A South African falls in love with Germany

The pipe organ in our Silvertown church in Cape Town (South Africa) has 2,600 pipes. This is where Tristan Williams plays every Sunday. But in the summer of 2016, other organists had to cover for him for three months when he went on a trip to Germany.

His eyes wide with surprise, Tristan says, “Me? You want me to play the organ here?” Christoff, the principal organist for the 2016 Day of the Youth in Frankfurt (Germany), nods. He is relieved to have found a replacement for his second organist, who still has not showed up although it is nearly time for the service to start.

“I was a little worried because I thought that the hymns might be different,” he said later. But then it was almost as if the organ played by itself. The young organist, then 19 years old, was very honoured to be able to play on this special occasion.

Normally, Tristan plays in our congregation in Silvertown, in Cape Town. Every Sunday he accompanies hundreds of brothers and sisters on the organ for the congregational hymns. He was fifteen when he first played in divine service. “At first I was a bit nervous. Now it is completely normal. And sometimes it’s really cool to play. I always ask myself if God is pleased with my playing.”

From a language course to a trip abroad

From 2012 to 2016, Tristan took German at school. In 2012, his mother referred some German visitors to her son. She had heard that these people came from Germany and wanted her son to practise his German a little. Besides, the visitors—Walter and his family—needed an interpreter for their excursions in Cape Town. Tristan spent time with the German family and stayed in contact with them.

The South African’s wish to see Germany became bigger and bigger. Walter invited him to stay with them in Grünberg for three months. From there, the young organist made trips to various cities in Germany. Munich, for example, was an absolute must, as was the stadium of his favourite team. And in Stuttgart he visited a local museum dedicated to his favourite car brand.

Although he was a little shy at first to approach people because of his limited vocabulary, he soon got to know many people on his travels and through his host, Walter, who became his friends. The South African had not expected such hospitality and warmth. During his travels he sometimes had a little trouble understanding the people properly. “The language was a bit difficult for me, because of the many dialects.”

Surprised by the congregations

The divine services were easier to understand for him. “They spoke very slowly and, I believe, they also spoke standard Germany.” Wherever he met New Apostolic people he always felt warmth and friendliness. Besides, he had the impression that everybody knew everybody. “In Silvertown this is impossible because there are so many people in divine service.”

Tristan Williams was surprised to see that many congregations in Germany are small. “The Church started in Germany, so I thought that there would be many members in our churches. In Cape Town there is a church every two or three kilometres.”

Asked if there is anything we can do better in our congregations in Germany, he said, “Sing a little more slowly. I think you should enjoy the hymns more. If everything is so fast, you can’t really appreciate them.” Tristan also noticed what the confirmands wear at their confirmation. In Cape Town the confirmands always wear black-and-white. That is more festive.

Hoping to come back

Tristan would love to come back to Germany after he finishes his studies. He wants to become a dentist. He would like to practise his profession in Germany, not so much because you earn more in Germany as a dentist than in South Africa, but because he felt so at home in Germany. While in Germany, he stayed in a small village, which he really enjoyed. He also liked that the people were so friendly.

Tristan liked the fact that people greeted each other on the road. This is a custom he got to know, which is practiced in small villages in Germany. He has tried to introduce it in Cape Town, in the hope of bringing a smile to people’s face on the street.

Tristan’s trip is a while back now. He still likes to think about it. He misses Germany and looks forward to his next trip. Maybe for the International Youth Convention in 2019.

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