(This devotional is based on an editorial by Mark Maxwell, president of Prairie Bible Institute, in the Servant magazine, issue eighty-six, 2010, and is used with his permission.)
“On the fifth of August, 2010, some 700,000 tons of rock collapsed into a gold and copper mine in San Jose, Chile, trapping 33 miners 2,300 feet underground. For 17 awful days, no one knew if there were any survivors or where they might be. Families waited in agony in a temporary shanty town set up around the site, dreaming of a rescue, but knowing full-well that a tragic conclusion was possible.
“Then came that indescribable moment when, on the 30th try, a probe drill punched through solid rock into a chamber where the men had taken refuge and a camera focused on 33 disheveled faces. In darkness they had waited, starving and sweltering, but united in their hope that this was not the end. Suddenly panic and despair turned to elation and relief–and hope.
“The mining company, community, country, and the whole world were pulling out all the stops to rescue them. International media clambered over each other to document the events. You would have to be living in a cave (forgive me!) not to have heard about (or viewed) the amazing rescue and miraculous liberation.” Sixty-nine days after the earth caved in on the 33 Chilean miners, millions of us sat glued to our televisions as the men were lifted up, one at a time, through a narrow escape shaft to stand under the open sky, gulping fresh air, and hearing the cheers of joy from anxious, awaiting family and friends. What a moving scene!
You probably noticed that as the miners were being pulled from Chile’s San Jose mine that most were wearing tan T-shirts over their coveralls. the Chilean government told reporters that the green coveralls were designed to help absorb the sweat as they ascended to the top, but why the T-shirts and where did they come from. On the T-shirt’s left sleeve was a logo for the Jesus Film Project which is a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ International. The Jesus Film Project (TJFP) has translated the film (which depicts the life of Christ) into 1,105 languages and it has been seen in every country.
Seventeen days into the mine accident, CCCI county director for Chile, Maureira, started contacting public officials to see if they could send the miners a copy of the film. They were also able to reach a daughter and a brother of miner Jose Henriquez and through that family contact, the group was able to send an MP3 audio version of the Jesus film and an MP3 audio version of the New Testament in Spanish to Henriquez down in the mine. The Jesus film explains that the New Testament tells how Jesus was laid into a tomb-like cave after His crucifixion. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead. Women come to the tomb and find that the stone that blocked the entrance has been rolled away, and the cave/tomb was empty.
It is unclear if the miners saw the resurrection story as a parallel for their hoped-for rescue, but Jose Henriquez passed along a letter to CCI’s Maureira from inside the mine. It read: “Thank you for this tremendous blessing for me and my co-workers. It will be good for our spiritual edification. I am fine because Christ lives in me. We have prayer services at 12 noon and at 6 p.m.” Henriquez concluded his letter by quoting Psalm 95:4, which says, “In whose hand are the depths of the earth; the peaks of the mountains are His also.”
A few days later, Henriquez asked Maureira to get them special T-shirts. Campus Crusade had the T-shirts printed and taken down to the miners. On the front they read, ‘Thank you LORD.” and on the back, Psalm 95:4. And, now you know “the rest of the story!”
The dramatic rescue of the Chilean miners reminds us of our own rescue, how Jesus reached down and drew us from darkness to light. King David put it this way, “I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear, and trust in the LORD” (Psa. 40:1-3). The Chilean rescue reminds us of some things that we too easily forget.
1. Never Give Up… How do we hold onto hope amid insurmountable odds: a serious illness, a failing relationship, a job loss, a national catastrophe, losing a loved one? We ask, “Where is God? Does He care?” Let’s never forget that we have a Good Shepherd who cares for His sheep, a God who never has promised to never leave us or forsake us. What a comfort! In a letter sent before his rescue, the youngest miner, 19-year-old Jimmy Sanchez, said there were actually 34 in the mine, “because God has never left us down here!” (Remember the story of the fiery furnace in Daniel?)
2. Reach Up… Imagine if the capsule descended only to have one of the miners say, “No, I’d rather not climb into that shuttle.” “That’s crazy,” you say. But think of how often people reject God’s offer of rescue from sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. C.S. Lewis said, “The gates of hell are locked on the inside.” God reached down to us in the greatest rescue attempt ever. But we must reach up to Him; that is, we must accept His offer. John wrote, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (Jn. 1:12).
3. Give Thanks… As grateful as the Chilean miners were for being rescued, that great rescue pales in comparison to the heavenly relief effort necessary to rescue us, as Christ, the eternal Son of God, came to earth to live a sinless life, then died to pay the awful cost of our sins. We “were not redeemed (rescued) with perishable things like silver or gold from our futile way of life…but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:18,19). We need to proclaim with the apostle Paul, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (II Cor. 9:15).
“It was a chilling moment when Manuel Gonzalez, the first of a six-man rescue team, entered the capsule to descend–by choice– into the dark tunnel to join the lost men in their plight and guide them to freedom. The lift had not yet been tried. There were no guarantees that he would return safely. In a dramatic scene fed back by underground video cameras, Gonzalez stepped out of the capsule to be mobbed by the miners in their underground tombs. His coming brought life and hope! As the last miner headed for the surface, grainy photos showed the rescue team flashing a hand-made sign that read, ‘Mission accomplished.’
“What an unforgettable picture of what God has done through Jesus! At unspeakable cost He willingly accomplished His mission,” making salvation available for all.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing (making available) salvation to all men” (Tit. 2:11). When we have put our trust in Him and His rescue mission, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ro. 8:39). He will do whatever it takes to bring us Home. Jesus said, “…of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise Him up on the last day” (Jn. 6:39,40).