Chilean miner Jose Henriquez tells audiences of power of God
In August last year the world held its breath and prayed for the 33 miners trapped underground in Chile.
Jose Henriquez was in Craigavon last night to tell how the power of the miners' shared prayers transformed the hell of a collapsed mine shaft into a place where miracles could really happen.
Over 650 people packed into the main auditorium of Craigavon's Civic Centre to hear Jose share his inspirational story.
A guest speaker at the South American Mission Society (SAMS) Ireland's Friday Night Live event, his message was simple: faith can overcome anything.
In those first bleak days before contact was made, the rest of the world was beginning to lose hope.
But 2,300 feet below ground, the man dubbed the ‘Pastor’ by his workmates was leading the group in prayer.
His unwavering strength of belief rallied the men and those who had begun writing wills and goodbye letters instead threw themselves into Jose's twice daily prayer circles.
After 17 long days a small tunnel finally reached the safety shaft where the men were living and we learned that all 33 had defied the odds and survived the disaster.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph before the event, Jose produced a tiny, leather-bound Bible, no bigger than a block of butter, with ‘Santa Biblia' inscribed in gold lettering on the front.
We all know about the food, water and essential supplies that were passed down the chute to sustain the men before their eventual rescue, but Jose maintains this tiny battered little book was the real lifeline to the men, allowing them to gain comfort reading the Scriptures he had told them about.
Mr Henriquez said: “The whole world knows what happened in that mine from the outside, but nobody knows what was happening on this inside.
“I am going to talk about the power of faith and the importance of democracy.
“But there were also some miracles.”
In such a distressing situation, anarchy could easily have taken over, but Jose describes the remarkable process by which a democracy of sorts was created.
“We had to make decisions; about food and water, what to do next, how to organise spaces to sleep and so we voted on everything. A vote of 50% plus one was needed for every decision.”
Northern Ireland is a world away from Mr Henriquez's homeland, but he has only warm words.
“The people have been so warm and welcoming.”
He will be speaking to crowds gathered at churches in Belfast, Lurgan and Dollingstown over the next couple of days and he hopes his busy weekend will give him an opportunity to get to know the people of Northern Ireland.
In a divided society such as ours, Jose has a powerful message: “Whatever your beliefs, God is understanding.
“He accepts all people and does not marginalise.”
Jose will visit Willowfield Parish Church in Belfast tonight at 7.30pm, St Saviour's in Dollingstown tomorrow at 8.30am, and Shankill Parish Church in Lurgan tomorrow at 10.30am.