Nichols Family – Rolling Fork, Mississippi
On the night of March 24, 2023, a high-end EF4 tornado ripped through Mississippi destroying much of the small town of Rolling Fork — home to less than 2,000 residents.
Nathan and Kristen Nichols, a young couple who are both school teachers in Rolling Fork, had been working on restoring Nathan’s childhood home into their dream home. After dissembling the home all the way back to its original stud work, the couple was beginning to see it nearing their final vision for it.
“I had just put the chandelier in the den on March 22, two days before the tornado hit, so it was still a work in progress, but we were finally seeing it come together,” told Nathan. “Rolling Fork is a place to build a future, and we were finally starting to see that little bit of future.”
The tornado barreled down their street just days later. After putting a year’s worth of hard work into their house, it was gone in a matter of seconds.
“I think it really puts life into perspective because when you spend a year and a half renovating a house, and then in a minute and a half it’s all the way gone… you really can’t store your treasures on earth… that’s something that we’ve really, really realized lately,” shared Kristen.
“And it was very crushing,” added Nathan. “We can’t store our treasures on earth, but when you worked and put blood, sweat, and tears into something and then it was ripped apart in 40 seconds… it’s heartbreaking. You really don’t know what to do from there. There’s anger, there’s sadness, there’s a lot of confusion.”
“It started off as a regular, normal day. We went to school and taught our kids. It was a Friday night, and we came home and were relaxing. Kristen was reading a book, and I was just watching a movie. About 8:00 PM our lights flickered, and I was like, ‘Kristen, you better read that book quick if you’re going to finish it tonight,’ because that’s what her goal was. Then the lights flickered again. I said, ‘Maybe we need to go to our safe space,’ and then all the lights went out,” told Nathan.
“A tree fell through our room right there, right in front of us. We were like, “Nope can’t be here!” We turned around and sprinted back to the living room, and she [Kristen] dove beside the ottoman and I dove on top of her with our dog in my hand. I was kind of lying on top of them, holding them. Then our roof blew away, and then our house fell down. All the walls of our house except one fell down, and then it was over… lightning struck, and we could see that we were outside. Rain was spraying on top of us. But with all the destruction and everything, me and Kristen were okay.”
God’s Pit Crew’s Immediate Disaster Response team deployed to Rolling Fork, Mississippi, immediately following the tornado to help provide aid and comfort to the survivors. While helping clear debris and distribute much-need relief supplies, the ministry met the Nichols family and learned of their heartbreaking story. In the months following, God provided a way for the ministry to return to the small town and build a brand-new home for the couple who had lost everything.
“When we got the call that they [God’s Pit Crew] were coming down, and then they met us and told us that they were going to build us a house. It was just like Kristen said, ‘incredible.’ A weight lifted off my shoulders,” said Nathan. “A weight that I didn’t let a lot of people in to see. It’s a feeling like someone who has to shoulder this whole problem for his family… and the relief and joy that gave was a pretty substantial moment of my life. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that way, or ever will feel that way again.”
“Y’all [God’s Pit Crew] have changed the entire trajectory of our lives,” Kristen noted. “We’re 25 and 26 years old, about to be able to start over with something as incredible as this house. Thank you so much!”
Berdley Family – Rolling Fork, Mississippi
As the EF4 tornado ravaged its way across the small Mississippi town, Jessica Berdley worried about her two daughters who were spending time at their grandparents’ house several miles away.
After wrapping up what seemed to be a typical Friday, the two girls had asked their mother if they could go visit her parents. Jessica delivered the girls to their grandparents’ house and was headed back to her house but changed her plans to visit friends a few streets over.
While visiting her friends, they began to receive storm warnings on their cellphones to take cover and shelter in place. “Take cover? We’ll never really have to take cover,” thought Jessica. “You know, they always tell you to take cover, but it always skips you.”
However, this storm cut a path straight through Jessica’s life. Not only was her friend’s house damaged where she currently was, but the tornado went on to rip apart her house several streets over, and her parents’ house where her two daughters were spending the night.
“After the tornado hit, my mom called and said, ‘Jessica, we’re stuck under a wall. The whole house is gone. We can’t move — we can’t get out. We need help,’” Jessica told while recounting the impact the tornado had on her family that traumatic night. “God was with us that night.”
The family miraculously escaped with no injuries. Once Jessica was able to return to her house and assess the damage, she said it didn’t feel real.
“That’s when I found out that my house was destroyed. Everything in that house was destroyed… the house, the car, everything was destroyed. It didn’t feel real,” told Jessica. “It felt like a dream that I had to wake up from. It didn’t feel real until I tried to go into what was left of the house, and that’s when all my emotions came down.”
“I was in a dark place. I didn’t know what else I should be doing. I didn’t know what was next, so I was living day-by-day.”
God’s Pit Crew was already planning to build a new home for the Nichols family just down the road from Jessica, and the ministry was blessed with the opportunity to be able to build a new home for Jessica and her two daughters, as well.
“That was something that was a blessing I had never had before,” said Jessica about being told that God’s Pit Crew was going to rebuild her family’s home. “Somebody is actually about to do this for my family. It was nice. It was very nice.”