(Photo: AP Images / Hugo Infante, Chilean government)
When the 33 trapped miners in Chile emerged from underground, at least two dozen of them were wearing T-shirts that proclaimed "Gracias Senor," or "Thank you Lord."
Christian Maureira, national director of Campus Crusade for Christ in Chile, who helped provide the shirts, said the miners wanted to recognize and thank God publicly as the world watched the anticipated rescue this week.
The miners were rescued on Tuesday and Wednesday after being trapped in the San Jose mine in Chile since the Aug. 5 cave-in.
During the 10-week stint some 2,000 feet underground, Jose Henriquez, 55, stepped up as a spiritual leader in the group, leading prayer services at noon and 6 p.m. each day.
He wrote a letter to Maureira after MP3s of the "JESUS" film and the New Testament were delivered to the miners through a 4-inch-wide tube.
"Thank you for this tremendous blessing for me and my coworkers. It will be good for our spiritual edification. I am fine because Christ lives in me," Henriquez, who is part of a Pentecostal church, wrote.
He also quoted the Old Testament passage Psalms 95:4 – "In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him."
That passage was printed on the back of the T-shirts that a majority of the miners wore as they were pulled out to safety this week.
Berry Fiess, director of Field Information Services of The JESUS Film Project, made it clear that the miners decided on their own to ask for shirts that essentially give glory to God. The shirts also have the JESUS Film Project logo on the sleeve.
"They requested – after we sent the MP3s – that we get these shirts for them. They told us what they wanted on the front and back sides," Fiess explained. "There appears to be this strong desire to honor God and I think that this situation must have brought them close to their Maker."
Maureira worked with a designer to produce the shirts and they were delivered to the miners on Monday, just a day before they began hopping into the "Phoenix" escape capsule to reach the surface.
According to Maureira, who had initiated delivering audio Scripture to the miners, several of the men gave testimonies about meeting God while trapped.
Responding to those who wonder where God was during other cave-ins where miners died, the CCC Chile director commented, "I believe that God is sovereign and all miners – either those that have survived or those who have died – accomplish the will of God."
Another collapse could have happened during the rescue process in Chile, or the instruments might not have worked, Fiess noted.
"And like the shirt said on the back, 'In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him,'" he said.
Fiess also noted that there have been many Christians who were saved miraculously and those who suffered and died. But he cited three biblical figures, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Old Testament book of Daniel, who were prepared to give glory to God whether they were delivered from a blazing furnace or not.
In the case of the miners in Chile, Fiess said, "I think it's valid to give God the honor and the glory here because God is the one who can provide His grace and mercy at any time that He wants."