There is a message of hope in rescue of 33 trapped miners

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 23, 2010

People around the world watched live news reports as the efforts began around midnight last Wednesday to rescue 33 trapped miners in Chile. One by one the 13-foot tall escape capsule brought each miner the half-mile journey from their living-room-size space underground to the earth’s surface.

According to an Associated Press story, “No one in recorded history has survived as long trapped underground as the 33 men. For the first 17 days after 700,000 tons of rock collapsed around them Aug. 5, no one even knew they were alive.”

The miners’ families held vigil for 66 days after the gold and copper mine cave-in. Their tent village took on a name, Camp Hope, which described what they were holding onto for where there’s life, there’s hope.

Contractor Jeff Hart of Denver operated the drill that created the 28-inch diameter escape shaft. He told the news media, “There’s nothing more important than saving lives…this rescue won’t be over until the last person leaves this mine.”

The youngest miner, 19-year-old Jimmy Sanchez, sent up a letter from the mine the day before the rescue. “There are actually 34 of us,” he wrote, “because God has never left us down here.”

His comment reminded me of Psalm 139:7-10, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold….Even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.”

Baptist Press reported that two miners made professions of faith during the ordeal. Jose Henriquez served as the spiritual leader for his fellow trapped miners, who asked for Bibles among other supplies sent down to them. “Early on, they set aside a space to pray daily.”

Religious groups served the men’s spiritual needs. The “Jesus Film Project” loaded 33 MP3 players with an audio adaptation of the famous JESUS film. Several miners like Mario Gomez – the oldest at age 53 – dropped to their knees after they emerged and bowed their heads in prayer before embracing family members.

Since it was 90 degrees underground compared to freezing temperatures at the surface, each miner was dressed in the same outfit “dark sunglasses, blue hard hat, beige T-shirt that reads, ‘Gracias Senor,’ or ‘Thanks be to God’ over green jumpsuit.”  I noticed the name, Jesus, printed on the sleeves.  On the back of the shirts were the words of Psalm 95:4, “In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him.” Their shirts were a gift from Campus Crusade for Christ International.

The multi-national effort to rescue the miners at any cost reminded me of how God, in His great love, gave His only Son to rescue a lost and dying world – every person –  no matter who they are or what they have done.  Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boon once remarked, “There is no pit too deep that He is not deeper still.”  

The Apostle Paul believed, “That neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Chilean President Sebastian Penera said, “We looked for them like our children. We found them with God’s help. We are rescuing them as Chileans. May their example inspire us.”