February 25, 2011

Love, Kirsten

The following is an excerpt from the book Love, Kirsten. Copywrite © 2010 by Pacific Press Publishing Association and is used with permission. All rights reserved. To purchase the book click here.

Kirsten woke up to a rainy darkness, so she decided to have devotions before running. She opened her computer and journaled.

Hey God. Again, before I start I’d like to praise You for a new day of life. I’m thankful for the rain because it makes things cooler, but it’s really hard for things to dry, and it’s bard for my kids to be able to play outside when it’s so wet.

I’m so thankful that it’s Thursday! This week has been kind of rough. God, I love my kids and I don’t want to see any of them go, but Tanya has really been testing me. God, I don’t know how I can show love to her! I need Your help knowing what to do. Impress me as to how I can get closer to her.

Thanks so much that I’m not feeling as sleepy this morning as I have been some other mornings. I’ve been really blessed by all of Aila’s worships and I’m very thankful for them. Please help me as I prepare to do worships. I feel very out of control right now. I need Your help, Your organization, and most of all, Your peace. Help keep me safe today as I jog and please help the rain to stop.

Thanks so much for little Yap and for the chance to teach. I’m so happy it’s town day, even though I have a lot to do. Come and fill my heart today. I need Your help to be a good teacher.
2011 1504 page32Kirsten flipped open her Bible and read from Matthew 26. Jesus and the disciples have just eaten the Passover dinner together and walked across the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane. When they arrive, Jesus takes His three closest disciples away and asks them to pray. Drops of blood streak His face like sweat. He knows what’s coming; He’s dreading the pain and separation from His Father. Every sin that was, is, and ever will be is being placed upon Him. Walking farther away from the three, He falls on His face and pleads, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (verse 39).
Kirsten stopped. I can’t even imagine it, she wrote. And yet He was willing. I just think that’s so amazing. It’s really easy to pray that God’s will be done, but it’s so much harder to actually do it. God, Jesus had such a strong relationship with You that He was truly able to pray that and really mean it.
She finished reading the section, paying special attention to Jesus’ warning to keep watch and pray. My goal for today is to stay extra vigilant, she told God. I want to focus on You more. Today I want to be positive and pray before I lose my self-control. I want to show my kids Your love today. God, I don’t want to sleep and let the devil slip in. Please guard my heart. Thanks, God. Amen.
By this time the rain had let up, so Kirsten fastened on her headlight and went out alone for her morning jog.
Principal Fonseka had noticed Kirsten was absent from morning worship, but he--and everyone else--assumed she was on supervision duty. Each week the teachers took turns standing outside to watch the children who arrived early. After worship, everyone went to their classes. The principal headed to his office. What he saw made him stop: Liz was watching the children.
“Where’s Kirsten?” he asked.
“I don’t know. Wasn’t she in worship with you?”
“Let’s go check the apartment.”
As she walked, Liz wondered why she hadn’t seen Kirsten all morning. Normally, Kirsten would have come back and gotten ready for school after running.
They climbed the steps and opened the door.
“Kirsten?” Liz called as they went in. No answer. She looked in the rooms and checked the bathroom.
“She’s not here.”
Principal Fonseka returned to the administration building and immediately called the police, the Guam-Micronesia Mission (GMM), and Kirsten’s parents.
The Wolcott family had just finished a late dinner in their Virginia home when the phone rang. It was 8:00 p.m. in Virginia, 9:00 a.m. in Yap.
“Kirsten didn’t show up for class this morning,” the voice on the line said. “But you’re the one who gave her permission to exercise alone off campus.”
“No, we didn’t,” Karen said, as she frantically motioned for Hollis to pick up. He got on the line, and the principal repeated the news.
“What can we do?” Hollis asked.
“At this point, nothing,” the principal said. “I’ve notified the GMM, and we’re going to look around the school. They will let you know if there is any other news.”
“What should we do?” Karen asked Hollis when they got off the phone.
“Pray,” he said.
While the principal made phone calls in his office, Liz waited outside with Katherine and Miss Mary, filling them in on the few details she knew. When the principal returned, the four said a prayer. Then, through heavy rain, the principal and registrar left campus. They drove up and down the road in both directions, as far as Tom’s store on one side and the stone money on the other, but found nothing.
The 9:10 period was just beginning.
“It’s time to get started,” Lorraine said. The chattering gradually died off as groups of students gravitated toward their desks.
“Let’s have a word of prayer,” Lorraine said. Suddenly, a boy raised his hand.
2011 1504 page32“Yes?” Lorraine asked.
“Miss, are we still having class despite what’s happened? Aren’t we going to look for the missing teacher?”
“What are you talking about?” Lorraine asked.
Just then she saw a police car pull in front of the administration building. Three officers stepped out. The students rushed to the windows.
“OK, everyone, back to your seats,” Lorraine said. “Come on, back to your seats. It’s time for us to start.” The administration hadn’t said anything to her about a missing teacher.
The students dragged themselves back to their desks, but their eyes remained riveted on the windows. “Miss,” they kept saying, “what about the missing teacher?”
Finally, Lorraine stopped writing on the chalkboard and set her book on the desk. “All right, what’s this news you’ve heard?”
The students leaned forward. “Haven’t you heard? A teacher is missing! She went out running and didn’t come back.”
Immediately Lorraine thought of Kirsten and Ana. But she’d seen both of them the previous evening. It must just be a rumor.
The students kept talking.
“It was the second-grade teacher,” they said. “She went jogging off campus this morning and never came back.”
Lorraine’s heartbeat quickened, and she felt cold all over. Kirsten.
“Well,” she said, trying to remain calm, “let’s offer up a word of prayer, and I’m sure everything will be fine.”
She led the class in prayer and resumed the lesson. All along, she prayed frantically inside. Please let her just be injured somewhere. Let her just be hurt, or delayed, or let it just be that she took shelter under cover somewhere until it stopped raining.
But Lorraine knew Kirsten wasn’t that kind of person. She was never late. She was never missing.
A few minutes later, the registrar came in. “One of the teachers is missing,” he said. “The police received a call that a man from jail was spotted drunk and riding a bicycle in the direction of the school early this morning.”
Goosebumps spread across Lorraine’s flesh.
“Keep everyone inside,” the registrar told her. “But be prepared, because we might form search parties later.”
The students erupted. “Let us help you look!” they pleaded. “Nothing will happen if you wait for the police to form a search team!”
“Besides, we know this area better! We’ll have a better chance of finding her.”
“No,” the registrar said. “It could be dangerous, and we don’t want to lose anyone. Stay here and I’ll be back later.”
At 10:00 a.m. the registrar returned. “Boys, follow me,” he said. “We’re forming search parties.”
The girls begged to go along.
“Only the boys,” he said.
Seth tried to keep his students together, but their eagerness pulled them in all directions. After searching the campus and finding no trace of Kirsten, several groups of high schoolers were authorized to look off campus. His was one of them. It was still raining on and off, coming down in sudden, violent torrents--then vanishing. The sky remained strangely bright and sunny.
“Don’t go far,” the principal had instructed, but Seth’s students rushed ahead of him. They walked, ran, and scurried chaotically from tree to tree, bush to bush, calling, “Kirsten!

Soon they were far ahead of Seth, past the approved searching bounds. They went all the way to Tom’s Store. Still, they found nothing. On the way back one of the boys saw something in the tall grass. He walked closer to take a look. There, between two coconut trees, was Kirsten’s naked body.
Liz was lingering near the administration building when a swarm of cars pulled up. The people that exited spoke animatedly in Yapese. Suddenly, a woman turned to Liz and said, “Do you want to go? Get in the car with me.”

They must have found her,
Liz thought. I better go in case Kirsten’s hurt and needs to go to the hospital. She’ll want someone with her.
She jumped in and they tore out of the dirt driveway, up the road toward Tom’s Store. On the way, Liz saw a group of students walking back to the school. Their blank stares and ashen faces deepened her concern.
When they got to the scene, the woman parked on the opposite side of the road. Liz sprang out and rushed toward the people clustered near the trees. Suddenly, a man stepped in front of her and thrust out his arm to hold her back. His eyes held a look of warning.
“Don’t go over there,” he said.
She looked at him wide-eyed, then burst into tears.
Back at the school, the registrar had told all the teachers to come to the office for an emergency meeting. Lorraine put a student in charge of her class and left. When she got to the office, she saw the principal, the pastor, and Miss Mary talking intently. What’s going on? Lorraine asked with her eyes, but no one seemed to want to answer. She moved across the lobby, where she saw other teachers.
“What happened?” they asked each other, but no one knew.
A phone rang. A woman answered. Suddenly, she put her hand over her mouth. “They found her . . . they found her body--” She shook her head and broke into tears.
At that moment, Liz arrived and ran toward Katherine. The two embraced and sank to the ground in tears. Aila stood expressionless. Olivia sat down and pulled her knees up to her chest and rocked back and forth. The loudest wails came from the principal’s office, where Miss Mary clung to the desk. It was noon.
“Should we continue with classes?” Principal Fonseka asked the pastor.
“No,” he said. “Gather everyone and tell them to go to the chapel.”
By the time the second-graders walked in, the rest of the school had already assembled. Makea seemed confused, so Lorraine took her by the hand to lead her to the front. Makea looked up.
“Am I going to see my teacher again?” she asked.
Lorraine gulped. She couldn’t bring herself to answer.
2011 1504 page32“Am I going to see my teacher again?”
“The pastor has some very important news to tell us.”
“But am I going to see my teacher again? Am I going to see her tomorrow in class?”
By this time they were near the front, so Lorraine ignored the question and helped Makea get seated. The pastor started to speak.
“This morning,” he said, and went on to explain the events, but used Ana’s name instead of Kirsten’s.
Startled, the principal rushed to the front to make the correction. The pastor started his message again.
“This morning the second grade teacher, Kirsten, went missing and was found dead. You should understand, though, that there’s a reason for this.”
“Stop!” Makea shrieked. “Stop! Stop! I don’t want to hear this about my teacher!”
The pastor turned and looked down at Makea.
“Well, you have to hear this,” he said.
“No! I don’t want to hear this about my teacher!” she yelled back at him.
Someone moved in to calm Makea.
The pastor continued.
“Everything happens for a reason,” he said. “We may not understand it, but it’s God’s will. We must just keep praying and remember that God loves us and will protect us. We must put our trust in Him.”
An eighth-grader burst from her seat in the back.
“If God will protect us, then why didn’t He protect Kirsten?”
The room fell silent. Everyone wondered the same question.
After they’d received the initial call from the principal, Hollis and Karen Wolcott hadn’t said much. They were both thinking the same thing: Kirsten is never late for class.
That evening Hollis dialed a few numbers to ask others to pray. Karen called her relatives and tearfully told them what was happening.
She tried to convince herself that everything would be OK, but one word kept repeating itself in her head. Rape.
Several hours later, the Wolcotts still hadn’t heard anything, so Hollis called the school. Miss Mary answered.
“This is Hollis Wolcott calling,” he said. “Any news about Kirsten?”
Missy Mary burst into tears. Hollis’s heart froze.
“Kirsten’s body was just found,” sobbed the woman. “We can’t tell you anything because we don’t know. There was no blood on the scene. It’s possible she died from natural causes.”
Karen stared at Hollis. She knew Kirsten hadn’t died of natural causes.

Rainey H. Park, 22, is a senior history major at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee. She wrote Love, Kirsten, with the assistance of journalism professor Andy Nash, a colunnist for the Adventist Review. The above excerpt was published on the Adventist Review Web site on February 9, 2011.  To purchase Love, Kirsten, click here