For the past seven days, I’ve been holding my breath, praying non-stop for the twelve boys and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand.
Every morning, I check the news to see if there’s been any updates, hoping and praying that I’ll wake up to the news that all of them have been safely extricated from the cave. (As I write this, eight of the boys have been rescued.)
The other reason I obsessively follow the story is because it’s heartening to see how the world has come together to rescue these kids. Professional scuba divers, cave experts, irrigation specialists, miners, military experts are volunteering their time and expertise to find a solution that saves the lives of a dozen kids.
More than two thousand volunteers are supporting the rescue efforts. The U.S., Australia, Britain, Japan, China, Myanmar and Laos have all sent people to help. Other volunteers are preparing food for the rescue teams, paying for the ingredients out of their own pockets. There’s even a tent where volunteers can get their hair cut for free.
It’s absolutely exceptional how the whole world is coming together to save the lives of these children.
As I’ve prayed for these children and their coach, I’ve imagined Jesus being present with them in that cold, dark, frightening, trapped place. Jesus, who said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me….for God’s kingdom is made up of little people like these…”, holding those boys close to his heart, because that’s what Jesus does.
I watched with exhilaration as rescuers announced that they’d found the boys and their coach alive. I cheered with the volunteers as the first four boys were rescued. I cried tears of joy with the boys’ families as four more boys were retrieved from the cave.
And I’ve cried tears of grief, too.
Because as the world is coming together to care for innocent kids in Thailand, in other places, we’re making kids’ lives hell on earth.
In the U.S., we’re tearing kids out of their parents’ arms. And shooting unarmed black boys.
In Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan and China, children are forced into exhausting, unpaid manufacturing jobs.
In India and Bangladesh and South Sudan, girls are forced to marry when they’ve barely reached adolescence.
Around the world SIX MILLION children die every year, mostly of preventable causes. We lose as many kids in one year as we lost Jews in the Holocaust.
People, what is going on?
Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me…” but instead, we let the little children suffer.
We let them suffer from a lack of medicine, mosquito nets, immunizations, clean water, shelter and food. We let the little children suffer — and die — while we indulge ourselves with cruises and all-you-can-eat buffets and massive homes and SUVs and video games and designer jeans.
“Suffer the little children…”
Did you hear Jesus wrong? Did you think he said, “Let the little children suffer because your kids matter more?” Or, “Let the little children suffer because that’s an acceptable price to pay for national security?” Or, “Let the little children suffer because they drew the cosmic short straw and were born in what your president calls a shithole country?”
Did you hear Jesus wrong, or did you decide you just don’t care?
Did you hear Jesus wrong, or did you shrug your shoulders and walk away because you don’t want to be bothered with other peoples’ pain?
Did you hear Jesus wrong, or did you look at the scope of the problem and decide that there’s no way one individual can even make a dent in the world’s problems?
The Thailand cave rescue shows us what we’re capable of when we decide that children matter, that their lives are worth saving, that no one can do everything but everyone can do something, that we can leverage our talents and skills and expertise to benefit others, and that when we come together we are somehow greater than the sum of all our parts.
The Thailand cave rescue shows us how empathy and urgency can rescue kids in danger.
The Thailand cave rescue reminds us that whether a child is trapped in a cave in Thailand or child labor in Somalia or a refugee camp in Yemen, their life is absolutely worth saving.
The Thailand cave rescue reminds us that we’re called to do unto others as we would have them do to us. If you were in a refugee camp in Yemen and your kids were on the brink of death, what would you want the U.S. border patrol to do for you? If you were a Honduran mom whose husband was beating the crap out of you and you fled for days with your children to get them to safety, what would you want immigration officials to do for you and your children? I doubt you’d want them to rip your child from your arms and put them on a plane to strangers’ houses thousands of miles away who don’t even speak your language.
The Thailand cave rescue reminds us that we are our best selves when we are generous, courageous, empathetic and unified.
The Thailand cave rescue reminds us that we are most like Jesus when we care for the least of these… the little people who Jesus cares about, who are close to his grieved, hopeful heart.
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