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FIRST-PERSON: Lessons from a cave rescue

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (BP) — For nearly three weeks, the world’s attention has been focused on Thailand where 12 soccer players and their coach were trapped in a cave for 18 days.

The boys escaped the cave with little time to spare as water pumps failed immediately after their rescue, flooding the area they had vacated. The Thailand Navy Seals, who played a major role in the rescue effort, barely escaped. A few days earlier, former Navy diver Saman Gunan lost his life in efforts to supply oxygen to the team and coach.

The real-life drama captivated people worldwide. As flooding occurred in the area, the constant question was, “Could those boys and their coach be rescued before they drowned or suffocated?”

Rescue efforts included people from various countries including the United States and Australia.

Maj. Charles Hodges, U.S. mission commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group for the Air Force, was interviewed by “CBS This Morning” on July 11.

Hodges cited the role of cooperation in the rescue effort. “It took every single one of us, putting our heads together and pushing aside political and cultural differences and doing our best to find a solution,” he said. The experience reinforced the concept of teamwork, he said, noting, “It was pretty impressive seeing all these entities working together.”

Christians and churches can learn from this incredible cave rescue as they are faced with a similar life-and-death issue: reaching the millions of people in our world who will die without professing faith in Jesus Christ their as Lord and Savior.

The Thailand soccer team was rescued because rescuers had a common goal, they laid aside differences to get the job done and no one cared who received the credit.

How does that apply to the church?

A common goal: The goal of any church — and individual believers — must be seeing souls saved. If every church would focus on seeing people saved, baptized and set on the road to discipleship, we could see multiple thousands come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Lay aside differences and work together: Churches are comprised of people with different backgrounds, opinions, skills and talents. Not everyone agree on everything that happens within the church. The key is to not allow those differences to sidetrack the goal or mission of the church — sharing the Gospel and leading people to Christ. When a church works together in a spirit of cooperation, God will use that to accomplish His will.

The credit belongs to God: In every account I read or listened to about the cave rescue, I never heard one person or group claim credit. Hodges said it well: “It took every single one of us … to find a solution.” If churches want to grow and lead people to Christ, Christians can’t worry about “notches on their belt” when it comes to seeing people accept Christ.

We, as Christians, can’t save anyone. All we can do is share the Good News of Jesus Christ and let the Holy Spirit work. God will take care of the rest and He deserves all the credit. We are blessed when He uses us to accomplish His will.

It was never mentioned on any broadcast I heard, but God performed another of His miracles by enabling those 12 boys and their coach to survive underground for nearly three weeks with minimal food and water.

May He receive glory and honor from the rescue and may Christians and churches learn lessons they can use to rescue people doomed for an eternity in hell.

    About the Author

  • Lonnie Wilkey

    Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

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