Biblical accounts of those who disappeared and the nature of 'missing persons' today

Published 12 October 2012
Across Australia there were 35,000 missing persons reported during the last financial year, a little over half of them under 18 years of age.

Some of these end in tragedy, most simply choose to disappear (as it were). There appears to be 'missing persons' and 'mission persons'. Of the former, Police find them OK but they don't want others to know. Of the latter, Qld police, for example, have about 260 people on the missing persons register leaving families in a state of tension and anguish. (

Members of the public with any information on missing persons or that they themselves are missing persons, can contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or Someone knowing the real you is OK is very important.

The Bible's Missing Persons

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.

Crime Flight

Moses, having killed the Egyptian guard did a disappearing act to Midian as described in Exodus 2 verses 12-15. Pharaoh heard about the killing and Moses thought it provident to become a missing person. This might be described as 'crime flight'.

Fear 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'.

Conviction Flight

Jonah was a third Old Testament character that did the disappearing act rather than go and confront the people of Ninevah 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'.

Family 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'.

Divine 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. 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'.

Some disappearances end in tragedy

We hear of these on the news. Two recent examples: Last month Jill Meagher 29, an ABC employee in Melbourne was walking home from drinks with friends after 1.30am and vanished although there was CCTV footage of her. Six days later someone is arrested and from those investigations they find her body 45ks out of Melbourne buried in a shallow grave. (

In July in Cairns Qld, Scott Maitland, 35, and wife Cindy Masonwells, 33, disappeared. They were last seen on a Thursday evening after they picked up their green panel van from a repair shop. Scott's father expressed the same heart wrenching question that all parents extort, "… how can two people just disappear." Since, two identified bodies have been found in dense Cairns bushland.

These examples are the tip of the iceberg. Consider those lost and subsequently die when bush walking, those fallen and injured when trekking and never found, or those lost at sea, some even taken by modern day pirates, light aircraft disappearing, and such others.

Mostly disappearing is by choice

Mostly however, it appears as though people choose to disappear. Australia has a 'Missing Persons Week' in which advertisements and publicity campaigns urge those people who have "chosen" to disappear to contact their loved ones or the Police; even if they want to keep their current location confidential for their own personal reasons.

In the United Kingdom around 600 people 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.

Why is this so?

In 2008 in Britain, there was world-wide attention on the 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 …. family problems or financial problems."

Darwin it was claimed was the city of 'missing persons' 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 not as easy as it once was to 'hide'. Yes. 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 ease their pain by at least letting them know you are OK.

Maybe, even running away from the Lord. Child, take your time out. Perhaps, visit a Cathedral of stain glass, and in the silence, seek to hear the Lord afresh!

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 has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.

Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at


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