On June 23, the Wild Boars set out on an adventure that captured the heart of the world. The Wild Boars are a boy’s soccer team from the Chiang Rai province of northern Thailand. As part of their training regiment and a “right of passage,” the 12 players and their assistant coach would take a 45-minute bike ride to explore the popular Tham Luang cave. This particular outing turned into an 18-day odyssey that involved prime ministers, national militaries, world-class engineers, and the Silicon Valley tech-titan, Elon Musk.
Shortly after the Wild Boars made their way into the caves it began to rain. As the water continued to fall from the skies, the ocean level began to rise. The team fled deeper into the cave, away from the flood, and soon found themselves 2.5 miles inland and nearly one half-mile underground.
The 12 players and their assistant coach spent 10 days in the cold, damp, dark caverns when a highly trained team of divers found them. The divers reported that the team had resolved themselves to drinking water from the cave walls for survival. With the threat of monsoons, depletion of oxygen, and declining health, the options for extraction ranged from “waiting it out” for four months to a building a child-sized submarine.
The urgency of this situation bridged the gap between polarizing democracies in Thailand and united a nation. They gained the support of the world and the prayers of many faithful followers of Jesus.
It was decided on July 8 that a team of divers would make their way back into the caves to rescue the boys. The journey would not be easy. It would include a 1-mile climb over slippery rock, wading through dark waters, and making one’s way through a 15-inch wide “pinch point” to find freedom. The estimated dive time was between 3-5 hours one way. Did I mention that most of these boys didn’t even know how to swim?
In the days leading to this valiant effort, a retired Thai Navy Seal, Saman Gunan, gave his life for the twelve boys and their coach. Saman ran out of air and lost consciousness as he was returning from a mission to deliver oxygen tanks to the team. Saman had volunteered his time and expertise to ensure the safety and return of these young men.
This tragedy is much like the Gospel in so many ways. We often times find ourselves deep in the midst of lostness. The world is dark. It is cold. It can be hard to breathe. The fear of the unknown only weakens our resolve and doubt casts shadows on the smallest glint of light. This is what it is like to live in the Upside Down.
Saman Gunan reminded the world of what real sacrifice looks like. It isn’t simply giving money or volunteering at a food kitchen. Those things are good and noble expressions of love. But Jesus said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” (John 15.13-NLT). That is exactly what Jesus did. He died for all of us. He died so our sins would be forgiven. He died so that we may experience a new life. He died so that we would have the promise of eternity in heaven with Him and His Father.
Followers of Jesus Christ have the responsibility of being light bearers in the darkness of this Upside Down world. We are called to share hope to the hopeless. Give encouragement to the discouraged. Love the lost and find joy in the midst of our challenges. It is not an easy assignment. But it is the one laid out before us. We must step into each day fully dependent on God and know that our lives are in His hands.