The sanctuary at Statesboro First Baptist Church overflowed Saturday with friends and family mourning and honoring the four members of Stilson's Davis family who perished in a house fire Wednesday morning.
Russell and Wendi Davis and their youngest daughters Susannah and Haley died from smoke inhalation when an accidental fire destroyed their Stilson Road home in the center of the small community.
As people filed into the sanctuary, two large screens showed slideshows of Davis family photographs. The photos captured memories of casual family gatherings, beach trips, wedding days, new babies and other touching aspects of the family's lives.
Many depicted moments the girls spent at Southeast Bulloch High School, where they both participated in band and where Susannah was named both homecoming and prom queen. The photos of the smiling faces were evidence of a strong spiritual love shared by the Davis family.
Three caskets stood surrounded by floral arrangements. Russell Davis' silver casket was adorned with a spray of peach and blue blooms, while Wendi Davis' matching casket was covered with an arrangement of ivory, blue and yellow flowers.
The sisters each had a white casket, covered in a spring-like spray of pink, yellow, purple and white blossoms.
Services began at 1 p.m. with Rev. Reland Morgan, of Old Fellowship Baptist Church, the Davis family's home church, officiating.
"We are not here to understand everything," he said, speaking of tragedies such as the fire that took the Davis' lives. "...in His divine plan, He had a reason for this; a purpose we do not understand."
He spoke of the Davis family's strong sense of Christian love. The family would "want you to worship God," he told the crowd. "When we go to Heaven, we will see this family again."
Morgan told listeners "I know you will say ‘thank God I know this family - thank God they touched me in some way." He recalled the Davis family were "actively involved in church," and after joining the church, "immediately began to serve the Lord and became a part of our church.
"I want to thank them for being the kind of parents they were," Morgan said, adding that Russell and Wendi Davis taught all their kids to be giving and loving. "I believe their faithfulness will be rewarded. They had a love for children."
In the days between the tragedy and the funeral, friends of the Davis children attended gatherings and a candlelight vigil at Southeast Bulloch High School. Many spoke of Russell and Wendi Davis as being the kind of people who were parents to every child. Some called them "second parents" and said they adopted every friend of their children into the home.
"All of you have been touched by Russell, Wendi, Susannah and Haley," Morgan said.
Elizabeth Davis, wife of Russell and Wendi Davis' son Josh, spoke for the family's surviving members who did not live in the Stilson home.
The Davis family had "unconditional love and were grounded in faith," she said. Russell taught his children they were to be treated with the same respect they afforded others, and Wendi "touched countless lives with her compassionate love."
Susannah "was so very wise ... had the ability to find the heart of every matter," and Haley "was one of a kind; confident, outspoken and you always knew where you stood" with her, she said.
"Susannah and Haley were soul mates. They changed the way we loved because of the way they loved each other. The four of us could have no better legacy," she said.
Dr. Mike Howard closed the services with more words about the Davis family's spirituality.
"Life is mysterious," he said. "There are things we just can't explain."
He shared the story of Job, who lost 10 children and still maintained his faith in God. "God is big enough to handle everything that comes His way and that is what we need to remember," he said. "Even if we had the answers, it still would hurt. We need to remember that God's way is not our ways."
In closing Howard reminded others to make every day count as if it were the last. "Life is a gift and one of the best gifts is the people we have in our lives. These folks were special, special gifts."
After the services, hundreds followed the family to the Clito Baptist Church cemetery, where Russell, 56; Wendi, 55; Susannah, 19 and Haley Davis , 17, were lain to rest.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.