
On Dec. 15, 2007, White’s home went up in flames. The 89-year-old pastor said they don’t know why the house burned. “Different fire inspectors have looked at it. It looks like some old wiring got shorted out somehow,” he said.
Despite the obvious tragedy of losing all of his belongings, White holds tight to the blessings and miracles that are abundantly scattered throughout his story.
The biggest miracle he said, involves his wife, Gladys. A few days before the fire, she was moved to transitional care as she battles several health issues that have left her confined to a wheelchair. White wasn’t home that evening because he was visiting her at MorningView.
“I was in the house an hour before it burned,” he said. “Three days later, and she’d have been in the house, too. I could have never gotten her out,” White said.
The blessings continued the next day when he received an incredible offer. A house was available for them to move into immediately. “Our father was good friends with Carl for years, and they were both pastors in the community,” said Gary Estes, who is part owner of the house offered to White, a house in the same neighborhood where his parents had lived before their death.
“Daddy lived on one corner, and Carl lived on the other corner for as long as we can remember. We hadn’t taken anything out of the house. It was a no-brainer. It was my brother Rick’s idea and all of our children agreed automatically,” said Estes.
“That’s just what Christians do,” he said.
“They came to me Sunday night and said, ‘Just move into Momma and Daddy’s house.’ It was just like they’d left it. I just had to move in and cook supper,” he said.
The family offered the home as a gift, but White said he insisted on paying a fair rental rate. The Whites stayed in the house until their home was finished.
In mid-May, White and his wife were able to go back home. They moved into a modular home that was constructed on their property.
“There was an awful big sigh of relief to get home,” he said.
White said because of how the house is situated on the property, the front and backyards are the reverse of what they once were.
“My wife said, ‘That used to be front yard,’ so I knew she knew where she was,” he said.
White explains the situation simply. “It was a miracle the good Lord provided. He knew I needed the house, and he just provided. Here my house burned, but three more days and (Gladys) would have been home. The next night the house is offered to me and the insurance company has dealt fairly with me. I couldn’t ask for better.”
White referred to Romans 8:28 as he said, “Whatever happens to me is for my good if I can see it. If I could see the future as the Lord does, I’d understand it. So many people look at what appears to be a tragedy on the surface, but it’s actually a blessing in disguise. I’ve seen Christianity exhibited in how people have dealt with me that I couldn’t have seen any other way.
“True Christianity is being able to accept things for what they are. When you accept it like that, it sure does away with a lot of worrying.”
White, who has been the pastor of Hillcrest for 54 years, said people from his church brought them evening meals for weeks and several other churches took up offerings for them. “No words can describe my appreciation to my Christian friends, church and loved ones, and the public in general. I can’t thank them enough,” he said.
White said he has peace about his situation and said he has no complaints right now. The pastor said he hasn’t had a single setback in the process of rebuilding his house or his life. He was able to bring Gladys home in March and said she was much like her old self.
“She went to church for the first time in several months. She’s very supportive. She wants me to do what I need to do,” he said.
And as far as the rest of his family, he sees them most every Sunday. “We have a family gathering on Sundays with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren here for dinner. Last Sunday, I had 26 here,” he said. “As long as you can have family gatherings like that, it’s good.”
When asked how he can have such a positive attitude despite the traumatic events of the past months, White said, “I have too much to be thankful for to be any other way. I see so much that could have happened that didn’t happen. I could have been a sourpuss where everyone dreaded seeing me coming, but the Lord’s will has been done.
“I don’t understand it, but I accept it. Tomorrow is a good day.”