BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Faith. Hope. And love. For Melvin and Juanita Kent, those words have been the foundation of their now 70-year marriage, that started just six months after they first met.
Melvin Kent said, “Well, I had a friend who... he met her before I did and she wouldn’t talk to him, so I said, ‘give me the number, let me try something,’ so I called her up and here she is (laughs).”
I had to ask, “What’d you think of him when you first saw him and first met him?” Juanita Kent said, “That other guy, I just didn’t want to talk to him (laugh). But he was real nice and my parents liked him, so Amen.”
They’ve been together ever since. One rarely seen without the other. Almost always holding hands. Just as they were April 27th 2011, when they were watching TV coverage of the massive tornado that was devastating Tuscaloosa, and a short while later, heard the warnings it was tracking towards their neighborhood in Smithfield.
Melvin said, “Wasn’t room for both of us to get in the tub. So we laid down on the floor of the bathroom, and just called on the name Jesus, and I could hear the house move and in about 3-minutes, it was gone.”
“Just that quick?” Melvin said, “Just that quick.”
Never before was the foundation of their lives tested more than when about the only thing left, WAS the foundation of their home.
“I started crying. I didn’t know what else to do. I started crying like a baby,” said Melvin. “Like he said, I started crying, but God brought us through it, said Juanita.
Family and friends who came to check on them, were astonished by what they saw.
Vanessa Carlisle, Kent’s Goddaughter said, “Power lines were down everywhere. And of course, I just thought the worst and was like Lord, please let them be okay.
“But I saw one wall, that was still standing. What saved them, they were behind that wall. A crystal cross was on that wall. And they were behind the cross, holding onto to each other in the bath area. And when everyone saw that they just couldn’t believe it.”
Jason Meadows, Assistant Pastor at Emanuel Temple Church of God In Christ said, “You know everybody was just kind of dazed. And you’re just looking around and there was the cross.”
Juanita said, “We didn’t get hurt or nothing, so.” Melvin said, “Not one scratch.”
The Kents would end up living with their goddaughter Vanessa Carlisle for a while, trying to figure out what to do next. But then, at the age of 82, Melvin Kent says he received a divine message.
Melvin said, “I went to sleep that Friday night and the Lord said to me, rebuild. I ain’t had no money.”
Carlisle said, “A lot of faith. And then who goes to a mortgage company at 82 years old? (laugh). But I mean, he trusted God.”
And now, on the very same spot where their old home was destroyed, sits their beautiful, newer home.
But I asked Melvin, why DID THEY decide to rebuild on the same lot? From the sign on the garage, to the cross out front, and the cross on that lone wall left standing, now framed in their living room, he believes it all serves as a testament of being carried out of the valley, up to the mountaintop.
Melvin said, “Brought this back bigger and better. I never lived in a house like this before. And guess what, last April-May, we paid this house off. Yes sir. Don’t owe nobody a dime. (crying). And I thank God! I thank God, it had to be Him man.”
Last April 15th, friends, fellow church members, extended family and people in the community celebrated the Kent’s 70th anniversary with a parade.
And for those closest to them, they believe there is another reason the Kents are still where they are. To continue to be a living example of faith, hope and love to the community.
Jason Meadows said, “It’s in the Bible that we are supposed to be a city that sits on a hill. They are that city. They just live it. And it’s so beautiful, it’s so refreshing, it gives you hope.”