It was Wednesday, the 30th of July, 1986. A few members of a pod of false killer whales became stranded in the shallow waters around Augusta, Western Australia. Because this specie is highly sociable, the rest of the pod probably responded to the individual distress calls of the stranded whales, resulting in the entire pod, 114 in total, becoming stranded and disoriented in the shallow waters.
The story fascinated me. I couldn’t help but see the unselfish love in each of those false killer whales as they put aside all thought of their own safety to try and rescue their fellow pod members. Yes, it resulted in them becoming stranded themselves; but the whales knew that above all else, they had to be there to comfort and encourage each other.
The Bible says, “For this is the gospel message that you have heard from the beginning: that we should love one another…” (1 John 3:11 NET). Imagine how much less hurt and loss the church at large would experience if we were to have as much unselfish love as that pod of false killer whales…
But the story doesn’t end here.
The local residence of Augusta immediately banded together. They administered first aid to the stranded whales, and eventually they were able to liberate a few. The freed whales simply came back into the dangerous waters, however, to comfort and encourage their fellow pod members. The result? They restranded themselves…
Those whales should have simply been happy to have been freed, right? But no. Their concern wasn’t for individual pod members, but for the pod at large.
Jesus loved the church, and His act of giving up His life for the church is proof of His love (See Eph. 5:25). We are told to follow His example: “For I have given you an example–you should do just as I have done for you.” (John 13:15 NET). What if we were to worry as much about the unity of the church at large as that pod of false killer whales in Augusta, Western Australia? What if we, the freed, were to dive right back into the thick of the very things we’ve been freed from, for the purpose of saving the church?
It soon became apparent that the whales would have to be rescued as a group, and as a group, returned to the sea. Wildlife authorities choose a deep-water site in nearby Flinder’s Bay, and they began ferrying the whales by truck to this point. More than 500 townspeople came out to help. Families “adopted” individual whales, and they worked tirelessly through the night and the following two days to care for “their” whale. Some took turns in the water, others cared for the beached whales, and still others provided supplies of hot food and blankets to the ones doing the hands-on work with the animals. By Friday morning, August 1, 1986, boardriders and swimmers helped to guide the last whales through a channel reef and safely into the open ocean.
Why don’t we respond in similar fashion to the church’s hurting members?
There may be many reasons, but one possibility is that we often feel underqualified. Remember, not everyone in the town of Augusta could swim. In the same way, not everyone in the church is trained to respond to someone who is grieving. Not everyone understands the holds of addiction. Not everyone is in-tune to the individual needs of our fellow churchgoers. What we can learn from the Augusta whale rescue is this: rather than abandoning the entire operation, each of us must find something helpful that we are comfortable doing!
We also may see that the task of caring for the church at large is overwhelming; but in the same way that the townspeople of Augusta broke up into small groups and “adopted” individual whales, we don’t have to see the task as ours alone. We can also divide and conquer. We can also focus on one or two hurting individuals, ever knowing that as a group, everyone is being cared for!
In total, 96 whales were saved in what was heralded as the world’s most successful whale rescue. The volunteers from the town endured cold, rain and lack of sleep to save the whales, and their action captured the imagination and admiration of the world, sparking a growing, active community concern for wildlife.
Jesus prayed for unity four different times in His pastoral prayer recorded in John 17: “that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you…The glory you gave to me I have given to them, that they may be one just as we are one, I in them and you in me…” (John 17:21,22 NET. See also vs. 11,23). There is a reason that unity is so important to Jesus: “…so that the world will know that you sent me…” (John 17:23b NET). When the townspeople of Augusta banded together, they became an example to the world, and their actions sparked more communal concern for wildlife. If the unity that saved those 96 whales could be seen in the church, the world at large would see beyond a doubt that Jesus is the Son of God, sent to this world as our Lord and Saviour.
Thank about it!
If you ever find yourself in Augusta, Western Australia, make your way to the Flinder’s Bay Boat Ramp and enjoy the memorial that has been set up in honor of this whale rescue. But even if you never have the opportunity to visit the actual memorial, let the story of the Augusta whale rescue inspire you to put aside selfish ambitions, to love the church as Jesus does, to do everything in your power to help your fellow brothers and sisters; for in so doing, you will preach a powerful message to the world at large.
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, andScriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, withAnswers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.