The Global Rescue Effort
As the pandemic drags on, I’ve been thinking about how groups of people deal with difficult circumstances—especially those over which they have little or no control.
Remember what happened to that soccer team in the Tham Luang cave? On Saturday, June 23, 2018, a group of 12 boys between the ages of 11 and 16, along with their 25-year-old coach, went missing in a massive cave system that is near the border between Thailand and Myanmar. The Wild Boars played together on a local junior team, and after heading into the cave to do some exploring, they were stranded in the tunnels by a sudden rainfall that just didn’t let up. Within a very short time they were trapped.
The search, their discovery 18 days later, and the absolutely thrilling rescue was the result of courageous efforts on the part of more than 10,000 people who worked together to implement a complex and difficult mission to extract them safely from the cave.
They survived against what seemed to be impossible odds.
Or think back to October of 2010, when 33 miners were trapped in the Copiapó copper mine in northern Chile. It was 17 days before there was confirmation that they were alive, via a note attached to a drill bit that was being used to drill boreholes in the search for them: Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33. (We are well in the shelter, the 33 of us.)
What followed was a harrowing and difficult process that took weeks to implement, until all 33 were rescued from the mine—69 days after the initial accident.
Accounts from those who were involved—from those who were trapped and those who were involved in the rescues—detail the focus, the determination, and the intentionality of the successful efforts to rescue those trapped without loss of life. A deep sense of community emerged in both situations between those who were rescued and those who risked their lives to rescue them. Perhaps it is no coincidence that people in both groups affirmed and encouraged the practice of prayer, meditation, and religious devotion during the time that was required to bring the rescues to successful completion.
Which brings me back to the pandemic. In this situation, we are both those who are trapped and the rescue team. A global virus has taken thousands of lives and threatens our own lives and the lives of those we love. It completely disrupts business and commerce, threatens to destroy the social fabric, and upends behaviors so deeply associated with the way humans live that it seems as if our very existence is being redefined.
To slow and control this viral monster, we are called on to come together around a handful of tactical actions that could dramatically hamper the negative impact of the virus. As healthcare professionals, we are pressed into service that requires focus, determination, and intentionality to treat those who are sick and may die from the disease. There is great personal cost as well as risk involved in these responses.
As in the stories of the rescues of the Wild Boars soccer team and the Chilean copper miners, there is great value in bringing this situation into our spiritual practice and our lives of faith, regardless of our religious tradition. We can each pray. We can each seek the calmness and focus that comes from reflection and mediation. And our devotion to God in faith can be aligned with our devotion to doing those things that might save the lives of the people that God loves.
Our mission has never been more relevant than right now: We extend God’s care through the ministry of physical, mental, and spiritual healing. This is a battle for the physical, the mental, and the spiritual healing of our communities and all the peoples of earth. We are all impacted—trapped, as it were. And we are all part of the rescue—personally, as good neighbors and citizens, and professionally, through our calling, training, experience, and expertise.