Seventh-day Adventists joined tens of thousands of people at Brazil's Chapecoense stadium to mourn those killed in the crash of a soccer team’s airplane and to share their hope in the resurrection of the dead at Jesus’ Second Coming.
A total of 71 people died when a plane carrying the Chapecoense soccer team crashed Nov. 28 near Medellin, Colombia. Six survived. The plane apparently ran out of fuel shortly before the crash.
Dozens of coffins arrived at the team’s home stadium in Chapeco, a city of 210,000 people in the southern Brazil state of Santa Catarina, following a possession through the streets on Saturday.
Thousands of church members stood in the pouring rain to distribute thousands of copies of the book “The Only Hope” by Adventist evangelist Alejandro Bullon as well as custom-labeled bottles of water and cards bearing the promise of Revelation 21:4, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (NKJV).
“It was raining, but thousands of local church members gave out books, water, and cards,” said Magdiel E. Pérez Schulz, assistant to the president of the Adventist world church, who has been in contact with local church members. “Church members also prayed with those attending the funeral and offered hugs of hope.”
Church members placed a small red card inside each copy of “The Only Hope,” containing the soccer team’s logo, the Adventist Church’s logo, and the words, “The commotion will pass. What will be left is the silence of our longing and the hug of hope. ‘Yet I will not forget you’ (Isaiah 49:15).”
“The Only Hope,” a missionary book of the year for the Adventist Church’s South American Division, was recognized earlier this year as the 18
th most-read book in Brazil. Church members have distributed more than 20 million free copies across South America since 2014.
In addition to Revelation 21:4, the water bottles and sharing cards passed out on Saturday carried the church’s logo and the inscription, “Adventist Youth.”
The city mayor and representatives of the Adventist and Roman Catholic churches were among those who spoke at the funeral service inside the stadium.
Pérez said the most touching moment came when prominent Brazilian broadcaster Cid Moreira (shown in Portuguese-language Facebook image above) read 1 Corinthians 13 on behalf of the Adventist Church. The apostle Paul’s “Love Chapter” concludes with the words, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
“His reading of the chapter in his distinctive bass voice was the most commented part of the service,” Pérez said.
Pérez said he was moved at the outpouring of compassion displayed by local church members.
“It is so touching to see what our church does when our members have mission as their goal,” he said.
Adventist Church president Ted N.C. Wilson, echoed Pérez's comments.
“This is a sad but powerful mission story,” Wilson said. “What a wonderful church we have in Brazil to move so quickly in being part of mission and Total Member Involvement during a tragic situation.”