For the past 8 years I’ve been rostered with other local ministers to write the weekly Christian Comment published by The Gisborne Herald. Often this means that we get to write about interesting local topics. Other times, it means that our writing coincides with unfortunate and sad events.
This was one of those times.
The following was published in the Gisborne Herald, 28 August 2010:
Lucas Ward was a local lad, 4-years old, gregarious, loved. He went missing on August 17, somewhere near the Waimata river. The Gisborne Herald reported about the subsequent search, and the outpouring of grief and support from our amazing community.
Sadly, Lucas’ body was found 10 days later. He had drowned in the river, his precious young life cut short.
I was rostered to write the Christian Comment that week, and considered avoiding the topic of Lucas’ tragic passing. I wasn’t sure if it would be helpful, or even appropriate. I reconsidered, however, when asked “Where was God when Lucas needed him?”
Here’s what I wrote:
God bless little Lucas Ward.
Lucas, 4-years old, had gone missing last Tuesday, 17 August 2010. At his grandmother’s house on Graham Road when he disappeared, and following the discovery of his bike and a small packet of chips that his grandmother gave him, no further clues had been found in the search that followed for young Lucas. Reports of possible sightings of Lucas later that day failed to shed light on where Lucas was.
His distraught but brave parents made their pleas for help in finding Lucas. Police officers, volunteer firefighters, surf lifesaving members, Coast Guard volunteers, Maori wardens and community members had searched land, river, and sea, for days. Countless others offered time, food, and effort.
Sadly, on Thursday 26 August, the community received news that young Lucas’ body had been found, at around midday, in the Waimata river, only 400m upstream from his grandmother’s property.
As the father of my own young family, I can only begin to guess at what Lucas’ family is feeling. But I know that God knows, and that God cares.
I’m sure that many would feel that the loss of young Lucas’ life means that God doesn’t care at all.
But that’s not what I believe. What it means to me is that, as far as we know, young Lucas ventured out like so many young children do, and met with a tragic end. The desperate sadness that the family feels, and that the community bears witness too, is also felt, I believe, by the heart of the God.
This is the nature of our earthly lives: We are free, whether child or adult, to make our own decisions. I believe that God loves and cares for us immensely. But we all make our own choices, and these choices don’t always work out. Bad things sometimes happen to good people who don’t deserve it. Life isn’t always fair.
But God still loves us. The parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:1-7 show us that in God’s Kingdom there is no such thing as acceptable loss. It also tells of the extraordinary lengths God is willing to go to in order to find those who are lost.
I believe that God’s love was expressed through the time and effort of all those who helped in searching for Lucas, and in supporting his family.
All I can add is a prayer for Lucas and his family, and the offer of our sincere condolences. I hope you will find time to pray for them too.
God bless you all, and God bless little Lucas.
Rev Don Tamihere
Nikora Tapu St Nicholas Anglican Church, Wainui Beach.