SAND SPRINGS, Okla. — Sand Springs was one of the hardest hit areas during the historical 2019 flooding in Oklahoma’s Green Country. As many lost their homes, gaining or growing faith helped many families hold on to hope.
24-year Air Force Veteran Chester McGlaughlin was one of the people who’s home was destroyed, but he says the neighbors and volunteers coming together to help save his home ultimately saved his life.
“I had kind of lost my faith," McGlaughlin said. "I had been wondering away for a while and I had been feeling more alone in the time leading up to the flood."
McGlaughlin had lost his wife to cancer in 2004. The two had met in her home country of Thailand.
“She was the most industrial person I ever knew," McGlaughlin said. "My life was hers. She was so sick in December but that following February she was still telling me to get the fishing rods out."
When she passed, it was a devastating blow for McGlaughlin.
“The doctor had stopped the chemotherapy because it was tearing her up so much," McGlaughlin said. "Losing her was a different kind of pain."
When the flood waters started to roll in last May, it was an attack on what McGlaughlin said felt like the only thing he had left.
“Two feet three inches and some homes right around here have even more than that," McGlaughlin said. "It was hard to imagine those waters being there.”
As a Sand Springs native, he didn’t want to leave the one thing he had left, but couldn't afford to repair it. Though the flood waters were receding, it was at this point McGlaughlin said he felt he was at his lowest.
“I thought, I’ll just walk away from my house and life," McGlaughlin said. "One or two days later after I started having those thoughts. I would start to plan it out. I would just be walking away from the house and just keep walking and would just maybe find a body of water and just…”
While McGlaughlin was displaced, he stayed with his cousin, and while he was figuring out what to do, Samaritans Purse, the global nonprofit volunteer organization, sent a team to Sand Springs.
“It just so happened that my house was the first one they hit after the flood waters were gone to do something called muck it out," McGlaughlin said.
The faith based organization prayed before starting to work on his home and while in the prayer ciricle, McGlaughlin confessed what he had been thinking to his sister.
"My sister was next to me in the circle and I leaned over and whispered to her what had been on my mind," McGlaughlin said. "I told her I was thinking of committing suicide."
Though he whispered this saddening information to his sister, others in the group heard it as a cry for help.
"I didn't think anyone else had heard me, but it turns out the leader of the group was one of the two people who did," McGlaughlin said.
After working on his house, the Samaritan's Purse members would invite him to have dinner.
“It just so happened that Samaritans Purse moved their central location for this region because of the floods to Church that Matters," McGlaughlin said. "They cooked meals and did fellowship ever night and with them my faith started to grow."
Thoughts of harming himself faded away as people he didn't even know came to help him and now he shares a message of hope to those who ever feel alone.
”You’ll get through it. The sun will shine the next day," McGlaughlin said. "It will shine."
Thanks to the volunteers, his home is almost completely restored. Chester is now an active member of Church That Matters in Sand Springs.
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