Back in the day, 1980 to be exact, Anderson Erickson Dairy started placing pictures of missing children on milk cartons.
I remember looking at these photos, not really understanding how these kids got “lost.” Then, in 1984, the growing problem roused Congress, and that’s when the Reagan Administration founded the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Fast forward to 1996. Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old, was abducted and killed in Texas, prompting our current system of alerting citizens. We know it as an AMBER alert.
I get these alerts on my phone, and my first response is to pray. Then, I become more aware, almost as if my heart is searching for the child or vehicle described in the broadcast.
I don’t think I’m alone. After all, when a child is lost, every second counts, right?
Interestingly, the word “lost” in Greek is translated to mean destroy or perish. So when Jesus told his disciples the parable of the lost sheep in Matthew 18:12-14, He is assuring them, and us, that God is unwilling to have anyone perish.
No one has to spend eternity without Him. That’s the moral of the story.
But if we dig a little deeper, there’s a question for us today in verse 12.
“If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the 99 on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?”
If you have a head of cattle and one gets out of your fence, do you not go look for it?
If you have 12 children and one of them wanders off in the store, do you not go look for him or her?
So how can we allow our fellow citizens to perish, to wander off?
After all, a wolf cannot attack a whole flock of sheep. But if one sheep could be lured away, could wander off or become so hurt and wounded that it hides in the bushes, that one sheep will surely perish.
Our Father in Heaven wants no one to perish. So, consider this a SHEEP alert.
It’s up to you and me to seek out the one sheep, the one hurting soul, the one still walking in darkness, the one disillusioned and deceived, the one wounded. How?
You can partner with local ministries like Alpha House, Exodus or Sling n Stones.
You can be that radical believer in the workplace. You can be that strong tower that parents your kids and influences their friends. However you want to find that lost sheep is up to you. But there are lost sheep in our city. Individuals abducted by the enemy of their soul. Perishing people in our pews. Wounded folks looking for hope.
And every second counts.
Will you look for the one that’s lost?
Julia Bartgis is a local writer and an alumni of Southwest Baptist University. She is currently serving as board president of the Exodus Ministry of Missouri Inc.