Church creates a school: Promoting young talent by the notes

A concert to mark the visit of the Chief Apostle? That's actually pretty standard for the agenda, just like this weekend in Kinshasa. What is unusual about this concert is where the instrumentalists have learned their handiwork, namely in the Church's own music school.

This initiative was worthy of a rather lengthy report to the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo: "The violin is like a friend to me," a seven-year-old girl tells the reporter. "When I lay her down in her violin case, I tell her, 'Good night, my little violin.'"

The little Congolese girl is one of the students of a music school which the New Apostolic Church established in Kinshasa nine years ago. Up until then, there had only been a single music school in the capital city of eight million inhabitants. In the meantime, the Church establishment alone has four locations.

Wilfried Retzlaff lives in Northern Germany Over the past 40 years, the passionate musician has acquired instrument after instrument. He now has seven violins and one cello. Now a pensioner, he was actually planning to sell them. But then he read a letter from an Apostle entitled, "My friend, the violin", in the "Our Family" magazine. After that it was clear to him: he wanted to support the work of District Apostle Michael Deppner in the Congo.

The starting beat fails

It all began with a wish for some accompaniment. After all, there are certainly plenty of choirs in Congo—and what choirs! But there are not many people who can play instruments. And yet, where there are talented singers, there should also be talented instrumentalists, hence the idea: "We will simply have to promote this somehow."

There is hardly any support for such a thing from the government's side. Although the "National Institute of Arts" resides in Kinshasa, the cost of lessons here is quite prohibitive. Nevertheless, the Church made its first attempt here—and failed: it was just too expensive to have a broad effect.

Accompanying music from all around the world

Bremen—Istanbul and Istanbul—Kinshasa: such was the flightpath of a cargo crate that Wilfried Retzlaff sent out. A sister in Kinshasa was already waiting for the load of musical instruments. She works at the airport and is familiar with all the formalities.

This was not the first package of its kind: the first instruments already came from Canada and South Africa—at that time still valuable items in hand luggage. But later there were also donations from South Africa, from the Philippines, and from Europe, such as the latest load of sixteen brass instruments supplied by Apostle Hans-Jürgen Berndt from Germany.

Musicians create a school

Professor René Ipwa was a lucky break for the music project: his commitment as a teacher paved the way for the Church to start its own music school for children and youth between the ages of seven and fifteen. And in the process, the Church took some lessons from the past: parents would have to share the cost of instruction. This reduces the drop-out rate.

What started out with nine children in one location has now spread to over 100 students in four locations in Kinshasa. Six of the original participants are now already in a position to give lessons themselves. And a good part of the music school will comprise the concert on the occasion of the Chief Apostle's visit.

In the meantime, Wilfried Retzlaff is happy that his violins have now managed to find new friends. He not only financed the transportation for these instruments, but also donated a good chunk of change to help cover the costs of lessons. Upon unpacking the instruments, each student will discover a heart-shaped card with a special greeting. These came from his wife Marita Retzlaff-Schwarze—the results of a drive in her home congregation under the motto: "Happy are those who make others happy".

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