Sam, the Chief Apostle’s interpreter for English

He wowed the audience. “Fantastic interpretation” is what people said in the congregations and on the social networks. And always the same question: who is this guy who worked so hard during the Pentecost service?

Samuel Mueller interpreted for hours on end during the Pentecost gathering in Vienna (Austria). Much of the time he sat in a small interpreting booth in the conference room. There were also many conversations that needed interpreting, and on Sunday during the divine service in the Vienna concert hall, he was at the Chief Apostle’s side.

“Is your shirt and suit dry again?” This was a question Sam Mueller heard often in the past few days. In fact, his propensity to perspire even inspired his friends in Canada to tease him by asking, “What’s the name of that new lake you made in Austria?” Sam Mueller takes it in his stride and smiles. The Canadian is not easily flustered.

Husband, father, author, and Bishop

Sam Mueller is 46 years old and married to Christina. They have two wonderful children: their daughter, Kristin, who is ten years old, and their son, Victor, who is seven. The family lives north of Toronto, in the province of Ontario in south-eastern Canada. He is a family man and loves to work in the garden when he has some time on his hands or to take long walks with his family or to write fiction. He actually does not have enough time to write, though. This is something that he wants to change a little later on.

In Canada, the Bishop—who works as a translator—looks after twenty congregations in Greater Toronto (Ontario), in Quebec, and on Canada’s eastern coast. He helps look after the youth across Canada. The Bishop who is currently responsible for the youth will be retiring at the end of the year, and Sam Mueller’s responsibilities will grow.

Interpreting the interpreter

The congregation in Halifax in the province of Nova Scotia is the farthest congregation that he looks after. He usually flies there because by car it would take him something like twenty hours to cover the well over one thousand kilometres.

On such pastoral trips it often happens that he conducts a service in English and has a French interpreter standing next to him. “In some of the congregations some of the members speak only English and others only French,” he explains.

Every language has its peculiarities

Sam Mueller speaks English, French, German, Spanish, and also a little Cambodian. He does not favour one language over another. And over Pentecost one got a sense that this is really the case: in conversation with brothers and sisters from all over the world he jumped from English to French to German and also to Spanish almost sentence by sentence. And it looks so easy as though it was the most normal thing in the world.

Every language has its peculiarities, the language lover says. Spanish is very emotional, the German language is ideal for expressing things in an exact way, and French is very eloquent … He is also fascinated by the relationships between languages and their similarities. His love for languages goes even further: “The next thing I want to do is learn Italian and then Lingala,” Bishop Mueller says. He has always had his eye on Lingala, one of the national languages in the Congo.

Translating is luxury, interpreting a challenge

To have time to trawl through a dictionary or do research on the Internet—that is luxury, Sam Mueller says when asked about the difference between interpreting and translating. When you interpret, you are at the mercy of the speaker. Every word has to be spot on. There is no time to think about things or look something up. “I am so relieved when things succeed.”

Interpreting can get physical

When District Apostle Bernd Koberstein was called to the altar on Pentecost there was a little bit of a surprise for the experienced pro. The District Apostle from Germany mentioned the concert on Saturday evening and the announcement by the conductor: “The one hundred young people here are on fire!” District Apostle Koberstein was so excited that he raised his fist into the air and called, “Jaaa!” He told the Bishop that he would not have to interpret that, but for Sam Mueller it was clear: “I could not have done anything else but interpret this gesture as well.” The jaaa became a yes, and the gesture was the same. At the altar both men broke into a grin, and so did the brothers and sisters.

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