Chilean engineer helps with rescue and spiritual needs of trapped miners

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SANTIAGO, Chile — As the day of their rescue draws near, trapped miners in Chile are listening to recordings of sermons, Bible studies and Christian music a half-mile underground, thanks to the efforts of Chilean engineer Igor Bravo.

Bravo has been part of the rescue efforts for 33 trapped miners in northern Chile for weeks. But it isn't only the miners' physical needs that concern him — it's their spiritual needs as well.

"I had to help in some Christian way," Bravo said. "If there is an opportunity to share the Gospel — even if we're extremely occupied — and to contribute to the Christian cause and evangelism, it's something that's in [my] blood."

A partial collapse blocked the mine Aug. 5, leaving the miners trapped in a living room-sized chamber for more than two months. Bravo owns the geo-technical monitoring company that is helping the rescue efforts on the desert surface 2,300 feet above the miners.

Bravo realized that though the miners' physical needs were being met, their spiritual needs had been overlooked. He called his pastor, Luis Cortéz, for help.

Cortéz recounted: "He [Bravo] said, 'I'm here basically by myself providing the spiritual support.... If you are able to send me materials, hunt, search and call [for them].'"

Cortéz contacted Radio Harmonia, a Christian broadcasting station in Santiago, which was able to provide MP3 files of sermons and Bible studies in Spanish along with Christian music.

While Cortéz made contacts in Santiago, Bravo searched Copiapó, the nearest town to the mine, for other spiritual materials. He found 33 New Testaments and two entire Bibles that met the size restrictions for what could be sent down the chamber.

On Sept. 17 he sent the materials to the miners via the "paloma," a device used to transport objects between the trapped miners and the surface. ("Paloma" means "pigeon" or "dove" in Spanish.)

Three of the 33 trapped miners were evangelical Christians when the mine collapsed. Since that time, two more of them have made professions of faith. One of the original believers, José Henríquez, has been leading Bible studies for the miners each evening.

"It [Bible study] started out 5, 10, now 20 participants," Bravo said. "[The people on the surface] have José Henríquez identified as the spiritual leader; they call him 'The Pastor.'"

Bravo wrote Henríquez's name in one of the Bibles and sent it specifically to him but left the other blank. Henríquez says he intends to give the second to the Bible study's best student.

As Bravo ministered to the miners, he knew their families waiting at Camp Esperanza (Hope) needed spiritual encouragement as well.

"A lot of people don't know the Lord," Bravo said. "That's when the second need surfaced."

Bravo called on the Chilean Baptist Union for help, and soon pastor Marcelo Leiva of Vallenar Baptist Church in Vallenar, Chile, was on-site comforting the miners' families.

"Pastor Marcelo has been fundamental in meeting that need," Bravo said.

Amid ensuring that both the miners and their families have the spiritual support they need, Bravo continues to play a vital role in the rescue efforts. His company determined the size of the rock blocking the mine following the collapse and is currently monitoring the status of the rescue shaft.

"I was very involved in the technical aspects and then later became involved in the spiritual," Bravo said. "It's been a great blessing."


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