After mom was murdered in front of kids, life became unendurable, then the hurricane hit

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By Roxy Photenhauer —

Cassenda Nelson often spent the day crying in her truck because she didn’t want to be reminded of the brutal murder of her mom and aunt in her home.

In August 2017, Cassa’s mother, Frances Nelson, and her aunt, Mamie Childs, were murdered in an alleged domestic violence dispute.

“My mom and my aunt were murdered in front of my children at her home,” Cassa reports. “My mom was someone I could go and talk to about anything. It felt like something was ripped out of me. How do you bounce back from being in that place of so much despair?”

Life became unbearable.

“I lost all hope. I didn’t want to get up in the morning. I didn’t want to see sunlight,” Cassa recounts on a Billy Graham video. “My plan was to take a whole bunch of pills to commit suicide.”

Then barely over a year later on Oct. 9, 2018, Hurricane Michael swept through her town with blockbuster Category 5 ferocity and tore up houses, knocked over trees and left the town a shambles.

Cassa’s home was also damaged.

After the tragic loss of her mom and aunt, Hurricane Michael struck.

“I’m standing here at the door watching this storm, and I’m saying, ‘Oh my God. When am I going to get a break?’” Cassa remembers. “I lost the most important people that would have been right here with me.”

No longer could she call her mom for counsel or comfort.

“I was at the very bottom,” she says. “I was mentally tired, emotionally tired. It’s like a battle that I just could not fight.”

Then Billy Graham’s Rapid Response Team arrived in town to offer comfort and practical aid.

Chaplain Patty Silverman and husband minister to Cassenda on her doorstep.

Cassa sat forlornly on the porch when a husband and wife in Superman blue polo shirts came up to her and hugged her outside her home in Albany, Georgia

“The warmth that they gave was amazing,” Cassa recounts on a Billy Graham video. “I felt a sense of hope. This was God sending these people to me to help me. All of us we started talking, we started praying and I said the prayer of salvation.

“I have no other choice but to fall on my knees and trust that God has a purpose for me. The chaplains gave me that hope.”

If it hadn’t been for those volunteers, Cassa would still be entertaining thoughts of suicide.

“When you see someone that feels so hopeless and has gone through so much like Cassa has and they suddenly accept Christ in their hearts and you see the hope and the joy and you see the tears in their face, you know that it has to be Jesus,” says Chaplain Patty Silverman.

Now when Cassa visits the grave of her mom, she is filled with hope to see her one day in Heaven.

“I don’t feel pain because I know that one day when we meet again in Heaven, we will have peace and joy with God,” Cassa says.

If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here

Roxy Photenhauer studies at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.