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Adventists Comfort Victims in a Tragic Korean Disaster
July 15, 2014

The sinking of the Sewol ferry, which happened on April 16, 2014, was a national tragedy that brought great suffering and pain, sorrow and grief to all. The disaster occurred near Jindo Island, where there are 11 Adventist churches and companies. The churches immediately took action. They pitched two large tents and offered meals to a thousand people every day. 

Other Adventist churches all over Korea also participated in voluntary work to comfort and support victims and their families. Church headquarters generously supported expenses and provided equipment and manpower. As such systematic and prompt participation and cooperation are strong points of the Adventist church, it put into practice the message found in Welfare Ministry, “As we have opportunity we should be ready to render immediate assistance to those who are under a severe pressure” (Ellen G. White, Manuscript 25, 1894).

On the day of the disaster, pastors in Jindo Island prayed together and visited the scene to see how they could help. As they thought denominational relief wasnecessary, they asked the Southwest Korean Conference for help, and the conference sent a food truck for free meal service. At the same time, volunteers from other churches arrived at the scene.

Newly-cooked hot meals were provided to rescue workers, volunteer workers, and others concerned as well as families of victims by the service of ADRA Korea. On the third day, more than 1,000 people came for the meal.

Although this was during the busy farming season which requires a lot of manual labor, Adventist members left their work to console heartbroken neighbors. Their service continued from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. every day.

“Anyone who has a child would be of the same mind. The thought of victims in the cold body of the ferry and parents waiting for them tore at my heart,” said Mrs. Cho JeongRim, a deaconess at Gwangju Namseon Church.

“I was speechless and felt a heavy burden on my chest. Tears flowed down my face at the thought of this disaster,” said Mrs. DongHee Yang, another deaconess. “I hope this accident will be an opportunity to think of what Christians live for – serving others.”

Church members on Jindo Island were devastated. “I felt unutterable sadness at the news because it happened in the waters off Jindo. I hope all Koreans will be able to help share the pain of victims and their families,” said Mrs. Lee JinHee, a deaconess of Geumgol Church.

“I am so sorry that we can help only with such services, but we hope that thesesmallacts of service can help comfort and heal those who feel the greatest loss,” said Mrs. Shin AeYeon, a deaconess of Injiri Church.

Pastor Oh SiSeok of Injiri Church, who led the service team at Pangmok Harbor, Jindo, from the first day to the last, gave thanks to volunteers who shared the pain of neighbors from early dawn to late dusk. He also asked all Adventist members to be the light and salt of the world at their own places as the deep national wounds heal.