FENTON, MI – Everything stopped. Instantly. It was the first day of school and a six-year-old girl in our extended family was missing. Our daughter-in-law called my wife in tears. Her twin sister’s daughter didn’t get off the bus after school. She called the school to let them know. Surveillance cameras showed her daughter leaving the building after school, but not getting on her bus. School officials started calling the bus drivers, obviously thinking she got on the wrong bus. They searched the school, but she was nowhere to be found.
The family was getting more and more concerned as time passed. Every moment seemed like an eternity. A lot of time had already passed and no one knew where she was.
Immediately, I began to process the information my wife was sharing and the questions began to fly; Have the police been notified? Have the buses been checked? Have they called any friends she might have gone home with? Have they searched the school? The playground? The neighborhood? Nearby businesses? Is the family mobilizing to search? How can I help?
My wife couldn’t answer any of my questions. She had given me all the information she had. I asked her to call our daughter-in-law back, and find out any other information that she could. It was already late afternoon. I didn’t say anything, but I knew that the window to find a missing child grows smaller as time passes. There was a growing urgency in me to mobilize family and friends to start searching quickly if she wasn’t found. I continued praying as I waited for my wife to call back. I also started writing a note to ask for people to join us in prayer. A little girl, a six-year-old, was lost on the first day of school.
My mind went to the quote: The only thing worse than being lost is to be lost and no one is looking for you. Shar called back. The police had been called. She wasn’t found playing in the school or playground. Bus drivers were returning calls but so far she wasn’t on any of the buses. I was scheduled to leave town later that day for a four-day training. I cancelled the trip in my mind knowing that the family would need me if they didn’t find her.
We waited. We prayed. We tried to remain calm, but anxiety grew as time passed. Another call. Every bus driver had checked in or finished the route, but one. They tried repeatedly to contact that one bus driver, but he didn’t respond. Hope was alive, but I could tell by the way Shar spoke that anxiety was rapidly growing in our daughter-in-law and the family. I was about to send out the emergency prayer request when the phone rang again. The little girl was on that last bus! I was immediately relieved and grateful to God that she was safe. Though I did not see it, that must have been a particularly sweet embrace between momma and daughter that afternoon. I suspect time and again that mom would hold her daughter close as tears filled her eyes. I suspect that dad did likewise, and the family prayed a prayer of thanksgiving.
As I recall the events of that day, I wonder if that is a picture of what God feels when a lost child comes home spiritually. Jesus punctuates the stories of the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son with the words, “But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found” (Luke 15:32). It’s an incredible picture of Heaven celebrating and rejoicing that the lost are found!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.