Rummaging through my files today, I found a copy of a letter I had written to the Columbus, Ohio Zoo in the summer of 1996. It detailed an incredible experience that Ted and I had there a few weeks before.
Memories are still fresh and powerful right now, as I revisit that day. We had spent the entire morning touring the zoo, and at noon I grabbed an empty table in a large picnic area while Ted joined a long line at the nearby fast food court. The picnic area was crowded, and the noise level high with laughter and play from dozens of families at the tables around me. On my right was a row of overgrown shrubs that provided some shade from the 90-degree heat.
Above the din of the crowd, I thought I heard a whimper, but looking around I saw nothing out of the ordinary. A few minutes later I heard it again. This time my eyes searched the bushy area to my right and I saw her. Less than 10 feet away a small child was nestled down in the center of a large bush, almost completely hidden from sight. Had she not been crying softly I would not have seen her.
I didn't get up and go to her right away. I pondered the situation, instead. She was in no immediate danger, and I, a total stranger might frighten her. I carefully surveyed the families around me. No one seemed to be upset or searching for a lost one. Therefore, I instinctively knew that her family was not at this particular picnic area at this time. They must be elsewhere, I believed, searching frantically for their daughter.
Surely zoo security was out looking for her, as well, I thought. Then it dawned on me that I had seen zoo personnel drive slowly by in a golf cart when I first sat down. Had they been searching for this child, I wondered. Surely they had been, and surely they would return.
I kept an eye on the little girl while I prayed for Ted to return quickly with our food. Together, we would sound the alarm then. (There were no cellphones in those days.)
By this time, I was shaking and near tears. The words to a song entered my troubled soul. "Jesus is my portion, A constant friend is He. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches over me. . . ." I knew God was watching over this precious child, too, and I knew that I had been assigned the privilege of protecting her until security came.
You are safe, little one, I silently said to the dear little girl. I will not let anyone nor anything harm you until you are safe with your mom and dad again. I asked the Lord to put His loving arms around her while I waited for help. Her whimpers became less frequent and she began to play with the leaves on the shrubbery around her. I sent a silent thank you to the Lord.
Then I heard the golf cart coming down the road again. Two young security officers were looking this way and that, as they inched slowly toward me. Jumping from my seat, I flagged them down as they approached where the little girl was.
Emotions gave way to a flood of tears. Unable to utter even one word, all I could do was stand there and point toward the child. Seeing her, the young man hopped out of the cart, and in seconds she was safe in his arms. The woman grabbed her walkie-talkie and yelled, "Tell her parents we have found her -- and she is OK. We'll be at the front gate with her in a moment." In a flash they were gone. The child was on her way to her mom and dad. My heart overflowed with relief as I praised the Lord for His watchful care over this child.
Then, I thought of the many times our Lord must have taken care of me when I feared I had been abandoned. As I had watched over the little child, so had He watched over me all my life. And, just as her parents will never know of my participation in their daughter's rescue, I will never know the many times God has saved me from dangers unknown.
I was still shaking and dabbing at tears when Ted returned with the food and drinks. "What's the matter?" he asked. I replied with a smile through the tears, "Do I have a story to tell you!"
"For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me."