Denison Forum on Truth and Culture logo

Google Earth leads lost boy home after 25 years

A video screen grab from a video directed, shot and edited by Henry Chen and Ssongee Yang and produced by Stephen Higgins and Google, showing Saroo Brierly, separated from his birth mother for 25 years, as she kisses him on the cheek in his birth home in  Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, India (Credit: Google/Henry Chen/Ssongee Yang/Stephen Higgins) Many of us rely on Google Maps to help us find our way home from an unfamiliar location. For Saroo Brierley, though, Google's map services helped him find his home and family he had not seen in 25 years.

Until he was five years old, Saroo lived in India with his mother, two brothers and a little sister. His father had abandoned the family, so Saroo's oldest brother, nine-year-old Guddu, took on the responsibility of providing for his family. Guddu spent his time searching the floors of passenger trains for coins, sometimes spending days away from his family while he searched.

One day, Saroo tagged along with Guddu, and together they rode a train to a town two hours away, searching the floorboards for money as they traveled. When they reached the station, Saroo's brother instructed him to stay put while he went off. Eventually, though, five-year-old Saroo became impatient and wandered onto a train, thinking his brother was on it and fell asleep, expecting Guddu to find and wake him when it was time to leave.

Saroo explains that he awoke on a deserted train traveling across unfamiliar country, his brother nowhere in sight. "It was a lot like being in a prison, a captive," he recalled, "and I was just crying and crying." The possibility of finding his family again was grim--he did not know his last name or hometown and could not read. When the train finally stopped in Calcutta, he was over 900 miles away from his home.

After a week of traveling on trains to and from Calcutta trying to find a town that looked familiar and several weeks of living on the streets, five-year-old Saroo was moved to an orphanage. Because authorities were unable to identify his family, he was deemed a good candidate for adoption. When he learned that a couple from Australia would be adopting him, Saroo explained that he viewed the adoption as "a new opportunity." He wondered, "Am I willing to accept it or not? And I said to myself, I'll accept this, and I'll accept them as my new family.”

In Australia, Saroo woke up each day to a map of India that his adoptive mom had hung on his wall. As the years passed, Saroo could not shake the images that would replay in his mind—images of his mother, places he used to go, and faces of his family members. After he graduated from college, he realized that Google Earth provided a way to begin his search at the train station in Calcutta and follow the tracks to find "breadcrumbs" that would lead him home. He spent many hours over many months searching, but eventually Saroo found a town with features that matched his memories, like a fountain near the train tracks where he played as a child.

Armed with photographs of himself as a child and his recollection of his family members' names, Saroo set off to Khandwa, India in search of his family. Local residents soon led him to his mother, who "without saying anything . . . stepped forward and hugged him. Saroo couldn't speak, couldn't think, couldn't do much of anything other than reach up his arms and return her embrace. Then his mother took him by the hand and led her son home."

In the same way that Saroo remembered images and breadcrumbs from his home in India, which led him to search for and find his family, God gives us breadcrumbs that encourage us to search for Him. These breadcrumbs come in all kinds of forms--through encouragement from His followers, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, the laughter of friends, and all the beautiful, good things in this world that give us a glimpse of Heaven here on earth. For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in heaven, which is yet to come (Hebrews 13:14-21).

What "breadcrumbs" has He left for you?

Latest News

17304 Preston Rd | Suite 1060 | Dallas | TX | 75252-5618 | 214-705-3710
© 2009-2014 Copyright, Denison Forum. All rights reserved.