• Sheila Harkins

When the Lost is Found


Most families have a story of a time when a child was lost.


One of my earliest memories is when my little sister was lost and we were all looking for her. She must have been about two. I remember us all calling, “Susie,” as we walked around our house and yard in what was then Salisbury, Rhodesia. Then we saw a plastic yellow shovel waving back and forth–the top of it sticking out of the large hole in our yard where we burned our trash. We ran towards the yellow clue. There she was, covered in dirt and ashes, at the bottom of the garbage pit. I can still remember the relief we felt when we found her.


I grew up hearing two “lost” stories about my older sister, Sharon. One was on the military base in Japan when she was also about two. She and my brother, Mark, were supposed to be sitting on the front steps eating their ice-cream. When my Mom came out and didn’t see Sharon, she asked Mark where Sharon was. He responded that he didn’t know. Somehow big brother totally missed little sister wandering off! Apparently, Sharon was able to walk quite a ways before a Military Policeman found her and brought her home. When we visited that base in Japan this past summer, I saw how big it was. I could picture my Mother’s fear when little Sharon wandered off.


There was also an elevator story. This one took place when Sharon was about five. She was with a friend’s family, celebrating a birthday. When the others got in the elevator, somehow Sharon didn’t. I’m sure the family she was with were quite relieved when she was reunited with them.


As I heard that story growing up, I didn’t know that one day we would have an elevator story of our own.


We had been in Thailand less than a year. Several people had recommended that we visit MBK mall and so, one Sunday during the summer break we took our children to the crowded mall. With three children five and under, getting around was always a bit stressful. I was pushing Isaac and Shaina in the stroller when we arrived at the elevator. Philip was behind me. When the elevator opened, Maurissa, leading our group hopped right in, but the doors closed before I could manage to get the stroller in. Panicked, we began pressing the elevator buttons. Philip ran around trying to find a staircase.

Finally, the elevator opened back up, but no Maurissa. My heart dropped.


Then, Philip came back. He hadn’t been able to find her, either. We didn’t speak the language, we had two other young children to take care of and we couldn’t find our five year old. It was terrifying.


I was trying to ask everyone who got off the elevator if they had seen our little girl, but they didn’t understand what I was saying. Philip was running around the crowded mall looking for her. After about 20 minutes, he returned, still without our daughter. Finally, a Thai man got off the elevator and pointed to Shaina and then pointed downstairs. He was able to communicate to us that he had seen another girl like Shaina (I guess it is good that I always dressed them alike!) and that she was downstairs in the information area. Once Philip knew where to go, he was able to find her.


We held our girl, her tears and ours on our faces. It was so beautiful to be reunited. We asked her what happened and she explained that a nice man had taken her off of the elevator and taken her to the place where people tried to help her. We will forever be grateful that he was a nice man and he did take her to the information booth when we think of all the times families don’t have that happy ending.


More of Maurissa’s story came out. She said someone did speak English and had asked her to write down her parents’ names.


“What did you do?” I asked, thinking that we had never taught our girl to write our names.


“I wrote them down,” she responded.


“What did you write?” I further questioned.


“M-O-M and D-A-D.” she answered matter-of-factly.


It felt good to laugh.


There is nothing quite like the feeling of the lost being found.


There is nothing quite like being reunited.


My husband has his own story about being reunited with his family. They were visiting a military base near their home in Korea. The older kids had moved to play in another location and he ended up alone. His little four-year-old self decided that they must have left him, so he began to walk home. When he arrived at the base gate, the military police asked where was going.


“Home,” he replied.


They knew they couldn’t let a little boy walk off the base all alone, so they put him in their car and asked him to show them where to go. He knew exactly each turn and when they arrived at the gate in front of his house, he told them to honk the horn and Mr. Pak would come and let them in. So, they did and Mr. Pak came. One of his older brothers was home and was able to call the military base to let them know that Philip had come home. What a surprise that must have been for all of them!


Sometimes, like Philip, we don’t even know we are in danger. At other times, we realize that we are lost and that we can’t find our way.


In Luke 15, Jesus tells three stories about the lost being found. First, a lost sheep. Then, a lost coin. And, then the story of the lost son, more commonly known as the prodigal son.


In each case, when the lost is found, there is great rejoicing.


Just recently, I lost my wallet in my office. I kept thinking back through the day and re-tracing my steps and I just couldn’t find it. I finally remembered someone coming in and me reaching into a drawer to get out money to pay them. Yes, I had left my wallet in the drawer. It seems like such a little thing, but knowing that my U. S. driver’s license, my Thai teacher’s license, my insurance and my credit cards were all missing caused me concern.


I was relieved and happy to be reunited with my wallet! Yet, how small that gladness is compared to the joy of being restored to our Creator.


On Friday night, I watched Narnia with a group of teens. It’s been several years since I have watched it. The reunion of Edmund, the betrayer, with Aslan and with his siblings struck me again with it’s beauty. Grace and pardon for the one who didn’t even realize he was lost. Like the prodigal son, it was only when his circumstances became dire that he realized he needed to be found.


That’s the sweetness of the gospel, isn’t it? That reunion. That belonging. That feeling of knowing that someone has been looking for you. That forgiveness that is there, even though you strayed. The party that is thrown in your honor. That’s what the love of God, through the death and resurrection of His Son, offers to each of us.


As the familiar hymn says, we are prone to wander. Daily, we are prone to leave the God we love. Yet, He seeks and waits for us to return. The reunion is always glorious.

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