A Seventh-day Adventist pastor on a volunteer project in El Salvador drowned February 24 while rescuing several people caught in a riptide in the Pacific Ocean.
Pastor Brian Han, 26, a teacher at Garden State Academy in New Jersey, United States, was accompanying a group of students on an eight-day mission trip to El Salvador. The students, along with pastors, leaders and volunteers from the New Jersey Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, were constructing a church. The project was a joint effort of Maranatha Volunteers International, a lay Adventist organization based in Sacramento, California, and the Adventist Church’s Columbia Union Conference, headquartered in Columbia, Maryland.
The volunteers were on an excursion to the beach at the end of their project. Early reports indicate that several people were wading in the ocean and suddenly became caught in a riptide. Han entered the water along with several lifeguards in a rescue attempt, and succeeded in assisting everyone to the shore before he was overcome himself.
“Our entire student body is in tremendous pain,” says Janet Ledesma, principal of Garden State Academy. “Pastor Han was held in very high regard by the students and we are all shocked by what has happened. However, they have hope in the fact that they can see him again in heaven.”
A team of counselors from Hackettstown Adventist Hospital, along with a group of pastors and educators from the New Jersey Conference, are assisting the student body. A memorial service for Pastor Han will be held at the academy.
“We express our greatest concern and sympathy for the Han family and project participants,” says Don Noble, president of Maranatha. “We solicit your prayers for all involved with this tragedy.”