Story highlights

Pastor: 46 members of the Mawar Sharon denomination were on AirAsia Flight QZ8501

In all, 162 people were aboard the plane, which went down Sunday en route to Singapore

Relatives of those on the plane gather for a service near an Indonesian hospital

Surabaya, Indonesia CNN —  

The world’s fourth-most populated country, Indonesia has about 250 million people. Any of them might have boarded AirAsia Flight QZ8501, never to come home.

Seven crew members and 155 passengers were aboard – almost one-third from the same Christian denomination.

There was no single reason that members of Mawar Sharon, a Protestant faith with about 45,000 members around Indonesia, got on the AirAsia Airbus plane Sunday, beyond a common desire to get to Singapore in time for New Year’s Eve. They weren’t heading to one event. They didn’t all necessarily know one another, having attended services at different churches mostly around Surabaya, the Indonesian city where the commercial airliner took off.

Still, their religion tied them together. And pastor Lianggone Tejo Bunarto says he hopes that those shared beliefs help their loved ones cope now, as the search for more crash victims continues in the Java Sea.

As Bunarto says, “We’re putting trust in God’s hands.”

Pastor: ‘Put our trust’ in God’s will

About 50 people with relatives on QZ8501 spent part of Friday afternoon inside a special church for police officers in Surabaya. It wasn’t a Mawar Sharon church; it was chosen because it’s near the hospital where recovered bodies are being identified. But it served the same purpose: to allow the grieving to congregate, to reflect and to voice their beliefs.

So they did, holding their hands high at times, holding each other’s hands in prayers at others. They sang, the anguish in their faces starkly evident.

Afterward, church members preferred not to talk to reporters. But Bunarto, who is a pastor to some of those on Flight QZ8501, did.

He acknowledges the struggles these Mawar Sharon members, not to mention scores of other families, are facing. They may not understand why the plane went down. They may have trouble waiting for definitive word that their loved ones have been recovered, if that ever happens. And, despite their fervent faith, they might not grasp God’s role in all of it.

Bunarto says, “Some things that happen in our lives, sometimes we just don’t understand what God really intends.”

That doesn’t mean they lose faith.

According to the pastor, “We just put our trust – everything, completely – in his will. Because he’s going to bring everything (that is) the best in our life.”

CNN’s Gary Tuchman reported from Surabaya, as did CNN’s Dominique Van Heerden. Greg Botelho wrote this story from Atlanta.