We often hear people talk about faith…and it’s a very broad term. It can mean any number of things….Faith that someone will call, faith that your favorite team will win…and spiritually, the faith that you cannot see or touch…only feel.
I’d like to share a story about two people who were strangers, two completely different individuals, living on opposite ends of the United States (one from California and the other from Louisiana) and their own personal paths of spiritual faith.
I’d like to introduce myself, my name is Nona.
In what was to be a simple vacation to a little town called Natchez, Mississippi in December 2003, it proved to be the catalyst of another one of God’s constant plans.
As my family and I took a long holiday weekend at Monmouth Plantation to view the exquisite, serene gardens and perfectly detailed antebellum home of Mr. Ron and Mrs. Lani Riches of California; we were transported back in time.
My sister (Stephanie) and her husband, Bobby, who were vacationing with my mother and I at that time refers to our weekend as the time when “the spell was cast”.
Our visit to the Riches’, Monmouth Plantation exceeded our expectations ten fold for a getaway. I’d have to say, it did more than that. It saved our lives.
You may ask how a cozy little vacation could have such a huge impact. Well, I’ll explain.
Natchez is a quiet and cozy little town, with rolling hills filled with manicured lawns and abundant blooming gardens.
The town is a must for tourists looking for a serene get-a-way, or for those looking to exhale. That’s not to say it’s so slow that it’s boring. It has a rich culture, deep heritage, period architecture, very colorful history and scenery, which have to be seen, to be understood.
Wherever you go and wherever you look, there is something to captivate every sense possible. The majestic live oak trees seem to emanate the whispers of stories and lives of times gone by. The Mississippi River rolls by silently below her 300 foot bluffs. And as we strolled through the gardens and grounds of this breathtaking historic home, you feel as though you’ve truly stepped back in time.
At Monmouth, (one of a handful remaining pre-civil war antebellum structures) we were always greeted by the friendly staff as if they had know us all their lives. When you say friendly, it’s a term you’d expect from any place serving the public. Well, at Monmouth, we felt as if we were home…amongst family. The owners (Lani & Ron) were there that weekend celebrating the holidays with their Los Angeles family and they mingled with the guests as if each person was a dignitary. They and their staff’s genuine warm-heartedness was not theatrical for the benefit of the guests…it can only be described as TRUE southern charm.
If you’ve never experienced (all at one time), genuine kindness, sincere appreciation or complete respect for your fellow man, then I must implore you to experience the power of God’s grace by making it your calling to visit one of his paradises called Monmouth..
I began this note by saying that our lives were saved, and I digressed a bit but I wanted you to get a fuller picture of how one person’s life/actions can touch another’s, or in my case, several others.
I use to live in New Orleans which is truer south than Natchez; but I must say, that Natchez, is truer Southern.
I’m a spiritual person, quiet about my beliefs, but one thing I can tell you is that the power of faith does touch lives.
By the grace of Mrs. Lani and her husband, Ron, and their wonderful staff in 2003, my family and I decided to invest in Natchez, by buying some homes for future retirement. For me that was supposed to be in 20-30 years, but as fate would have it…it would come only one and half years later.
Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi and Louisiana coastal parishes on August 29, 2005, and on that day, 21 family members of mine were completely homeless. We were wiped out. We had lost everything tangible that one possesses. The divine faith that I spoke of earlier is where this begins.
When I bought my home in Natchez, I thought I’d rent it until I retired and instead, we had a close scare with an earlier hurricane in 2004 and I decided to keep the house as a “hurricane house”.
Why, this decision? I can only say it was faith that directed me.
Without understanding why or how, I just did. I was a single income paying two house notes, two insurances, two utilities and struggling. But each month, I asked God to help me to be able to provide this safe-haven for my family and all our pets… I felt something was eminent, but could not say with exactness what it was that I felt/feared. And each month, under heavy odds, and blind faith I was able to sustain.
On the 29th of August, 2005 my struggle became crystal clear. It had been faith speaking to me softly. It told me to persevere even when logically my head was telling me otherwise…I just followed my gut, some call it blind faith and now the answer was clear. God had provided a safe haven for me and my family and our pets. A passage to safe harbor. And I owe it partly to The Riches and the staff at Monmouth.
I now live full time in Natchez in the house that I bought in 2003, which is just around the corner from Monmouth, and was able to meet Mrs. Lani one-on-one today on a completely different matter at a coffee shop.
As we talked business of another kind, it was our first official face to face meeting….and she said to me that she prays every day for God to guide her for others needs and to guide her in whatever direction he has planned since she cannot know everyone’s needs….and I told her that her prayers are answered! That my family and I are living proof that faith does exist and that what we do in our own personal lives does touch lives of other people, sometimes unknowingly... That as she spoke to God about her part in his plan, and by being a phenomenal innkeeper and by offering such a wonderful place for people to exhale from their chaotic lives; that her efforts directly affected our decision in 2003. By her and my own personal faiths a miracle happened. She was so touched by this chain of events she asked me to write a note for her website. And that was my story.
To Mrs. Lani and Mr. Ron, may I personally say thank you for all you do for this community and for mankind. You both are angels among us. May God continue to bless you, your family and all his dutiful servants. Thank you for helping me see how truly beautiful Natchez can be.