I don’t know about you, but I had assumed that the spiritual leaders of the trapped miners in Chile would be Catholics. That was true of some, but not all.
I guess I was — in an earlier post — guilty of tunnel vision.
In other words, I didn’t take into account the religious changes sweeping through Latin America. Then again, it is more than possible that lots of other folks in the mainstream press missed an interesting angle on this story, too.
Anyway, I had not heard of the Rev. Marcelo Leiva, a Baptist pastor, and miner Jose Henriquez Gonzalez until today. A Google News search indicates that I am not along, at least on this side of the Atlantic.
However, I do read the Baptist wire services pretty carefully, which is how I ran into this story today. Here’s a key chunk of it:
… (The) traumatic ordeal has forged many new friendships — perhaps none more important than the ones between the miners and those ministering to them and their families.
Marcelo Leiva, a Baptist pastor, and Jose Henriquez, one of the miners, had never met before the mine collapse. Instead, they have communicated in handwritten letters and in a single, brief phone conversation. A half-mile of rock has separated them. But despite the physical distance, the two Chilean evangelicals developed a special friendship.
Henriquez has been an encouragement to his co-workers as they struggled to stay positive during their confinement. An evangelical Christian, he held daily Bible studies for the miners as rescue efforts developed on the surface.
When Henriquez requested an evangelical pastor to aid the miners and their families at the site, Leiva, of Vallenar Baptist Church in Vallenar, Chile, was contacted. The pastor arrived at Camp Esperanza (Hope) about two weeks ago.
As you would expect, Baptists will be Baptists. Thus, there is an evangelistic angle to this story, as well. That received it’s own story a few days ago.
I’ll cut to the chase.
When the mine collapsed, three of the miners — including Henriquez — were Christians. Since then, two more of them have made professions of faith.
“It was Jose who made the request that an evangelical pastor come to minister to the miners and their families,” said Bryan Wolf, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary serving in Vallenar, Chile.
Now, did anyone else raise their eyebrows while reading that?
You see, while these stories are part of a feel-good media festival, these Baptist Press stories raise an interesting question — one I had not thought of before.
There were only three Christians buried down in that mine? Or were there only three evangelical and/or Baptist believers down there? This is Chile, after all. It’s hard to believe that there were that few men in the mine who were active in their Catholic parishes, men who were in a sacramental relationship with the Catholic faith.
I know that, in this case, we are reading stories from a denominational wire service. This is not the Associated Press.
Still, I wonder if there were faith-centered tensions down there, under all of that rock. Previous stories mentioned a “spiritual leader” among the miners named, 62-year-old Mario Gomez, the group’s oldest member. The Vatican sent 33 “mini Bibles,” and 33 rosaries down the small hole that served as a literal and spiritual lifeline to Gomez and the other miners.
So I’ll ask: How many Bible studies were being held down there? Were there tensions between the believers? Was there spiritual unity among the diversity? Maybe there was both?
Sounds like a story to me, maybe even a complex story, at that.