The drama surrounding the rescue of 33 miners trapped a half-mile below the Earth’s surface for 69 days was riveting. The fact that these brave men survived the ordeal is amazing. From the moment the mine collapsed and entrapped the men, the eyes of the world were focused on this scene.
Families built a makeshift camp at the site to keep vigil for their men. They prayed and encouraged one another. They were able to see and speak to the miners by means of electronic equipment lowered to them through a small hole drilled early in the process. Food and water were sent down as well.
The extraordinary part of the rescue was the cooperation and collaboration of people from around the world. They combined their expertise to drill a passageway through which these men could be rescued. Naval engineers built a capsule in which the men could be brought to the surface one by one. I returned home from a preaching engagement just in time to see the first miner emerge from the mine. There was unreserved joy and excitement as he hugged and kissed his son and wife. Rescued! Saved! The death trap was left behind and new life was possible.
The scene in Chile serves as a powerful human example with deep spiritual lessons. Like the men in the mine, our friends and neighbors are entrapped in the darkness of sin, as are millions of people across America and around the world. The capsule of the Gospel is the only hope they have. If they are to be saved, they will be saved one at a time. In light of this, one question rings in my ears. Will we, the people of God, cooperate and collaborate, pour every bit of our expertise and attention to rescuing the lost and dying? Are we willing to surrender our lives to the power of the Holy Spirit to be used as rescuers for those who are hopeless?
I am reminded of an old hymn that we sang in my home church in Skiatook. Some of you will be familiar with it. “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.” This should be the theme for followers of Christ. We have all that is needed to rescue those facing a Christless eternity.
The task is both individual and collective. I am surrounded by people who need me to love them, care for them and do all I can to share the Gospel with them. My responsibility is to send the gospel capsule to them. Having the ability to help them, it is incomprehensible that I would simply stand by while they perish.
But there is also a collective response, one that is more deeply threatened today than at any time in my lifetime. Are we willing to cooperate together as the people called Baptists to do more together than we can do alone? The Chilean miners were rescued because people from multiple disciplines worked together with one goal in mind. They were committed to find the best way to rescue the men entrapped in the mine. Are we as Baptists willing to sacrifice, unify, give and go together to the lost neighbors down the street and in the next town? Will we unite to give and go to the cities of this nation and the dark places around the globe?
For 85 years, Southern Baptists have united through the Cooperative Program to impact lostness at home and abroad. During that time, we have become the largest missionary force among Christians. We have been willing to set aside selfishness and personal pride to unite in giving and going. Today, however, voices among us are degrading and demeaning this methodology in favor of a more individualistic approach. The strategy being touted failed prior to the genius of the Cooperative Program. Today I call upon us to renew our commitment as individuals to take the Gospel to our neighbors and also the commitment to our cooperative effort to carry the Gospel beyond our borders.
Rescue the perishing!
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.