Farmville Enterprise July 18, 2018
On June 23 after a practice match 12 members of the Wild Boars soccer team and their 25-year-old assistant coach went exploring inside Thailand’s Tham Luang Nang Non cave. Monsoon flooding pushed them deeper into the cave and blocked their escape. Authorities were alerted by the head coach after he saw some belongings of the boys left at the entrance to the cave. For almost ten days the group could not be found. On July 2 British rescue divers located them more than a mile underground. As news spread of the boys, ages 11-16, found alive people from around the globe began praying. Leading experts for underwater rescue operations were consulted. Ninety of the world’s best divers assembled in northern Thailand. Seven of them, including a nurse and an Australian doctor, carried supplies to the cave on July 3.
Various exit strategies were considered, including the possibility of postponing the escape efforts for months, until after the monsoon season. On July 5 Saman Gunan, a 38-year-old former Thai Navy SEAL, lost his life when he ran out of oxygen while attempting to go through a narrow passageway after placing extra air tanks inside the cave. Few words are adequate to describe Gunan’s heroic effort and willingness to put his life on the line for others. This tragedy highlighted the fact that even an expert diver faced tremendous danger maneuvering in that environment. Some of the soccer players did not know how to swim. If it was not obvious before, it became clear that expertise and planning alone would not reunite these young men with their families. God’s intervention was needed.
A plan was set in motion to have each boy swim out with a diver in front of him carrying the boy’s oxygen tank plus a second diver close behind. The first four boys emerged from the cave on July 8 as families and friends standing vigil cheered and people in Thailand and around the world rejoiced. Four more boys were rescued July 9 and then the final four boys with the assistant coach emerged on July 10. “So many things could have gone wrong, but somehow we managed to get the boys out. I still can’t believe it worked,” said Maj. Gen. Chalongchai Chaiyakham, the deputy commander of the Third Army region, which helped with the operation.
As frequently happens in these kinds of dire situations, we witnessed the best of humanity. Over 1,000 people were involved in the rescue operation. Across continents people were united. Thank God for the rescue of the 13 young men and for the life of Saman Gunan.
As Jesus and the Old Testament remind us, we need God and we need each other. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:1, 27)
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46:1-3)
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. Buy how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)