Friday, October 15, 2010

When Disaster Becomes a Classroom

71 days ago when 33 miners were trapped underground in Chile, many concluded their outcome would be like those in Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster of April 5, 2010 in West Virginia or the Pasta de Conchos mine disaster of 2006 where only 2 of the 65 bodies have been recovered . Thanks be to God; rather than a disaster, from the entrapments to the rescue, we have all become students in nature’s classroom. There are five lessons we should learn and teach our progeny. Many heads are better than one, when the heart is willing it will find a thousand ways, in leadership, examples are better than precepts, a woman could still act classy even if her husband is a philanderer, and that faith is an additional ingredient to salvation. Therefore, learn these lessons for therein lies your salvation in this world where humanity is ensnared.


An African proverb says that “one hand does not tie a bundle”. In the forest region people always say that “one stick does not build a forest”. In western culture people say “many heads are better than one”. If you look at the other disasters I mentioned, they wanted to go alone. In Chile, they called for help worldwide . BHP Billiton and Collahuasi company supplied drilling and expertise. American GeoTech Drilling experts who knew how to drill were ushered in from Afghanistan. The cable that lowered the crane came from Germany, and the camera sending pictures came from Japan. NASA helped construct the Phoenix that served as the lift to bring the people from the underground. Maptek was used to map the underground tunnels and orientate the rescue shafts. Oakley donated 35 pairs of sunglasses to protect he miners’ eyes from ultraviolet light. It confirmed the bible’s “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Prov 11:14; 15:22). Everywhere you are, learn to work as a team. We are all entrapped here on earth. If you read the poem The Cold Within you will see that lack of cooperation killed those who were by happenstance imprisoned in the cold.

A Chinese proverb says that “when the heart is willing, it will find a thousand ways, but when it is unwilling, it will still find a thousand ways.” In this case, the heart was willing to save the people. The rescue efforts had three drilling operations at once. It took rescuers two weeks to find the survivors but during the Pasta de Conchos mine disaster, the rescue efforts we called off after just five days. The miners in Chile were a quarter a mile deeper than their Mexican counterparts. Raul Vera, an outspoken Roman Catholic Bishop reiterated that "In Chile the government and the companies joined together to rescue the miners alive," "In Mexico they joined together to bury them forever ." That is because the government was unwilling to spend close to 20 millions to rescue the people.

The third lesson we learn is really from the president and his ministers. President Sebastien Pinera insisted on the rescue and spent close to 48 hours to watch every single miner brought to safety unfolding his resolve to have them live. The president summoned Andre Sougarret chief engineer and put him in charge of digging the men out. He selected the person whom he knew could do the job better and not because he was his friend, member of his party or relative. Sougarret was honest to the miners and their families while still giving them hope.  In Africa, presidents have never gone to disaster areas to motivate the people. That was great leadership skill. Leadership is not about prescribing direction but leading the way. As the miners walked out of the Phoenix, he greeted and embraced, joked and laughed with each of them. There are leaders who do not joke and exchange pleasantries with their subalterns and subordinates. Just because someone is working under you does not make them a subclass or subhuman. Learn to make those who work under you feel you need them and want their good.

In the fourth lesson we learnt that a woman could still know that her husband is a philanderer and still act classy. If it was in America that those 5 of the 33 miners were revealed to have had mistresses, it would have been “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry” of Jerry Springer live. Miner #21; Yonni Barrios- a 50 year old man had invited his mistress including his wife of 22 years to come and welcome him . The wife refused to come if the mistress was going to be there, but she stayed classy all through the incident. During the trammel, one miner was even discovered to have had about 4 mistresses. Cheating is not good but how you react too is very crucial to yourself and the society. Many victims of cheating always want to use a grenade to kill a cockroach. Rather than teach a man by shooting him on the head, please shoot his toes.

The fifth lesson is that your faith in God will take you a long way unto salvation. Faith is a prerequisite of salvation. The Virginia mining disaster this year took place on the 5th of April and the one in Chile was on the 5th of August. The 5th day is the day God made man and gave him authority over the earth but after the fall, humanity is entrapped. It is a reminder that though we are ensnared, we still have the power to overcome. Luiz Urzua used his faith in God to instill hope in the miners else they should have been killing each other in other to preserve food and survive longer. “According to the Catholic Herald, ‘The 33 miners trapped in the San Jose mine in Atacama, Chile, have requested that statues and religious pictures be sent down to them as they wait to be rescued’ .” “‘Sepulveda, the second miner to be freed, said, “I have been with God and I’ve been with the devil.... I seized the hand of God. I always knew God would get us out of there’.” They all walked to the surface with their faces shining of joy and even those who had chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes and hypertension did not come worse than they went. God heard their prayers and stayed with them till they joined their families and nation.



Until then, we thank God for saving our brothers.



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