Tecate, Baja California, Mexico | Inter-American Division Staff

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North Mexico is mourning the loss of two of its members who died this week during a master guide camping retreat at a national park in the trails of the Sierra Juárez Mountains. The bodies of Narcizo Mora Marín, 39, and of Jhoana Díaz López, 16, were found after an exhaustive search operation by park officials and rescue organizations.

“This is one of the most tragic and saddest incidents that our church has faced in its history,” said Pastor César Turrubiates, president of the church Baja California, in a video message.

“We know that the group had been approved by its church board to make the camping trip after a preliminary visit to the campsite by leaders was done in March of this year,” said Turrubiates. “They had plenty of water, food and the necessary equipment for the weekend retreat.”

According to church officials, the master guide group of 15 from the of Ojo de Agua and La Morita Adventist churches in Tijuana traveled approximately 130 kms to the Nacional Constitucion 1857 Park in Sierra de Juárez for their camping retreat.

The group completed an early morning walk on July 22, 2016, and the the plan on the agenda was to rest, hydrate and eat on Sabbath and start a 4.5 km walk and return distance of 4.5 km at 4:00 p.m.

The group had divided into two groups and began their 4.5 km walk that would lead them to a second station where a coordinator would instruct the master guides on specific activities, before they took off to the next station.

The first group made up of five master guides got mixed up and made a wrong turn, never arriving at the second station. Mora and Diaz were in that group. Later that evening church leaders were notified that a girl from Tijuana had been hospitalized in Tecate. Local church leaders soon notified Civil Protection officials at the park and a search and rescue operation began for the missing group. Two other members of that first group were found.

Early Sunday morning, the church rented another helicopter for the search while Civil Protection agents, firefighters and other specialized search personnel continued on the ground.

“Sadly, Mora’s body was recovered on July 25, and Díaz the next day,” said Turrubiates. “We have been ministering to the surviving families from the very beginning and arranged all transport and arrangements during this tragedy.”

Government officers with the Civil Protection Agency stated that due to the high temperatures and the lack of water during the time Díaz and Mora went missing, was the cause of their deaths.  

Church members crowded the Ojo de Agua Adventist church in Tijuana yesterday for a special memorial service in honor of Master Guide Jhoana Díaz. Dozens of master guides from local churches gathered at the burial site to pay their respects to their fellow guide.

Jhoana Díaz López is survived by her mother, stepfather and older brother.

Narcizo Mora is survived by his wife Eva, and two sons ages 8 and 2. Turrubiates has traveled with Eva to the State of Guerrero for Mora’s memorial and funeral services in his hometown.

Turrubiates thanked church members for their prayers during the search and during this time of loss and appealed for more prayers for the surviving families.

In a message, Al Powell, youth ministries director for the church in the Inter-American Division, expressed how moved with compassion he was at the loss of two of our finest master guides from Baja California Conference.

“To the families, club leaders and church members, and close friends of Narcizo and Jhoana, I would like to express our deepest sincere condolences to each of you. Together, the youth directors and young people throughout our territory have committed to continue holding you in prayer. May you feel the reassurance and comfort that only Jesus can give and remember that very soon He will return as promised and He will give life back to those who await and we will never part again,” stated Powell.

For more information, visit the Adventist Church’s Baja California Facebook account HERE.