High school sweethearts on track to retire in their 30s experienced a miracle that changed their ambitious plans.
Instead of retiring, Ada natives Carlyle and Charlotte Gargis said they started a spiritual journey that led to their careers as Salvation Army leaders.
“Basically we kind of retired from the ‘world' and went to work for God,” Charlotte Gargis, 47, said.
The couple, both Salvation Army captains, are the new commanders of the Salvation Army Central Oklahoma Command.
Carlyle Gargis, 50, said he and his wife bought her family's drive-in restaurant business, The Whip Dip in Ada, at a young age, and they hoped to retire by the time he turned 36.
A pregnancy crisis — and divine intervention — interrupted their plans.
On Nov. 10, 1991, Carlyle Gargis drove his pregnant wife to the hospital, fearing for their baby's life. Charlotte Gargis was eight months pregnant and had been doing well until that day, her husband said. Upon arrival at the hospital, she was taken immediately into emergency surgery because of the baby's umbilical cord had prolapsed.
A doctor eventually came out to give Carlyle dire news: There was a strong likelihood either his wife or his unborn child — or both — would die.
Gargis said he believed in God but did not consider himself religious.
Nevertheless, he made his way to the hospital chapel and fell to his knees at the altar. He said he asked the Lord to save both his wife and their baby. He promised God that if He intervened on his family's behalf, he would do whatever the Lord asked of him.
Gargis said he prayed for hours before the doctor came to him in the chapel.
“We've had a miracle!” the physician told the anxious husband.
The doctor told Gargis his wife made it through an emergency Caesarean surgery, but the baby had not seemed to fare as well.
The doctor told Gargis he had turned away from the infant to write her time of death when she dramatically took a breath.
Gargis, his eyes welling up with tears as he talked to a reporter, said he still gets emotional when he remembers walking out of the hospital as the proud father of a new baby daughter and husband of an exhausted but very much alive wife.
“I said, ‘Lord, I could have walked out of here with no wife and no daughter. You saved them both,'” Gargis said.
“Everything changed in my life. I wept for the next two weeks.”
‘God gave us
a new life'
That November miracle makes these fall days extra special each year for the Salvation Army leaders.
The Gargises said their daughter Charlsie Ann, now 22, has brought them great joy, and they were thrilled when she and her husband made the decision to follow in their footsteps as Salvation Army leaders.
That the faith-based nonprofit “Army” became such an integral part of their lives still amazes the couple.
Carlyle Gargis said that, shortly after his daughter was born, he befriended a Salvation Army leader who frequented one of the family's drive-in restaurants.
Gargis said he began volunteering for the ministry and before long was paying someone to take over his restaurant duties while he volunteered. He said he considered his family's survival miraculous, and the experience opened his eyes and heart to the Lord's way of doing things.
“God gave us a new life. We had good lives, but it was just empty because we were focused on ourselves and pleasing others,” he said. “The more we got involved with the Salvation Army, the more we fell in love with it. Giving your life away is so much more fulfilling.”
The Gargises both are ordained ministers through the ministry. They said they served as Salvation Army leaders in Shawnee, Bartlesville and Fort Smith, Ark.
“God changed the plan. He changed everything. The house and the cars and the vacations and all the things we were striving for, they don't mean anything” compared to family and faith, Charlotte Gargis said.
Carlyle Gargis agreed. He said the Salvation Army is often “the last stop” for people who are down and out, hurting, alone and afraid. He said “that's where God meets people, and we get to be alongside for that.”
Charlotte Gargis said they were to start their position in Oklahoma City in the summer but came a bit earlier because of the May 20 tornado. She said they are excited about the many opportunities to meet more people, both volunteers and clients, during the busy holiday season. She said they love to meet people's tangible needs while ministering to their spiritual needs.
“We are meeting the human needs in Jesus' name, but our mission is to preach the Gospel,” she said.