Over 2,500 people gathered at Surabaya's Mawar Sharon Christian megachurch on Sunday to pray for the missing 41 church members who were on board the AirAsia QZ8501 flight, hoping for their return despite any signs that there could have been survivors in the fatal crash last week.
"Obviously in this situation, for people who believe in God, it is very easy to blame [and ask] why is all this so unfair," said Pastor Caleb Natanielliem. "As a pastor, I know that we are a family and we need to stand together."
The church members were traveling along with 121 other people on board the AirAsia flight on Dec. 28 from Indonesia to Singapore, when air traffic control lost contact with the flight. Two days later, debris from the plane and bodies were discovered in the Java Sea, leading search authorities to confirm that the flight had crashed.
Although severe weather conditions have hampered the search and the majority of the 162 passengers have not been accounted for, The Wall Street Journal noted that auhorities have offered little hope that any of the grieving families will see the safe return of their loved ones.
Natanielliem, who helped lead the services on Sunday, said that there were in total 52 church members and relatives of members on board the AirAsia flight. He said that he used Psalm 139 in his message to the families.
"It talks about how we can never escape from God's love,'' the pastor explained. "It talks about flying. If I can fly with my wings to the ends of the Earth, your love is still there. If I go to the bottom of the sea, to the darkest pit, your love is still there. I believe this is the message for the families."
The Rev. Philip Mantofa, who leads the congregation, comforted the families of the victims by saying that they will see their loves ones again in heaven.
"If God has called your child, allow me to say this: Your child is not to be pitied," Mantofa said, according to The Associated Press. "Your child is already in God's arms. One day, your family will be reunited in heaven."
The majority of the passengers on board Flight QZ8501 were Indonesians. There were also at least another five church members on board, who went to The Benathy Church in Surabaya, as well as a young missionary family from Korea.
The city is the second largest in terms of size in Indonesia, hosting 3.1 million people. Although only 10 percent of the country's populations are Christians, Surabaya is home to a growing number of faithful, who form a small but close-knit community.
International Christian Assembly's Pastor Bernardo Kariodimadjo said that the community members have been supporting each other in light of the tragedy.
"It has been such a distraught moment for all of us. We even held an impromptu prayer night for both the 30th and 31st, we opened up the church for prayer," Kariodimadjo said, according to Voice of America.
"In the wake of these events, we changed our sermons here to about facing life's pain. So it's something that is very near to our hearts and the focus and attention has gone to these people," he said.