March 23, 2016

Adventist Leader in Belgium Narrowly Misses Subway Explosion

The leader of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Belgium narrowly missed one of three explosions that rocked Brussels on Tuesday after deciding at the last minute to travel by car to work instead of making his customary trip on the subway.

But Jeroen Tuinstra, president of the church’s Belgium-Luxembourg Conference, made no mention about his close call in an e-mailed statement, saying instead that he was praying for those affected by the tragedy and for the safety of city residents.Jeroen Tuinstra, president of the Belgium-Luxembourg Conference. (Jeroen Tuinstra / Facebook)

At least 31 people were killed when two explosions hit the Brussels international airport around 8 a.m. Tuesday and a third explosion occurred an hour later in a downtown subway station near the headquarters of the Belgium-Luxembourg Conference.

“We at the Belgium-Luxembourg Conference are shocked by the attacks that shook Brussels this morning,” Tuinstra said. “We express our condolences to the victims and pray for both their families and for the safety of residents.”

Tuinstra usually takes the subway to work, arriving around the time that the explosion went off at the Maelbeek station. But on Tuesday he felt impressed to travel by car, said Corrado Cozzi, communication director for the church’s Inter-European Division, whose territory encompasses Belgium and 12 other countries.

A bomb detonated in a subway car at 9:11 a.m., killing at least 20 people and injuring 106 others, news reports said.

“He usually takes the metro at this time,” Cozzi said by telephone.

Two other conference workers also didn’t take the subway because they earlier decided to work from home.

“Two colleagues stayed at home and did not come to the office,” Cozzi said.

The other two explosions, at Brussels airport, killed at least 11 people and injured 81.

No Adventists appeared to have been injured in Tuesday’s attacks, Tuinstra said.

“As far as we know, all employees of the conference and ADRA’s EU office, as well as their families, are safe,” he said.

The conference office was working as usual.

“We hope and pray that the worst is behind us,” Tuinstra said.

Belgian authorities had been fearing a terrorist attack after the arrest on Friday of the prime suspect in the Paris attacks that killed 130 people last November, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said at a news conference. He appealed to city residents to “avoid all movement.”

Adventist believers worldwide expressed sympathy and prayers for the people of Belgium.

“May our prayers and thoughts comfort them in this time of pain, anger, and sadness,” the Inter-European Division said in a statement. “May our love gather them in an encompassing hug. We also pray that the Lord, our God, may fill their hearts with the certainty of the eternal life where we will live with joy and gladness in brotherly communion. Death and pain will be no more!”

Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, said he had prayed for the people of Belgium and also that local church members could be “a spiritual strength to others in this very difficult time.”

He noted that Adventist young people had shared their love for Jesus with Brussels residents during the church’s Global Youth Day last Sabbath. Among other things, some 300 young people distributed flyers themed “looking for peace in Brussels” and visited a police station to thank officers for protecting the city.

“We thank our youth for having encouraged many in the city, including the police station, this last Sabbath on Global Youth Day,” Wilson said on his Facebook page. “May our youth and members continue to provide Christ's ministry of love and compassion in Total Member Involvement during this traumatic situation.”