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Finding Hope in the Midst of Crisis

By Chaplain Evan Spencer, Salem VA Medical Center, Salem, Virginia

Here’s how one VA chaplain reaches out to confined patients…through closed circuit TV (CCTV)

Welcome, and thanks for joining us!  Hi, I’m Chaplain Evan Spencer and I’d like to talk to you today about finding hope in the midst of crisis…

About 10 years ago on August 5, 2010, the Copiapo mining accident began as a massive cave-in at the San Jose copper-gold mine in the Atacama Desert near Copiapo, Chile.  The accident trapped 33 men 700 meters (2,300 ft.) which is 6 football fields in length below the ground’s surface. These 33 men survived underground for a record 69 days.  All were able to retreat to a 540 ft. emergency shelter and had 1.2 miles of tunnels in which to move around, and enough food to last for 2 or 3 days.  How did they survive? By banding together under their leader of Mario Sepulveda, the food lasted an amazing 2 -3 weeks.  This was our theme last week.  Connecting in a time of Crisis.  Today we consider that as we connect, we still may be trapped and in need of hope for a rescue!!  A rescue that could only come from above.

With 33 men there must have been some fighting.  So, one of the first things that they had to learn was that they had to keep up the spirits of everyone if anyone was going to survive.  They were still a three-mile drive by the former passageways to the entrance of the mine, and their rations by day 17 were exhausted.  So how did they find hope?  Hope came as a drill finally made it through from above on day 17, just as they’d run out, and began supplying food, toothpaste, even cell phones, news from the surface and messages from loved ones.  Still, 6 football fields below the surface after a terrible mine collapse, and only a tube connecting them to the surface, the collapsed mountain literally blocking the passageway, although they’d pulled together, they were still not out of the woods as far as survival was concerned.  How was a tube the size of a man going to be created to rescue them so far into the earth?

Yet hope was provided by the supplies, air and love coming from the surface into the darkness that entrapped them. There was still a living hope they’d make it out alive.  For it was this narrow shaft that would somehow be made larger through the resourceful efforts of rescuers, now assembling from around the worlds; coming together to solve the dilemma of the trapped miners.

So what about us?  Today, as we band together as communities, as a nation and as a world community, what gives you and I that shaft of hope in the midst of our struggle with the changes and interruptions brought on by the Corona Virus?  

There is a song popularized by a group called the Byrds, in the 1960’s called “Turn, Turn, Turn” which borrowed from a poem from the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament which says, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” But what we find hard to believe is that God might have a purpose in crisis!  But here it is, the poem says there is a time for every purpose under heaven.  But God’s purposes are not just out there and mystical. Knowing there is a larger purpose even in difficult times provides hope.  God has not abandoned us!  For the passage goes on to tell us he has made everything, all these seasons, beautiful in their time.  So let’s you and I also find hope in realizing there is a purpose, even for this present season.  Let us find hope in celebrating the beauty of the season we are in, because God has a purpose in every season of life.  

Let’s face it, if there is a time for everything, all the seasons of life can’t be good; but let us focus on the good that we might discover knowing that there is beauty in the midst of even difficult seasons of life as well. 

For some of us, the beauty might be to grow closer to God.  When we become more aware of his presence in a way we never ever could have unless this difficult season came.  For others, it might be an important opportunity to know a quiet, deeply reflective child better, or even a friend, one who has great potential to bloom if the time was taken by someone to get to know him or her better. 

In the Spring we celebrate the beauty of new beginnings as in the beauty of the flowers, birds, and buds bursting forth with new life.  This week many will celebrate life with the remembrance of deliverance from oppression as in the Jewish Passover.  For Christians the celebration of life takes place as we remember the conquering of death by Jesus Christ by remembering the empty tomb.  These historical events reflected both beauty and darkness as our present times do as well.  So, was it just a coincidence that as the virus peaks, we find that these aspects of our Spring celebration are peaking as well?  Or might we also find beauty in God’s timing this Spring as our “tube of hope” to help us through?

For now, we have a difficult time, as the miners did, as our character is tested by COVID-19. So we hope to find we have the strength to weather this seemingly endless storm, developing in us the new-found strength to pass on both the torches of connection and of hope to our friends and neighbors and, of course to the next generation

So , let us look around us and enjoy the beauty of the Spring.  Let us look around us, and humbly enjoy the extra time we have to spend with our loved ones.  Let us look around us and appreciate this time we have to positively connect with others who we would not ordinarily connect with.  Yet, God and nature have conspired together to allow this to happen.  But what of our friends in Chile?  After the event and the men were miraculously rescued, these men of Copiapo, Chile remain close brothers to this day. What a triumph of the human spirit!      

33 Men!  One of the miners remarked: “There were not 33, but 34 of us, because God was with us.”  So, let us continue to pray, and let us find hope by seeing the beauty in this season today.  For God makes all things beautiful in his time.

Lord please show me every day
As you’re teaching me your way
That you do just what you say
In your time

In your time, in your time
You make all things beautiful
In your time

Lord my life to you I bring
May each song I have to sing
Be to you a lovely thing
In your time

(Instrumental piano interlude played by Chaplain Spencer)

Lord please show me every day
As you’re teaching me your way
That you do just what you say
In your time
In your time (in your time), in your time (in your time, Lord)
You make all things beautiful
In your time

Please let me share a few valuable resources:

1. Based on this meditation, I invite you to watch the movie, “The 33” which references the actual account of the miraculous rescue.  It can be found on YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV and Vudu.

2. Our Salem VA Chaplain Team is at your beck and call. Feel free to reach out to a chaplain 24/7 by calling one of our Extensions from 7am to 4:30pm.  After-hours call and request to be transferred to the Chaplain-on-call.

To conclude, permit me to share this Prayer with You:

Holy God, we humbly ask you to provide us with a sense of trust as we wait on you, reveling in the beauty that you create in every season of life.  May we see the beauty of today and notice your handiwork in and around us. As we anticipate these blessings, so we extend our thanks and praise to you for the good purpose that you have for us all.  In your Holy Name I pray. Amen. 

I’m looking forward to seeing you again here soon!

Though initially frustrated with social-distancing limitations, Chaplain Spencer took advantage of the VA Medical Center’s Facebook Live page and broadcast a message of home and recorded a corresponding song of hope for interested patients confined to their rooms.  Join me in praying for the Spirit’s leading for our 200 CBAmerica chaplains adapting to ministry in the current pandemic; that they might find effective, creative ways to share the message of hope in Jesus Christ!

For more stories by and about CBAmerica Chaplains, go to http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/.  For PDF brochures describing the varied ministry of chaplaincy and the process of endorsement, email Randy Brandt, Director of Chaplaincy at chapbrandt@cbamerica.org.

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