When a young man’s wheelchair and handicap-accessible van were destroyed in the Oklahoma tornado, a Samaritan's Purse volunteer worked to find a replacement
Staff Sgt. Will Wilson saw nothing but bricks lying around a concrete slab when he arrived at his mother’s house. He yelled for his family, and he heard his older brother shout back from underneath the pile of rubble as he stuck his arm into the air.GiveHe then found his younger brother Charlie, who has cerebral palsy, thrown from his wheelchair with the chair nowhere to be found. After more searching, he found his mother, Maria Young, across the street with contusions covering her body and a broken leg. He rushed his family to triage.
Their home had been hit by the EF-5 tornado that struck Moore, Okla., on May 20.
Within 24 hours, Samaritan’s Purse had a team on the ground to assess damage and determine how we could respond to the deadly twisters that hit Moore and nearby Shawnee the day before. Staff and volunteers are helping tornado victims by cleaning up debris, salvaging personal belongings, cutting up and removing downed trees, and tarping damaged roofs.
Immediately following the tornado, Wilson joined his fellow Army members, who were helping pull people from the rubble. As he went to Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children died, he start to retreat to his “dark place”—the mental state he entered after returning from overseas combat.
“I felt it come back again when I started pulling people out of the rubble and when I was over at the elementary school,” he said. “I slipped back in that dark place.”
Help from Samaritan’s Purse Volunteers
For the next five days, Wilson tried to do everything for his family on his own. Charlie’s wheelchair was gone, and the vehicle they used to transport him had been destroyed. Maria said she didn’t want to return home, but he still needed to clear the lot.
“I’m trying to be their pillar, so I had to get them food and somewhere to stay initially,” he said. “I’m just trying to make sure that my mom doesn’t have to deal with any of this.”
On Saturday, Samaritan’s Purse volunteers were working in the neighborhood. The family wasn’t on the list of work orders, but a volunteer, Scott Moore, noticed Wilson working diligently.
“I saw Will working really hard, and he looked distraught to me,” Moore said.
He approached Wilson and asked him whether he needed any help. Wilson said he could use extra hands, so Moore called other volunteers over to the yard to begin cleaning up. While they worked, Wilson and Moore talked.
“We talked about finding Christ and letting Him take over, and I just felt that spiritual connection that I hadn’t felt in a really long time,” Wilson said.
Then Moore prayed with Wilson.
“I said, ‘Well, if you’ve asked Christ to be your Lord and Savior, I think it’s time to rededicate your life and let God come in your life and take it over,” Moore said. “Empty all your thoughts and emotions, and let God take over.”
Wilson shared the conversation with his wife. She’s a Christian, and he told her that he wanted to start attending church regularly.
“I accepted it and I took it home with me and I told my wife,” he said. “I know I don’t go to church as much as I should. This really has made me take a second look at my place with God.”
A Woman Who Cares for Others
But that wasn’t the end of Wilson’s good news. He told Moore about his younger brother’s situation and the need for another wheelchair and van. Charlie wasn’t badly injured in the storm, but he had been lying in the floor since then because he isn’t mobile.
Wilson has told many people about his family’s story. His mother isn’t just someone who fell on hard times. She gladly accepted the challenge.
Maria adopted Charlie when he was 3 years old. He was an abused, 13-pound toddler who came into her physical therapy office for treatment. His mother had kept him locked in the closet, and he was nearly stuck in the fetal position from not having any room to move.
The doctors realized that the boy couldn’t stay with his abusive mother. They asked Maria if she would take him, but she wasn’t sure. She was already raising two sons, and they didn’t have a lot of money. But then the little boy put his arms around her. She knew she couldn’t abandon him, so she decided to adopt him.
He is now 26, but so brain-damaged his mind is still that of a 2-year-old. She’s raised him for nearly 24 years and hasn’t received any help.
Another Prayer Answered
Wilson told Moore about his mother and Charlie. Moore said he would make some calls and see if anything could be done.
Wilson didn’t have high hopes. The story had fallen on deaf ears so many times that he had nearly given up. He’s even written to Oprah Winfrey and President Barack Obama to see if anyone would help.
“When I told Scott the story, I didn’t expect anything from it,” Wilson said.
But Moore wasn’t going to give up. He called Emmaus Baptist, the church where Samaritan’s Purse is based in Oklahoma City, and talked with the pastor’s wife. God was already orchestrating the details.
The pastor’s wife knew of a family in the church, the Husteds, that had an extra handicap accessible van. Less than 10 minutes after Moore’s call, the church had arranged to give the van and an extra wheelchair to Wilson’s family.
After church the next afternoon, the Husteds and the pastor drove to Maria’s house. Moore was working on a nearby home, so he walked over to see the presentation. The only problem was that no one had remembered to call Wilson. But God’s timing was perfect in that, too.
“I didn’t think I was going to hear from them again,” Wilson said. “I was sitting there having my own prayer time, and as soon as I was done thanking God for my family, all a sudden I get this phone call, and it was them saying they had a vehicle for her. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.”
He called his mother and told her to go to her house. She hadn’t been back to the devastated neighborhood since the storm, and she was afraid something was wrong. Wilson didn’t want to get her hopes up, so he wouldn’t tell her what was happening.
“She’s never had anything like this before,” he said. “Everything we’ve ever had, we’ve had to make do with what we had and turn it into our own personal handicap vehicle. We just never had the money to afford a special needs van like this.”
Wilson broke down in tears when he saw the van. Maria drove up and saw him crying, so she assumed the worse. She hobbled up on her broken leg and began crying and saying that she couldn’t take bad news. But when the Husteds presented the keys to her van, she realized what was happening.
“You need to pinch me because I don’t think this is real,” she said. “Two days ago, I didn’t want to live anymore. I just wanted God to come and pick us up somehow.”
After the presentation of the van, Becky Husted and Maria sat and talked and laughed together. Although she no longer has a home, Maria was content that afternoon.
“My boys are safe, and I’m alive,” she said. “I feel that [the Husteds are] angels from God and that this is a miracle. I don’t know how it happened. I don’t understand how God is so good.”