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Chilean Baptists focus on miners’ spiritual healthcomment (0)

October 21, 2010

Chilean Baptists found ways to minister to 33 workers who were trapped a half-mile underground in a living room-sized chamber inside a copper and gold mine in Copiapó in northern Chile for more than two months. The miners were rescued Oct. 12–13.

Igor Bravo, a member of First Baptist Church of Santiago who owns the geo-technical monitoring company that helped the rescue efforts on the desert surface, realized that though the miners’ physical needs were being met, their spiritual needs had been overlooked. He called his pastor, Luis Cortéz, for help.

“[Bravo] said, ‘I’m here basically by myself providing the spiritual support. … If you are able to send me materials, hunt, search and call [for them],’” Cortéz said.

He contacted Radio Harmonia,  a Christian broadcasting station in Santiago, which was able to provide MP3 files of sermons given by Adrian Rogers, former pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, Tenn., and Bible studies in Spanish, along with Christian music.

While Cortéz made contacts in Santiago, Bravo searched Copiapó for other spiritual materials. He found 33 New Testaments and two entire Bibles that met the size restrictions for what could be sent down into the mine.

On Sept. 17, he sent the materials to the miners via the “paloma,” a device used to transport objects between the chamber and the surface. (“Paloma” means “pigeon” or “dove” in Spanish.)

“I had to help in some Christian way,” Bravo said.

“If there is an opportunity to share the gospel — even if we’re extremely occupied — and to contribute to the Christian cause and evangelism, it’s something that’s in [my] blood.”

Three of the miners were evangelical Christians when the mine partially collapsed Aug. 5. Since then, two more of them have made professions of faith. One of the original believers, José Henríquez, led Bible studies for the miners each evening.

“It (the Bible study) started out five, 10, now 20 participants,” Bravo said. “[The people on the surface] have José Henríquez identified as the spiritual leader; they call him ‘The Pastor.’”

Bravo wrote Henríquez’s name in one of the Bibles and sent it specifically to him but left the others blank.

Henríquez said he intends to give the second to the Bible study’s best student.

According to Bryan Wolf, a Southern Baptist representative serving in Vallenar, Chile, Henríquez requested that an evangelical pastor come to minister to the miners and their families.

Bravo was one of the first to hear of the request and contacted the Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Chile for help.

Bernardino Morales, director of the union’s Social Testimony Network, searched for a pastor who lived near the mine but no one was available.

The last week of September, he called Marcelo Leiva, pastor of Vallenar Baptist Church in Vallenar, located about two hours away.

Morales told Leiva, “Pastor, it’s either you or it’s you.”

Leiva’s response was “Amen.”

The miners had been on his heart before Morales called. He said Bravo contacting the union was the “channel of blessing” that brought him to Camp Esperanza (which means “hope” in Spanish), where the miners’ families are staying.

“He stays there overnight, sleeping in tents, sharing the gospel and extending the love of God to the families,” said Raquel Contreras, president of the union and the Baptist World Alliance Women’s Department.

Contreras said one of the miners who became a Christian “wrote his wife, saying that she should talk to the pastor because he has become a new man and he wanted his wife to become ‘new,’ too.”

“Pastor Marcelo talked to her and guided her to know Jesus,” she said.

At Henríquez’s request, Leiva recently was given 10 minutes to speak through a telephone that connects the miners with the rescue crew.

Leiva used that time to pray for Henríquez and encourage him.

Henríquez sent a letter to Leiva on behalf of the miners, calling him a blessing and thanking him for being there with their families. Leiva also sent down letters of encouragement to the miners.

Besides Leiva, a Pentecostal pastor was the only other evangelical preacher allowed in the camp. The two worked together when they could and made a “good team,” Leiva said.

Leiva had the opportunity to witness to family members, Chilean policemen and members of the foreign press — including a Japanese reporter, Wolf said.

Leiva also wrote down a Scripture portion from Psalms and gave it to Mining Minister Laurence Golborne. (BP, BWA)

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