Thai Rescue

Meet Adun, one of the 12 teenagers trapped in a cave in Thailand

Adun, aged 14, was one of the 12 teenagers who captured hearts across the world when they became stranded in Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand. After being trapped underground for two weeks, the 12 and their football coach, were finally freed in a complicated rescue mission.

The boys, aged eleven to seventeen, and their 25-year-old assistant coach entered the cave on 23 June after football practice. Shortly afterwards, heavy rains partially flooded the cave, trapping the group inside about 4 km (2.5 miles) from the entrance. Efforts to locate them were hampered by rising water levels and strong currents, and no contact was made for more than a week. The rescue effort expanded into a massive operation amid intense, worldwide, public interest.

On 2 July British divers John Volanthen and Richard Stanton found the group alive. Adun was the only one of the teenagers who spoke English, so he was able to respond to John and Rick when they asked: ‘How many of you?’

‘Thirteen,’ Adun answered, in a film clip that was watched by millions.

Eight years ago, a similar saga of 33 Chilean miners trapped in a cave captivated people around the world. The 33 miners defied all odds, spending two months underground before being rescued alive. As the world watched to see the fate of the football players trapped in the Thai cave, the miners sent messages of support. (Read the miner’s story on page 8.)

Like the miners, the whole group in Thailand were brought to safety following a mission fraught with obstacles. The rescue effort involved more than 10,000 people, including divers, police officers, soldiers, and rescue workers from about 100 governmental agencies.

The last four boys were rescued on 10 July, ahead of another downpour that was predicted to start around 11 July. Sadly a Thai rescue diver died during the rescue mission, highlighting the dangers.

Giving thanks

Adun was discharged from hospital on 18 July, together with the other boys and their coach. After recovering from their ordeal, 11 members of the Wild Boar Football team took part in a Buddhist ceremony. Adun chose to give thanks to God at a special service in his local church with Christians from across the Chiang Rai District of northern Thailand, local governors, officers and rescue workers.

During the church service, Adun shared his experiences of being trapped in the cave. He said, ‘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.’

He added, ‘Thank you to everybody who prayed for me and the whole team. Thank you to everybody that helped us, and the last thank you [goes] to the Lord: thank you God.’

During the church service Adun prayed for the family of Saman Kunan, the Thai navy seal who tragically died in the rescue mission.

Adun’s church is led by Pastor Go Shin and his wife and has around 100 members. Adun, who has been sponsored through the charity Compassion since he was seven years old, hopes one day ‘to be a doctor and a famous professional soccer player for Chiang Rai United Club’. He will continue to stay at the church under the care of Pastor Go Shin and his wife. Several of the children in the community are non-Thai citizens like Adun who live at the church because of the transient nature of their parents’ work.

Adun’s parents are part of an ethnic group known as the ‘Lua’ or ‘Wah’ group. As the oldest of their five children, Adun’s parents encouraged him to live at the church where he could receive a more stable education.

As special guests at the church service, Adun’s parents came dressed in traditional ethnic Lua dress. ‘God is great … there’s nothing he can’t do,’ they said after discovering their son was safe.