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Missing boy thanks Dunbar community for its support

| Monday, July 2, 2001

DUNBAR - 'I once was lost but now am found,' sang more than 40 people at Dunbar's Honor Roll Saturday, and the familiar words of 'Amazing Grace' moved many to tears.

They had gathered to hear George Joshua, the teen from Ann Arbor, Mich., who disappeared from Dunbar Baptist Church last July. After nine days he returned to his family, unharmed, having been taken by Maryland police to the Maryland Salem Children's Trust in Frostburg.

George, now 16, read a letter to the group: 'Dear people of Dunbar, I want to say I am sorry for running away. I think I'm just beginning to realize how much people care for me.

'When I ran away, I hurt the testimony of Dunbar Baptist Church, and I'm sorry,' he read, his voice breaking. 'During that time in my life, I was dealing with personal issues, with family issues. I wanted to make it look like I disappeared, that's why I didn't take anything with me. I didn't want to hurt my family's testimony.'

George added: 'Before I ran away, I was thinking about myself, not God, even though I had been born again five years before. When I came back, I realized how much God cared for me. I really have been thinking about what God wants me to do, not just myself.'

During his absence, more than 200 local residents as well as police searched for George, who disappeared while he and his family were staying at Dunbar Baptist prior to beginning missionary work in Suriname, South America.

At first, his parents thought he had been sleepwalking and area residents combed the woods near the church, thinking he had been injured. As time passed, foul play was suspected and the search widened.

'We can't help but remember the events of July 29, 2000,' said George's father, Suresh Joshua. 'Remember all the folks at the fire house. We prayed and it was our family, but we were praying with everyone that the Lord would take care of our son, and he did. George spent most of that week at Salem Christian Home, but we didn't know that at the time. My wife and I were broken hearted, we were speechless, and we thank you for your care. We know it was the Lord working through you.'

A poster at Wal-Mart in Uniontown, seen by a visitor to the Fayette County Fair, solved the mystery.

The Wal-Mart customer was Bill Stimmell, who works at the Maryland Salem Children's Trust where George was staying, under the alias Jacob Collins.

'The flyer was gold and stood out against the white wall. I saw the picture on it and thought, 'that's our boy in the shelter,'' said Stimmell. He consulted with Maryland and Pennsylvania police then talked to George.

'They showed me the flyer,' said George. 'It was . . . I didn't really realize how much everyone cared for me. They asked if I wanted to go home and I said yes.'

'If you could have seen his face, it was a miracle,' said Stimmell.

'I knew he had to be a runaway,' said Audrey Goslin of the Children's Trust. 'He was well-educated and well-mannered. He also was a Christian. He knew more about the Bible than many of us.'

Cathy Hall of Dunbar Baptist Church posted the flyer. 'I felt I needed to get them up to Uniontown. Wal-Mart took one down and I put up another on Saturday. We got the call on Sunday. It was really not me, I believe God was leading me.'

'George wanted to come back to Dunbar to express his thanks and his sorrow to the community for the roller coaster ride he put them through. The community really came together,' said the Rev. Bob Wrachford of Dunbar Baptist. 'To God be the glory, great things hath he done, this is a victory day.'

George will be joining his family when they travel to Suriname as missionaries in September, the trip postponed by his disappearance.

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