The American Hikers’ Release: It Ain’t The Allergies . . .

I’ve been tuned in to CBN much of the morning as two young American hikers — and two mothers’ sons — were released a few minutes ago after more than two years in the Iranian prison from which another young woman was released last year.

Their offense? Naive imprudence, perhaps, in apparently hiking too close to the Iranian-Iraqi border, but certainly not espionage, and most certainly not something deserving of 25 months in an Iranian hellhole. Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were hiking with Bauer’s now-fiancee Sarah Shourd in September 2009 when they were arrested by officers of one of the, ahem, least-stable administrations in the world. Shourd was released last year on “humanitarian grounds,” and I just watched live footage of Fattal and Bauer rushing down the jetway to plunge into a small crowd of family and friends, including Shourd.

I cannot imagine what Bauer’s, Fattal’s, and Shourd’s families have endured. I have a friend here in Moscow who lost her son quite suddenly just two weeks ago, and her pain is unlike any I imagine I’ve ever felt. Missing a child hurts; losing a child, or being separated from a child under circumstances neither of you have control over, would be almost unendurable. I have words that I think might describe the hell of not knowing if they’re well, if they’re ill or injured, or if you’ll ever see them again alive — but what words could be sufficient?

I do things around the house most days wistfully thinking of my eldest, who’s only six hours away and who picks up his cell phone ninety percent of the time; my youngest lives here in town, and I can see him pretty much whenever I want to. But my small home holds a million memories; even folding bath towels prompts thoughts of them both. (Like when Anthony discovered the effects of accidentally running a Korean-English New Testament through a load of laundry. I picked sodden bits of Philippians from my washer and all that was in it with astonishment that 27 books times two, on fine Bible paper, could create such a mess, while balled-up wads of Revelation clogged the lint filter for months). Even when my new UI graduate leaves to teach in Korea for a year or two, my longing for him will be tempered by the fact that he’s there because he wants to be, and he’ll be fine. In fact, it’s ironic that his being in better shape than I’ll be is a testimony to what a great thing we have. I’ll cry, but . . . I’ll KNOW.

But the Fattals, Shourds, and Bauers, as well as their friends, spent more than two years not knowing. And as anyone who’s ever had to wait for results from a medical test or news of loved one in crisis understands, it’s the not knowing that sucks life out of the soul.

The sniffling you hear and the tears slipping down my face aren’t from an unusually wacky Moscow autumn, but from my joy that God heard the prayers of millions of people around the world and gave these two young men, and Ms. Shourd before them, back to their families and back to each other. It’s a good day, and may God be praised.

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