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Family’s home rebuilt by volunteers in Rockwall after lightning destroys old one

Gonzales-Zuniga

By Amy Van Vleck. When tragedy struck a family in the Lake Rockwall Estates (LRE) area of Rockwall county in 2008, a community rallied together to offer support, supplies, and spiritual counsel.

One year later, the family moved back onto their property into a new home built entirely by volunteers.

The family of eight had been displaced for slightly more than a year since a fire destroyed their home. While attending their niece’s Quinceañera in 2008, the Gonzales-Zuñiga home was struck by lightning. Fortunately, a neighbor was home and contacted the Rockwall fire department, saving some of the family’s cherished items.

“We were just glad that we were not home,” said 17-year-old Elizabeth, as she explained the events of that day. “We were glad that no one was hurt.”

The couple’s wedding attire hung outside the neighbor’s home for quite some time to eliminate the smoky smell. The children mentioned that their Bibles were saved, as well as one daughter’s precious stuffed dog. Most everything else perished in the fire.

What did not perish, however, was hope. Through the combined efforts of the City of Rockwall, Rockwall-Heath High School, and Lake Pointe Church, the family began to receive support.

The first response to the family’s needs came from Rockwall’s City Code Enforcer, Leonard Mendez, who heard of the fire and that the family had lost their basic necessities.

He contacted Enid Reyes at Lake Pointe Church, who directs the LRE Community Center, and Adriana Gutierrez at Rockwall-Heath High School, where three of the children attend school. These entities immediately began to work together to help the family by providing lodging at a local hotel and transportation to school for the children.

This was just the beginning of a transformation brought about by tragedy.

“Many [Lake Pointe] Life Groups pulled together to provide food and clothing to the family,” said Reyes, the church’s director of community ministries. “They also provided furniture, mattresses, gift cards, and money. They became very engaged in helping this family.”

“Out of the help and ministry assistance we gave them, they began coming to Lake Pointe’s Hispanic church,” Reyes said.

“The father came to Christ and the whole family became very active in the [LRE] Community Center. They offered to volunteer at every scheduled opportunity. In fact, the girls have become leaders inviting other youth to the church.”

Transformation at Lake Rockwall Estates is happening one person at a time, Reyes said.

“They come in, we love them as Christ would, we are His hands and feet. They come to know Him personally, they come to church, they get involved. Then they invite others in the community to get involved in the activities at the Center.”

When Lake Pointe Church celebrated 30 years of service to the community in June—sporting their black “I Got My Shovel” t-shirts—a home construction project for this family seemed like a natural choice. The family met LRE program benchmarks (through the area’s Community Center), has the largest amount of volunteer hours, and they prequalified financially.

The purpose of the weekend-long Anniversary celebration was to serve the community and give back to Rockwall residents. This particular project, however, took much longer than one weekend to complete.

With the foundation poured, volunteers began construction of the home on Saturday, June 13, and worked every weekend until its completion on October 3. The home was dedicated and the volunteers celebrated during an Open House on Saturday, October 17.

“The completion of a project like the Gonzalez home is only made possible by the generosity of those who have donated materials and services, but more importantly by those who donated their time to the project,” said John Wardell, Lake Pointe Church’s executive pastor of operations. 

“The most valuable volunteer in the project was Alan Selden, a professional home builder who led the construction of the home from start to finish. The Community Center at Lake Rockwall Estates and this home are both products of his leadership and his servanthood,” Wardell said.

Selden said that “God just sent the right number of people for whatever was going to be done each day. They each were enthusiastic and each had a servant’s heart.”

“Some were skilled, some were not. And that really is fine,” Selden added.

“Even in the Bible, God called those who didn’t know what they had to offer, but they were willing to do the work. We provided the tools and leadership; volunteers provided the manpower. Even the father, the recipient of the home, was there taping, bedding, and painting. He did a wonderful job!”

And that is exactly what the Open House and Dedication on October 17 celebrated: the willingness of the servant’s heart.

“Whether they worked multiple weekends or half of one day, it took the combined effort of these volunteers to get the job done,” Selden said. “I give credit to God and to the good people of Lake Pointe for the completion of this project.”

“It is our hope to be able to complete other homes in the Lake Rockwall Estates area,” said Wardell. 

“The accomplishment of this goal will be dependent upon our ability to finance the homes, the generosity of those who provide materials and services, but more importantly we need to build a strong volunteer base of people who are willing to serve as we build these homes. Whether you consider yourself skilled or not, these projects provide a way for you to serve others and to make a difference in our community.”

And it did make a difference.

“I’m so excited for my mom and dad to get this new house,” Elizabeth said. “They worked very hard fixing up our old house before the fire.”

“The whole process truly shows God’s grace,” Reyes said.

When answering [the father’s] repeated questions, “Why them, why him?” she simply answered “because God loves you.”

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