South American Church Leader Expresses Condolences over Air Tragedy in Colombia

An Adventist goalkeeper recently declined to play for the team flying in the wrecked aircraft because of his beliefs

South American Church Leader Expresses Condolences over Air Tragedy in Colombia

The leader of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South American region expressed his condolences after a plane carrying a Brazilian soccer team and a considerable number of reporters crashed in a rugged area south of the Colombian city of Medellín Monday night.

Pastor Erton Köhler, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South America, expressed regret over the tragic accident which, according to various media reports, claimed the lives of at least 76 people. Most of the passengers of the charter flight were players and managers of the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense, on their way to play the first final of the South American Cup against a Colombian team.

“The Seventh-day Adventist family in South America is praying for the families affected by this horrendous tragedy,” said Köhler. “We sincerely pray that the peace and the hope that only God can give may strengthen the families of the players, reporters, and others travelling in the plane that crashed in Colombia.”

The South American Division of the church, based in Brasilia, Brazil, comprises the eight southernmost nations in South America, including Brazil, which, with almost 1.7 million Seventh-day Adventist baptized members, is the country with the largest number of Adventist members in the world.

In an astonishing development, the Adventist Review had reported back in January that Carlos Vítor da Costa Ressurreição, a professional goalkeeper who was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church around a year ago, had turned down a contract with the Chapecoense Series A team after they were unwilling to include a special clause that would have allowed him to skip matches and training sessions on Saturdays, the biblical Sabbath. Following Jesus’ example, Seventh-day Adventists around the world refrain from secular activities on the Sabbath day, and choose to devote those hours to worship God and nurture human relationships instead.

The story made national headlines in Brazil because the Chapecoense team, or ACF, as it is commonly known, had shown interest in drafting Ressurreição after he was instrumental in assisting the Londrina Esporte Clube to move up from Series C to Series B in the Brazilian National Championship.

Ressurreição’s important saves as a goalkeeper prompted the Brazilian Football Confederation to name him the Series C “Goalkeeper of the Year.” Shortly after that, the Chapecoense team offered him the contract that would have doubled his salary.

But a lucrative new contract was not the only benefit Ressurreição forfeited. Because of his refusal to train and play on Saturdays, his Londrina Sporte Clube decided not to renew his contract ending last May, and the Adventist goalkeeper was forced to stop playing professionally until just a few days ago, when he signed a contract with a new club that respects his Sabbath observance.

“I am at peace because my life is in the hands of God,” Ressurreição  declared weeks before becoming unemployed. “The Lord has already shown in the past that He will take care of me.”

We cannot help but mourn with those bereaved over the recent air disaster. At the same time, Ressurreição may well be pondering on how a decision he made many months ago has saved him from being part of this horrible tragedy.