A Home For The Holidays

He walked into the church head held high.  It was another Sunday morning service in the beautiful north Georgia town.  The chill of the fall was just starting to wake the mountains as they sang to the beautiful autumn colors of red and gold.  As he shook hands with his friends and acquaintances, his family took their seats on the old familiar lightly green padded oak pew near the entry of the church – a church that was beloved to his family.  A church that had set in motion a life he wanted. And a life he had found in the most unconventional way.

Carl Gibson’s story was one the community had been told – the story of an addict since the age of seven beginning his journey by experimenting with “huffing gas” on his family’s Dahlonega, Georgia property.  It was a decision that set the stage for a risky downfall into substance abuse. His reliance on drugs became a way to cope with the deep-seated anxiety and depression rooted in the cycle of addiction and abuse within his home and community.   Carl’s addiction intensified through his teenage and adult years – only this time it was the hard stuff.  The drugs ultimately led to the heart-wrenching loss of his family which included losing custody of his young son, Nick.  

Then came a fateful day in December. 

It was December 15, 2009.  A day that will forever change history for Carl. It was the day he made the desperate decision to make a call to the pastor of Dahlonega Baptist Church.  Gasping to breathe from the anguish of pain, the gut-wrenching loss of self and the demons that controlled his life, in a tiny closed-door office with just the pastor and himself, Carl finally let go.  

The years that followed were transformational.  Carl’s family was restored.  He, his wife Penny, and son Nick began growing together in faith as a family.  Another child, Angel, was born in 2010 and Carl’s world was complete.  He had become the man he had always wanted to be – a man of unwavering faith, a dedicated family member, and an individual with a singular mission— to help others conquer the formidable battle of drug addiction, find their faith, and seek family and self-restoration. 

Years later, in December of 2015, Carl was asked by a fellow member of the church to accept a position of employment at a non-profit transitional homeless community being established in Dahlonega.  Carl would oversee the operational and facilities management and in return would be given a stipend and on-site housing for his family. The 60-year-old, 420-square-foot manufactured home was small, but Carl graciously accepted the temporary housing unit for his family. It was another godsend for Carl as his rocky past had not allowed secure employment to provide for adequate housing he needed for his growing family. 

During his tenure at the homeless community, Carl began to grow.   Over the years, he became a pillar of the community, a deacon of the church, and the glue that kept the homeless community running.  His story began to serve as a testament to residents as well as the entire Dahlonega community showing how resilience and determination can be summoned while pursuing dreams, unlocking human potential, and triumphing over the daunting challenge.  Yes, Carl found himself at last walking the walk – guided by the faith he found in that small church office just a few years earlier.

It is now October 16th, 2023. 

A short film documentary capturing Carl’s life and his family’s quest for restoration had been finalized and unveiled. The film beautifully illustrated the profound impact of Carl’s faith and the role of Christ in his journey. Submitted to film festivals globally, a special screening took place on a brisk October evening at Dahlonega Baptist Church, drawing in a gathering of hundreds of community supporters and friends. The atmosphere inside the church was filled with warmth as hearts were stirred and souls were uplifted – creating a night of celebration dedicated to honoring Carl’s inspiring story.

But for Carl, even amongst the celebration and accolades, he felt a yearning.  There was still one thing missing from his life.  While he was eternally grateful for the housing provided by his employment, he wanted to make sure his family was forever safe and warm. He needed a place of his own to call home for his family.  So, as he had done for so many years, he continued to pray. 

Exactly one month later in November 2023, as Sunday morning church dismissed, Carl was approached by a gentleman in the foyer of the Dahlonega Baptist Church.  He was a representative from Habitat for Humanity.  At that moment and in that church, Carl’s ultimate gift was given, a prayer answered, and another breath taken.  A home.  A home that Carl and his family would receive –just in time for Christmas.  

In December 2023, exactly 14 years from the day of that transformational moment in that small office at Dahlonega Baptist Church, Carl, Penny, Angel, and Nick will move into their forever home and place their first ornament on their family Christmas tree.  As Carl will breathe in the smells of his new home he, once again, will give thanks to the Christ Child as well as those who loved him and stood beside him through his journey. His family will forever be safe and once again, Carl Gibson can breathe. 

This holiday season serves as a poignant reminder that beyond the shimmering lights and golden trinkets, there are stories of hope and triumph waiting to be celebrated. Carl’s journey echoes the theme of redemption, showcasing that even in the darkest moments, the single star that shown bright so many years ago is still there – long after the holiday season ends – serving as a guiding light to all that take the time to follow.  The gift of the Christ child offers to us in moments of despair, there is a divine presence that sees and hears, offering the promise of a brighter future.

Welcome home, Gibson Family.  May your front porch light forever shine as bright as the star of hope that once shined for the shepherds so many years ago. 

Merry Christmas.