The story behind the Chilean miners' Jesus T-Shirts
October 14th, 2010
04:49 PM ET

The story behind the Chilean miners' Jesus T-Shirts

As miners were being pulled from Chile's San Jose mine Wednesday, most were wearing tan T-shirts over their coveralls. The Chilean government told reporters the green coveralls were designed to help absorb the sweat as they ascended to the top.

But Wes Little, a CNN editor/producer in Atlanta, wondered why the miners were wearing the T-shirt over their coveralls. He noticed a logo on the T-shirt's left sleeve for the Jesus Film Project.

Here's what we found:

The Jesus Film Project is a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ International, the massive Orlando, Florida-based evangelical ministry.

The Jesus Film Project tells us they have translated the film into 1,105 languages and that it has been seen in every country. You can watch or listen to over a 1,000 of the translations here.

The main goal of TJFP's ministry is to create and distribute effective media in every language, says Berry Fiess, the group's director of field information services.

Seventeen days into the mine accident, CCCI country director for Chile, Christian Maureira, started contacting public officials to see if they could send the miners a copy of the film. Fiess said Maureira was able to reach a daughter and a brother of miner Jose Henriquez.

Through that family contact, the group was able to send an MP3 audio version of the Jesus film and an MP3 audio version of the New Testament in Spanish to Henriquez down in the mine.

The Jesus film explains that the New Testament tells how Jesus is laid in a tomb-like cave after his crucifixion. Three days later, Jesus is said to have risen from the dead. In the Jesus film, women come to the tomb and find the stone that blocked the entrance has been rolled away, the cave empty.

It is unclear if the miners saw the resurrection story as a parallel for their hoped-for rescue, but Jose Henriquez passed along a letter to CCCI's Maureira from inside the mine. Fiess shared the English translation with CNN:

Thank you for this tremendous blessing for me and my coworkers. It will be good for our spiritual edification. I am fine because Christ lives in me.

We have prayer services at 12 noon and 6 pm.

"At the end of the letter," Fiess said, "(Henriquez) said goodbye with Psalm 95:4, which says, 'In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him.'"

A few days later, Henriquez asked Maureira to get them special T-shirts.

"The T-shirts were a gift from Campus Crusade for Christ Chile," Fiess said. "In the front you can read, 'Gracias Senor' - 'Thank you Lord.'"

And on the back, Psalm 95:4.

"Apparently, all the miners liked them," Fiess said. "It kind of solidified them."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Chile • Christianity • Missionaries • South America

soundoff (580 Responses)
  1. Brittany

    People believe in many things weather it be God, the Devil, etc.. Why cant you all just be happy that 33 men that were trapped for 17 days, half a mile in the ground, no communication with anyone, no food, no water, no nothing, were rescued safe and sound. What would you do if you were in there shoes? Whats the first thing you are going to think of? What is going to help you keep your sanity? I am not going to say what or who I believe in because it doesnt matter to anyone else because its what I believe. People are going to believe in something that gives them hope and faith that they are going to be able to live to see another day.
    What ever you guys believe in just be thankful none of them were killed and everyone came out alive and healthy. What if that was your family trapped in the mine? What would you do.. Who would you call upon to help you.. What/who would keep you sane knowing that you dont know if your spouse/family member is alive or not.. So before all of you start judging people for what/who they believe in, put yourself in the shoes of the miners.. or the shoes of the families that didnt know if they would ever see their husbands/family ever again. All of those men down there had to believe in something to keep there spirits high hoping and praying to whom ever they believe in that they would get to see their mother.. father.. wife.. children.. friends.. and other family. Be thankful that none of those men died. Mining is a hard job. My grandfather was a coal miner for 50 years and it was not an easy job. But someone has to do it to help give us the necessities that keep us alive every single day you and I are here on earth. So stop bashing people for whatever they believe in. Everyones day will come when they have to answer to someone, who ever that may be.

    October 15, 2010 at 9:42 am |
  2. Dr. Ram Munjal

    This miracle of 33 miners rescued from the depth of mine is a Faith Builder. This is a continuation of LORD JESUS MIRACLES recorded in the four Gospels. He turned water to wine, He healed the sick, He opened the eyes of the man born blind, He fed five thousand with 5 loves of bread and few fish, He parted the Red Sea, He rebuked the wind and calm the storm, He called out Lazarus from the grave. JESUS IS LORD. At the name of JESUS every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that JESUS is LORD. Thank you LORD JESUS for delivering these miners from the depth of mine. LORD kills and LORD make alive. BLESSED be the Name of the LORD. To the Lamb of God who was crucified, buried, rose from the grave on the third day, ascended on high and is now exalted to the Right Hand of the Father until He has made all His enemies a footstool for His feet, be glory and power and wisdom and riches and honor and blessing. Amen

    October 15, 2010 at 9:37 am |
    • Horace Ramtahal

      This is true for you. It does not have to make it true for me, because for me, this is man-made. Nice story, but man-made.

      November 7, 2010 at 6:13 am |
  3. Hattereno

    Disappointing! Nothing like pushing a group's agenda in the face of tragedy turned miracle!

    Nevertheless – extremely happy for the 33 and everyone involved. It was a miracle guided by Christ!

    October 15, 2010 at 9:16 am |
  4. JULES34

    For all those "non-belivers" in God & Jesus when the day comes and God says depart away from me for not believing and you BURN IN HELL you will wish you had believed. So you may sit and laugh now at us Christians but the final laugh will be on you when you burn in hell for eternity and we are ALIVE!! I wll continue to pray for you all & may God touch your soul as he did mine and one day you will change!!

    October 15, 2010 at 8:59 am |
  5. Chris

    The only thing Christianity is good for is profiting off peoples gullibility. Go download the lyrics to Iron Maiden's 'Holy Smoke'. Sums it up quite nicely.

    October 15, 2010 at 8:54 am |
  6. Beth00

    They're safe, isn't that what matters? It's an age old debate that will never die until the end of time. You can't convince one side over the other, why waste your breath. Everyone is so certain... well we were certain the earth was flat at one time too and look how that turned out. In all reality I think nobody knows the truth, not on either side. Shoot for all we really know ancient people had "visitors" from another planet and pegged them as God and his angels. Maybe that's why there are so many cultures that had a god that came down and visited... maybe that's why there is talk of people being taken away by a firey chariot... maybe aliens came here and we're a nice little science project.. wouldn't that be something. I say let people believe what gives them strength and peace and stop shoving your own ideas down somebodies throat and that goes for either side. Why do you feel the need to feed by force all you do is make someone pull even further away.

    October 15, 2010 at 8:40 am |
    • Frank

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      September 9, 2012 at 2:37 am |
  7. Mel

    To the atheists posting their embittered beliefs here. I am sick and tired of your
    anti-religious garbage. You claim that religion is a dangerous
    delusion that causes nothing but death and destruction and pain
    , but you forget a little fact: it also makes millions of people
    lead happy and meaningful lives helping not only themselves but
    others as well.
    You claim that religious people are trying to 'shove religion down
    your throats'. Well, that's called freedom to express our views. If
    you don't like being preached to, then kindly tell them you're an
    Atheist, and that's it (if you accidentally watch or listen to a
    religious channel or station, simply turn off the thing, and stop
    ranting or panicking!) But you definitely don't have the right to
    destroy people's beliefs, especially when those beliefs help them
    to be good people. You wouldn't go to a child and tell them
    that there is no Santa Claus, would you? If you did, and made my
    daughter cry, I'd hit you so hard I'd leave a permanent impression
    of my wedding ring on your face! In a similar way, telling good
    people that their religion is wrong causes them pain and anguish
    just like the pain and anguish you would cause if you yelled
    "Fire!" in a crowded theater, and you'd go to prison for
    "exercising your right to free speech!"
    Let's agree to respect each other's ideas and beliefs: don't ask,
    don't tell! (don't preach to those you know they won't accept you,
    and don't rant against their religious beliefs, no matter how
    ridiculous they might be)

    Peace (or p...off!)

    October 15, 2010 at 8:32 am |
    • Raison

      Now that's the kind of honest opinion I like to see! Thank you Mel, for telling us how you feel. You might not think it, but opinions like yours are so rare that I do not recall seeing one like it before, but my memory is pretty faulty, so I won't rely on it too much.

      To be honest, I would absolutely hate to tell any child that Santa was not real if they really believed in him. Have no fear on that account. No need to make physical threats here, either. I would gladly die for any child. They need every protection we adults can give them. And I would hope that you could agree with that sentiment.

      But then I might ask why you told her a lie in the first place, but don't freak out!!! I know of many reasons why someone would want to tell their children about Santa. I did not have much choice in that with my daughter, and I supported her belief as long as possible so that she could have the most happiness under those circumstances.

      No, we've got to protect the kids and keep them as safe and happy and well-adjusted as possible. Kids are great.
      If you want to protect children, count me in. Religious disputes aside, we need to make sure they have the best we can give them.

      But I suppose you would still hate me, for I will not support lies, lying, or anything in that line. I'm not saying I can't be flexible or willing to compromise, but that is where I am coming from and I am so firm about it that I am an agnostic.
      You think I hate God or something. No. Agnostic means I demand the truth with no lies attached. No nonsense, etc.

      Where other people are concerned, you might be surprised at how little I do to question their faith. My relatives are mostly religious and those of us who are not... do not make an issue out of it.

      I have lived across the street from churches my whole life. I've been a member of several. I almost became a pastor but could not afford the extravagant fees needed at that private college.

      I do my best to love everyone in the world equally. That can be hard in some ways, easy in some ways.
      If God exists and is good, merciful, and can separate me from any delusion, sin, badness, whatever, I do not fear for my soul if souls exist, I fully expect to see you all there if that is the case. Your man-made sins are not of God as far as I can see and thus have no bearing on what "God" might actually want us to do.

      I don't go around making fun of Christians in real life. That would be dangerous and cruel, for they might not be prepared for that kind of confrontation. But if you come here, it is obvious enough if you know how to read.
      There is no excuse for coming to the internet and expecting sweetness and light.

      If your faith is weak, do not ever come here if you want to keep it. Don't ever question anything about your faith if you want to keep it.
      Stay a robot worshiping the words of evil men if you like, take what comfort you can in whatever you like....
      ...but if you will not let others worship as they like...if you will not allow me to take comfort in what I like....then damn you for a hypocrite and a nasty one at that, for you are demanding we not bother you but you stomp on our rights every day as a Christian if you approve of intruding into politics and forcing laws that reflect your religious values.

      You get me on this? You can't have things both ways. You cannot have religious freedom and then use that to request special privileges that curb the religious freedoms of others. This is America and we have a Constitution that is supposed to be the Supreme Law of the land - NOT your particular brand of religious values. OKAY?

      We are not coming to your house. We are staying here on the internet.
      This is a meeting of the minds without fear of reprisal. A place where we may speak freely. Before the internet, there was nothing like this anywhere. CNN does us a great service by providing one of these places.

      Can you speak freely in church? No. How about at work? No. At the store? No.
      Could you say anything you wanted freely on a street-corner even though this is America? No.

      Your angry but honest post is a good one. I would point to it as a good example of honest opinion to those so-called Christians who post things that are not honest. As someone who insists upon honesty, these are sometimes pretty easy to pick out of a line-up, as it were. Yours stood out.
      Your honesty does you credit and even if you have a lot of contempt for what you see in this blog, at least you can articulate it without hiding behind other stuff.

      As for causing the "faithful" anguish and pain....I don't know how to explain that I look upon what I personally do as simply insisting upon honesty and truth and justice, especially where children are concerned, though I might get a bit nasty about it. I'm not a saint.

      Religion draws certain types of people. Some of them you might want to execute, like child-molesters.
      Some of them have no other place to go for many reasons. Some seek comfort or a "church-home".
      I am not stopping you from doing that.

      This place draws people like me. This is a place where I feel I can speak freely without fear (I hope).
      I cannot point out the fallacies that I see in religion anywhere else but on the internet. People like you I cannot trust to keep yourself under control if I were to say something to you in person.

      But I might anyway if I see the need.
      Yet religion has already restricted my freedom of speech by the violent reaction that is always waiting in the wings.
      How American is that? Imagine what it might be like for me. I already know what it's like for you for I came from a very deep religious faith.

      My stance now is stronger, for I have no contradictions to confuse me, to make me act in irrational ways based upon the words of another human being.
      If I am irrational now, it is just me, not my religion. It makes more sense to do it this way. If I am wrong, I expect God will understand even if people like you do not.

      But the lies need to stop. Disillusionment is part of life. When your child discovers that Santa is not real and is just you, what will you say? I do not envy you that little talk.
      I suppose you might tell your child that God is like Santa, that even though the Santa part is a lie, the loving parent is real.
      That might help some of you out there who did not see this little bit of advice coming...lol

      But make no mistake. I do not like lies. If you have to lie in order to make someone believe in God the way you want, is that really what you want to be doing???? Really??? What would that say about your religion?

      It sure doesn't look good from my side, Mel. But I will fight for the children and I do not want anyone getting torn apart. Families should stay together wherever possible.
      The children need protecting. But the lies need to stop. This world is in a bad way.
      Way too much of that is caused directly and indirectly by religion.

      Still hate me? We do not have to hate. But being realistic about stuff would sure be a good start towards polite discussion. The thing is not impossible, just difficult.

      I hate hurting people, but no one is guaranteed a life free of pain. If the truth hurts, I can only hope that it doesn't hurt too much. I really do want things to be better than that, but I am not God. Too much is not happening. No God as currently described by the major religions is doing anything that I can see. That is not a good thing for anyone.

      Let me know what you think, Mel. I would like to hear your or anyone else's thoughts on my response to your post.

      October 15, 2010 at 10:49 am |
    • Peace2All


      Thanks for taking this one on. I am getting so tired of having to explain, because of being mis-represented.

      October 15, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
  8. Mae Bee

    Okay guys enough is enough. Nothing takes away the fact that 1. to give these guys T-shirts is no big deal to give them T-Shirts advertising your agenda is!!! Plain and simple no matter what the content. I don't care what your fundamental beliefs are lets not get away from why they were there in the first place. They were mining gold...so you can wear jewelry... so they are in danger everyday...so we can were jewelry. Whether Jesus or God exist is irrelavent. What is our problem as a people that wearing jewelry or mining MONEY is put far above safety and human lives? Now that is the real problem here...Advertising for FREE....and exploiting people who have very little other choices in life. Is the bottom line. Where is ANYONE'S beliefs, truth or fiction in that!!!

    October 15, 2010 at 8:28 am |
  9. Madandev

    Your posting and reasoning are marvelous, no-nonesense educative and a guide to truth seekers. Thanks.

    October 15, 2010 at 8:27 am |
    • Raison


      Well...gee whiz.... I appreciate your kind words quite a lot as well! It means more to me than you might expect. Thank you.

      October 15, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
  10. LIZ


    October 15, 2010 at 8:17 am |
  11. Dousee

    You people do realize that if Jesus was around you would be calling him a left wing, anarchist, tree huggin, hippy, liberal , who is possibly gay and you wouldn't like him to much especially that whole Love each other, regardless stuff.

    October 15, 2010 at 8:12 am |
  12. Janet Cull

    Wow! Thank you, CNN, for this report! Amazing.

    October 15, 2010 at 8:12 am |
  13. Dave R

    Wow, an evangelical group saw the chilean mine disaster as a marketing opportunity. That's absolutely disgusting.

    October 15, 2010 at 7:38 am |
  14. Carmela

    It's disgusting how some groups – religious or otherwise – exploit such events. I am at loss for words.

    October 15, 2010 at 7:20 am |
  15. Beth

    Ask the miners if they think Jesus is real!

    October 15, 2010 at 7:15 am |
    • Mel

      They're Catholic Hispanics, so they believe Jesus is real. Don't shove your Anglo-Saxon atheism down their throats and let them live their happy lives in peace.

      October 15, 2010 at 8:43 am |
    • Raison


      You should try to recognize when one of your "Christian" friends pretends to be an atheist. Sometimes it is really obvious.
      Just a friendly note....

      October 15, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
  16. LoveTheDay

    If the name of Buddha, Allah, or some other god was written on the sleeve of the miner's arm...ppl wouldn't care about that. There wouldn't be any discussion or hateful comments. But whenever you mention the name of Jesus, it is extremely threatening to ppl. Hmmm....I wonder why? There must be SOMETHING about that name! 🙂 The miners know who was with them during those months. None of you were down there with them, so I'm sure they could care less about what you think in regards to their faith in Yeshua (Jesus)! Praise Yeshua Hamashiach (Jesus the Messiah). Maybe saying Jesus's real Hebrew name will be less threatening...or maybe strike an even stronger cord with those of you who hate to hear it. 🙂

    October 15, 2010 at 6:53 am |
  17. LoveTheDay

    If the name of Buddha, Allah, or some other god was written on the sleeve of the miner's arm...ppl wouldn't care about that. There wouldn't be any discussion or hateful comments. But whenever you mention the name of Jesus, it is extremely threatening to ppl. Hmmm....I wonder why? There must be SOMETHING about that name! 🙂 The miners know who was with them during those months. None of you were down there with them, so I'm sure they could care less about what you think in regards to their faith in Yeshua (Jesus)! Praise Yeshua Hamashiach (Jesus the Messiah). Maybe saying Jesus's real Hebrew name will be less threatening...or maybe strike an even stronger cord with those of you who hate to hear it. 🙂

    October 15, 2010 at 6:52 am |
  18. soUsay

    If Jesus had on a T-shirt today , what would it say?

    October 15, 2010 at 6:49 am |
    • Peace2All

      Why of course.... "WW-I-DO..?"

      Or.... "Unrighteous terrible people on the right- Believers on the left"–You'll be leaving shortly.

      October 15, 2010 at 7:00 am |
    • Raison


      LOL WW-I-DO...good one!

      October 15, 2010 at 7:10 am |
  19. Ms. LL

    To all the naysayers about our Lord Jesus Christ:

    The mine is now empty....why dont you just disappear into it.

    Thank God all the miners and rescue workers were able to be brought back to safety above ground and reuninted with their loved ones.

    October 15, 2010 at 6:47 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Ms. LL

      So....... in effect, what you are saying is... "If one of your fellow human beings does *not* necessarily have the same faith or believe in Jesus like you do they should 'go and disappear in the mine.' "

      Wow... WWJD... or WWJSAY to YOU (Ms. LL) after that very intolerant, and hateful post... ?

      Don't b hatin'..!!!

      October 15, 2010 at 6:57 am |
    • mayaj

      Is this the way a true Christian treats his fellow man? Wishing death to those who do not follow the same belief system? If Jesus loves me, and you wish to emulate him, why the hate?

      October 15, 2010 at 7:30 am |
    • Raison

      @Ms. LL

      Doin' a bit of naysayin' yerself, I see. Nothing like a hypocrite that denies Jesus even as she praises him. Good joke. Better hope Jesus has a sense of humor. He used to have a thing about hypocrites you know. I follow him in this, but I am a hypocrite also. LOL
      How's that mercy thing going for ya? You can take it but you can't dish it out? LOL

      October 15, 2010 at 8:12 am |
  20. Raison

    I see that the thread has gone apeshit like so many others. Posts flung hither and yon, loss of continuity, and a mangled mess at the bottom.

    Kersplewey should be the name of this blog.

    Hi! Sorry I didn't see you come in. I've been hunkered down typing and I keep forgetting to check the recent list.
    Good to see your posts as usual. But this thread going "spang" is not helpful to communication. I will post more at you if I think it will stay together....!

    October 15, 2010 at 6:29 am |
    • Peace2All


      Yeah... I have had some posts showing up in 'alternate universes'... and I just posted @Renee again, for her polarized comment... Christians =Good.... Aheists=Bad. Got flagged..

      Dam-n Kate, I saw your posting...with her, it looked like you were getting it out of her..i.e.. how she gets around the 'filters'.... Let me know. I am getting tired of having to watch all of my words and word combinations.

      So, what's going on pal....? Looked like you were making some friends yesterday..? And... Yes, I agree... I thought what Mark from Middle River posted was 'waaaaaaaaaay' out of line. And a very, bad comparison. And Mark and I usually have some very civil discussions. But, man.... dude... if you can, you's got's to keep the 'water from boiling' over emotionally.... you know what I mean...? Well.... you 'don't' have to ... just what i noticed when I went back to re-read the posts.

      You know.... you and I seem to be of like minds.. so i am co-m-i-n-g from a sincere place on this friend..


      Anyway... again... hope that you are well.. I may be gettin' ready to hit the hay, here..

      October 15, 2010 at 6:41 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.