A Church of closeness

Before the Pentecost service, which was broadcast throughout Europe, some congregations in Switzerland and southern Germany had the opportunity to get to know the leaders of the international Church a little better during the midweek service. Here is a small sample of the many encounters.

Whether in a small congregation with a handful of members or a crowd of tens of thousands: District Apostles, like the Chief Apostle, are basically always just stopping in for a quick visit. Yet, the District Apostles and the District Apostle Helpers demonstrated that personal encounters are possible. On the Wednesday before the 2024 Pentecost celebrations they were booked to conduct divine services in around two dozen congregations in Switzerland and the south of Germany.

About offering and sacrifice

District Apostle Tshitshi Tshisekedi from the south-eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was asked in a question-and-answer session about Europe’s support for the Church in Africa. His reaction: he stood up, calmly buttoned his jacket, and folded his hands. Then he looked at the congregation and bowed. Whether musical instruments, church buildings, or travel expenses, none of this would be possible without financial support from Europe. The congregation in Gossau in Switzerland learned about what it means that God blesses offerings and sacrifices. The District Apostle said that the Church in the Congo not only received financial but also spiritual support in the person of the retired District Apostle Armin Studer, who also worked in the Congo some time ago and shaped the faith of the brothers and sisters.

District Apostle Peter Lambert from South Africa also spoke about sacrifice with young people in Lörrach, Germany, when they started to talk about why people should make time and volunteer for the Church at all today. When answering this question, we should always be aware that time is a gift from God, the District Apostle said.

How we use this time is up to each of us as individuals. The young people were impressed by how much time District Apostles Lambert and John Schnabel (USA) took to ask them about their personal plans in life.

A look at cultural diversity

District Apostle Helper João Misselo from Angola told the congregation in Liestal in Switzerland that he is often separated from his family for two months at a time when he travels. His family is large. He and his wife have ten children. He responded to the impressed reactions with a relaxed wink and the remark, “Africa!” On his travels, he usually conducts around twenty divine services per month to provide for the widely scattered children of God.

In Basle in Switzerland the moderators asked District Apostle Mark Woll from Canada questions about his work in Africa, India, Sri Lanka and, of course, Canada. When asked about the differences between the cultures, he explained that, in his view, Africans are often happier people than Canadians. He realised, he says, that people in the western world are often so focused on material things that they have lost their happiness and joy.

Touching encounters

Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider surprised the congregation in Oberwinterthur in Switzerland together with the local District Apostle Jürg Zbinden and his assistant Thomas Deubel. He also socialised with the brothers and sisters after the divine service.

In the congregation of Hüntwangen in Switzerland, District Apostle Michael Ehrich talked about the recent Church Convention that had taken place in Southern Germany and he even sang in the choir.

In Waldshut in Germany, children led the question-and-answer session with District Apostle Michael Deppner from the western part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was happy to answer questions about his personal situation, about the Church, and on life in general in the Congo. The brothers and sisters were given many insights into his work and were amazed when the District Apostle told them about the 1,700 congregations in Kinshasa alone.

In the other congregations, too, the brothers and sisters were able to experience that the Apostles were passionate about their ministry and work rather than seeing it as a burden.

When asked why he was doing this at all, one District Apostle Helper answered, “Quite simply, because I love Jesus.”

They had come to serve

‌The Church leaders did discuss a number of broader organisational issues and theological subjects in the days that followed, but what became clear in many of the personal encounters around the midweek service is that kindness and personal care of the individual and the serving nature of their ministry are still important to the District Apostles. And so, on that evening, many were moved by what they heard and saw and it will be something that will resonate for a long time to come.