Prayers for Missing Hunter Region Boy Unites Different Religious Communities

By: Amy Cheng

Religious communities are rejoicing and praising God after their prayers for a missing three-year-old boy were answered.

Anthony “AJ” Elfalak, who had been missing since Friday 3 September, was found the following Monday afternoon.

AJ, who has autism and is non-verbal, was found alive in the bushland 500m away from his family home.

Zoom prayer sessions

On the evening of AJ’s disappearance, Charlie Bakhos, a known figure in the religious community who is often contacted when prayers are needed, posted on Facebook about a Zoom prayer session.

The last-minute Zoom call was joined by 240 people, and prayer sessions continued every evening until AJ was found, with more and more people joining subsequent sessions.

Eventually, the Zoom calls reached the maximum capacity of 1000 people and were also livestreamed on Facebook.

Alexandra Khal, who does not know the family, joined the Sunday prayer session the night before AJ was found.

“It was pretty intense; everyone was basically praying and worshiping God and Jesus and just basically praying for a miracle to happen,” she said.

“It was actually such a beautiful thing, there were different religions that came, it wasn’t just Christianity… so it was really beautiful to see.”

the zoom call called 'praying for AJ 9pm'

The call went for almost two hours and was joined by over 500 families over Zoom and Facebook livestream, including Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Maronites, Melkites, Protestants, Muslims and even atheists.

Brother Anthony, a monk at St Shenouda Monastery and one of the family’s neighbours, also joined the call.

“It was definitely amazing to see people from all walks of life – families [and] kids got up to pray, a lot of people from around Australia and around the world,” he said.

“That was the true potential of Christ, where everyone became one in Christ, we’re all praying for the same cause for one person, so definitely lovely and very moving to see.”

“That was the true potential of Christ, where everyone became one in Christ, we’re all praying for the same cause for one person,” – Brother Anthony, a monk at St Shenouda Monastery

Although he is not part of the family’s parish church, he has interacted with the family on many occasions.

Also part of that Sunday call were Leila and Danny Abdallah, who lost three children in 2019 when they were hit by a drunk driver.

“We prayed our rosary, we reflected on the scriptures in every mystery; it was a beautiful moment to get together,” Mr Abdallah said.

The Elfalak family and their friends were also part of that Zoom call, answering questions that people had about the search.

Alan Hashem, family friend and godfather of AJ, expressed his gratitude to all who attended.

“The way the community has come together is absolutely remarkable,” he said over Zoom.

“[Prayer is] probably the most powerful weapon we have on this earth.” – Danny Abdallah

Power of prayer

Ms Abdallah said her family joined the Zoom call because they love praying.

“Prayers have been so essential in our life and it is the power of prayer that kept us going till today,” she said.

“So, for us, it’s so important to pray for others and we are so happy to pray amongst these families.”

Mr Abdallah believes the power of prayer is beautiful.

“It’s probably the most powerful weapon we have on this earth and it’s a place where you become present with God,” he said.

“And you just live in that moment and you feel His presence; it keeps you in the now.”

Ms Khal felt like she got to know the family through praying for them.

“I just feel like this boy has touched so many lives; it felt like, even though we don’t know the family, it felt like we did,” Ms Khal said.

“And God says when more than one unite together in His name, prayers will be answered and that’s basically what we wanted, we wanted for a miracle to happen.”

Brother Andrew believes that prayers are not just for difficult times.

“We are called to pray in times of need and in times of thanksgiving, prayer is not just in hard times but in all times,” he said.

“The way the community has come together is absolutely remarkable.” – Alan Hashem, family friend and godfather of AJ

Reactions to AJ being found

As a mother, Ms Abdallah was touched by Kelly Elfalak’s reactions to her son being found.

“When I saw it, I had goosebumps and my heart was aching for her for what she’s been through,” Ms Abdallah said.

“But I was so happy that she found him and she’s able to hug him again.”

When Ms Khal heard the news, she was elated.

“We couldn’t believe it; the whole household was crying. It was amazing, it was like Christmas for a child,” she said.

On the evening that AJ was found, Mr Bakhos organised another prayer session over Zoom, which was also livestreamed on Facebook.

“Our Lord Jesus Christ heard every single one of your prayers and made it happen,” he said on Zoom.

“Jesus made it happen, we just helped Him. Remember, we are his hands and feet on this earth, God created us in His image so we’ve got to act like Christ.”

Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.

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