This is a fairly non-traditional post for this blog, but it’s a great outlet for me to share an event I recently experienced and, I believe, it also gives some insight to the culture and people of small-town, rural Central Kentucky.
On Monday a 21-month old child went missing from his home. You hear about missing and lost children, but what is different here is where we are located. It turns out this was our neighbor’s child, but that neighbor is two miles away. In the city, that would likely be someone living in a completely different neighborhood. Here, that means it was the closest person to our home off our family property. (Which, for the record, is several hundred acres among the entire family.) In a more populated area, you have to worry about roads and traffic and (worst of all) abductions when a child wanders off.
Although the boy was missing 11 hours, abduction was never the prime concern. This little boy just wandered from his home without his parents’ knowledge and got lost in the vast wilderness and back roads that surround this area. While there is peace believing he had not been kidnapped, if you have ever been in the knobs of Central Kentucky, on back county roads, you know that even as an adult without GPS or maps you could easily find yourself lost. So try putting yourself in the shoes of a toddler who has no baring of direction or location–let along dangers.
The disappearance happened around 9 a.m. and I was unaware until a text from a friend checked in with me around 4:15 p.m. She’d heard the location was near us and the toddler was not being identified in reports, so heaven forbid it was one of ours! Within an hour of her text I’d read more and heard from the Hubs, who was now on his 45-minute drive home from work because his fire department had been called in to help. He told me the search seemed to be centralizing near the gravel road that runs nearly two miles through the family property and dead ends at our house. I offered to drive his boots and jeans to the end of the road to save him some time, but found a state police officer walking the road on the way out. The child’s diaper and shirt had been found further up the road and the search was narrowed to our road and property.
State police were present, a helicopter was flying as low as possible in search, and slowly more and more volunteers and locals showed up with whatever means they had to help: ATVs, four-wheelers, horses. The fields, roads, paths, creek beds and woods were crawling in search of this boy. It was bizarre to see this kind of activity on our otherwise quiet and untouched land. Typically, a strange vehicle comes down the road and all of my relatives are asking questions. Not this night.
Meanwhile, I could not leave my own kids (nearly three and 19-months), but sitting by idly waiting was impossible while knowing this young, lost boy was out there. He could be as close as my tree line but so confused or hurt he couldn’t do a thing. I pushed the stroller, cried, prayed and walked calling his name.
In my heart I had to believe this boy was okay. Not just because that’s obviously how everyone wanted the story to end, but because of where he was: in our Valley. Prayer and faith run deep in the family and since buying this property and moving to Kentucky 37 years ago, prayer has been present. We pray in our homes and from the knob tops and we pray for protection of our daily activities and all forms of life and happenings within this Valley. If a toddler were to be on his own in the wilderness, this was as safe as they come, and I truly felt that was the case.
But as the sun began to fall all I could think of was how hard this search would become for the next 10 hours of darkness. More and more people showed up from our community. My phone was blowing up with texts from our family who own pieces of the property but don’t actually live here. They were asking for updates and thinking of possible places to search as they prayed. It was just after 8 p.m. when a text read “they found something”. That was shortly followed by messages that it was the boy and that he was okay. He was completely naked and shoeless, but aside from some scratches, he was unharmed.
It was merely a local volunteer that found him. He’d turned up my cousin’s long gravel driveway that wound up a knob. Where the drive makes a switchback, a logging road goes straight and not far down the logging road, under a tree, sat the boy. Small towns may have their fair share of troubles and drawbacks and Kentucky may be thought of as a backward place from some viewpoints, but what really matters is the good hearts. Whether they knew the family or not, people felt connected to this boy, as though it could be their own, and wanted to help.
I truly believe a larger force was at work in the situation for two reasons. First, he was found in literally the final minutes of any kind of natural light. Once the sunlight was gone, I cannot imagine how difficult and impossible the search would become; not to mention the dropping temperature, the dew setting, and knowing the kid was naked and without food.
Second, he was unharmed. Just two weeks ago I came upon a rattle snake (at least 5 feet long and fat as a rat) stretched across the middle of our road. Between creatures like that, venomous and stinging bees/bugs, poisonous plants he could have eaten, creeks and ravines he could have slid into, the list of possible injuries is endless. But the level of prayer and protection and safety that has been called upon for this valley is strong, and with the amount of prayer being poured out for him during those 11 hours, I have no doubt he was being kept safe by a bigger presence.
Praying for people and causes is something most people of faith do regularly, but praying for your surroundings is equally important and makes a difference. Pray for your home and that it is a place filled with love and comfort and safety. Pray for your property or neighborhood and that it is a place of positive energy and good vibes; these things make a difference in your day-to-day life and the growth of your children. Pray for your transportation, whether it be a car, bus, bike or airplane; ask that it be surrounded by protection and the protection of those within. Pray for the places you visit in travel; you do not know who was last there or the happenings within and what negative experiences may have occurred. Pray for our country and that goodness and peace is being sought and welcomed.
Let asking for peace and protection be the first thing you do each morning.