An evangelical preacher who was one of the 33 miners trapped deep underground in Chile was at the heart of keeping morale high during their 69 day ordeal.
Watch Jose Henriquez’s arrival
Wearing t-shirts proclaiming “Thank you, Lord” in Spanish and English, the miners gradually surfaced one by one as their rescue from the collapsed mine was completed.
During their time underground Jose Henriquez, the evangelical preacher, had asked for 33 Bibles to be sent down to the miners in a small capsule and the BBC reports the miners prayed at twelve noon and six o’ clock in the evening.
Mr Henriquez also exchanged written messages to a Baptist minister, Marcelo Leiva.
Mr Leiva’s final letter encouraged the miners to continue praying and to have confidence in God. He ended with “Be strong and go forward, Hosts of the Faith”, from the Spanish version of the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers.
Applause met Mr Henriquez’s arrival to the surface as he smiled broadly and hugged his wife.
Omar Reygadas, a 56-year-old electrician, arrived at the surface and knelt down with a Bible in his hands.
On Mr Reygadas’ helmet were the words ‘God Lives’. The miners’ t-shirts had words from Psalm 95 on the back, according to media reports.
People from around the world commented on a BBC story of the rescue: Nicole in Manila, Philippines, said: “Our prayers for their safe return to their families are unceasing. We join all Chileans around the world in joy and happiness for every miner who comes out safely.
“Praise be to God who is keeping all the brave miners and heroic rescuers safe, and congratulations to the fantastic rescue operations of the Chilean government! Long live the People of Chile!”
S’bongile in Lilongwe, Malawi, said: “I am so happy for these men, I’m glued to my laptop and following whatever is happening. So much praise to God!”.
In a television address to the nation President of Chile, Sebastian Pinera, said: “What ended up as a real blessing from God started as a possible tragedy.”
The President also commented that “the unity, the faith, the compromise, the honesty, the solidarity of the Chileans in those 69 days makes us very proud”.
According to Operation World, a respected Christian group which catalogues information about religious make-up of countries, in the year 2000 16 per cent of Chile’s population were evangelicals.
The group says: “A Pentecostal revival in 1909 within the Methodist Church gave birth to a dynamic, indigenous Pentecostal movement with great evangelistic zeal. The lower classes were evangelized and churches and denominations multiplied.”