What’s love got to do with it?

“My congregation in a shoebox” was a campaign that was started in the run-up to the 2014 International Church Convention intended to forge bonds between congregations. But what does love have to do with it? Well, at least one of the bonds forged ended up to be more permanent than initially intended. Here is the story of Jolanthe and Tobias.

How did Würzburg and Backnang, two congregations in the southern part of Germany, come together?

Some of the members in the congregation of Würzburg were familiar with the congregation of Backnang from videos that were shown at a Day of the Youth. That is why Backnang was one of the congregations on the short list of potential partner congregations. When my mother, who was the ambassador for our congregation in Würzburg, had to decide which of two congregations to choose, she asked me what I thought. I spontaneously said “Backnang” because of the fantastic video clips.

What did you expect from the shoebox campaign at the time?

We wanted to get to know people from other congregations, have regular activities with them, talk about ideas for activities in congregations (for Sunday School, for example) and get together with the youth on a regular basis.

And that worked?

Tobias: The project was very successful. A group of members from Würzburg were the first to take the plunge and come to Backnang for a divine service. Already during their first visit, and all the ones to follow, there was a very friendly atmosphere. The first trip to Würzburg was on the third Sunday of Advent in 2014. After tea we visited the Christmas market in Würzburg.

… where the two of you got closer?

Jolanthe: While we were having tea, Tobias and I sat next to each other. We talked the whole time. As we were strolling across the Christmas market it was obvious that it had somehow clicked between us. There were six of us and we hung out together during the tour. We also took photos at one of the fountains in front of the Würzburg palace. It was a lot of fun. When it was time to say goodbye that evening no one wanted to leave. It was an unforgettable day.

But there was more to come, right?

Tobias: That was the beginning of our relationship. For the next eighteen days WhatsApp messages flew back and forth between us. Already the next day it was clear that Jolanthe would celebrate New Year’s Eve with me in Backnang and that I would go and spend a few days with her in Fürth after that. We consider New Year’s Eve our anniversary. It is fantastic because every time we celebrate it, there are fireworks.

Jolanthe: Already early on in our friendship it was clear that both of us could see ourselves spending life together, and we often philosophised about our future. While Tobias talked about buying a house together I was already planning our wedding. Finally, on Tobias’s birthday in 2016, during a holiday in Spain, he proposed to me. He had chosen the perfect spot with a breathtaking view of the Pyrenees and the Atlantic. When he asked me I accepted with a very happy yes.

And then there was a happy end?

Jolanthe: Our wedding was an absolute dream! It was exactly as we had imagined it to be. We were married in July 2017 in Würzburg, my home congregation. So that Tobias’s home congregation would not feel neglected, we did the civil ceremony in Backnang. Of course some of the members from the congregation were there too. They gave us a shoebox as a gift. The shoebox theme accompanied us throughout the day: from the divine service to the reception to the gifts …

The Chief Apostle recently celebrated a divine service in Backnang. How was that for you?

We don’t live in Backnang any more but in Esslingen, so we watched a transmission of the divine service. Either way, we always look forward to divine services by the Chief Apostle, but this time especially because we know the congregation so well.

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