A dream come true

Her biggest wish seemed unattainable. But Ashley-Ann unexpectedly found helpers. Here is how the physically handicapped young woman from South Africa was able to participate in the International Youth Convention in Germany.

Ashley-Ann Kortje (29) lives in Riversdale together with her parents, 300 kilometres east of Cape Town. Her legs ceased to grow at the age of five. She depends on a wheelchair to get around. On prosthetics she can only walk a few steps.

Ashley-Ann would love nothing more than to stand on her own two feet, also figuratively speaking. She attended a school for children with special needs in Cape Town. But due to a lack of funds, classes there stop after grade eight. The fact that Ashley has no high school diploma makes it difficult for her to find a job. With the wages her parents earn as farm workers and a small state support the family just manages to keep their heads above water.

The wish to be there

In spite of a hard life, the family radiates a joyful faith. Like many thousands of other New Apostolic young people, Ashley-Ann was really excited about the International Youth Convention 2019 (IYC 2019). She pictured how exciting it would be to be there and whom she would all meet there—all the time knowing only too well that her dream would never come true.

Then one night she actually dreamed that she was in Düsseldorf (Germany). First thing in the morning she told her mother about it. Her mother listened, but reminded her of their circumstances. But she did say to Ashley-Ann: “Keep your dream alive. God alone knows how everything will turn out.”

A desire to help

Joachim Schmidt (56) from a congregation in southern Germany is an avid motorcyclist. His wife, Elke, shares his passion. The two are friends with like-minded brothers and sisters not only in Germany, but also in South Africa.

Joachim, a self-employed energy consultant, and his wife—who themselves have three grown children and are now grandparents—wanted to offer a young South African brother or sister with special needs the possibility of attending the 2019 youth convention in Germany. A first attempt failed. “Our little project, for which we had prayed long and hard, almost came to nothing,” Joachim says, “but the principal at the South African school we had spoken to saw our disappointment and made a suggestion …”

A first meeting

A few days later, Elke and Joachim Schmidt drove to Riversdale to meet Ashley-Ann. After a warm welcome the tension in the room was palpable. When the German visitors introduced themselves and extended their invitation to Ashely-Ann to attend the youth convention, mother and daughter were speechless. “It took a minute until they realised what we had in mind. Cautiously, Ashley-Ann started to ask questions and then told us about herself,” Joachim Schmidt remembers.

“Shortly before we left, the mother said something to Ashley-Ann in Afrikaans, which the family’s Priest translated for us: ‘Your dream has come true!’ When we asked what she means, Ashley-Ann told us about her dream. When we heard this it was a sign for all of us that God must have had a hand in this.”

A lot of red tape had to be dealt with until all the documents necessary for Ashley-Ann’s trip to Germany were together. “But with God’s help and support from Joanne and Anton de Waal, our dear biker friends from Riversdale, Ashley-Ann managed to get a visa for Germany in time,” the Schmidts said. To make sure that nothing would go wrong in the end, the couple flew to Cape Town to meet Ashley-Ann and accompany her on her flight to Germany.

Right in the middle of things

Even months after the youth convention, Ashley-Ann still talks about her trip as though it was yesterday: “I am so grateful to our heavenly Father that He made it possible. Sometimes it feels as though I am still there because my memories are so intense.” One very special experience she had at the IYC was meeting the Chief Apostle. “To actually see him in real life, and not only on TV or in a magazine, was an amazing experience. Also that I was allowed to be so close to the Chief Apostle during the divine service I would never have dreamed of.”

The young sister is so grateful to all the people who made this miraculous experience possible: the school’s principal and the de Waals in South Africa, and particularly Elke and Joachim Schmidt. “I really appreciate what they did for me. I will never forget their love and kindness.”

Elke and Joachim Schmidt are happy that they were able to make Ashley-Ann so happy by making it possible for her to attend the youth convention. “The experience with Ashley-Ann was very special for us, because even when we had the feeling that all our efforts were in vain, God opened a door at the right time, solved problems, and gave us the right thoughts.” The couple has taken the young woman into their heart and would like to continue to support her so that her other big wish can come true: completing school and graduating, and continuing her education so that she can stand on her own feet.

This article was originally published in the German magazine “Unsere Familie”, edition 20/2019.

Article info


Dinara Ganzer, Andreas Rother
International Youth Convention 2019 (IYC), Congregational life