Pastoral Perspectives

A Rejoicing Far Greater Than #Hooyah

Unless you have been having an extended personal retreat in a cave, you would probably have come across by now the hashtag #Hooyah. What used to be some kind of a rallying battle cry amongst the US navy has become popular ever since the Thai navy Seals who led the search for the 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped in the Tham Luang caves first signed off their Facebook message with “Hooyah”.

With regards to why #Hooyah and the rescue mission managed to capture the attention of so many around the globe, I would like to suggest 3 possible reasons. Firstly, I believe it has to do with the dignity & inherent worth of those trapped in the cave. It felt natural that we should be concerned for the fate of the 12 boys and their coach. It did not matter that most of us do not know them personally and that they are from a different ethnic community, religion or social status. Moreover, the boys are only in their early teens and their coach in his early twenties. Their youthfulness and potential would have tugged at our heartstrings, given that we normally expect those in their life stage to have a whole life ahead of them.

Secondly, understanding the desperate plight of those trapped and the dangerous nature of the mission would have added to our anxious anticipation as we receive live updates from the news. After spending nine days in darkness, the boys had run out of food and were trying to sustain themselves with whatever little water they could sip. As much as they had each other for support, they were utterly vulnerable to the forces of nature. While learning to remain calm certainly gave them an edge, the reality was that there was simply no way they could save themselves. Indeed, if not for the decisive heroic intervention of the rescue team, they would have suffocated due to a declining oxygen level in the cave or drowned by the rising floodwaters.  

The situation was not any easier for the rescue team. In fact, it was a most complex and gruelling operation. The hazardous nature of their mission was accentuated when a former Thai navy diver Saman Gunan died while helping to deliver more air tanks into the cave. Even those with much diving experience were apprehensive about the immense challenges they face such as diving through zero-visibility waters, contending with rough currents and navigating their way through the mind-boggling terrain with tight crevices.

Thankfully, the rescue mission turned out to be an overall success. And since everyone enjoys an inspiring story about everyday heroes, #Hooyah captured something of the grit of those involved as well as expressing our elation as the boys emerged safely one by one from the caves.

Finally, we are most heartened to hear of the determined unity of everyone involved in this rescue mission. Apart from billionaire Elon Musk who comes across as somewhat of a sour-grape after being spurned by the Thai authorities, the rescue mission was a sterling example of well-organised mobilisation and international cooperation. Experts and volunteers from all over the globe availed themselves and altogether it was reported that there was more than 10,000 people who came to help over the course of the 18-day ordeal. Besides military and medical personnel, foreign diving experts and engineers, countless ordinary folks also lent their generous support. No job was considered too small as villagers offered to wash the laundry of the rescue team and others cleaned the toilets near the site.

As I think about this rescue mission, it brings to mind an even more significant and urgent rescue mission that God has called his church to give of herself to. Yes, I am referring to the Great Commission that Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord and Saviour has entrusted us with. If we believe that every human being is precious and of inherent worth because he is made in God’s image (Gen 1:26-27), then we cannot remain indifferent to how sin has ruined and marred this image and brought about much pain and misery upon humanity.

Since Scripture also teaches us that mankind is not only lost but doomed to be under God’s righteous judgment apart from faith in Christ (Romans 3:23-24), it would be rather heartless of us if we are not asking God for open doors where we can lovingly and faithfully proclaim the gospel. Surely, if we can be concerned for the immediate safety of the boys and rescuers, then for Christ’s sake, Christians must care even more about the eternal well-being of all people and appeal to them to be reconciled with God (2 Cor 5:18-21). After all, people are in real danger and cannot save themselves if they persist in their hostility against God.   

Undoubtedly, the task of discipleship, evangelism and missions is not just for some elite Christians who have received specialised training but for everyone who professes faith in Jesus. If one truly desires to obey God and see to it that he will bear fruits in this God-given mission, a good place to start would be to intercede regularly for people, whether he is a relative, friend, neighbour or colleague and find ways to bless them with God’s love. In addition, every Christian should willingly roll up his sleeves and gladly support in whatever ways he can throughout the different seasons of life such that gospel ministry can take place within the local faith community as well as in a missionary context.

In two of his parables in Luke 15, Jesus spoke about the rejoicing that will take place in heaven when a sinner repents and returns to God. If there is anything that Christians can look forward to with great certainty, it is that our labour of love and faith in gospel ministry will never be in vain. Even today, there are cheers of jubilation in churches around the world whenever someone comes to faith in Christ. And when Christ comes again, #Hooyah would pale in comparison to the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting “Hallelujah”!  

Rev Edwin Wong

July 22, 2018