Like many around the world, I watched the news and prayed this week as twelve soccer players and their coach were saved from a flooded Thailand cave after nearly three weeks underground. The scope of the rescue was staggering: thousands of volunteers, more than one hundred of the world’s top cave divers, Thai Navy Sea Air and Land squads, medical experts, helicopters, ambulances, a hospital and more than a week of planning.
“Do you see how precious life is?” I told my 8-year-old son as we watched the drama unfold.
When the boys, who ranged in age from 11 to 16, were beginning to weaken and the waters threatening to rise, the rescuers began their mission, which was called unprecedented in its complexity, scale and risk. One heroic diver lost his life. But then four boys were saved. Then four more. And finally – finally – one by one the remaining five were carried out of the cave.
“I started to cry, everybody started to cry,” the father of an 11-year-old boy told CNN after seeing his son in the hospital. “I want to say thanks to those who rescued my boy. And helped him to have a new life, it’s like a rebirth.”
I cried too. It was a stunning and miraculous victory in a harrowing struggle against death. Yet, while this drama was unfolding, I read of the 190,000 refugees trapped in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwest Kenya—a small fraction of the world’s more than 65 million people currently displaced from their homes due to war, persecution and famine.
I read of the 179 people washed away by floods and buried by mudslides in central and western Japan, of the dozens who are still missing and more than 10,000 of whom remain in shelters. And I read of the continued battle in our country over when life begins and whether and how it should be protected.
The risks and resources to address these struggles may be different, yet I wonder how many more lives might be saved if we cared as much about refugees or protecting the environment or supporting pregnant mothers as we did about these boys in the cave. Life is precious. No matter how or where it begins. No matter what dangers threaten to snuff it out.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” Paul writes in Galatians 6:2 (NIV).
As this daring cave rescue demonstrates, we have the means to make a difference if only we will work together for a common cause. Around the world, many are trapped by deadly circumstances. The waters are threatening to rise. This is not a time to cast blame or ignore our call to love others. It is a time to wade into the darkness, rescue those who are weakening and restore them to life.
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. Her Lantern Hill Farm picture-book series releases this fall with The Christmas Cradle.