About a year ago, 1.5 billion people around the world watched with bated breath as the 33 Chilean miners were brought up from their 69 day ordeal in that copper and gold mine. I was certainly one of them. And so, I was intrigued to read this past week the first book out about their experiences. The book is called appropriately, “33 Men.”
The “back story” so to speak is fascinating. During the first 17 days (before a probe located the men and let the world know they were alive) those men acted as a very cohesive unit. They organized themselves into three sleeping groups. They met everyday for prayer and voted on every single decision. They used routines and work place seniority to help establish discipline among themselves.
While one group slept, another group, dubbed the “guardian angels” quietly moved among the sleeping men. They would softly place their hands on the sleeper’s chest making certain that carbon monoxide had not over taken them. They held all things in common and used humor to encourage each other.
On the 17th day, a probe struck through and the drill bit dangled in front of those miners. They began to scribble messages and attached them to the drill bit. A thick explosives bag contained the only note that made it back up those 2600 feet of rock. Written in light red ink, it read “We are fine in the refuge, the 33…”
A massive rescue operation ensued. Over $20 million dollars were spent saving those men. Thousands of journalists made camp along side the families outside the mine entrance. Hundreds of experts contributed their expertise including astronauts and a wide range of mental health professionals. And ultimately, the effort prevailed. With an explosion of joy and worldwide celebration, the men were hoisted up and reunited with their family and loved ones.
Interestingly though, they have been largely ignored since. Other than a private gift from an eccentric Chilean mine owner of about $10,000, the men and their families have received no real help. Nearly half of them are unemployed. Only four of them have returned to mining. Only one is succeeding on the speaking circuit. Many are on heavy medication, something to help them sleep, something to help them cope during the day.
In fact, all but one of the 33 have been diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and suffer with severe psychological problems. Would you care to guess which miner is not suffering from PSTD?
It is Jose Henriquez. He was dubbed “the Preacher” by the other miners. It was Jose who led the daily prayer service for the men. He was the encourager. He is the one individual who best embodies the thought behind Psalm 29:11. “The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”
No doubt, the Lord heard the prayers of all the men and their families during this horrific experience. But it did make me smile to know that the one guy, who emerged with the least amount of ongoing psychological pain, was the “preacher.”
Whatever you might be experiencing this week, it would be a good time to review the truth that God indeed gives strength to His people!
By His Grace and for His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel