With faith, there is always hope

(Photo: Jacek Plackiewicz)

I can still remember the horror. It was nothing short of a nightmare even though it lasted no more than a quarter of an hour. We were waiting for a connection flight out of Dallas Fort Worth when my young teenage son popped into a shop to buy a fizzy drink. And then he disappeared.

We had no idea where he had gone or why he was no longer near us, and we spent the next agonising ten minutes or so dashing in and our of shops and rest rooms in a desperate attempt to find him.

And then he reappeared. He'd been looking for a very particular kind of fizzy drink and it had taken him a fair distance from where he'd left us. We nearly missed the flight too, but that was unimportant given the alternative. I can still re-live the horror we felt that afternoon in Texas. It's as if it were yesterday.

But even given this experience I can hardly begin to understand how Gerry and Kate McCann must be feeling. Their nightmare is no temporary blip. It is a lasting horror, and one that tugs at the heartstrings of all who know them, whether personally or via the media outlets that have carried this story for so long.

I viewed the Crimewatch special with a mixture of hope and apprehension, and can only applaud their courage and their sense of optimism. The British Police deserve our congratulations too for the dedicated and compassionate way in which they have approached this most heartbreaking of tasks. And the Prime Minister should be applauded for allowing the case to be reopened.

I was particularly impressed by the McCanns' sense of optimism. I don't know how optimistic I would be feeling if I were in their shoes, but I pray that they will be continually strengthened and that their faith will be rewarded

It's at moments like this that I cast my mind back to the mid 1980s when a small group of us gathered to pray following the brutal murder of a couple who were enjoying one of their frequent holidays walking the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. For Peter and Gwenda Dixon had worshipped with us just a week or two before someone brutally gunned them down in heart of the Pembrokeshire countryside.

We prayed that their killer would be found. We were convinced that it was only right that their family should experience a sense of justice and that our community might be all the safer too. And God did answer our prayers, albeit some twenty years later when advances in DNA techniques allowed the police to identify their killer as John William Cooper, a farm labourer from nearby Letterston.

It is not wrong to pray for justice. Jesus assures us of that. In fact in one of his parables he asks if the Son of Man will find faith on the earth when he finally returns - and by that he meant a faith that expresses itself in fervent prayer.

And I would guess too that I am not alone either in saying that it is right that we keep praying for Madeleine's safe return. We need to ask the Lord to inspire those who are working on this most difficult of cases and work in such a way that we will all be able to rejoice that one who has been lost has now been found, and that the McCanns' long dreadful nightmare is finally over.

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