Embracing Hope

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 31, 2006

Beth Holloway Twitty speaks at Judson College

By Cassandra Mickens

The Selma Times-Journal

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MARION – It’s been more than a year since Beth Holloway Twitty last saw her daughter Natalee, who vanished during a post-high school graduation trip to Aruba in May 2005.

Standing before students, faculty and guests in Judson College’s Ramsay-McCrummen Chapel Wednesday morning, Twitty and close family friend Donna Greene spoke of their unwavering faith in God and their hope in finding answers regarding Natalee’s disappearance.

“There’s really no way to describe the way I felt,” recalled Twitty, who shared personal anecdotes with the audience. “For the first 118 hours when I was in Aruba, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep and I didn’t bathe. I was just focused on finding Natalee.”

Searching for answers and strength from her God, Twitty left her Aruba hotel just before dawn and hailed a cab. She asked the driver to take her to a church or chapel.

Traveling down a narrow road to a chapel on a hillside overlooking the sea, Twitty noticed a “beautiful, large white crosses along the way.”

“As (the driver) approached the first cross, he pulled over. He asked me to get out of the cab and I made my way to the chapel,” Twitty said.

“So I walked over to the first cross and clutching Natalee’s picture I fell to my knees and I prayed harder than I’d ever prayed and I prayed louder and I was crying as I took the gravel from the Aruban soil and rubbed it against her picture and I just begged God to give her back.”

“And I got up and made my way to next cross. And the next one. And the next one…”

As the cab driver slowly crept behind her, Twitty repeated her prayer at each cross along the road. When she approached the sixth cross, Twitty received an answer to her prayers. “The answer came in the form of a complete and overwhelming peace and the burden of not being able to provide or care for Natalee was lifted from my shoulders and I truly felt the weight lift,” she said.

“In that instant, I knew Natalee was with God and I realized as soon as she got into the car with her abductors that the Heavenly Father wrapped his arms around her and carried her through whatever ordeal she encountered that night.”

“And I thought about Natalee’s personal relationship with her God and she knew him very well.”

Greene, who was Natalee’s bible study teacher, described the Mountain Brook teen as “compassionate, all inclusive and a person of excellence.” Startled by the news of Natalee’s disappearance, Greene was eased by a comforting thought.

“Natalee Holloway not only knows the Lord, she knows how to call upon Him,” she said.

Greene specifically addressed the students of Judson, that nation’s fifth oldest women’s college. She encouraged students to make the most of every single moment, to make the most of their friendships, guard their hearts, guard their lives and refuse to settle for mediocrity.

Twitty, who is now a spokeswoman for the International Safe Travels Foundation, said she remains amazed by the outpouring of support from around the world and thanked those who continue to keep Natalee in their prayers. Twitty added that she has learned some valuable lessons this past year, two of which she shared with Judson students.

“First, I learned faith has no boundaries. It’s doesn’t matter your religious circumstances when it comes to reaching out to people in need. It doesn’t matter which church or temple you attend when it comes to prayer,” she said.

“What matters is that you express this love and that you share this hope and that you give comfort by asking God to bring peace to someone. People from all walks of faith have done this for me and it changed my life.”

The second lesson Twitty shared with the audience is to never lose hope, “saying sometimes we forget to embrace it.”

“My prayer for you is that you let hope find you today. It’s there. It always is. Just let it in,” she said.

“I don’t know what happened to (Natalee). I don’t where she is. I don’t know if she’s alive or not. It doesn’t look good. But I do know this – the hope that filled her heart filled mine and I will press on.”

Following the speech, Twitty and Greene greeted guests and autographed their new book titled “For Natalee.” Book sale profits will go towards the International Safe Travels Foundation and the Natalee Holloway Trust Fund.

Judson students were visibly moved by Twitty and Greene’s appearance.

“(Twitty) has a lot of faith,” said freshman Sarah Tussey. “I’m sorry for her loss. I don’t think I could do it. It would be so devastating.”

“She’s an inspiration,” said Katie Gibson, also a freshman.

Freshman Amanda

McKinney added, “She’s such a great Christian role model. She keeps going no matter what to find her daughter.”

“No parent should have to lose a child.”