John Bradshaw - Trapped
This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. The Atacama Desert in Chile is the driest place on Earth. It’s where the largest copper and gold mines in South America are located. And from the Atacama Desert comes a story of tragedy, a story of uncertainty, yet a story of courage, hope and, ultimately, a story of salvation.
It happened on a Thursday. It was August the fifth, 2010. Five hours after starting their workday, the land became a tomb for 33 men when a collapse in the mine buried them 700 meters, 2300 feet below ground. Imagine two Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other; that’s how far down they were. They were trapped in temperatures of up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit - 35 Celsius, and they were trapped for 69 days. The San José mine is located in the city of Copiapo in northern Chile. It was there that 33 men and their fellow workers risked their lives daily to support their families, mining copper and gold from the ground. The events that unfolded there in the Atacama Desert were watched by more than a billion people around the world. It was one of the greatest rescues in the history of humanity.
That fateful day at the San José mine everything seemed normal, just like any other day. But in a matter of moments, life took an unexpected turn for those 33 miners and their families. Now, can you imagine being trapped underground in a damp, dark place with no way out? After the mine collapsed, the men were totally disconnected from the outside world. They were unable to ask for help or to tell rescue groups that they were alive. No matter how much they shouted, nobody could hear them. No matter how much they tried to escape, there was no way out. Now, initially, dust kept them from breathing normally, even blinded some of them for some time, some hours. Some miners were injured. And in addition to the physical exhaustion was fear, the frustration and the uncertainty that quickly began to invade their minds: Will they come to rescue us? Will they think that we are alive? Will they forget us?
Now maybe you’ve thought about it; maybe you’ve not. But you and I, like those 33 men, are trapped, with no way out. Yes, it’s true human beings can travel to the moon. We’ve sent the Space Shuttle up and brought it back. The International Space Station circles the globe. Soon maybe we’ll be able to travel to other planets. But for now, the earth is our only home. And you and I know only too well that everything is not going well here. Just turn on the TV, flick on the radio, go online, and you’ll be faced with bad news that can change your life. Today we’re no longer surprised to hear about terrorist attacks, the emergence of some strange disease, or another random act of violence. We hear of wars, pestilences and famines in all kinds of places. Maybe you or a loved one is experiencing hardships of this kind, or a related kind.
The truth is, we are all trapped under a mountain of pain, or illness, or hunger, or violence, from which we just cannot escape. And even if we install alarm systems to protect us from theft, even though we try to take care of our health, when we try to live quietly, not bother anybody else, at some point, in some way, we’ll be the victim of evil. At some point you and I will also ask ourselves: Will someone come to my rescue? Will there be a solution to my problem? Is there anything we can trust? You know, even though we’re stuck in a place with no way out, God has prepared a refuge for us. It’s a safe place where you and I can learn to shield ourselves from the plans of the evil one. And it’s there that we can wait and prepare while we look forward to the supreme rescue of Jesus Christ. In the initial hours in which the miners were trapped underground, they looked for ways out.
Now, to begin with, they tried to escape through ventilation shafts, but they soon discovered, to their dismay, that the ladders required by law, that should have been there to facilitate such an escape, were missing. Any other attempts were dangerous because they could cause another collapse, and with another collapse, there would surely be death. There was no other option but to wait in the shelter, a shelter that had previously been built underground and that was specially designed with this type of situation in mind. There, at least, they found a safe place to stay, there they had some food to keep them for a few days. From that refuge, finally, the miners came to a conclusion: By their own physical strength they could not get out of there; rescue would have to come from above. I’ll be back with more from this story and from the Bible in just a moment.
Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written. Back in 2010, 33 miners in Chile were trapped deep beneath the surface of the earth after a collapse in the mine in which they were working. They were safe; they had food; you know, things weren’t so rosy inside that shelter. It became more obvious with the passing hours. It was extremely hot. The food they had available would only last them for three days. They couldn’t agree on everything. And the wait caused desperation. Have you ever had an experience like that? That waiting, that anxiety. You might have. You might even have experienced something like that in church. Sometimes the church, where the name of the Lord is praised, doesn’t feel like the best place in the world.
Sometimes it can be suffocating. Maybe somebody in that church hasn’t treated you kindly. You haven’t been able to resolve your differences. Well, maybe this spiritual food doesn’t satisfy your tastes. Maybe you think it just isn’t necessary to continue attending church. But friend, stop. I want to tell you something. Unless the problem in your congregation is of a moral or scriptural nature that just cannot be resolved, don’t leave. If it’s a really serious problem, don’t leave the church altogether. Maybe you can find another congregation to worship. The truth is that in these moments, this moment in earth’s history, the church is the safest place that we can be.
Here’s what the Bible says in Hebrews, chapter 10 and verse 25: "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching". No, the church isn’t perfect. Maybe you’ve seen or experienced some unpleasant situations in the church, sometimes hurtful situations. But the truth is, your rescue and my rescue comes from above. The church is not Paradise. We were never promised that it would be. But the church is designed to be a haven, a safe place, as we get ready for the return of Jesus Christ.
Now, that wait was incredibly stressful for the families of the miners trapped underground. Upon hearing the disastrous news that their loved ones were stuck and couldn’t soon be liberated, they hurried desperately to ask authorities for help. They wanted to know if their loved ones were alive and what the rescue plan was going to be. Imagine the despair! Adding to their despair was the fact that statistics were not on their side. It was said that there was only a 2% chance that the 33 men could still be alive. That same night the rescue began. Rescue workers tried to find passages by which they could enter the mine, but all of the routes that they thought they could use were either blocked or they threatened to collapse. Two days later there was another collapse in the mine. Rescuers knew then that it would be impossible for a human team to safely reach the miners. What do they do? They began to drill down to try to reach the men.
Ten different drilling probes were used in an attempt to establish contact with those isolated miners. And finally, it was August the 22nd, three weeks after the disaster, a probe that was later named "la Milagrosa" (the miraculous one), managed to find the emergency shelter. Underground, the miners were listening to the drilling with great expectation and hope. They’d already prepared a message that they wanted to share with their families. A note they attached to the tip of the drill said, "We are fine in the shelter, the 33". The first sign of life filled the hearts of their loved ones with joy, and amazed millions of people around the world who were following the news of the trapped Chilean miners. It was through a small hole drilled hundreds of meters into the earth,well, maybe I should say a small hole, that the miners could finally communicate with their rescue team and receive the supplies that would keep them alive as they waited to get out of their underground prison.
Through that hole they received water, food, clothing, medicine, encouragement, and hope. They also received cameras to record messages, so the people up there could know what their living conditions were like down there. Okay, now let’s pause for a moment. Do you know that God has provided you with a means of communicating between your place on earth and Heaven, where God is? Sure He has, and sure, you know. That means of communicating with God is prayer. Matthew 21, verse 22: "And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive". The Bible also says in Hebrews 4 and verse 16: "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need".
It’s through prayer, through that, through that little gap in time that we dedicate to speaking with God, it’s through prayer that God listens to our needs and attends to our requests, and communicates with us. It’s through prayer that we receive the necessary blessings that strengthen us as we wait for rescue from this world of darkness. Let me encourage you. Don’t neglect your daily opportunity to speak to God, to listen to God and receive God’s blessing. You know what’s so interesting?
When God architected the plan of salvation, He didn’t make things so that you and I would have to do something beyond our capability. God never asked us to do the impossible. And here’s what I mean by that: God said, "if you want to know Me, read". You know, if you can’t read, you can listen to somebody else read. God said, "if you want to be close to Me, speak with Me in prayer". Anybody can do that. And even if you couldn’t speak out loud, you can think prayers in your mind. It’s just that simple. The Word of God and prayer, and in faith and trust in a God who is responsible for the greatest rescue mission of all time. I’ll have more just ahead.
Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. After getting in contact with their rescuers, the miners trapped 2,300 feet below ground in a mine in Chile had to prepare mentally and physically for their rescue. The wait continued after that initial contact for an additional 53 more days. One of the doctors who devoted every effort to keeping them healthy in order to rescue them was Dr. Jean Romagnoli. He sent the miners workout videos; he sent them music. And through that probe he sent them other special items. He was so committed to his rescue that he wrote on his helmet, "No one will be left behind". Besides the Chilean government, others who joined the rescue team included workers from NASA and also a dozen private corporations from different parts of the world, all of them working together for one great rescue.
What was the end result: a capsule called Phoenix designed to bring the miners up from where they’d been trapped, one by one. Have you ever thought about the cost Heaven paid for your rescue? Jesus, the son of God, was encapsulated in human form to come to this earth to give His life for you. The Bible says it this way in Philippians 2:6-8: "Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross". In addition to the sacrifice made by Jesus, all of Heaven participated in the rescue of the human family. The angels became involved. You read that in Luke, chapter 2, verses 10 through 14. Angels work daily on our behalf, so that we would be saved and not lost. The Holy Spirit that abides in us constantly invites us to reflection, and repentance, and consecration.
You read about that in John, chapter 16. The Spirit of God also participated in the inspiration of the Bible so that we could have the Bible, the Word of God, in our midst and in our heart. As you see, the whole universe has joined in this rescue plan. But you know, those miners did have a role in the rescue. No, they couldn’t do anything to rescue themselves, but they needed to follow the instructions that were sent from above. For example, they had to lose weight in order to fit into the capsule. You and I need to do the same. No, I don’t mean that we need to go on a diet. But there are some things that we’ve just got to let go of.
We need to let go of the bonds that tie us to this world, the things that cause God’s Word to come second in our lives rather than first. It’s important that we give to God our destructive habits, our negative thoughts, bad thoughts, anything that weighs us down and prevents us from having a transparent relationship with God. Because, just as Dr. Jean Romagnoli and the rescue team worked hard to rescue the miners, God has done the same for you. Much more so. And in His heart He has a message for you that says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life". For those men the big day finally arrived. It was October the 12th, 2010. At around 11:00 p.m., the miners began to ascend, one by one. The rescue lasted all through the next day and ended at around 10:00 o’clock that night. As each miner left the capsule, it seemed as though he was experiencing a new birth.
Seeing the men emerge from the depths of the earth was like witnessing people coming back from death to life. Now, I'm excited about this story because it has a really happy ending. The miners saw the sunlight again; they embraced their loved ones and could continue their lives with new meaning. In San Jose, Chile, where the San José mine operated, where Camp Hope was established, a cross was erected as a monument. There was no doubt in the minds of the people there that God was present at every stage of this rescue. God already had a plan for the men. He understood they’d go through a difficult trial, but He’d prepared a shelter for them. He also made it possible that they could receive blessings and assistance and encouragement from above. He gave them the physical strength and peace of mind to resist what was a tremendously difficult experience, great temptations.
And finally, He gathered a well-prepared team for the rescue. Friend, the cross that was raised at Camp Hope was also raised on Mount Calvary to remind us that our salvation is near. It tells us we are not alone in our trials and our hardships. It tells us God has a refuge for us, a refuge where we wait for His rescue from above. The cross tells us we can communicate with God directly through prayer, and as we do, we receive His blessings. The cross tells us there’s a celestial army working for our salvation. Jesus said this, John chapter 12, verse 32: "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself". If you’ve not yet done so, come to Jesus right now and let Him rescue you.
Do you feel trapped? If so, wait on God. God is not going to abandon you. God is willing to rescue you. Listen to this. This is Psalm 40, verses 1 through 3: "I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He's put a new song in my mouth- Praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord". The Bible is clear. The Lord is coming to your rescue. If things are difficult, remember that God is not far away. God is with you. If hope seems lost, remember God is with you. Sometimes you can’t see a way out, but there is a way out, because God is with you always.
The story had a wonderful ending. But as you and I both know, not all stories do. Not all stories of accidents in mines turn out to be so filled with happy tears, joyful reunions. Sometimes, tragedies end in tragedy. Where’s the hope then? Hope is still near, because God is still with you. In that great event we look forward to, the return of Jesus, when Jesus comes back, we won’t remember the tragedies of this earth; we won’t. We won’t remember the hardships; we wouldn’t even want to. We won’t call to mind our trials and our temptations and our frequent failings and our often stumbling. We won’t. God with us then will cause us to think on new things. God will wipe away all tears from our eyes. God is with you now. And even if life is really hard right now, God is still with you. He’ll never leave you, and He’ll never forsake you.
Let’s pray together now:
Father in Heaven, we’re encouraged, we’re encouraged, that when things seem hopeless, we can be hopeful. We’re encouraged, that when things seem desperate, we can be positive. We're encouraged that when hope seems lost, we can know there’s a bright future ahead because of Jesus, the Rescuer of all of us, the One who rescues us from sin, rescues us in the midst of temptation. We thank You there’s a bright day ahead. We thank You, You've not forgotten us. And we thank You that we can wait on You, the One who brings us up out of the pit of despair.
My friend, if you despair now, or if you need to be rescued, if there’s a little desperation about your situation, if sin is overtaking you, then reach out to God now. Call on God now. Open your heart to God now, and He will take your heart and make it His dwelling place forever.
Lord, would You do that? Would You take the hearts yielded to You now, the lives surrendered to You now? Bless us, please. Keep us. And we thank You. The greatest rescue of all time is soon to take place when Jesus comes to this earth. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.