In word and deed and a good dose of humour
He was a man of words and action. Who this was? District Apostle Karl Kühnle. Today he would have been one hundred years old. Today we pay tribute to a Swabian who set out to bring his faith to Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Arabian Peninsula.
“Satan flees when he sees you praying.” Or “The blessing that lies in the big worries is that it eats up the little worries.” Many Church members in southern Germany still remember the expressions coined by their District Apostle Karl Kühnle. The statements come from the brothers and sisters themselves. They went with him wherever he went and when the inspiration seemed right, regardless of whether the sparking thought came by day or by night, he would write them down. That is why there was always a pad and a pen on his nightstand. He also used these memorable expressions in divine services. Chief Apostle Richard Fehr later described him as a gifted preacher.
Karl Ludwig was the youngest child of his parents and was born on 14 February 1923 in Unterbrüden, Germany. His parents became New Apostolic when he was still very young. He himself was three years old when he received the sacrament of Holy Sealing.
He spent a lot of time in his father’s carpenter shop. Much to the chagrin of the other carpenters who then had to work with the blunt hand planes that the young boy had eagerly pottered around with. Later he did commercial training. During his training, his father died and the funeral took place on his fifteenth birthday. “My mother came and congratulated me, adding: ‘But now we no longer have a dad.’ For me and my two older siblings it was one of the saddest days of our lives.”
He did not lose his sense of humour, though. Chief Apostle Fehr once said about him: “With his Swabian humour, he also succeeded in opening closed hearts and creating a friendly atmosphere in difficult situations.”
In 1942 Karl Kühnle had to join the army and was taken prisoner in southern France in 1944. He described the time as prisoner of war in Morocco in vivid terms: “It was a bitter experience with tropical heat, hunger, serious illness, and uncertainty about the future. However, I would not have wanted to miss it because it had a formative effect on my soul.” In May 1947 he was released and allowed to go home. He found employment in a factory near Backnang and married Gertrud Krautter on 16 October 1948. The couple had two sons who later both became Apostles: Werner and Volker Kühnle.
Predecessor of a Chief Apostle
In December 1950, Karl Kühnle received his first ministry in the New Apostolic Church through District Apostle Georg Schall. Other ministerial levels followed, one each year, until he became a District Evangelist in 1953, a day before his birthday. Chief Apostle Walter Schmidt ordained Karl Kühnle as a Bishop in 1966 and as an Apostle in February 1968.
In a youth service in Stuttgart on 4 May 1975 Karl Kühnle received the mandate from Chief Apostle Ernst Streckeisen to serve as District Apostle for Baden-Württemberg. In 1982, the district of Bavaria was added to his working area. From 1980 to 1981 he was also responsible for the district of Switzerland. Richard Fehr succeeded him as his successor there in 1981.
Into all the world
Chief Apostle Fehr later said of Karl Kühnle: “He was a joyful missionary and carried the gospel to many nations.” The first was Sierra Leone in 1985. “He did a lot of missionary work there,” recalls his son Werner, who was later also responsible for the country as an Apostle. “Back then there were three or four congregations; today there are well over one hundred.”
Many more countries were added, and in the end there were a good two dozen. For example, Guinea and Niger in Africa, parts of Ukraine, or the United Arab Emirates. And in 1993 even Morocco although Karl Kühnle had actually vowed never to go to the country again following his experiences as a prisoner of war there.
Wells, schools, and motorcycles
“He arranged for funds to be made available to build schools,” adds his son Werner. When Karl Kühnle visited one of these schools during the construction phase, the people were so happy that they named the school after the District Apostle. Today the school has 1,000 pupils.
“But he not only helped to fund wells, schools, and hospitals, but also provided motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles.” This enabled the ministers to reach even the most remote places, and they were soon able to establish congregations there.
The end of an era
Karl Kühnle was called to the altar one last time at his retirement in Fellbach on 10 December 1995. He ended his sermon by thanking the brothers and sisters who had engraved their love in his heart. “I gladly give you my whole heart and all my love today.”
And this is what he did. He continued to support his sisters and brothers and enjoyed visiting them. Just as he had advised young people in 1991 in one of his numerous articles published by Bischoff Publishers.
District Apostle Klaus Saur took over his working area and Baden, Württemberg, and Bavaria merged to form the Regional Church of Southern Germany. Karl Kühnle died on 7 December 2003 after a short illness. There was an outpouring of compassion and grief from his brothers and sisters.