SANTIAGO, Chile (BP)–Bible studies, Christian music and Adrian Rogers sermons were part of the Chilean miners’ remaining days below the earth as they awaited rescue.
God moved in the heart of one of the miners to request spiritual assistance and spurred an engineer working to free the men to provide not just physical aid but spiritual nourishment.
Though the Chilean culture typically could be characterized as secular and humanistic, people openly expressed gratitude to God as the 69-day ordeal came to an astounding end Oct. 13 with the rescue of all 33 men.
The miners had spent more than two months 2,300 feet below the earth’s surface in a chamber the size of a living room after a partial collapse blocked the mine exit Aug. 5. Their families had waited anxiously at the drill site as rescuers hurried toward their retrieval.
Jose Henriquez, one of three evangelical Christians among the trapped miners, sent up a request in September that an evangelical pastor be enlisted to minister to the miners and their families, according to an International Mission Board worker serving in Vallenar, Chile, about two hours from the mine in Copiapo.
Igor Bravo, a rescue engineer and a member of First Baptist Church in Santiago, heard the request and contacted the Chilean Baptist Union.
Marcelo Leiva, pastor of Vallenar Baptist Church, was called in to provide spiritual counseling at Camp Esperanza (Hope), where the families had gathered and where communication with the miners was ongoing.
Leiva was permitted to speak through a telephone to Henriquez, to pray for him and encourage him, and the pastor sent letters of encouragement down to the trapped men. He also shared the Gospel with their families, and one of the miners’ wives accepted Jesus as Savior.
Also as he mingled around Camp Hope, Leiva witnessed to Chilean policemen and foreign press who had convened at the site, including a Japanese reporter.
Bravo, meanwhile, had called on his pastor, Luis Cortez, for help in meeting the spiritual needs of the miners as they awaited rescue.
“I had to help in some Christian way,” Bravo said. “If there is an opportunity to share the Gospel — even if we’re extremely occupied — and to contribute to the Christian cause and evangelism, it’s something that’s in [my] blood.”
Cortez contacted Radio Harmonia, a Christian broadcasting station in Santiago, which provided MP3 files of Adrian Rogers’ sermons in Spanish as well as Christian music. Rogers, the late pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., was a former Southern Baptist Convention president who had an extensive television and radio ministry.
In another effort to get the Word of God to the men, Bravo located 33 New Testaments and two entire Bibles that could fit down the small corridor to the miners. Henriquez led in Bible study each evening and encouraged his co-workers to stay positive.
“It started out 5, 10, now 20 participants,” Bravo said just before the rescue. “[The people on the surface] have Jose Henriquez identified as the spiritual leader; they call him ‘The Pastor.'”
Two of the miners accepted Christ while they were trapped in the chamber.
On Oct. 11, Leiva sent his final handwritten note to Henriquez.
“I encouraged him for remaining days of confinement,” Leiva said. “That he would remember the promises of the Lord, to have hope and confidence, and that he would also convey to the other 32 miners the message that the same God who has guarded them is the One who is going to guide them in the rescue. And so the anxiety can be dissipated with prayer and confidence in God.”
Christian Maureira, national director of Campus Crusade for Christ in Chile, arranged for the miners to receive T-shirts with the words “Gracias Senor” (Thank you, Lord) printed across the front. He wanted the T-shirts to help the men express thanks to God in a way no one could miss.
Some of the miners had given input for the design of the shirts, and on the back was a reference to Psalm 95:4: “In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him.” Several men were wearing the shirts when they emerged from the earth in the rescue capsule.
“When I saw the miners on TV [wearing the shirts], my heart was like this … really fast,” Maureira said. “I was really excited because a lot of people around the world were looking at that. They gave the glory to God.”
Along with the T-shirts, Maureira had sent the miners 33 MP3 players containing audio versions of the Bible and the “JESUS” film.
Maureira said he hopes the rescue of the miners will be a triumph over tragedy that changes the nation of Chile for the better.
“With these T-shirts, we want to tell [Chileans] it is the plan of God and the glory of God. God is in this situation,” he said. “That was the mission, and we completed the mission.”
Officials said they expect all 33 miners to be home with their families by Sunday, after three miners were discharged from a regional hospital Thursday night and more were expected to be released Friday.
After the mine collapsed, workers endured 17 days before they were able to establish contact with the outside world, and some were afraid they would die underground.
The miners met with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Thursday and were undergoing tests, CNN.com reported, and though a few received treatment, all were in relatively good health. The psychological impact of the ordeal is more of a concern to medical personnel, who said eventually all of the men could exhibit post-traumatic stress disorder.
Based on reports by Tristan Taylor, an International Mission Board writer in the Americas.