Jayme Closs is home.
On October 15, in the middle of the night, police received a 911 call. They went to the Closs’ home and found the parents shot to death and 13-year-old Jayme missing.
Her disappearance made local and national news. The FBI offered a reward for information. Vigils were held, and her photo was placed on billboards. A contestant on The Voice, who was from the same town, dedicated a song to her and brought attention to her case. Search parties formed, with two thousand people showing up to participate. Still, everyone was baffled because there were no solid leads.
Then, on January 10, Jayme escaped from the cabin where she was being held, found a woman on the road who was walking her dog, and asked for help. That set off a nationwide outpouring of relief, celebration, and support.
Maybe we should take a lesson from Jayme’s story when it comes to people who are missing from our spiritual family—and what to do when they come home.
Never stop looking for the lost.
In an interview with the New York Times, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald described what it was like for the 88 days on the case: “I just think about it all the time. You go to bed and you’re thinking about it. You’re like—did I do everything we could have done today? I talked to many of our detectives about that and they felt the same way. They’d wake up at 2 in the morning and take notes about something.”
Jayme’s aunt, Jennifer Smith, was grateful for that commitment and said, “We said we’d never give up, and we didn’t. And now we got her.”
While Jayme was missing, the family and the sheriffs weren’t distracted thinking about all the people who were lost. They were focused on one. Same for you. You know which people in your circle need to hear about Jesus. Stay focused on them, and don’t give up.
Celebrate when they come home.
Signs are popping up all around Jayme’s hometown on businesses and in front of houses. Social media is filled with posts from complete strangers celebrating the news. (I’m one of them.)
When people become believers, they might be overwhelmed if you put a sign in your yard that reads, “Welcome to your spiritual family!” But the concept remains. Someone coming to faith won’t look nearly as dramatic as running away from a cabin, but he or she is no longer captive to the eternal power of the devil. Make a big deal of it!
I’m a sucker for baptisms and cry at pretty much each one. Not too long ago, I was privileged to be at a church for the baptism of a baby. It is that congregation’s tradition that, as soon as the person is baptized, everyone claps and shouts and cheers. Why? Because if the angels in heaven are rejoicing, then the congregation on earth will too!
Offer them support.
A number of fundraisers have been held and a PO box opened for cards and letters because people want to celebrate Jayme’s recovery and support her transition to her new life. No one expects Jayme and her aunts to know exactly how life will look going forward. Everyone knows that—even in the middle of celebration—there is a lot to figure out.
When people are found and brought to their spiritual family, they need our support. This is not the time to give them a checklist of all the things they have to do now to be a good believer. Be patient and gracious as they grow in their faith and as the Holy Spirit works in them.
About two thousand years ago, Jesus’ brother James gave this timeless advice: “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God” (Acts 15:19).
Whether it takes 1 day, 88 days, 1 year, or 88 years, keep looking for the lost until they are found.
Linda Buxa is a writer and editor who can’t get the hymn “Amazing Grace” out of her head.
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