On 5 August 2010, 33 miners were trapped in the Copiapó copper and gold mine in Chile, South America. Their tunnel fell in when they were 700 meters below the ground. For 17 days, no-one knew if they were alive. They had very little food with them. They only ate two spoonfuls of tuna fish, half a biscuit and half a glass of milk every 48 hours. Rescuers above began to drill a narrow hole down to their shelter.
The miners sent back a message to ground level on a piece of paper: "Estamos bien en el refugio los 33" (meaning, "We are OK in the shelter, the 33 of us.") Immediately the rescue plan started – to drill a hole big enough for a rescue capsule that a man could fit inside. This took 52 more days! Food and drink, books and Bibles, MP3 players with the JESUS Film, a video camera, telephone and medicines were sent down the narrow hole to them. The miners helped each other through this time. And they asked God for help.
One miner, Jimmy Sanchez, said: "There are really 34 of us, because God has never left us, down here."
Miner José Henríquez started a prayer time and Bible study each day. He sent a message to his brother to send down t-shirts printed with words from the Bible:"Thank you Lord," and on the back, "To him be the glory and honour, because in his hands are the depths of the earth, and the heights of the mountains are his."* The big rescue hole reached them on 9 October. More than a billion people around the world watched on TV, as the men were pulled up, one by one, in the rescue capsule. When they reached the surface, many went down on their knees and thanked God for being alive.
Another rescue story
The mine rescue shows us true things about how we also need to be rescued – by God. The miners had no way to help themselves.
- They could not dig their way out of the mine. In the same way, we are all trapped by the thoughts in our minds and the wrong things we do, and we have been hurt by sad things that have happened to us. We cannot escape from these by our own power.
- The rescue started from the top, by making a way down to the men. This is a picture of God sending Jesus down to our damaged hurting world, to rescue us.
- The miners had to do something too. They needed to trust the rescue team, follow their instructions, and climb into the rescue capsule. We must trust Jesus and accept his rescue plan.
- While the men were trapped, they received all their help through the small bore-hole. Food and drink, medicines, messages, Bibles, and other supplies were sent down to them in small capsules they called 'doves'. (A dove is a bird which reminds us of peace and healing.) The Bible often writes that God's Spirit is like a dove, because he is gentle and brings peace and good things into our lives.
- The rescue cost 20 million US dollars. Happily, none of the rescuers was killed. But to rescue us, Jesus paid a much higher price, his own life.
Can you think of ways that your life is the same as the miners?
* You can read these words in the Bible's book of Psalms, 95 verse 4