March 24, 2018

Olympics Engineer from Spain Finds God, Gets Baptized in Korea

Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review

A Spaniard working as a managing engineer for the Olympics organization found God and the Seventh-day Adventist Church and was baptized in Korea one day before the end of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February 2018. Alejandro (Alex) Hernández, 41, from Madrid, Spain, credits a walk out in nature and a dental issue as some of the providential events that led him to meet Seventh-day Adventists and get acquainted with the denomination.

“In Korea, I realized how easily you can find God if you open your heart and let Him transform you”

“In Korea, I realized how easily you can find God if you open your heart and let Him transform you,” said Hernández when sharing his story. “I know it because it happened to me.”

Smitten in Romania

It all started in August 2017, when Hernández went vacationing in Romania with some friends. On their first night in the country, they were hosted by a kind family who let them sleep in their house and took good care of them. On a Saturday morning, led by Sarah Soare, their hosts’ daughter, Hernández and his friends were walking out in nature, when they passed by a church building. “This is an Adventist Church, and I am a Seventh-day Adventist,” she said in the most casual way.

Soare’s off-handed comment piqued Hernández’s curiosity. “I had never heard about Adventism, so we started talking about our experiences with God,” he shared. “Mine was not good, but her experience was incredible to me, and it was truly inspiring.”

As they kept talking, Sarah told Alex how much she loved God and how much God loves people. “She explained to me the basic principles of Adventism, her beliefs, and how much God cared about us,” said Hernández. “I didn’t realize it then but at that very moment, she left a seed inside me.”

From Spain to Korea

Back to Spain, Alex kept corresponding with Sarah, learning about her and her God, until he decided to visit her for a few days. On that occasion, in the capital city of Bucharest, Hernández visited a Seventh-day Adventist Church for the first time in his life. “I was offered a warm welcome,” he shared. “I felt how different the culture was from other churches I had visited in the past. It was a very good experience for me. I felt very comfortable in church, as people were very friendly.” Alex left Romania in love with the Lord…and with Sarah.

In November, Hernández traveled to Pyeongchang, South Korea, host of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. As a communications manager engineer working for the Olympic Games, he lives for approximately five months in the countries that host the Games.

One afternoon after a few days in Korea, while Hernández was still settling down, his bus stopped in front of a poster. “The poster was entirely in Korean, so I couldn’t read it, but it showed the image of Jesus in the background,” he said. “I liked the picture, so I snapped a photo and sent it to Sarah.”

She answered immediately. “I can see the Adventist logo at the bottom of the poster!” Sarah told him. “Alex, you should go and find that church.”

A Pro Bono Dentist

As Hernández was pondering how to find the local Adventist church, he found out he had an issue with one of his teeth and needed to see a dentist. So at the end of his work week on Friday afternoon, he stopped by a nearby clinic. Surprisingly, he saw that the offices were already closing. “But it’s not even sunset!” he remembered thinking.

The dentist, however, agreed to work on his tooth. When he finished, Hernández tried to pay for the treatment, but the dentist told him, “It’s free of charge, my friend.”

“I was impressed and overwhelmed by his selfless behavior,” he shared, “so I went home very happy, thinking how awesome and kind Korean people are.”

A week later, after praying specifically about it, Hernández finally found an Adventist church. Nervously, he walked in, not sure about what to expect. After all, it was just his second visit to an Adventist congregation! His fears were eased, however, as members gave him a warm welcome. Most of them spoke only Korean but managed to make sure Hernández felt loved and accepted in their midst.

But that was not all.

“Five minutes later, another church member arrived,” he shared. “It was ‘my’ dentist! At that very moment, I realized that God was telling me, ‘Alex, welcome to the Adventist Church. Here you will not only find Me, but also wonderful Christian people who follow My Word.’”

A Moving Ceremony

Helping Hernández to get acquainted with the Bible and Adventist teachings was a team effort. Besides Im Jong Hyuk, the local pastor and “Alex’s dentist” Cho Young Hak, Northern Asia-Pacific Division (NSD) stewardship director Kwon Johng Haeng and communication director Suk Hee Han invested of their time to visit and study the Bible with him.

Finally, after several weeks, Hernández was baptized into the Adventist Church on February 24, 2018. “A Spaniard baptized in Korea!” he exclaimed. “I am happy because God chose Korea to be my transformation place.”

Alex has an additional reason to be happy, as Sarah flew from Romania to witness his commitment to the Lord. “She has been my angel, placing the seed of God’s love inside of me. And I hope she soon can also become my wife,” he added with a wide smile.

Beyond his dream of becoming Soare’s loving husband, however, Hernández acknowledged there is a love that transcends any human imitation.

“[My baptism] was the most important change that I have had in my life, and it’s not only affecting me—it will also have a positive impact on the people who are close to me,” he said.

Finishing his fifth Olympics at the end of March when the Paralympics wrap up in Korea, Hernández feels that for him, there will never be more consequential games.

“The Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Games will last forever in my heart,” he said. “It was the place God chose for me to become a new man.”