“And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.” — Jude 22-23
One by one, the miners trapped for 69 days in a dungeon that could have been their tomb climbed into a rescue capsule and made a smooth ascent to the surface Wednesday, greeted by the embraces of loved ones, cheered by joyous Chileans and watched by a captivated world.
The anxiety that had accompanied the careful final days of preparation broke at 12:11 a.m., when the stoutest of the men, Florencio Avalos, emerged from the missile-like chamber and smiled broadly after his half-mile journey to fresh air.
By midday, 16 men had been pulled from the mine in just under 13 hours, including the oldest and youngest among the trapped. The effort was methodical and free of any significant problems, and on track to finish before sunrise Thursday.
Amid an explosion of cheers, Avalos hugged his sobbing 7-year-old son and wife and then President Sebastian Pinera, who has been deeply involved in an effort that had become a matter of national pride.
Avalos was followed an hour later by the most animated of the group, Mario Sepulveda, whose shouts were heard even before the capsule peeked above the surface. He hugged his wife, handed out souvenir rocks from the mine to laughing rescuers, bounded out and thrust a fist upward like a prizefighter.
“I think I had extraordinary luck. I was with God and with the devil. And I reached out for God,” Sepulveda said as he awaited the air force helicopter ride to a nearby hospital where all the miners were to spend 48 hours under medical observation.
No one in recorded history has survived as long trapped underground as the 33 men. For the first 17 days after 700,000 tons of rock collapsed around them Aug. 5, no one even knew whether they were alive. In the weeks that followed, the world was transfixed by their endurance and unity.
Rescued…what a thought!…what a thrill! Doesn’t it seem like something that the Church and Christians should be involved in? Isn’t rescue the great adventure that Jesus challenged us to become a part of? C. T. Studd said, “Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell.”
In these days, God’s call to the ministry of “rescue” is an all but forgotten call. Untold multitudes are perishing in their sins because they remain untold! We must become involved in the perils of the unsaved.
Just think of what is missed when there is no rescue mission. Think of the joys that are forfeited. Think of the reunions that will never happen. Think of the lives that will be lost.