The world was recently gripped by the operation to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from the Tham Luang Caves in Thailand. More than 1,000 people were involved in a huge international operation which included divers, military officers, engineers, rescue workers and ordinary people.
By the time the first two divers found the boys, they had been stranded in the flooded caves, in the dark, with no food, for nine days. When asked by the boys when they would be rescued, one of the divers replied:
Not today. There’s two of us. We have to dive. We are coming. OK? Many people are coming. We are the first.
Then one of the boys said,
Eat, eat, eat, tell them we are hungry.
This huge rescue operation parallels the missions enterprise. In missions, we seek to find and rescue those in spiritual darkness and hunger. Just as in the cave rescue, someone has to go right to where the people are, exploring the unknown and taking risks.
Missionaries are like the first two divers — just “two of us”. But can they honestly say “many people are coming”? Like this massive rescue operation, missions requires the support of the rest of the Christian community — for people, resources, prayer, and all kinds of backup to rescue the lost and feed the hungry.
Elon Musk, technopreneur and billionaire, made several high-tech suggestions and even provided a mini-submarine. However, the head of the rescue mission said that the sophisticated solutions were not suitable for the conditions faced. It was the rescue team on the spot who could assess what was possible, and in the end, it was the coordinated effort of many people in the caves and outside who carried out the successful rescue. In the same way, in missions, suggestions made from a distance may be unsuitable, and it requires a rescue team on the spot to devise solutions that work and, just as crucially, carry them out.
There are still many who are “darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18). Not everyone is called to be a “cave diver”, but all of us can play a part in the missions enterprise. We need everyone to work together to bring those in darkness into the light.