MARINA DEL REY, Calif. A Southern California couple who had logged more than 60,000 nautical miles in their quest to deliver Bibles around the world has been shot and killed by Somali pirates who hijacked their yacht, the Quest. A Washington state couple traveling with them was also gunned down.
Killed in the attack were Scott and Jean Adams from Marina Del Rey, and their friends, Phyllis Macay and Robert Riggle of Seattle.
The deaths came Feb. 22 as negotiations were being conducted on a U.S. naval vessel, one in a flotilla that was trailing the pirated yacht.
Scott Adams was a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. He received a master of divinity and a master of theology from the school.
Fuller Seminary had posted a message on its homepage asking for prayers for the missionaries saying, "Adam is a beloved friend of the seminary."
According to the Adams' website the couple was headed to Djibouti for a refueling stop. The small Muslim country, located in Northeast Africa on the Gulf of Aden, shares borders with Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia.
"I have no idea what will happen in these ports, but perhaps we'll do some local touring," Jean wrote on the site. "Due north is the Red Sea where we plan to tuck in when winds turn to the north."
The Adams were members of St. Monica's Catholic Church in Santa Monica, Calif. "They were very heartfelt in their response to this great gospel and they came to know Jesus in a very special way here," their pastor, Lloyd Torgerson, said to KABC.
"Jean actually sang in our 11:30 choir Sunday mornings. Both of them had a great outreach, of course, through this ministry to take the scriptures, the Bibles, to places across the world. And they felt that call to do that, and that's what they were doing I presume when this happened."
Before the hijacking the yacht was heading around Somalia, a hot spot for escalating piracy. The country is home to marauding pirates and radical Muslim extremists who have been known to target Christians and Americans.
There is speculation the hijacking and killing may be retribution for the Feb. 16 sentencing in New York of a Somali pirate who was given a 34-year prison term for his role in the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama, a merchant marine vessel. The ship's captain was taken hostage in that siege. U.S. Navy Seals eventually rescued the crew chief.
In an interview with the Associated Press after the sentencing of Phillips' captor, a Somali pirate said they would target Americans and that they would suffer "regrettable consequences."
Negotiations started, then interrupted
According to numerous news sources, two of the pirates boarded the U.S. ship to negotiate release of the hostages, who were seized off of the coast of Oman three days earlier.
As the negotiations proceeded, gunfire was heard from the cabin of the Quest. U.S. special operation forces boarded the yacht and found all four Americans had been shot. Although several were still alive, attempts to save them failed.
"We express our deepest condolences for the innocent lives callously lost aboard the Quest," Gen. James N. Mattis, U.S. Central Command Commander told Associated Press.
Two pirates were killed when the U.S. forces boarded the pirated vessel, and two other pirates onboard were found to be already dead. No further information on their deaths was immediately available. The military also arrested 13 other pirates.
The Adams had been traveling the globe since 2004 distributing Bibles provided to them by the American Bible and International Bible societies. A mission statement on their website said their passion was to "allow the power of the Word to transform lives."
"We seek fertile ground for the Word and homes for our Bibles," the statement read. "Often, the ultimate homes are best found by people who are already living locally and seeking and cultivating that fertile ground. And even more extraordinary are the times when people have been praying for Bibles for their group or their schools and when we arrive we are often greeted by the attitude of 'we were expecting you.'"
In addition to the Bibles, the Adams was acutely aware of the encouragement they provided to "folks who are long past 'the honeymoon' stage of their ministry."
Since their inaugural deployment, the Quest and its owners traveled from New Zealand to Alaska to Central America, from Panama, through French Polynesia, the Cooks, Samoa, Tonga and back to New Zealand. Additional ports included the Fiji Islands.
In addition to the direct contacts they made with ministry leaders, they often handed off Bibles to people along the docks, who would take them into the interior regions of the countries they visited.
"Anytime we have workers on the boat or come into the dock and have an opportunity to talk to people we find more homes for our Bibles," the website said.Officials described the attack on the Americans as the biggest single loss in recent years. The demand of high ransoms is fueling the practice and at least 600 people from some 30 vessels are still believed to be in the hands of pirates in that region, despite stepped up efforts by multiple nations to protect sea traffic. Once the hostages reach land in Somali they easily disappear, according to officials.
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