“Our Church is alive!”
From the Caribbean via Spain to the Black Sea: the working area that District Apostle (ret.) Markus Fehlbaum of Switzerland looked after for ten years took him to countries with diverse cultures and languages. How did he do it all?
What developments would you consider to be a milestone?
There are many, for our Church is alive. There is our new understanding of baptism, our definition of the church of Christ, the new rule concerning priestly ministers and the conducting of divine services, but also our new definition of ministry with its distinction between ordination, appointment, and assignment. Another milestone is the official establishment of the Church in Cuba.
You looked after so many countries. How did you bridge the cultural divides?
By accepting the people and loving them as they are. We approached them in a spirit of tolerance and esteem, and we trust them. This is how the Church can be built and established across the globe.
In addition to the languages spoken in Switzerland, you speak English, Spanish, and Romanian. You obviously have an aptitude for languages.
I grew up in a bilingual city, so I got a feeling for languages already very early. I like to communicate, I like to be with people and talk to them and share with them. That has made it easy for me to learn languages.
Was language the key to winning people for our faith?
I could talk to people without having to use the services of an interpreter and answer their letters without the help of a translator. That brought us close. Trust developed and made it possible to work together as disciples of Jesus.
How did you prepare for your retirement?
By looking forward to having more time for my family, my friends, and for myself. I will continue to be involved in a number of different tasks, but at a different level and at a different pace. I wish to continue to be a servant of Jesus.
What are the challenges in your new phase of life?
I want to continue doing good and giving love to the best of my ability and means. I want to engage myself for the welfare of our youth and children—including my four grandchildren—as well as people in need, also our brothers and sisters. I want to help along so that as many young people as possible, also from missionary areas, can participate in the IYC 2019 in Düsseldorf. I will continue to chair our humanitarian institutions, Humanitas and Diakonia. And I plan to be more involved in our children’s homes in Romania and Moldova. In Cuba I am busy helping to develop administrative structures and our Church office.
What will you do with any free time you may have?
Languages remain my passion. I will continue to learn Romanian so that I can correct the Chief Apostle’s circulars that I translate into Romanian together with my teacher. Twice a week I go to the gym to stay fit. And once in a while I go and watch a game of my soccer club from Bienne. A hot dog included; that is an absolute must.
Are you planning on helping along in your congregation?
I spoke to my rector. I will assist him with pastoral care and, above all, I will serve Holy Communion to those members who cannot attend divine services.
You have nearly 5,000 friends on your Facebook page. There is always something going on. What do you think makes this medium useful?
It makes communication easier and is a good way to network with others. It is a good way to share your experiences with others.
Was all the Facebook activity too much for you sometimes?
No, because a joy shared is joy doubled, and a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.