Friday, July 11, 2008


July 11, 2008

His face was pale, his voice strained and pleading. He bore the terror of a father who ached to hold his son yet feared he might never again do so. "I took my eyes off him for only a few seconds," he explained fighting back tears, "and he just disappeared. Please, help me find my little boy; he's only six-years-old." Then he added the words that heightened our concern and increased the intensity level of our search efforts. "He's 'special ed!'"
It was July 4th and I had once again volunteered to help patrol the crowd during the annual celebration at Central Park in San Ramon, California. As a chaplain for the police department I welcomed this yearly opportunity to get out amongst the people in our community. Although the event always left me exhausted and limping from painful, blistered feet, I truly enjoyed walking the park, meeting new people, letting them know about our chaplain program, and ministering in any way I could.
I was resting at the police information booth in the middle of the park when the anxious father arrived with his heartfelt plea for help. Immediately our event team sprang into action. Word was sent to our mobile dispatch unit and within seconds portable radios were crackling the boy's description to teams of uniformed officers throughout the park. An announcement was made over the PA system at a temporary stage where a local band was entertaining the celebrative crowd. We were doing all we possibly could to find the boy. My role now was to wait in the booth with the agonizing father, ministering to him and hoping for a happy ending to this otherwise festive occasion.
Compounding our anxiety was the size of the crowd, estimated at around 30,000, and the time of day, just a few minutes before dark. The lights in the park had been left off in anticipation of the fireworks display scheduled to begin shortly. It was easy to understand how a small boy, prone to wander and easily distracted, could be lured away from his father by all the surrounding sights and sounds of family picnics, carnival rides, food booths, and screaming children. Finding him in broad daylight would be difficult enough. After dark, amidst the chaos of a fireworks display, it would be next to impossible.
The father took a seat on a folding chair in our booth but his eyes would not rest as he constantly surveyed the passing throng of people, hoping for a glimpse of his son. In his arms he clutched two other small children, a four-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl. His grip on them was firm and secure. Though one had strayed these two would not leave his embrace. We offered to help hold his kids but no one was about to pry them from his hands.
Prompted by the Spirit I offered to pray for the lost boy. The father's response was enthusiastically positive, and my prayer seemed to calm him somewhat. About ten minutes after we prayed and just before the start of the fireworks, the desperate search came to a joyful conclusion, and a relieved and grateful father was reunited with his wayward son. Incredibly, despite all the anxiety he had caused his father and the enormous search effort his wanderings had generated, the little boy was totally unaware he was lost.
"Next time you're in a large crowd," I gently lectured the father, "agree on a place to gather if you get separated from each other. And make sure your children know they can approach any uniformed officer and ask for help." With words of deep gratitude for all we had done the man walked off to join the celebration still clinging tightly to his younger children with his lost son, now found, perched proudly on his shoulders.
Having had several days to ponder this incident I am intrigued by the spiritual parallels. Like this lost little boy we, too, are prone to wander away from our heavenly Father being easily distracted by the sights and sounds of an alluring world. Like this little boy we also have a loving Father who is deeply concerned for us and will not rest until all His children are safely by His side. Our Father has also enlisted the help of an army of determined rescuers (the Church) and sent them throughout a sinful, chaotic world to search for lost children and bring them home. Yet incredibly, despite all the anxiety they have caused their Father in heaven and the enormous search effort their wanderings have generated, most people remain totally unaware that they are lost. And the world just keeps growing darker!
Fortunately, there is ample cause to hope for a joyful conclusion to this desperate search. Our Father has graciously arranged for a place for us to gather in the event we get separated from Him—the cross of Jesus Christ. "For God was pleased...through [Christ] to reconcile to himself all making peace through his blood shed on the cross." – Colossians 1:19-20.
However, we dare not wait for the lost ones to find their own way home. Rarely will they wander into the dispatch center (church assembly) looking to be found. The call has been issued. It is time for God’s people to spring into action. It is up to us to leave our comfortable surroundings, pour into the surrounding communities, and diligently search for the lost. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” – Luke 19:10. “…As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” – John 20:21. Leading this world-wide search and rescue mission is the "Good Shepherd." "Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home." – Luke 15:4-6.
Perhaps the greatest cause for rejoicing lies in the strength of our Father's hold on us once we are firmly in His grasp. "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand." – John 10:27-29.
Isn't it wonderful to know no matter how dark and enticing the world becomes, we have a Father who will not turn away from us even for a second? Despite the chaos and confusion surrounding us, we remain safe and secure in His grip! If only we could find more of the lost ones and lead them home! If only we could place more of them in the Father’s powerful hands! If only more of us would have ears to hear the desperate cry of a Father longing for a wayward child! If only more of His search and rescue team would leave the comfortable confines of their homes and church gatherings and answer His call to “seek and to save what is lost!” If only we could witness more happy endings!

Bill, a child of God searching for what is lost


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