The Chief Apostle in West Africa
Not more than 25 hours … This is how long Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider will be in Guinea-Bissau. He will celebrate two divine services, carry out a retirement and an ordination, and meet with the Apostles and Bishops. Then he will continue to Senegal.
On Thursday, 16 February 2017, the international head of the New Apostolic Church will embark on a trip to West Africa. On his five-day trip he will cover about 14,000 kilometres, and will cross times zones and several climate zones.
In Guinea-Bissau the climate is tropical. At 35 degrees Celsius it is currently very hot and very dry. Currently, the Harmattan, a north-easterly trade wind carrying fine dust and sand particles is bringing desert-like conditions.
Airport, hotel, church
On Friday afternoon, the Chief Apostle and the District Apostles Markus Fehlbaum (Switzerland) and Rainer Storck (Germany), as well as District Apostle Helper João Uanuque Misselo will only have three hours of time to get their luggage at the airport, come to the hotel, check in, and get ready to leave for the church Bissau-Central. A service for district leaders is scheduled to begin at five o’clock in the afternoon. Invited are the ministers and their wives from 33 church districts in the country. The agenda for the evening calls for discussions with the Apostles and Bishops and dinner together.
On Saturday morning, 18 February 2017, Chief Apostle Schneider will celebrate a divine service in the national capital Bissau. He will place Apostle Evaristo Chivanja Tomas (64) into retirement a little earlier than usual for health reasons.
To succeed him, the Chief Apostle will ordain Bishop Bengui Massamuna an Apostle. He will care for the provinces Benguela, Bié, and Huambo. Bengui Massamuna is 55 years old and just recently received the Bishop ministry—in December in Angola. After the service there will be a little time for a snack before the group will head to Ziguinchor in Senegal by car—a drive of several hours.
Fehr, Leber, Schneider
“This is only the third visit of a Chief Apostle in the country. In 2002 Chief Apostle Richard Fehr conducted several services, and eight years ago Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber was our guest,” District Apostle Storck writes, who is responsible for the Church in Guinea-Bissau.
In his letter to Chief Apostle Schneider he adds: “Your visit will create new momentum for the faithful and for the ministers who care for them here in Guinea-Bissau.”
Slave trade, the colonial period, independence
After more than 500 years of colonialism and trading in slaves, the country waged war from 1963 to 1973 to gain its independence from Portugal. Today Guinea-Bissau is a semi-presidential republic with a multi-party system.
With a GDP of 206 US dollars per capita, it ranks fifth last on a list of 181 states. The country is situated on the Atlantic coast and has a population of 1.4 million. Forty-five per cent of the people are Muslims, 22 per cent are Christian.
650 New Apostolic congregations
The first New Apostolic ministers set foot in Guinea-Bissau in 1978. In 1989 the first local Apostle was ordained. In 2008 the District Church North Rhine-Westphalia took over the care of the congregations in the country. “Since then a lot has happened: we have restructured the districts, and last year I was able to dedicate a new central church,” District Apostle Storck says.
There are more than 45,000 New Apostolic Christians in the country, spread over 649 congregations. These are divided into 33 church districts, which are cared for by the Apostles Agostinho Indami, Sanhá N‘Dami, and Amilo N’Dam. They are assisted by two Bishops, 26 District Elders, 30 District Evangelists, 883 priestly ministers, and 896 Deacons.
Continuing in the direction of the Equator
On Sunday, 19 February 2017, Chief Apostle Schneider will celebrate a service in Sédhiou in Senegal. Three Bishops, between the ages of 38 and 43, are to be ordained as Apostles. In the afternoon of the same day, he will return home via Dakar and Paris. He will be back home on Monday afternoon.
Already two days later, on Wednesday evening, 22 February 2017, Chief Apostle Schneider will fly to South Africa. Within the space of four days he will celebrate divine services in Mpumalanga and in Durban, and meet with the Apostles.