BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Vietnamese Baptist Church in Biloxi never gave up.
After 12 years of being homeless, the congregation finally has a permanent place to worship.The long, emotional struggle has now been replaced with joy. And with the joy, comes the thanks.
Anna Tran, wife of the Rev. Trung Tran, couldn't hold back her emotions.
"Thank you, Lord, for this place of worship," she said through tears. "Thank you so much."
Since Hurricane Katrina destroyed the original Vietnamese Baptist Church on Oak Street, the Trans, have been having services wherever they could.
"We were homeless, actually," the pastor said. "So, we had to ask a church here or there, wherever people would open the door. We would come in and worship there."
The church lost two-thirds of its congregation.
In April, the church bought the former East Howard Baptist Church building, and after a lot of renovation, the doors are finally open and the pews are filling up.
Saturday's dedication ceremony brought in worshipers from throughout the region to celebrate.
"This is just a wonderful feeling," Anna Tran said, still filled with emotion. "We've been through 12 years. And I know God loves us so much. God loves this church so much."
In the transformation, Tran decided not to remove the name of the former church.
"To me, it's historic," he said. "And I would like the local community here to understand that. So, when they pass by, they still see the word East Howard Baptist Church in the front. I will not take it down."
Among the celebrants was Roy Hill. His wife's great-grandparents founded East Howard Baptist Church.
"In Matthew, it talks about [how] a grain falling onto the ground has to die for the new grain to sprout up," Hill said. "And the new grain will flourish with lots of seed on it. And that's kind of what East Howard had to do. East Howard had to fade away, and the Vietnamese came in."
The building is estimated to be about 120 years old. Renovations took about seven months.
The church had its first service a week before Christmas.