Some 6 or 7 weeks ago, 33 miners were rescued from 700 metres under the earth while
the world watched. Their rescue was anticipated by loved ones, friends, the media
and many around the world who were praying for their safe release. When they went
on shift 69 days before, they couldn’t have known what was to befall them in the
space of a few hours.
That they were saved so dramatically is testament to the tenacity of the Chilean
government and to the rescue teams who worked tirelessly to effect the rescue.
The situation below and above ground gave rise to many emotions and feelings. Feelings
of sadness and despair, anger and worry but also love as seen in the vigil kept
by the families of the miners.
In the mine were a variety of men with differing personalities and character. Some
were resilient, some were distraught but all were afraid. In the midst of that
fear, it became clear that many were not just trusting in the skill of the engineers
drilling the rescue shaft. One miner in particular, a Jose Henriquez by name,
was a Christian and he would prove to be a shaft of light in the darkness of the
mine shaft. Mentioned by some in the media, he led prayers morning and evening.
He organised bible studies and shared with others the faith that was sustaining
him through their ordeal. One might say he had a captive audience, but in the circumstances,
his only thought was to bring comfort to his colleagues. Equally his concern was
also for those above ground and was instigator in securing pastoral help for the
Others in the mine also shared his Christian faith, but until this point many of
their colleagues hadn’t thought of eternity. Like a lot of people, it would take
extreme circumstances to bring into sharp focus the realities of life and death.
Some were so moved by their imprisonment, they expressed fear at what
seemed like the eternal darkness as spoken of in the Bible.
As Jose Henriquez spoke of the gospel to the men, even in the gloom of the mine,
there was a joy brought to their souls when at least 2 of the men accepted the
Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Not only underground, but above ground as well,
there were some who came to trust the Lord Jesus for salvation. Sometimes it takes
a catastrophe such a this to move men and women to think of their souls. In
the Bible in the book of the Acts, there’s an incident where an earthquake shook
the prison buildings at a place called Philippi, Macedonia (Acts Ch 16) and
many were saved as a result.
The obvious reaction of many around the world was one of joy and happiness, but there
were other reactions as well. Some were disinterested in a situation so far away.
Others were cynical of such expressions of faith and hope, and felt there may have
been elements of hysteria and hype. But the fact remains that in the quietness and
darkness of the mine, men came face to face with God. Some claimed God saved them
out of the disaster; thankfully some were saved in the disaster!
As often happens with events broadcast in the media, time slips by quickly and we
tend to forget. Out of the 33 miners, only 12 were able to return for a service of
thanksgiving held some days after the rescue. A number would not have been able to
attend due to the stress and anxiety of their ordeal.
Who was the first to return to the scene that day? Yes, Jose Henriquez, who demonstrated
the strength of his faith and thankfulness to God by his actions.
In the aftermath of the event, a number of other miners are reported to have trusted
the Lord Jesus for salvation. And there may be more yet. Perhaps among those who
watched from a distance there may have been some who bowed the knee to accept the
same Saviour, What will it take to speak to your soul? Sometimes God speaks in different
ways, but when he speaks we need to listen.