I, like many, have been gripped by the amazing rescue in Thailand that has just concluded. The lives of 12 boys and their coach saved as they were brought up from the depths of a mountain cave system after 17 days.
I am in awe of many aspects of this story; the resilience of the boys, the courage of the coach to go without food so his team may eat, the sacrifice of one man so that there would be enough oxygen in place for the rescue, the divers who enter the unknown darkness to search and the willingness of so many, from across the globe, to offer all manner of help to get these boys out safely. It is a story which does genuinely restore our hope in humanity, especially when the news is so often dominated by such negative, trivial or horrid happenings.
Not wanting to weaken this story at all but I do feel that as youthworkers we have a task and challenge as huge and perilous as those brave divers in Thailand.
I see youth workers ‘entering darkness’ in search of young people who are lost, I see them sacrifice much of themselves so that others can find hope, I see humbling commitment and I see a powerful combined effort when leaders unite behind a common cause; the spiritual well being of this generation!
It’s not that I want to say that our young people are more lost or in more danger than those boys in the cave, hopefully we will never have to find out. But I do believe that our rescue plan is more complex and needs to be more creative because bizarrely most are completely unaware they are even lost in the first place. For those that are in some way aware of their ‘lostness’ it can be really difficult for leaders to navigate a way to them, let alone bring them out towards the light.
So what is the answer? Well actually the answer is in numbers. They reckon that almost 1000 people were involved in the rescue of 12 boys and their coach, that’s about 76 people for each individual! 90 expert divers from across the globe, the army, politicians, parents, nurses, doctors, businessmen, friends, family and numerous others.
I’m not asking for 76 people per young person, (just 1 being interested in each 1 would be amazing!) but maybe if the ‘one’ youth leader who chooses to go in search was supported by a whole varied army of team then surely chances of rescue become a lot better. Not only the ‘rescue’ of the young person but also the survival of the leader as this type of work is draining, challenging and yes, dangerous!
What if resources were shared, leaders properly supported, churches getting fully behind the rescue effort being made? Well if this happened there would be no cave to dark, to far away or to dangerous to enter and we would be able to celebrate rescues all the time.
The reason I write this blog is because I have been truly inspired by the events in Thailand. As the world gets back to less important things like football, I know that in the weeks and months ahead I will still be having conversations with youth leaders who are burdened by lost young people or by churches that simply refuse to recognise the importance of their ministry. We have all benefitted from knowing about the boys in the Thai cave, it may have put some of our own struggles in perspective. But what it has done for me is re-affirm my calling to serve, resource and support youthwork. I am just one person, but I do have some friends who are gathering ‘at the entrance to caves’ with me, but I would like more, I need more, this generation of young people need more and in fact their chances of survival increase if we choose to get involved!
Whoever is entering the darkness to find people, get behind them!
“I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak” Ezekiel 34:16