The Student Who Disappeared

6840_NRCS_projects.jpgShe was the first student to ask me a math question.

I was being introduced briefly to my first classroom, in a remote reservation school. The semester was already underway, but I wouldn’t begin teaching until the following Monday (for reasons). But she asked if she could raise a quick math question while I was there.

I jokingly said “no”. She grinned and asked anyway.

Her name was Ashley, and we spent most of her sophomore and junior years tugging against each other’s wills like a pair of mules. She wore her heart on her sleeve. Neither her past nor her present were easy, and it’s tough as a teenager to hide the storms inside, so she was often decidedly outside a math mood when she walked into my class. Kneeling down by her desk and willing her through assignments was a common thing (though she was fully capable).

I’d do it all over again. Because with a few students, no matter how stubborn the will, you still have a grin for each other at the end of the day. She was one of them for me.

During my final year at that school, Ashley transferred away. I saw her only a couple of times that year when she’d come back for a visit. Unexpectedly, I saw her again years later, two hours’ distance away, when I delivered pizza to the hotel at which she and some family were staying. She recognized my voice and came running – a delightful little reunion.

Then, some time later, I heard she had disappeared.

She’d been at a party in her hometown and then – didn’t come home. Scarce leads, no immediately apparent motive.

It was then that I learned how much less attention missing persons cases tend to receive on reservations than off, especially with younger women. In an environment where local law enforcement is stretched to the limit and evidence was mishandled, Ashley slipped through the cracks. Her family even ended up testifying before Congress on how difficult it can be to marshal up effective resources to help these cases.

A year and a half later, Ashley is still missing.

This sort of thing wrenches my heart out. There isn’t a single former student whose future I don’t wonder over and worry about, so when it’s something like a disappearance…well. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it ever since, hoping against hope even after all this time.

I wonder if you might say a prayer for Ashley today, and for her family. Though I lack the pay grade to explain why God allows these things to happen, I know he is powerful and loaded with resources. These is nothing he cannot do, and nobody he cannot find.

27 thoughts on “The Student Who Disappeared

  1. Lord who sees us, we know that nothing passes on this earth without Your knowledge. Please, for Ashley and for those who know and love her, shine Your light into the gloom surrounding her disappearance. Whatever the result, Lord, we trust You; yet please let Ashley be found. Give her family strength, bring about peace that has nothing to do with circumstances, and bring truth to light in the precious name of Jesus, amen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing this. It brings attention to those Facebook post about missing people and how important it is to share. I will pray for her.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brandon, this was so beautiful and haunting at the same time. It is absolutely heartbreaking. I can feel your compassion for your students shining through, and a true concern for Ashley’s unknown whereabouts to this day. I agree with you in prayer for Ashley, her loved ones, and anyone in the position of finding information; in Jesus’ name. May Ashley be safe if alive, or in the arms of Jesus if she’s no longer with us on Earth. May her family and friends find comfort in Jesus. I like to think that the family she was with when you delivered pizza, was the one who taught her about Jesus. Maybe that’s why there was joyful laughter. And that God let you know she was going to be okay by letting you see her out of nowhere one last time. And that God brought her to Him quickly if she found herself in a life or death situation. And I like to think that her life was not in vain; that those who ache to find her, turned to Jesus for comfort, peace, and eternal life. And that one day, because of this heart wrenching event, many more have come to Jesus and received their salvation, and they will all join together one day in Heaven for eternal joy with Jesus. May Ashley be at peace, in Jesus’ name. 💙🙏🏼✝️

    Liked by 1 person

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