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Lessons from the rescue of the Thai soccer team

Recently I wrote a blog saying that “… the world breathed a sigh of relief when the news came that the 12 Thai soccer team members who had been trapped for 9 days in a cave near the golden triangle had been rescued.” A comment on my blog reminded me that they had been found, but were not yet out of the cave. Now that they have been safely rescued, we can rejoice and also pause to think of possible lessons that can be learned:

  1. Finding the lost is relatively easy compared to getting them safely out of the pit. Christian research groups have identified 7,000 Unreached People Groups (UPGs) globally, comprising 42% of the world’s population. The approximately  21 million Isaan people of Northeast Thailand number in the top 50 of these 7,000 groups. This Isaan group is a part of the more than 60 million Thai Buddhists that are in great need of a gospel witness.
  2. Major obstacles and sacrifices will be faced in order to free those trapped. Trained divers took up to 6 hours in order to reach the soccer team. They faced strong currents, near-zero visibility, narrow passages and lack of oxygen (one of their number died in the effort). The human and financial cost of the effort was substantial, but was a minor concern when 13 souls were at stake. How much more effort and money should be expended when you think of the billions of eternal souls that remain trapped in the cave of sin and death, and separated from God and unaware of Jesus their only possible rescuer.
  3. Access to Reached People Groups (RPG) is easy compared to unreached people groups. Reached groups have easy access to the gospel and would compare with people trapped near the mouth of a cave. Unreached groups, however, due to their situation “in the depths of the pit”, will require a massive rescue operation with national and international teams joining hands in the effort. For most, the idea of unreached groups brings to mind a remote tribe in the depth of a tropical jungle. However, in today’s world, the vast majority of the unreached are more likely to live in “concrete jungles” which are readily accessible (like Tokyo or Bangkok) but are still “in the depths of the pit”, untouched by the Good News. Such urban dwellers might have Christian neighbours who live close by yet they stay separated from the gospel due to their world view. The Thai soccer team was separated from the outside world by less than 500 meters – but those 500 meters consisted of solid rock. Similarly, these unreached people might be close in terms of physical distance, but the gospel has yet to penetrate the ‘solid rock’ of their world view assumptions and misconceptions. Yet when the gospel of truth does penetrate the darkness, we have seen wonderful changes when these people are ‘brought out into the light’.
  4. After being rescued, people need to be brought to spiritual health. Once rescued the first major concern was the health of the soccer team. They had been in extreme conditions for over two weeks and were weak and many sick. The fledgling church in many parts of Asia is weak, often struggling, and in great need of strong biblical discipleship and follow-up.

Larry Dinkins

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