ONE of the Chilean miners rescued after a record 69 days trapped underground addressed hundreds of people at a mission conference in Craigavon on Friday.
Jose Henriquez, along with his wife Blanca, were among the guest speakers at the “Friday Night Live” mission event organised by the South American Mission Society (SAMS) Ireland. Around 600 people packed Craigavon Civic Centre to hear reports of the work of the Anglican Church in Paraguay, Chile, Argentina and Brazil.
Jose Henriquez became known as the “Pastor” among the 33 miners because he held fast to his faith in Jesus and led the group in daily prayer and Bible reading.
Speaking to the crowd in the civic centre through a translator, he explained how his faith helped him survive and revealed previously unknown details such as a number of the miners committed their lives to Christ during the crisis. Jose’s wife Blanca, whose reunion with her husband as he emerged from the rescue capsule was seen by up to a billion people live on television, explained how her faith helped her during the ordeal.
Rev. Alf Cooper, a SAMS mission partner and the chaplain to the president of Chile, was translating for Jose and Blanca. Alf led the nation’s prayers during the miner crisis and was on the scene during the rescue.
Speaking at the Friday Night Live event he said, “The world witnessed a miracle when Jose was pulled from the depths of the earth. Psalm 130:1 says, “Out of the depths I cry to you Lord”, each of us can experience the same miracle when we cry out to Jesus for salvation.”
Bishop Ken Clarke, host of “Friday Night Live”, commenting on the evening said, “What a fantastic night! To hear how God works from the depths of a mine in Chile to the heights of a housing estate in Craigavon or Bangor is really encouraging.
The Chilean showed no signs of fatigue the next morning at breakfast in St Saviour’s Dollingstown. He thanked the church for the fry and explained how the 33 miners survived on a ration of a spoonful of tuna and sips of contaminated water each day for 17 days before they were discovered.
Around 200 heard Jose emotionally describe the moment he emerged from the rescue capsule and hugged his wife. The first thing she said to him was, “I love you. I missed you so much. That was the longest shift you have ever done.”
It was then off to Shankill Church where a capacity congregation listened in rapt attention to Jose had to say.
One thousand people were gripped as Alf and Jose provided details of first contact with the miners. Jose had organised morning prayer meetings amongst the miners and for days they prayed that rescue would come. On the tenth day they heard the drill coming, but when it missed their emergency shelter some of the men feared they might never be found.
Several days later a second drill almost missed again, but as mining engineers later confirmed, it was diverted by a tough rock so it would break through into the miners’ shelter. The miners were ecstatic and started banging on the drill and attached the famous message, “We’re all safe in the shelter, all 33 of us”.
During the next fifty two days Jose led the men in daily prayer and Bible study with tiny Bibles lowered down and shaft. These studies helped 22 of the miners find faith in Christ. Meanwhile the engineers on the surface worked to enlarged the shaft and construct the Phoenix rescue capsule. A video clip showed the moment when each of the miners, including Jose, emerged wearing with a shirt that read “Thank you Lord Jesus”.
Commenting on the events Denis Johnston, the General Secretary of SAMS Ireland said, “It was simply an incredible weekend. Over 2,000 people heard Jose’s remarkable testimony of faith, survival and rescue. The positive media coverage has allowed this amazing inside story to go out all across Ireland. It’s a fantastic demonstration of how these days South America Mission can mean a humble Chilean miner bringing the good news of Jesus to the people of Northern Ireland.”