It has been an honour

When the District Apostle Meeting was in session, he always sat in the first row, there where the Spanish-speakers sat. Because although he is the District Apostle of Brazil—where Portuguese is spoken—he speaks Spanish and is a native of Uruguay. A man with many talents is retiring.

You never really leave, an old adage says. And this is actually the case with Raúl Montes de Oca. He was the first leader of the purely Brazilian Church, and yet he is not even a Brazilian. When Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber asked in 2010, whether he and his wife could see themselves moving to Brazil, the Apostle gladly agreed. And this is how a Spanish-speaking Apostle, who is a native of Uruguay, came to Brazil to lead the congregations in the largest South American country. He did so for nine years. Tomorrow Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider will retire him.

Two become one

His successor has already been appointed: the Argentinian District Apostle Enrique Eduardo Minio will integrate the New Apostolic District Churches Brazil and Bolivia into his District Apostle Area, creating the District Apostle Area South America. That means that the more than 700 congregations in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay will from now on have the same leader. This is nothing new for the congregations. Although the New Apostolic Churches in Brazil and Argentina developed separately, there were times in the past when they shared the same leaders, such as at the time under Assistant Chief Apostle Heinrich Franz Schlaphoff in the 1930s to 1950s.

Until 2002 the New Apostolic Churches in this region were cared for by several District Apostles. The congregations in the northern part of Brazil were cared for from Germany. The congregations in Bolivia were looked after by the Church in the USA. From 2002 on, all of Brazil came under the leadership of District Apostle Guillermo Vilor from Argentina. Bolivia was added to his district later. When he retired, there were again two District Apostle Areas.

From his biography

Already as a child, Raúl Montes de Oca was familiar with the name Switzerland—not the country in Central Europe, but its Uruguyan counterpart: he was born in the city of Nueva Helvecia in Colonia Suiza in the district of Colonia (Uruguay). He was born to New Apostolic parents and was sealed as a baby by Apostle Godofredo Rufenacht. At the age of 18 he received the Deacon ministry and was ordained as a Priest in 1976. In December 1983 he was given the task of leading the congregation Colonia Suiza as rector. Further ordinations followed. Then on 27 September 1989 Chief Apostle Richard Fehr ordained him a Bishop in a divine service in Montevideo. This was the beginning of a memorable and eventful period, considering that from then on he worked both in Uruguay and in Brazil.

Full-time employ in the Church

Until 1992 he had worked as the managing director of an import and export company for agricultural machinery. Then he began to work for the Church full-time. In February 2003 Chief Apostle Fehr entrusted him with the Apostle ministry. On 10 October 2010 he became the District Apostle.

Travelling for God

Since then the District Apostle has worked and travelled tirelessly to reach the congregations in his care. Over the last few years he also added a few trips to the congregations in Venezuela, who are normally cared for by the Church in the USA. But on account of considerable travel restrictions imposed on US citizens to Venezuela, District Apostle Montes de Oca visited the brothers and sisters in the neighbouring country on behalf of District Apostle Kolb. Travel conditions in Venezuela have worsened considerably, the infrastructure is deteriorating rapidly, including the roads, so that getting anywhere takes twice as long, District Apostle Montes de Oca says. Another challenge is getting to the congregations in the Andes region in Bolivia. The congregation Potosí is located at 4,067 metres above sea level. The only way to get there from the airport is by taxi.

Thankful in looking back, bold in moving forward

For a long time, he has been working very closely and amicably with District Apostle Enrique Minio. The two began the process of amalgamation well in advance, the District Apostle says. In future, the Apostles from Argentina and Uruguay will care for the districts in Brazil and Bolivia. “The fact that the brothers who will support the work in Brazil speak Portuguese will make things easier,” the retiring District Apostle says. Also Bolivia will benefit from the new structure. “The same language and the geographical proximity will be of great help.”

Regarding the merger, the retiring District Apostle Montes de Oca says, “I trust that all members and ministers will give the new District Apostle the same kind of love and support they gave me over the course of my work.”

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Peter Johanning