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Somali Pirates Kill Bible Distributors

Scott Adam, a graduate of Fuller Seminary, was killed with three others after they were taken hostage.

Bible distributors who were taken hostage by Somali pirates were killed while negotiations between the pirates and U.S. military forces were underway Tuesday morning.

U.S. forces boarded the yacht in response to gunfire, and discovered that four hostages had been shot. Two of the pirates were killed, and 13 captured in a confrontation, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command. Scott and Jean Adam's vessel Quest was taken hostage last week; 19 pirates were believed to be involved in the hijacking.

"As (U.S. forces) responded to the gunfire, reaching and boarding the Quest, the forces discovered all four hostages had been shot by their captors," the U.S. Central Command statement said. "Despite immediate steps to provide life-saving care, all four hostages ultimately died of their wounds."

Scott Adam is a master of divinity graduate from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. He also received a master of theology from the school in 2010, says Fred Messick, Fuller's associate vice president of public affairs.

The couple had expressed some unease in an e-mail sent several days before the hijacking, says Craig Detweiler, a professor at Pepperdine University, who attended Fuller with Adam.

"They acknowledged that they were navigating a global hot spot," he said. "But it was also not like them to shy away. Things grew strangely silent in the last week."

The Adams were married later in life, Detweiler said, describing Scott as having a "deeply liturgical" Anglican and Catholic faith.

"They had a rooted confidence in the authoritative power of God's word," Detweiler said. "Their notion of traveling the world and spreading the word of God connected to all that they understood about our calling in life."

The couple had been distributing copies of Scripture, including "Catholic Bibles" from the American Bible Society and NIV Bibles from the International Bible Society, to places like Tahiti, New Zealand, and Fiji. "Because Catholics have a slightly different Bible than Protestants we carry both Bibles, and at several different reading levels," they wrote on their website.

The couple wrote on their website that part of their travels include "friendship evangelism—that is, finding homes for thousands of Bibles, which have been donated through grants and gifts, as we travel from place to place."

"Often people have an agenda behind their 'gifts,'" Jean wrote on the website. "Scott & I feel that we can do more as 'unassociated missionaries.' (Our only association is that of fiscal oversight by the Quest Mission Church in Bakersfield.) This allows us to follow the Spirit as we search for 'homes' for our Bibles."

The organizers of a yacht race called the Blue Water Rally said the Quest was part of the race but left on February 15 to chart a different course. Philis Macay and Bob Riggle of Seattle were traveling with the Adams on that portion of their trip.

The Adams were members of Saint Monica's Catholic Church in Santa Monica, California. "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, told 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."

The retired couple might be a reflection of a generation interested in combining their faith with another stage of life, said Scott Moreau, professor of missions at Wheaton College.

"They have a set of personal interests, they've dreamed about retirement but the gospel becomes intertwined with that," Moreau said. "This couple might be a small microcosm of that."

The Adams' distribution of Bibles on a vessel is unusual, Moreau said, but many Christians are finding a retirement outlet in missions.

"We see people retiring and ready for second or third careers," Moreau said. "You see things that offer unique opportunities that, this case, ended very tragically for them."

The Vatican is becoming increasingly concerned about piracy, and held a conference last week on providing better assistance to hijacked sailors and their families back home, the Associated Press (AP) reports.

The pirates in northern Somalia are not hard-line Islamists and a yacht carrying Bibles is not likely to be a problem, the AP reports.

Two Somali pirates spoke with Reuters by telephone.

"Our colleagues called us this morning, that they were being attacked by a U.S. warship," a pirate who identified himself as Mohamud told Reuters. "The U.S. warship shot in the head two of my comrades who were on the deck of the yacht by the time they alerted us," Mohamud said. "This is the time we ordered the other comrades inside yacht to react—kill the four Americans because there was no other alternative—then our line got cut."

Scott Stolnitz, a friend of the couple, told CNN that vigorous evangelism was not a major emphasis for the couple. "They were not proselytizing evangelicals," Stolnitz said. "They were using their Bible mission as a way to break the ice in the Christian community, particularly in the Pacific."

Related Elsewhere:

Christianity Today has been following the developments on LiveBlog.

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