Evangelism and piracy on the high seas

Scott and Jean Adam (pictured here) had their yacht Quest hijacked by Somali pirates last Friday. Also on board were Phyllis MacKay and Bob Riggle. (Recent reports say that all four were killed.) Piracy is a major problem in the unstable waters near Somalia and many people are following the story with interest. The U.S. Navy is even involved. Part of that may have to do with the recent sentencing of Somali pirate Abduwali Abukhadir Muse. When he received 34 years in prison last week, calls for retaliation were made.

While almost all of the news reports mention that the Adams’ yachting is part of a Bible distribution ministry, I wanted to highlight a few stories that went beyond those brief mentions with good results. First off, we have the Orange County Register, which describes the Adams’ trip as “part adventure, part ministry,” and visits the couple’s home church in Santa Monica:

On Saturday night, parishioners said a prayer for Jean and Scott Adams [sic], who are longtime members of Saint Monica’s Church in Santa Monica, said Msgr. Lloyd Torgerson.

“They are great people,” he said. “They are on a mission to bring Bibles to schools, hospitals and missions They’re both retired and that’s what they want to do. They are faith-filled, wonderful people.”

Prayers are said at every mass, we’re told. If you can get through the obnoxious headline and lede of the LA Weekly blog post that calls the Adams Bible-thumping conquistadors, you learn that St. Monica’s parishioners include Martin Sheen and Brooke Shields. They also link to an interesting CBN News report.

I hear that reporters who have contacted the couple’s friends have had a bit of trouble with the story. That’s because government employees have told associates not to discuss specifics of the couple while they’re still working the case. The couple’s web site (where I got the picture above) has a ton of information, however.

While these Somali pirates are nominally Muslim, they are not engaged in piracy as part of a religious campaign. The Associated Press clarified that in their report on the hijacking:

The Adams … run a Bible ministry, according to their website, and have been distributing Bibles to schools and churches in remote villages in areas including the Fiji Islands, Alaska, New Zealand, Central America and French Polynesia.

The Adams carry both Catholic and Protestant versions of the Bible, and at several different reading levels. The couple stamps the bibles with “A GIFT from your friends in the United States. Quest Bible Ministry. NOT FOR SALE,” after discovering a teacher who they gave Bibles to sold them.

The pirates from Puntland are not hardline Islamists and the fact the Adams carry Bibles is not likely to be a problem. Pirates in Puntland are known to spend their ransom spoils on alcohol, drugs and prostitutes.

I’d almost forgotten there might be a religion angle on the other side of the piracy story. AP did a good job of including a detail that many other people probably were curious about.

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  • liberty

    I had to go read the link to be sure that the ‘Bible thumping conquistador’ line wasn’t just hyperbole on your part. I read it but I almost still can’t believe it was published with those terms. How did that get past an editor?

    I really thought I couldn’t be shocked by the malice towards people of faith in the media but that article crosses a whole new line.

  • http://paulsanduleac.com Paul Sanduleac

    Thanks for covering stuff I couldn’t notice otherwise.

  • Martha

    Good God in heaven. Get a load of the opening paragraph, and then tell me where you’ve seen anything more dripping with condescension, sneering, and ‘they were asking for it!’:

    “Jean and Scott Adam, two outdoorsy Orange County missionaries who belong to Saint Monica Catholic Church in Santa Monica and the Del Rey Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey, just couldn’t settle for a life of plain ol’ door-to-door Bible thumping.”

    Lovely work, Ms. Simone Wilson. I hereby award you the P.Z. Myers Medal for Media Coverage of Religion Matters.

    Now, on to a substantive consideration of the story. I’m surprised that the Adams were Catholics, because these kinds of Bible distribution trips are more an Evangelical Protestant thing (my denomination has many good qualities, but when it comes to lay evangelisation, we pretty much suck).

    Was this part of a ministry sponsored by their parish church, or an initiative of their own? Anyway, God rest their souls.

  • http://www.boatbottomcleaningmarinadelrey.com Marina Del Rey Sailing

    Marina Del Rey Sailing- Sorry to hear about the murder of the couple by the Somalian pirates according to ABC News this AM.

    We pray for the victims families.

    Thanks to the US Navy for killing or capturing around 19 pirates on the commandered 100 foot yacht after the 4 Americans were killed.

    We in Marina Del Rey will miss them

    Capt William Johns
    Marina Del Rey Sailing

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    Here’s a link to The Associated Press story on their deaths.

  • Mike Hickerson

    Unlike the AP, I wouldn’t be so quick to conclude that the presence of Bibles wasn’t an issue for the pirates. Just because they aren’t pious in their personal lives or Islamist in their politics doesn’t mean the pirates wouldn’t have cultural and religious biases against Christian missionaries. Are there Christian groups active in Somalia? What have they encountered?

  • Jerry

    I haven’t read or heard the dismissive “bible thumping” pejorative for years. Good grief.

    I’m sorry to hear that they were murdered by the hijackers.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie


    At the very least, I think the AP should source the claim (as well as the one about drugs and prostitutes) as opposed to asserting it without substantiation.

  • http://www.boatbottomcleaningmarinadelrey.com Sailing Marina Del Rey

    Marina Del Rey Boat- Tbe tragedy of the murder of the 4 Americas was described by the LA Times: “The owners of the yacht Quest, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey and another couple, Phyllis Macay and Robert Riggle of Seattle, were on an around-the-world sailing trip when they were taken hostage by pirates Friday off of Oman.

    Marina Del Rey mariners remember Jean and Scott Adam as great people.

    We pray for their families.

    May God Bless Them.

    Winston Abercombie
    Marina Del Rey Boat

  • http://www.ChristiansFindLove.com Derek Carter

    I was reading about the two couples that were killed by pirates which is tragic. I know the article said they were delivering bibles as they traveled the globe. Governments really need to take care of this pirate issue and quickly. These pirates know they can make a ton of money so the violence will never end. I pray for the families and the pirates to have god change their heart.

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    The LA Weekly has updated their blog post to remove much of the most offensive language. “Bible-thumping” and “conquistador” no longer appear. Here is the new opening, after an update about the couples’ deaths:

    Jean and Scott Adam, two outdoorsy Orange County missionaries who belong to Saint Monica Catholic Church in Santa Monica and the Del Rey Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey, decided in 2001 to take the Holy Word to the open seas, sailing to foreign lands on their custom-built “S/V Quest” and handing out Bibles to the natives.

    But on February 18, their mission took a turn into darkness. An adventurous detour through the Indian Ocean led the SoCal couple (and their passengers, Seattle couple Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle) straight into skull-and-crossbones territory.

    Also, LA Weekly mentions Martin Sheen as the St. Monica’s member, not Charlie, though I hope Charlie is getting himself to church soon.

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    For some reason, this new AP report (by the same reporter as the earlier one) now simply describes the couples as “yacht enthusiasts.”

  • Maureen

    Mr. Adam was originally Protestant and attended a seminary, apparently (Episcopal?), but converted to Catholicism at some point. (Not much info on this.)

    The couple’s website says they passed out either Catholic or Protestant Bibles, whatever the locals asked for.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    BBC report I heard this afternoon was totally faith free.