The Day I Lost My Son in An Elevator

The memory of losing our son in an elevator in Hong Kong still causes me to break out in a cold sweat. Our family was visiting Hong Kong for a brief vacation from the Philippines, where we were serving as missionaries. We had planned to stay at the guesthouse for missionaries located on an upper floor of a high-rise condo building. We were standing in the lobby, waiting on the elevator to see our home for the week for the first time. All of us were excited to be in this new exciting place. When the elevator doors opened our, then six-year-old, son, Jesse, ran inside the elevator ahead of the rest of the family. Just when he arrived inside, the doors closed leaving all us standing outside!

For you parents out there, you can imagine the sense of panic. We were in a country where Chinese was spoken instead of English or Cebuano. Communication was a challenge at best. Jesse did not know what floor our condo was on nor did he know how to ask for help. My husband and our two older sons immediately ran up the stairs hoping to catch the elevator on another floor. I waited not so patiently in the lobby just in case Jesse made it back down to the lobby. All of our hearts were pounding with fear. Our son was lost in an elevator; enter my worst vacation nightmare.

Inside the elevator, Jesse rode all the way to the top floor where a female security guard was standing. She noticed his tears and got on the elevator with him to offer her help. But instead of returning to the lobby, the elevator went to the basement. We were not there and he was still crying.  After what seemed like an eternity, the elevator doors opened in the lobby and there stood Jesse and the female security guard. She looked at my fear-stricken, tear-stained face and knew immediately that I must be the mother of the little blonde haired boy that was lost in the elevator. Never again did Jesse run ahead of us into an elevator! Jesse had no intention of putting himself in that situation or putting his family in that kind of panic. He was simply excited to be a part of what was ahead.

When I think back on that experience I can’t help but think about the times that the people of God have run ahead of Him in their anticipation of what was to come.

Sarah ran ahead of God when she was told she would have a son. She could not imagine how God could possibly do that through her (surely He meant adopted son, right?), so in her excitement for the possibility she ran ahead of God and took matters into her own hands. Her actions did not work out so well, causing heartbreak for a maidservant, Hagar, and a sense of panic latter in Israel’s history. (Gen. 15-16) Or what about Peter who, in his enthusiasm, ran ahead of Jesus only to find himself denying Jesus multiple times before the night was over. He never intended to put himself in a situation that caused such pain and regret. He never intended to cause the panic that came from cutting off the ear of a guard; he was simply wrapped up in the moment and took matters into his own hands. (Matt. 26)

Their stories and my own experience are reminders to me not to run ahead of God.

So often when I sense God is up to something exciting or I see a great need, my first reaction is to run ahead instead of waiting on God to take the lead. In those times I have found myself experiencing the pain of disappointment. And sometimes my exuberance has left others behind in a state of panic, much like my family felt when Jesse got in that elevator. While my intentions were good, I made a mistake when I ran ahead of God.

One of the most difficult things to do in our Christian walk is wait on God.

Wait on God to lead us to our place of service. Wait on God to show us our life mate. Wait on God to send our first child. Wait on God to provide the financial resources for a building project, or  mission project, or tuition or groceries. Wait on God to change the heart of a lost friend. Wait on God to heal a broken heart. In the midst of waiting, the temptation to “run ahead” can be strong!

As the second half of 2013 begins, perhaps it is a good time to take a break and “Be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 47:10). I can save others and myself a lot of agony and panic when I choose not to run ahead, but to wait on God!

One thought on “The Day I Lost My Son in An Elevator”

  1. Grace S. Morris says:

    My husband and I had a similar experience in Seoul, South Korea.

    We had only been in South Korea about five weeks. Our crate from America arrived and we had to go to our assigned apartment to move into it. Our older son had school, so we left him there, and were taken to our new apartment. He was 11 years old. My husband had thought to put the number to our mission office in Andy””””s pocket. He was going to ride the school bus to our new apartment for the first time. We made sure he knew the number of our building, the floor, and the apartment number. Our younger son did not have school so he came with us.

    The day went quickly as they raised by cables our household things that had been crated. It was late in the afternoon when we realized that Andy had not come home yet. Another missionary called the school and they said that Andy had gotten off at an apartment complex, but they didn””””t know which one.

    Upon realizing that no one knew where our son was in a megacity and finding him would be like finding a needle in a haystack, I prayed, “Dear God, you know where our son is right now. Please help him to stay in one place that is safe. Please Lord, help him find someone who speaks English. Remind him about the phone number in his pocket. Don””””t let him get scared. Lord, I know You will bring him back to us. Thank you. In Your Precious name,I pray. Amen.”

    The other missionary woman urged me to go with her in her car and look for him. Mike stayed at the apartment in case Andy called, or the mission office called.

    As we drove around the different apartment complexes, I saw a building with the same number as our building and it looked like ours. I asked the missionary wife if we could stop and go up to the 11th floor and see if Andy had gone there by mistake, but she said that it was useless and that we should continue to drive around and look for him.

    After driving for about an hour withour finding Andy, we went back our apartment. Thankfully, when we got back up to our new home, Mike told me that the mission office had called. They were going to pick Andy up and bring him to our apartment. As we waited for about 45 minutes, it felt like hours.

    Four to five hours after we discovered he was missing, one of mission personnel came with Andy. We had a joyful reunion and thanked God that He had answered our prayers. Here””””s how He answered my prayer.

    Andy saw the building that had the same number as our apartment when he was riding the school bus, so he got off the bus. He walked to that building and took the elevator up to the 11th floor and knocked on the door. To his surprise, an older Korean woman answered the door. Thankfully, she knew some English. She told him to sit down and tell her what happened. She gave him some milk and cookies. When she asked him if he had any information on him, he remembered that he had the mission office phone number in his pocket. She called the mission office and arranged for them to come to her apartment and pick him up. He said that the Korean lade made him feel comfortable and he was only scared when he first saw the Korean lady, instead of us, in the apartment.

    God answered every part of my prayer. Also, when I felt the strong desire to go into that apartment with the same number as ours, it was the exact apartment that Andy was in. I should have listened to that strong urge from the Lord and not let the other missionary””””s words keep me from doing it.

    Thankfully, the Korean lady was a Christian and made Andy feel welcome and safe.