Our local story of the disappearance and rescue of 11-year-old Nadia Bloom didn't stay local for long.

Mostly, I ignored it as much as possible, other than getting the occasional update for prayer purposes.  The media was going nuts.  And so were the nay-sayers, the gossips, and the fear-mongers.

To be sure, they had reason.  We've had at least two recent, high-profile cases here of "missing" children where at least one of the tearful, pleading relatives was most likely the perpetrator of a horrendous crime.  That's enough to cause a little cynicism. But cynicism and suspicion don't accomplish much, and in the end, Nadia was rescued after four days in Florida swampland by an ordinary man of faith:  faith in God, and faith that Nadia's disappearance was exactly what it appeared to be—a beloved child who adventured a little too far and needed help.

I'm not taking anything away from the professionals involved in the rescue attempt; I'm sure they follwed the right procedures and worked diligently and desperately to find her.  If you are wondering how hard can it be to find a child in "the woods," you need to re-read the story of Ponce de Leon's adventures in Florida.

Was James King—who set out because his wife reminded him that whenever they lose things, they always pray and God provides the answers, and wasn't Nadia lost?—was he hailed as a hero?  Eventually, but not until after questioning and a background check.  What a fishy story it was!  How could he have found her like that if he hadn't been complicit in her disappearance?  And how weird is it that he claims God led him to Nadia?  Fortunately, King was cleared quickly.

There several things that annoyed me as the story played out, more than enough reason to minimize my media exposure.  The suspicion and cynicism, as I said.  And more:  playing up Nadia's Asperger's condition as if she were a totally helpless child whose parents should have known better than ever to let her get out of their sight; latching on to the fact that she'd been reading a book about a girl who has an adventure, with the hint that such books are dangerous because they might lead a child to think adventures might be fun; even the fact that Nadia, who apparently could walk and was suffering from no more than bug bites and dehydration, was carried out of the woods by a rescue team, then given IV fluids and antibiotics and hospitalized for a few days.  It's hard not to wonder if in a less litigious era she would have been allowed to go home to her joyful family and told to rest and drink a lot.

But, whatever—the story has a happy ending, and if there's a dark side, no one has found it, although you can be sure they've tried.  Thus I was encouraged—encouraged enough to write about it—by Scott Maxwell's positive essay in today's Orlando Sentinel.   It's worth reading in its entirety, but here's an excerpt, since I know many of my readers won't bother....

Many of us struggle to believe that part of King's faith involves God actually speaking to him.

But perhaps we can believe this: If King didn't have faith, he wouldn't have been out there to find Nadia in the first place.

In fact, in the hours and days that followed the climax of this drama about a little girl found after four days, I couldn't help but think that perhaps the whole lesson was really about faith — not just in a higher power, but perhaps restoring our collective faith that bad stories truly can have happy endings. 

Because, tell the truth: You were probably skeptical.

I know I was.

I was curious to talk with [King] himself. Because I, too, can admit that I don't always get those who hear directly from God and talk back in tongues.

Maybe that's partly because I was raised Presbyterian in the South, where describing our worship style as "low-key" is like saying a string quartet is a little lower-key than Def Leppard.

[H]ow did [God] tell you? Did you actually hear a voice? Out loud? In your head? Did you see a sign?

"Sometimes, for me," he said, "it's just a very strong thought."

I see, I responded.

"We spend so much of our time listening to all the noise in the world, we don't hear the voice of God because our senses have become dulled," he continued. "That's part of why I haven't watched TV since 1989."

So said the man who did seven TV interviews before he spoke with me.

"Yeah," he laughed, "I didn't recognize a single person I did an interview with."

I'm still not sure King's expressions of faith match my own.

And I know I'm not alone. Even Nadia's grateful mother chose her words very carefully, saying that King was, well, "a little more evangelical than us."

But that's OK, isn't it?

I mean, we all know that religion has been used in heinous ways to justify some of history's most evil acts. Isn't it OK to stop and appreciate a man whose own faith practices might seem different, but who has at least used those beliefs for good?

I can't get inside the head of this 44-year-old father of five. But I did listen to the 911 call in which King can be heard talking with Nadia in the background, telling her that he brought along some chocolate milk. ("Yay!" she exclaimed.) And that she was a very brave girl. ("Thank you very much.")

And though I don't have all the answers, until someone has evidence to the contrary, I think Nadia's story can inspire us all.

It's a story of faith. And survival. And not always expecting the worst.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, April 18, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Edit
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Thanks for posting this. It's encouraging to read a positive story. (And I even read the whole article. (: )

Posted by joyful on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 2:49 pm

If you're wondering what I meant by the difficulties of finding someone in the Florida "woods," check out this story on how hard it was to find and get to Nadia and her rescuer even with GPS coordinates and cell phone contact!

Posted by SursumCorda on Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 6:21 am

I loaded all of the geocaching objects within a six mile radius of our house into my phone, but because I don't pay for it, I don't have any information about the objects, other than a title (that is more or less useful: "Something Fishy" or "Middlesex Twp Park") and its coordinates.

I gave Heather the phone and said - get me there, even though I already knew where to park. So, she guided me to the destination based solely on compass readings, starting from a couple miles away. It actually worked, without any u-turns, though I'm not sure if we went the most direct way (pretty close though). Certainly, that would not work in lots of start and end points.

But, it was pretty fun. And much easier than navigating through a swamp.

Posted by Jon Daley on Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 2:04 pm
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