As COVID-19 continues its warpath through the world, Gospel Rescue Mission has remained a safe haven for our guests and a place of comfort. For one guest, COVID-19 left his life in shambles, and we were the soft-landing place he needed so that he could sift through the rubble and start putting the pieces back together. So, what happened to James? Did he fall ill? Did he lose a family member to the destructive virus? No. In fact, James’s story has a whole new level of shock factor.
It was early March, one week before America came grinding to a panicked halt. James received a troubling call from a friend, and he knew he needed to be there as that person went through one of the worst experiences one could imagine: the sudden loss of their spouse. He could hear the pain in his friend’s voice and knew he had to help in any way that he could, so he took the next flight out to California, unaware of what was stirring up on the other side of the globe. What he thought would be his mission to help another would ultimately tear his life apart.
A week after arriving in sunny California, mass-hysteria set in as news swept across the nation about the pandemic. Airports were cancelling flights, bus stations closed down, and trains weren’t taking passengers. Transportation, other than pricey rental cars, became non-existent. So, James buckled down for the long haul, happy to be with a friend in need and enjoying the vacation-style atmosphere of Cali. Its beachy palm trees made for a nice change of scenery, much different than the quiet plains of Oklahoma. Just as he was settling in though, his phone rang again. This time, the devastation was much closer to home.
His wife called with the news no husband ever wants to hear, especially when you are a thousand miles across country. “I have cancer,” she told him somberly. And with those three words, James’s life came tumbling down. He tried to catch a flight out, take a bus, anything, but with limited funds, and all inexpensive forms of transportation down for who knows how long, he was stuck. After a short time, he found a flight to Dallas, the closest he could get to his home in Tahlequah, and he jumped on it without hesitation. Upon arriving at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, he was quarantined for two weeks at the Arlington Event Center, having just arrived from a coronavirus hot spot. In the meantime, his wife was going to appointment after appointment receiving more bad news with every visit. Those two weeks seemed to be an eternity.
When his time in quarantine was up, he made a mad dash for the bus station, which was still operational in Texas. He went as far as the bus would take him, Muskogee, and that’s when things really started to unravel. His funds were completely depleted. His wife’s health had taken a turn for the worse; in just a matter of 3 weeks after her diagnosis, she was hospitalized, and the prognosis wasn’t good. With no income and his wife being in the hospital, the family home that they had been renting was needed by other family members, and they lost their home. He had no place to go back to and no money to get him to Tahlequah anyways. And with the hospital locked down due to COVID-19 and not accepting visitors, there was no point in trying to get there anyways. And that’s when he found Gospel Rescue Mission.
Since being here, James’s wife was transferred to OSU Medical Center in Oklahoma City, underwent two surgeries, and still has two more surgeries to go. While doctors are trying to be optimistic, the reality of the situation is that her health is uncertain. She was stable enough to be released after her surgeries, so she went to live with her son until they could get a place of their own and start rebuilding their lives. James recently found employment at a great job and is saving up to get their vehicle back and get a new place to call home.
We all know that God can work amazing miracles through the power of prayer. So, if you are reading this story, please take a moment to pray for them and for all the guests and staff at GRM. It’s a tough business to be on the receiving end and the giving end of life change, and COVID-19 hasn’t made it any easier. However, through prayers and the support of our volunteers and donors, the guests and staff at GRM will keep coming back with more stories of heartache turned to heartwarming stories of strength and resilience. Thanks for all your support!