One of the Chilean miners rescued after a record 69 days trapped underground addressed hundreds of people at a mission conference in Craigavon on Friday. Jose Henriquez, along with his wife Blanca, were among the guest speakers at the “Friday Night Live” mission event organised by the South American Mission Society (SAMS) Ireland. SAMS Ireland has seen growth in recent years with around 700 people packing the Craigavon Civic Centre to hear reports of the work of the Anglican Church in Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Spain.

Jose Henriquez became known as the “Pastor” among the 33 miners because he held fast to his faith in Jesus and led the group in daily prayer and Bible reading. Speaking to the crowd in the Civic Centre through a translator, he explained how his faith helped him survive and revealed previously unknown details such as number of the miners committed their lives to Christ during the crisis. Jose’s wife Blanca, whose reunion with her husband as he emerged from the rescue capsule was seen by up to a billion people live on television, explained how her faith helped her during the ordeal.

The Rev. Alf Cooper, a SAMS prayer partner and the chaplain to the president of Chile, was translating for Jose and Blanca. Alf led the nation’s prayers during the miner crisis and was on the scene during the rescue. He is passionate about mission and is well known for his evangelism and is the leader of a rapidly growing church in Chile. Speaking at the Friday Night Live event he said, “The world witnessed a miracle when Jose was pulled from the depths of the earth. Psalm 130:1 says, “Out of the depths I cry to you Lord”, each of us can experience the same miracle when we cry out to Jesus for salvation.”

Earlier in the evening the Mayor of Craigavon Mr Stephen Moutray MLA, hosted a reception for the Chileans and key people from the SAMS Ireland family. Commenting on the event the Mayor said, “I’ve known of the excellent work of SAMS Ireland for many years. The quality of their staff and mission partners is second to none.  We’re delighted that Jose, Blanca and Alf chose Craigavon for their first visit to Northern Ireland.  There is no doubt that the Chilean Miner has left a deep impression on all of us.”

Other guest speakers at “Friday Night Live” included Gwen Carlisle and Mags Southern, teachers who have worked for over 30 years in St Andrew’s College in Asunción, an Anglican school in Paraguay.  They thanked SAMS Ireland for the quality of the teachers from Ireland who have served there as missionary teachers over the years. Several SAMS Ireland Latin American nationals working in local churches here reported on the growing trend of South American Christians pioneering mission in Ireland.