The Hong-Kong based Anglican writer Alice Wu reflects on the recent rescue of 12 young football players and their coach from flooded caves in Thailand, and what it says about miracles.
People have short memories. Some of us may have forgotten how the world was gripped by the extraordinary rescue of the 12 boys and their football coach trapped deep inside a cave in Tham Luang caves in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Okay, maybe not forgotten – not entirely; but in a world that delivers continuous bad news that make every new day incredulously worse than the day before, good news, even ones that offer the real-life drama Hollywood can only hope to imitate and the hope only the ultimate good ending – human cooperation and personal sacrifice without any concern for race, creed or colour triumph – can inspire, just aren’t compelling enough.
Or, maybe it’s the juxtaposition of holding our breaths as we wait for news of the fate of the 13 young lives in one part of the world and us gasping over young children forcefully taken from their parents into detention camps – tents – in another part of the world that is just too disconcerting. The forced cognitive dissonance is too much to process, and we simply lose the plot.
Maybe that explains why a billionaire businessman, who offered his submarine for the Thai cave rescue but was rejected, went off the edge, calling the chief of the rescue operation “not the subject matter expert”, and one of the hero divers “a paedophile”. Apparently, some people can’t comprehend that the rescue operation wasn’t about any one person.
So, what was the plot? That the lost soccer team was found by courageous divers? Or that they found refuge in the cave in the first place? The military doctor who went to join the trapped when there were no clear plans on extraction to provide medical care? The ultimate sacrifice a Thai ex-navy seal made by losing his life so that he could deliver oxygen supply to the trapped boys? That rescue workers had to fight mother-nature by pumping water out as the monsoon rain meant rising water levels? The farmers who turned down offers of compensation for the crop damaged by the operation’s diverted water? That trapped boys, aged 11 to 16, managed to keep themselves alive and in good spirits? The international rescue operation that involved more than a thousand people from around the world? The race and victory against time? That humanity, capable of great evil, can accomplish such good?
For me, the plot is that they were all miracles. And that it took all these miracles and 18 days to rescue 13 young lives. But no one put it better than a very wise man, a legendary newspaper editor, who now lives in Thailand did when news of the emergence of the last boy came: “Miracle accomplished.”
Miracles don’t just happen, and aren’t happenstance. “Miracle” in Chinese (神跡) literally means “God’s tracks”. And it takes countless individuals willing to be used, to answer the call, to make sacrifices, and to let God take over in order for the Miracle to be accomplished.
Elon Musk, and the horrific images of children separated from their parents in the United States serve to be reminders that how easy and quickly it is for us to lose the plot. Just as the miracle of the Exodus is not only the parting of the Red Sea, human beings’ talent in losing the plot is also every part of the Exodus story. People forget “God’s tracks” and continue on their old ways. People forget that they can take part in accomplishing miracles.
The world has seen and celebrated what good humanity is capable of, and the true greatness of what God accomplishes through willing men and women. Whether the miraculous rescue was simply a fluke, an exception rather than the rule is up to all of us.
Next time we pray for divine intervention, pray, instead, for our preparedness for sacrifice, for God to work through us, however unworthy we may be, not so that we can be heroes but so that we can realise how hardened our hearts had been and how far we had fallen short of God’s glory.