Thailand Cave Rescue: Here’s How We Can Help (before) Next Time
For two weeks we all checked our phones first thing in the morning. Are the boys out yet? Are they safe? Did they make it?
Around the globe, we wrung our hands and wondered what we could do. Buddhists made offerings at their garden shrines. Children colored pictures and wrote good thoughts. Christians prayed. We all wanted to do something.
Now, in the aftermath, let’s consider what we can do before the next tragedy strikes. Before the next hurricane, before the next child is separated from her parents at the border, before the next drought displaces a people—there is a tangible offering that we can make to help those in need.
It’s Child Sponsorship.
Sound too simple? Well, here’s what I know about it and why I’m convinced it’s the best way to make a difference.
1. Children who are sponsored typically become excellent young adults who make an impact in their countries. When my family was traveling back and forth between Japan and Thailand—both for ministry and for our adoption—we met a lot of young adults in the Thai church and in Christian ministry who had been Compassion sponsored children themselves. The men and women we met were bilingual, had college degrees (or more), were leaders in their communities, and were making a true difference in the lives of orphans and others in need. It was evident that though their families of origin were poor, the support they received through their sponsorship afforded them resources that otherwise would have been out of reach. In multiple personal conversations they testified to the difference sponsorship made—indeed, it’s where they gave credit.
2. It’s not likely to be exploitive. I attended a private screening of the movie Poverty, Inc a few years back. It’s an expose on how non-profits, NGOs, and ministries stand to make a profit by fighting poverty and how many ultimately exploit the poor for their own financial gain. I highly recommend it. One of the film’s creators was present and answered questions after the showing. When asked about the child sponsorship model of poverty alleviation he responded that it’s probably the best way to make an impact on suffering around the world. He emphasized the reality that child sponsorship tends to be community-based. That means that rather than an outside organization moving in to solve a problem (and make a gain themselves), they instead funnel support to churches and organizations that are already entrenched in the community and in the lives of the children there.
3. It works. According to research cited in this article by the BBC, “you have to invest in a child if you want to change a community.” Sponsored children raise the quality of life not just for themselves, but for siblings and other community children. The article also states that “a consultant for World Vision and Compassion, found the spiritual aspect of sponsorship might be intrinsic to transforming children's lives.” Compassion International’s CEO says, ”We’ve always believed there's a huge psychological benefit for a child to know that someone on the other side of the world really loves and cares about them.”
4. It helps keep families together. When a community has a child sponsorship program available, parents aren’t forced to look elsewhere for help. If their children can receive food, medical care, schooling, and support right where they are, then families won’t be forced to flee. Oftentimes children who are placed in orphanages and even adopted have parents who would have loved to keep them home, but weren’t able to because of life-threatening poverty.
5. It invests in a local structure that can quickly respond to tragedy. My youngest daughter’s Compassion child lives in the Philippines. She was in the path of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, which ultimately killed 6,000 people. Because she and her family were already connected to a Compassion Center when the storm hit, they received immediate relief, rice, and shelter. We heard from Compassion within just a few days about her safety.
6. It introduces children amongst unreached people groups to Jesus. Sponsorship programs like Compassion partner with local churches. These churches provide the space, people, and structures for the children to come and receive not only food for the body, but also food for the soul. As felt needs are met, deeper spiritual needs are too.
The Thai Boys' Scenario Illustrates All of the Above Points
As for #1, one of the rescuers was a Compassion beneficiary. Surayut Puengpadung is an 18 year old member of the Chiang Rai Rescue Academy Team, and was one of the first to report the boys missing on Saturday and one of the first to enter the water to search for the boys.
As for #2, 3, 4, and 6, one of the boys who was in the cave is a Compassion-sponsored child himself. According to this article, his family crossed the border from Myanmar into Thailand in search of relief and resources for their family. They sought help at a church with a Compassion Center. The boy was matched with a sponsor and began receiving help. His above-normal education allowed him to learn some English, making him the only person in the cave who could communicate with British rescuers. Throughout the rescue effort his parents prayed to and praised the one true God, who they and their son already knew.
As for #5, the church that is connected to Compassion sponsorship provided accommodations and food to rescuers throughout their harrowing ordeal. Church and Child Center staff and volunteers made food, prayed with parents and rescuers, and played a foundational role in the rescue effort and morale.
Love Your Neighbor: Sponsor a Child
Of course it is reasonable and important to prayerfully give to relief efforts as they are needed, but this is one way to invest in relief in advance. Child sponsorship through Compassion International is one way that you and I can love our neighbor. We don’t have to clamor when tragedy strikes—we know it will, so let’s start funneling our resources there now.