I never gave up hope that they'd find Cleo, says Carnarvon pastor
‘All over the world … people have been praying for Cleo’s return.’
The discovery of missing four-year-old Cleo Smith, alive and well, is an answer to prayers from all over the world, says the pastor of Carnarvon Church of Christ in West Australia, Brenden Law-Davis.
“It’s not just Carnarvon that’s been praying; it’s been global. We’ve had people [praying] in Vanuatu, Iraq. We’ve had messages from all over the world that people have been praying for Cleo’s return,” he tells Eternity.
After an 18-day search, Cleo was discovered by police this morning, just before 1am local time. She was found inside a locked home at Carnarvon. A local 36-year-old man was arrested and is in police custody.
Meanwhile, Cleo has spent the day reunited with her mother Ellie Smith, stepfather Jake Gliddon and her baby sister Isla. The last time they saw Cleo was 1.30am on 16 October – a few hours before she was discovered to be missing from her family’s tent while camping at Quobba Blowholes, 75km north of Carnarvon.
Law-Davis awoke to the news of Cleo’s return early this morning in his Carnarvon home when he was contacted by Eternity.
“That was worth waking up for!” he exclaimed.
“I actually thought it was one of my guys ringing up to say he couldn’t make early morning Bible study. So I had to look at the message a couple of times,” he says later.
“I just really feel like from the very beginning that we prayed for God to protect this little one, and he has.” – Brenden Law-Davis
Today’s atmosphere in the tightly knit town of about 5000 people has been “pretty amazing”, says Law-Davis. “There’s a lot of joy going on, that’s for sure,” he adds.
Law-Davis says he never wavered in his belief that God would deliver Cleo home safely.
“We had a [church] leadership meeting last night,” he shares. “At the end of the meeting I prayed, and I prayed for Cleo. Afterwards, someone said to me, ‘When you prayed, you prayed like you actually believed that she was still alive, whereas I was wavering on the edge of whether or not she was okay. Your belief was rock solid.’
“I said, ‘Well I just really feel like from the very beginning that we prayed for God to protect this little one’, and he has. It’s been pretty awesome.”
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The Church of Christ Carnarvon led the way in praying diligently for Cleo’s return, hosting two community prayer vigils at the church on 17 October and 24 October. Other local churches – including Uniting, Anglican, Catholic and the Aboriginal Outreach Church – were also involved in these prayer vigils, alongside many members of the community.
“We had another prayer vigil planned for this Sunday night,” says Law-Davis, “but we’re going to change that to a thanksgiving service …
“There were about 130 people in total who came along to the two prayer vigils, so I guess we’ll see how many of those want to come along and give God thanks. I know plenty of people in the churches do for this amazing answer to prayer.”
“We had another prayer vigil planned for this Sunday night, but we’re going to change that to a thanksgiving service.” – Brenden Law-Davis.
While members of the local church and community do want to celebrate with Cleo and her family, Law-Davis notes that they are “keeping a respectful distance” at this stage.
“We need to give this family time to breathe and to have that space to reconnect with their daughter and their wider family who have surrounded them with support,” he says.
“It’s been a big enough ordeal for them already. I think they need to have that time for themselves to enjoy their little girl again. It’s a wonderful thing that God has answered all our prayers and that she’s home safe.
“Ellie and Jake’s family have been pretty amazing through all of this. They’ve got quite an extended family who have really rallied around them and supported them amazingly. It’s not just the church, but the whole community has. It’s been just amazing to see the love and care and support that’s been poured out to these people.”
“It’s been just amazing to see the love and care and support that’s been poured out to these people.” – Brenden Law-Davis
In the meantime, Law-Davis says his church will be continuing to care for members of the local community as they process this traumatic ordeal.
“The role our church will play [in providing ongoing pastoral care] will not just be for Ellie and Jake but for the whole community, because the whole community has been affected by this,” he says. “There will be opportunities for us all to really pitch in and help one another and be open to being there for other people.”
And of course, the church and the local community will be there to support Cleo and her family when needed – just as they have over the past 18 days.
“In the days and weeks ahead, we will be there as a community ready to give that embrace when they need that embrace, and to walk with them when they need us to,” says Law-Davis.