Last week our church held an impromptu prayer vigil for Arianna Davis and raised an offering of $1,000 to reward anyone who comes forward with information that leads to her discovery.
Arianna, also known as "Peaches", has been missing since Friday, April 30th around 1:30pm. Her brother William last saw the 20-year old college student seated at the kitchen table in their parents' Henrico County, Virginia home--wearing cutoff blue jeans, a pink top, and multicolor flip flops--when he left their home at 1:13pm. Twenty minutes later she was in the J Express Mart on Nine Mile Road just outside Richmond, Virginia--just three blocks from her home--according to the store owner. The tire service store owner next door also remembers seeing and speaking to Arianna around that time.
I've seen this before on TV too many times--a young woman disappears and "News at 11" broadcasts photographs of her smiling face as provided by parents or other loved ones who seem just slightly zombie-like in their disbelief when television cameras are pointed at them.
"How awful," I may have whispered to myself. In the case of youth, I've often prayed that the young person be spared from the worst consequences of some possible foolish decision just as I was spared in my youth.
I don't think I've ever wondered what I would do or think if the missing person was someone I knew, but now I don't need to wonder.
I met Arianna last fall after she followed her cousin Phylicia to Fortis College and I enrolled them both. The last time I saw her was in the hallway at Fortis around 11:25am on the day before she disappeared. I'd gone looking for her to tell her to talk to our Career Services Director as soon as possible, because she is scheduled to graduate soon. As usual, her infectious smile and her excitement over how well she was doing in school gave me a lift.
Arianna lifted the spirits of everyone I've met who knows her. Hearing from Arianna's parents that she has never been away from home for more than a couple of hours without checking in, or hearing from her instructors how she gladly volunteered to tutor newer Massage Therapy students coming along behind her, just makes me miss her and feel more helpless to comfort her family.
Arianna's disappearance has brought the randomness of life into sharper focus for me, but also reminds me that God ultimately is in control and we are not. If we depend on our own strength to get through the strange, sour, or sad circumstances that smack us down in life, we will only get back up--if we do--worse for the wear. But when we know beyond a doubt that every bad or good event in our lives can be used by God to hone us into sharper instruments in His hands for His purpose, then even our pain works in our favor, because it shapes us closer to the image in which God first created us.
Arianna (or "Peaches", as she prefers to be called) disappeared within three blocks of her home in the early afternoon of Friday, April 30th. Someone must have seen what happened to her after she stopped at the convenience store and spoke to the business owner next door. Those who love her are hoping that the $1,000 reward may loosen the tongue of a witness or make someone pay attention who doesn't even realize they are a witness.
Please don't just read this and move on. If you send the story of this missing girl to everyone you can, maybe the prayers of her mother, father, grandmother, and everyone else who cares will come true sooner. Personally, I'm still praying that when we have all the answers in Arianna's situation, that we'll find her better for the lessons learned in her youth, and closer to His image.