Pastor Gives Inside Story of Chilean
Miners’ “Hope Underground”
Carlos Parra Díaz, chaplain at “Camp Hope,” recounts tales of courage, miracles
BY MARK A. KELLNER, news editor
he rescue of 33 trapped Chilean copper miners some 14 months ago put an unassuming Seventh-day Adventist pastor in northern Chile into the world spotlight (see Adventist Review
, Oct. 14, 2010, p. 8; online at http://bit.ly/t4cciY
). Now he’s written a book detailing the experience.
, recently released by South African firm Imago Dei Books (191 pages, $14.99), takes readers to the scene of tragedy and triumph, letting readers relive much of the experience, but also from a unique, intimate perspective.
PASTOR IN DISASTER: Carlos Parra Díaz, currently pastor of the Asunción, Paraguay, Central Seventh-day Adventist Church, was on the scene at the 2010 Copiapó, Chile, mining disaster. He became the unofficial chaplain of “Camp Hope,” found Bibles for the 33 trapped miners, and got them sent under the earth. He has written about the experience. PHOTOS: Imagio Dei Publishers]
In the first hours after the August 5, 2010, collapse of a tunnel at the San José mine in the Atacama Desert region of Chile—designated by NASA and others as the “driest place on earth”—no one knew the fate of the 33 miners trapped underground. The greatest hope was that the miners were alive and well. The greatest fear was that this was not the case.
The miners, who ranged in age from 19 to 63, sent a note up on the seventeenth day of their captivity: “We are well, in the [underground] shelter. The 33.” With that word, the nation rejoiced, the rest of the world’s attention was captivated, and plans for the rescue commenced. The miners emerged one by one, safe and alive, on the evening of October 13, 69 days after they were trapped some 2,300 feet (700 meters) below the earth’s surface.
Many of the miners who emerged from captivity clutched and waved a pocket-size Bible, which Carlos Parra Díaz had provided them.
Before the dramatic rescue, however, there was the question of getting supplies down to the trapped men. Water, food, and medicine were top priorities, as might be imagined. But the miners, many of them devout Christians, wanted something more: they desired the Scriptures.
Parra Díaz, at the time a district pastor for the Seventh-day Adventist church in the city of Copiapó, near the mining area, stepped up. He’d been visiting the camp, offering spiritual aid to those miners’ families that wanted it; now he was a man with a mission, finding Bibles that could be sent down a special tube that ran deep into the earth, conveying supplies.
DRAMATIC STORY: Hope Underground, written by Parra Díaz, as told to writers Mario Veloso and Jeanette Windle, captures the extraordinary story..
Speaking from Asunción, Paraguay, where he now pastors the city’s central Adventist Church, Parra Díaz said the attention his role created led to many witnessing opportunities: “As a missionary, I’ve always wanted to share the gospel to the world. God gave me an opportunity to minister to the whole world and [on] five continents through this experience.”
He said he remains in contact with many of the miners, including Luis Urzúa, the shift foreman and leader of the miners while they were trapped. While a great deal of attention was showered on the miners after their rescue, many have had financial and emotional difficulties in the months since. None of them have returned to work in the mines, media reports indicate, and some have been reported to be in dire straits.
“During the one-year [rescue] anniversary celebration,” Parra Díaz said, “I had an opportunity to speak with the miners, their families, and the authorities. The miners are having economic problems right now because they are out of work and can’t find jobs. It takes a toll on them emotionally and financially.”
However, Parra Díaz quoted a Bible verse to the miners, Philippians 1:6: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” He also gave each miner a copy of the Spanish-language version of Hope Underground
, saying they would find spiritual support in its pages.
The miners, he added, “feel a responsibility to complete the mission that God has given them, which is to testify of God’s work” in their rescue.