Rescuing the Thai boys trapped inside a cave
Sometimes, it seems the whole world turns to prayer. Last summer, God answered. As a watching world cried out for the safe rescue of the young Thai football team trapped inside the Tham Luang caves, God heard our prayers.
Where were you when it happened? When teenage boy after teenage boy defied all probability and escaped from the flooded Tham Luang cave network? So many extraordinary factors made the 17-day rescue possible. The ingenuity of the engineers. The skill and selflessness of the divers. The sheer bravery of the boys. And prayers of hope from across the world.
One boy in particular captured the heart of millions. 14-year-old Adun’s clear and calm voice confirmed to the first diver that the entire team and their coach were alive and well.
Out of darkness
For years, Adun has had the support of international charity Compassion’s child sponsorship programme. While his family waited anxiously for news at the cave entrance, Adun’s Compassion project director waited with them.
So when the watching public first heard Adun’s voice on film, people who’d been praying gave thanks to God. All 13 were alive! But while we were giving thanks, the real praying in earnest was just about to begin.
Inside the cave, Adun was praying too. He says, “By the tenth night, we were losing patience, hope, physical energy and courage. We could not do anything to help. The only thing that I could do was pray.”
Adun may have felt helpless, but his prayer was powerful. His voice joined with the prayers of millions around the world, glued to the news.
Adun says, “I prayed ‘Lord, I’m only a boy; you are almighty God, you are holy, and you are powerful. Right now I can’t do anything; may you protect us. Come to help all thirteen of us.’ And then I finished my prayer, thanking God for everything that happened to myself and my friends… all thirteen of us.”
The odds were against the boys’ survival. It was the stuff of nightmares: trapped in the depths of the cave, more than 3 km underground, hidden beyond flooded tunnels and treacherous cliffs. None of the boys could swim and they were losing strength.
Engineers pumped water. Divers planted oxygen tanks. Rain threatened to seal off the tunnels and time ran out. But people were praying. All around the world, voices called out to God for the boys’ safe escape.
At the cave entrance, local Christians worked hard to support the rescue. The Thai Air Force team landed their helicopters on the church football field where the Wild Boars normally practise. Church members cooked meals, offered beds and donated their own homegrown fruit and vegetables to the Thai Air Force team. The church also hosted visitors who dropped by to pray for the team members and their families.
It was dangerous to bring the boys out. If any of them flinched or panicked as they passed through the craggy flooded tunnels, they would die. But God heard our prayers. Over a period of days, the route was tested and the plan put in place.
One by one, the boys were sedated, given oxygen masks and carried through the flooded tunnels to safety. By day 17, all 12 boys and their coach were recovering in hospital.
It was a miracle. It shouldn’t have been possible, but it was. With God, all things are possible.
Adun is so thankful to God for his faithfulness during the cave rescue and beyond. He says, “Thank you to everyone who prayed for me and the whole team. Thank you to everyone that helped us, and the last thank you (goes) to the Lord: thank you God. God bless you all.”
In the weeks after the rescue, Adun took part in a special service to worship God and give thanks. Christians from across the Chiang Rai district of northern Thailand gathered to celebrate along with local governors, officers and rescue workers. At the same time, Christians around the world were giving thanks at home and in their churches for such a wonderful answer to their prayers.
Sometimes, God answers prayers in small ways: a change of heart, a surprising conversation, an unexpected turn of events. Then there are the extraordinary occasions, like the Thai cave rescue, when an answered prayer is obvious for the world to see.
Catherine Prescott is a freelance writer for Compassion specialising in international development and writing for children.