For the Trapped Chilean Miners, Maria Campillay Heeded an Inner Call

In the Los Angeles Times last weekend, a worker at Camp Hope was profiled. Her name is Maria Campillay:

Maria Campillay? She’s a social worker in the neighboring town of Caldera who took an indefinite and unpaid leave from her government job after the trapped miners were discovered alive Aug. 22 to come to Camp Hope and join the informal mess hall staff. Day and night, she and a dozen other volunteers, including six other Caldera town employees, cooked the food that the fishermen, supermarket chains and other individuals and businesses had donated. “Foreigners seem surprised to learn that there is a lot of solidarity among us Chileans, but that’s the way we are,” Campillay said. “Something similar happened after the earthquake in February in southern Chile. Many of us left what we were doing and went there to pitch in.”

Why did she do this?


There are a lot of people in the world who profess to believe in hell; that is, they believe that many of their fellow human beings will face a fate far, far worse than that of the Chilean miners. But, curiously, they don’t do much of anything about it.

Why is that?


About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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11 Responses to For the Trapped Chilean Miners, Maria Campillay Heeded an Inner Call

  1. A challenging question.

    Actually I think I’ve heard this question raised in church on occasion as well. Sometimes you’re challenged to be more aggressive in saving “sinners” on their way to hell.

    So, I wouldn’t blame the churches, that want to bring in more believers.

    The issue may be that sinners in general don’t really want to be “saved”, and attempting to do so can be responded to with everything from a cold shoulder to a punch in the mouth, or at least so one might fear. Though this is an explanation; it doesn’t leave believers looking very good does it??

    Finally, some churches actually believe that God has chosen those who are hell bound already. As such, there nothing any human can do about, and thus perhaps they don’t.

    • santitafarella says:


      Unbeliever resistance and Calvinism are certainly two factors, but what about incredulity? In other words, my bet is that most Christians, however conservative, don’t really believe, in their heart of hearts, that most people are in peril of going to a torture chamber for eternity. If they were, there would be global panic to do something—anything—about it, and at great risk to life and embarrassment. Unlike a concrete need seen on television, and responded to by Maria Campillay, hell can remain abstract, something to scare yourself with personally, but not sustain in the imagination all that much.

      If God put a camara down in the bowels of the earth, and Dante’s inferno was down in there, and started the hell channel with 24 hour reality TV, then people would notice.

      Another thing that might be causing the shrug is what Stalin once quipped: one person’s death is a tragedy, a million people’s death is a statistic. The numbers going to hell on fundamentalist terms are simply too large to get one’s head (and heart) around.

      And any God that would do a Dick Cheney on people for eternity is a dubious God to worship, so people don’t want to think about it that much. It’s a bit of the Stockholm syndrome (the same person loving you is the same person threatening you).


  2. Colin Hutton says:

    Bruce’s comments seem valid enough, from a contemporary religious perspective.

    An historical perspective, however, might be that until as recently as, say, 1950, a christian inspired with missionary zeal would find ‘savages’ in, for example, Belgian Congo or Papua New Guinea, perform a ‘miracle’ by shooting something with his handy rifle, convert the duly impressed idol-worshippers to belief in his one true god and, after distributing some glass beads, return home with heroic stories to tell. A bit different today, when the ‘savage’ probably has an AK47 and a pocket full of blood diamonds, and the folks back home have seen it all on National Geographic.

    I suspect that attempting to convert locally available monotheists to switch brands is less rewarding than the historical scenario.

    From an atheist’s perspective, I had vaguely registered that the several committed religious people we know did not show an inclination to ‘save’ me. They would know not to fear the cold shoulder or punch in the mouth posited by Bruce. They would certainly expect an argument, however, and are perhaps not confident of being able to advance any rational reason for a belief in the existence of god.

    (I do not, of course, exclude the possibility that in my particular case they simply experience a degree of schadenfreude when contemplating my fate)


    • santitafarella says:


      Schadenfreude and avoidance of having to encounter (too directly) a rational discussion are delicious reasons for avoiding the hell topic. Good ones.


  3. Mike says:

    I can’t speak for all, but at my church, we are concerned about those who don’t know God. Our pastor just spent 6 weeks preaching on the importance of us sharing our stories of faith. Personally, my struggle to share my faith with others is timing. In most social contexts, you can’t easily bring up issues of faith without appearing to be a crazy fundamentalist. I don’t really mind what others think of me. I don’t want others to avoid church and Jesus because I come off as crazy.

    So my focus is to try to live my life like Christ so that others will see a difference in me and ask why. That rarely happens. More often the best my actions achieve is positive recognition for my church. Where I do have more success is in teaching or retreat settings where the point is to discuss spiritual topics. In these settings, people are open to spiritual issues.

    Some Christians are very forceful in trying to push people into a decision to follow Christ. I don’t like being approached by someone who is motivated by saving me from hell. It comes across as very impersonal and judgmental. Like they really don’t care to get to know me or anything about me, that it is more about them. But it’s easy for me to fall into that same trap when I share my faith.

    This blog is the only place in my life where I actively engage anyone to learn about Christianity. I respect you, Santi, and the people who read your blog because you are genuine, honest, and open. You are willing to listen to different worldviews. I want to share my story with you because God has changed my life. Before I found God, I was hopelessly lost searching for meaning and purpose in my life. Many of the questions you ask are the questions I asked back then. But when God reached me, I felt like my eyes were opened and I could finally see and understand the world around me.

    I, too, have been thinking lately about what life after death will be like. Most people envision heaven as a perfect place with no war, trouble, pain or heartache. I struggle with that vision because there will be people there… and I don’t understand how any group of people could live in peace without heartache! I am coming to believe that the reason why “the only way to enter heaven is by submitting to God” is because eternity can only be peaceful if we are willing to submit to an authority higher than ourselves. As long as we believe we can find a better way than the establishment, there will be trouble, strife, and discord. But maybe those who believe in one right way given through one authority can find peace. And the price of entry is submission. I can accept that most people will not be willing to submit in all things to someone else, even if the alternative is an eternity of torment. I don’t think hell will be vengeful torment. I believe it will be the torment of being lost, of not finding truth and beauty and love. Ultimately, we are all making our beds, and one day we will have to sleep in them.

    I think the book of Job is in harmony with this. God has ultimate authority over Job. For reasons He does not fully articulate, God allows Satan to test Job’s faith by taking away Job’s health, possessions, and family, leaving him with only a nagging wife and 3 friends who condemn him wrongfully. Job still submits to God, but demands to know why he is being tested. At the end of the book, when Job encounters God, God does not give an answer to Job’s questions. God gives much the answer we as parents give when children challenge our authority. But rather than just “because I said so,” there is a hint that the reason Job should trust God is that He deserves Job’s trust. When Job submits fully to God, he is restored.

    Was it “right” of God to allow Satan to test Job? If this life is all there is, it might seem arbitrary and capricious. But if my suffering were a part of a larger plan, even Job’s immense loss seems small to me in the light of eternity. Are you willing to be used by God in the context of a larger story that is unseen and that we won’t ever really know or understand? I am willing to submit, because I know God’s character to be good. There was a point in my life where I didn’t know God’s character and I couldn’t trust Him. But much as how I couldn’t understand my parents until I grew older and matured and had children of my own, I learned to know God only after studying the Bible and getting past the surface of what I thought I knew about God.

    God loves you. So much that He allows you to choose whether to spend eternity with Him, or to choose your own way. Yes, there are a staggering amount of people who say “No” to this invitation. But in love, God lets them go their own way and weeps at His loss. Is He punishing them in hell, or are they just getting what they have chosen? I encourage you not to go your own way, but to find God and submit to Him.

  4. Colin Hutton says:

    Santi –

    I like your 24-Hr Hell Channel.

    Could viewer input be used to influence the level to which politicians and celebrities are assigned?


    • santitafarella says:


      In Dante’s Inferno, Judas is mashed in the jaws of Satan while Satan stands inert, frozen to the hips in ice. I would replace Judas with Rush Limbaugh.


  5. Isn’t it hell to watch some 24 hour channels.

  6. Colin Hutton says:

    Mike –

    “….a perfect place with no war, trouble, pain or heartache. I struggle with that vision ..”

    Christianity seems historically to have been able to to come up with convincingly graphic descriptions of hell, but only the vaguest descriptions of heaven (which anyway make it sound to me like a pretty boring place). Just wondering about that.

    (above is only a comment. I’m sure we are too wedded to positions which are too far apart for a debate to be productive)


  7. …in the jaws of Nancy Pelossi.

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