Digging through some photos reminded me of a wonderful trip to Captiva Island a couple of years ago.
As I remembered the week in paradise one memory kept coming to mind. We were blessed to be on the beach when a couple of folks pulled up to a marked sea turtle nest one morning. To our surprise they began to dig into the nest. Having an inquiring mind I asked what they were doing. I learned that the eggs in this nest had hatched seventy-two hours earlier. These dedicated volunteers had marked the nest over fifty days earlier and monitored the site every day since then. Every single day! Volunteers watch over hundreds of sea turtle nests each season. When the eggs hatch the men and women dig up the nest, count the hatched eggs and also the eggs that did not hatch. An average nest contains about 120 eggs.
But what happened next amazed and inspired me. While digging deep in the nest the volunteer pulled up a struggling but very alive baby turtle. Moments later another turtle with legs flailing was brought to the surface after being buried in two feet of sand just moments earlier.
Our new friend Sam explained how this happens.
“When the eggs hatch the baby turtles climb on top of the other eggs and each other to reach the beach. These little guys missed the ‘elevator’ to the surface.”
I was amazed that they could breath for three days underground.
“They found pockets of air among the shells that kept them alive. Now we will keep them safe until tonight and then we will release them into the sea. About one of one thousand will make it to adulthood. And if they do make it they will use a natural GPS to return from the sea to this spot to lay eggs.”
In an earlier blog I wrote that I often find sacred moments in unlikely places. This was one of those moments. Later I thought about the miracle of those two little turtles surviving despite very unlikely odds.
I thought about how it related to the message I tried (so far nearly anonymously) to communicate in my second book, “Bring’em Back Alive”.
That every believer is a precious part of Christ’s body. When even one is missing, the church lacks power and is less than whole. Whether we’re victims, perpetrators, or innocent bystanders we’re called by God to seek restoration. And when one of God’s sheep goes missing we have no choice: We are called to Bring ’Em Back Alive.
That message was demonstrated admirably by the sea turtle rescuers. Part of the survival of the turtles was related to their created will to live. But for those two baby sea turtles that we witnessed survival was entirely because two people cared enough to volunteer their time to pursue them. They cared enough to dig deep into the sand with no assurance of success. They cared enough to care for the babies and then give up more of their time to return to the sea that night to release the turtles to their destiny. And I suddenly felt saddened. Sad that really cool people like Sam will do that for baby turtles and that so many followers of Jesus can’t or won’t find the time to do that for fellow believers buried deep in the hole of despair and woundedness.
I was awed by the amazing drama of nature. Touched by the goodness of many people on this earth. And challenged by the thought that someone may be gasping for spiritual air today just waiting for me to care enough to dig a bit into their story and heart to help them survive.
Someday I will enjoy paradise that will make Captiva look shabby (what a thought!). But in the meantime I pray I will have a tender spirit that will seek, rescue and restore God’s wounded lambs with the same commitment that Sam and countless others rescue those plucky baby turtles.