For several suspenseful hours on October 13, 2010, the attention of the entire world lay centered on a solitary spot in the Chilean desert. It was there that 33 trapped miners emerged to fresh air and freedom and the eager embrace of jubilant family and friends, after having spent ten weeks entombed one-half mile underground. Their emergence brought an end to the greatest mine rescue of all time.
As told to writers Mario Veloso and Jeanette Windle, Hope Underground: The 34 Chilean Miners—A Story of Faith and Miracles (Imago Dei Books) records the personal journey and spiritual involvement of a local, unassuming minister with the miners and their families. In a series of circumstances that would change his life forever, Pastor Carlos Parra Diaz rose to prominence as he became the influential chaplain of Camp Hope—a makeshift tent community established not far from the site of the mine collapse.
Yet Hope Underground is clearly more than just Pastor Parra's story. Rather, it is the story of all who came together at Camp Hope focused on asking God to do a mighty work on behalf of the miners and the overwhelming evidence of His response that followed. Told simply and from the heart, Pastor Parra describes not only his own involvement with the families at Camp Hope but also introduces the reader to those miners, family members and officials who extracted nuggets of hope from the situation and then used them to instill faith in others.
An Interview with Carlos Parra Diaz,Author of Hope Underground
Q. In Hope Underground, you mention several instances that suggest God's intervention. Did you personally experience God's presence while there and, if so, how did it affect you?
A. This recognition of divine intervention throughout the entire process of the rescue has been the consistent perspective of the miners, their families, the rescue personnel and millions around the world. For myself, I had always believed that God is real, a living God who chooses to be close to those who love Him. But during my weeks at Camp Hope, I experienced for myself just how real God is and how deeply He loves the human beings He has created. And how directly involved He is in the daily lives of His children.
Q. Through no fault of their own, all 33 miners were thrust into the world spotlight. Since then, how have their lives been altered?
A. The miners have moved on with their lives. Some have taken new jobs. Others have retired from mining completely. Many of them have travelled extensively since their rescue, sharing their experiences with audiences around the world. While their lives have returned to some semblance of normalcy, they have all experienced a profound change, so that none of them will ever return to the lives they lived before.
Q. You made the decision to present the miners with a special gift while they were trapped in the mine. Could you tell us a little about that?
A. Yes. I had already presented Bibles to each of the families at Camp Hope, but I wanted to do more. In my mind was the thought that a Bible would be one way I could help the miners in the prolonged wait facing them. The comfort of God's Word and His promises could help the miners bear up under the various physical, emotional or spiritual difficulties that were bound to appear. I received the necessary permission to send Bibles down to the men but was told that each one had to be less than three inches wide because of the narrow size of the shaft used in sending items down to the miners. It took some time, but we were finally able to find a supplier of such tiny Bibles and had them shipped to us. When we received word that such small Bibles had been found, I sent up a prayer of heartfelt thanksgiving. Along with each Bible, we sent down a small magnifying glass with which to read the small print.
Q. After visiting with the miners following the rescue, which of these visits do you feel had the greatest impact on you?
A. My visit with José Henríquez, the "pastor" of the trapped miners, was a special pleasure for me. He was among those I'd been able to speak with while they were still underground. He'd shared with me about their difficult survival during those first 17 days when they had no contact with the outside. It was José who, from the beginning, proposed to the group that they set aside a certain time each day for prayer. All had accepted and when they came together to pray he would recite certain Bible texts he knew from memory. But his repertoire of memorized verses was soon exhausted. The group longed for a Bible so they might read more of God's Word. Like all their other needs at the time, this seemed like a wish that would not be fulfilled. Then four days after they'd been found alive, the miniature Bibles arrived below, a direct answer to their prayers. José told me their communal prayer times at midday and 6 p.m. were greatly enriched because they were all able to read God's Word for themselves at any moment of the day they felt a need. And those moments, he added, were many.
Q. What lessons in faith can be learned from the mine collapse?
A. God was able to get our attention and call humanity back to Himself. Through the miracle of the San José Mine rescue, witnessed by people all over the world through the media, God has issued a call to His creation, every human being, to make a decision while there is still time to do so. Jesus Christ laid down His life on the cross as a substitute for sinful humanity, as a guarantee of salvation and eternal life, free of charge, to anyone who will receive this precious gift. By reminding the world of His reality and His love, even in the depths of the San José Mine, God is once again offering every human being the opportunity to make a very simple decision: Will you follow God? Or will you reject Him?
For most people, this spectacular rescue is already yesterday's news. However, for the millions who prayed for a miracle, this event has become a spiritual heritage for the whole world, a stirring reminder that God listens to the pleas of His children.
Hope Underground: The 34 Chilean Miners—A Story of Faith and Miracles by Carlos Parra Diaz (as told to Mario Veloso & Jeanette Windle)Imago Dei Books/October 2011ISBN: 978-0-9869799-5-8/208 pages/paperback/$14.99