Prayers Lifted for Safe Return of Missing Soldier

Apr 01, 2003 02:12 PM EST

BOILING SPRINGS, S.C. – Hometown Pastor prays for the safe return of one of his congregants whose duty status whereabouts is currently unknown. Private Nolen Ryan Hutchings, member of Northbrook Baptist Church was among seven Marines involved in operations near Nashiriyah, Iraq, March 23; three of the soldiers have since been confirmed dead.

"He had a deep faith in the Lord, If he is alive -- and we hope and pray that he is -- then our prayer is that he will be returned to his family,” said Northbrook Baptist pastor, Wayne Dickard. “We're trying to encourage the family and pray for them. I can't imagine what they're facing.”

According to both Pastor Dickard and Pastor Ralph Brown, Dickard’s predecessor at Northbrook, Hutchings was well known in the church for his devotion and involvement in the youth group.

Hutchings was "a very active member of this church," Dickard said.

"He loved the Lord Jesus Christ," said Brown, who now pastors neighboring Jonesville Baptist Church, which is some 30 miles from Boiling Springs. "He loved to worship. He was a Bible-carrying/-believing young man. He loved to talk about his Lord."

Even after Brown left to pastor a different church, Hutchings stayed in close contact with him; just last year, said Brown, Hutchings dropped by for the Christmas holidy.

"He and my wife and myself knelt in our den," Brown said. "We all held hands. He told me he was going to be shipped out. He told me, 'I can't tell you where I'm going. It's classified.... We all held hands and prayed for his safety -- for the Lord to watch over him and take care of him,” said Brown.

According to Brown, Hutchings had a “Christ-like demeanor.”

"He was a very personable young man," Brown continued. "He had a giving spirit. He cared about other people. He loved just to talk and fellowship. He would try to find that person or persons who might be left out of a conversation. He would go and bring them into the conversation."

Both Dickard’s church and Brown’s church spent time in prayer for Hutchings whose whereabouts are still unknown, March 30.

"Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown" is different from "Missing In Action," a Marine Corps noted. For example, a soldier could end up in the wrong unit during the confusion of battle.

"If more time passes and they can't find them, then they will be considered [missing in action].”

By Pauline J.