Alfred Cooper, Capellán Evangélico en La Moneda speaks with a very pleasant British accent, reflective of his schooling in England. He is an Anglican priest and serves as the evangelical chaplain for President of the Republic of Chile, Sebastian Pinera.
Pinera took over the presidency in March 2010. If you remember, this was when Chile was reeling from a major earthquake. He could be described as conservative politically from a North American perspective. Pinera is an economist, investor, businessman and former senator. Oh and did I mention he is also a billionaire, and is not in this position for the money.
An early decision he made was the appointment of Alfred as his evangelical chaplain and spiritual advisor.
As James, Justine and I approached the main gate into the palace we were told to wait outside. Within a significant presence of guards and security, as one might expect, suddenly a smiling cheerful man brushed his way through them without raising an eye – greeting the guards on his way through to us. It was Reverend Cooper.
With smiling eyes and gracious spirit he welcomed us and instructed us to follow him into the security office where our passports were checked, and kept, and where we passed through scanners as you experience at an airport screening.
Now we are inside the palace.
Locals refer to the building as simply “La Moneda” which I think translates ‘money.’ That is because it used to be the mint. La Moneda is only open to the public once or twice a year, and even at that, the public is only allowed to walk through the inner courtyards so I felt privileged to enter into the building itself. It is the equivalent to visiting the White House, and speaking of that President Obama and our own Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, have made visits here recently – Harper just a week or so ago.
I felt constrained taking pictures inside. Guards stood at every corner visible and it just didn’t seem right to stop and be touristy when there was a chance to visit with Alfred about his role.
Passing by the final guard in the hallway to Alfred’s office we were welcomed in and offered tea which he made himself from a personal stash in his cabinet. Everything about this man exudes authenticity. He is loyal to the president, and as a loyal friend and Christian has opportunities to speak into his life and leadership.
Alfred is perhaps best known for mobilizing the nation wide prayer movement for the Chilean miners trapped for sixty-nine days underground. It was one of the most watched television events in history and created what Alfred called “a spiritual fervor” in Chile.
Alfred was with the president at another event when the mine collapsed. Faith and prayer were central to how President Pinera handled the crisis he told me: “When they first vanished, we didn’t know whether they were alive or dead. The President called for an emergency prayer meeting. We prayed here in the presidential palace. That prayer meeting was attended by all the ministers.”
While miners were certainly praying underground, Alfred said that the nation of Chile was praying. “Up on the surface, we were called to pray,” he said. “We had a massive prayer meeting that spread to the whole nation.”
The thirty-three miners all gave testimony to their being a 34th person down there with them – Jesus. Alfred also noted they were a highly organized democracy underground– but it was a spiritual democracy, something he has had the opportunity to pass along to other heads of state.
We shared about other things that day concerning leadership, faith, mentoring however these are not to be written about, rather treasured within. I asked if I might pray for him as we departed and it turned into a very precious time of Christian brothers supporting one another in our roles for the sake of the Kingdom.
This experience left me thinking about how important it is for all of us to have spiritual advisors in our lives. Friends, who are loyal and willing to speak truth into our lives. It makes me grateful for my friends like Bob and the adventure of this trip and the amount of time we get to spend together.
I think the greatest challenge is making time for friendships when we are back in the throes of life back home.
This experience in the palace also made me wonder about how much we really believe in prayer – and the power and influence of prayer. If we really believed, would we not pray more?
In the palace I was also reminded of how Christians are to pray for those in positions of power like my friend Mayor Peter Fassbender, my MP Mark Warawa, and our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. It is not as though they are above other people and our prayers for their well-being. The Scriptures encourage prayer for those in authority over us because so much depends on their character and plans. The security of life and freedom depends so much on them and God has power to influence their hearts and to incline them towards what is just and equal. That is why we should pray for them.
Peter, Mark and Stephen; consider yourself prayed for this day.