As I worked on yesterday's blog, God spoke to me. I wrote the words and then paused to think about their meaning. I'll be honest, I almost didn't share it on the blog because I wasn't sure how its message would be received. Before I could finish this debate process with myself, God gently reminded me, it was His message to share, not mine. This is a thought and view point I hadn't thought of prior to last night.
Something many don't know is Heidi's dreams after college. During her internship for college, she worked at one of the local elementary schools with a program called Banana Splits. At times, her heart was heavy after meeting with the kiddos yet each one was worth it to her. She understood at a young age, the privilege it is to work with children. Heidi was on schedule to graduate with honors from college in May 94'. The time spent doing her internship spurred her goals for a lifetime of helping children.
Little did she know that a little more than a month prior to graduation, her dreams and desires would dissolve into the unattainable. I remember cleaning out her closet months later and finding the dress she bought the week before her abduction. It was our last "sister day" at the mall, and the last time we talked about her dreams. She never had the opportunity to wear this dress to an interview, it remained in the plastic Chappels placed it in for her to bring it home. Each time I looked at this dress, I cried at the loss it represented. I could only see the children she never helped. An idea, and on some levels, truth, the enemy used against me for years.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:8-10
When I meet some of her Banana Split kiddos, or their parents, I leave our conversation with mixed emotions. First and foremost, I thank God for the number of lives she touched in her short eighteen years with us but then as I return home, I'm saddened to think of the difference she might have made in the lives of so many other children and their families.
This is where God opened my eyes to a different perspective on this very subject. Was Heidi kidnapped and prevented from accepting a career working with, and helping, children? Yes. BUT, was her desire and dream to help children stopped? NO!
Think about it, each year, Heidi's beautiful face and information about her kidnapping are shared with hundreds of cyclists participating in the Ride for Missing Children across New York. These cyclists spend months visiting schools to raise awareness of child abduction and exploitation. Thanks to our community, Heidi is never forgotten and hundreds, if not more, parents changed their parenting because of her kidnapping.
I've received notes, messages, and had conversations with adults who were young children at the time of Heidi's abduction. They share how Heidi's disappearance changed the things they were allowed to do overnight and even the way their parents interacted with them. Parent-child relationships were enhanced, improved, and developed. Two generations of families, thus far, show evidence of lifestyles and relationship changes...for the better. Children created new bonds and opportunities, ones they transferred to their own parenting.
One young, aspiring, and motivated teenager's kidnapping has changed the lives of hundreds, if not more. The enemy seeks to devour yet God used the greatest of tragedies, the loss of a child, to magnify this young woman's goals to help children to a number she could never of imagined.
This brings me much comfort. Rather than focusing on the children she wasn't able to work with or help, I need to keep my eyes focused on how God is using one girl's tragic abduction to change the lives of more than anyone could ever pray to reach. God is good.
The enemy might prowl but when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and in the Word of God, we will see how God is working for good...even when the pain might make it difficult to see. I'm thankful that twenty years later, God continues to show me His love.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us,
to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.