At the close of day four of the investigation into the disappearance of two girls, hundreds gathered to pray passionately and with confidence for their safe and speedy return.
An estimated 700 people turned out for a vigil Monday night at Heartland Vineyard Church in Cedar Falls. Families of the missing cousins, Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, of Waterloo, and Elizabeth Collins, 8, of Evansdale, attend the church, according to pastors.
“He’s the one who knows all. He is the one who knows where these little girls are at. Our job is to seek Him,” said Reggie Hovenga, an associate pastor at Heartland Vineyard.
Lyric and Elizabeth were last seen Friday afternoon near downtown Evansdale. Their bikes and Elizabeth’s purse were found four hours later near Meyers Lake, which is being drained.
Hundreds of volunteers helped search the area and law enforcement remains vigilant. But efforts have yet to produce any leads, clues or evidence of significance, according to law enforcement.
Pastors leading the vigil said God is good and has a plan no matter the outcome. But prayers spoken at the vigil largely reflected the hope and belief that God can and will work a miracle.
“He is the one who brings comfort. He is the one who brings peace. He is the one who we seek at this time,” Hovenga added. “He is our hope. He is our refuge.”
The vigil allowed the Heartland Vineyard congregation and the community to experience God’s love and show support for the families of Lyric and Elizabeth.
“It is so prevalent on everyone’s mind. ... I know we are all praying constantly,” said Debbi Jones, 58, of Waterloo.
Although authorities have not declared the vanishing an abduction, some in the community appear to view it that way.
“Well, the No. 1 thing is we are praying for an answer, that God would show someone where the girls are or for whoever took them to let them go,” Jones added.
For those attending the vigil, prayer is an important part of a game plan to bring the girls home that includes mass public awareness.
Tracy McNamara of Waterloo stood at the door of the sanctuary with other volunteers and handed out bright orange posters with information about and portraits of Lyric and Elizabeth.
As a mother, McNamara felt compelled to come to the church to pray and help spread the word.
“My daughter’s 10, just like Lyric,” McNamara said.
The evening alternated between songs about God’s love, care and faithfulness and Scripture reading and prayer.
Many petitioners lifted tear-streamed faces and hands in fervent praise. Later, the crowd knelt together in silence.
At one point, Elizabeth’s mother, Heather Collins, took the stage to read Bible verses. Her words brought the gathering to its feet, and hugs and more intimate prayers were shared by people in nearby seats.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. ... Great is your faithfulness,” a portion of Lamentations 3:22-23.
Mark Wubbena, 38, of Waterloo, unable to help with the search over the weekend, was grateful for the opportunity to gather with others who love and care for the families of Lyric and Elizabeth.
Wubbena skateboarded as a teen with Elizabeth’s father, Drew Collins, and helps moderate a Facebook event page related to the search effort.
“This church has actually saved my life, so to come here and be with my church family means everything in the world,” Wubbena said.
The service was also meaningful for his mother, Bette, and his daughter, Lizzy, 11.
“I let all my love out, and I just kind of cried,” Lizzy said. “I met (Elizabeth and Lyric) at a park, and they were really sweet and really nice.”
Staff at Heartland Vineyard quickly organized a prayer vigil — at least two others occurred over the weekend at a boat dock and at an Evansdale church — after the church office fielded numerous requests from concerned people seeking a way to help. Members used social media to spread the word and the vigil attracted regular church-goers but also new faces.
“There’s hope. We want to keep putting that our there,” said Chris Reeves, an associate pastor. “God’s still in charge.”The sermon topic on Sunday at Heartland Vineyard will address themes related to God and faith in the midst of pain and difficult circumstances.