The Chinese students aboard the Asiana Airlines jet that crashed in San Francisco on Saturday were headed to a summer camp hosted by a church and Christian school in Southern California, but the school is now making it clear that no church-related events were planned for the students.
West Valley Christian Church and School made the clarification after it was reported that the parents of some of the students, who live in Communist China, were upset because they were not aware that the camp was to be held at a Christian church.
"Since [the] accident occurred on Saturday, the press arrived on campus on Sunday – the only day of the week where we gather together to worship God," said Derek Swales, administrator of the school, in an email to The Christian Post. "It certainly gave the appearance that they would be attending and participating in our church. But that is not the case."
The students were to use the school's classrooms Monday through Thursday during each of the three weeks they were there, said Swales, and they were under the guidance of instructors who were not affiliated with either the church or school.
Swales told The Wall Street Journal, however, that he planned to explain the basics of Christianity during a brief "orientation" for the students. He also told the Journal that the students who stayed with Christian host families might have attended church with or prayed with those families, but no Bibles would have been in the classrooms nor would there have been any organized prayers or church services.
Chinese authorities say they will review future trips for students, which could jeopardize two camps that are already scheduled to occur at the church later this summer, KNBC reports.
According to Swales, the Chinese "school district" stated the purpose of the trip was "to broaden students' views of life, let them personally experience a different culture, customs and habits, and to learn authentic American spoken English, and improve interpersonal skills during the trip." He says the Christian school could accommodate all of those goals, though he also says the school supports whatever decision Chinese officials make.
Thirty-five students were aboard Asiana Airlines Flight 214 when the plane crash landed, resulting in the deaths of teenagers Ye Mengyuan and Wanh Linjia. West Valley Christian Church is now collecting donations for the "Chinese Student Memorial Fund" to offer aid to the families affected by the tragedy.
The school has also planned a prayer vigil for the two 16-year-old girls who died in the crash. The vigil, which will be live-streamed via the Internet, is scheduled for 7 p.m. PT Thursday.
"Wow – such gifted talent with so much potential," Swales said of the teenagers who were killed. "Our hearts are broken for their loss of these girls."