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Into His Hands

04/21/2005

Last week another innocent child was brutally murdered by a convicted sex offender, this time in the rural town of Lake Apopka, Florida. The list of tragic circumstances leading up to 13-year-old Sarah Lunde's death is long. But in this storm of neglect and pain, there was a silver lining.

The facts of the case are these:
  • Sarah Lunde lived with her mother and brother in an isolated trailer home among woods and swamps.
  • Members of the First Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ dropped Sarah off at her home at 9:00pm Saturday night after a youth service.
  • Sarah's 17-year-old brother left the home shortly thereafter, supposedly to go out and buy Sarah dinner. He did not return until 4:00am the next morning.
  • Sarah's mother was spending the night with her boyfriend.
  • The son of Reverend Cook, the pastor of the Apostolic church, went to Sarah's home Sunday morning to pick her up for church. She was not there.
  • Sarah's mother returned home around 6:00pm Sunday, but assumed Sarah was spending the night with a friend.
  • Reverend Cook's wife, Sherry, called Sarah's school on Monday morning and learned she was not there.
  • Sarah's mother later called the school, then reported her daughter missing, two days after she was abducted from her home.
  • An ex-boyfriend of Sarah's mother, David Onstott, later confessed to abducting Sarah from her home late Saturday night and killing her. Onstott is a convicted rapist and violent sex offender.
The raw facts of this heartbreaking story speak volumes. Most parents cannot imagine an environment where a child can be so alone that her disappearance is not immediately alarming.

"You could tell she was from a broken home and needed support," Reverend Cook later said. "She felt alone, and the church showed attention to her."

It was her church family that became concerned when she could not be found. A few days later, it was that same church family that turned out in large numbers to mourn her death.

"She felt at home here," said the church's Rev. Brad Gellert. "She found something real here."

Indeed, Sarah found comfort, friendship, support and, most of all, a heavenly Father who loved her. For a girl who never really knew her earthly father and obviously had little attention from her mother, the church acted exactly as a church should.

"She loved getting to know people," 13-year-old Leslie Fontana recounted at the memorial service, removing her glasses to wipe her tears. "She loved making friends."

Hopefully, Sarah's mother and brother will soon learn where true and caring friends can be found. Houses and relationships built on the sand of foolish decisions can be established on a solid rock. I do not know Reverend Cook and I am not familiar with the theology of this particular church, but even if there are areas in which we disagree, I appreciate the way they reached out in love. When it came to the critical issues of life, Sarah found light in her dark world through these professing followers of Jesus Christ.

"Every Sunday, we talked about who was going to pick up Sarah," Sherry Cook said. "I can't believe we're not picking her up this morning."

Our world is filled with evil. Pain awaits every child. But when the church demonstrates love to those who have been neglected, we can take comfort in the fact that those who are lost to us can be found in Jesus Christ. Reverend Cook's church members won't be picking up Sarah any more, but the God whom they serve has picked her up in His arms for all of eternity.


Author: James Robison

Word Count: 610

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, an international humanitarian aid ministry; host of the television program, Life Today; and author of The Absolutes.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, randy.robison at loi.org

Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.