I’m sure those men had done this a thousand times before. They knew the drill; wake up before dawn and head off to work deep in the Chilean Atacama Desert mine until their shift was over and it was time to return home, completely exhausted, only to begin again the following day. Of course, they knew the danger that working in a mine presented but so far, it had proven an effective way to provide for their families and explosions and other dangers were expected in the mine. Things ran as usual until one fateful day while working in that same mine, around lunch time, suddenly the miners began to feel tremors deep in the heart of the mountain. They had been mining for gold, copper and other substances when an explosion set off a reaction in the mine which caused the collapse of the ‘heart of the mountain’. This mammoth stone, weighing at twice the weight of the Empire State Building had sealed off 33 miners in what was called “El Refugio” or “The Refuge”.
Can you just begin to imagine what may have been going through their minds? Deep below the surface of the earth, completely trapped, with no hope of ever being found the 33 men were faced with the greatest ordeal of their lives. Add to that the fact that there were no proper safety measures in place, the escape shafts proved useless because the ladders had not been finished. Despite these impossibilities, there was also no real way of knowing how hopeless their situation was for sure and many did believe that they would be found and rescued in only a few days.
These men began a true story of survival, living on hope and faith that they would be found. Would you think it stupid or useless for these men to have such hope in the face of most likely certain death? Do we think faith useless and vain for these men in a situation such as this? I doubt that any one of us could say, ‘Well, just give up, be realistic. No one is going to find you. Your faith is vain and stupid in the face of certain death.”
I think there is an instinctive sense of survival inside every single one of us that fights in spite of the impossible circumstances we find ourselves in. Call it an instinct or faith, but there is something in us that does not allow us to give up so easily. I like to think of this verse that says “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We have eternity placed inside of us, a desire to know more, a desire to live forever. And so, these men kept up hope that they would be found and rescued. They carefully rationed out the food and over the next few days would hear drills coming closer only to stop or completely miss them.
Of course, to say that they never doubted would not be true and as the days slowly dragged on and the sounds of the drills grew fainter, the men began to lose hope.
By the 17th day after the collapse of the mine, some of the men could hardly walk and one even experienced temporary blindness, all symptoms of hunger and starvation. But on that day, August 22, 2010, they heard the sound of a drill, not to be mistaken for the sounds of their rumbling stomachs, which drew closer and closer until finally, it broke through the rock, right where the men were. The happiness and excitement that the men experienced can not be imagined and excitedly they banged on the drill to let the people on the surface know that they were all still alive.
Sixty-nine days after they were found, all 33 men were saved and brought to the surface in an internationally televised rescue which was a combined effort of many nations in itself. This is one of my absolute favourite stories of survival for two reasons in particular. One is that while the men were under the earth fighting for survival, their families set up a camp near the mine, Camp Esperanza or Camp Hope as it became known, and wrote the names of all 33 miners on a rock, never giving up hope that the men were alive and putting pressure on the government to do all they could to find them. The hope and faith of their families led to the government becoming active in the rescue effort and subsequently it became an international affair. Their families saved the lives of their men because of hope and belief. The second reason is that this is an unlikely story of survival that is born from the depths of the earth and against all odds, they win.
Don’t you just love stories like this? Where David kills Goliath, where the little guy beats the big bully, where Esther is such a boss and goes to make her request before the king even though she could die for going against the rules, to fight for a cause she believes in? Where things like faith and love win in the end? You could say I believe in fairy tales, but I like to think that as humans created in the image of God, we are capable of extraordinary actions of bravery and selflessness through God’s power (2 Timothy 1:7). Even in the world we live in, even though we display selfishness rather than love and greed instead of generosity we can all do and be extraordinary men and women if we start believing that we were created for more than this life has to offer. God is love, there is no greater source from where we can access love (1 John 4:8). True love involves three people. Think of it this way. If God is the source of love, then I want to have a relationship with God and as a result of this relationship, he then gives me love to care for others. So, there you have it, a minimum of three people. Perhaps I’m treating it too simply but think about what the minimum number of participants required for true love to exist is and let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
But back to the story…
The rescue of the 33 men was not because of their efforts in believing and faith alone, they needed their families above on the earth’s surface to also believe and act and then the world became involved as well. It was a community effort, where they believed, prayed, hoped, cried and held each other up until those men were safely on the earth’s surface.
We are currently going through a world crisis; our society is plunged into a pandemic of sickness and fear where the future is increasingly more and more uncertain. With fear and selfishness becoming more apparent in the hoarding of necessary household goods, it may seem that hope, faith and love are also being stamped out. But is that really the case? Are we going to lose hope and faith simply because we are being threatened and pushed into a dark place?
The only way to dispel fear and darkness my friends is with the light and love that Jesus shines in our hearts through his Spirit. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
We need not panic or worry that the world is becoming crazier. If we believe that Jesus is coming soon then we need also remember that what is happening right now is only a reflection of the times that we live in.
The amazing thing is that we do not have to wait to be in a place full of light to bring light to a dark place. If we choose to have faith and believe, then that light will ignite hope and faith in others. We have been called to shine in a dark place. How do we shine?
With not giving up the fight! Whatever it is that you are facing, choose right now to have faith and believe over doubt and fear of the future and rest in the hope that we have. What is that hope? A bright future. Jeremiah 29:11
What are you choosing to believe and hope for right now? If you have any prayer requests, please let me know. I would love to offer a prayer or word of encouragement.
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