Pioneers with priorities

From Germany via Canada to Venezuela, and from there through Central and South America: this is the story of Apostle Lorenz Hans Muth. He was a pioneer in the classical sense and would have been one hundred years old today, 30 January 2023.

“I will never forget the moment when he stood next to me at the altar in Berne, Switzerland, to receive the Apostle ministry on Pentecost 1980.” Chief Apostle Richard Fehr remembered his companion fondly. “This was the first time I saw and met you. After that you went back to South America,” he said at the time.

The fact that Lorenz Muth ended up in America in the first place and then became an Apostle was by no means preordained.

Finding faith again

Lorenz was born on 30 January 1923 in Anrath near Krefeld, Germany. His parents were Catholic. The things he experienced as a young soldier in World War II moulded his character. “On account of the circumstances, I lost my faith in God and in a life after death,” it says in his biography.

But the year 1947 marked two turning points in his life: Lorenz met Charlotte and fell in love with her. The two married that same year. And he came in contact with the New Apostolic Church. “This rekindled my faith. In fact, I was sealed in 1948.”

Seek first the kingdom of God

The couple moved to Canada in 1955. There Lorenz Muth received his first ministry in the Church, as a Subdeacon. And he displayed a certain missionary zeal. For example, after moving to another town within Canada, he contacted a German welfare organisation to obtain addresses of fellow Germans living in the town.

The organisation wanted to know why he needed the addresses. He wanted to start a New Apostolic congregation, he told them. “Do you already have a job?” he was asked. His answer was no. “We have only just moved here,” he added. Then he said: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6: 33).

What followed then was no surprise. During this time, District Apostle Michael Kraus prayed again and again for someone to help with the work of the Church in Venezuela. This touched Charlotte and Lorenz Muth. But they had their doubts whether they were the right people for the job. In December 1965, the two finally brought themselves to make a decision and reported to their Bishop. The following year they moved to Venezuela at the request of District Apostle Kraus.

Throughout Central America

Lorenz Muth, who had been ordained as an Evangelist in the meantime, did not even know where Venezuela was. “Somewhere in South America. I guess I wasn’t paying attention in geography class.” His visions of palm trees, beaches, and blue seas were not disappointed. But he also had to deal with dense jungle.

With the help of tapes and books, Charlotte and Lorenz learned Spanish. Their first attempts, namely asking someone for directions to the post office, were less than encouraging. But already in December 1967 Lorenz Muth was able to conduct his first divine service in Spanish.

From 1970, his work for the Church expanded to include Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. Later, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Trinidad, and Suriname were added. At the same time, he received additional ministerial mandates: first as a District Evangelist and then as a District Elder.

In whatever country the couple happened to be working, Charlotte Muth held Sunday School and formed choirs. The couple had no children of their own, but they adopted two Colombian boys as their own sons.

The work continues

On 25 May 1980, Lorenz Muth was ordained as an Apostle in Berne, in the same divine service as a certain Richard Fehr. “At the time, I would never have dreamed that I would one day be Chief Apostle and retire you,” Chief Apostle Richard Fehr said eleven years later at Apostle Muth’s retirement.

When Lorenz Muth set out to work in Venezuela in 1966 there were not even a dozen Church members in the country. Today, the statistics show 12,000 New Apostolic members spread over 108 congregations, who are served by 214 ministers.

Apostle Muth passed away on 23 June 1999 at the age of 76. His closest co-worker in Venezuela was Walter Wicke, who had emigrated from Germany in the 1950s to avoid being ordained. In 1967 he became a Subdeacon and eventually, in 1994, an Apostle—also for Venezuela.

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Katrin Löwen