Every year, Australia has a 'Missing Persons Week', in which advertisements and publicity campaigns urge those people who have "chosen" to disappear to please contact their loved ones or the Police; even if they want to keep their current location confidential for their own personal reasons.
In Queensland alone, in one year, there were 6000 reported cases of missing persons although, in a proud record by the police, 99.7% of these people have been located. Across Australia there were 35,000 missing persons reported during one year a little over half of them under 18 years of age. These reports are sensationalised, because there is a similar very high clear-up rate across the country.
The real figures are more realistic and believable: on the long-term basis, the Queensland police have about 260 people on the missing persons register. That is, however, still 260 families in that state alone who are in a continual state of tension and anguish, wondering what has happened to one of their own and why.
Members of the public with any information can contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000
The United Kingdom has around 600 people who will have got up this morning, decided to walk out the front door and simply disappear. While many of those people who go missing later return, or eventually get in touch with family, there are thousands that do not. Some families never abandon hope of ever seeing their loved ones again.
As the late Julius Summer Miller in his television young science programs asked: "Why is this so?" I recall a famous story from 2008 in Britain, with world-wide attention on a missing canoeist, who after over five years of being missing and presumed dead, walked into a police station declaring himself a missing person.
The report quotes Britain's Investigator Limited's managing director, Barry Schofield: "People decide to disappear for many reasons, but the largest percentage tends to fall under two categories, family problems or financial problems. The "missing canoeist" case maybe in the minority with how elaborate people can be in disappearing and assuming a new identity."
In 1992 in the UK with a collapsing economy, there was a wave of disappearances, followed by another in 1994 during a downturn in the computer industry. These statistics can be tracked. Schofield continues by saying that although today's modern technology makes it relatively easy for anyone wishing to disappear, it can be this same technology that the police or private investigators can use to find that person again.
A generation ago, Darwin was the city that claimed many 'missing persons' who were living a new life, maybe with a new name, and who had not contacted their families. Nowadays, with mass communications and smart personal electronic devices, it is no longer possible for large numbers of people to 'hide' in any city in this way. Last year the nation was alerted to a woman who left the family and years and years later turned up, remarried in New Zealand.
The Bible too details accounts of missing persons, but on each occasion - surprise, surprise - God knew where they were. These are five well known Bible accounts of people disappearing.
Moses, having killed the Egyptian guard did a disappearing act to Midian as described in Exodus chapter 2 verses 12-15. Pharaoh heard about it and Moses thought it provident to become a missing person. This might be described as 'crime flight'.
Elijah, too did the disappearing act after he had won the great victory over the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel when, as told in 1 Kings 19, Queen Jezebel put a price on his head. He too thought it was a good idea to become a missing person, although he'd just called down fire from heaven to prove God's power and disprove any power of Baal. This might be described as 'fear flight'.
Jonah was a third Old Testament character that did the disappearing act rather than go and confront the people of Nineveh about their impending destruction unless they repented. He jumped board ship to become a missing person where he eventually ended up inside a great fish, and was vomited out and went preaching. This might be described as 'conviction flight'.
Jesus told the story of the Prodigal son in Luke 15. This young man asked for his inheritance and disappeared to a far country where he lost the lot, but became a missing person to his family. When he came to his senses and returned, to his surprise a great party was organised, but his elder brother was not a little miffed as he'd never been given a similar celebration. This might be described as 'family flight'.
The Apostle Paul too did a disappearing act. In his letter to the Christians in Galatia (Galatians 2 verses 16-23) he disappeared for three years, during which the Lord communed with him. No one is quite sure how this worked out, for as a missing person he might have lived a hermit-type of existence, or found some other situation. We do not know.
What we do know is that "after this period", Paul led what became the expansion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world. This might be described as 'divine flight'.
Regardless of the type of flight it might be, it is a serious issue for everyone concerned. Like the advice given by the Australian police, he too encourages those who have made a deliberate decision to disappear to at least let someone know, as difficult as that might be to all concerned.
You may wish to live your own life in the way you prefer but spare a thought of those who love you and once cared for you and please ease their pain by at least letting them know you are okay.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html