The year 2021 in review: a lingering pandemic with no end in sight

Not even the Pentecost divine service could take place as usual! For the Chief Apostle and many millions of our members, this year was yet another difficult period defined by a global pandemic.

Now thank we all our God!” This was the joyful hymn of thanks that opened up the Pentecost service 2021. The international Church leader would have all too gladly gathered all the District Apostles and District Apostle Helpers of the world to share the weekend with him, but only two District Apostles from outside of Europe were able to come to Zurich due to the restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries were categorised as high-risk areas, which prevented most of the District Apostles and their assistants from travelling to Switzerland.

Despite these compromises, the Pentecost service still ended up being an international celebration! Being led by the Holy Spirit—as Apostle Paul put it in his letter to the Romans—was the theme of the divine service, a message that is still relevant for the believing congregation today.

Broadcast and blessed

In general, the opportunity to stream New Apostolic divine services has also turned out to be a genuine blessing. The Church is broadcasting on all channels, be it via YouTube, satellite, telephone, television channels, or IPTV! The virtual divine service offer has been massively expanded, and is bringing believers together, comforting and inspiring them every week.

Stopped before he could even start!

As Europe settled into summer, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider began to think about resuming his travel activity, but things did not go according to plan: “I have the tickets! I want to get going!” Beaming with joy and filled with hope, he was already anticipating his first pastoral trips to countries outside of Europe in July. But he was stopped dead in his tracks, unable to travel to Zambia or the Democratic Republic of Congo. What pained him more than his own disappointment was the disappointment of the local congregations.

The Chief Apostle remained confident: “This is just one example. I could mention many others. There were truly many, many disappointments—and we do not have answers as to why they had to happen—but I still believe that God loves me. Let us therefore hold fast to our faith!”

Praying for victims of the pandemic

The spread of Covid-19 also caused a great deal of grief in South-East Asia. It claimed the lives of many of our members and ministers. In response, District Apostle Edy Isnugroho issued a national call to prayer. His desire was to bring comfort and consolation to the members his region: “Dear brothers and sisters, from my office in Yogyakarta, I invite all of you, wherever you may be, to unite our hearts and bow before the almighty God, our heavenly Father, in humbleness,” he stated at the beginning of the event on Sunday evening, 18 July: “Let us help one another, hand in hand, and do our part for peace. Let us remain faithful in trusting God,” he told his brothers and sisters. Over 2,100 receiving stations across the large Regional Church were connected.

Little beams of great light

But there were also some bright spots, like in Cambodia, for example. There too, a second wave of the pandemic had begun to rage. The government had ordered a hard lock-down in the so-called red zones: businesses and factories were closed, and the whole area was closed off to the outside world. Such measures have the hardest impact on those who are already living from hand to mouth.

Apostle Sophal Keo from Phnom Penh witnessed the plight of his neighbours first-hand. He helped wherever he could. In the process, he was struck by the idea to call for donations from all of his friends and acquaintances on Facebook. They were quick to help, and before he knew it, the Apostle had raised some US $3,000.00, with which he was able to provide over 350 families in Cambodia’s red zones with food.

From bad to worse

Many countries around the world have been hit particularly hard. Covid couldn’t have struck at a worse time. In his Spotlight article, Apostle John Fendt reports on the terrible crisis in Venezuela. Most of the members were already having trouble feeding their families before the pandemic. Owing to the prevailing hyperinflation, an average monthly wage was just enough to buy twelve eggs. Then the pandemic struck, and the already fragile economic situation became even worse. Many have been infected, and it has been difficult for them to get medical attention. Nevertheless, the members in Venezuela continue wrestling to ensure they do not lose sight of their eternal future with God. As the District Apostle Helper relates, they have not given up.

Finally!

Finally, Argentina was back on the Church leader’s travel itinerary—and the trip even ended up happening! The Chief Apostle had made several attempts to visit the congregations in the South American country. But on Sunday, 7 November 2021, the special divine service in Buenos Aires finally became a reality. He based his sermon on the Bible text: “I will lift up my eyes to the hills from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121: 1–2). Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider spent an extended weekend in Buenos Aires. Despite the masks, the joy of this reunion could be clearly read on every face, said the Church leader happily.

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Peter Johanning
28.12.2021