The human impact of hurricane Katrina is still staggering, with nearly 8,000 adults and 3,600 children reported missing or lacking parents.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 966 of those cases of missing children have been resolved (see The Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 22). The remaining cases of children and adults in distress demand our attention.
The magnitude of the work seems so formidable that we need, more than ever before, divine help to lift us from discouragement. I am praying for my friends in New Orleans and in other affected areas, some of whose names are on the missing list and others whose names appear on none of the "safe" lists. It helps to remember the continuing presence of the Divine in our lives. This reassures me.
As a dad, I yearn to help the missing children. I want to know that those who are alive are cared for, comforted, housed safely, and fed. I want to know that they are safe from exploitation. I want broken families to be reunited and to find ways to get on their feet again as soon as possible.
As Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wrote in one of her poems, "Thou Love that guards the nestling's faltering flight!/ Keep Thou my child on upward wing tonight" ("Mother's Evening Prayer," Hymn 207, "Christian Science Hymnal"). I, too, pray that God will keep all children safe.
To pray to keep these thousands of missing children and adults "on upward wing" seems a daunting agenda, but it is not so for Christ.
I find comfort in thinking of Christ as the ever-present light of the world, the message that God always has and always will love each individual, that the very hairs of our head are numbered. I know that these children and adults are not missing to God. They have never left God's encircling love, His care.
I can pray that the promised Comforter is not waiting for some far-off event, but that the Christ, God's message to the here-and-now that all will be well, is indeed present, and that presence can be felt in practical ways.
I've never experienced the anguish of a missing child from such a disaster, but I know a parent's heart-wrenching distress when a child is missing. When my daughter ran away and was gone for 10 days, we kept our prayer vigil, affirming that God was present and taking care of her, all throughout the search for her.
We used as a basis for our prayers the poem I've quoted above, and also these verses from the 91st Psalm: "Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."
At the end of the 10 days, when we found her, she was safe. There were further bumps along the way, but she went on eventually to lead a life that has been productive to society, and now is a happy wife and mother.
We learned then that missing children are not outside of God's territory. They are not unknown to the all-loving Father, and He can lead them to safety, even in the face of Katrina's aftermath. For our part, we can pray for the touch of Christ that will awaken them, and those who are searching for them, to a reassuring sense of God's ever-presence that will reunite them with their families.
The beloved of the Lord
shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him
all the day long,
and he shall dwell
between his shoulders.