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THE MOST WATCHED RESCUE MISSION IN HISTORY

"Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33. " ("We are well IN THE SHELTER, the 33.") That seven-word message set off a wave of euphoria in Chile and around the world. It had been written in red letters on a scrap of paper and taped to a drill bit that penetrated an area of a gold and copper mine just north of Copiapó in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile-written by the 33 miners who had been trapped 2,300 feet underground 17 days earlier.

The Copiapó mining accident, as the world came to call it, became the most watched rescue mission in world history. There was every reason to believe that the miners had not survived the initial cave-in and, if they had survived, they would likely starve to death before they could be reached. Rescuers on the surface had no idea where they were in the labyrinth of tunnels, ramps, and rooms that spread out underground like arteries, veins, and capillaries.

But "the 33" survived the blast and took refuge in an area three miles from the entrance to the mine. Then 17 days later, when a 6 ½ inch exploratory drill bit punched through the roof into their pitch-black sanctuary, they let the world know: "Estamos bien"-"We are well."

As soon as rescuers discovered the miners were alive, a collaborative effort began to devise a way to get them out. The rescuers included three international drilling rig teams, every ministry of the Chilean government, engineers and technicians from NASA, and more than a dozen multinational corporations. On October 13, 2010, fifty-two days after the miners were discovered-69 days since the cave-in-all 33 were brought to the surface alive.

The final rescue took 24 hours as the miners were brought to the surface one at a time in a specially-designed, bullet-shaped capsule, barely larger than a human being. The capsule contained oxygen and medical monitors. The capsule was lowered through a shaft until it reached the miners. One at a time, each miner stepped into the capsule and stood upright, sunglasses and monitors in place, ready for the 15-minute ride to the surface. It is estimated that more than one billion people around the world watched some or all of the televised rescue of "the 33." [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Copiap%C3%B3_mining_acident#Extraction]

While the Copiapó mine rescue was definitely a dramatic and glorious end to what could have been a terrible tragedy, it is not the largest, most difficult, or most critical search and rescue effort ever conducted. The most difficult and most critical search and rescue attempt was initiated by the incarnation of Jesus Christ who said, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10).

From a sermon by Dennis Davidson, That The World May Hear, 6/4/2012

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