You may or may not have heard the story of little Cleo Smith. She was a 4-year-old West Australian girl who was taken out of her tent while camping with her family. She was missing for 18 days. 

This morning, the Western Australia Police entered a house in a small town about an hour away from where she had been camping with her family, and found her. She was alone, locked in the house, in one of the rooms. Apparently, there is footage from one of the body worn cameras on the police officer who found her, and at the moment she was discovered, she simply stated “My name is Cleo”.

She is four years old. Taken, or perhaps a more appropriate word, abducted. These stories very rarely have a happy ending. The nation of Australia has been brought to tears, starting with the Commissioner of Police. Imagine a hardened police officer of close to 40 years’ service. Has risen to the top of his police force. Imagine the things he has seen and dealt with over this time. He said “Having been around the block a bit, we obviously were very, very concerned [after] so many days passed”. And here he is, brought to tears by the finding of little Cleo Smith.

And while we are imagining: imagine what it has been like for the parents of little Cleo over the last 18 days. Imagine their pain, their anguish, over the uncertainty of where Cleo is, of whether she is alive, and what is happening to her, or being done to her after being taken. Imagine the pain of facing allegations that they were somehow involved in her disappearance.

But after all of this, imagine the joy that this must have brought for them. Cleo’s mother, Ellie Smith, said this morning that her family was now whole again. 

We may not even be able to imagine what it is like for that family, and perhaps we have only an inkling of what it is like. One of my nephews was ‘lost’ at Disneyland for 9 minutes and the pain of that 9 minutes still haunts my brother in law.

While no analogy is perfect, the Bible talks quite a bit about the joy of finding lost things. Luke Chapter 15 talks about the rejoicing in heaven when a lost sheep is found, and the woman who was rejoicing after a lost coin was found. And perhaps the most well-known story from the Bible is the great celebration that followed after the ‘lost son’ returned to his father: “[he] was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found”.

However, this ‘lost son’, chose on his own to take his father’s inheritance, chose to leave his father, and chose to squander the wealth. He only returned when he hit rock bottom.

Little Cleo made no choices. She was taken from her family, without any wealth or possessions, from everything she knew as her security, and only returned, when she was miraculously found by police. She was innocent.

But some of you may also know about the father who had his innocent child taken away from him. About his son who endured a torture beyond anything one could imagine for three days. A father who knows the pain of loss but also the great joy of a child who returned.

Like all of us here on earth, the angels must be rejoicing in heaven tonight about little Cleo Smith being returned alive and well, just like God does whenever one of his little children turns back to him.

Praise God for little Cleo’s return!

And because this post has been a bit more serious than our usual ones, here is a link to some great cartoons and pictures about the parable of the lost son, the lost sheep and the lost coin. Enjoy!