Searches, searches, searches. When our son failed to return from a hike he had taken across the Kohala over the 1999 Thanksgiving weekend, the county sent out helicopters, mobilized searchers, advised everyone in the vicinity and one of the most extensive searches for a missing person on the Big Island was launched.
Searches continued that whole week involving hundreds of man hours and flight hours. Finally we arrived in Hawaii on the following Sunday - 10 days after John left on his hike. Our arrival gave added impetus to the searches. The authorities had already given up searching, doubting that he had even arrived at the trail head since he had hitchhiked to the area. But the searches continued, spearheaded by the department of the USGS (United States Geological Survey) for which John had been working. We met and strategized and of course their counsel was fundamental to the searches since we knew nothing about the island. We flew to Honolulu for TV interviews in an attempt to find the people or person who had given him the last ride up to the trail head.
Teams were sent out all that next week, distributing flyers, knocking on doors, questioning everyone who was available. We participated to the extent that we could but we were sedentary middle aged parents in no condition to hike the rough terrain where our son had gone. But teams of other young people hiked the trails and were as dedicated to the search as we were.
But it was like searching for a needle in a haystack.
You must understand that the area in which he was hiking was full of deep valleys, lesser valleys, waterfalls that plummeted down the sheer cliffs and precipices that were almost vertical. The vegetation was thick and it was impossible to see the valley floor from helicopters and impossible to search in many areas. Before we arrived in Hawaii, John's boss told us of a bomber that had crashed in that area at the end of World War II. The crew had hiked out across the mountain to safety but it took about 10 years for anyone to find the plane. It had settled under the canopy of the forest in one of the valleys and was "invisible."
Rick Reece photo - all rights reserved
We were finally able to hire a private helicopter to help with the search. By that time we had already held a memorial service for John but we weren't ready to abandon the search until we had turned over every stone that was within our reach. So on the last couple of days of December 1999, Rick and several experienced men who knew the area well, flew into the remotest valleys and hiked up the valley floors until they could go no further. But they found not a trace.
Later as I contemplated the extent of the searches, the loss of our son, all of the generous helping hands and feet of those who had helped, I was reminded of the parable Jesus told in Luke 15:8 and 9.
"Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!'"In the same way that we searched diligently with all the resources we had available to us, so our heavenly Father searches and longs for each one of his creatures. Jesus continues in Luke 15:10 saying:
"Likewise, I say this to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (New King James version)Even though our searches for John turned up empty, we are certain that the greatest desire of his heart would be to know that many repented and came into God's Kingdom as a result of hearing his story. That is why we tell it.