'Gracias, Señor!' A thank-you from Chile

A Christian Science perspective.

As the days become weeks and the weeks become months, the story of the Chilean miners will move from the front to the back page, and then right out of the newspapers, websites, and talk shows. But Chile’s amazing rescue has so enthralled the billion-plus who followed the media coverage that the mere mention of this narrow, coastal South American country will spark spontaneous smiles for a long time. Chile means victory. Chile means hope realized. Chile means adversity overcome by the united efforts of many hands and many hearts.

The world is awaiting the stories of “Los 33,” men who faced great challenge and survived together. As the Phoenix capsule carried each miner up to the waiting crowds, no political correctness or cautious hesitation delayed the miners, the rescuers, or President Sebastián Piñera from expressing gratitude both to God and to their fellowmen and women for this “gran victoria.” For 69 days the world had been praying. Each miner stepping out of the capsule was himself an answered prayer.

From the bits and dribbles that have already been shared, the picture that’s beginning to be sketched is one of selfless giving, changed lives, and brother encouraging brother in the dark pit, in the engineers’ drawing rooms, and at every depth as the drills bored through the rocky Chilean desert. It would seem brotherhood will have to be a theme in any movie or book that tells the tale.

Great feats of courage often bring out wholehearted praise both to God and to brothers and sisters in peril. Gratitude is expressed as the answered prayers show themselves in challenges met and overcome. And in this Chilean victory, as in many others, people immediately speak about changed lives.

Another example of a famous rescue was the recovery of Eddie Rickenbacker, who’d been an American flying ace during World War I, and others who were adrift on life rafts in the Pacific Ocean for 24 days. New York Mayor La Guardia had asked the city to pray for the lost men, and all but one were saved. When interviewed later, one of the airmen said, “It took a lot of nonsense out of my life ... there is something new inside me that won’t permit me to forget that God stayed right by us out there” (Margaret Lee Runbeck, “The Great Answer,” p. 12).

Remembering that God is staying “right by us out there” is the central theme of the Bible. José Henriquez, one of the 33 miners, requested that Bibles be sent down to the miners in the early days of their underground captivity.

In accounts from the Old Testament, from the 40-year journey to the Promised Land, through captivity in foreign countries, and threats of death in fiery furnaces and lions’ dens, the children of Israel faced danger and proved the presence of an all-loving God. During their journey in the wilderness after they had fled from Egypt, Moses helped his people put into practice the Ten Commandments God provided to them. These would help them walk with God on this journey. Jews and Christians practice these Ten Commandments today (see Ex. 20:1-17).

The New Testament covers a stoning, shipwrecks, dark dungeons, and crucifixion. And through these many trials, Christ Jesus and his disciples taught and proved the omnipotent power of God’s ever-protecting arm. Jesus summarized the Commandments into these two rules for life: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.... And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:37-39).

The commandments begin with a love for God. Then a love for others follows. This drawing together is reflective of Mr. Piñera’s references to how much has been accomplished through the spirit of unity. The Monitor’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, referred to God’s unifying power in her “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896” when she wrote, “Love is the Principle of unity” (p. 117).

Certainly the love of God was fundamental in empowering the world’s prayers for the men facing the half-mile deep trial. And now our prayers can embrace the message on the T-shirts worn by several miners as they arrived at the surface: “Gracias Señor!” (“Thank You, Lord!”).

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