Deacon Greg Hall, a central figure in historic rescue of “The 33,” gives all the credit to God

by Jerry Circelli

Correspondent

An ordained deacon, Greg Hall serves the faithful at Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church in Houston. He was a central figure in the rescue of 33 miners trapped 2,600 feet under the Atacama Desert in Chile. (Photo by Jerry Circelli / NTC)

MORE PHOTOS

Catholics who want to drill down to the core of humanity’s faith in God should put “The 33” on their must-see movie list in the days ahead.

The film, in theaters now, explores the seemingly insurmountable challenges faced by 33 miners in August 2010, near Copiapó, Chile. A shift in the earth there caused a cataclysmic collapse of a copper and gold mine in which the men were working. Trapped beneath 2,600 feet of solid granite, it appeared certain that this would be the miners’ permanent grave.

History shows us that, miraculously, all 33 men survived 69 days underground  — the longest anyone has ever lived to tell of such a near-death experience. Until now, however, most people were not aware that it was an unwavering faith in God, and in their brothers and sisters in Christ, that sustained the men.

Greg Hall, owner of Drillers Supply International and an ordained deacon serving Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church in Houston, was a central figure in the team that located the men and ultimately reunited them with their families. (See the online archived November/December 2013 North Texas Catholic, page 14, for an exclusive interview with Dcn. Hall).

In the movie Hall and an associate are portrayed as a composite character by actor James Brolin.

In real life, Hall and his associates were the only real hope to locate and rescue the trapped miners far beneath the barren dessert. For Hall, it would test his courage, his professional abilities, and his physical strength. The endeavor would show him just how deep-rooted his faith in God would become under heavy pressures.

“The 33,” focuses not on the rescuers, but on the lives of the men trapped deep in the earth five years ago. Much of it was filmed on location in Chile’s remote Atacama Desert where the disaster occurred. The Atacama Desert is one of the driest, harshest, and most barren areas of the world.

Recently, Dcn. Hall visited once again with the North Texas Catholic, this time to discuss the new movie.

“This is a miraculous story,” Dcn. Hall said, “This is a story of God working his miracles among his children. The movie does a tremendous job of showing the courage, perseverance, and faith of the miners and their families.”

The deacon continued, “Our rescue efforts are kind of tertiary, which is how it should be. And I’m very excited and happy that this story is being told.”

Among the greatest takeaways from the movie, said Hall, is that nothing is impossible if God is involved.

“This rescue shows us, as it says very clearly in Scripture, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’” (Matthew 19:26).

A scene from “The 33” — a new film from Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures. (Photos courtesy Grace Hill Media)

Secondly, said Dcn. Hall, the experience of the miners, as the movie portrays, shows the importance of maintaining strong faith communities.

 “We need to stick together,” the deacon said. “That was one of the strengths of the miners. Their cohesiveness, their praying together, and their faith helped them survive. We need to remember that.”

Dcn. Hall said he hopes that when people see “The 33” they draw parallels to the world around them and to experiences in their own lives.

“I wish people would think about the many people in our society who are in deep, dark places. We need to go out and help them.

“What has come to me over time is that there are a lot of people trapped in these deep, dark places and we’re called to help. What would we do if they were our brothers? The reality is, they are. The whole experience in Chile reminded me that we are all family, and we can’t just sit on the sidelines and hope somebody else does something.

“My hope and my prayer,” continued Dcn. Hall, “is that after people see this movie they come away asking themselves, ‘What can I do to help someone in a deep, dark place?’”

Following rescue of 33 miners in Chile, deacon dug in his heels against HHS mandate

Chilean miners, who were trapped in a collapsed mine near Copiapo, Chile, for 69 days before being rescued touch the Stone of Anointing in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's Old City Feb. 24. Tradition holds that the stone is believed to be where the body of Jesus was anointed before his burial. The miners visited the church on the second day of their weeklong visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. In October, they met with Pope Francis (CNS photo/Ronen Zvulun, Reuters)

In discussing the success in the Chilean desert that brought 33 trapped miners up to safety, Deacon Greg Hall gives all the credit to God.

“I have always made it very clear that God drilled the hole,” Hall said. “I am convinced of that.”

Hall said he is often asked, “What really happened? How did you get them out at the end?”

His answer is always the same: “God drilled the hole.”

In February 2013, Dcn. Hall had to rely on his faith in God once again to meet a great challenge. This one threatened to put his drilling company out of business if he would not abandoned the tenets of his Catholic faith.

At that time, the businessman had to dig in his heels against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate, which would have forced one of his three corporations to offer employee health insurance for abortifacients, contraceptives, and sterilization.

“There is no way possible, morally, that I could pay for those things that violate our faith,” said Dcn. Hall. “On the other hand, our employees are very important to us, and we wanted them to have health insurance. So we sued.”

Hall employs about 100 people, with most of his U.S.-based workers at his Minnesota business, on behalf of which he filed his suit.

Hall’s case was granted a permanent injunction, allowing his Minnesota business to continue providing health insurance without the threat of penalties for non-compliance.

It is Hall’s hope that the recent federal decision in his case will encourage others to have faith and trust in the Lord.

“It goes to show, yet again, that with God all things are possible,” the deacon said.

“I will say that it was the mine rescue in Chile that gave my wife and me the courage to proceed and to take on the Obama administration on that mandate,” Dcn. Hall told the North Texas Catholic.

“It was so daunting and so expensive that everyone was telling me that our chances of success were almost zero. Again, having lived through that Chilean mine rescue, I know not only by faith, but by fact, that God can do anything. So we went forward on faith and we were successful, thanks be to God.”

Catholics who want to drill down to the core of humanity’s faith in God should put “The 33” on their must-see movie list in the days ahead.

Published