Surabaya churches lose members to AirAsia crash

by Karen L. Willoughby |

(REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha)Indonesians hold up candles during a vigil for the victims of AirAsia flight QZ8501 at Surabaya December 31, 2014. Rescuers searching for an AirAsia plane carrying 162 people pulled bodies and wreckage from the sea off the coast of Borneo on Tuesday, prompting relatives of those on board watching TV footage to break down in tears. Indonesia AirAsia's Flight QZ8501, an Airbus A320-200, lost contact with air traffic control early on Sunday during bad weather on a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.

SURABAYA, Indonesia (Christian Examiner) – The Christian community in Surabaya has been particularly hard-hit by Sunday's crash of AirAsia Flight 8501.

The Mawar Sharon Church lost at least 41 members; the Bethany Church lost five family members of congregants.

Philip Mantofa, a pastor of the 30,000-member Mawar Sharon Church, meeting in 70 cell groups, said many members of the church go to nearby Singapore during holidays. He led prayer and songs Wednesday at the Surabaya airport.

"Some things do not make sense to us but God is bigger than all this," Mantofa said in a Daily Mail article.

Deddy (many Indonesians use only one name for identification), a church pastor at Bethany Church, told the New York Times the crash was a tragedy for all Indonesia. "We can guess from the names that many are Christian and Chinese," Deddy said. Bethany is part of the 250,000-member Bethany Indonesian Church Synod, which is a Pentecostal member of the Evangelical Fellowship of Indonesia.

In the latest news from the crash site, at least three people were found holding hands, and others were wearing life-jackets, indicating to rescuers and airline officials that passengers knew the plane was going down, and that not everyone died upon impact with the ocean.

A pilot for a air carrier suggested the reason for no "mayday" message was because the on-board pilots were so totally focused on flying the plane, according to the Daily Mail account. The people in life jackets indicated there wasn't a "catastrophic failure," and that perhaps the plane stalled when instruments iced up and gave the pilots inaccurate readings.

Indonesian search team members reported overnight that they found the fuselage of the Airbus 320-200 upside-down on the floor of the Java Sea off Borneo Island.

RELATED STORIES:

Families spared AirAsia tragedy thank Jesus, express sadness for 'people on the plane'

Indonesia's military search for AirAsia spotlights strength

South Korean missionaries remembered as AirAsia flight wreckage & bodies recovered 

Christian missionaries on missing AirAsia flight 8501